In Search of Pride (#1)
The gods smile upon a weary warrior...
Brenn, a warrior returning home from battle, rests by a tempting magical pool and meets a siren who changes his life forever.
Bound by a curse, he must find a way to save his pride.
He returns from a war far from his home to find that his village is destroyed and his pride missing. With the help of his guardian dragon, Ciara, he sets out to find his missing family and pride.
After Ciara saves Brenn’s life twice, he begins to realize that he is not as invincible as he once thought. He must accept his limitations and the help of his lifemate to keep him safe.
Brenn swore under his breath. Everything had been as it should on his travels home after he’d left the Clyss. No attacks, everything normal. Why the sudden interest in their realm? The Toubosians had sent several ships, but only one craft had attacked the village and abducted all the occupants? During his travels, he’d heard nothing, no rumors of alien attacks, of spaceship sightings. Would they really send several ships to capture the people from one village? Had the ships returned to Toubos? He doubted it. He had a feeling the ships were hiding somewhere in the far mountain range south of their village—planning another attack?
Were the Toubosians in league with Cewrick, the evil sorcerer who had placed the curse on all shifters? The sorcerer’s castle stood on the highest peak in the center of the Sucronian Mountains, a forbidden mountain range. No one dared to approach it. At the base of the mountains was the Verboten Forest. Its trees were said to have been bespelled by Cewrick and would kill anything or anyone treading the ground below. Large black dragons guarded the castle, along with urcals, giant birds with wingspans as wide as the road in his village. They, too, were black. Their beaks were a bright orange, curved and very sharp, their claws so big they could easily pick up several horses in one swoop, their talons an arm’s length long, and their eyes like glowing embers.
They had all seen the dragons and the birds as they circled above the forbidden forest. Brenn’s father, Yartah, the alpha of their pride, and some of the warriors, including Brenn, had ventured to the edge of the forest when one of their young women had suddenly gone missing. When Huf, a young warrior, rode ahead into the forest, one of the monstrous birds had plucked him and the horse from between the trees and disappeared with them.
After that tragic event, Yartah had doubly enforced the rules. No one was allowed to venture near the forest. Brenn didn’t think after what had happened that anyone would even dare, but one never knew what young people would do. The youngsters thought themselves invincible. The only thing that seemed to scare them was the curse—if they shifted, which usually surfaced during puberty, they could remain a lion forever and lose all humanity.
He turned his attention back to Ivran. His friend was distraught, barely holding onto his human form, his lion fighting to burst free.
The rescue of Brenn’s pride sets off an angry tirade from Cewrick that results in curses that almost cripple the Crimson Realm and all of Ierilia.
With the help of Ciara, Brenn leads his crew through the bowels of the planet and the forbidden forest to unlock the secret of defeating Cewrick. But will his defeat end the reign of terror on their world?
The king quickly stepped toward Brenn and hugged him. “It is good to see you, my friend. The rescue went well.”
“Yes, but now we face Cewrick’s wrath, as you have witnessed,” Brenn answered, disengaging from the hug.
Biryn filled three goblets with wine. “Aldis should be here any moment,” he told Brenn.
He’d no sooner spoken, and the admiral arrived. “Aldis, congratulations on a successful mission,” the king exclaimed, holding out a goblet.
“The praise goes to Brenn and his men. He told me to stay with the ship,” the admiral grumbled.
“And for good reason, I presume?” The king looked at Brenn.
“The admiral is not used to ground missions or combat. I did not want to risk his life,” Brenn told Biryn.
“Good decision. But now we face the wrath of the sorcerer. Cewrick has unleashed his minions upon us. Aldis,
why didn’t you annihilate the swarm of black dragons and urcals?”
“Brenn told me that many of the black dragons were once jewel dragons or humans. When the curse is lifted, they will return to their former state. Since the urcals and dragons flew as a flock, I could not attack,” Aldis explained.
“I would not see the jewel dragons harmed or any humans. I abide by the decision, but many of Ierilia’s people were abducted before the warning transmission went out. What do you suggest we do in case of another attack?” the king asked.
“Cewrick’s attacks can come in many forms. He has spies among us. He could use his magick and create other spells, or he could use his black dragons and urcals to attack again,” Brenn said.
“What about your jewel dragon? Can she not help?” the king wondered.
“No, not against a swarm of them. She is but one and feeling helpless right now. It took a lot of her energy to fight the black wind funnels. She could not undo the stone curse. Her magick cannot come into full force until Cewrick is slain. And there is only one that can help us annihilate him,” Brenn said.
“Cewrick has a son? That is news to me,” Biryn said.
When Erica is granted a commission in the king’s army and gifted a magical sword for her bravery, she begins to look forward to a future for both herself and her crew. But not everyone is happy with their circumstances.
Erica joins Brenn’s team in the fight to save his planet from the angry god, Zohmes, and she finds herself charmed by more than just the planet. The sexy lion shifter, Laro, claims she is his lifemate, setting her passions ablaze. Stung by the sharp tongues and dissension of some of her crew, Erica pushes him away to focus on the lives of her crew members.
Can Erica accept a future with Laro, or will she let hate and betrayal decide her fate?
“Ground shift. Come on! We need to move!” Aldis yelled.
Erica snagged the strap of her pack as Laro pulled her to her feet. They took off running with the others in the general direction of the road they were seeking. Puffs of dirt shot up around them and dust filled the air, obscuring Erica’s vision.
A loud crack echoed through the veld. Long, spindly legs peeked through a wide breach in the ground in front of them. Claws snapped as eight huge creatures pulled themselves from the gorge. Huge mandibles were set on a small head with twelve eyes. Their long, segmented bodies sported two massive claws, eight legs, and a long tail with a pointed stinger.
“What in the hell are these things?” Erica screamed.
“Durogons! They are Zohmes’ pets. He had to have sent them from Yanata. They were banished with him,” Ciara said.
Erica looked around. A gaping maw right behind them seemed to meet the crack at both ends. They were trapped, with nowhere to run. All hell broke loose. Fire spewed from the durogons’ mouths as they advanced on them in a full attack. Icaras threw his hands up and shielded them from the fire with a magical shield. Ciara and Icaras began throwing balls of fire at them, trying to hold the durogons back but of no avail. The durogons’ hard bodies seemed impregnable, the fireballs sizzling out before causing any damage to their black, armored shells. Shots from Aldis’ fleet weapon met the same fate. Brenn, Ivran and Laro drew their swords, ready to attack.
One of the durogons broke through Icaras’ shield and lunged at Erica. She yanked her sword from the scabbard with both hands and nearly dropped it. Laro moved quickly in front of her to shield her and slashed off one of its claws. All it did was piss the creature off. Its tail whipped around and gashed him in the side before Laro could dodge it and slice off the other claw. Erica had never seen Laro wield a sword and was stunned by the beautiful display. He fought the durogon in a deadly dance of precision, each strike of his sword hitting its mark.
A movement caught her attention. Another durogon found an opening and rushed in to attack. Erica pulled out her fleet weapon and started shooting it in the eyes, hoping to keep it from advancing further. Its claws snapped at her, and its tail swished around, trying to find purchase. Suddenly, all she could feel was intense heat, and the scent of charred bodies filled the air. A wall of flame rushed up in front of her, consuming the creature she was trying to kill. Ciara had shifted and set the creatures ablaze.
The rumbling stopped, the ground no longer moved, and the maws slowly closed, burying the creatures.
Betrayed by several members of her crew, Erica now finds herself in a race to beat the clock. A rare poison injected into the king’s blood from the blade of her sword, threatens his life.
Erica joins her lifemate, Laro, and the rest of the team, on a mission rife with danger to search for the antidote to save the king. With an angry god bent on destroying the royal line by any means possible, the team doesn’t know who to trust or what Zohmes will do next.
Can Erica find a way to prove the innocence of her crewmembers before the blade of judgement falls?
Erica handed the king the datapad. “A shaft of lightning struck me from a clear sky and etched it onto my back, Your Majesty.”
Biryn scrutinized the map closely. “Erica, may I see your back? We can go to the privacy of my bedroom.”
Erica suppressed a giggle. How often in life did a king request to see one’s back in the privacy of his bedroom? “Everyone here has ogled my back, Your Majesty,” she said as she pulled up the tunic and stood before him.
“I am sorry our gods subjected you to this, Erica. Did it hurt badly?”
“No, Your Majesty. I was spooked and was flung to the ground, but all I felt was a little bit of stinging on my skin, like a sunburn.”
“Ciara, can I speak to you in private?” the king said.
The king walked to his bedroom, followed by Ciara. The door closed behind them. Suddenly, all startled as the king’s loud voice sounded through the closed door.
“Who are you, wench? Go back to Yanata from where you came! Do you hear me? What are those creatures doing in my room? Get away from me!”
The door opened, and the king ran out, a wild expression on his face. He looked at them all without recognition. Cylena reached out and touched the king’s arm. Suddenly, he became completely lucid again.
Ciara walked to Cylena. “My dear, it seems the king is only lucid when you are close and touching him. I now understand the goddess Rania wanting you in his presence. For some unknown reason, you radiate a power that will keep him calm. Stay near him at all times, please? Icaras will stay with you if it is too much for you.”
“Cylena?” Icaras queried.
“I sense my powers increasing. I feel you are needed to find the antidote for the poison, Icaras. I will stay with the king. You need not trouble your mind with worry about me.”
“We need to wait until we get the test results,” Erica said.
She’d barely finished speaking when Catrice, followed by Jason, entered into the king’s quarters. Catrice bowed before the king. “Your Majesty.”
“You are Catrice. I remember you,” Biryn said.
“Yes, Your Majesty. We have isolated the poison in your system.”
“And what is it, young lady?”
“After comparing it with the poisons in your database, it’s a poison called veervaraine. The toxin will cause confusion and delirium, eventually leading to total madness.”
“Your Majesty. If I may interrupt. I did some research on the veervaraine toxin,” Jason said as he set his datapad in front of the king.
Erica could see the datapad from where she stood. It showed a picture of a giant mushroom on the screen. There were many mushrooms on Earth that were poisonous. There were even farmers that had become ill from breathing in spores from edible mushrooms.
A throne in peril. The crown challenged…
Born of love and hate, King Biryn must fight between the two. The demons within surface when the woman he loves is abducted by his great-grandfather, the fallen god, Zohmes.
Zohmes wants the throne. His abduction of Cylena ensures that Biryn cannot beget an heir. Imprisoning her in Yanata, the underground world of Ierilia and his to rule, he thinks he is one step further toward the throne and the surface.
Biryn must now face the biggest quest of his life, to defend his throne and crown. He has to travel to Yanata to rescue Cylena. With his team, his family, and the help of the god Izarus, he descends to the heinous bowels of Ierilia.
Will they be able to save his future queen? Can they defeat Zohmes once and for all and bind him forever to Yanata?
Biryn gasped as a vision filled his mind. Cylena, who was no longer huddled in the corner of the cave, but now she was chained naked to the wall. Blood caked her hair and skin. Lesions covered her body. Bruises disfigured her tear-stained face, her eyes were swollen. The image cleared as suddenly as it had appeared. Loud booming, evil laughter echoed around him, rocking the walls of the cavern. A smoky mist, flames bursting through it, coalesced before him, taking the shape of a grotesque man. A mass of wild hair blazed like fire around his head. Hatred distorted his features. The figure ruptured into a mass of flaming black ooze, covering the creatures that guarded the doorway. Flames undulated across the grotesque entities as they surged forward.
“Zohmes,” Biryn heard Astiana whisper beside him.
Rage pooled in Biryn’s belly. Power he had never felt before coursed through his veins infiltrating every cell in his body. Gods, Cylena. The image of her abuse fueled the violence of the magick swelling inside him. His gaze trained on the advancing monstrosities. His team surrounded him, desperately trying to fight off the attack. Magick blazed and weapons fired. The repulsive monsters, fueled by Zohmes’ essence, staved off the team’s defense. Biryn spied a tendril of moss snaking across the floor. It wrapped itself around Brenn’s leg, yanking him off his feet.
A scream rent the air. Light flared from Ciara as she tried to free Brenn by using her magick. The power within Biryn detonated. He held out his hands, ready to grasp the thing that had mangled Brenn’s leg. Instead, fire erupted from his fingers pulverizing the twisting snake-like vine. The monsters disintegrated from the force of his attack. The black substance, covered in flame, poured to the floor. The wispy smoke of Zohmes’ essence coalesced above it, evaporating to nothingness.
Biryn staggered to his knees, reaching out with his mind to the woman who had captured his soul. The thought of her torture ripped his emotions to shreds. Cylena, please, answer me.
About the authors:
Taryn Jameson is a mother, artist, and avid reader who lives in an enchanted forest that sparks her imagination to create. Her latest outlet is the written word. She is the alter ego of cover artist Angela Waters.
She loved designing the covers for this series and thought it was a lot of fun bringing the Crimson Realm to life both with words and visually with the covers.
Gabriella Bradley lives in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, amidst rugged mountains. She more than often has a grizzly in her backyard searching for food. Other critters that visit on a regular basis are cougars, coyotes, squirrels, raccoons.
She has been a writer all of her life, though only ventured into erotic works in 2003. Her hobbies include hiking, gardening, swimming, sewing, embroidery. Favorite movies are old timers like Gone with the Wind, Spartacus etc. Favorite music is Abba.
Dragon pendant, Lion Pendant, Star Pendant