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Jeremiah HolyfieldŠ 2011 by Rebecca Ryals Russell

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, or events, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

MuseItUp Publishing 14878 James, Pierrefonds, Quebec, Canada, H9H 1P5

Cover Art Š 2011 by Kaytalin Platt Edited by Trish Metcalfe Copyedited by Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz Layout and Book Production by Lea Schizas

eBook ISBN: 978-1-927361-33-7 First eBook Edition *December 2011 Production by MuseItUp Publishing


The Stardust Warriors Series

Rebecca Ryals Russell

MuseitYoung, division of MuseItUp Publishing


This series is dedicated to my loving family who listened to the story grow over and over and over.

Journal of Reverend Jeremiah Holyfield

500 yl Toxicorru Epoch Haazbul Village, Season of Torridaesta

Chapter One Laudday, 15th Sun Turn of Torridaesta The flaming village blazed high into the night. Those who could escape screamed in their search for family members. Children wailed. Mothers yelled. Victims shrieked. Monsters roared. Throughout the village, building timbers groaned, thundering in collapse under the licking flames. The stained glass windows of the church, sitting high on the mountain many runths from the village, nonetheless rattled with the vibration. Alarmed by the cacophony, I jolted out of my meditations, heart pounding. What had happened to our peaceful community? To my right, young Abram, son of a villager who had heard the call to serve Laud, knelt, also in meditation. Eyes round and darting, he gasped loudly through his open mouth. Dodging pews, we ran toward the heavy, carved doors of the church. Rough brown priest’s robe flapping behind me like angel wings, my sandals slapped the stone floor in time with my racing heart. With extreme caution, I nudged the door open and peered out through the crack. Peeking through the crack lower down, Abram suddenly screamed and jolted backward, covering his face. Banshee wails and leviathan roars filled the night air. Acrid odors of charred flesh and wood burned my nostrils. I stared in disbelief—this couldn’t be happening again. Throughout the village, confusion reigned—screaming people scattered, seeking shelter, desperate for safety. But safety no longer existed. If only we’d built the church closer to the village, it could have provided shelter now. Who would have guessed, after so many centuries, they would return to wreak havoc. “My family,” Abram shrieked; tears poured down his tanned cheeks. “I must get to my family.” I clasped him tightly. His head pressed against my chest, heart pounded beneath my hand on his back. With each breath, his chest rattled as he bellowed to be let go. But I did not dare. Building the church on the mountainside, for the villagers to gaze upon, had provided peace. Until now. Too far to provide assistance, I had no hope of making it to the village. Rescuing Abram must suffice. He could no more make it to the village than I. The flying beasts of carnage saw every movement. Abram’s frail body jerked and flailed in my arms, his tiny fists beating my chest. Silent tears fell, mourning the loss and carnage. My parishioners, loyal and loving, always there when I needed them, now needed me more than ever. And I couldn’t go. There might as well be a sea

between us. Hypnotized by the smoke and flames, construction of the village slid across my memory. Hundreds of years ago, we had harvested wood from the surrounding forest. But a village built of wood made it vulnerable. Villagers’ flats and cottages clustered along a narrow dirt path interspersed with taller buildings, the living quarters above, the shops at street level. Sobbing openly, I flinched with each tongue of flame rising from the roofs of the taller buildings, tinder and ashes falling onto the shorter dwellings, lighting them aflame. The boy quieted in my arms, sobbing with occasional hiccups which reverberated through his chest cavity. Unable to look away, we watched through the crack in the door. “Stay inside.” He nodded, his body wracked with tremors. Outside the sanctuary, standing on the high stone steps, I watched the horror. My heart quivered with each shriek or building collapse. Orange, yellow, and red, the flames’ chaotic dance wove mesmerizing designs against the black backdrop of night’s theatre. Clouds of purple smoke billowed upward hiding the moon’s face as though horrified. Stumbling, I grabbed for Abram when he pushed past me racing down the steps. Below us, I saw what had caught his eye. A young child ran wailing toward the church. Behind him, his family’s small cottage collapsed in a shower of sparks and groaning wood. As I raced down several steps after him, a deep voice filled my head. “You must guard what must never be destroyed.” “The boys, Lord, they must be saved.” I continued down several steps, aware of the danger overhead—driven to save someone. Movement must have caught the red eyes of the aggressor who circled in my direction. Head swiveling side to side, his course changed— apparently seeing something of more immediate interest. Eyes wide, heart drumming against ribs, I watched a man dart from the shadows. He snatched the young boy. The beast’s claws raked the air where the child had stood. Abram froze several steps below me. His face jerked toward me, eyes impossibly wide, then back at the monster. In the next moment, the demon swerved and headed toward the church. Abram screamed and scampered back up the steps using hands and feet. “Run, Abram, run!” I waved at him, my voice rising above the roaring beast. Holding the door ajar, I watched with bated breath. The beast’s claws scraped the stone steps as Abram then I leaped through the door. Although part of the mountain, the church rattled as the dragon’s massive body grazed the roof. The demon roared in frustration.

Abram screamed and writhed on the floor. I wished I could spare him this trauma. Hot, fresh tears of anger and frustration soaked my cheeks. Angrily, I swiped them away with the back of my hand. “Are you hurt?” I finally managed to ask. He shook his head no but made no move to rise to his feet. Curled into a ball on the floor, wracking sobs shook his frail frame. I crawled back to the door and again peered through the crack at the burning village. Leathery wings whooshed like a blacksmith’s bellow feeding the devouring flames. “Why, Lord? Why must these good people endure such agony?” I screamed. “There are others who are yet alive who need saving. Let me help them.” The sounds of torment and ruin echoed across the mountain face. Robes in hand, I stumbled down the wide stone steps. Determination licked at my heels. I would save them…I had to. The dragon, his black scaled silhouette crossing the full moon, must have seen me—his arch enemy’s servant. As the monster dove toward me, Laud, Lord of Love and King of the Megaverse, roared through my head, “No! You cannot save these children. It is too late. Their home is with me now. You must save yourself and what you guard.” “How? I am powerless against these leviathans!” The beast hurtled toward me, neck outstretched, mouth open wide to release a flaming stream of death. “You must run…hide. Take what is precious. Find no shame. If it saves my children, it is honorable.” “As you say, Lord.” Flames climbed the steps behind my heels. Filled with sorrow, a stone in the pit of my stomach, I turned my back on the burning village and ran inside the church. Although quiet, Abram continued to lie on the floor. Outside, the screeching roars filled the night. The building vibrated. The demon had lit the wooden belfry. We had to go. I yanked on the boy’s arm. Through red swollen eyes, he looked at me for answers. I had none to give him, however. “We must go, now.” My voice broke. “Grab your backpack and fill it with all the food you can find. Dress in any spare robes.” He nodded, hiccupped, and ran to the rear of the church. Trembling hands faltered the locking mechanism several times before finally opening the hidden door behind the altar. A secret room contained irreplaceable parchments and artifacts. Anxiously adjusting to the dimness, I searched for the particular parchment in my charge. It only took a second to secure it beneath my robe. The rucksack I filled with artifacts and parchments. The bitter odor of smoke drifted down from the burning belfry. Back in my chamber, I clasped the brooch of my rough brown cloak and grabbed my personal items. Roars reverberated

throughout the empty sanctuary. Having tired of the village, the church became the demon’s target. “Abram, hurry! We must go now,” I shrieked above the din of crackling and popping wood on fire. He suddenly appeared at my side. Red-rimmed, trusting eyes looked up at me. “Follow closely and do not stray. Do exactly as told.” His dark head bobbed up and down. I glanced around at the hand-hewn log walls and rough pews built by loving hands. Running my hand across a piece of wall, my fingers discovered evidence of teenagers in love— their initials carved inside a heart. Smoke wasn’t all that stung my eyes. For centuries we’d been happy, left alone by the Tyrant of Darkness. We lived under the wire, kept quiet about celebrations, about business dealings. No one bragged. No one left the village in search of greater riches. We raised our families and kept our noses clean. Then they came back. There must have been a spy. A gypsy or traveling salesman we didn’t notice carrying stories of our village to who knows whom. Perhaps the spy embellished the tale to their benefit. No matter, now, the poor villagers paid the price. If any survived, it would take decades to rebuild the village—centuries to grow it back to its current heyday. Peering skyward through the crack in the door, I watched for the beasts to be distracted so we could get away. The belfry collapsed. The church quickly filled with smoke. Soon flames flickered along the massive beams in the upper rafters. We were out of time. Overhead dragons glided through the darkness, gloating as they languidly circled. Red eyes, glaring at the hysterical residents, pierced the murk and smoke. Throaty laughter filtered down to the shocked villagers. They stopped running, turning sooty faces upward. The demons flew past the full moon—their sinister serpentine shadows slithering on the charred ground. Several lost souls dropped to their knees in supplication, praying to the beasts of darkness to be left alone. I cringed, knowing they were lost the moment their knees hit the dirt. In the shadows, a few brave villagers searched for survivors, praying I’m sure, for deliverance by their beneficent divinity. Creeping out the barely opened door, I crouched on the top step. Abram squatted so close I felt his body heat through my robes. Inside, the crashing continued as beams collapsed from the flaming roof. It was now or never. With cargo too precious to lose, I ran down the many stone steps—Abram tightly on my heels. The sulfuric blast of flames overhead drew my attention. My eyes widened in terror—the largest of the archfiends stared at me. His tiled lips peeled back to reveal long, dripping fangs oozing a thick substance. Death in scales. He growled. Wings folded, he dove.

I jumped off the steps to the ground, about the distance of a tall man. Rolling beneath the stone and log supports of the stairwell, I felt Abram beside me. Craning my neck, I looked up at the massive church set on the mountainside, majestic and intimidating. Inside, beams and rafters continued to crash, ash shooting out through shattered windows. Protection of this stone building was of no importance compared to the loss of life this day. It would be rebuilt. Those lives could not. Neither were the parchments replaceable. Especially the one beneath my robes. I must, at all cost, keep it safe—on my oath to Laud when I volunteered for this duty. Before I could pull my head back to safety beneath the steps, a flaming beam flew out of a window directly at me. Moments later, a crushing, burning pile of debris fell on my face and shoulder. Agony screamed through me while searing flames licked greedily at my flesh. Through sheer force of will, I bit back a roar, knowing it would mean certain death. Abram tried in vain to get to the beam and push it off, but the space in which we hid prevented him getting to me in time. Finally, I pushed and slid out from below the burning beam. Nerve endings on my face and hands shrieked in my brain—echoing the villagers’ screams. Once free of the flaming beam, I looked frantically around. Village herbalists had used a certain plant for burns and skin eruptions. Stiff, pointed leaves indicated a clump of aloe growing beside the steps. Already a step ahead of me, Abram broke off a firm waxy leaf and thrust it toward me. With numb fingers, I spread the cooling sticky gel across my face, neck, and blackened hands. It stopped the burn. My shoulder, protected by the singed but wearable tunic and robe, felt only bruised. My right eye, however, had begun to swell shut. The remainder of the plant easily yanked free of the dirt in which it grew. After shaking the loose dirt from the roots, I stuffed it into the rucksack. Looking up from our hiding spot, beneath the stone steps and surrounded by masses of shrubs, it was clear Narciss, the large black dragon and leader of the demons, had gotten his last revenge on me. Red eyes narrowed into angry slits blazed in triumph above a roaring maw, lighting the front of the church on fire. Several times more with his gaping jaw spouting flames, the demon circled until the church became a blazing inferno. “Much better,” the demon bellowed, rising to circle with the other laughing dragons. For hours, flames continued to flare, sparks popping high into the jet sky. Cottages, shops, and church burned. Whenever the fire diminished, a dragon descended, blazing a new trail of flame accompanied by roars resembling thunder, as he swooped across the village relighting it. Screeches and wails again filled the air while the renewed flames discovered hidden survivors, ending their search for sanctuary. The moon crept across the smoke-filled night like a thief in the dark while the dragon dance continued, circling wider in search of missed victims.

Back Cover

Jeremiah Holyfield A MG Novel by Rebecca Ryals Russell

For centuries upon centuries Reverend Jeremiah Holyfield guarded the Prophecy in a small village church at the base of the mountains wherein dwell Narciss and his Legio of evil demon dragons. But now that the dragons burned the village and church to the ground, Jeremiah runs and hides, taking the precious document with him. Accompanied by eleven-year-old protĂŠgĂŠ Abram, the two journey across Dracwald. In their search for a safe new home in the distant Solimon Mountains, they encounter Majikals and monsters, natural disasters, and discover new friends.

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Jeremiah Holyfield  

Copyedited by Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz 14878 James, Pierrefonds, Quebec, Canada, H9H 1P5 MuseItUp Publishing First eBook Edition *December...

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