Anathema, panting and with his sword drawn, stood in the thick forest. He threw his gaze around frantically. He’d lost his opponent, but he knew she was somewhere near him. She had to be. Anger rose up within him.
“Malla!” he roared. The trees shook, casting a flurry of leaves around the clearing. A quiet rustle alerted his attention and he spun around, sword poised and his stance defensive. From a dense area of trees stepped a tiny girl, surely no more than six years old. She had gentle locks of auburn hair and wide innocent eyes, as well as a malicious grin.
Anathema pointed the sword at her, his eyes narrowed. Why had Malla chosen to take this form? It would be easy to crush her. Easy and delightful. But he was not fooled. She must have chosen the form of a little girl to lull him into overconfidence, or maybe it was intended to elicit mercy. He screwed his nose up with disgust and edged towards the girl, preparing to slaughter her. He took a deep breath in and lunged, but before the weapon could pierce her delicate body, another blade swarmed in from nowhere and parried his blow.
He staggered back with shock. It was a sturdy weapon, heavy, cast from weighty iron with a distinctive serrated blade. He knew that weapon. The girl gave one last grin before a sharp pulse shook the air around them. Within an instant, it was not a child but Phantom who stood before him. The heavy iron blade was gripped in a powerful fist capable of crushing a human skull. His huge frame and broad shoulders were intimidating even in human form.
Anathema staggered with shock and stared in disbelief as the image of his superior appeared from nowhere. The same cruel smirk the little girl had previously worn now ran across Phantom’s face.
“What are you doing? What trickery is this?” Anathema shouted with a quivering voice.
“This is what your defeat looks like.”
The trees around them gave a shudder and flickered from green to red. A horrifying vision slipped across Anathema’s eyes. Congealed, crimson dripped from the tree branches, along the veins of the leaves and slopped to the ground around them.
The forest floor beneath their feet dropped with breathtaking speed. It fell hundreds of miles, descending beneath the planet and into oblivion, leaving Anathema standing alone on a tiny pillar of earth. Where his boots ended, there was a sheer void, stretching beyond even a demon’s vision.
Terror pummelled Anathema’s heart, and he drew a sharp intake of breath that made his lungs burn. If he had blood, it would have run cold. He steadied his balance and looked into the distance to see Phantom’s back disappearing into the darkness with every step. Anathema spread his wings and tried to fly across the chasm, but he felt heavy and awkward. Trying to feel the freedom he always did in his natural form, he leapt into the air. For a moment, the air held him and he thought he might make it, but suddenly the world around him collapsed. His pedestal broke into a thousand pieces, and he began to fall into the darkness. Anathema could not help a scream breaking from his lips as the scenery blurred by and he plummeted, headfirst, into the underworld.
He closed his eyes as tightly as he could, praying for the moment when it would be over. He knew he was in no real danger, that this was not happening, but the vision told his mind otherwise. When he finally dared to open his eyes, he found himself in a dusty red landscape, sporadic plumes of steam issuing from rifts in the rock. There was nothing, nothing for miles, just wilderness. Not a living soul to interact with.
They had brought him home
Title: A Chronicle of Chaos
Author: D.M. Cain
“The new book in DM Cain’s epic Light and Shadow fantasy series certainly plunges us in at the deep end. The heart of this book—its true essence—is prejudice and love, persistence, and stubbornness.” Stewart Bint, author of In Shadows Waiting and Timeshaft. A brutal war has raged for centuries. The Brotherhood of Shadow and The Children of Light each yearn to rule the planet and will stop at nothing to defeat the other. Now, from the deepest bowels of Hell, the Brotherhood has summoned demons to fight for them. The demons could end the war once and for all, if only the Brotherhood can keep them under control. Prophecy, destiny, honour, and glory: Chaos, a soldier in The Children of Light, fights in the name of all these things and could achieve them if he wasn’t so arrogant. He believes he is the best warrior in the land, until a fateful coincidence puts him at the mercy of the demon, Anathema. The two warriors, demon and human, strike up an intense rivalry, but their obsession to destroy one another only leads them closer together. When the forces of Heaven and Hell collide, where will their loyalties lie?
D.M. Cain is a dystopian and fantasy author working for US publisher Booktrope. She has released three novels: The Phoenix Project – a psychological thriller set in a dystopian future, Soren – a middle-grade fantasy, and A Chronicle of Chaos – the first in a dark fantasy series. She is currently working on the next novel in the series, ‘The Shield of Soren’, and a novella to accompany it.
D.M. Cain is also a member of the International Thriller Writers and is one of the creators and administrators of the online author group #Awethors. Her short story ‘The End’ was published in Awethology Dark – an anthology by the #Awethors.
Cain lives in Leicestershire, UK, with her husband and young son, and spends her time reading, writing and reviewing books, playing RPGs and listening to symphonic metal.