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Neil Charles Cladingboel
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The Anvil Amulet (Book Excerpt)
         by Neil Charles Cladingboel
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Prologue

Jonathan Malone had never enjoyed the rain, and today was no different. The darkness and moisture created a somber atmosphere as he daydreamed, silent and alone, letting the gentle yet constant rain flush his tear filled eyes. The salty rivulets mirrored those that trickled silently across the surfaces of his parents' headstones.

It had been six years since his father had been killed then reunited with his mother in Erebus. So much had happened since, and yet so much had remained unchanged. The elation and joy of finding Sarah alive would be forever tainted with the constant reminder of the night his father had died. As Kronac had so often told him, the balance must always be maintained. And so it seemed, that in Jonathan's briefest moments of happiness, there would always be sorrow, and no truer word could describe what he so often felt. Sarah was as alive as he and yet both were now parentless.

He seldom spoke of those dark nights in his life, yet often wondered with amazement at the life-force that apparently shared his body. The voice had been silent since his return from Erebus and he'd seen only Jarek, briefly, when his father's body had been returned home. Thankfully, an autopsy had shown a death from natural causes and no investigation had been required.

Yet in spite of all that his eyes had witnessed, Jonathan still questioned his so-called powers and occasional embodiment of God. Only the constant presence of a maturing Sarah quieted these thoughts and anxieties. He'd managed to find some brief references to Erebus, and the Underworld, in Greek Mythology reference books at the local library, but the details were at best, patchy, and did nothing to quench his thirst for knowledge of the dimension he had unwittingly discovered.

He broke from his daydreaming just long enough to look across to Sarah's grave, smiling, as he remembered her exuberant face the night he had rescued her. To the rest of the world Sarah Malone had died on a stormy night in Waimerie in 1975. Her resurrection was a secret that could never be explained and the Sarah who now shared their home and lives was, to an unsuspecting world, an orphaned relative from a small town in Canada.

Her marble stone glistened in the gentle rain, reflecting arrows of distant light that punctured the clearing clouds on the evening horizon. As Jonathan stood with respectful silence his thoughts strayed to tonight's debutante ball and how proud he would be to witness Sarah's debut. He could almost imagine her face, smiling up at him from the reflective surface of the stone, as she prepared herself for the momentous occasion.

He knew that he should leave soon or else risk being late, yet he couldn't bear to tear himself away from the memories that both uplifted and tortured his thoughts when he visited the family graves.

Suddenly, Sarah's headstone appeared to shatter; erupting in flame that poured forth from the broken marble, dancing up into the air above her grave before cooling to a smoky fog that rose slowly to meet Jonathan's startled eyes.

Stupefied, he watched the silent smoke snake and swirl as a mysterious head manifested through the vortex of the retreating fog. Seconds later, he was confronted by a withered face, obscured somewhat beneath the folds of a dark-green cape. He could see very little of the creature that floated before him. The visible skin that surrounded its mouth seemed burned or scarred, riddled with sores and welts. What he could see of its throat and neck appeared to be suffering the same affliction. The rest of the creature's head was lost amongst the layers of material that enshrouded the mysterious stranger.

"You must come with me now or else all our futures will be lost," the creature spoke with a strange, yet urgent voice, pointing a withered finger at Jonathan.

"What?" Jonathan replied.

"You must stop tonight's celebration and come with me, before it's too late!" The creature's hands came together then, as if in silent prayer, as it turned quickly to look over its shoulder. "Please, I have very little time and I--"

"Who are you?" Jonathan interrupted. "Are you from Erebus?"


Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Neil Charles Cladingboel, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.

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