Been a long time since I did any type of promo for Quest of the Brokenhearted, which is still one of my favorites to have written. It’s tough to do excerpts because each chapter is almost like a short story with a fight involved. So there aren’t many things I can do without posting some spoilers. Feel free to buy the book and read it at your leisure though.
The tower shakes when the giant bell rings, the noise forcing Kira to cover her ears and press herself against the wall. A rain of dust falls from above and creates a blurry haze that gradually settles on the bottom floor. Standing on one of the rickety staircases, she has not seen any hint of a monster’s presence and wonders if it is lurking in wait on the top floor. The only opening to the bell chamber is a broken trapdoor that dangles on a single rusty hinge. A mushroom-dotted rope runs from the opening to the floor, the thick cord never moving even when the ringing bell shakes the tower. Checking the wall, Kira finds the dark red stone is slick from the fog that had been trapped inside and billowed out when she entered. Finding a deep crack, she tries to pry a brick out with her sickle and nearly pulls it free before it is sucked back into place. The mysterious vacuum nearly yanks her weapon out of her hands, but she is quick enough to twist it free. Shaking her aching wrist, the adventurer sighs and continues heading for the roof where she expects a trap has already been set.
Boos and hisses slip through the walls as the crowd outside gets bored with the long, slow climb to what they hope is an entertaining fight. Knowing they are watching her through the scrying portals, Kira is tempted to respond. She stops when a faint warmth hits her face, the brief sensation enough to give her goosebumps. Coming to the top of the staircase, she finds that there is still a ten-foot jump to the rope. The adventurer tries her best to get a clear look at the upper chamber, but the light on the other side is too bright for her to make out any details. With no other options, she puts her weapon on her back and cracks her knuckles. The leap is not as nerve-wracking as the landing, which is closer to hitting a brick wall than a dangling rope. Climbing the rigid cord, Kira looks down to make sure nothing is rushing at her from below. Due to the faint light in the lower tower, she can only see halfway down and waiting does nothing more than make her more anxious.
The edge feels like tiny knives poking into her palm, the rough splinters sticking through her gloves as she pulls herself into the chamber. Forced to crawl under the giant bell, Kira prepares to jump back down if it moves and tries to smash her with the clapper. Rolling into the open, she draws her kusari-gama and scans the cobweb-dotted room. The four windows have been covered with wooden planks that still smell fresh and show no sign of being affected by the weather. The light comes from a single lantern that is set into the ceiling, the cracked glass and dented frame showing that it has fallen a few times in the past. Kira keeps her eyes on the beam that connects to the bell, the object becoming her main source of anxiety. Heading for a corner that is filled with debris, the adventurer clears the charred wood and rough chunks of stone to find a circular hole no bigger than her fist. Unlike the trapdoor, the edges are smooth and still warm to the touch.
“Not in the mood for another hider,” Kira whispers while turning in a circle. She searches for any movement, her voice echoing louder than expected. “You can’t be that big if I haven’t seen you. Doubt you’re invisible too since I’ve done that already. Come on out because the crowd isn’t the only one getting bored.”
The buzzing begins so low that Kira mistakes it for a bee before it grows into a din that she cannot ignore. Spinning the club side over her head, she looks for the champion to appear and focuses on the bell. The lantern falls from the ceiling and clatters against the floor, which draws her attention to the rafters. It is only by chance that she sees the real danger at the corner of her vision and jumps back. With a mild shriek, the ball of light among the broken glass soars at the woman’s face and misses by an inch. It veers around to avoid the club, which strikes the tower with a burst of force that causes the bell to gently sway. The ephemeral champion darts around the flurry of attacks and puts more effort into avoiding the blunt end of the kusari-gama than the sickle. The few times the blade makes contact, it passes harmlessly through the monster and loses all of its momentum.