The Gods Awaken

 
 

UK Cover - The Gods Awaken
British cover by Mick Posen.
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A Bit of Background:

With this final volume in his epic fantasy trilogy, Allan Cole concludes the enthralling story of Safar Timura and Iraj Protarus that began with "Wizard Of The Winds" and continued with "Wolves of The Gods."

A victorious Safar Timura has been rescued from certain death. But, desperate to avert the volcanic eruption which he has twice seen in a prophetic vision, he must now journey to faraway Hadin and a last confrontation with his old enemy.

With him are his adopted half-demon son Palimak, the warrior woman Leiria and his magical horse Khysmet. And as the expedition sets out by airship and sailing ship, it seems that their quest will be a lucky one.


 
 
But Iraj Protarus, the foe he believe he has vanquished, has left surprises behind him. And the volcano, fueled by magic, has the power to release both natural and unnatural destructive forces that could mean the end of Safar's world.

Opening chapter of "The Gods Awaken":


CHAPTER ONE: THE DANCE OF HADIN

Oh, how he danced.

Danced, danced, danced.


 

 


Danced to the beat of the harvest drums.

All around him a thousand others sang in joyous abandon. They were a handsome people, a glorious people; naked skin painted in fantastic, swirling colors.

And they danced - danced, danced, danced - singing praises to the Gods as shell horns blew, drums throbbed and their beautiful young Queen cried out in ecstasy. She led them, tawny breasts jouncing, smooth thighs thrusting in the ancient mating ritual of the harvest festival.

Safar danced with her, pounding his bare feet against the sand, rhythmically slapping his chest with open palms. While above him the tall trees - all heavily laden with ripe fruit - rippled in a salty breeze blowing off the sparkling sea.


 

 

But while the motions of his fellow dancers were graceful, Safar's were forced and jerky - as if he were a marionette manipulated by a cosmic puppeteer.

Madness! was his mind's silent scream. I must stop, but I cannot stop, please, pleaseplease, end this madness! Yet no matter how hard he battled the spell's grip his body jerked wildly on - and on and on - in the Dance Of Hadin.

For Safar Timura was trapped in the prelude to the end of the world.

Beyond the grove, a dramatic backdrop for the beautiful Queen, was the great conical peak of a volcano. A thick black column of smoke streamed up from the cone. It was the same volcano that Safar had seen in a vision many years before. And Safar knew from his vision that at any moment the volcano would explode and he, along with the joyous dancers, would die.


 

 

Was this real? Was he truly on the shores of Hadinland, destined to be swallowed in a river of molten rock? Or was it just a night terror that would end if only he could open his eyes?

He'd had such dreams before. Once he'd dreamed of wolves and Iraj Protarus had risen from the dead to confront Safar with murder in his heart and a horde of shape changers at his back.

And, with a jolt, he thought: Iraj! Where is Iraj?

He tried to force his head around to see if Protarus was among the dancers. But his body wasn't his own and all he could do was prance with the others, slapping his chest like a fool.

Safar had no idea how long this had gone on. It seemed as if he'd been a barely conscious participant in a dance that went on endlessly. Yet there were moments of chilling clarity, such as now, when he would regain use of his mind enough to struggle against the mysterious force that held him.


 

 


It was a cruel clarity, because each time he knew the fight was hopeless. He'd struggle fruitlessly, then lapse into semi-consciousness.

Safar thought he heard Iraj's voice among the others and once again tried - and failed - to look.

Then he felt his senses weaken as if a drug were creeping through his veins to cloud his mind. He bit down on his lip, grabbing at the pain to keep his wits.

With the pain came a sudden memory of Iraj standing before him. Half giant wolf, half all-too-human king. Flanking him were Safar's deadliest enemies: the demons, Prince Luka and Lord Fari; and the spymaster, Lord Kalasariz. All bound to Iraj by the Spell Of Four.

Yes, yes! he thought. Iraj! Remember Iraj!


 

 


And what else?

There was something else. Something that had brought him here. If only he could recall, perhaps he could escape.

The machine! That was it!

The image floated up: Iraj and the others bearing down at him; at Safar's back the great machine of Caluz. A hunched turtle god with the fiery mark of Hadin on its shell. It was a machine whose magic was out of control and if Safar didn't stop it his beloved land of Esmir would die an early death.

He fought hard to remember the spell he'd cast then to plug the sorcerous wound between Esmir and the deathland that was Hadin.


 
 
The words kept slipping away. Think! he commanded himself. Think!

And it came to him that the words formed a poem. A poem from the Book Of Asper.

Asper, yes, Asper. The ancient demon wizard whose strange book of verse had predicted the end of the world a thousand years before. And who had speculated on the means to halt the destruction.

Safar felt sudden joy as the spellwords burst from nowhere:

"Hellsfire burns brightest
In Heaven's holy shadow.
What is near
Is soon forgotten;


 
  What is far
Embraced as brother..."

He groaned as the rest of the words fled. Safar bit his lip harder, blood trickling down his chin. Remember, dammit! Remember!

But it was hopeless. The remainder of the spell remained agonizingly just out of reach in a thick mist.

Fine, then. Forget about the verse. Think of what happened when you faced Iraj. Remember that - and perhaps the spellwords will come.

His mind threw him back to Valley Of Caluz. His enemies before him, the sorcerous machine behind. He was alone: Palimak and Leiria had fled on his orders, leading the people of Kyrania to Syrapis and safety. Safar had remained to stop the machine and destroy Iraj so he couldn't pursue the villagers.


 
 
And then what?

His life, he realized instinctively, depended on recalling what had happened next. No. Not just his life - the world depended on it.

Very well. He had cast that spell. He could remember that. But, wait. Something had interfered! What, or who, had it been? Iraj? Had Iraj cast a spell of his own?

That was it! Iraj had attempted to break free from the Spell Of Four, which bound him to Kalasariz and the others. Iraj had surprised Safar with that powerful bit of magic.

A collision of spells.

An explosion.

A blinding white light.

And then what?

Safar dug deep for the memory. He could recall intense heat. Then blessed coolness. Followed by a long time of floating on what seemed like billowing clouds - as if he were aboard Methydia's magic airship.

Time passed.

How much time, he couldn't say.

Then he'd heard - from far below - pipes and horns and throbbing drums. And voices - many voices - chanting a haunting song. Safar didn't have to struggle to remember those words, for it was the same song the beautiful Queen and her subjects were singing now:

"Her hair is night,
Her lips the moon;
Surrender. Oh, surrender.
Her eyes are stars,
Her heart the sun;
Surrender. Oh, surrender.
Her breasts are honey,
Her sex a rose;
Surrender. Oh, surrender.
Night and moon. Stars and Sun.
Honey and rose;
Lady, oh Lady, surrender.
Surrender. Surrender..."

Safar recalled twisting around and finding himself floating above a green-jeweled isle set in a deep blue sea.

Towering over the island was the volcano. He knew in an instant this was one of the islands that made up Hadin. But how could that be? Hadin was on the other side of the world from Esmir - the continental opposite of his homeland.

Had the violence of the spellcast hurled him so far?

Or was he only dreaming of his boyhood vision, when he'd foreseen the end of the world?

The song grew stronger, rising up to enfold him... "Surrender. Oh, surrender..." It drew him down like a netted fish. "Surrender. Oh, surrender..." Fear lanced his heart when he saw the dancing people of his vision and their lusty young queen. "Surrender. Oh, surrender..."

Panicking, he tried to struggle free, but the song flowed through and around him until he became a part of it. "Surrender. Oh, surrender..."

And he had no choice but let it take him. He fell into a stupor, floating downward.

Then he found himself among the dancers. Except, now he was one of them. Dumb and gaping at the nubile Queen. Warm sun on his suddenly naked back. His bare feet beating against the sand. Open palms slapping his chest in time to the music: "...Night and Moon./Stars and Sun./Honey and rose;/Lady, oh Lady, surrender..."

Yes, that was how he came to be here. Safar suddenly felt quite calm - reassured that his mental faculties were returning. Only one small step was left. Once he retrieved the remaining words to the spell he'd cast in Caluz he could free himself.

Then excitement blossomed as another piece came: "...Piercing our breast with poison,/Whispering news of our deaths..."

Yes! That was it! Now, there were only two more lines. Two more and the spell could be broken.

Safar heard the Queen shout and he looked up at her - dismay poisoning his resolve - and his concentration was broken.

The Queen was crying out to her subjects, pointing at the volcano. The column of smoke was thicker, blacker and pouring out more furiously. Great sparks swirled in the smoke, showering upward like blossoms from the Hells.

Any moment the volcano would explode. Just as it had in Safar's vision. Just as it had...

A great shock rocked Safar to the core. Not the shock of the volcano's eruption - that was still to come. But a shock of realization that he'd lived and died in this very same scene hundreds of times before.

The volcano would erupt. A deadly shower of debris driven by typhoon winds. Followed by a river of lava that would kill any who survived.

Even those who fled into the sea wouldn't be able to swim or canoe out far enough to escape. They'd be boiled alive like shellfish in a roiling pot.

In the long ago vision Safar had only been a witness to these events. But now he was one of the dancers doomed to die not once, but an endless number of deaths until the world itself was dead.

Only then would his soul be released.

Just then the last two lines came to him: "... For she is the Viper of the Rose/ Who dwells in far Hadinland!"

But even as he reached for them, desperate to complete the spell, he knew he was nearly out of time.

Still, he rushed on - no time to hope, much less pray. He started reciting the spell: "Hellsfire burns brightest/In Heaven's holy shadow..."

Then it was too late.

And the volcano erupted.

But just before it did, he thought he heard someone calling to him: "Father! Father!"

Desperate, he cried out: "Palimak! Help me, Palimak!"

And everything vanished - except pain.

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Last Revised: January 29, 2011