GRADY L OWENS
       
Journey to Fire's Keep

The presageful tempest streamed over the forest, coming to rest over a small crevice in the side of the hill. For the two cowering inside the hole, its paradoxical approach was simultaneously too fast and not fast enough; they had known this day would eventually come, yet they still chose to try to run. The woman, peering out the aperture for the silhouette that would confirm their worst fears, knew this had not been the wisest choice, but there was no other option in her perspective — she could not let him take her Firstborn.

In this moment, all the hard work they had done over the past several months to get to this place was coming to its true fruition — futility. As his outline came into view, she cried out in disbelief, anxious of what she knew was to come. Tears in her eyes, she turned to face her husband, his nervous back-and-forth pacing a constant contrast to the rain outside. "He's really coming! We've got to do something!"

"What can we do?" her husband inquired in an exasperated tone, stopping his frantic ambulation to turn and address her directly. "You know he's unstoppable. You knew this when we first started running from him! I don't even know why I agreed to –"

The dialogue was abruptly halted by the rhythmic beating of wings. He had arrived. The baby, nestled in a crude cradle made of sticks, cried out in fear.

"Hide him!" the desperate mother roared. This time, he was not going to get what he came for. She was going to end this here.

The man, contrary to his initial demeanor, complied, swiftly hiding the child under a blanket, then covering it crudely with leaves. He next ran to hide himself, cowering behind a rock ledge leading deeper into the cave; he had not seen the figure in person and did not wish to change this, knowing full-well what he was capable of.

With a crack of thunder, the distinct image of a harbinger of destiny strolled confidently into the abode, head held high. The walls rattled as he yelled with a voice strong and loud, confident as the unrelenting downpour. "Where is it!?"

"What?" the mother asked, confident in her defiance.

"You, of anyone, should know," he said with an almost snakelike hiss. "You made the deal. Now is the time that I reap my share of the bargain."

"Never!"

"I let you live once, I won't make the same mistake again!" His voice escalated with every word. As he finished, a blast of fire leapt from his throat, engulfing and consuming the woman almost instantaneously. She collapsed in a pile of fine ash.

"How nice," he sneered. "The funeral pyre has already been taken care of." He found the child immediately, its wailing more than enough to reveal its whereabouts. This face shall know me forever, and will know of his pathetically human father, he thought. Perfect; the child would always submit. A demonic grin crept across his face, betraying his calm facade with a brief appearance of sheer sadistic rapture.

He turned and walked out the door as immediately as though nothing of consequence had happened there. The man, still cowering, waited until the beating stopped and the skies cleared. Only then, when he knew he was safe, did he mourn the death of his heroic, loving wife. He would never see her again.

Her soul, who had been watching the scene, also cried out in pain, in grief for her spouse. More than that, however, was the pain of unfinished business that she had to attend to — she had to see to it that her husband and child were happy.

The Return to the Temple: Book One

Their hometown razed in a mysterious inferno, a self-doubting young man and his naive, childish half-elf friend depart on a quest to avenge those lost by discovering the source of the fire. Up against a megalomaniacal sorcerer and his headstrong apprentice, traveling under the guidance of the young man's brother, their exploits draw the ire of the magical organization that seeks to keep the world's forces in balance. Now, they must face their demons head-on in a world they barely understand, or risk losing everything.

Critical Acclaim for Journey to Fire's Keep

"Your book is totally awesome! I love how your characters have such real emotions and flaws. Once you start reading it you wont be able to put it down until you read the very last word. I am waiting impatiently I might add for the next installment!!!!!!!" ~Sharon Cassidy

"This was a very solid beginning book for this author. I look forward to any sequels or further books written by him." ~ToBeMelanie

"It's a very approachable story set in a tangibly sculpted world, and is told in a brisk, lively fashion that should entertain readers all the way through. [...] Give it a read." ~J. Brotherton

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