Here are the first 5 pages of book 4 in the Protector's Saga, tentatively called 'Shattered Image'. I'm thinking of posting the rest of chapter 1 sometime in the coming week. I hope you all enjoy and I wuv y'all!! ;)
The troll’s club slammed into Avery’s stomach, sending her soaring backwards and crashing into a large Oak tree. Avery heard a loud crack and wasn’t sure if it was from the tree or her back. Sliding down the tree, Avery landed in a squatting position on the ground. She shook her head vigorously, trying to regain the senses that had been knocked out of her and looked up in time to see the troll begin to stride towards her, his dangerous club dragging behind him. He stepped over the body of another troll Avery had dispatched only moments before.
Gripping her sword tightly, Avery readied herself for the troll’s attack. When he was only a few feet from her, the troll suddenly stopped, his eyes widened and his mouth slacked open. He reached around towards his back, and then fell to the ground dead. Avery saw Jade’s sword sticking out from the center of the troll’s spine. Jade was standing behind the troll, her body still slightly arched forward from throwing her sword. Avery glanced to her right and spotted Sasha and Skylar taking down the last remaining troll with their crossbows.
“Are you alright?” Jade asked, walking over and stretching out her hand for Avery.
Avery grabbed onto Jade’s hand and allowed herself to be pulled up, “Peachy.” she said sarcastically, massaging her sore shoulder.
“This blows.” Jade grumbled, kicking at one of the dead trolls.
“What does?” Avery asked. Knowing Jade, Avery wasn’t sure if she was referring to the minor beating they had just taken, or the fact that it was over so quickly.
Jade gave the troll another quick kick, “These trolls attacked us. You’d think they would at least put up a good fight…that was pathetic.”
Avery sighed, thinking she should have known it would be the latter, “Well, if you want a real fight…” Avery began, but was immediately interrupted by Jade.
“Just stop!” Jade snapped, pointing her finger at Avery, “We are not having this conversation again.”
It was a conversation they had had over a dozen times. During the final battle with the Emperor, in his dying moments he had told the Protectors that there was something far worse he out there, something that was coming for them. Ever since then Avery had wanted to search for the being the Emperor had been talking about. Gumptin hadn’t been able to find out anything from the Elementals, or any of his other magical contacts. He said there were only three places where the Protectors might be able to find some answers. One of the places was at the Temple of the Ancients, where the Council of the Ancients met. It was on the top of Mount Aural, halfway across the world. The second choice the Protectors had was to cross the Wasted Desert, where Gumptin said any creature that used dark magic would have been at some point in their life. Finally, Gumptin told them they could take a trip to the Underworld and question its inhabitants. However, Gumptin also made it very clear that he didn’t think the girls were ready for any of the suggestions, and he was adamantly against the idea of them taking any journey. To Avery’s great surprise, Jade had agreed with Gumptin, and for the past three months since the Emperor’s death she and Jade had continued to argue about it. Avery wanted to find out who the Emperor was talking about before they had a chance to cause any problems, while she also selfishly maintained the hope that if the Protectors killed them then they could return home to Earth. Jade continued to argue that Gumptin was right, that it was too dangerous, they weren’t ready, and Avery was only going to get herself killed.
Avery was at her wit’s end trying to have a rational conversation with Jade on the topic, “I don’t understand your reluctance to at least agree that we should find who the Emperor was talking about.”
“We’re not ready.” Jade said sharply, “Sasha, back me up.”
Avery turned and saw Sasha, Skylar, and Bunny walking up behind them. Skylar had a small cut on her cheek, and blue troll blood staining her white cotton tunic. Bunny was rubbing at her hand like she had injured it during the skirmish.
If Jade had been hoping that Sasha would support her, she had another thing coming, “Oh, is my opinion actually going to count for something now.” Sasha complained as the other girls all rolled their eyes.
“Spare us, Sasha.” Avery grumbled.
As sick as Avery was about arguing with Jade, she was even sicker of having to listen to Sasha constantly moaning about the fact that they were still stuck on Orcatia.
“I’m sorry if my complete unhappiness is inconvenient for you, Avery.” Sasha snapped.
“Oh God,” Jade grumbled, “I’m sorry I even asked you. Just shut up and go play Drama Queen somewhere else.”
Sasha threw her hands up in Drama Queen frustration and began stomping back off to the village.
“I’m sorry,” Bunny spoke up, grabbing the rest of the girls attention, who had been getting a kick out of watching Sasha almost trip over her own feet as she stormed away, “I’m sorry, but I kind of agree with what Jade is saying about us not being ready.”
“Oh, shut up, Bunny,” Jade began, “no one asked…” she stopped when she realized that Bunny was actually agreeing with her.
As both Avery and Jade stared at her with their mouths open, Bunny explained, “I just don’t know if we’re ready to face something even worse than the Emperor, and I don’t want any of us to get hurt…especially you, Avery.”
Jade, who pretty much had never praised Bunny a day in her life, gave Bunny’s shoulder a squeeze and said, “See, I always said Bunny was the sensible one. You can’t read all those books and not have a good head on your shoulders.”
Avery bit her tongue, stopping herself from stating that most of the time Jade thought Bunny was as sensible as a bikini in the Arctic.
Hoping for a little support herself, Avery asked Skylar, “What do you think?”
Skylar glanced back and forth from Avery to Jade, who stood across from each other, both stern faced, Jade with her arms folded across her chest, and Avery with her hands on her hips.
Hesitating before she finally replied, Skylar shrugged, “Honestly, I can see both of your points.”
Avery groaned, she should have known better than to look to diplomatic Skylar to take her side.
Skylar was going to elaborate on her answer, but Jade cut her off, as frustrated with Skylar’s non-committal answer as Avery was, “Avery, listen to me,” Jade said, struggling to keep her tone calm, “you almost died defeating the Emperor.”
“That’s not…” Avery began to protest, but Jade held up her hand, waving it vigorously in front of Avery’s face and stopping her.
“It is true!” Jade stated, her calm tone slipping, “The only way to beat something as powerful…more powerful than the Emperor is to use our powers, and putting aside the fact that none of us have been able to actually use our powers since the Emperor was killed, we have no idea what these powers could actually do to us.” Anticipating Avery interrupting her, Jade quickly added, “I’ll be damned if the thing that gets you killed is your own power.”
Avery gave a long exasperated sigh and turned to walk back to Havyn.
“I’m not talking about using my power,” she said to the others as they followed her, “all I’m saying is that we should at least be trying to find out who or what the Emperor was talking about…or if they even exist.”
“He was evil,” Bunny said, walking behind Avery, “and evil lies.”
“Exactly!” Jade exclaimed, uncharacteristically agreeing with Bunny, “He was probably just blowing smoke up our asses, and even if he wasn’t it doesn’t matter because we’re not going to do a damn thing about it, and that’s final.”
Avery stopped dead in her tracks and whipped around to face Jade, who almost ran smack into her. She was used to disagreeing and arguing with Jade, but being ordered around by her was something that always chaffed Avery, especially when she was already riled.
“I’m sorry,” Avery said sarcastically, “I thought I was supposed to be the leader around here.”
A look of shock only lasted for a few seconds on Jade’s face before her jaw clenched and she said, “Don’t you dare pull that leader card! Pre-death Jade might have been fine with your control freak leash around her neck, but that is not a trait that survived re-birth, especially when the leadership decisions you want to make could get you hurt.”
Avery looked over to Skylar and Bunny. Skylar pointed towards bunny and shaking her head vigorously told Avery, “Uh uh, we’re staying out of this one.”