Embers of the Past Series: A Sanctum of Swords (Embers Edition)

In the wake of a catastrophic cataclysm that claimed the lives of both mortals and powerful gods, the remnants of mortal-kind begin to rebuild civilization in the world of Thearus. But, unseen by many is an ancient and evil force that seeks to bring darkness across the land once more.

Available June 14, 2024 in Paperback, eBook and Audiobook formats

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In the wake of a catastrophic cataclysm that claimed the lives of both mortals and powerful gods, the remnants of mortal-kind begin to rebuild civilization in the world of Thearus. But, unseen by many is an ancient and evil force that seeks to bring darkness across the land once more.

It is the era of the Ascension of Kings, a period of reconstruction after the catastrophic collapse which saw the death of the gods of the Ascended Pantheon and left the mortals of Thearus to rise from the ashes and begin anew.

But, war, assassination, and betrayal still stalk the land, fueled by the mighty kingdoms and cults born from the fires of destruction, and ruled by powerful demi-gods. And now, the Sanctum Queen, Karayan, seeks to summon her twin patron goddesses, Sabah and Zesiro, onto the mortal plane to cast a shroud of darkness and chaos across the realm.

If these Twin Deities of the Void succeed in returning to the world of Thearus, they will bring an end to civilization and the death of all who live on the land. Now, only a small group of nine unusual heroes stand in the way of the coming malevolence, and the Sanctum Queen’s dark plans.

But, as the unlikely allies’ journey into the realm of an immortal prison known as the Penitent Sanctuary, they must face a terrible choice: free the Twin Deities of the Void and be granted another chance to live again, or face an eternity of tormented existence in purgatory.



“Author John Malone crafts a truly epic journey into a fantastical world teeming with magic, danger, and intrigue, and I was hooked right from the first page.”


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Chapter 8: Art of Death Excerpt

~The Lantern Way Near Akara Sanctum~

A Decade Ago

Deep within the realm of Akara Sanctum, Korian detected an otherworldly pulse. The Gates of Dusk lie buried near the Southern Wastes’ esoteric heart.

Following the Lantern Way’s winding course, he found the fork dividing High Akara coming into view ahead. Hanging lanterns on either side of the road guided him in an otherwise impregnable dark.

The abyss below the city almost appeared to be sentient, a cosmic entity, considering him an invader.

Was he an invader?

An inanimate weapon guided by his Goddess’ hand to reap the sands of an immortal life.

He descended away from the main road leading into the city. A vast palace citadel atop the settlement’s higher echelons loomed in the distance.

Korian glanced over his shoulder, back toward the natural sunlight that poured through the surface world’s gaping wounds. An unapproachable gate back into the Southern Wastes and the Golden Sun in the desert sky.

He spiraled into the depths, distant from the lantern’s light.

Akara’s bazaar warrens were an amalgamation of market districts built into a dense urban sprawl, an impoverished commune of rough-spun shacks constructed upon it. Hanging lanterns swayed from large wooden posts between the back alleys and pathways between the market stalls.

Merchants and roguish figures alike seemed to have abandoned the district in haste. He searched the bazaar for signs of life but spied none.

An obscured figure sprang out from a nearby alleyway. The coiling shape assumes the aspect of a female Ashen Blade fast approaching him. Korian ground himself to a halt, sliding back and around a thrust from her blade.

He turned the weapon aside with an uncaring backhand sweep. Flitting back across the cobblestone for space, the assassin changed stances when countercharging into his guard.

Dominion’s End slid free from the sheath. Korian reinforced his weight on the Ashen Blade’s sword arm. Seeing an opportunity, he punched the blade straight out at her lungs. She leaned to one side, using his momentum against him as the blade thrust wide of its mark.

Footfalls pattered across the cobblestone to enter the combat. Korian counted one, two, and three kindred warriors joining the fray.

Korian ducked and rolled beneath a serpentine glaive, a Reaper’s Scythe. In that movement, he spun Dominion’s End around in his hand, gripping the flipped blade by the hilt upon leaping back onto both feet. The gladius found the kindred blade’s joint behind the knee, splitting the flesh and bone beneath.

A barked cry of pain echoed through the abandoned warren, making Korian’s heart beat faster. The wounded male staggered back, caught on the embedded blade but somehow keeping balance. A spring off the back foot pushed him past the glaive’s pendulum motion.

Stepping around his opponent, Korian charged another pair of Ashen Blades in the rear guard. He shouldered through the narrow gap between them and slammed an elbow into a female’s throat hard enough to dislodge her footing.

He raised Dominion’s End toward his face, still held in a reverse grip, blocking a sweep at his eyes. Channeling his momentum, Korian pivoted and delivered a vicious knee into a male’s gut, hard enough to cause him to fall onto the cobblestones.

A seventh sense made him duck in the same movement. The Reaper’s Scythe passed overhead to cleave the male assassin’s head from his shoulders.

Another pivot brought him around the falling corpse, the body coming between Korian and the limping glaive wielder. He revealed a throwing dagger in his other hand and pitched the blade with unerring accuracy into his assailant’s beating heart.

Reality blurred. Korian stole himself from the mortal world for the briefest moment. He returned, bursting through a fallout of shade mist at full tilt past the female Sukhanite leaping back to her feet.

Dominion’s End lashed out in an arc before him. The Sukhanite female crumbled upon herself, his blade cleaving through a vulnerable point between her ribs, a crimson spray trailing behind.

He didn’t arrest his momentum but glanced sidelong to find the Sukhanite female that had ambushed him first, a tasseled straight sword still clutched in hand. He slid around on a heel toward her to thrust the blade home.

She weaved around the thrust, allowing Korian’s momentum to carry him into her guard. A savage elbow to the flank sent Korian hurtling to the stone onto one side. He struck the road with dazing force, but avoided a mortal blow aimed at his throat with a fluid roll onto his feet.

The female Ashen Blade gave chase and cracked a leaping kick against his jawbone, hard enough to pitch his head back. Korian detected the tasseled sword rushing over her falling leg, a quick thought cutting through his throat.

He cracked an elbow into the Ashen Blade’s sternum, winding her and driving her back beyond his immediate reach. Correcting his posture, Korian blinked out of reality to avoid the counterassault and summoned himself back into the mortal sphere to land a mortal blow on her torso.

Blood streamed out from the wound, spilling over his hand and gauntlet as the female assassin fell onto both trembling knees. Dominion’s End slid free from the wound with a pull.

Korian flipped the blade upon stepping around the defeated assassin’s back. He rammed Dominion’s End through her spinal cord from behind—a merciful blow to end another mortal’s needless suffering.

He found himself alone in the bazaar warrens, nothing but the quiet dead scattered about the road. An oppressive silence followed the aftermath.

Korian pulled Dominion’s End from the corpse seated on both knees, producing a white cloth hanging from his belt. He cleaned the blade with several passes through the fabric.

A familiar woman’s voice crept out of the dark from how he had entered the warren.

“Honorable kills, traveler,” Anoush said. “Zahira will guide them through the Gates of Her Palace. Of that, I am certain.”

She emerged from a secluded alley into the lantern lights. Korian didn’t respond too quickly, waiting for the Ferryman to step out from behind her shadow. The nameless Ashen Blade looked over her shoulder and whistled, awestruck.

“You reaped their lives without much effort,” the Ferryman said. That contest of blades gave even me anxiety. It was an exemplary playing of the Hourglass Game, one that I pray you’ll remember down to the last grain.”

“Anoush and the Ferryman,” Korian said, “is a welcome reprieve from my quiet pilgrimage to the Gates of Dusk and what lies beyond. I’m surprised that Akara’s Guardians didn’t halt you, but they made no time to stop me. It is a blessing in disguise that I do not need to venture into the higher echelons of the city.”

Anoush bounded over to his side. “A moment, traveler.” She gazed up at him and smiled. “Or should I call you Enigma?”

“Call me by either title or name or merely a traveler. It makes little difference to an inanimate blade. Both are equal parts of what and who I am. However, should you wish to venture beside me further into the depths, you will find only the Reaper waiting ahead.”

She hurriedly spoke, returning to face the abyss beneath the Southern Wastes. “Korian, wait. You delivered us from certain death, remember? We wanted to thank you for joining your rebellion against Karayan. Each of us is a condemned soul in search of penance. Or have you never committed grievous crimes like the two of us?”

Korian paused, his feet resting in the blood pooling around his leather boots. “I don’t believe that the hourglass has dwindled so much yet for either of you. I’d suggest finding a quiet place to find your peace.”

The Ferryman joined them beneath the burning lantern’s light. “There isn’t a place within the Southern Wastes beyond Sanctum Queen Karayan’s reach. Our queen will soon remind us that she has not forgotten our transgression in the Mausoleum of Shades. I’ve devoted my life to Akara Sanctuary and my second life to the Watcher of the Hourglass. Zahira would want Anoush and me to aid passing strangers, especially her blade, long severed from its master’s hand.”

Korian nodded. “You speak the truth. The evening dusk fades as my horizon nears the dim of night. Once we’ve entered the Gates of Dusk, there is no return to the mortal sphere. We’ll certainly be within Karayan’s reach, too; I’d wager more than you’ve considered.”

Anoush shared a knowing look with her companion.

He resumed his journey into the depths without another word. Korian’s new companions followed him toward the End of everything in silence.




October 23, 2023

Print Length

371 pages