Dawn of the Reaper

by Paul F. McGowan

"Dawn of the Reaper" by Paul F. McGowan Firestorm,
a legendary creature
thought lost to the ages,
has returned to Evernight.

Following centuries of exile, the dragon plots his revenge against the kingdom that vanquished his kind. After he murders Rowan’s family to safeguard his identity, the boy is taken in by the notorious sorcerer, Archibald Scott.

Showing promise in the ways of magic, the orphan becomes the eccentric magician’s apprentice and is tutored in the elusive art of wizardry.

Attempting to discover his purpose, Rowan finds himself thrust into a perilous quest to find a legendary weapon. Accompanied by longtime companions and new friends alike, he must use all his wits if they’re to survive the storm brewing on the horizon.

But evil lurks in the shadows as a secretive assassin stalks their every move. Can Rowan unravel the mysterious riddle of his past and fulfill his destiny?

Only time will tell as he races to recover the ancient dragon slayer known as the Reaper.

Together they’re humanity’s only hope of defeating Firestorm and his legions.




Epic Fantasy


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Chapter One
Darkness and Light

It was that surreal time in the evening resting squarely between the setting of the sun and the rising of the moon. As if the celestial bodies lay on the opposing edges of a blade, the realm was neither fully lit nor entirely dark. Hoping to enjoy a moment of quiet reflection, Mendalus Flynn poured himself a stiff drink and eased into a worn armchair that sat before an inviting fire. He raised the glass to his lips and savored the feeling of the fiery liquid as it slid past his throat. Like a soothing embrace, it left a satisfying sensation deep inside of him. Each evening, as was his custom, he would unwind and take in the sights and sounds of the approaching darkness.

As he gazed out of the nearby window, the wizard admired the picturesque landscape that surrounded his centuries-old estate. The stars in the heavens glimmered brightly against a vivid backdrop of blurred blues and pinks as twilight settled over the countryside. The dying sun continued its lazy descent across the sky, sinking ever closer to the edge of the far horizon. Its last scattered rays of fading light cast long silhouettes across the grounds of the old manor.

An accomplished sorcerer, Mendalus appreciated the beauty of this enchanted time more than most. He could feel the magical energies that ebbed and flowed within him as he reveled in the symphonic melodies of the night. Crickets chirped from the brush outside, and the soft warble of a nightingale emanated from a nearby sycamore tree. The faint, familiar shrill of a locomotive’s whistle echoed in the distance across the glen.  The evening train was preparing to depart the nearby city of Deep Harbor, likely bound for some far-off destination.

Mendalus relished the serenity of these private moments. The shrewd magician knew the fading sun  must eventually relinquish its  hold over the land, surrendering itself to the coming darkness for another night. So had it always been and so it would always be. He sensed a storm beginning to brew in the east. Dark clouds gathered on the horizon in preparation for the coming tempest, and the faint flash of lightning, accompanied by the low rumble of thunder, raced across the sky.

Mendalus withdrew his gaze from the window and focused back on the flames of the crackling fire. The dwindling blaze bathed the room in a faint, orange glow, casting flickering shadows that danced hypnotically across the stone walls. Periodically he’d glance up at the gilded doorway that led into the chamber. Then he’d sink back into his brooding thoughts, continuing to wait patiently for the unwelcome visitor who’d soon arrive to take his life.

Initially, every fiber of his being had urged him to flee the threat that was drawing ever nearer. The wizard’s stomach knotted in fear as he dwelled upon the prospect of his impending death. He might still find somewhere to lay low, a place he could avoid detection and keep safe until things blew over. But Mendalus scolded himself for his cowardice each time he contemplated running away and remained committed to meet his fate.

Realizing the danger, he’d sent his wife and son into hiding. Their departure, only a few hours before, hadn’t been easy. Coretta had refused to leave, yet he eventually succeeded in convincing her for Rowan’s sake. After their parting, the manor had fallen into eerie silence as Mendalus had taken the liberty of sending his servants packing. The wizard, completely alone in the empty mansion, used the time to mull over his frustrations about where things had gone wrong.

After much deliberation, he’d made peace with his decisions and stoically resigned himself to the fact that the looming confrontation was unavoidable. He wouldn’t run and hide in the darkness like a frightened child. If he was powerless to control the outcome to the evening’s events, then he’d go out on his terms.

* * *

The moon was shining high overhead when Mendalus was suddenly startled by a clatter coming from the far side of the house. Several hours had passed, leaving the fire reduced to a smoldering heap of embers. The wizard listened intently until he heard the noise again. The telltale sound of footsteps on creaky floorboards echoed through the hall, signaling that his unwanted guest had finally arrived.

The steps were slow and regular as they drew closer to the large gallery. They continued to grow louder and more ominous until their owner had reached the other side of the doorway. Then they ceased and, for a moment, there was silence broken only by Mendalus’ anxious breaths as he sat motionless in the gloom. The wizard could feel his heart beginning to pound rapidly within his chest. Beads of perspiration formed on his brow. The sorcerer knew what waited behind the doors, and it was all he could do to maintain a composed demeanor. He was a powerful magician in his own right but was wise enough to know he stood little chance against this foe.

Finally, the latch began to turn, and the doors flung open in a dramatic fashion. The smoldering fire that had nearly burned itself out roared magically back to life as a tall, slender man shrouded in black strode confidently into the hall. Mendalus’ eyes opened wide in surprise as he regarded the imposing figure. The daunting intruder paused in the center of the room and abruptly pulled back the hood that had concealed his face in shadow. The pale complexion of his elongated features, in stark contrast to his jet-black hair, seemed reminiscent of a corpse. The stranger’s dark eyes glinted malevolently in the firelight as he flashed a devious grin.

“Delightful evening, wouldn’t you agree?” the mysterious caller remarked after a brief pause.

“You’re not welcome here,” Mendalus replied.

The spectral figure held his hands up in front of him, palms outward in feigned shock at the wizard’s stark words. “Is that any way to speak to a guest?” 

“Hospitality is something reserved for invited callers.”

The shadowy fellow, casting a curious glance around the room, shrugged off the offense as if it was of little consequence to him. “It’s unusually…quiet in here,” he said. “Where is everyone?”

Mendalus didn’t respond to the question, choosing instead to take a slow, purposeful sip from his drink. He relished again the burning spirits as they warmed his body. After another swig, the wizard set the empty glass down on the table to stare back impassively at the man before him.

Cyrus, tempted by the thought of a nightcap himself, made his way over to the mahogany liquor cabinet standing in a corner. “Care for another?” he inquired as he poured himself a drink.

“I might as well.”

“Now, where were we?” Cyrus asked after he’d handed a full glass back to the seated wizard. “Catching up on old times, I suppose?”

“I’m not in the mood for games,” Mendalus grumbled. “Speak if you have anything pertinent to say to me, otherwise stop wasting my time.”

Cyrus’ smirk quickly disappeared, and his face took on a more serious expression. “I think you’re the one who’s been playing games,” he accused. “You’ve been spying on me for weeks now, sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. King Rufus would never approve of such behavior.”

“Don’t mention his name in front of me,” Mendalus shot back. “Withering under the influence of your dark magic, he’s become a shell of the person he once was.”

“I don’t appreciate your tone. Take care how you address me, wizard,” Cyrus growled in warning.

But Mendalus, who’d been anticipating this altercation, refused to back down. “You’ve played everyone for a fool, flattering and deceiving your way to your lofty position. You pit us against one another from the shadows while slowly poisoning this kingdom. But I know your true identity, Cyrus, and the real reason why you’re here. Furthermore, I’ve stumbled upon a discovery...a way to defeat you.”

Mendalus’ words were met with disdainful silence, accompanied by an expression shifting from mere annoyance to intense loathing. Impassioned by the heat of the moment, the wizard remained unfazed by the murderous glare and pressed on. “You’re too late, Cyrus...or perhaps I should call you Firestorm? That is your real name, isn’t it?” he said. “At this very moment, my courier will be reaching the gates of Deep Harbor with a letter revealing everything. The entire kingdom will know of your treachery.”

The weight of Mendalus’ revelations hung heavy in the air for long moments as Cyrus mulled over what had been said. Then, after a tense period of silence, he began to clap his hands together in mock applause.

“You certainly have been busy, haven’t you?” Cyrus admitted. “Information like that would undoubtedly make life problematic for me if it were to get out. I have to wonder, though. Regarding this urgent message...is this the letter to which you were referring?”

Slowly and deliberately, he brought forth a crumpled piece of parchment, stained red with blood. Cyrus, who seemed to be enjoying the moment, let the note slip from between his fingertips. Like a feather, it floated to the floor, coming to rest at the feet of the stunned wizard. A quick glance at the broken seal of his family crest was enough to confirm that it was the same correspondence he’d sent out hours before.

“It grieves me to inform you that it never made its intended destination,” continued Cyrus smugly. “You couldn’t expect me to let such a communication reach the king. I intercepted your emissary as he rode toward the city. It was good of you to send him my way. He was quite...delicious.” Cyrus flashed a cruel smile at his adversary.

The sorcerer, rendered speechless by the news, was unable to hide the look of disappointment on his face. The wizard’s dejection made Cyrus smile all the wider.

“You know, I’ve been sent here to arrest you?” he inquired after allowing enough time for the news of the failed plan to sink in.

“Arrest me? On what charges?” the bewildered wizard demanded.

“Why treason, of course,” replied Cyrus nonchalantly. “You’ve been implicated in a plot upon the king’s life, and the Crown has ordered me to bring you in for questioning. I’d hoped King Rufus would’ve simply allowed me to execute you on the spot considering the seriousness of the allegations. However, disturbed as he is by this troubling news, he insists you deserve a fair trial.”

“Lies!” the sorcerer shouted in defiance. “What would motivate me to commit such an act?”

“Rumors are spreading that the plot was orchestrated to overthrow his rule via a coup,” Cyrus replied coolly. “It’s been suggested that you also planned to kill the princess.”

“You’re framing me!”

“Your powers of deduction continue to amaze,” Cyrus remarked sarcastically. “I couldn’t risk you informing the king of my plans, could I? I simply remove you from the equation, and my schemes cease to be threatened by your meddling.”

Mendalus grimaced as he heard the troubling revelations. “You’re here to arrest me, but you bring no guards?” he questioned perceptively. “I suppose it would be too inconvenient to have any witnesses about. So I refuse to come quietly, resulting in my demise? Is that how this evening is scripted?”

“Right again,” Cyrus nodded approvingly, still radiating the same sinister smile. “I’m sorry, Mendalus, but I simply can’t allow you to live. If you’d just stayed out of my affairs, you and your family might have been spared.”

“My family have no part in this, Cyrus,” Mendalus warned. “Leave them out of this.”

“On the contrary, they still need to die. I can’t allow everything I’ve worked for to be compromised. I must assume they were privy to your findings, and I can’t permit anyone with such knowledge to live.”

The wizard refused to respond to the assumption, but the revealing waver in his gaze told Cyrus everything he needed to know.

“I had figured as much,” he said. “Tell me, Mendalus, where have you sent them? If you cooperate, I promise to make your death relatively painless.”

“You’re a fool if you think I’d tell you,” Mendalus growled. He could feel himself growing angrier by the second. 

Cyrus began to chuckle, and his laughter filled the room as his body began to grow and contort in the firelight. “That’s what I like about you, Mendalus. You’re constantly one step behind. I hate to disappoint you, but my network of spies is vast. Believe me, they won’t get far, and they’ll suffer the same fate as you.”

Cyrus looked over at the clock before returning his attention to the wizard across from him. “You’ll have to forgive me,” he said. “I’ve learned all I can from you, and I grow bored with this conversation.”

Cyrus’ transformation was almost complete. His hulking form filled the entire expanse of the large banquet hall as he loomed menacingly over the doomed wizard. The fearsome creature stood on his hind legs, unfurling his massive wings as he did so. His monstrous head was now high among the rafters, and the beast roared as he gnashed his teeth and beat his wings like a crazed demon. His tail swung erratically across the floor, smashing furniture to bits and shattering windows. Even the chamber’s stout, timber beams and stone walls began to groan and crumble under Cyrus’ increasing girth. Mendalus, unable to hide his look of fear, could only stare at the terrifying monster towering high above him.

“I must warn you, even a powerful wizard such as you won’t last long in a battle with me,” Cyrus proclaimed.

But Mendalus, hopelessly outmatched as he was, remained defiant in the face of certain death and shouted a challenge back. “Even still, I won’t be going down without a fight!” he cried, summoning every last ounce of courage left in his body.

His eyes flashed fiercely as he drew forth a wand from his waistcoat pocket. Pointing it in the direction of his opponent, he began to recite the words to a powerful incantation...


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