The Dark Army - By Marcus Alexander Page 0,1

here you low-down, good-for-nothing, chumpaholic idiots –’

A rumble and creak of stone from the opposite wall stopped Charlie mid-flow as small fractures appeared across its surface.

‘Huh?’

The cracks grew, the stonework moaned and Charlie could hear the faint sound of what seemed to be whale song mixed with the distant rumble of thunder. As the song grew in volume, the wall began to bulge and shake. A large circular hole peeled open in the brickwork to expose a dark and forbidding tunnel. The singing stopped and a bulky figure wrapped in a black hooded robe strode confidently out of the passageway.

‘B-Bane!’ stuttered Charlie, feeling the blood drain from her face. The Stoman Lord was the reason she was in Bellania. It was, after all, his twisted ambition and his shadowy servants, the Shades, who had chased her from London, intent on trying to kill and even eat her. Bane seemed to think that the pendant Charlie had worn round her neck ever since her parents went missing seven long years ago was key to controlling the realm. With the pendant in his power he could ensure his mastery over Bellania and, knowing this, he would stop at nothing to get it. It had become clear that keeping it in her possession and discovering its secrets was the only way Charlie could save the realm from his evil rule, as well as her only hope of seeing her parents again.

Right now she could feel its reassuring presence round her neck. Whoever was holding her captive clearly didn’t know what the necklace was. It seemed like the only piece of good luck she’d had since she’d opened the portal to Alavis.

Striding forward, the figure loomed over Charlie. Large hands reached up and pulled down the hood to reveal the characteristically gnarled skin of a Stoman. The stranger’s face was hard and rigid and he had the coldest grey eyes Charlie had ever seen.

‘No, not Bane,’ said the large visitor. ‘My name is Darkmount. Edge Darkmount.’

Charlie blinked in astonishment. Edge Darkmount was the Stoman bishop she’d been trying to find: the one person who could reveal the secret of her pendant. The bishop was rumoured to be one of the most powerful Stomen in all of Bellania, with stonesinging abilities that could manipulate even the hardest rock as if it were nothing more than clay. Now that Charlie was face to face with him she was relieved that it wasn’t Bane, yet she didn’t necessarily feel any safer for she could see that he carried his own darkness. However, as she stared back at the hulking figure, instead of fear she felt the familiar stirring of fury within her. It was like the welcome return of an old friend.

‘You chump! You sold us out! You were supposed to help us, but you stabbed us in the back!’ she shouted. Lashing out, she tried to kick the looming Stoman, but he was out of reach. ‘If I ever get down from here I’m going to rip that cloak off you and stuff it up your nostrils, you lousy backstabber!’

‘Silly Humans, you are all the same,’ snarled Darkmount. ‘Only an idiot chained to a wall would insult a stranger.’ Raising a clenched fist he sang a powerful note that caused his hand to glow a deep, baleful red. ‘Indeed if you aren’t careful you might be forced to learn a painful lesson.’

Jensen groaned and did his best to gain some control of his torn and bruised body. Spitting mud from his mouth, he clenched his fingers into the dirt, pushed his knees under his chest and struggled to his feet.

‘I won’t ask again. Tell me wot yer’ve done with Charlie!’ he demanded through swollen lips. He staggered defiantly upright to face the Stoman guards in their shining armour. ‘Where is she?’

The Stomen were tired of the repeated questions. Grown used to the Treman’s plucky determination, they did what they always did. With a nod from a nearby sergeant one of the Stoman soldiers stamped his way from beneath the shelter of the overhanging roof into the pouring rain. Casually he lifted his heavy war axe and, using the thick shaft of the handle rather than the sharp business end, clubbed Jensen back to the ground.

The soldier stared down at the captive. ‘You better stay down and be quiet!’ he growled, nudging his boot into Jensen’s ribs.

‘I’m getting tired of repeating meself,’ mumbled Jensen. Raising a shaking arm he waved it in the general direction of the

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