Here is a list of the changes to Book Two in order of their appearance:
- New cover artwork by Mike Heath at Magnus Creative
- Title changed to Paths of Destruction: The Awakened Book Two
- Reformatted the entire manuscript for readability and consistency
- Added a hyperlinked table-of-contents
- Updated Map of the Orudan Empire
- Slight changes to the diagrams of the High Temple (profile and aerial views)
- Put “The Prophecy” on its own page in order to highlight the context of The Awakened
- Slightly altered the chapter organization
- Removed the first scene of Book Two and placed it at the end of Book One
- Added two new scenes in Chapter 1
- Added one new scene in Chapter 7
- Added one new scene in Chapter 12
- Added two new scenes in Chapter 28
Here is the new cover artwork, the updated map, and the new scenes. Enjoy!
From Paths of Destruction, Chapter 1
Adair rested his head back against the seat, but kept his eyes open and focused on the terrain outside of the thundering locust. The dense jungle passing swiftly beneath them began to grow thin in some areas as they descended from the mountainous terrain and flew out over a wide valley. A moment later, Adair could see a meandering river that split into numerous tributaries and snaked across the land before joining back with the main flow. The flying carriage suddenly descended toward the water and Adair felt his stomach lurch.
The soldier kneeling directly in front of him pressed something he had been holding and the pressure on Adair’s arm suddenly released. The man reached up and removed the band he had placed around Adair’s arm, then turned to his superior.
* * * *
Team Leader Devon Greer locked eyes with his Assistant Team Leader, Eric Thompson. “Shock?” he asked.
“Nothing. Pulse and BP are great. He’s healthy as a horse, but he still looks like he’s about to puke. I don’t think he’s ever flown before.”
Greer smiled as he turned his attention to the hostage. The dark-haired man in the toga was resting his head against the back of his seat, but his eyes were alert and seemed to be taking in everything around him. It was clear that he didn’t understand what he was seeing, but there was no hint of fear in him either. His silent confidence and athlete’s physique spoke volumes.
“I’ll bet you anything this guy’s a soldier,” Greer concluded.
“Yeah,” Thompson replied. “…a Spartan, maybe?”
Greer smiled again. “Alright. Let’s get that foot patched up quickly. We’re landing in two.”
“Sir!” came the quickly reply.
The chopper followed the river for another mile, then banked to the west and rose out of the valley to connect with a wide bend in a nearby dirt road. As they descended toward the landing zone, Thompson had just finished wrapping the hostage’s wounded foot.
“He’s OK for now, but he’ll need a thorough cleaning and some stitches when we get to the safe house.”
“Good,” Greer replied. “Let’s go.”
As soon as the skids touched the dirt, the door slid sideways and the other three team members jumped out and took up cover positions with their weapons ready. Thompson helped the asset out and Greer followed them to the open door of an armored SUV tucked beneath the overhanging foliage of a sprawling tree. They quickly filed into the center bench seat, while the remaining members of the team filled up the rear and front passenger seats.
The voice in Greer’s ear-piece sounded hollow. “We’ll provide air support, but we have to peel off before we reach the city.”
Greer looked back to the chopper and gave a thumbs-up to the pilot before pulling the door closed. “Let’s go!” he shouted to the driver.
Instantly, the vehicle shot into motion, leaving a cloud of dust that swirled into numerous vortices as the chopper lifted into the air and began to follow them.
From Paths of Destruction, Chapter 7
Even before the city of Nijambu came into view, Saba knew that he was finally headed in the right direction. After years of searching, scouring the known world for anything that resembled the place he saw in his dreams, he could almost feel it as well as see it.
As a forested peninsula slid away from the port side of the large vessel on which he stood, a large bay opened before his sight. Leaning on the port railing, he squinted until he could make out the vast city of tents and short wooden structures that covered mile upon mile of the eastern shore. From somewhere toward the prow, a loud blast of a horn signaled their arrival to the city. Saba glanced up to the men scurrying up and down the mast, making last minute adjustments to the sails as the ship swung toward the city. Far away, the deep bellow of a return signal indicated that the city was prepared to receive the ship.
Saba’s heart began to race with the anticipation of discovery. For so many years, he had lived with an unknown past. And though he did his best to live in the present, he felt that a large piece of himself was missing. People he had known. Places he had seen. Experiences that had shaped his personality. All cloaked in mystery.
Most of the memories that the cloaked figure had unearthed from his mind had dissipated just as quickly into the great cloud of oblivion that still held him captive. But in a distant way, Saba vaguely remembered the emotions he felt when he experienced those memories for the second time. Some had been painful and some pleasant. And it seemed that a few memories even held the promise of surpassing joy.
The ship moved sluggishly toward the extensive arrangement of docks constructed from the hollow stalks of a native tree. As Saba watched the dark-skinned residents running along the docks in preparation for the arrival, he noted the absence of any signs of Orudan life. He was far beyond the influence of the Empire. Though this port city was massive and bustling, it was still painfully primitive by comparison. And even these small signs of advancement would quickly fall away as one left the city limits. Saba’s eyes traced the road that ran parallel to the shore and eventually disappeared into the hills as it swung to the southeast. As he continued to stare out in the direction of the unseen canyon that he would have to follow, he was suddenly struck with a hint of longing that brought a smile to his lips.
I’ve been here before. I’ve walked this path!
Somewhere, out there beyond the dense jungle tree line, a story was waiting to be rediscovered—his own story.
From Paths of Destruction, Chapter 12
Saba stood at the bottom of a ravine, watching the water of a stream as it flowed around jagged rocks and beneath the overhanging foliage on either bank. The narrow path, a barely-discernible trail worn by repeated animal passage, picked up again on the other side of the stream and disappeared into jungle. The deep, red earth that was exposed appeared like a wound in the otherwise green landscape. Overhead, the tree limbs converged to form a canopy that kept the jungle floor in shadow for the majority of the day. Despite the shade, the air was warm and heavy, making it hard to catch his breath.
Something had told him to stop. And since this whole trip was a chasing after vague memories, he obeyed without hesitation. Was it the presence of something just out of sight, hiding in the forest? Was it the fear of being captured?
No, he thought to himself. They’ve been following me for two days now.
Turning to look downstream, he realized why he had stopped.
This is where I turn!
Cautiously, he placed his foot into the water and waited. When nothing happened, he turned and began to wade through the shallows and follow the flow of the water. With each step, he felt more confident about leaving the trail behind and setting off in this new direction. Minutes later, he crawled through a marsh of tall grasses and thick mud to find himself standing in a wide stream bed where the water grew shallow and passed gently over a field of small pebbles.
Fifty feet away, standing calmly in the center of the water, was a dark-skinned man in a loin cloth. His close-cropped hair was showing signs of gray and his only other item of clothing or decoration was the short bone that ran sideways through his nose. He didn’t carry weapons of any kind.
It wasn’t necessary, because the stream bed was surrounded by at least twenty other younger males, carrying an assortment of spears and bows.
Saba held both his hands out to either side and remained perfectly still. His heart was beating rapidly, both from fear and from the excitement of finally seeing who had been tracking his every move for the last two days.
As the younger men leaned forward and crouched in anticipation, the older man lifted his head and began to speak in his native language.
Saba was amazed to find that he understood the words.
“Among my people, there is legend. Ancient ones speak of white man with white hair. He leave something great important. They say one day he return for it.”
Saba smiled as the words and their pronunciation came instantly to his mind. “I am he,” he answered in their language.
From Paths of Destruction, Chapter 28
Adair watched in amazement through the right side window of the horseless carriage as buildings, people, and other confusing sights nearly flew by. The speed of transportation in this place was continually astounding and Adair once again realized that his fingers had unconsciously balled into fists. He slowly relaxed his grip as his eyes focused nearer on the man sitting next to him—the leader of the soldiers who had rescued him.
The man had black hair, cropped so close to his head that it looked like stubble around the side and back. His skin was smooth and tanned, with a yellow tint. His brown eyes rested steadily behind large upper lids, with a calm intensity that spoke of confidence.
Only once had Adair seen someone of similar heritage. A large merchant ship had once docked in Bastul for a week while the Captain and crew replenished their supplies and readied themselves to sail south for Nijambu. Two of the men aboard that vessel looked like the man sitting next to him now. At the time, they had been the most foreign things Adair had ever seen. But he couldn’t say that any longer. This whole world, wherever it was, was so foreign that it felt like a disorienting dream.
Adair turned to look out the left side window and to casually inspect the man sitting on his other side. This man, the second in command as far as Adair could discern, was fair-skinned. Even more so than Maeryn. His thin, red hair—also cropped short—wasn’t limited to his head. It covered his face in a beard that looked to be about two weeks-worth of growth. His freckled skin was a sharp contrast to his green eyes, which were looking straight ahead but also noting every movement that Adair made.
Adair had seen that look before, and knew exactly what it meant. As a soldier himself, he knew that these men were protecting him. But they also had to stay vigilant and watch the person they guarded, in case he decided to flee or do something else to risk his own life. Adair smiled inwardly at the comforting thought. After what he had witnessed this day, he wasn’t about to do anything that these men didn’t tell him to do. He wasn’t sure of their purpose or final intentions, but for now, they were keeping him alive. And that meant something to a fellow soldier.
Suddenly, the carriage was enveloped in shadow and Adair was startled out of his thoughts. He looked forward just in time to see that they were entering a large, stone structure through an opening wide enough for eight carriages lined up end-to-end.
* * * *
Greer quickly scanned the rows of vehicles as the driver navigated the interior of the parking garage. He kept his grip snug, but relaxed on the handle of his weapon as his eyes adjusted to the change in light. Through the windows of the armored SUV, he continually searched for any threats or signs of attack.
The driver circled the garage and descended to the lowest level where access to maintenance and utility shafts was readily available in case of a needed escape route. In the northwest corner of the nearly-vacant garage, three inconspicuous sedans were parked and waiting with drivers ready to speed away at any moment.
As the driver brought the vehicle to a stop, Greer noted the presence of several plain-clothes guards covering the entrance and exit ramps onto this level. Assured of their safety, he grabbed the door handle and paused.
“I’ll take him in the center vehicle. Thompson, you and Martinez take the lead. Jensen and Zylski are following. Everyone ready?”
When his team voiced their readiness, Greer opened the door and climbed out, bringing his weapon into a low-ready position. Moving quickly to the armored sedan, he opened the rear, driver-side door with one hand and kept his eyes scanning the garage as Thompson led the asset through the door and into the back seat. Greer immediately climbed in next to the man and shut the door.
The driver looked in the rear-view mirror. “Civilian clothes are on the floor.”
Greer nodded, then grabbed a jacket off the floorboard and handed it to the asset. “Put it on over your clothes,” he said, trying to explain himself with hand motions.
The asset seemed to understand.
Minutes later, three plain sedans left the parking garage with commonly-dressed passengers, their exits staggered by a few minutes. Each vehicle headed a different direction as they turned onto surface streets, only to converge a half-hour later on the north end of the city.
The small convoy traveled north for several hours before turning off the highway and onto a dirt road that ran for miles between the fields of a coffee plantation. Row upon row of short bushes stretched to the horizon, broken only by the narrow strips of dark, fertile soil between them and the occasional stand of trees. Eventually, the organized vegetation gave way to thick, random growth as they ascended into mountainous terrain.
With the sun sitting low along the western horizon, the three armored vehicles pulled beneath the covered entrance to a tile-roofed house, situated on the point of a hilltop, overlooking the fields below. Its earthen walls and sagging roof were contrasted by its majestic, unobstructed view to the west and south, while the north and east approaches were covered by an extensive network of security cameras.
As soon as the cars came to a stop, one of the two residents came out of the small, stone building and onto the circular driveway to receive the new arrivals, whose approach had been carefully monitored for the last few miles.
Thompson was already out of his vehicle and opening the asset’s door to take him inside.
Greer walked around the sedan and approached the safe house resident. “Is everything in order?”
“You’re all set, Sir. And we haven’t picked up any signs of pursuit, either.”
“Good,” Greer replied as his eyes drifted from the western horizon to the limping man being escorted into the house. As he inhaled the first calm breath of the day, he allowed the silence of this remote location to fill his ears. He paused for moment, listening for anything out of the ordinary, but everything sounded normal. At rest.
“Did you hear from Command?” he asked, finally breaking the silence.
“Yes, Sir. They have a linguistic team coming in tomorrow morning. They should be here by zero nine hundred.”
Greer nodded, while his eyes scanned the tree line on the other side of the driveway. “We’re going to need medical supplies and something to eat.”
“Yes, Sir. And your guest?”
Greer turned to look at the main door where Jensen and Zylski were now standing guard. He thought for a moment before replying. “I don’t know where the guy is from, but let’s put on some tea and coffee and see if we can make him feel at home.”
The resident nodded. “Yes, Sir.”
Click here to read about the changes to Book Three.
Click here to read about the changes to Book Three.