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The Bridge of Magic Trilogy : Fantasy by Robert E. Balsley Jr. ➱ Series Tour with Giveaway


The Salvation of Innocence
The Bridge of Magic Trilogy Book 1
by Robert E. Balsley Jr.
Genre: Fantasy

A young woman embarks on a harrowing journey to save her world's last vestige of magical healing in Robert E. Balsley Jr.'s epic new fantasy novel, The Salvation of Innocence.
Althaya, the goddess of healing, wishes to share her ability to help those in need, providing "empaths," which give clerics the means to magically heal others-a means that some people fear and wish to destroy. In response, a dark magic known as the Purge is created to seek out and eradicate all empaths.
But one lone survivor remains, spirited away by Althaya and hidden in a magical stasis field. There, the last empath must remain alive until the time comes for rescue-but the Purge will not rest until the last empath is found and killed.
Three thousand years later, Kristen Rosilie Clearwater is only beginning to realize her destiny. Having been brought to the island of InnisRos as an orphan, she has long felt a "tug" toward something she can't quite understand. But when she begins experiencing the dreams of a young child, Kristen knows that the two are somehow connected-and that the fate of the world, and the future of healing magic, rests on.

The Struggle For Innocence
The Bridge of Magic Trilogy Book 2

In this suspenseful sequel to The Salvation of Innocence, the war against evil rages on. This time good must fight on two fronts to stop a great evil-one strong enough to commit genocide-or their world will be changed forever.
After barely escaping death at the hands of the vampire Lukas, Emmy still faces an even greater threat. The Purge is approaching. Emmy and her comrades' only chance is to get help from the sentient city of Elanesse and commit the first assault.
Far way, another conflict is brewing. Father Horatio Goram must face off against the power-hungry First Counselor Mordecai Lannian, whose demonic concubine pushes for war, but the odds are against him. Emmy's fate rests on this struggle, and this determined priest will do anything to win.
In a realm where healing magic relies on a single emissary's ability to commune with the gods, Emmy's death would have wide repercussions. This sensational thriller reveals the destructive power evil will use to achieve its dastardly ends-and the depths to which good must go to stop it.

The Loss of Innocence
The Bridge of Magic Trilogy Book 3

War has come to InnisRos!
The Ak-Séregon Stone, stolen by the demon Nightshade, has been used to force open a corridor between Aster and the Svartalfheim, the home world of the Dark Elves. The Dark Elf army, led by Nightshade's father, Aikanáro, marches on InnisRos. Only Father Goram and his allies, with Queen Lessien's army, can close down the corridor and break the stranglehold the Dark Elves have on the island of the Elves of Light.
But the Dark Elf invasion of InnisRos is only one phase of Nightshade's design. To ensure InnisRos' human allies stay on their side of the world, she blackmails Lord Ternborg, leader of the Draugen Pesta, the Black Death, to invade the mainland from the east. Forced to collaborate with the mercenary cities of HeBron and Madeira, Lord Ternborg reluctantly leads three armies into the Forest of the Fey and the surrounding valley to capture the sorcerer stronghold of Havendale. Tangus, Kristen, Emmy and the humans now have their own war to fight on the mainland.
Meanwhile, deep below the surface, a new threat arises. The sylph are awake and moving from the depths with one goal in mind... destroy all life on Aster.

The Salvation of Innocence
Excerpt #1

Three floors above the audience chamber, Father Goram and Safire turned into long hallway which lead to the nursery. They saw no dire wolf cub sitting in front of a door… but instead found the door open. They looked at each other with concern, fearing the worst, and sprinted down the hallway. Several possibilities raced through their minds… none of which ended well. Notwithstanding the monastery’s long association with the pack Romulus was a member of, dire wolves are still wild animals – even the pups. They’re also big. Even at a young age, a pup, especially one that Menelaus sired, could be as tall as three feet at the shoulders with the strength to rip flesh.
When they turned from the hallway and into the room, both priest and ranger faced a sight that, if not for the seriousness of situation, would have had them doubled over in laughter. Romulus had lain down at the foot of the cradle and was staring up at Mary McKenna, who had interposed herself between the pup and the sleeping Kristen. She had a baby rattle raised up over her head, ready to strike if Romulus so much as moved. Romulus, when he heard Father Goram and Safire enter the room, looked back at them and yawned. Mary McKenna, her eyes never leaving the pup, said, “What took you so long?”
“Why Miss McKenna, it looks like you have this situation well in hand,” Father Goram replied with a smile on his face.
“Well… forgive me, Father, but what kind of monastery are you running here!” Mary McKenna exclaimed. “Wild animals… I mean, really?”
“Your point is well taken, Miss McKenna. I shall have the person responsible flogged this very instant.” Turning to Safire, Father Goram said, “Safire, please turn yourself in to our master-flogger. Twenty lashes should suffice.”
Mary McKenna’s attitude changed from indignation to worry for Safire. “You wouldn’t, would you? I mean… well… when I stop to think about things… I guess… well, there’s been no actual harm done, now has there, Father. Kristen’s safe, and that’s all that matters.”
“Then allow me to take the wolf from the room before we wake up little Brighteyes. We’ll forget this ever happened,” Father Goram replied.
Mary McKenna breathed a sigh of relief. “Yes, please, Father. Not another word about it.”
Safire whispered, “How are you going to do that? Convince the pup to leave, that is.”
Father Goram shrugged his shoulders. “Guess I’ll just ask him.”
Father Goram kneeled down in front of Romulus and presented his hand for Romulus to sniff. He then petted the wolf’s head and scratched behind both ears. “Romulus, I’m Father Goram. Perhaps your pack leader, your sire, has spoken of me? Our packs are friendly to one another.”
Romulus licked Father Goram’s hand.
“Will you follow me for now? I’m sure Miss McKenna will let you back in once we’ve finished.”
“I don’t know about that, Father,” Mary McKenna said.
“Miss McKenna, a word if you please,” Father Goram said as he ushered Mary McKenna away from the cradle to the other side of the room. She didn’t want to leave the baby’s side, but Safire stood next to the cradle to reassure her. Before going with Father Goram, she handed Safire the baby rattle.  
Once far enough away to talk without disturbing the baby, Father Goram took Mary McKenna by the shoulders. “Miss McKenna, things are happening that, at least for the moment, go beyond my comprehension. I believe I’ll have a few answers soon and will explain things to you when I can. But for now, please be assured that Romulus would never hurt Kristen. I believe he’s been chosen to be her protector. Perhaps you can think of him as a bodyguard, a bodyguard assigned by the gods.”
Mary McKenna didn’t look so sure. “Assigned by the gods, Father?”
“Yes Miss McKenna, by the gods. Can you handle that?”
The nursemaid pursed her lips and thought about it for a few seconds. “Yes, Father, I think so. I trust you know what is best for Kristen.”
“As I trust you do as well, Miss McKenna. It’s late. Try to get some sleep before the child awakens. I’ll see you in the morning.” 
Father Goram turned and called for Romulus to come. The dire wolf pup got up and trotted over to the door, ready to follow. 
Safire, though she knew never to underestimate Father Goram’s abilities, was astonished nevertheless. She couldn’t wait to tell her friend and brother ranger, Tangus DeRango, about what had just happened. But the tale should be narrated over a mug of strong ale, for he wouldn’t believe it otherwise.

Excerpt #2

The fourteenth day of travel was much like all the others. The seas were a little rough because of a stiff wind, but this allowed the Freedom Wind to speed through the white-capped waves close to her maximum velocity of twelve knots. The sky was clear with a few billowy clouds speeding through the atmosphere on fast moving air currents. The sun was halfway through its descent into the western sky. 
Captain Dubois and Mr. Krist were on the quarterdeck taking navigational measurements to make sure there’d been no deviation to their course. Lieutenant Farnsworth was officer of the deck and stood on the railed edge of the quarterdeck, hands clasped behind his back, watching forward as the crew went about the business of sailing the ship. Set underneath the quarterdeck and below the spot where Lieutenant Farnsworth was standing was the ship’s wheelhouse… the wheel manned by four helmsmen and Ensign Carlowe. A shout from the mainmast lookout broke the calm of normal ship operations.
“Dragon dead astern!”
Captain Dubois looked to the west and into the sun. “Damn sun! Can’t see a thing. Mr. Krist, man the telescope if you please. Lieutenant Farnsworth, ring to general quarters.” She moved to the edge of the quarterdeck, leaned over, and shouted, “Ensign Carlowe, make your course north by northeast.”
“Aye, captain. Making my course north by northeast.”
 “I’ve got it spotted, captain.” Mr. Krist said. “It’s coming out of the sun.”
“Range, Mr. Krist?”
“About one mile.” 
“Belay my last order, Ensign Carlowe. Hold your course steady.”
“Aye, captain, holding my course steady.”
“Lieutenant Farnsworth, time before the stern ballistae are changed to magic arrows and ready to fire?”
“Two minutes at most, captain. And then another to set elevation.”
“Range one half mile, captain,” Mr. Krist said. “We don’t have time to get a shot off.”
“Thank you, Mr. Krist, I’m aware. The dragon’s color if you please.”
“I’m trying, captain.”
Ten valuable seconds passed. “Color, Mr. Krist?” the captain asked again.
“It’s… red dragon, captain, red dragon!”
“It can’t get much worse,” Captain Dubois remarked.
The crew responded well to general quarters and had manned their battle stations in record time. Captain Dubois allowed herself a second to smile her satisfaction. Tangus, Jennifer, Euranna, the two sorcerers, and several young boys who were runners came bounding up the ladder to the quarterdeck – their assigned positions.
“Need to shave a few seconds of your time, Tangus. The crew beat you,” the captain observed.
Tangus crumbled under his breath as he studied the situation. “I heard the call of dragon.”
“It’s a red,” Mr. Krist said. “Coming out of the sun.”
Tangus shook his head. “Didn’t expect this.”
“None of us ever do,” the captain replied. She looked at the dragon and then at the sorcerers. “Well?”
“Not enough time to do anything other than magic missiles, captain.” 
“See to it as soon as it’s in range,” she said. “Tangus do you and your ladies have magic arrows?”
All three were already notching arrows with glowing tips. “We do, captain.”
“You have command of your people, Tangus,” the captain said. “You may fire as soon as its within range. Lieutenant Farnsworth, I want all archers to shoot at that beast when Tangus does. It doesn’t matter if they have magic arrows or not… anything that might distract it.”
“Aye, captain!”
“We can’t stop it from making at least one pass on us, captain,” Mr. Krist said.
About that time several magic missiles from the sorcerers hit the dragon while several others veered away at the last minute to fall into the ocean. The dragon didn’t even flinch at the pain caused by the explosions of magic that came with each successful hit. “Magic resistance, captain,” a sorcerer called out. Both sorcerers then whispered incantations for another spell.
Mr. Krist turned to a runner. “I want fire damage control standing by.” Looking at the other, he said, “Get a cleric up here.”
The dragon was rapidly closing with the ship. As Tangus was watching the dragon’s approach, he judged it to be middle aged from its size. The body was one hundred feet matched by a tail almost as long. The wingspan of the brute had to be at least one hundred fifty feet. Bitts started growling as the dragon neared. Tangus realized Safire, Jennifer, and Euranna had never seen a creature of this magnitude. “Remember your training. Hold steady. Take aim,” he said to calm any nervousness they might be experiencing.  
The captain shouted, “Ensign Carlowe, on my mark make you course north by northeast.”
“Aye, captain. Will make my course north by northeast upon your order.”
When the dragon flew within range of his longbow, Tangus shouted, “SHOOT!” Along with Tangus, Jennifer and Euranna, all the archers of the Freedom Wind released their arrows. A flock of fifty arrows ascended to meet the beast. Most had no effect, but several did, though they didn’t slow the dragon’s approach. Before another volley could fly, the dragon used its terrible breath weapon.
In an instant, dragon’s breath had disintegrated one half the length of the mizzenmast along with all the men working the sails and the archers posted to fire arrows. The remaining half was burning, flaming pieces of sail falling upon the deck. Screaming men, set afire but unlucky enough not to have been killed instantly, dropped into the sea or onto the deck. Though the flames eating each man were quickly smothered, it was too late to save them. Their cries of agony and fear died as they did. As the dragon passed over, leaving destruction in its wake, another volley of arrows followed it.

The Struggle for Innocence

Excerpt #1


                                The Alfheim (193 Years Ago)
Having the blood of royalty coursing through one’s veins offers many advantages not available to the common person… wealth, power, and access to all the things that makes existence more than just a constant struggle to carve a comfortable life out of reality. The royal who sees his duty as service to the people he rules, however, pays a steep price for those advantages. The good royal will bleed for the devoted.

MARTIN ARNTUILE WAS seething. He didn’t understand how the king could demand such a high price. “You ask too much, Argonne,” he said hotly. “I can’t leave my daughter behind. Nefertari is our oldest!”
King Argonne Quarion, leader of all the Alfheim, leaned forward in his throne and pointed a finger at Martin. “It was you who decided to take your family and all your people to this world called Aster.” Leaning back and slumping down slightly, Argonne sighed. “I’m sick and dying, Martin. I can’t be cured. You know that.”
Martin softened. “I know, Argonne, and I’d change that if I could. But you have two brothers to succeed you. And the Alfheim’s been secured from the Elves of the Dark.”
“Thanks to your generalship, Martin,” Argonne said.
“It was my duty, my King. The Army is in superb hands, I’ve seen to that. My family and people aren’t needed here, but we are needed at InnisRos on Aster.”
“You wish to be a king. Trust me when I say it isn’t an easy tasking,” Argonne countered. He had hoped to put doubt in Martin’s mind.
“I don’t wish it, Argonne, but I have a duty,” Martin replied. “Someone over there traced my lineage back to their dead king. It’s a stretch, I know, but if someone they consider having royal blood doesn’t sit on the throne, chaos and anarchy will rule on InnisRos. Innocents will die when I could have prevented it. I don’t want that on my conscience. But leaving behind Nefertari… my King? Why? It makes no sense. She’s just a child. Think what it’ll do to my wife Denairis, Lessien, and Nefertari to be forced apart like that.”
“Families are torn apart all the time, Martin,” Argonne said. “I’ve observed Nefertari at my court and see a spark of intelligence I rarely see in someone so young. I believe she’ll make a difference here someday and I want to give her the opportunity to make that difference. She can only get the training she’ll need under the tutelage of my First Councilor. Martin, think about Nefertari’s future. It’s for the best… and there’s precedent for such an apprenticeship.” He paused and tapped the arms of his throne with his fingers, thinking. “I should’ve had that damn portal closed decades ago.” Argonne understood Martin’s motivation, however… to keep together his family. It was much the same motivation that was driving Argonne, the survival of his monarchy. He looked at Martin and could tell he wasn’t accepting his reasoning for keeping Nefertari in the Alfheim. After a few seconds, he looked at his guards. “Leave us,” he said. Hidden doors throughout the throne room silently closed as the guards did the king’s bidding.
“Stay, Martin, and I will make you king,” Argonne said as he looked pointedly at his Chief General. He would make this one last plea.
“Argonne, please,” Martin replied shaking his head. “Your brothers…”
“My brothers are both power hungry fools who anxiously await my death!” the king shouted. “They’ll fight each other over their right to rule. There’ll be bloodshed as they tear this kingdom apart. Neither are capable of assuming the crown I wear or the Mantle of the Sovereign, Martin! You know that!”
Martin held his tongue and didn’t dare argue...not when Argonne was so worked up. Besides, the king was correct, there’d be bloodshed. However, Martin suspected the only blood to be shed would be that of the two brothers and their sycophants… no real loss. There probably wasn’t anyone else in the kingdom who liked either of the two enough to help elevate them to the throne.
“Well, Martin? Care to respond?” Argonne asked impatiently, drawing Martin from his thoughts. “You’re going off to be a minor king on some damn island on Aster and I’m offering you the entire Alfheim. Surely this is more preferable.”
Argonne’s tone rekindled the anger Martin had relieved himself of just a few moments before. “Are you mad?! You know as well as I that would mean civil war,” Martin replied crossly. “Your brothers would finally find the one thing they could agree upon, and the council would think you’re implementing a dictatorship. My armies follow me, but they’re loyal to the crown and the monarchy first. Someone without a royal connection will never succeed.” Martin paced, attempting to ease some of his rage. Calmer, he turned back to face his king. “If I were to be named heir upon your death, everyone I hold dear would be killed as traitors. Even still, you hold my daughter hostage in the hope I’ll acquiesce?”
“Even still,” the king said. “Martin…” the king paused as he looked down at his gem studded, multicolored ring of office, immersed in the same thoughts that had been swirling around his head for the last month... his mortality.
Martin looked at Argonne and noted his vacillation. “Speak your mind, Argonne. Let us have no secrets between us. I’ve been commander of all your armies for decades. We’ve battled the Elves of the Dark together as well as elements of those within your own kingdom who would tear you down.”
Argonne looked up at Martin. His eyes had become hard, his tone of voice authoritative. Now he was a king talking to a subordinate, not a friend. “Trust me, General Arntuile, when I say I’ll spare no one to guarantee my kingdom is safe after I’m gone. The monarchy must survive for everyone’s well-being. Without it, we’re lost.”
Martin recognized the king’s change in attitude and shook his head. “That has nothing to do with me, Highness. I can’t rule for reasons I’ve already made clear. Your brothers…”
“My brothers will soon be dead!” Argonne shouted as he stood. Martin was tall for an elf, but Argonne was taller, and the height of the dais upon which the throne sat made him even more imposing. “I’ve had them arrested! They’re to be executed as traitors to the realm within the hour.”
“But the rule of law…” Martin began, surprised to hear of this
“The rule of law be damned!” Argonne interrupted as he stepped off the dais to stand in front of Martin. “I’m the king! Do you understand, General? The king! My word IS the law!”
Argonne studied his general for a moment. He knew he had been taking a calculated risk. “If I so choose, you can join my brothers, buried in a shallow grave without fanfare and soon forgotten… like you never existed,” he said quietly.
Martin drew back, stunned, at a loss for words.
Argonne rubbed his temples as pain flared in his eyes… eyes that had receded and had become unnaturally dark. “Damn headache,” the king said as he went back to his throne and collapsed into it. He looked weak and frail.
“Your Highness, perhaps you should rest. We can continue this discussion later,” Martin said, willing to use any pretense as an excuse to escape what he was witnessing... fearful the pain from the disease that was killing Argonne would cause the king to make rash decisions about his own future.
The king looked at Martin shrewdly. “You’ll not be dismissed so easily, General Arntuile,” Argonne said. “As for the pain, it’ll be gone soon enough.”
Martin bowed. “Yes, my King.”
“Is your refusal final, then?” Argonne queried.
“To be king of the Alfheim, Your Highness?” Martin asked. “Yes, I’m afraid it is. I’ve given those on InnisRos my word. My word…”
Argonne waved his hand around as he interrupted. “Your word is your bond. Yes, yes, I know all about that,” he said. “Sometimes it strikes me as being rather high browed. I also find it somewhat tedious.” Argonne leaned forward in his throne. “Here’s a piece of advice about your ‘word.’ Never let them see you break it… but don’t always keep it. Call it… oh, let’s say ‘king’s privilege,’ if you will. When dealing with your enemies and your subjects alike, you must allow yourself that leeway. Politics is not honorable battle, Martin. It’s dirty. Believe me when I tell you the strength of your conviction will not deflect the danger you put you and your family in as soon as you put on that crown.”
Martin looked down at the crystal floor. The conversation had taken an uncomfortable turn. He heard Argonne whisper, “Very well,” before he yelled for the guards. When Martin looked up, he saw Argonne’s personal contingent of warriors return from behind numerous door that had been invisible until now. Though they had made no hostile movement toward him, he recognized their vigilance, defensive posturing, and subtle movements to ready their weapons. Two of the larger guards stood shoulder to shoulder with Martin, while two others flanked the king.
Martin sighed. He was no longer a friend of the court. “So it has come to this, my King?” he said.
“I have only begun, General Arntuile.” Argonne said. Turning to one of the guards at his side, “I want the full council here immediately,” he ordered. “Accept no excuses.”
The guard saluted. “Yes, Your Highness,” she said before running out of the audience chamber. Two other guards followed closely behind.
Shifting his attention to Martin, the king said, “I believe you have something that belongs to me.”
Martin was momentarily confused. “I…?” Then he understood. It had been so long he had forgotten.” Yes, Highness, I believe I do,” Martin said as he started to unsheathe his sword.
Eighteen blades appeared in the hands of the nine remaining guards, two for each guard. Martin found himself surrounded by a wall of razor sharp steel. He looked at the elves behind the swords. He knew most of them since he had handpicked each one himself for service to the king. The eyes, however, were unrecognizable as they stared back at him. Martin let the sword fall back into his scabbard and looked at the king.
“These men are mine, General. You no longer hold standing in their eyes.” Argonne answered Martin’s silent query. Waving the guards to step back, he said, “Leave the sword in its scabbard and present it to me. You’ve lost the right to use it on my behalf.”
Martin did so without feeling. He’d seen the king’s wrath before, but never towards one of his own. As Martin stepped back, he heard the sound of many footsteps enter the chamber from behind. The council members had wasted little time arriving.
Argonne rose from his throne to address the newly arrived council members. In his hand was Martin’s sheathed sword. All signs of the headache had disappeared. “I’ll make this simple for you,” he said, addressing the council. “I have several announcements to make. All are being made by royal proclamation, so no discussion will be tolerated. I only bring you here to follow protocol… and to warn you that any attempt to counter these proclamations by either direct or indirect action will result in your execution as traitors. Am I understood?”
There were general nods of agreement amongst the council members, though some were reluctant… not so reluctant as to challenge the king, however. Argonne nodded. “Good,” he said. “You’ve all made a wise decision. As is customary, I’ll have all the necessary paperwork drawn up and distributed in a day or two for your perusal. Just so everything is legal and transparent, you understand.” Argonne looked at the council, daring even one to argue. No one did.
Withdrawing Martin’s magically gleaming sword from its sheath, Argonne used it to slice his hand. Several of the council members gasped at the sight. As each drop of blood hit the floor, the magical link contained within the sword between king and guardian became weaker and weaker until it was completely drained of its magical power. “This sword was spelled to be in the hands of my most able general who, for all intents and purposes, is my closest protector,” Argonne said. “For who can protect a king better than the general wielding the king’s armies? But if it should ever draw the blood of the king it was meant to protect, the magic and power of the sword will exist no longer.” Taking the now magic less sword, Argonne pointed it at Martin. “Martin Arntuile is no longer that general,” he said. Holding the sword by the hilt and grabbing the tip with his other hand, he brought the flat of the blade down hard on his knee. The metal broke in several pieces. One shard flew forward and pierced Martin’s cheek and imbedded itself in his jaw bone. Taking what was left of the sword in his hand, Argonne threw it to land at Martin’s feet.
Argonne then pulled his own sword, Ah RahnVakha, from its gem encrusted sheath. It blazed with strong magic as soon as it cleared the scabbard. The Mantle of the Sovereign covering Argonne’s shoulders glowed as well. Argonne pointed the fearsome sword at Martin and said, “You are hereby exiled, along with your wife, Denairis, and youngest daughter, Lessien, to the world of Aster. There you will live out your days. Any return to the Alfheim will cause an arrest war- rant to be issued for your capture and immediate execution. The same arrest warrant also applies to Denairis, should she ever return. The child, Lessien, may petition for return, but no sooner than one hundred years from the day of this judgment.”
Martin kept his mouth shut and let this scene play itself out. Argonne was giving Martin what he wanted while avoiding the shamed of being abandoned by his Chief General.
Argonne voice drew Martin away from his thoughts. “Martin Arntuile, you have six hours to settle your responsibilities and obligations, collect your family and possessions, and say your goodbye’s. At the end of that time, you’ll report to the gateway and leave the Alfheim forever. Do you have any questions?”
“Your Highness, I’m sorry it had to come to this,” Martin answered. “Perhaps…”
“Enough!” Argonne roared. Argonne took a few deep breaths. “The time for talking is over, Martin,” Argonne said quietly as he regained control over his emotions. Even still, he couldn’t keep the sting of losing Martin’s leadership, and camaraderie, from his voice. “My decision has been rendered. You no longer hold standing at this court. You’ll be escorted back to your home by members of my guard, so I suggest you do not stray nor tarry overly long. In six hours’ time you’ll go through that portal.” Waving a hand at two of his guards, Argonne said, “See to it.”
As Martin was marched from the audience chamber, the sound of his boots and that of his guards echoed throughout the otherwise silent and still room. Martin knew he would never see his home world again. Martin’s attention suddenly diverted to the shard embedded in his jaw. It tingled. Surprised, Martin realized it still radiated magic... enough to create a new sword. Martin smiled. His old friend Argonne hadn’t completely abandoned him after all.

Excerpt #2

Kristen performed a “field funeral” for Max... so named because this burial is carried out on the battlefield, or the “field of death,” as the ancient elven bard Eöl Tolommaitë described in his epic song, Lost Reason:

Winter night, long and cold. Blankets the warriors, oh so bold.

Mothers and fathers could not shield, 
their sons and their daughters sprawled on the field.

Winter night, long and cold. Blankets the warriors, oh so bold.

This field of death, oh so still. 
Carrion eaters devour their fill.

Winter night, long and cold. Blankets the warriors, oh so bold.

Kings and Queens sacrifice the brave, 
for power or greed, whatever they crave.

Winter night, long and cold. Blankets the warriors, oh so bold.”

After Kristen had completed the memorial service for Max... and everyone had made peace with his departure... she sealed the entrance to the small chamber by magically fusing the adjoining stone together to create an airtight tomb. The sylph waited patiently.

Loss of Innocence 
Excerpt #1

IT STORMED DURING THE NIGHT, AND THE FOLLOWING MORNING WAS DREARY. LIGHT DRIZZLE KEPT EVERYTHING DAMP AND EVERYONE OUTSIDE MISERABLE. HIGH PRIESTESS Irinushka Abramovich, General PAVEL GARIN, AND A SMALL TROOP OF TWENTY-FOUR GUARDS, TWELVE WARRIOR MONKS OF Irinushka’s order and twelve of Pavel’s security detail, made their way to the designated meeting place, the center of Dragon Pass. By the time they had arrived, the Hyrokkin contingent had just left their fort. The Hyrokkin had three times the number of guards. 
“Now do you believe me?” Pavel said. “They’re bringing a small army. We should turn back while we still can.” 
Irinushka didn’t like the looks of the approaching Hyrokkin either... but wouldn’t let that interfere with her objective. It was too important. “They’re under a flag of truce in neutral territory,” she replied. “Until we know for sure, we stay.”
The Hyrokkin stopped one hundred yards away, dropped the flag of truce to the ground, and raised their attack standard. Scores of arrows filled the air from the back of the Hyrokkin column, while those in the front charged. 
“Shields up!” Pavel screamed.
But it was too late. The overcast skies prevented him from spotting the arrows until they were already on their downward trajectory. Eleven of Irinushka’s escort, including Pavel, went down, either dead or wounded. Irinushka dropped to her knees as she inspected Pavel’s wound... but saw he had died instantly with an arrow in his right eye and another in his chest. As she cradled his head in her lap, she looked around. The Hyrokkin where closing rapidly while screaming their war cries as another volley of arrows took flight. All they hit this time were iron shields.
The Draugen Pesta charged forward to meet the Hyrokkin attack, but Irinushka knew it wouldn’t be enough. She stood after gently placing Pavel’s head on the hard, stone floor of the pass. 
“I need time,” she said to the two warrior monks who had remained behind to guard her. “Your sacrifice will be remembered in the words of poets... and the prayers of all those in your warrior order.” Both monks knelt to receive Irinushka’s blessing and, once they had it, darted off to join the battle.
Irinushka’s anger took root as she watched the monk’s run to their deaths. It was anger at the death of her one and only love, Pavel... anger at the Hyrokkin treachery... anger at the gullibility of the king to believe peace was possible with the centaurs... and anger at herself for believing the same thing. Looking up into the wet and dark sky, she raised a fist into the air and screamed. It was a primal scream full of hate and self-loathing.
The priestess looked down at the dead and decided enough was enough. “I don’t care if you forgive me or not,” she whispered to her goddess as she raised her hands and chanted:

“Spirit, wind, toxic fire.
Read my soul, read my ire.

Doom the ones who cause me pain.
Feel the anger I can’t refrain.

Test my fortitude, test my mettle.
See the claim I wish to settle.

Heed my call, insidious beasts.
Come to me, I grant you release.”


The drizzle turned into heavy rain which swallowed up the din of the battle taking place deeper into the pass. Lightning streaked across the sky and thunder shook the ground, knocking Irinushka off her feet. A great crack made its way across the pass in front of the priestess as the ground rose and then dropped back down. Enormous bluish bolts of electricity dropped from the sky and disappeared into the open ground before her, setting off a kaleidoscope of light deep in the depths of the fissure. Then, except for the heavy rain still beating down, silence prevailed, and the light died. Irinushka looked around. There was a feeling of anticipation in the water-drenched air.
The battle between her escort and the Hyrokkin seemed to be over. There were no sounds of swords clanging together, and the screams of the dying and the wounded abruptly ceased.
“The Hyrokkin have won and are dispatching the injured,” Irinushka thought. “They’ll come for me soon.”
Irinushka pulled a knife from her cloak and lowered her body into a defensive fighting stance. She knew she was going to die... but she was determined to make her death as expensive to the Hyrokkin as possible. 
The footfalls of the centaurs could now be differentiated from the rainfall, but another sound caught her attention. It came from the opening in the pass floor. Irinushka first heard a great tearing as if a bed sheet were being ripped in two but multiplied a thousand times. Then she heard the screams and cries of millions of inhuman voices.
As Irinushka stared, a wet fog of steam rose from the fractured pass and blocked her ability to see clearly. She closed her eyes and concentrated. After a few seconds, her mind separated and identified the different sounds. She heard the Hyrokkin come closer as their hooves clattered on the stone floor of the pass. She heard the rain sizzle as it went down into the breach in the earth. Whatever was down there must be incredibly hot. She heard inhuman voices – voices that cried for release – voices that cried for the freedom to mangle, slaughter, and destroy. Finally, she heard movement deep within the fog. She knew at that moment her prayer had been answered. And it terrified her.
Forms rose from the great crevice and took shape in the mist. There were seven and they were monstrous. Each was twenty-seven feet tall. Atop their dragon torsos were large dog-like heads, but instead of two eyes, there were six, three to each side. The gold-colored eyes sparkled with intelligence, wisdom, and something else Irinushka couldn’t quite put her finger on. Perhaps it was a great weariness. The scales on their bodies shimmered with a shiny black coloration which reflected light back at the observer. Four powerful arms protruded out of the torso... each ending with a three-talon hand. Four legs, each clawed, as thick as the trunk of a large tree, and as long as Irinushka’s ten-foot height, secured these great beasts to the ground. Their tails extended another fifteen feet and ended in a three-talon tip. But the most significant part of these creatures... Irinushka thought the most beautiful part... were the wings. Each wing was twenty feet long with large claws protruding outward from the point where the delicate wing skeletal structure began. The membrane on each wing was flexible and nimble but also appeared to be very tough. Like the body, the wings shimmered a deep purple which faded about half-way down and turned to crimson. Gold flakes covered the wings and sparkled even in the dim light of the dreary day.
The charging Hyrokkin came to a sudden stop when the creatures came into their view. The world had never seen the like, and they were unsure how to proceed. As much as they wanted to take the head of the Draugen Pesta priestess back with them to prove their great victory, they weren’t in any hurry to lose their lives in doing so... at least not until they had gauged the fighting prowess of the huge creatures standing before them.
Six of the creatures turned to face the Hyrokkin while the remaining one moved closer to Irinushka. Towering over her, it looked down.
“I am Michael,” he said. “You’ve called upon us at a most inconvenient time, priestess. But we have vowed to answer. What is your pleasure?”
Irinushka stared. She had been expecting horrid creatures to do her bidding and not such an impressive exquisiteness.
Michael seemed to understand Irinushka’s momentary delay. “Do not confuse splendor with weakness,” he said. “My brethren and I spend our long lives battling demons... demons that would otherwise invade your world. You’re lucky it is us who intercepted and answered your call. The demons your summoning was intended are impossible to control and would have ravaged you. Now, we’re wasting time. What do you require of us?”
Irinushka, still staring, pointed at the waiting Hyrokkin.
“You wish them dead?” Michael asked. “They do not appear to be a threat at the present moment.” 
Irinushka finally found her voice. “They attacked under a flag of truce and murdered my people,” she replied angrily. “They deserve the same consideration. I command you to kill them!”
Michael turned to look at the Hyrokkin, who by this time had read the situation and were beginning to retreat. “And?” he asked after turning his attention back to the priestess.
“And...” Irinushka dropped to her knees once again, cradled Pavel’s head in her lap, and kissed his forehead. When she looked back up at Michael there were tears in her eyes.
“Ahh... I see,” Michael said. “You want retribution.”
“Yes!” Irinushka answered before shaking her head. “No! I want justice! I want them punished!”
Michael studied the priestess as she cradled the head of the one she loved. She continued to weep… her tears mixed with the rain as they fell. “Punishment is something I understand.” Michael turned to his waiting comrades and nodded his head. The Hyrokkin tried to escape their doom, but it was impossible. 
Irinushka heard their screams over the incessant pounding of the rainfall. She tried to push her feelings aside but found she couldn’t. She now regretted dealing with the Hyrokkin in such a harsh manner.
Michael continued to study her. He understood the emotions he saw in her eyes... in her body language. “I see you comprehend the finality of your actions. It’s a heavy burden to sentence one to death... even if that’s what they deserve. It’s an even greater burden to be the executioner.”
Irinushka looked up. “I didn’t...”
“You didn’t what?” Michael interrupted. “You didn’t end their lives? You’ve no blood on your hands?” Michael paused to let his words find meaning. “Accept your responsibility in this killing.”
“I...” Irinushka stopped and looked back down. “You’re right. It’s no different than if I had run them through with a sword myself. But it’s not what I was trained to do. As a priestess, I’m supposed to succor, not destroy. I feel... dirty... like I’ve betrayed my vows.”
Michael nodded. “Yes, in this instance we were your sword. But we’re not your conscience.” Michael paused as he considered. “Priestess, I don’t know if this helps, but those we killed were evil. We wouldn’t have done it otherwise. Is it not your duty to protect the good from such evil? If so you have done well today.”
Irinushka stood. “Thank you, but that’s little consolation.” 
Michael shrugged his shoulders. “So be it. Listen closely, priestess. We intervened to save you and your world from a great mistake. Demons should never be used as a solution to a problem. Though we answered your call, that does not mean you commanded us. Nor does it mean we will always act upon your best interests... if those interests don’t coincide with ours. Remember that for the future.”
“I understand,” Irinushka replied.
Michael picked up a stone and made a fist around it. The unmistakable gleam of magic surrounded his hand, and when he opened it, a small, chained locket had replaced the stone. He handed it to Irinushka. “As I mentioned, we only came here by mere happenstance since your summoning was intended to call a demon. That would have been most unfortunate. The next time you have need of us, use this.” 
Irinushka bowed. “My people are in your debt,” she said.
Michael nodded. “We will be your Doom Warriors,” he said before he turned to join his companions at the edge of the crevice. Without another word, each flapped their wings to gain altitude before diving back into its depths. As Irinushka watched them spread their wings to take flight, she thought they were the most beautiful creatures she’d ever seen. Shortly after the Doom Warriors disappeared, the crevice closed, leaving no sign it had ever existed. She put the locket around her neck and under her tunic next to her bare skin, turned, and began her walk back to Fort Extreme. She needed to coordinate retrieval of the bodies and report the day’s happenings to her liege. As she made her way, she debated telling the king about her newly discovered allies. The more she thought about it, however, the more she felt Pavel was right. The king wasn’t sane enough to use the locket wisely. 

Excerpt #2

“This is perfect!” Azriel exclaimed. He, Elbedreth, and Jörmungander had just entered a huge cavern. It was the largest Azriel had ever seen. Moss illuminated the entire cave with an eerie, greenish glow, broken here and there by the light of yellow mushrooms. In the center, water crashed to the floor from a crack in the ceiling. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of years of falling water had created a large, deep pool in the stone floor underneath. The ceiling was three to four hundred feet high. Azriel calculated that the cavern was at least eight miles in each direction. 
“Perfect,” Azriel repeated.
Elbedreth, standing by Azriel’s side, agreed. “Yes, you’re correct. It looks big enough to hold my entire race.”
“I just hope they’re coming this way,” Azriel commented. 
“Why wouldn’t they?” Jörmungander asked. “We know the ones you killed came this way. We’ve been following their signs.”
Azriel nodded. “Aye, laddie, you’re right,” he said. “But if I were leading the sylph, I’d have several scouting parties out looking. What if another party found an alternate route? What if they’ve already passed us by? There’s no way to tell how many passages lead to the surface.”
“There are far too many ‘what if’s’ for the mind to comprehend, my love,” Elbedreth remarked. “We shouldn’t let the evidence we think to be true fall victim to the possibilities in our mind… at least not until we prove this evidence false. This appears to be the way my people are taking in their quest to reach the surface world. We should act on it.”
“I won’t discard the ‘what if’s,’ but you make a good point,” Azriel replied as he studied the cavern more thoroughly. 
“Azriel,” Jörmungander said.
Azriel frowned. “Not now, laddie! I’m figuring things out!” 
A plan was formulating in Azriel’s mind. He was an experienced warrior, and like all experienced warriors, he was looking at it from various angles – trying to find and correct weaknesses, determining what steps he’d need to take in response to possible reactions by the sylph, determining his fallback position if his plan didn’t work, and anything else he could foresee.
“Azriel!” Jörmungander insisted.
“Jörmungander, I said I’d…”
“Listen to him, dear,” Elbedreth added.
Azriel sighed. “Not you too! Alright! What is it!” 
“Someone’s living in this cavern,” Jörmungander stated. “Actually, it’s a lot of someone’s. Possibly a whole clan or tribe of someone’s.”
“What leads you to this conclusion?” Azriel asked.
Elbedreth pointed up. “Look!”
Hanging from the high cavern ceiling were hundreds of stalactites. That wasn’t unusual in a cavern with the high moisture content this one had. But what he saw in the stalactites confounded him. Each stalactite contained foot-high doors made of moss. A few of these doors were open, and Azriel could see green eyes – eyes as luminescent as the moss – watching them.   
Azriel grumbled as all his planning tumbled away. He began a long list of dwarven expletives but stopped himself after only a few. Elbedreth looked at him with frightened eyes. But Jörmungander thought it was rather impressive and told him so. 
“I guess the cavern being occupied is a ‘what if’ I never considered,” Azriel thought to himself. Turning to Elbedreth and Jörmungander, he said, “Well now, if that isn’t a hoot!” Dwarves had perfected the art of sarcasm and Azriel was one of the best.

How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?


I’ve already discussed the fact that a lot of the characters are based upon characters played by friends in my D&D gaming sessions. The other characters… at least a good number… are generated based upon the situation I write myself into (for example - a ocean voyage is involved, so I created a captain, her first officer, other officers and crewmen). I also create storylines as the book evolves. Essentially I know how to get to point A and point B, but I’m never sure of the route I’ll be taking. That changes every time I get behind the computer screen. It’s how I write… and sometimes the additional storylines require new characters (some of which become important depending upon the importance of the storyline). My wife calls it “chasing rabbits”. I call it genius. 😊


Where did you come up with the names in the story?


As I previously mentioned, most of the main characters were actually named by the D&D players who played them in my games. As for all the others, some were just random names I thought up. However, as I got further along in the books, I realized I needed a better way to distinguish races… including names. For most of the elves, I used several elf name generators found on the internet in the public domain. The sailors are based upon the British, the Draugan Pesta are based upon the Russians, the dark elves are based upon the Chinese, dwarves are based upon the Scots, etc. Once I’ve determined the real-world nationality, naming the characters is nothing more then selection.  



What did you enjoy most about writing this book?


I think the most enjoyment I get out of writing is the exploration of new thoughts and ideas and, if I like them, the incorporation of those ideas into the storyline. I’m a fly-by-my-pants type of writer. Many times when I get behind the keyboard, I have no specific idea just where my writings are going to take me. Developing day-to-day ideas and successfully integrating them into the story gives me a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure.


Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?


Pretty much discussed this above.


How did you come up with the title of your first novel?


In my world, the last empath also represents the ultimate innocence. Specifically, Emmy is the innocence the world needs to survive, but there are forces that wish to destroy her. The first book tells the story of her rescue, the second of the fight to keep her safe, and the third shows, in some respects, her transformation into a powerful force in her own right that no longer requires protection. Her innocence is lost as a result of her growth. Considering this, the titles came easily.


Who designed your book covers?


Ana Grigoriu-Voicu

Book Cover Designer

Stuttgart, Germany


If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?


Speaking about my first book, The Salvation of Innocence, I would have edited it better. Now that I have two additional books under my belt, I can see areas that I would probably remove. I also didn’t use contractions as much as I should have.


Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?


When I first started out, it was more of a test to see if I could do it. My real motivation was to prove to myself, and everyone I know who believed I’d be a decent author, that I could do it. As I wrote the first book, I realized I had more in me then just a one and done. As I wrote the second book, I came to understand that I enjoy writing. It isn’t a chore. But it is hard work.


If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?


I’m not a huge moviegoer, so I’m not overly familiar with all the stars and starlets that might be available. I don’t really have a preference.


Anything specific you want to tell your readers?


First, you have to understand my works are fantasy. I’m a sixty-five-year-old man who’s spent decades reading fantasy and playing Dungeons and Dragons. In a fantasy world, all kinds of possibilities exist. Magic is commonplace and creatures exist that defies rational thought. Ghosts, demons, dragons, elves, dwarves, an intelligent boulder, and other creatures taken from the depths of my imagination are standard fare. My world has good and evil (not unusual)… but good can turn evil and vice versa. It also offers travel through space and time to different worlds and realities. In other words, be prepared to allow you imagination to roam free. Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to accept the impossible.


Robert E. Balsley, Jr honed his fantasy writing skills as a game master in Dungeons and Dragons over twenty-five years. During that time he developed the thoughts and ideas that turned into the Bridge of Magic series. The Salvation of Innocence is the first book of that trilogy and Robert's debut novel. Robert graduated from Elder High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. He served in the US Air Force for six years. After his discharge, Robert started working at Tinker Air Force Base in Central Oklahoma where he's been an engineering technician, first level supervisor, and lead technician. Robert retired in late 2014. He left Oklahoma and currently lives in Burlington, Kentucky. He and his wife have three children, three grandchildren, and three dogs.

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