The Temple of the Exploding Head Omnibus
(League of Elder)
By Ren Garcia
Science Fiction, Fantasy
Paperback & ebook, 1413 Pages
April 19, 2018 by Hydra Publishing
Three books in one:
The Dead Held Hands
The Temple of the Exploding Head
Starfarers and explorers, the League settled on Kana thousands of years ago. They found it to be a paradise, a perfect, virtually uninhabited planet waiting just for them in the cradle of space.
Lovely Kana … it was too good to be true …
But, all was not as it seemed. Simmering beneath the ground was a demented god who had soaked Kana in blood for untold ages, luring in victims, lying to them, and rejoicing in their suffering as they died at the hands of his dark angels.
And there will be blood again … From his Temple in the ground, the Horned God stirs.
When Lord Kabyl of Blanchefort, a young man troubled by the weight of the world, dares give his heart to a girl from a mysterious ancient household, one that pre-dates the League itself, he comes to know the shadows of the past that hover over her.
He comes to know of the Horned God, and for love he is destined to face him. All roads lead to the Temple of the Exploding Head, a place of evil and death, rooted in the ancient past, but also tied to the distant future.
“We were evil once,” she said, “and the gods are still punishing us…”
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Read an exclusive excerpt:
Prologue (From: The Machine)
Time awash and strange.
She had risen from her bed after a night of bad dreams: nightmares, halofluges the Vith called them. She couldn’t remember them much, only that they’d been terrible, she was sure. Halofluges were like that—terrifying even though you really couldn’t remember what frightened you so. She had a slight memory of a knife in her hand, and blood. She remembered blood.
And bugs too. There were so many bugs.
Feeling a bit shaky, she’d gone down to have breakfast in the hall and begin her day. A good breakfast would help rid her of the horrid taint her dreams had left behind. After breakfast she’d go flying; flying always remedied anything that troubled her.
There was her brother, lying on the stones near the Grove gate as she arrived in the hall, an expanding pool of blood forming around him. She stood there staring at him. Her older sister, blue-haired and elegant, pushed past her and went to him, screaming his name, pulling him up, getting blood all over her white gown. Staff members rushing about. Her parents. The confusion.
“Hospitaler!” they cried. “Fetch a Hospitaler!”
And she just stood there and watched, numb. The halofluge returned to her fresh and whole.
The knife in her hand, the blood ...
She had flown away in her fast little Ripcar as the family gathered in her brother’s room to watch him die. She did not go to his room with the others. Instead she flew away, soaring high, looking for peace in the clouds. She loved to fly and she had rare talent, just like her father.
She found a mountainous spot, out of the way, uninhabited, unseen by any save the random mountaineer. She pushed the nose of her Ripcar over, picking up speed, heading for the ground fast. A screaming, bucking power dive under full control; she was going to dash herself into the rocky valley between the mountains. Her family was to lose two children today: her brother, and herself, both by her hand.
For she had killed her brother ... The halofluge.
She hit the boost. The diving Ripcar pushed through the sound barrier in a flash of condensation, the mountains below coming up at fierce speed. She held the sticks in her tiny hands, perfect control, not flinching, not afraid in the least, eager for it all to be over.
The dream had been real. She held the knife that killed her brother.
The mountains, the speeding Ripcar nose down at an acute angle, the trembling sticks.
She shouted her brother’s name in last few moments as the rocky face of the mountain came up.
“My lady?” came a soft voice. “My lady, wake up.”
She opened her eyes and she was back in her bedroom in Drella Tower, the stuffed animals, and paintings of her father’s starship, the New Faith hanging on the walls, her four-poster bed draped with white veils. It was unmistakable.
What had happened? Was she dead? Was she now to become a ghost haunting her bedroom for the rest of eternity?
Would she be a good ghost, tickling those sleeping in her bed and lightly pulling their hair, or would she be a vengeful demon crawling into bed with them and troubling their dreams, giving them halofluges like she had had?
“You’re not dead,” came the voice. “Just in case you were wondering, you’re not dead.”
She sat up. Bright sunshine, cheery through the veils. She wanted to know what happened.
“I saved you.”
She was confused.
“I’ve made it a habit of saving you Blancheforts lately. I’ll ask you the same question I once asked your brother: why did you try to kill yourself just now?” the voice asked.
She answered: blunt, the whole truth, nothing held back, the macabre details rolling out.
Halofluge. The knife in her hand.
“You think you killed your brother?”
She nodded her head. The voice didn’t answer right away. She had a thought, a hope, that it would comfort and reassure her. “Of course you didn’t do it ...” she hoped it would say. “It was just a dream, kid ...”
Then the voice spoke. “Well, even though you’re just a little girl—I remember when you were just a newborn baby in your mother’s arms—just look at all that red hair—you’re a Vith, and you’re strong too like your mother and father. I feel I can level with you. You did attack your brother, kid.”
She sat there on her bed and was devastated. Why? Why didn’t the voice just let her die in the mountains?
“... and you didn’t do it, either. It was you, but it wasn’t you. Understand?”
She didn’t understand.
“Go to your mirror and take a look. Go on.”
She slid off her bed, pushed through the veils and went to her mirror, gilded and full-length. The reflection in the mirror was monstrous: tall, bent, bleeding, wearing a golden mask covering the top part of what was left of her face and her red hair twisted up into a filthy beehive.
And, her eyes—lusty, diabolical, demented ... pure, restless evil.
The reflection in the mirror didn’t look much like herself, but it was her no doubt about it. The stance was right, the turn of the head, the rise of the chin and so on. And, since it was her all the energy that she normally put into things that she loved, like flying and attending to her studies and learning Vith history, this demented version of herself would no doubt apply the same zeal to deviltry and mayhem and unspeakable crimes.
… her dying brother.
She wanted to put her hand to her mouth and scream, turn away and run, yet she forced herself to stand tall and appear outwardly impassive. She was only sixteen years old and just a child, but she was a Vith from a strong House. She was taught from an early age to be fearless, to face such things without pause or hesitation. Her father would not shrink from such a sight and nor would she.
“There are bad folk about, my lady, and this is what they do. They are the masters of the Horned God’s temple and they are able to use its power to move back and forth through time. Moving through time is like a nice ride in the country for them. They will take you as an adult, many years from now, and, using methods that I will not tell, turn you into what you see here. They will fill your head with travesties and keep you in an evil dream, and you will joyfully do things you’d otherwise never do—like harm your brother, and his beloved. This future version of you is the servant of the Horned God and his time-travelling angels, and she is evil through and through.”
She put her hands to her face. She tried to be strong, but she was overcome.
She couldn’t look anymore and fell to her knees. She wanted to die.
Why didn’t you just let me die?
Something came to her side and nudged her. Something small and silvery.
“Because, if I had done that you’d spend eternity in the Gallery of the Dead feeling nothing but regret. This is a moment to be strong, my lady, not to give in. Your brother right now is fighting for his life. Lady Sammidoran, at this very moment, is being pursued, by the monstrous future version of you. They need our help. Together, we can beat the Horned God and his angels. We can end this.”
“Yes. You, of all people, can be of great help. Can I count on you?”
Yes, of course, she’d do anything.
But first, she needed a moment, to be weak, to be a frightened little girl.
The silvery creature next to her was tiny, no bigger than a small dog; whiskers, flippers, smoothed-domed forehead, bright, inquisitive eyes.
“It’s all right, Lady Hathaline,” Carahil said. “I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. You can cry if you want, and I won’t tell. I promise.”
She embraced Carahil and held onto him for a long time, weeping into his smooth neck; weeping for her brother, and for Sam, and for herself.
The little silver god had come again when he was needed most.
Time. He had nothing but time for her.
About the Author
Ren Garcia is a Science Fiction/Fantasy author and Texas native who grew up in western Ohio. He has been writing since before he could write, often scribbling alien lingo on any available wall or floor with assorted crayons. He attended The Ohio State University and majored in English Literature. Ren has been an avid lover of anything surreal since childhood, he also has a passion for caving, urban archeology and architecture.
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