QSFer Chad Grayson has a new MM fantasy book out, Ascension Apocalypse book 1: Blade of Shadows, Wings of Light.
Who—or what—is Jack Bainbridge?
Jack Bainbridge thinks he’s just an ordinary college student, studying to be a teacher. But if that’s true, why have the Reaper of Strife and his warriors come to capture him? Rescued by a Holy Knight, Jack flees for his life, and takes refuge in Greywall, a city of outcasts devoted to the study of forbidden magics. In Greywall, the Guardians attempt to discover the secret of Jack’s strange powers, which were triggered by the Reaper’s attack. And what about Griffin, the Paladin who rescued him? Why does Jack find him so fascinating?
Griffin Salazar has never met anyone as open-hearted as Jack, but his only prior experience with love ended in betrayal, so he knows those feelings aren’t to be trusted. Can Griffin overcome the pain of his past enough to let Jack in? Is that even what either of them wants?
Together, Jack, Griffin, and their allies must learn the truth about exactly who and what Jack is before the Reapers close in on everyone Jack has ever loved. The secret, when uncovered, will shake the world, and upend everything any of them thought possible.
Blade of Shadows, Wings of Light is the epic beginning to a new Urban Fantasy series, The Ascension Apocalypse.
Excerpt (1000 words max) There was no safety to be had. Weaving in and out of the struggling mass of people were two tall figures. They were dressed in dark armor, with spiky helms fitted to their heads. They looked like refugees from a fantasy movie. They seemed unaffected by whatever was causing the violence, but that didn’t mean they were safe to approach. In fact, he had the sense that they were very much not safe. Jack turned and ran in the other direction, his smooth shoes slipping on blood. He went flying into a parked car, righted himself, and took off running again, hoping to leave this insane scene behind.
What had caused everyone to go so violently psychotic? He needed to find a safe place to sit this out, until whatever the fuck had happened passed. To do that, he needed to get off the street. Traffic was at a standstill now, in both directions, blocking most of the paths between him and safety, wherever that was. But he kept running, slipping into any size gap he could find for himself.
The two armored figures spotted him and were now running toward him. They were impossibly tall—at least seven feet—and their long legs rapidly shrank the distance between them. When the people around them didn’t move in time, they withdrew long dark swords, slicing through any human obstacle. As Jack watched, he saw them slice the head off a woman wearing a business suit. She didn’t even have time to scream.
He ran. They ran after him. They were going to catch him. And then what? They weren’t fighting, he sensed they were on a mission. And right now, that mission was him. Why?
Jack took a second to look behind him, and as he did, he slammed into the side of a parked car. He rebounded and hit the street painfully. He tried to ignore the scrapes and bruises, getting back to his feet, but as he did, a new figure leapt on top of him, pushing him down.
“Stay down,” the new figure said, then stood over him, drawing from his side something that looked very much like a sword. But it couldn’t possibly be a sword, could it? This was not a movie. The newcomer leapt in front of him, sword out. The two armored figures rushed him, their own swords swinging. The newcomer blocked them easily, then fell back, crouching next to Jack.
Jack got up on all fours, trying to rise to his feet. The newcomer was wearing armor as well, but it was a combination of red and grey.
The two armored figures attacked the newcomer, but making a hand gesture, conjured some sort of shining barrier in the air between him and the assailants. Sparks flew off the barrier as the Spikey Ones – that’s what Jack had decided to call them – attacked with their swords.
Jack’s rescuer, if that’s what he was, grabbed hold of Jack’s shoulder and pulled him up onto his feet. “We’re going to need to run, do you have that in you? You look pretty banged up.”
Jack nodded. He could run. He could run forever, the way his heart was hammering. He had a million questions he needed answered, but for now… for now, running was good.
“Okay, I can get us out of here fast, but you have to stay really close to me,” the man said. He pushed Jack forward. Jack started running, the man running alongside and a little ahead of him.
The man was fast, impossibly fast, weaving nimbly through obstacles that should have slowed him. And Jack stayed close enough to feel the wind of his passage. Jack realized he was running faster than he ever had before, faster than he’d ever thought possible. But that couldn’t be. Surely this was his imagination, the stress fracturing his brain. A couple of times, he started falling behind, but his rescuer would reach back and grab him; then he would find himself racing again. His body felt like it was being pushed to the limit and beyond. He thought his heart might explode, but if he slowed down at all his rescuer would be gone, and the Spikey Ones would have him.
Jack didn’t know why, exactly, but he knew he couldn’t let that happen. That’s why, with everything in him, Jack tried to keep up; he really did, but his rescuer had gotten a few steps away. He felt the force that had been pumping through his muscles start to dissipate. He poured on as much speed as he could, drawing on his many years on the cross-country team, but he was out of juice. Jack surged forward, into an open space in the middle of the street. As he did, he tripped on something he couldn’t see, and went skidding across the pavement, catching himself with his face.
His rescuer was there in a moment. “Sorry,” he said, in his electronically modulated voice, and he helped Jack to pick himself up. “I didn’t mean to leave you behind.”
The Spikey Ones still pursued, but there were several wrecked cars between them now. He had a moment to catch his breath. There weren’t as many people around, but the ones who were there were trading blows like the others. Screaming and snarling into each other’s faces, as they pummeled each other with fists, or whatever objects they could find. He watched a sixteen-year-old girl slash a grown man’s face with the glass from a broken bottle. Blood fountained everywhere.
Blood dripped from Jack’s forehead, into his eye. He wiped it away with the sleeve of his shirt.
“We need to get out of here,” his rescuer said.
“Yeah,” Jack agreed, getting ready to run again.
Chad has worked as a phone service rep for various tech companies, a gas station attendant, a middle school language arts and history teacher, and even spent one night cutting the mold off the cheese at the cheese factory. He currently works part time at the local library, and spends the rest of his time writing, reading, hiking, gaming, painting miniatures, and binge-watching Netflix. His superpowers are procrastination and dyscalculia. He lives near his children in Cottonwood, California, with his boyfriend and an assortment of pets, including a very bossy cat. He is an associate member of SFWA. You can find him online at chadgrayson.com (Where you can sign up for his monthly newsletter featuring exclusive posts, previews, book reviews, and updates) and on mastodon as @ChadGrayson@mastodon.otherworldsink.com, on threads as c.e.grayson and on tumblr as @therandomavenger.