Writing Samples

Today I am excited to finally share with you a very brief excerpt from the novel I have been working on the past 8 years. The text is a very early draft, so no where near finished. There will most likely be significant changes made to it before the full book is released, but I wanted to give everyone a short glimpse into how it’s shaping up and I am interested to hear what your feedback is. So please enjoy it and hopefully I can post some more polished excerpts on here soon. (Hopefully an action sequence next time.)

To set the stage, this passage is taken from what is currently the 7th chapter of the book and takes place right around the close of the first act. One of our heroes, Cirac, has recently been captured by enemy forces and is being lead to the prison fortress of Borrain were he is sure to face a swift execution.

There are plenty of places and things that are not described in detail in this excerpt which will be foreign to you. I can only offer a few brief descriptions which will come off a bit cliche and will not do justice to the complexities I have woven into the story, but I’ll save that for another time.

These are the few basic things you should know:

The Aerie: “The children of eagles” The aerie are the main race in my tale. They have large eagle like wings and stand two to three feet taller than the average human.

Axion: The capitol of the Axonion Empire of the aerie. The empire has fallen at the outset of the story, creating the toxic environment from which our conflict arises.

The Skeletar: The immortal half decomposed former human race in this story.

The Wraith: Shadowy beings that now control the Axonion Empire. Possessed of great power, they have given the aerie back the immortality that they once possessed, but as with everything, it comes at a great price.

That should do you for now. Please enjoy the excerpt!

Chapter 7: A Voice in the Darkness

The march to Borrain took the better part of a week, as the tired prisoners stumbled along the stone paved highway, the skeletar whips ever at their backs. With little need for rest themselves, their captors had urged them forward day and night.

Throughout the day, the fading summer heat was unbearable, and when the sun set, the cold night air clung to Cirac’s wounds and chilled him to the bone.

Some of his comrades engaged their fellow prisoners in nervous conversation, taking comfort in their shared fate. Cirac, however, could not bring his mouth to move when questioned and set one foot in front of the other as the days crawled by one cobblestone brick at a time.

It was approaching dusk on the sixth day when the rough hewn stone walls of the wilderness fortress came into view over the crest of one of Meuran’s many sloping hills. It was like nothing Cirac had ever seen before. No plant life grew on the mile wide sheet of smooth black rock that the fortress was situated on. It was a barren slab of stone, providing Borrain’s cannons a commanding view of the countryside in all directions.

Built in the arid desert of central Meuran, the fortress itself had stood untouched by time for over ten thousand years. Individual, smooth cut, black stones stood side by side forming the hundred foot high outer wall around the fortress. This stark and stunning wall was forty feet thick and impenetrable even to cannon fire. Created by wraith sorcery, they had hewn down each giant stone to form parapets and battlements that ran along the top of the wall. In the center, they had placed a single giant stone, two hundred feet thick and four hundred long. This desolate stone had been hallowed out over the centuries and now served as Borrain’s keep.

Cirac thought it both marvelous and awful at the same time. The sheer size of each rock and the cold precision with which they had been assembled were breath taking, but beyond its imposing nature, there was no beauty to it and whatever added wonderment he might have held for it was turned to horror by the chains that snaked their way around Cirac’s wrists. It was stark and efficient, plain and ugly. Erected for it’s utility and efficiency, not for style or awe, a symbol of wraith power back when they had first held it and walked the world of Atonia before the empire’s formation.

In the years of imperial rule, a vast canvas of tents had stretched across the smooth rock in front of the fort. Surrounded by the wilds of central Meuran, the fort was the only real spark of civilization between Lunde in the south and Drothak Castle in the north. Small villages and tough farmers dwelt in these unforgiving wilds, but they built no great towns as the aerie of the north did. Borrain was all there was and this made the tent town a hub for traders and merchants to gather from all over Meuran. Exotic birds from the Ytüz rainforest, religious icons from the grand cathedral, invisible silk made from the fibers of spiders in Glimmerwood, all this and more had once adorned the stalls that lined the road up to the fort.

Now the rock lay empty, with a few tattered sheets of old canvas waving from broken tent poles as the only reminder of the town that once was. Whether they left freely or had been driven off, Cirac could not have told you. Perhaps the once thriving town had been abandoned in favor of an unhindered view of the countryside by the forts big guns.

By midnight, they had made their way out of the hills and across the open plain to the fortress’s massive gate made of two large stones fifty feet high, just as wide and twice as long. The two stones, which sat in a shallow trough, ground into motion as the caravan approached them, a team of muscular rhinauks pulling the rocks asunder.

The prisoners were ushered through this tunnel and emerged into the open courtyard in front of the stone keep. Once through the gate, it was immediately clear where the stones for the great wall and keep had come from. Each jet black slab had been cut out of the giant bed of rock that the fortress rested upon, creating a gaping cavity in the middle of the fortress courtyard. In this pit the original wraith occupants, and then the aerie after them, had built a vast labyrinth, a dungeon with cells hewn into the face of the rock going down five hundred feet below the earth’s surface. A place untouched by the suns rays, the dungeons of Borrain were where prisoners were sent to be forgotten.

The skeletar commander marched the prisoners up to the mouth of the chasm before sending word to the aerie warden of their arrival. Some twenty minutes later, he emerged from the keep and looked down upon the ragged bunch assembled beneath him.

“Well, what do you need me for?” He started, obviously displeased with this rude awakening, “Take them below. The emperor will decide their fate himself.”

With that, the chains binding them together were loosed, and one by one they were herded along one of the many catwalks snaking their way down into the black pit and the dungeon below. Finally, it was Cirac’s turn to be separated from the group and placed in a long, narrow cell with a ceiling far too low for his giant frame. With the door slammed shut behind him, he surveyed the room, his last dwelling place before the end.

The light from a single torch trickled in under the thick cell door, but otherwise the room was dark as night. Being in confined quarters deep underground created a stifling heat. A heat that made Cirac cough, gasping for air and longing for the cool nights and bright blue stars of his youth. Stars he might never see again. The low circulation made his head spin. The only air had been breathed in and out of a thousand mouths before his and the effects were stifling. Surely, the lack of oxygen would suffocated an aerie half his size. He fought through it, attempting to stay as alert as possible despite the lack of air.

Perhaps he could find something…

“Welcome, Cirac my child. Do have a seat.”

The voice originated from the blackest corner of his cell. No light had touched it, and so Cirac’s eyes had fooled him into assuming it was empty. This was not the case.

“Standing like that really is going to give you a crick in your neck. Please sit down, child.” The friendly voice called out again, and Cirac sat down, more because his feet gave out from under him than from a true desire to be seated. The creature seemed pleased none the less.

“Who, who are you and how do you know…”

The sentence faded from Cirac’s lips as his mind drifted in and out of a trance like state induced by the thick air around him.

“Your name? ‘How do I know your name?’ You were going to say.” The voice, which was quite old by the sound of it, let out a child like laugh, “I’m just full of surprises, or cheap parlor tricks, depending on who you ask.”

The figure sat up, turning in the direction of Cirac’s voice. With little light, Cirac could not determine if his fellow occupant was aerie or human. His first guess was human, though that would have made him the largest human Cirac had ever seen. His height fell more in line with that of the traditionally larger framed aerie. But where were his wings? Before Cirac could think more on it, his companion offered up a warm greeting.

“Welcome to Borrain, as I am sure our hosts have not offered you a fitting welcome, I suppose that duty falls to me. So welcome, truly welcome. You have no idea what an honor it is to share this space with you.”

He chuckled excitedly as if Cirac was gracing his palatial estate rather than the hot dry cell they now shared.

His accent…definitely aerie. Cirac decided before his new host continued.

“You’ll tell me all about it, of course, how it happened. I never get the details you know. I suppose it can’t be going to well if you’re in here, but that’s to be expected. I prophesied it, didn’t I, but then, no one listens to me, do they?”

All this babbling only made Cirac’s head spin all the more.

“What do you mean you prophesied?”

The voice got defensive.

“Well I did, didn’t I? Or was that the other resistance that was doomed to fail? I was sure the words were ’emperor’s offspring’. That would be Cena, would it not?” He scratched his head and let out a series of befuddled grunts before waving it off, “They all get so muddled in my head, I’m old you know.”

“Who are you…How do you know?” Cirac managed to get out during a lull in the flood of confusion that now assaulted him from this curiosity of an aerie seated before him. Cirac was impatient and tired and might have simply written the old cute off as a loon had he not know him by name or made mention of Cena. These were the types of things that made even the very unsupernaturally inclined Cirac sit up and take notice.

“Ah, yes, the formalities, I always forget the formalities. Not everyone is a prophet, Zaigel you old fool. Make sure not to forget, I always say” This last part, he said more to himself than to Cirac.

“I’m Zaigel, Zaigel the blind prophet of Harath or now of Borrain, I suppose.” He said this as if his previous statement had not already clued Cirac into assuming as much. He then paused and Cirac felt certain that he must have dosed off, until all of a sudden it was obvious he hadn’t.

“And this, I believe, would be the part where you introduce yourself to me. Though I haven’t had a lesson in proper etiquette in some time…Is there something in between I’m forgetting?” He scratched his head again and went back into the befuddle hums and grunts he peppered his speech with as he fought against age to regain his memories (and perhaps too his sanity).

“But, I thought?” Cirac was growing tired of Zaigel’s funny ways.

“Formalities and all. I’m not the one who insisted we follow them.”

Cirac was not sure he was the one who had insisted they follow them either, but never the less, he gave in to the blind prophet’s request.

“Well, I’m Cirac, but you seem to already know that, don’t you.”

“That and a good deal more I suppose. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be much of a prophet now, would I?”

With this, the prophet drew closer to greet him and Cirac finally saw them in the flickering light. More accurately, he did not see them.

“Your, your wings.” Was all Cirac managed to get out and he immediately felt silly for it.

“Ah yes, gone. Compliments of the grandbishop,” He stroked the air where his wings might have been as he spoke, “Though I am told he never used them half as much as I did, it’s a shame really.”

There was less than a hint of bitterness in Zaigel’s response, nor resignation either. His wings were gone and that was all there was to it.

Zaigel leaned back, and this time the old coot really did fall asleep, letting out deep puffs of air with a couple quick snorts separating each breath. Despite the annoyance his cellmate was causing him, Cirac shook the elderly aerie back awake.

If the prophet knew anything that could help him, he had to know it.

“You spoke of Cena, the resistance. You said it was doomed to fail?”

Zaigel nodded, “Yes I, I suppose I did.”

“So there is no hope then? All is lost?” Cirac figured whatever the answer might be, he wouldn’t like it, but he still had to ask it.

To make matters worse, Zaigel did not answer immediately. Instead, he stroked his fluffy white whiskers and tried desperately hard to remember.

“No, it simply said Cena was doomed to failure, I don’t recall any mention of you.”

Cirac snorted. As if saying one wasn’t as good as saying the other.

“What of me, then? What is my fate?”

“I never said I was a fortune teller my dear boy. Never said that.” He stroked his beard faster, “Oh dear me, did I say that. I’m getting cocky in my old age, aren’t I?”

Cirac had, had enough.

“Well do you know of things to come or don’t you, old man?”

“Some,” Came the reply, “The future is ever a cloudy glass. I know of it, only what the Creator chooses to show me and even that I don’t always understand.”

Cirac smiled to himself. The whole conversation had been for nothing.

He should have taken Zaigel for what he appeared to be, a soul whose mind had left him. Why had he asked such silly questions and more importantly why had he reawakened him?

After this disappointment, the two remained silent for a time. Finally, Cirac thought to ask another question. He was all but sure small talk was not going to help the situation, but he continued anyway.

“And what of you? Why is a blind prophet rotting on the dungeon floor? I suppose this is the wraith’s doing?”

He let the word “wraith” spit out of his mouth and hang in the stale air.

Zaigel threw back his head and laughed.

“The wraith. I’ve been sitting in cells like this one long before the wraith. I’m here because, sadly, I really am a prophet. I say what I’m told to say, and well, most of the time that’s downright unpopular. I disrupt the peace, make people uncomfortable.”

Cirac could attest to the uncomfortable part himself.

The dark silhouette of the aerie Cirac knew to be Zaigel leaned back against the cell wall and tightened the rags that passed for a blanket around his mangled shoulders. He cleared his throat and began reminiscing over his tale as old folk are want to do whenever a listening ear shows even the faintest interest.

“Our empire may have fallen, but it was not that wraith that brought it down. They tried that before. It wasn’t successful.”

He was, of course, talking about the Ikuri War, the war between aerie and wraith before the empire had even existed. This was back when the ikuri, the celestial guardians of the ethereal realms had first crossed over into the physical world. All aerie school children, and even Cirac who skipped more classes than he attended, knew the tale of how the greedy ikuri had come to Atonia seeking to rule this world along with their spiritual one. Their lust for power had corrupted them, and they had become the wraith. Eventually being defeated by the aerie elders, they were cast out to wonder the hidden places of the world. It had been these same elders determination to never let this happen again that had led to the empire’s formation. Cirac couldn’t help but wonder what old Airofer would have thought could he have see his aerie now.

Zaigel continued his story in his slow drawn out way, leaving long pauses in the most inopportune places.

“The empire fell because we allowed it to. Some worried more about making sure others perceived that they were doing good than about actually do good. Others became more caught up in crusading for causes, than actually caring about the aerie they were trampling over in order to champion them. Cathedrals and monuments became so large and the debts to build them so great, and what was our solution? Bring in slaves.”

“They were skeletar, captured in battle. They were lucky they weren’t killed on the spot.” Cirac harbored a great deal of ill will for the skeletar, which no doubt clouded his judgement on the issue. For Zaigel, it was much more black and white.

“They are always judged, the poor beasts. Have you forgotten that they were once humans? Humans who were tricked. The empire took it upon itself to be the righteous wrath of the Creator against them and everything and anything that was done to them from then on could be justified because it was done in the Creator’s name. He wasn’t happy about that. I suppose that’s what he sent me to tell the people or maybe not, I can’t seem to remember any more. All I know is it was really hot that summer, so I sold my coat to pay for the trip to Harath. I rather miss that coat. Would have been nice to still have it.”

The prophet stirred in his blankets and wrapped them tighter around him.

At this point Cirac was growing worried that he had unwittingly unleashed a sermon about wrath and judgement and other such nonsense. He was not a religious aerie and had no interest in listening to a half crazed old man tell him how everything bad that had ever happened to the aerie was the Creator’s judgement. There was no where for him to hide, however, so he was forced to listen as Zaigel recounted the vision the Creator had come to him in and the warning he had sent with him to the aerie of Harath. The people of Harath, who saw no signs of this impending wrath looming on the horizon and were quiet comfortable in the lives they had set out for themselves, had grown tired of listening to the prophet’s message of doom and he had him imprisoned. More particularly, Semic himself had given the order. When they brought him before the grandbishop, he had offered to release him in exchange for a renunciation of his heresy and a swift and peaceful departure from the city. Not only had Zaigel refused to recant, he had, right there in front of the council of bishops and all of Harath with them, denounced their hypocrisy, exposing the grandbishop’s hidden crimes for all to hear.

The grandbishop was always a man of great pride, Cirac had experienced that first hand, and he had not responded lightly. This is when Zaigel had lost his eyes.

This had failed to stop the now blind prophet at all. He had merely hired a young apprentice to lead him around and continued his daily rantings all the louder. And so continued Zaigel’s bold condemnations of the church followed by prison sentences or worse. It all felt like it was out of some sad dark poem. Truth be told, Cirac had seen much of the empire’s dark underbelly for himself. The extravagant wealth of the nobility at the expense of the starving masses, the lavish houses of the clergy built with the coin of their parishioners, the distain with which those of means treated those without them, or the crooked deals that gave the market stalls to the merchants who could afford to grease the most palms, all of it screamed of injustice and all of it had gone on long before the wraith.

The difference had always been in the balance. For every crooked priest, their had been countless others who lived in hovels and shared all they had with their winged brothers. For every lording noble, there were half a dozen who would die to defend the citizens under their protection. With the wraith, that was all gone. There was only greed, malice and the thirst for more power.

Zaigel retold every detail. He told of the Great Cataclysm, the Creator’s final attempt to wake the aerie by taking from them that which they loved most, their immortal bodies. It of course did not surprise Cirac to learn that this proclamation had cost him his wings.

“And so the empire declared war on the skeletar and that of course is when I was sent to the people of Harath–”

“You already covered that, you old loon, or were you planning to recount the whole thing twice?” It came across a little harsh and Cirac was instantly sorry for it, though he did not tell Zaigel as much. The ancient prophet, sat there for a moment, looking confused and embarrassed at his own forgetfulness. He scratched his thin white hair.

“I, I did? Well I am old you know. I suppose I told you that as well.”

“It may have crossed your lips at some point.”

His aged eyebrows lifted as he nodded.

“I figured as much.” He chuckled, “The towns folk used to lay into me for it. There goes old Zaigel, they’d say. He can tell you every wrong thing you’ve ever done and what’s to happen to you for it, but he can’t even remember that he already told it to you five minutes ago.”

Zaigel turned to Cirac and let out a boisterous laugh.

“You’d think the Creator could have chosen a better messenger than a forgetful old aerie.”

“Maybe he did. Maybe you were the only one crazy enough to actually listen.”

Cirac meant it as a jab, but the prophet seemed to hear it on a deeper level and grew thoughtfully silent.

“Perhaps,” He finally said, “I suppose there are very few true believers any more. Yes, I know even you do not count yourself among the faithful.”

While this was true, Cirac had said nothing of it to the senile prophet. Zaigel did not chose to dwell on it however, or rub it in his face. Instead, he steered the conversation back in its original direction.

“Since I appear to have lost my place, I will suppose I have told you everything then,” Zaigel continued, “The warden in Harath wouldn’t kill me despite the popular sentiment, he was always too superstitious. So I rotted in that Parellian cell for fifty year, although come to think of it, it might have been longer, I’m afraid time has little meaning to an flightless, blind aerie confined in a room by themselves. A lesser aerie would have gone mad.”

The fact that he himself was quite mad seemed to be lost on Zaigel and Cirac felt little need to correct him.

“After the wraith arrived, I was shipped here to be forgotten and here you’ve found me, in the home of forgotten things.”

And with that, his story ended, and all was silent. In the hush that followed, Cirac found himself longing for his wizened, if half crazed, voice to return, but in the interim the prophet had dozed off again and after a while, Cirac follow suit…

(Well, that’s it. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I would love to hear your feedback in the comments sections, but again, please know that it is a very early draft. The book is not anywhere near finished, and there are plenty of things that were explained in earlier chapters that I simply am not ready to show you yet. So I hope none of it was too confusing out of context.)

7 Comments »

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