I'm currently making a legion of revisions on chapter one and as a consequence, some more nuanced narrative changes and other passes on the material will mean that the website excerpt will need to be updated
. Just wanted to share a brief excerpt from what I've been working on.
Hope you guys like it!
Hidden beyond Akara’s gates, Enigma descended upon a lonely path into the buried realms underneath the Southern Wastes. As the lengthened minutes passed into an hour of wandering–daylight’s radiance appeared nothing more than a pinpoint of light the way he had come.
Adapted to the claustrophobic conditions often found in the underground, Enigma navigated himself through an impregnable darkness by natural intuition and memory. Such a rare ability he had always regarded with no subtle amount of pride. An Ashen Blade could spend their entire lives treading the broken world beneath the surface without mastering such a complex technique.
The Banished Blade’s voice resounded inside the cavernous road, speaking for the first time since encountering Amunet beside his disciple. “Advance with caution. Here in the black shroud beneath the Southern Wastes does radiant life bloom and shine once more.”
An ethereal luminescence emanated from farther up ahead, painting the caverns with a dim sapphire glow. At the path's end, a door carved from obsidian and onyx stone barred the way forward.
A blooming grove of cerulean petals draped a craggy stone passage¬. Each came attached to an emerald and ruby leafed fauna, somehow prospering around the forgotten tombs known only as the Mausoleum of Shades. Earthen walls narrowed sharply ahead along the branching path between the Mausoleum gates and the tunnel Enigma stood inside of.
Enigma halted around the burial tomb’s outskirts where the blooming flowers formed a natural perimeter. “Lantern Stalks, always shining in the most morbid places. A ray of moonlight found amid the graves of the honored dead.”
His master called out to him. “And here you stand. A child of the Goddess of Death and her most devoted disciple. And you appear hesitant to come any nearer to her revered house.”
Could the Banished Blade have spoken the truth? A rhythmic pulse inside of his wrists betrayed as much. An unfamiliar sensation that made him curious more than anything behind the source of his growing dread.
Irrational minds born from emotions of fear and terror were only human nature. An inability to comprehend the inexplicable and understand the mysteries behind what often caused such phenomena had always haunted mortal kind. And Enigma stood as no different in that regard.
He realized that maybe the source of his terror stemmed not from uncertainty, but his possession of foresight enough to know that Zahira sought to test him inside the Mausoleum.
He breathed in the hanging mist creeping around the burial grounds, approaching the Mausoleum of Shades through the overgrown pathway. Cerulean petals sprouted into full bloom with every patient step taken through the narrow passage. He heard fauna petals crumpling back upon themselves in the wake of his passing.
Enigma approached the mausoleum gate, entering through the dark shroud, waiting for him within the shadow it cast. A natural barrier created from lustrous volcanic stone, black like charred earth after a magma river’s passing. An unnatural scarring created by human hands appeared all that marked the weathered stone for anything of importance.
An illustration carved deep upon the obsidian, Enigma uncovered with a second thorough look. A familiar symbol, masterfully worked upon the soot-black stone, maybe when the whole of the gate appeared smooth long ago–swirled across the length of the gate like a grand sigil.
It depicted an unadorned gladius, a short blade of simple design, but beautiful in that form and grim function. The blade appeared reversed, the pommel nearly reaching the cavern ceiling, and the blade pointed toward the earth beneath Enigma’s feet. A serpent coiled its length around the blade’s hilt, tail ending near the blade tip, while bearing a fanged maw above the weapon’s pommel.
A sigil of the Ashen Blades.
He didn’t need to speak a command or find some hidden lever amid the Lantern Stalks' glowing groves. A loud sound of ancient mechanisms grinding against one another deafened him. And the earth beneath his feet quaked from unrelenting force. The claustrophobic passage behind him collapsed, the walls crushed into each other, sounding like calamity.
And the mausoleum gate sundered open before him, splitting neatly apart into two doors. Enigma braced amid the tectonic force, peering into the widening gap between the gate, opening just enough to permit a single file entrance into the ancient burial ground.
A tremulous breath came shuddering out of the dark beyond the gate. A sound made by something inhuman and driven with undisguised aggression. He assumed a combat stance, removing his gladius from the scabbard on his waist with a flick of the wrist.
Dominion's End. A blade made famous not by immaculate craftsmanship, but a storied legacy woven by its wielder’s own hand.
He listened, each unfamiliar breath rattling the bones beneath his skin. His heartbeat quickened inside the chest. Yet Enigma ignored the warning sign of another perilous encounter. A hand clutched around the leather-wrapped hilt of his blade. He waited, until realizing the mausoleum guardian awaited Enigma inside.
The Banished Blade spoke. “Your gauntlet begins. It’s been some years since you’ve met such a tough challenge. Show me what you remember of your training during my physical absence.”
Enigma sprang into motion, charging headlong into the black shroud beyond the mausoleum gate. All turned to deepest night, until the dark receded before what appeared to be torchlight, burning inside the burial tomb. Flaming brightness clawed up fractured and unadorned stone tiles, revealing sarcophagi fashioned from rough ebony stone. Each casket came with a gilded serpentine filigree, surrounded by grand bouquets of Lavender-leafed flora related to the beloved family of roses.
Lavender night, Enigma remembered, surrounding each casket on the risen daises like an ocean of undying remembrance. He counted a score of unburied graves at a glance, finding the same venomous fauna left in offering around the base of each one.
A select handful of Ashen Blades had already entered the Mausoleum of Shades before he had achieved the feat. Just recently too, judging from the Lavender Night bouquets embellishing the graves inside the burial tomb.
From just ahead, Enigma heard urgent shouting between a handful of voices. The telltale sound of steel tested against steel followed them, heading toward Enigma by either chance or fate. Their shouts coordinated a cohesive struggle against that creature breathing hard enough to make the bones around his inner core tremble from within.