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Offline Myen'Tal

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An Opal and Crystalline Sea
« on: February 25, 2020, 06:34:50 AM »
Hi everyone! So in light of the Plans For the Future! Update, there shall be much waiting involved until I can get on the schedule to get Chains That Break(New Title!) edited.

So in the meantime, I'm already coming up with many ideas for continuing the next chapter of this saga. I'm a few thousand words in already, and thought I'd just share another glimpse of what I'm working on.

WARNING: There'll be some small spoilers in this, but nothing that'll ruin the plot of the first book or anything. I'll be careful about sharing those kind of scenes specifically. :)

Thanks and hope you like it! ;D
~***~

A Pact of Bones and Carrion

Aslan lifted his head toward the endless dune sea on the horizon. He watched the fiery skies of the dawn meet the starlit firmament. In a sudden blaze of sunlight, Sirius crested the dunes over yonder and showered the Golden Desert in radiance.

Such was the brilliance that even Aslan, a devoted Child of the Sun, shielded his eyes behind the cloak of his robe and chainmail.

Aslan gazed ever onward with exhausted eyes of amber, equally weary of death and life in all of their myriad guises. He was always the Lion of War. An All-Conqueror. Erasyl’s Favored Son. Titles once chanted from sunrise to sunset by ten thousand voices interwoven in a proud chorus.

What had befallen the Sons of Qarth? What sin was committed before Sirius and all of the Qarthite Pantheon that would see his entire army of brothers and sisters cast into makeshift graves of sand and craggy rock? Why would a father betray his children and cast them from out his sight?

Questions that haunted Aslan since the fate of Zar’bau was forever sealed. He searched for answers that he would never understand or comprehend even in death. He could not grant the thousand Zarquin Warriors that followed him from the annihilation of Zar’bau any solace of a genuine and meaningful answer.

Aslan watched Sirius crest over the horizon and considered the winding column of warriors marching by him. He craned his gaze away from the rising sun and toward them as a proud father watched his children.

The Brotherhood had endured many moons on the constant march. Not even Aslan knew how any of them kept one foot ahead of the other for an entire day. Each hour felt as if a lifetime without a glistening oasis or bending river to sustain their long journey. Such reservoirs were once plentiful, but the farther his brotherhood ventured from Qarth, the chances of stumbling upon such a treasure grew slimmer by the hour. 

   Aslan searched each of them for signs of weakness. Each of them was unkempt of hair and beard, matted with sand and dirt and sweat and blood in equal measure. The chainmail that they donned over themselves was scarred and rent from countless skirmishes even after the Battle of Zar’bau. Of the crimson and cream robes that they wore over their armor, Aslan could no longer discern his veterans from the filth-encrusted cut of their cloth.

   “Warn the men not to stray too far from one another.” Aslan scratched his scraggly beard grown over the course of this seemingly endless exodus. “I fear that if we stray any nearer into the southern reaches of the Golden Desert, the skies shall burn as fiery as crimson…”

   Magar’s warhorse shuffled restlessly beneath him as if it could sense the foreshadowed omen in Aslan’s words. Somehow, Aslan’s Second managed to break into a genuine grin and laughed.

   “Not in all the years that we have known each other Lord.” Magar recalled with some contentment. “Have you ever shirked from the glories of Sirius. You are a child of the Sun God. You are his avatar on the field of battle.

“Always undefeated. Always triumphant in the face of greater odds imposed upon your brothers by lesser men… I am not frightened to journey further south if it’ll deliver us quicker from out of this damnable desert.”

“Forgive me, Lord.” Jaleh stated in hushed tones. Aslan spared her a brief side-long glance and caught a glimpse of her sunken stare and sluggish facial movements. “Proud are your forces. Your defiance pushes them onward further and farther than any would have thought possible… What remains of the Immaculate Host shall crumble into the dunes if we do not discover shelter or water soon.”

Aslan glanced again in Jaleh’s direction, more deliberately this time and nodded.

“Your words cut to the truth of the matter, my Seconds.” Aslan confessed. “Our warriors march on the fumes of their stomachs and the adrenaline left in their veins after Zar’bau. None of us shall last for much longer. Avedis has yet to return to us, nor any of his scouts.”   

“Avedis too ventured further south in search of a haven.” Magar insisted. “If he returned with good news, then we’d have no choice.”

“Hellfire upon the earth.” Aslan sighed and dismissed him with a weary haphazard wave. “Some of his scouts may return from the north or west. Have some patience and due faith, Magar. Trust me, you would not want to venture any further south of this Golden Desert.”

“Truly?” Magar arched his brow even as Aslan made to resume his march alongside his men. “What lies beyond all of this golden sand? All I can see before me is a great spire in the distance… and our safe haven if the tidings are good.”

Aslan heard Jaleh suppress a chilled shiver and craned his head in the direction she where she watched the horizon. Against the radiance of Sirius’ holy light, the very atmosphere around the bleak spire in the distance seemed to bleed all vibrant color until only the drab shade of crimson surrounded it.

Aslan narrowed his gaze in a vain effort to clarify the features of the solitary tower. In the end, he was left with only the impression that a massive death’s head was staring back at him from the lower reaches of the spire. Leagues overhead of the Obsidian Spire’s highest reach, Aslan was uncertain if he saw multi-colored hues swirl under the firmament in a storm the likes he had never seen before.

“Come.” Aslan called out. Jaleh and Magar shook themselves out of their reverie and made to follow in his footsteps. “Perhaps you speak the truth, Magar. Warriors of the Brotherhood—former or no, never shirk from the light of the sun.

“We’ll venture farther south briefly if Avedis confirms your suspicions. My only command is that we do not linger or idle in this place. Call it superstition. But I’ve conquered kingdoms and crushed armies by adhering to much lesser suspicions.

“The feeling that I have for this Golden Desert is ominous and haunts me from sunrise to sunset. Something dreadful lies here in this desert. I shall not be one to awaken Alastrine’s wrath. So quit staring and maintain the pace.”

~***~
« Last Edit: March 25, 2020, 10:51:23 PM by Myen'Tal »
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: The Soul Spires of Osphinx
« Reply #1 on: March 8, 2020, 04:09:48 PM »
~***~

        Aslan witnessed the first signs of Avedis’ return through a haze of heat and a storm of scattered golden sand. He came riding over the dunes with a hundred Qi riders at his back. By the time the cavalry began to race down the flank of the marching column and toward the fore of the army, only a burdening silence greeted Avedis and his retinue.

   “Aslan?” Aslan heard Avedis cry out, no doubt in search for his master. “My Lord? Have you seen the commander?” Finally, a shout of triumph amidst a storm of demanding questions. “Lord Aslan!”

   As Avedis reigned in his horse to a steady trot beside Aslan’s personal guard, only his excited demands seemed to stir any attention or hope in the ranks at all.

   “Good timing, my Second.” Aslan swiped the sweat out of his eyes with the filth of his robes and lifted his gaze to look Avedis in the eye. “We’re all about perish in this wasteland of sand and heat. Would you care to join us? Truthfully, I had half a mind that you had rode into the sunrise. Never to return. Yet here you are as always.”

   “Aslan.” Avedis ignored the honorary compliment. Aslan noted that he spoke hurriedly. “One of my scouting parties have come across an oasis capable of sustaining an army of our size. That patrol circled the oasis for two cycles, and made note of the wild game often migrating through the area.”

   Aslan narrowed his gaze and stroked his beard at the brief report. His warriors within earshot murmured amongst themselves till an enthused clamor began to sweep from one end of the column to the next.

   “I am not fond of the Gods’ fickle show of affection.” Aslan confessed. “They would have us starve ourselves onto death seeking refuge, only to shower us with the miracles of life at the last moment. Very well. In what direction lies our oasis of life?”

   Avedis sketched a bow from the saddle of his horse. “An afternoon’s march from midday to the evening dusk, my lord. A great temple stands on the outskirts of the oasis. It would provide ample shelter for several nights while our brothers and sisters recuperate.”

   “A shrine out in this wasteland?” Magar perked at the mere mention of shelter. “Should I send a scouting party to secure it?”

   “Should he?” Aslan kept his gaze firmly rooted on Avedis. “Or did you have it scouted yourself as I commanded?”

   “Apologies, Aslan.” Avedis sketched an even lower bow. “Securing the ruin would have taken another night, so massive the structure is. I considered doing so, but decided that food and water were the priority for our mission. So, I returned to you with all due haste, and perhaps secure the temple and the oasis in the same night as one brotherhood.”

   “Hmm.” Aslan shook his head, but not before he pardoned Avedis with a gesture of gratitude. “You have my praise, Avedis. However, I am not certain if claiming the temple is the wisest course of action. Far more people have perished for lesser slights to the gods. No one here would even understand its purpose.”

   “Would you rather your men sleep on sand and rock?” Jaleh shot back, irritated. She arrived at the point of resignation that she no longer kept the daggers hidden from her words. “Would you have us lick the filth off of our robes for sustenance? Aslan, give the command and let us claim that oasis.”

   “What if the temple is occupied?” Aslan craned his head toward her. “Or armed in defense for that matter? We’re in no shape for a siege or prolonged fight.”

   Jaleh arched her brow, her sunken and bruised colored eyes making Aslan wince with guilt. “Have you ever seen a horde of desperate warriors descend upon a fortified position? Give the command and anyone in that fortress shall be dead before midnight.”

   Aslan considered the implications of that statement and realized that he had forgotten himself.

   He pitched his head back and bellowed with throaty, rasping laughter.
   
        “Perhaps I forgot that my warriors are the butchers of many kingdoms.” Aslan confessed. “Almost as if I dreamed that they had become something more than death incarnate. A dream most pleasant it would become.” Aslan shifted his gaze back onto Avedis. “No need to send a scouting party. We’ll march upon that temple and take it ourselves. Damn the consequences, they have to better than starving to death in this damned desert!”


~***~

   For once in the last dozen cycles, Aslan found himself beaming with a broad smile. Once again, his warriors and himself had discovered a way to stay death’s imminent hand. He cast his gaze around the luminescent oasis and studied its bright turquoise waters. Several hundred warriors of the Zarquin Guard scattered themselves around her banks and drank greedily of life’s essence.

   His forces lifted their voices in celebration and chanted and sang the war-songs of old. They clustered around makeshift campfires where scores of different wild game were roasted over primitive spits. Wild and carefree laughter echoed into the Southern Golden Desert and Aslan himself could not help but add his own voice to the cacophonous chorus.

   “Congratulations, My Lion.” Jaleh’s voice approached from behind him. Aslan shifted around in time to see her emerge from out of a scattered mass of warriors drunk on life. She shyly tilted her head to meet his amber eyes and smiled as if she knew no greater joy than seeing him.

   “Once more, you’ve rescued your warriors from certain death.” Jaleh sketched a deep bow and lifted her hands in offering. Aslan arched his brow as he noticed the lofty bottle of wine raised gently in both of her hands. “Perhaps I pilfered this from the war tent of the Exalted on the battlefield of Zar’bau. I am certain that they no longer need it.”

   “Have I truly saved anyone, Jaleh?” Aslan smiled in spite of himself. “Straighten that spine. You need not bow before your equal. Your harsh words were what convinced me in the end, that I truly had no time for other options. You should honor yourself for your courage to speak out of turn to your commander.”

   Aslan lifted a finger even as Jaleh straightened and made to speak. She found herself enraptured by silence.

   “Your eyes seem brighter.” Aslan complimented. “Good. Guilt struck me like a savage blow to my chest to see even a glimpse of your beauty wilting under the desert sky. I should have known, that is a difficult task to kill a desert rose.”

   Jaleh could not help herself. When she caught Aslan’s eye again, she fixated him with lustful eyes unbidden. She straightened her spine as commanded and watched him expectantly for a response.

   Aslan could scarcely tame his eyes from emitting a likewise desire, but somehow managed to maintain an aloof, if not interested expression. He gingerly plucked the bottle of wine from out Jaleh’s fingers, of which naturally coiled around his fingers for but the briefest moment.

   Aslan gestured toward the obsidian and onyx temple standing vigilant over the oasis. He studied its intricate walls, chiseled into the shapes of a naked ribcage or the exposed skeletal structure of a hand flayed to the bone. Avedis was correct in his description, the temple was a massive complex that dwarfed everything around it.

   Jaleh followed the direction of his eyes. “Should I gather a warband and secure the temple?” She did not conceal the disappointment in her words.

   Aslan turned back to her and pitched his head back with soft laughter. “Now? No one shall volunteer till dawn breaks over these hills again. Let them drink and feast themselves into a stupor.

   Aslan’s tone became suggestive. “If you would join me in a preliminary search of the premises. I would not refuse or mind your company.”

   Jaleh replied with a quaint smile of agreement and roll of her eyes. She gestured for him to lead on. The pair discreetly slipped from out of the celebrations.


~***~
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: An Opal and Crystalline Sea
« Reply #2 on: April 5, 2020, 09:36:18 PM »
Just wanted to share a sneak peak of what I've been working on. I've reached approximately 13,000 words in this second installment for the series. I'm actively trying not to spoil anything from the events of the The Embers of the Past, so I ended up cutting this snippet out of one of the scenes to share with you guys.

Hope you guys like it!

....
A sudden knock on the oaken doors of his chamber seized Azat’s attention. Before he could call out and say that he had not dressed, the oak doors were cast aside with a thunderous clamor. Azat made to shout an obscenity, but found his tongue silenced when a pair of enigmatic figures practically glided into his chambers.

One side-long glance informed Azat that both of the mysterious beings were not of mankind’s blood, but borne of some other species that he had only heard in long-forgotten myths about the west.

A pair of incredibly lithe figures elegantly strode across the breadth of the chamber with subtle footfalls in sync with one another. Azat thought their whipcord physiques inhuman, even for the legends he had read in mythic tales as a child. Both of the elves stood one head over Azat, yet they lacked half of the girth of Azat’s own midsection.

Each of them was garbed in the same attire of doubled-up leather armor stained in dyes the color of red wine. Satin robes of lilac and lavender cushioned the armor from underneath, and yet either elf seemed insubstantial in their presence. Leather boots that came up to their knees fit their minute calves rather snugly. Lengthened tabards of satin emerald cloth folded over their thick belts and fluttered around their ankles.

Both of the elves seemed to share their features with one another. Each was alabaster and youthful of skin. Their complexion glowed so intensely in the moonlight that they almost seemed ethereal. They fixated Azat with eyes of obsidian ringed by amber. Both twins were born of lustrous onyx hair that cascaded down the length of their bodies in perfectly kempt streams.

Otherwise perfect complexions were marred by some form of ritual scarification. Unfamiliar runes and symbols were painstakingly etched across their faces in vertical patterns that mimicked the flow of a written language. Each chiseled rune was minute and always accompanied by a trail of several more.

   The enigmatic figure on the right inclined her head by the merest fraction to inform Azat that she addressed him. She spoke in morose tones, though she wore the brightest smile upon her mauve lips.

   She began to recite a lyrical mantra for him.

“Before the blossoming of the earth, the cold light of the void consumed…

“Before the first burst of light from the stars, the barren dwelled in the nothingness therein…

“Before the cycle of rebirth, our gods were birthed from the womb of timeless eternity…

“Impermanence and violence are the destiny of their children…

“For from the barren soil was all life nurtured, and from the void was every god born…

“And into barren crypts and the all-consuming dark must all mortals return.”


Her twin on the left cocked his head by the merest fraction as he addressed Azat. He began to recite his own mantra.

“Before the first tyrant slew his kin and crowned himself with their discarded bones,

“Were not all minds borne of sentience and destiny not fated for royalty?

“Oh, what has befallen my kindred?

“For what mind borne of sentience is not a child of the gods?

“A tyrant has stolen away the crowns of my kindred.

“Swear an oath of vengeance,

“Shatter the shackles of bleak destiny,

“Break the chains that bound our blood in servitude,

“Steal away the crowns of tyrants so that all minds borne of the gods may become what was promised since time immemorial.”


The female twin on the right sketched the most graceful bow before him. “Have you rested well, Child of the Gods? Have you found some semblance of peace for yourself? Have you found that the Gods have changed you?”

“What my elder sister means.” Her twin made no other movement, save to study Azat in minute detail. “Do the throes of your death still seize you? Do the damned souls of the deceased howl at you from the Palace of Miseries and Sorrow?”

Azat considered both of them, confounded beyond all reason. “Both of you pulled me from out of that beautiful afterlife? If I could have called it home, I would have lived the rest of my reborn days beneath the palm trees of the myriad oasis. I’d have walked an eternity across the bright shores on that opal sea. Neither would I have cared if I was alone for the rest of my days.

“Until…”

“An introduction.” The elder sibling interrupted. “My kindred know me as Oni Raziya. My kindred know my younger sibling here as Oni Khalan. We are of the Qimbri Clans, and of the Genesis of Durwaith specifically…” She trailed off. “Who might you be?”

“Qimbri Clans?” Azat muttered to himself. He realized that the Qimbri Twins waited for a prompt response. “I am known as Azat. Wolf of Old Myria and God-King’s Hound. I care not for titles, so take your pick.”

“A contradiction.” Raziya quipped. “What warrior would swear himself into the service of two powerful kingdoms and divisive lords? Perhaps you were the former and have become the latter?”

“Now I am neither.” Azat arched his brow in Raziya’s direction. “It’d be more accurate to call me kin-slayer and arch-betrayer in these dark times.”
....

“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

 


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