~Whispers of White Sapphire~
An enigmatic cult arises in the eastern lands, from the vast steppes of the U’skar to the border realms of the Carth Dominion. A sister religion to the Golden Sun Cult, according to the obscured rumors of distant realms, that worships Kharothir, the God of the Primordial Hunt. A deity of wilderness and freedom unbidden, promising a way of life unshackled from the domination of others.
The mortal souls devoted to the White Sapphire Sun have long dwelled in the bleak, unforgiving lands of Khios. Having survived their entire lives walking hand in hand with perilous death, newfound prophecies lead them out of the frozen wastes.
The tales born from such harrowing journeys are often filled with tragedy and sorrow. Yet there are many such stories shared around the hearth, every one containing glimpses of heroism, kinship, and intimacy.
Fragments of memory forever linked with the stories of those that have endured a fleeting existence for the promise of another life. Seeking the whispers of a quiet place beyond the veil, where the forest thrives eternal and the winter sun shines like whitest sapphire.
~What is Whispers of White Sapphire?~
Whispers of White Sapphire is a two-novella collection telling separate stories. Yet both relate to the White Sapphire Sun, a sister religion to the Golden Sun Cult, worshipped by the remote nomadic tribes on the northern U’skar Qi Steppes. The Devoted of the White Sapphire Sun devote themselves to Kharothir, God of the Primordial Hunt and life, revered by hunters and those who still cling to the Old Ways.
As the Grand Empire of Xura expands across much of the U’skar Qi, forgotten tribes alienated from their traditional ways of life seek new horizons elsewhere on Khios. The White-and-Vermillion Wolves are one such nomadic clan composed from U’skarites banished from their original clans in the Steppe heartlands. Seasoned warriors to the last man and woman, these vicious warriors walk a constant blade’s edge between life and death in the northern wastes. All life is fleeting to them, too brief to attempt to cling onto without mastery of the blade, horse, and bow.
A lone prophetess has called out to them, a Child of the Sun that has found heaven amid a land of abundance. A distant land known only as the Whispering Wilds of Kharothir, where the forest is so primordial and ethereal-touched that humans fear to tread it.
The Whispering Wilds lie in the farthest corner of the Old Myrian Empire. A band of warrior pilgrims have pledged to discover the Whispering Wilds for their people. Guided by their Child of the White Sapphire Sun, they seek to become the lighthouse beacon that will guide their people into the Autumn Realms to resume the Old Ways.
The White-and-Vermillion Wolves feature in novella number one: Apparitions Amid the Whispering Woods.
~Apparitions Amid the Whispering Woods~
It is the year 786 in the Ascension Kings. As the Sanctum of Swords rages across the Khiosian mainland, the Old Myrian Empire prospers in a state of peace beyond the Alabaster River. Distant from the woes of the lesser kingdoms farther south, the Autumn Queens of Anahir remain silent to pleas for intervention. As the flames of open war spread farther northward, the Autumn Realms lie dormant against the coming storm.
Yet as Old Myria endures the silence before the storm, sightings of an enigmatic people from a foreign realm spread across the lands. From Cressa’s Lantern in the east to Kalandar in the west, few survivors remain to speak of the destruction of their towns and villages in the wilderness.
Ara Zakarian, Commander of the Anahir Immortals brotherhood and a knight of Old Myria, is tasked with the reconnaissance and destruction of this mysterious warband. Sallying out from Anahir City with a hundred knights under his command, Ara trails the nomadic tribe from the U’skar Qi Steppes’ warpath across the empire.
Only vague whispers are known about these raiders, but he knows enough. Skilled hunters and survivalists from the harshest winter lands, embarked on a great quest to reach the Whispering Wilds of Kharothir far in the western realms of Old Myria. They name themselves the White-and-Vermillion for the wolf pelts that their warriors worship and slay. Led by a Child of the Sun known only as their prophetess, they make pilgrimage into the Whispering Wilds of Kharothir for reasons unknown.
A gauntlet lies ahead of Ara and his companions. A trial of steel and wits. A conflict of hunters skilled in both steel weapons and survival. A battle in the snow-white forests at Autumn’s end as winter approaches. Apparitions locked in battle across Old Myria’s untamed wilderness.
Novella number two: In the Shadow of Her Past features a narrative of intrigue in the streets of Tushik, in and around the Qaira Quarter after the assassination of young Abasi Yen’Qaira’s lord and father. This features more of the city of Tushik from another angle and perspective and delves more into what living in the Carth Dominion’s utopian city can be like.
In the Shadow of Her Past’s antagonist, an Ashen Blade known as Cala the Widower of Yenna, is a serial murderer and sword master of the Cosmic Way. Having mastered Zahira’s shadow magics to step briefly beyond time and space to deliver her mortal blows, Cala slays her enemies before they realize she has even come for them.
Cala covers a different perspective of what the Ashen Blades can be: unrepentant killers and blackguards that cling to life by devoting themselves to the Art of Death. Ashen Blades such as Cala are mostly considered initiates that don’t retain much understanding of the secrets behind the Art of Death or Zahira’s wisdoms. Yet Cala is an exception, bearing divine-touched gifts and an innate knowledge of the esoteric to bend reality to her will, if only briefly.
Abasi’s main goal is to somehow defeat a master of death such as Cala against all odds. He must gather unlikely allies from both the Golden and White Sapphire Sun to do so. Every character has their own goals and ambitions in the end and have reason to aid Abasi in his mission.
~In the Shadow of Her Past~
While the Sanctum of Swords rages across the continent, the Children of the Sun continue to rebuild in the Golden Valley and Tushik, the City of Grand Canals. Two years have passed since the Siege of the Golden Valley. Yet the Sanctum Queen of Sukhan’s Ashen Blades, are only scattered and not defeated. The syndicate order of mythical assassins has gone to ground in their homelands, but a few networks still operate within the Golden Valley to sow further discord.
Lord Ishaq Yen’Qaira is slain on one fateful evening outside by an unwitnessed murderer. His twin sons, Abasi and Bomani, are left in a situation where they cannot mourn, but find a way to lead their house. Bomani, the elder brother, prepares to bury their father and become head of the Yen’Qaira house. Abasi, the younger sibling, sets out to find avenge his father’s death and hunt down his murderers.
Setting out into the nighttime streets of Tushik, Abasi encounters the notorious Ashen Blades, but is rescued by a mere traveler from the eastern Steppes. A sword master known only by the White-and-Vermillion garments and wolf pelt he wears with him, capable of summoning an inner light like Whitest Sapphire.
Rumors abound that High Queen Tabia and Heiress Shoushan Sar Amun will pay tribute to former Lord Yen’Qaira at his burial. Asked to entertain the God King’s half-blooded firstborn, Abasi quickly finds a rare friend and more potential interest in Shoushan Sar Amun. Gaining a powerful ally to hunt Zahira’s disciples, Abasi finds himself descending into a web of intrigue with no obvious way of escape.
~White-and-Vermillion Chapter Except~
Climbing up a verdant hillside in the Halliya Hinterland, Ara Zakarian knelt before a Perseus Pine Tree. It looked more ethereal from a distance than it did now, Ara realized. A lithe trunk of textured bark lent the tree a twisted appearance. It stood taller than a man by a foot-and-a-half, rearing up from a gnarled bed of roots nestled within the earth.
Yellow-golden pinecones dangled from its branches like ornaments. Organic carvings resembling the likeness of dimmed lanterns.
A woman’s corpse had come to rest against the Perseus Pine. Maybe twenty-four summers in age or so, Ara estimated from a glance over her pallid skin. Its tone reminded him of the soft sands he had always imagined of the Southern Wastes. Of the warrior or bandit that had murdered her, he found no sign. She kept hazel eyes and a combed main of ebony hair falling past both sides of her face. Muscular too, Ara thought, from a life tending to a farmstead most likely.
“Vahe!” Ara called. “I’ve found another one! Slain with an arrow straight through her heart.”
She had struck the ground hard, Ara guessed from the subtle crater formed around her fallen body. Stiffened hands lied against her midriff, covered in coagulated blood from grasping the arrow protruding from her heart. The corpse had come to sit upright with her back slumped against the tree trunk.
Who was she? Ara wondered to himself. Certainly, someone from ransacked Hatha township not even several leagues away. She had perished here alone, cut down by the precision of a seasoned marksman.
A dozen other slain Hatha-folk had suffered similar fates in the hinterlands. Murdered by mysterious hunters and by passers from a distant and foreign land. Ara climbed back to his feet and cast his gaze farther afield into the hinterlands. Forgotten memories resurfaced from the depths of his mind. Remnants of a dormant past returned onto him after he had buried them since his father’s death and his separation from his elder brother, Aslan.
A familiar voice between boisterous and rasping, but surprisingly jovial, snapped Ara from his reverie.
“There’s something about Autumn season when so near to winter.” Vahe of Grand Damyra stomped across a snow-sprinkled hinterland with black leather boots. “We wander from memory to memory in search of past faces and what we’ve lost of ourselves to the cruel past, longing for what once was.”
Ara regarded his friend with a crane of the head, finding a man of some thirty-and-odd summers of age. Lustrous hair as black as a raven’s feathers in lengthy strands, blew in the wind. Dark auburn eyes as large as moonstones watched him curiously. A pair of notable scars marked his face. One ran from the nape of his neck to the corner of his cheek, while the other ran diagonally from hairline to his brow over the right eye.
Vahe wore a midnight doublet beneath a suit of chainmail. He equipped no plate steel on his chest, but kept gauntlets, greaves, and pauldrons to amply protect him elsewhere. A heavy soara of a drab mossy green shade became scrunched in the wind from beneath his greaves.
He had a kite shield slung onto his back. A steel helmet adorned with a pair of elongated emerald tassels tucked underneath his arm.
“Autumn ends at long last,” Ara replied with a look around the winter-touched woods. “The Hinterlands of Halliya shed their leaves to the four winds as snow falls over the Southern Reach. Aiman always loved watching the leaves fall at Season’s End.”
“You say that as if she died many moons ago.” Vahe clapped on Ara on the shoulder. “She might’ve walked away from you a couple years ago, but I’m certain you fated lovebirds will reunite at some appointed place and time. However, I suppose we shouldn’t linger here ourselves if we’re to see our mission through and catch up with these White-and-Vermillion banners and the bandits planting them along their warpath.”
White and Vermillion, Ara mused, scattered across the Halliyan countryside in the form of war banners. He counted several briefly, planted into the ruddy forest soil and concealed in the veridian fauna that sprawled across it.
A howling gale sifted through the autumn woods as light snow fell through the forest canopy.
“You think so?” Ara mentioned after Vahe’s comment about Aiman. “I guess the Light of the West pays no heed to the benighted world it leaves behind at horizon’s end.” Sighing, he changed the subject. “Whoever these White-and-Vermillion Wolves are, they’ve taken up another hunt.”
“Want me to give the signal?” Vahe asked with an arched brow. He expelled misty vapor from his mouth in an exhale. “We might be able to catch to them if our knights are swift enough.”
“Or we can stumble into an ambush as many innocents have already made the mistake of doing.”
Vahe shrugged. “Our bandits from the eastern steppes will continue their warpath and casualties will mount if the Anahir Immortals stall and do nothing.”
Anahir. Old Myria’s jewel in the Autumn Queen’s crown. The capital and heart of the Autumn Realms.
Immortals. A brotherhood of champions from across Old Myria’s divided lands. Warriors tested from a myriad ways of life, hardened and steadfast against all enemies south of the Alabaster River.
“Give the command then!” Ara declared his consent with an absent nod. “We hunt the Steppe warriors down and take their Child of the Sun captive. Have everyone prepare their mounts for the hunt. Should the White-and-Vermillion have already departed Halliya, then we ride them down elsewhere.”
“Knights of Old Myria and Immortals of Anahir,” Vahe shouted. “Make all haste! Prepare to ride into battle and hunt the foe!”
Ara lingered behind as Vahe walked back toward their encampment outside of Hatha. He watched shades of yellow-gold, auburn, vermilion, and faded emerald dance on a fell winter wind.
Dying near to Autumn’s end retained a sense of beauty he found hard to describe. Or, maybe his battle lust became more alluring near to the season’s end. Ara found the emotion strange. Spilling the blood of others appealed to his darkest senses of what awaited them whenever they found and confronted the White-and-Vermillion Wolves. A trial of steel and wits. A conflict of hunters skilled in both steel weapons and survival. A battle in the snow-white forests at Autumn’s end whilst winter approached. Apparitions locked in battle across Old Myria’s untamed
A growing piece in the back of Ara’s mind longed to charge headlong into that trial-by-fire.