Abomination teaser

The world of the Abomination is a freezing, decaying jungle run by brutish young men with a completely unhinged leader. If you want a peep inside, here is a short excerpt from Abomination, a story within a story, of teenage boys behaving (very) badly. Just click on the image to read or download.

If you’re still on board when you’ve read it, the purchase links for the whole story are below.

 

Pete's Story

Buy Abomination here at the amazingly low price of 99c/p

Amazon US

Amazon UK

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Burn

Combining a bit of promotion with the Daily Post prompt: Burn. An excerpt from Abomination.

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“Abdelkader, leader of the Kusha, you will bring your men here. I have something to say to you.”

Abdelkader backed up, fighting against an obvious desire to run, and the Burnt Man addressed the main hall that was now filled with hundreds of unseen watchers.

“The rest of you, come out! Or I will have to flush you out like the cockroaches you are!”

Kat watched, her flesh creeping with a premonition of yet more horror as the group of hunched, disjointed-looking people—the Burnt Man’s followers—shambled through the hall, spreading out like the mold on a piece of fruit.

“Do you doubt that I can?” The voice filled the cavernous ruin. Like a viscous liquid, it seeped into every corner, into every head, seeming to come from everywhere and nowhere. An unnatural silence fell on the mall. Even the distant shouting of Abdelkader had died away. The Burnt Man cast his gaze about, once again raising it to the first level where Kat and her friends camped. Julie grabbed Philippe’s arm, and Kat thought how similar they looked, both worn thin and nervy, always on the brink of hysteria, scared-looking, like their children. With a shiver, she admitted to herself that their kind hadn’t a hope of making it.

The Burnt Man looked away, fixing his one-eyed gaze on a barricaded walkway on the ground level, and threw out his hand. Like a rocket, the ball of flame burst through a pile of rails and tumbled partition walls, blasting the lightweight debris into a hail of sharp, flaming shards. There was an animal shriek of agony, and an arm flew into the air with the shredded plasterboard and fragments of plate glass. The rest of the body staggered into the open, and fell, a carbonized non-person, to the horror of the watchers. Behind it, a canine torch, one of the security guard’s dogs, made a feeble attempt to outrun the flames that engulfed it, then staggered into a crackling heap.

“Did you hear that, cockroaches?”

Kat was mesmerized like the others. Philippe clutched his wife until his fingers left a white mark on her bony shoulder. Jérémy chewed his knuckles, casting the odd glance over his shoulder to where Mattieu, his little brother, was playing with a group of other children. Silently and earnestly, they were building a crazy-looking house out of plastic cups and polystyrene packaging. Kat was so absorbed that she jumped at the light touch of a hand on her arm. Jeff tugged at her sleeve, trying to pull her away, back into the relative safety of the store. His face, already drawn and pinched, was a mask of terror. Only the eyes, huge and pleading and full of something only he could see, were still the eyes of a six year old child. His brow was furrowed as if he was in pain. His voice was thin as if even the effort of speaking was too much for him.

“Hide me, Kat! Don’t let him find me, please.”

Like it? You can buy the book here

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Promote Yourself: Lesleigh Nahay

My guest this weekend is author Lesleigh Nahay who would like to present her novel, Red Moonglow on Snow, that Lesleigh describes as “a fiction fantasy novel about the unyielding strength of a woman who thinks she’s broken.”

Here’s the synopsis

Lira is the daughter of Elaar, who is the daughter of dragons. Today, Lira’s long-ago love has brought her back to her parents’ birthplace and dropped her at the feet of Soldiers, knowing they’ll kill her for being her mother’s daughter. It is punishment for letting Others steal theirs. Isolated, alone, and shattered, she does not accept the arrangement. The unforeseen rescue isn’t appreciated, either. And He has a lot to answer for.

Red Moonglow on Snow is the beginning of my saga about mothers and daughters, righting wrongs, and granting yourself the right to be healed after everything went wrong. Weaving through its core, though, is a love story that defies everything, even the lies Lira holds onto regarding the night the moon turned red and made the snow under His and her bodies glow.

Soothe the man-hating unicorn and read the rest (he hates that part of the story). Red Moonglow on Snow is available as an ebook on Smashwords, iBooks, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble. It is also available as a paperback on Amazon.

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Excerpt:

Back-slam-forth, a jagged rocking that pauses when back passes through nothingness and slams into solid. Back-slam-forth. This physical pain I can cause myself soothes the deadness, numbs, for a brief respite, the burning in my shoulder, the horror in my soul.

“Did you feel that, Lira? Do you remember feeling that with Him? He crawled into your skin and produced your daughter. Remember that feeling, Lira. Draw upon it.

“I knew where you were going that night. I knew who you would find. I wished I could have given you the Preparation I’d been given. I didn’t want you to be afraid. But He was supposed to take you Home that night.

“You have four brothers, Lira. You almost had a sister.” I stop rocking. She keeps talking. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what to do with this body I even now feel so trapped in. It’s wrong. It’s all wrong. This isn’t who I am. It’s dangerous to be in this human, female body-

“Something kept driving me into willing arms and even at the last one I couldn’t understand how a human child grew and then came out of my body. The oldest two are twins. And then another boy, and another. Mihn was so furious with me through those years, but we were both still merely children. He wouldn’t speak to me for weeks each time I became obviously pregnant, nor for days after each one was born. But he always did as I asked and found someone from the fathers’ family to take the babies.

“And then-

“Mihn’s aunt was sick and I went to care for her. When it came time for me to leave, Mihn became nearly irate. I’d never seen him like that. I should have taken him up on his offer- I ran away instead, to prove him wrong, to ignore the other things he’d shouted at me. I knew I should’ve called for one of my siblings to carry me back home. I was due soon, but I was confused and I was angry. I was going to walk all the way to the mountains. But I ran into a unicorn who’d gotten lost in the woods, and when it charged I killed it. I turned and there was The Nightmare, the unicorn god. He just stared at me, sucking the life out of me and the baby. I ran until Mihn found me and carried me to Kholsari. And she was born, and she was dead.

“I’d never known grief until then. Regret. Fear. Cold. She was so small, so quiet, so still. I’d held the others after they were born, but I never felt like a mother. I never associated the act of making them, my growing body, or the pain of delivery to their irrevocable tie to me. They were human babies. Human babies who were going to go back to the human fathers who made them. I am not human. I could not be their mother.

“Holding her was different. She wasn’t warm, she didn’t move, didn’t search for me, didn’t make any sound. She’d come from my body. She’d moved inside me, shared every meal I ate. A human baby girl came from my body but she didn’t move. In that instant, I was aware of myself, that I was not born from nor would I ever become a dragon.

“Aril cleaned her and wrapped her in a blanket and tied it with this thin pink ribbon, but her lips were blue. She was so small, so beautiful. She had red hair like mine. I couldn’t accept that she was dead.

“The thought of cremating her in the dragons’ way horrified me. I begged and pleaded with Mihn not to let it happen. So he took she and I into his arms and carried us away. He buried her beneath a large old tree near his old village. He use to climb that tree as a child with his brothers. He assured me she’d be a star in the sky, surrounded and watched after by his family.

“She comes to me in dreams. She looks like me. I still talk to her. She sees you, watches you, knows you as her sister. I think of the boys a lot. Being here makes everything final. Knowing I’ll never see them has lodged into me with a menacing finality. If able to do things differently, would I have?

“I dream about the boys, too. I see them grown. I see them with families of their own. I wonder if they were ever told about me, that they came from my blood, that for a time we shared the same body. Would they know me if they ever saw me? Would they care about the woman who handed them away without any regret or any feeling? I hope the Soldiers never found them. I hope the Soldiers never found them. I hope the Soldiers never found them. I hope……”

I blink. Breathe.

“They were all born in my parents’ cave. Except for the girl. She was born in my room at Kholsari. That’s where Mihn brought the fathers’ representative, in the little ante-room with the crib set up in the middle. Mihn always stood stiffly in the shadows. So angry. So upset with me. I never asked why the fathers didn’t come themselves.

“Mihn, my Mihn, was there for her birth. He held me, cradled me against him. It was much later that I remembered how safe I had felt, how he’d molded himself around me. I never felt that before- so much comfort from a human body. I never acknowledged what I felt around him, and then when I did……

“It would have been like that with you, Lira. He’d have been with us through every moment. His would have been the first hands to touch you, to take hold of you and begin you in a life outside me. His would have been the first face you saw, the second heart you’d have heard beat, and his would have been the first kiss you received.”

Mihn smiles sadly from the corner, streaks of tears lining his cheeks. His was the first face I saw, the first kiss I received. Though he was killed before I was born, his was still the second heart I heard beat.

“I wish I could’ve given that to him……”

Then my father is kneeling before me, eyes intense, inches from mine. The vibrant feel of his hands on my knees stops my shivering, my rocking. The only other time I physically felt him was when he was trying to stop the bleeding. Mom is still talking— low and soft— but my eyes are held locked with my father’s as he signs to me:

Live. Fight. Don’t give in. Talyn is not dead, is not lost for good. Daughter, my other love, do you hear me? Come out of this. Come out of this. He was deaf when he was alive, and while death has given him the ability to walk through walls and vanish into the air, he regards speaking as useless.

I stare into his silvery eyes, swirling like a tornado, not blinking, not breathing, the trembling in my lip the only movement to betray me. I am lost. Do not find me. I can’t be saved without her. I don’t want to be.

He grabs hold of my face in his hands and holds me in the present for what feels like too long, and too short. He releases me to sign again: How can you be lost? I’m looking right at you.

I’m lost. I’m lost.

“I never told you that prophecy. I didn’t want you to think that your life was predetermined, because it’s not, no matter what words are spoken or however they seem to be true. Hearing it now, I want you to see that nothing has ended. Life has more to give you. Has good it owes you.”

My eyes shift back to the window, searching, waiting, and I feel the blow when my back slams once again into the wall, and I hear the wall splinter and crack.

 

Visit Lesleigh’s blog at Of Words and Writing!

You can also visit her publisher website, which offers more-detailed information about Red Moonglow on Snow (book trailer, blog, insights, and social media links).

Home

And you can purchase Red Moonglow on snow here

Amazon.com: Red Moonglow on Snow (Ravery’s Daughters Book 1) eBook: L. Nahay: Kindle Store

 

Promote Yourself: Ch’kara Silverwolf

This is all I have to offer you today from my enigmatic guest.

This is the story of Montayna, a young woman born of both light and dark magik who never knew her parents. She earns her freedom with a bit of magik even she was hardly aware of, but her skill is growing and she needs to find answers. Who is she? Where did her powers come from?  To find those answers she sets out on a journey of discovery, both inward and outward, of dark mysteries as well as light. Will she master them, or they her?

Inexperienced and facing incredible dangers in the course of her quest to defeat the darkness that is spreading inexorably across her world, her journey takes her through a landscape of wizards, elves, faeries and wolves, as she throws herself headlong into the fray to challenge the malevolent designs of a powerful Dark Lord.

It is a journey that will eventually change Montayna as well as the world around her.

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EXCERPT

Montayna was terrified; every word the woman spoke, dripped with evil. The fear she felt enveloped her. In that moment, she felt Sheerak. You can survive this. I cannot help you, and I will not be able to communicate with you after this, but you will survive. Find that strength within. I will be waiting.

 

As suddenly as she had appeared, she was gone. The woman had clearly known she had communicated with someone. This sent her into a rage.

 

“No magik is to be used here. You will do as I say and learn.”

 

“How can you say no magik may be used? You are dripping with evil magik.”

 

The woman laughed a hideous ugly sound. “It is you, who may not use magik if you want to pass this challenge. This will be oh so easy for me. You will never survive. It is almost beneath contempt that they have sent me such a pathetic girl.”

 

Montayna felt hatred being thrown at her. It was like a physical thing, and then she was pushed to the floor of the cavern. She was held by an invisible force, and could not move for a very long time. She fell in and out of sleep, and when she could finally move, her muscles were cramped, and she was dirty and hungry. Slowly she began to move her stiff and aching joints. She had no idea whether it was day or night, or even how long she had been there. Her eyes had now adjusted to the darkness. She looked around and saw a bucket on one wall. Standing up, she stretched, then looked inside the bucket. There was water, though it looked dirty, but she was so thirsty. If she was to survive this, she needed to keep up her strength. She could not understand why the Nunnehi had put her here. From what Gilcune had said of them, they were honourable. Why would they have agreed to this? She finally drank some of the water, and it was indeed filthy. She could taste the grit, but at least it quenched her thirst. She was determined she would survive, no matter what.

Inspecting the cavern, she followed the walls, feeling carefully with her hands. There didn’t seem to be any opening. How was she to get out? She sat down and thought of all that had happened. There was obviously a reason, but she could make no sense of why she was being challenged in this way. If the dark side was trying to entice her, then this surely was not the way. Sighing, she stood up, and began to feel her way around the cave once more. Her fingers felt a groove in the rock. She could feel a breeze and knew this was an outer wall. This must be an opening. The challenge was how to get it open. Feeling around with her foot, she stubbed her toe on a rock. Without moving too far away, she picked up the rock and began working at the groove. It was a slow process. She was tired, hungry, and thirsty, but was determined not to stop. Finally, a great chunk of rock fell and she felt fresh air on her face. A tear trickled down her face, but she brushed it aside and continued until she had made a hole big enough for her to crawl through.

 

Once through to the next chamber, she discovered it to be much the same as the one she left. With the exception that it had an entrance. She could hear the sound of running water, and headed in that direction. She came upon a rock face with water running down into a pool. She drank her fill, and then washed her face. She tried to see where the water came from, but could not. It was just there. Being faint from hunger, she thought this was why she could not think clearly. She walked to the entrance, taking care to check there were no traps before she stepped through.

 

She stepped into a passage that as far as she could tell went a very long way. Of course, this was intuition rather than anything else. There was nothing else for her to do but go forward. She had travelled some distance, when she saw a faint light. It was not directly ahead, more off to the right. She increased her pace and arrived at another cavern. This one was clearly lit, with a table and chair to one side. There was warm bread and cheese, and a jug of cool water. Without stopping to think about it, she sat and ate and drank. Later, she realized that may have been a mistake. What if the food was poisoned? It was too late to worry now. What was to be her next step? As she had this thought a parchment appeared on the table. She picked it up and read:

 

Chosen One

You have managed to come this far unscathed.

Your question now is.

Do you choose the passage on the right or the left?

One will take you to the next level, the other will not.

You must choose now.

 

She got up and stretched her aching muscles. The cavern had darkened except for an entrance opposite to where she had come in. She stood in the doorway trying to decide. She realized how much she had come to rely on her magikal ability. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and turned left.

 

The passage was dimly lit and though she travelled for some time, nothing happened. She was just beginning to think she had chosen wrongly, when she felt that same evil malevolence she had in the first cavern.

 

“Well girl, you have made it this far. Either you had help, or it was dumb luck. Either way, you should have taken the other path. Now you have to fight me, and I am more powerful. So prepare to die, Chosen One.” This last she almost spat at Montayna. The hatred coming from the woman was like a suffocating cloak.

Montayna could still not see her properly. Her face was hidden by magik. They fought with fists like street brawlers. The woman threw Montayna to the ground and got her hands around Montayna’s throat. The advantage Montayna had was from learning to fight as a child. She relaxed her body for just a moment, which took the woman off guard. This gave Montayna a split second to throw her off. As lithe as a cat, Montayna was up, swung around behind her, got her in a headlock and twisted. She heard the breaking of bone and the woman went limp. She let go and slumped down gasping for breath. She realized she had killed the woman, and though she knew it was kill or be killed, she felt sick to her stomach.

 

She saw the way ahead become lighter. She stood up, walked towards it, and entered another cavern. There was a table with a jug of water, another parchment, and a beautiful sword. She drank some water, then unrolled the parchment.

 

You have done well Chosen One.

The path you chose was harsh, but you are now that much stronger and perhaps a little wiser.

Accept these gifts as your right.

 

She looked puzzled as she read this, for there was only one gift. The sword. It was beautiful. Made from what looked like silver, carved with Elvish writing. The handle, made from a dark wood, was carved in the shape of a dragon, with a large dark blue sapphire embedded in its throat.

 

She picked it up and it fit perfectly in her hand. It began to hum, just as her dagger had when she received it. The cavern filled with brilliant light, so bright she had to shield her eyes. She felt herself being lifted into the air and gently began to spin. She could hear hundreds of voices raised up in song, it was almost deafening. As the sound began to fade, she became aware of her surroundings. She had stopped spinning and floated to the floor. She was now in a room. There were beautiful tapestries hanging on the walls. The floor had a soft covering, and she realized there were no windows. She must be still underground.

 

The door opened and ShaYung entered. She came and knelt before Montayna, placing her fist across her heart as she spoke. “We honour you, Chosen One. We are yours to command, if and when you have need of us.”

 

Montayna could not decide whether or not it was fatigue, but everything sounded and felt different. Her senses were heightened. It was as though she knew what ShaYung felt.

 

“I have prepared a room for you my lady. A bath and clean clothes, then you must sleep before your return to ‘above world’.”

 

“How long have I been gone?”

 

“Twenty five days my lady. They can wait one more day until you are rested.”

 

Montayna soaked her aching body in the wonderful steaming water. She tried to come to terms with the fact that it had been so long. How had she survived that long without food? ShaYung had sent some food to her room. She ate a little, then climbed into the bed, and just as she was drifting off to sleep, she heard the familiar purr of Sheerak.

 

‘Welcome back little one, all is well. Sleep now.’  

 

If you want to know more about Ch’kara Silverwolf, you can check out these links below.

 

Website: www.chkarasilverwolf.com

Blog: www.sheerak.wordpress.com

AuthorPage:http://www.amazon.com/Chkara-SilverWolf/e/B008DN6FIC/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1407294911&sr=8-1

Twitter: www.twitter.com/ladychkara

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Daughter-Light-Dark-Prophecy-Nitesh-ebook/dp/B008DCOR2O/

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Daughter-Light-Dark-Prophecy-Nitesh-ebook/dp/B008DCOR2O/

Promote Yourself: Barbara Alfaro

Today’s guest, Barbara Alfaro is a poet. I’m always pleased to be able to give poets a bit of a plug as poetry is probably about the most difficult of all literary forms to sell. Here is Barbara’s short introduction.

Barbara Alfaro is a graduate of Goddard College and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She is the recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award for her play Dos Madres. Her poems and essays have appeared in various literary journals. The paperback edition of her poems called Singing Magic and the Kindle edition of her poetry called First Kiss are available on Amazon. Mirror Talk, her memoir about a Catholic girlhood and working in theatre won the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award for Best Memoir and is also available on Amazon. Barbara and her husband Victor live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

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The following are two poems from the First Kiss anthology.

FIRST KISS

Teddy O’Connor, I dreamed of you last night.
You were the age you would be now
and still handsome in your quiet way.

Remember us, in our Easter Sunday best,
beside my father’s mint green Chevrolet,
holding torch-shaped ice cream cones.
Ten years later, I’m wearing a prom dress.
You are Cary Grant in a rented tux.
You broke my heart that night,
being too attentive to another.

Somewhere between the Carvels
and senior prom, probably
when we were twelve, we paused
in a Long Island woods and
sat beside each other on a fallen tree.
You surprised me with a kiss
and I fell silent as a log.

In the dream, you said you live in Delaware.
I wonder how you are now.
The fool part of me is tempted to see
how many Theodore O’Connors
live in Wilmington but if I found you,
what could I say?

Teddy O’Connor, I dreamed of you last night.

BEFORE DARK

“Home before dark,” our mother’s voice
trails after my brother and me like a kite tail
as we scamper to stickball. Sundown
happens too soon so we run to the blue
house as if our lives depend on time.
After supper, in the hallway, I hear
“She’s got to stop following me around”
and imagine his pals poking fun at
a skinny kid sister tagging along.

Today, I can’t help it; I’m happy.
God knows why.
I’m holding on to heaven.
If I let go, what’s there? Nothing
but memory and pain.
I confess I’ve been unfaithful
to my dreams and my stories,
leaving them alone and unwritten
in the distant shimmering house,
the house they burst forward from,
rushing and true. I have to keep writing.
That’s how it is, before dark…

If Barbara’s poetry touches you, you can find First Kiss on Amazon here

http://www.amazon.co.uk/First-Kiss-Barbara-Alfaro-ebook/dp/B0074QLT58/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1407266710&sr=1-1&keywords=first+kiss+by+barbara+alfaro

http://www.amazon.com/First-Kiss-Barbara-Alfaro-ebook/dp/B0074QLT58/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1407267694&sr=1-1&keywords=first+kiss+by+barbara+alfaro

and you can visit her website at : http://www.BarbaraAlfaro.net

Thank you Barbara for letting me post your poetry. It’s always a pleasure to showcase a good piece of writing.

Promote Yourself: Christopher Jackson-Ash

This is welcome back time for Chris Jackson-Ash. I recently interviewed him and his alter ego Kris the Bard here. Sensitive souls might want to avert their gaze from the following images. This man likes his torture graphic 🙂

Aftermath of Armageddon is the second Volume in the FirstWorld Saga.

A trailer is available here http://youtu.be/1woxy9uqPJg

“If the radiance of a thousand suns
Were to burst at once into the sky
That would be like the splendour of the Mighty one …
I am become Death,
The shatterer of Worlds.”
Bhagavad Gita

Weylyn the Wolf has been defeated and Elannort saved. Simon Redhead has found his sword and begun to learn how to use it to become the Everlasting Hero. Like Queen Ceridwen of the Elves, he is incomplete. They are both missing their kochari. Cambyses is lost in a far dimension. Julie is held prisoner by Dring in Simon’s post-apocalyptic dimension. Meanwhile, Gadiel’s forces threaten to attack on several fronts. Simon is under Ceridwen’s enchantment, but is she driven by her responsibility for her people, her personal desires, or by some darker force? Everyone needs the Hero. Which way will Simon turn, and will he make the ultimate bond with Kin Slayer to become a major incarnation of the Everlasting Hero? Simon will risk everything to save Julie, and it will cost him dearly. Along the way, he will learn much about himself and his enemies. He will make a deal with the Devil to give the elves a future, putting his own future at great risk.

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This is the Foreword – so it’s not giving too much away.

Simon wanted to die. He’d begged the torturer during the last session but the simian thug had just mocked him. He lay on the cold cobbles of the cellar floor, arms and legs shackled to the damp concrete walls. He was barely conscious, he hadn’t eaten for three days, and he had no strength left. He was severely dehydrated, and once more, he struggled to lick a few drops of moisture off the clammy cellar walls. He had no tears left to cry. His body was wracked with pain. He didn’t think there was a part of him that wasn’t in agony. For the umpteenth time, he cursed giving them the opportunity to separate him from Kin Slayer. He tried to concentrate his mind to search for the Sword. The pain was too great. He tried to focus on one aspect of the pain, in order to relieve the rest. He tried to concentrate on his feet, where they had torn off both of his big toe nails. Each of his big toes throbbed mercilessly. He tried to raise his legs a little to reduce the blood flow. This brought his backside into greater contact with the rough floor. A stab of pain shot through him. It dragged back into his consciousness the horror of the objects with which they had violated him. Despite the best of intentions, he cried out in his torment.
The door opened and the ugly gaoler lumbered in. “I told you, no noise, scum.” His booted foot thudded into Simon’s chest and a couple of ribs were shattered. The second kick crushed his exposed testicles. The third caught him on the side of the head. He lapsed into merciful unconsciousness. The thug gave him one more kick in the teeth and left him lying in his own excrement and blood. Before he left the room, the bully turned back towards his prisoner. “I’ve hardly started with you yet. Tomorrow you will learn what real pain is, red boy.”

7 simons hell

8 Dag

The following chapter describes the battle at Hamadan. Simon Redhead finally accepts his role as Everlasting Hero and discovers what it might cost him.
The Slaughter of Hamadan
It was mid-autumn, the equinox when the harvest is celebrated. The travellers arrived in Hamadan shortly after dawn and were taken to Sheik Salah-al-Din’s minaret. It provided the best vantage point in the city from which to view the battle. The enemy encampments were close to the city. Each had its own distinctive emblem, either insect or animal. The enemy soldiers were dressed in armour that was shaped to resemble their clan symbol. All clans flew the flag of Chaos – a set of broken white scales on a black background. The elven archers took up position at the edge of the city, ready to pick off any barbarians who chose to attack Hamadan. None approached.
They watched as, in the distance, a single red rider on a white horse wielded a black sword. The rider and the horse were clothed in a blue glow, like the fire from a wizard’s staff, and seemed to emit waves of black hatred, as fumes rise from a witch’s cauldron, which struck down many of the enemy. The barbarians seemed drawn to them, like flies to carrion. Yet no matter how many attacked, the rider remained intact and the dead piled into mountains of carcasses. The sands of the desert turned red with their blood. Strange noises were carried on the wind. The death cries of the barbarians were drowned out by a strange singing, high-pitched and resonant, like a continuous tuning fork vibrating in the air.
At first, the watchers rejoiced as the enemy was decimated. Soon they averted their eyes and covered their ears. Quickly, they turned away on the excuse of other pressing business. Three men only watched the entire slaughter, unmoving until the setting sun illuminated the death of the final barbarian. Ten thousand or more died that day. As the last of the light disappeared, the rider dismounted and walked away into the desert. His steed, now permanently stained red, made its own way back to the city. The three men cried, while the city celebrated.
During the night, a strange fell wind howled through the city, unlike any storm that Hamadan had experienced before. In the morning, the desert dunes had shifted, consuming the dead, so that many in their hangovers wondered whether it had all been a drunken dream. The three men knew otherwise. The dunes to the east of Hamadan are said to glow crimson red in the rays of the morning sun. They are called the Slaughter Dunes and none will venture there. It is said that they are haunted by the souls of the dead who died by wizard’s staff and witch’s fume. Most of the barbarians died by the Sword and their souls are elsewhere. It was mid-autumn, the feast of the harvest, and the Sword Kin Slayer feasted on the biggest harvest of souls it had ever known.
The Chronicle of the Hero
The night air of the desert chilled Simon to the bone. It was pitch black and absolutely silent. He stopped his aimless stumbling and sat down in the shelter of a large dune. His mouth was parched and he knew that he was badly dehydrated. Kin Slayer was sheathed, but his hand was still bound to the Sword, effectively tied at his side. He closed his eyes and lived the battle again.
He had not been afraid as he approached the enemy host and yet he had known the greatest fear of his life. Then the citadel that he had built in his heart burst and all of the pent-up hatred and lust for revenge was released. He had screamed, as Kin Slayer sang, until his voice was hoarse. With each death, he felt a surge of energy from his sword. He carved through the enemy’s armour as a trained butcher fillets a carcass and with as little emotion. The enemy soldiers seemed drawn to him. They never let up their attack, even though they died in their hundreds and thousands. A blue light, like the sort that emanated from a wizard’s staff, protected him and Snowmane from any physical harm, yet it did not stop them becoming covered in blood. He revelled in its salty taste as it ran in rivulets down his face. A black smoke seemed to be generated by his sword. It drifted away from them in tendrils like scrawny arms groping in the night. It annihilated every enemy it so much as brushed. Kin Slayer was in charge now; he was just the conduit between it and Snowmane. The three worked as one. They were the perfect killing machine. Kin Slayer feasted like never before. The Battle of Elannort seemed like a mere snack before this banquet. And ever the enemy advanced, seemingly embracing death with open arms, tripping over themselves in their eagerness to die by the Sword.
He loved the feeling that each surge of energy from Kin Slayer gave him, the exhilaration of the kill, even as he despised himself for enjoying it. He knew that he was slipping deeper into an addiction he would never conquer and part of him knew that this was his destiny and he should enjoy it. Another part of him, a shrinking part, told him that he was becoming as evil as Gadiel, to resist, throw down the Sword, and let the enemy save his soul from eternal enslavement. At one point, the small voice almost triumphed. He let Kin Slayer fall limp in his hand. Had it not been bound to his wrist it would have fallen to the desert sands and the outcome would have been very different. As it was, Kin Slayer spoke to him, whispered soothing words, and promised so much future joy that he took it up again and continued the massacre.
He didn’t hear the small voice again until the battle was nearly over. Kin Slayer was almost sated, if such a thing were possible. Simon’s focus was broken and he saw what he had done. Then the anguish took hold and he barely had the strength to finish the job. Streams of tears diluted the blood that still ran down his face.
Now, for the first time, he felt his exhaustion. He slid off Snowmane, his dismount lubricated by sticky, drying blood. He whispered to his horse to go back to the city and gave him a pat on the rump. The dying rays of the sun illuminated Snowmane as he carefully and wearily picked his way over the fallen and made his way back towards Hamadan. Snowmane had been a pure white stallion. Now he was dark red. Be careful, Simon called with his mind. We shall ride again in cool green fields under blue skies, I promise, my Bloodmane.
Simon wandered aimlessly through the carnage. The stench of death assailed his nostrils and yet he couldn’t leave it. He was the Hero. He had saved Hamadan. He had proved the old fat milk sheik wrong. Yet, he was ashamed to enter the city. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed movement. He grasped Kin Slayer and turned towards the movement. Instinctively, he swung the Sword and a loud clang startled him. A large dagger, that would have taken him in the back, was diverted harmlessly away. A soldier who appeared to be dressed as a praying mantis tried to crawl out of sight, hampered by the fact that both of his legs had been amputated below the knees. That he hadn’t died through blood loss, amazed Simon. That he tried to hide, rather than embrace death, seemed incredible.
Simon approached him and the soldier rolled on to his back. For a moment, Simon had an image of a dog rolling over to have his belly rubbed. Simon placed a foot on the man’s chest and observed him. He had no visible weapons left and his only possession seemed to be a bottle strapped to his belt. Simon let Kin Slayer fall loose and dangle from his wrist, and bent down to remove the bottle. The man’s pupils were tiny points and he blinked rapidly. Simon removed the stopper from the bottle and sniffed it. It was about half full and seemed to be water. He bent down and poured a little of the water onto the man’s parched lips. He opened his mouth and Simon dribbled some water over his swollen tongue. He sniffed the bottle again and decided to take the risk. He swallowed the remaining water in a few gulps. He looked down at the soldier again.
“Why?” Simon asked, not expecting a reply.
“Because I must.” The soldier’s reply was delivered in a harsh guttural accent, but the words were distinct enough. “Why, you?”
Simon grasped Kin Slayer again. “Because I must,” he said as the Sword finished its work. He sheathed the Sword, effectively strapping his arm to his side, and wandered away from the carnage, out into the dunes, leaving his day’s work and Hamadan behind. The night air of the desert chilled Simon to the bone. It was pitch black and absolutely silent. He stopped his aimless stumbling and sat down in the shelter of a large dune. His mouth was parched and he knew that he was still badly dehydrated, despite his recent drink.
He didn’t know how long he had been sitting there, shivering, thinking, trying to empty his mind of the images that burned there. It must have been a long time, because the moon had risen high in the sky and was casting a soft light over the dunes. A man sat, not five metres away, watching him. Startled, Simon fumbled to unsheathe Kin Slayer. The man laughed. “I have been here some time. Had I wished to do you harm, I would have done so while you were lost in your melancholy.”
His voice was warm and melodious, almost as if he sang the words. Simon couldn’t place his accent; it sounded vaguely French. In the weak moonlight, Simon could barely make out the man’s features, but his clothing stood out. He looks like he’s dressed in a sheet. The man appeared to be wearing a single white garment, wrapped around his entire body like a sari. He moved closer, so that Simon got a better view. He wasn’t young or old. As far as Simon could tell in the moonlight, his face looked smooth, as though he were too young to shave, and yet was lined with wrinkles that betrayed the onset of middle age. His hair was long and black, tied in a ponytail behind him. His eyes were jet black. His teeth were perfect and bright. In the soft light, his skin was golden, oriental. As he smiled, Simon felt great warmth emanating from him. As he came closer, Simon smelled an exotic odour, like a mixture of cloves and musk.
“Be at peace, Simon Rufus the One-Handed, for I mean you no harm. In fact, I’m here to help you.”
Who is he? Simon was about to frame the thought into words when the man held up his hand and spoke again. “Do not speak, yet. Hear me out for it is very important. My name is Nostradamus. You may have heard of me.” I’ve heard of someone with your name. “I am also known as the Immortal Prophet. Unlike you, the Everlasting Hero, I do not take different forms, which live and die like mortal men. I am truly immortal. I was here at the beginning and I will be there at the end. I have seen the completed Tapestry. I travel the dimensions, spending time here and there, seeming to grow old and die but always moving on to somewhere new. I return at critical times to the centre. I spoke with Gilgamesh before he battled Gadiel. He was a major incarnation. I have spoken with other incarnations too, mostly minor ones, waiting for the next Gilgamesh to show himself. Some were kings, who believed themselves to be invulnerable. Many were nobodies, looking for glory. And a few, a very few, were reluctant beings with consciences, who questioned their motives and actions. Gilgamesh was one such.”
Simon’s mind was burning with questions and he made to speak as Nostradamus paused. The Immortal Prophet held up his hand again. “You must not speak, lest you lose your one chance. I have seen everything that has passed and glimpsed much of what is to come. I am, to a large extent, my own master. However, I’m bound to play by some rules. When I meet a hero, he is allowed to ask me one question and one question only. I must answer it truthfully. It can be a question about the past. It can be a query about the present. It can be a prophecy for the future. The choice is yours, but you can only ask one question. When the time comes, I hope you will choose well. Before I give you that chance, I am allowed to tell you some things, as much as I choose, in as much clarity as I see fit.” He smiled again and Simon felt at ease with him, as much as his mind buzzed with possible questions.
“As I travel the dimensions, I’m wont to leave many prophesies behind me. But I couch them in generalities and obscurities while disguising them in rhyme and metaphor. It amuses me to see what future generations make of them. Often, my followers change them after my ‘death’ to make them fit events. People even write new prophesies and attribute them to me. In your dimension, I supposedly predicted the attack on the Twin Towers in New York that became known as 9/11. Sometimes, I slip deliberate mistakes into them to see how clever future generations are. When the two who are one return to the sun…” He paused and laughed. “That was one of my better ones, don’t you think? Don’t answer that, it was rhetorical. I know, let me tell you one from your own dimension.
A mighty Muslim chief shall come to birth
In a country fortunate of Araby.
He’ll take Granada, trouble Spanish earth
And conquer the Italians from the sea.
It came true didn’t it? The terrible third world war eventuated when the Muslim army attacked the Christian west. Another holy war. Who could have predicted that? Don’t answer that, it was a joke.”
Simon was feeling overwhelmed by the rapid flow of information. He tried to swallow, but his throat was parched. He took a deep breath.
Nostradamus must have noticed Simon’s discomfort because he fished around inside his ‘sheet’ and produced a water bottle. “I’m afraid it’s rather warm but you are welcome to drink it all.” Simon needed no further encouragement and drank deeply of the warm water. It tasted almost as good as elven nectar. The seer continued his monologue. “It’s not easy, you know, being a prophet these days. And it’s largely your fault too.” Simon looked at him aghast. What’s he talking about now?
“Once upon a time, there was a universe and time was linear. The Tapestry was woven and everything would end happily ever after. Sure, there’d be plenty of trials and tribulations along the way, but it would have all turned out right in the end. Then you came along and wham bang we had a sundering. All of a sudden, there’s an infinite multiverse and all bets are off. Anything and everything is possible, no matter how improbable. Yes, there’s a dimension where a room full of monkeys sitting in front of typewriters have come up with the complete works of Bacon. You have made time travel possible and now even time isn’t linear any more. It’s a fine kettle of fish, Simon. You’ve made it almost impossible for a prophet to make a decent living. Then again, with anything possible it’s hard to be wrong.” The seer was smiling and Simon didn’t know how to take him.
“Alright, time to get serious. I know that you are struggling with the enormity of what you have done. I cannot imagine how it must feel to kill ten thousand people by your own hand, and one-handed at that.” Simon shuddered. The last one was the worst. “However, if it’s any comfort, I can reassure you that it was essential for your future development as the Hero. Look at it as a training course, if you will. Actually, I predicted this battle. It was some of my best work, I thought. Lots of word plays on the equinox and red sands. It’s a pity it was lost, though maybe Manfred remembers it.”
Simon’s mind was beginning to wander, but the mention of Manfred’s name brought him back to full attention. Nostradamus suddenly glanced over his shoulder. “Your friends are coming to find you. We don’t have much longer. They mustn’t see me. I’ll give you two minutes to think of your question.”
Simon panicked. A million ideas flashed through his head. Should he ask about the past? I could find out more about my father. Should he ask about the present? Perhaps the prophecy about the Seven Wonders is his. I could find out what it means. Should he ask about the future? Would he find his kochari? Would he save her? Would his vision of a happy family come true? Should he ask about his fate? Who would win when he and Gadiel finally met?
“Time’s up, my friend. Ask your question.”
Simon was totally flustered. He had not said a word since the stranger appeared and now his tongue was tied and his brain scrambled. He heard faint voices in the distance, shouting his name. Time was running out. What should he ask? How could he trust himself to ask the right question?
“Ask now, or forfeit your right.”
How can I trust myself to ask the right question? That’s it. I mustn’t be too specific. “Who should I trust?” Simon finally managed to get the words out.
The stranger laughed again. “Well, I never. You are a surprise right enough. That’s a good sign. Usually, they ask about their most pressing personal problems or something so far in the future that I have to couch my answer in so much uncertainty it is useless. You and Gilgamesh are very much alike. That’s an excellent question and one worthy of some fine rhyme. Unfortunately, time is of the essence and I must be away. We’ll likely meet again you and me. I’d like that very much because I’d like to get to know you. You are surrounded by many good friends who will provide you with incredible support. Though your burden is heavy, you have many to help you carry it. One day, though, when there is a critical need to choose between conflicting advice, remember these words. The bard knows best.”
Simon blinked and the man was gone. Suddenly his eyes felt very heavy. He couldn’t keep them open.

9 Hamadan

17 Trinty

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Oscar and Maeve

Here is a scene giving some of Oscar’s backstory. It takes place in the desert wasteland in the lull before the host and Abaddon’s Iron Horde draw up their battle lines.

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Oscar clasped his hands about his knees and his eyes fixed upon a spot lost in the distance of quivering heat haze.
“My family was unlike many others,” he began. “My father wanted to have me brought up in the king’s household, thinking it would stand me in good stead when it came to returning favours. That is not unusual, but my mother wouldn’t have any of it. She kept us all by her, me, my brother and sisters, and my father let her have her way.”
“Why would you not have been brought up in your own family?” Maeve asked, curious.
“Parents want what is best for their children. Is it not better to be a foster son in the house of the king of the province than the son of an insignificant clan chief?” He asked, but the question was ironical. He knew already that Maeve would not see how it could possibly be better. “Then, when I was ten years old, Medb, my mother’s young sister, married the High King of the entire island, and my father set his sights higher for me, proposing that I join my aunt’s household as her foster son. But still I was loath to leave home, and my mother was set against letting me, so she, my father, and Medb made a bargain. I would stay in my father’s house until I was twelve years old, then I would join the High King’s household and train as a warrior.”
Oscar stopped speaking and he stared at something Maeve could not see. She wondered whether his childhood memories were pleasant ones. “Were you not happy?”
Oscar chuckled. “Oh, I was happy enough. And why wouldn’t I be? The spoilt son of his mother, hunting with his father’s men, dallying with his sister’s friends. I hadn’t a care in the world—until I turned twelve, and the time came for me to leave my home and live with my aunt and the High King.” Oscar hung his head.
“You didn’t want to go.” Twelve, she thought, the same age as David.
He shook his head. “When the time came, my best clothes were put in a bag, all my weapons and the few bits of gold I possessed. My father came to see me off and give me his blessing. The men were assembled, my mother, my sisters and my younger brother, all gathered in the hall to say goodbye. The messengers from the High King were waiting with them, impatient to be on their way back to Temaire with the High King’s young foster son. But I had run away, gone to hide in a place I knew in the oak woods. My father was furious.”
Maeve grinned. “I bet he was.”
Oscar sighed. “Would that I had not been such a young fool. My father was angry that I would so shame him before the High King. He took all the men of the household and scoured the countryside for me, leaving only a few old slaves behind at the fort.”
Maeve’s blood chilled as she guessed what was coming next.
“That was when a neighbouring clan chose to raid my father’s fort. They came on horseback and rounded up all our cattle. Before they left, they broke into the fort looking for women to steal. When my father returned, he found my mother dying, one of his swords still clutched in her hand. And they had taken my ten-year-old sister.”
“Did you get her back?” Maeve asked to fill the silence that fell.
“My father took his men and went after the raiders. They caught up with them on the plain and called out to them to stand and fight. When she heard our father’s voice, Dervla bit the arm of the man holding her and threw herself from his horse. She broke her neck in the fall.” Oscar’s eyes remained fixed on the middle distance, and Maeve guessed that he saw not a curtain of shimmering heat but a green field far away. “If I hadn’t behaved like a spoilt child, my father would not have left the fort unmanned, and perhaps my mother and sister would not have died.”
“But you aren’t to blame for what your neighbours did! It was the raiders who killed your mother and your sister, not you!”
“So it was,” he replied grimly, “and the lad we captured said they hadn’t even known the fort would not be guarded. They couldn’t believe their good luck.”
“You see,” Maeve said triumphantly. “They would have attacked the fort anyway.”
Oscar nodded. “As I said, sometimes there is nothing that can be done. Sometimes it will be too late to change anything.” Maeve hung her head. “But we bear our guilt regardless.” He covered Maeve’s hand with his own. “People are made like that. We look back and we regret. But life goes on, and though your young friend may face a small skirmish in the city, the real battle will be fought here, in the open, in this godforsaken wilderness.” He looked with contempt at the stark rock and thorn bushes and the dusty dunes.
“I thought you said the battlefield wasn’t a safe place for a girl?” Maeve attempted a pale smile.
Oscar laughed. “Anywhere is safe if I am there to look after you.”
“I’ve always looked after myself before,” Maeve said with a hint of annoyance.
“But now you are a guest of my house,” Oscar said with a smile, “and I have a duty to make sure you come to no harm.” His smile faded and his expression was one of deep sorrow. “I failed in my duty once. I have no intention of doing so again.”
“Then you had better teach me how to use one of those knives of yours,” Maeve said softly. “It might be too late to change anything, but if it isn’t, I want to know how to fight properly.”
A broad grin banished the darkness in Oscar’s face. “When I have done, you will make a shield maiden fit for the High King himself.”