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Ashes and Blood: Book 2 Aegis of the Gods

28 Jul

Here is the prologue to Book 2, Ashes and Blood.

Prelude to Ascension

They arrived at the gathering within the featureless chamber as they always did. A portal slit the air from left to right, turned sideways, and opened into the shape of an eye. Wreathed in oily smoke, many-faceted eyes reflecting the torchlight, tentacles blacker than midnight, the creatures stepped through one after the other. Armor of chitin and ebon steel glistened, and their wriggling minions appeared as if from nothing.

There were nine of them in all, each at least twenty feet in height. Nine netherlings.

Despite the fact that dreams had no physical effect on reality, she still shied away from them. But being in a dream had no bearing on the miasma emanating from the netherlings. Death, decay, the perfume of fresh blooms, wet earth after new rain, the northern chill, the burning heat of the lava-filled chasms in the Broken Lands. The odors and sensations were all too real, each one overriding the other for scant moments.

Faces shrouded in light and shadow, their forms insubstantial, people by the thousands took a step back. Rulers, nobles, merchants, teachers, philosophers, historians, soldiers, even the poor were represented within the crowd. She could not discern their expressions, but the gasps and whimpers told their own story. Each person wore their sect’s colors.

White, Shadow, and Gray.

She almost spit on the blackness below her where there should have been a floor. Those in gray were supposedly spies among the Gray Council, but the thought and worse yet the sight of the color brought on a loathing she found difficult to contain. She calmed herself with the knowledge that nothing the Gray could do would stop the ascension.

“The first is almost to the boy.” The netherling’s voice was as blank as her surroundings.

“The era draws nigh.”

“The gods die, the world remade, new gods ascend.”

As often as she’d attended these gatherings, she still found the singularity of their voices disconcerting.

“You have all done well to guide the world as needed for this to come to fruition.”

A murmur rippled through the crowd. The netherlings’ heads turned toward the disturbance. Space cleared around a male, his clothing one of shadow. He stepped forward.

“You bring news, young one?”

She sucked in a breath. Only another netherling would dare approach as this man did. She frowned. They hid themselves even among the common people?

“Yes, masters. I have discovered a place between the worlds where Prima lives. It is beyond what we may have anticipated.”

“Nothing is outside our calculations, young one.”

For the first time, she noticed a definite scoffing tone to the answer.

“Those who oppose already know of its existence,” the man said, “One of their own has been within its borders.”

“Yes. We are aware. However, the one we chose unleashed Prima into the world. The guardians will be drawn to it as they are to him. Kill the first before he secures the boy. When the others reveal themselves to the boy’s calling or to Prima, do the same. He must not learn to use his gift.”

“Yes, masters.” The man bowed from the waist.

“The same goes for all of you. The young one has served his purpose. Kill him and his mentors.”

Licking her lips with anticipation, she awoke from her dream to the glowing walls within the Iluminus.

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