The next Aegis of the Gods book is almost ready. There’s something to be said about good covers, and I have worked to try come up with covers that will draw my reader in. I hope my fans appreciate the effort. Covers have always been a drawing point for me, even now when I read primarily on my tablet. When browsing, I always go cover first before I read the blurb and a sample. I just feel the cover is important. Not as important as the contents of the book, as you truly can’t judge a book by it’s cover (sorry, I had to), but a good cover might tell you that the author or publisher cared about what his book looked like to his potential reader.
Category Archives: Denestia
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.
From the notes of Jenoah Amelie – First of the Exalted
Prelude to War
I must make these notes before the voices call to me again. Of late, I cannot tell which of the essences they are. Is it light or heat? Or gods forbid, the shade? Does the earth beneath my feet speak to me? Is the very air around me whispering in my head? Or the water I drink? Maybe, it is not the essences within the elements of Mater at all. Maybe, it is all my imagination.
What they promise is so overwhelming. Twice, I have almost given in to their call. Is this what the others experienced when the madness took them? I must defend our actions while I am still capable of coherent thought.
Some would argue that the formation of the Pathfinders was a desperate act, that the men and women who make up their ranks are nothing more than murderers. Some would say we think of ourselves as gods for doing as we did. What were we supposed to do? Sit back and watch the world burn? Again? Did not the war between the gods and the Eztezian Guardians destroy enough of the world?
We, all Matii, are appointed with protecting and saving the people of Denestia first. The same mandate the gods gave to the Eztezians when they created them. When we use Mater—the very essences and elements that drive our world—to destroy, we are betraying the sanctity of our forefathers, and blaspheming against Ilumni himself. We realized the fear of insanity and eventual death when wielding Mater is not enough to deter those who crave power. A more definitive action needed to be taken.
The formation of the Tribunal has worked well for a time. However, the volatile change in Mater has brought about a rift with our brother and sisters. We once held all the descendants of the Eztezians who form the Matii we know today: the Ashishin, the Alzari, the Namazzi, the Svenzar, the Skadwaz, the Desorin, the Rendorta, and the Toscali, under our roof. They each had a position and title of honor here from which they could govern.
But they have not agreed with the need for harmony. Thus, they have broken away and ventured off to form their own kingdoms, the majority of them across the sea in Ostania. We fear nothing good will come of this.
Already the separation and those dedicated to individual gods and religions are beginning to show. Wars have been declared. Crusades for one religion or another have sprouted. We, the Ashishin, must a find a way to sever ourselves from this strife.
Here’s a bit from my newest WIP, tentatively titled Uprising. Remember, I’m giving a peek before my work even hits the editor.
Each step Ryne made became practiced agony, but he gritted his teeth against the pain. His breaths left his lips in wheezing gasps. Legs and arms on fire, he carried Ancel on his back. The young man weighed more than expected or maybe the heaviness was a reflection of how worn out his own body had become.
Charra loped in front, often tossing its head as if trying to dislodge something from its shoulders. Snow and ice flew as the netherling manipulated the elements to clear a path. With his Matersense, Ryne determined what Charra did was not a Forging. It appeared as if the beast and the elements were one—they, an extension of the netherling—and Charra had some ability to shift them as if they were physical entities. The action reminded Ryne of watching a puppy at play.
A serrated blade of staggered cliff-faces made up the ridges on either side of them. Pockmarked with overhanging rock, crags, and precipices along the canyon walls they spread before disappearing in the light flurries that fell. Under most overhangs were deep hollows leading to caves similar to the one they left several hours ago. The phenomenon occurred every few hundred feet up the sheer, ice-coated walls. At the peak was a massive plateau, its edge jutting over the cliffs and offering protection to the gully through which they traveled. Beyond the occasional snow cornice that tumbled into the passage, not much else was worth worrying over.
“The caves are from all the quarrying,” Mirza said from a few paces behind him. “The cliffs have been our livelihood for years.”
A rainbow of color reflected from the ice and the diamond glint of embedded minerals and metals. The sun shone at an angle well shy of noon, giving warmth to Ryne’s weary bones. He was unaccustomed to experiencing the cold, and he could no longer feel his toes. “Were you both miners?” he asked to keep his mind occupied.
“By the gods, no.” Mirza chuckled. “Ancel was too busy chasing the girls, and well, I had this habit of doing whatever my father didn’t want. I ended up following in his footsteps to become a Dagodin instead of the quarrying and mining that he loves so much.” A hint of regret seeped from his tone.
Ryne could only imagine what the youth was experiencing. To know the Exalted now held your last surviving parent after their followers had taken your mother must be tearing at Mirza’s insides. Ryne allowed silence to grow between them.
A quick glance over his shoulder showed that Galiana still followed, keeping an eye on their rear. The passage continued ahead, the footing treacherous, but not as bad as it would be without the series of ridges protecting the lower areas from the worst of the weather. The wind howled a mournful dirge, but did little more than ruffle his cloak. Whenever a cornice fell, a low rumble ensued as snow and ice showered that part of the passage.
As the noise droned to a halt, another reached Ryne. A cracked howl. He paused. “Wolves?”
“There aren’t wolves in this part of the Red Ridge, not that I know of at least,” Mirza said. The youth’s hand eased down to his bow as he glanced back the way they came.
Several hours later, after Mensa and the Zar Selentis left to return to the capital, Stefan sat at the table in his pavilion. Two candles in glass holders occupied the table’s center, their perfumed scent overriding the odor of sweaty men. Illuminated by flickering light, the map before him displayed his forces. He removed the pins representing the Alzari Matii. By now, they were well on their way back to Benez under Mensa’s command. Men were going to die because of the King’s order. A great many. In the days to come, the first to perish would mainly be Astocans. Some might say their deaths weren’t much of a loss. Eventually, his own men would number among the dead. A sense of helplessness crowded over him, and he sighed. Yet, he harbored no regrets for his announcement. Somehow, some way, he needed to stay true to his word.
“So what now?” Kasimir asked.
“We do as we have always done … save as many of the enemy as we can,” Stefan said.
Garrick grumbled a protest under his breath.
“I know how you feel about them, Garrick.” Stefan recalled the sight of Garrick’s mangled body and face after his torture by the Astocans. “But this was the one thing King Nerian, myself, and the High Council agreed upon: We would be different from other conquerors and choose to save most of those we defeated, give their people choices. This way, the common folk won’t think of us as tyrants—a lesson history taught us.”
“Use force as necessary for victory and compassion when the battle is won,” Kasimir said. A quote from Henden’s The Disciplines of Soldiering.
“I understand.” Garrick let out a resigned breath. “I still don’t like it.”
“What I don’t get,” Kasimir shifted in his seat and peered at the map, “is why the King ordered us to kill them all and now has withdrawn our Alzari menders.”
Stefan nodded. “Yes, I wondered the same myself. I can’t remember Nerian changing plans without conferring with me in person. So why now? I swear … I feel as if something is amiss back home. I don’t trust Mensa. Any man who is so quick to do anything without questioning motives often has his own plans.”
“You think he had a hand in this?” Garrick scowled.
“Not likely,” Stefan said. “The man barely knows the ass end of a horse. Someone else may be using him, or he’s smarter than any of us suspects. Anyway, unless I speak to Nerian himself, I’m not changing how we do things. We’ll mend as many Astocans as we can.”
“How are you going to accomplish that without our Alzari?” Kasimir leaned back in his chair, armor creaking as he did so.
Here is a snippet of chapter 1 to the new novel and prequel to Aegis of the Gods. Enjoy.
Knight Commander Stefan Dorn surveyed the battlefield below him from his vantage point astride his horse. The oncoming Astocan army stretched in a long line that disappeared into the shadows of the mountains behind them. The Knight Commander grimaced. “Fools. They’re dead.” With a shake of his head, he let out a resigned sigh. “Prideful and stupid to the end.” It pained him to see such a waste of good men even from his enemies. Their general should have listened to reason. Together they could have averted the upcoming bloodshed.
“The way the Astocans would tell it, it’s bravery of the highest degree.” Knight General Garrick shrugged, broad shoulders made even wider by the pauldrons of his plate armor. He twirled his mustache around his thick forefinger. “They give their lives for the pride to claim they bent knee to no one. They would say their gods and people deserve nothing less.”
Atop his brown gelding, Knight General Kasimir snorted. “Too bad their gods aren’t fighting this battle.”
“Indeed.” Stefan nodded. As a believer in the gods, he understood how a man might wish to have the deities on their sides in a battle like this, especially if that man was an Astocan. He pursed his lips as he scratched at the annoying black stubble under his chin.
Overhead, the sun blazed, and the mountains of the Sang Reaches cast long shadows from which the Astocan army boiled in numbers to dwarf Stefan’s forces. The smell of horse, sweaty men, and metal choked the air as his cavalry spread to his left and right. Up ahead his infantry advanced.
“I still don’t understand your concern for them.” Garrick shook his head.
“You wouldn’t. Not after what they did—”
Stefan cut Kasimir off with a glare. “They’re men with families and livelihoods like us.”
“Never like us,” Garrick snapped. “Lose this battlle today and they would enslave us all, rape our women, and pillage our cities.” Nostrils flaring as they often did when he was angry, Garrick pulled so hard on his mustache Stefan wondered if his friend felt any pain at all. “So you’re right, Kas, I wouldn’t understand, not after how they made me suffer. But I know what it means to you, Stefan.” He nodded to the Knight Commander. “You have way more honor than I ever will.”
“Thank you.” Stefan dipped his head to Garrick. “You don’t give yourself enough credit, old friend. You’re as honorable a man as I have met, regardless of how you try to hide it.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the thin form of Knight General Mensa as the man made to say something. The Knight Commander spurred his horse forward a few steps. The King’s errand boy could wait a bit longer.
From across the battlefield, drumbeats, blaring horns, and the stomp of marching feet echoed. The jangle of weapons and the trundle of carts from Stefan’s army played accompaniment. In tight formations, armor dull and dusty, his infantry lines awaited their commands.
A buzz, like flies alighting on a bloody corpse, filled the sweltering air. Shot from the blackness beneath the drab grey and green mountains, arrows darkened the sky.
“Incoming!” boomed the voices of the silver-armored Knight Captains. Their warning rose unnaturally over the trumpets and drums echoing from the enemy’s ranks.
The men of Stefan’s Setian infantry legions brought forearms up to shield the eye ports of their helmets.
The buzz grew in intensity. Arrows began to land, pinging harmlessly off imbued steel plate.
“Be ready!” the Knight Captains yelled as the barrage ended.
Several horns blared down the cavalry lines to Stefan’s sides.
Stefan brushed a stray lock from his face then raised the looking glass to his eye. Despite their location at the base of the mountains some six hundred feet away, the encroaching Astocan soldiers sprang into his vision as if he stood among them. Their archers were preparing another volley.
“Infantry. Formations,” Stefan called out.
The trumpets sounded his order.
Two ranks of shield-bearing swordsmen marched forward. Spread from left to right, they made up the vanguard. A similar formation of pikemen wielding twenty-foot spears followed them ahead of an additional double rank of swordsmen. Behind the column of foot soldiers were Stefan’s ranged legion consisting of bowmen, operators, and Cardian slaves. In unison, over twenty thousand sabatons stomped. The impact with the parched earth resounded—a mocking challenge to the Astocan archers’ efforts.
“Return fire,” Stefan said.
The trot of a horse’s hooves accompanied Knight General Mensa’s appearance next to Stefan. Mensa made to speak, but Stefan spared the small man a look, eyebrows raised. Mensa’s mouth snapped shut, his bulbous nose flaring. With a gloved hand, Mensa dabbed at his sweaty forehead.
Horns announced Stefan’s command. At the rear of the infantry, the small complement of bowmen stepped forward. They drew fletchings to ears. Bows twanged and arrows loosed.
Stefan’s gaze followed the flight of the Setian arrows. As expected, they fell woefully short. No man could fire as far as the Astocans and the monster bows they wielded. A derisive cheer rose from the Astocan legions. Stefan smirked.
“Slow forward,” Stefan said to Kasimir and Garrick arrayed on either side of him.
With nods, they called out the order. The trumpeters blew. In response, the Setian heavy foot surged ahead, a step at a time. Their boots drowned out all else.
Across the plain, in numbers like swarming brown ants, the leather clad Astocans dispatched their infantry. Their cavalry spread to their flanks, lances upright, tassels blowing in the wind. Mounted archers moved among them. Stefan gave a wry smile. Renowned for their horseback archery, the large men deftly handled their mounts while firing their oversized bows with deadly precision. The sight was a thing of beauty or terror.
Read more here.
Denestia is a world in a vast universe created by a great God named the Aenead. Upon the universe’s construction the Aenead slumbered, separating his consciousness into several formless, divine beings which later became known as the gods that he tasked with populating the universe with planets and lifeforms. In all, there are 10 recognized gods, although more are said to exist. These gods were:
- gods of the Streams – Energy – Summer, Winter
- Ilumni – light – Benevolence – the celestial bodies are his
- Amuni – shade – Malevolence – the world of shadows is his
- Bragni – Fire, heat – Passion, Anger, Fear
- Rituni – Ice , cold – Indifference,
- gods of Forms – Solids – Autumn
- Humelen – Earth – Steadfastness, Strength-
- Liganen – Wood – Serenity, Flexibility –
- Kinzanen – Metal – Suppleness, Understanding, Intelligence
- gods of Flows – Liquids – Spring
- Hyzenki – Water – Calm, Control
- Aeoli – Air – Gravity , Comedic, Levity
- god of Life and Death
- Sela – Spirit – Regeneration, Memory
Within this universe, all worlds are separated by the Planes of Existence. The Planes are What If – The Futures, What Was – The Pasts, What Is – The Presents. There is also the Nether where the gods themselves reside. The Planes were separated by a barrier called the Kassite so one could not directly leak into the other. This same barrier exists between all worlds.
The gods went about their individual tasks creating worlds in their likenesses, but after a while they sought out each other, wanting to become the dominant force. During this period of infighting the gods used the elemental fabric that created the worlds to do battle. That elemental fabric is known as Mater. However, Mater wasn’t just some element to be used that resided within everything, it is made up of sentient beings, each representing the essences within the elements of Mater itself. Like any other being, these learned and grew and wanted more. Some developed malevolently while others followed more benevolent paths. Others stayed neutral.
As the Divine Wars raged, the essences came to understand one thing. With death came life and strength. In their own ways, they sought to gain a better understanding of themselves and strive toward achieving ultimate power, a power beyond what the gods that first wielded them could fathom.
During their war, the gods used the primordial lifeforms left for them by the Aenead within the Nether to help them govern their worlds. These beings came to be known as netherlings and possessed much of the same power as the gods. Eventually, the gods came to realize that none were gaining an upper hand and banded together. Yet even then, they destroyed more than they built. Seeking any way to gain victory, the gods began to use the netherlings to fight and left other guardians, descended from the gods themselves to monitor their worlds as they waged battle. Sick of seeing their kind ravaged, the netherlings turned to these guardians, the Eztezians, and offered them more power that combined with theirs, could put an end to the Divinity Wars.
This led to the gods being sealed with the Nether by the Eztezians themselves. In a last ditch effort, Amuni fled to his main world, Hydae, and using a special Forging, opened a rift to the Nether and used the netherlings to form creatures to combat the Eztezians. This was the formation of the first shadelings, and the beginning of the Shade Wars across all the worlds.
With the gods sealed away, the shadelings rampaged for millenia in Denestia before the Eztezians were able to cull them from the land, but at a price. The sentience within the essences had grown too strong, and their influence now corrupted Mater itself, making any who wielded it for too long succumb either to madness or death. The Eztezians themselves turned on mankind and brought about the Great Divide, destroying much of the world, but at the same time thrusting most of what remained of the shadelings into its vast recesses. They then separated part of Southern Denestia in half by use of a great wall called the Vallum of Light. This edifice was imbued with Mater and prevented any shadelings from crossing. This allowed the Eztezians and the peoples of Denestia to hunt down and destroy what remained of the shade. Thus, Northern Denestia came to be known as Everland, South Western Denestia as Granadia and South Eastern as Ostania.
As time passed, the remaining Eztezians and other peoples created by the gods gave birth to Denestia’s races as we know them now, many born with the ability to sense Mater around them when opened to the right influences and trained correctly. Something the essences were only too ready to take advantage of.
For thousands of years now, war has raged across Denestia with one race against another, all under the influence of Mater. This was until a great Eztezian, Damal Adelfried, finally understood the motives behind the essences and realized a balance was needed. Thus came about the formation of the Tenets that govern Mater.
Eventually, unable to control their growing power any longer and not willing to see the destruction of all they’d come to love, the Eztezians turned on one another, many dying while others sealed themselves away from the world.
Within the time that followed, Denestia grew, going through the every day trials and tribulations of any normal world, from wars to empires to periods of tranquility. Then began the religious crusades.
This period lasted several thousand years until the Tribunal established itself. They claimed Granadia as their own and brought the practice of Streamean worship with them, enforcing it in every kingdom across Granadia. Any who would not bend knee were simply conquered.
Ostania, they left alone until they had cemented their rule, but over time and for their own purposes they’ve since stretched themselves into Ostanian lands. And so we have what brings us to what Denestia has become over the past thousand years.
But that is for another history lesson.