It’s been a while in the making but the Shadowbearer finally has a print release. Here’s the cover and a Goodreads giveaway to go along with it.
The Giveaway: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/33816-the-shadowbearer
Here is the prologue to Book 2, Ashes and Blood.
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.
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.