So, as some of you know I have finished my 4th, or 5th…or 6th revision (I forget!) of Wolf’s Bane, book 2 of my fantasy series Rise of the Papilion. Since doing that, I found that I have reconnected with my characters and their stories, not to mention that I feel like I have vastly improved the story from where I had left it when I thought it was “finished”. I put that in quotes since every writer knows no book is every really finished, rather it can be edited and revised until kingdom come! Anyway, today I decided to get back to writing after weeks of editing and I’m happy with this little scene I came up with for Book 3 (still un-named). It’s a draft of course, but it was so much fun to write I had to share it. And, sure it’ll change over time, but I post it now for those out there who read The Purple Morrow and are hankering for more. Plus it’s a boost for me, one which I hope will motivate me to switch gears back from editing into writing.
So, for this excerpt, we jump right over book 2 (Wolf’s Bane), but don’t worry. Once I get the draft back from the beta-readers I’ll post excerpts. In this scene, Kelen returns to North Country and meets his adoptive father, Oren, who has since reclaimed his position as Naagra-Oni (head of the Seer Order). Note: in Wolf’s Bane, Kelen discovers that the Naagra Order isn’t as honest as he had thought and that even Oren has something big to hide… And for those who know the story, who’s sword is Kelen so attached to? 😀
Oh, and here’s an image to give you an idea of what my man Kelen might look like (minus Captain America’s shield and Iron Man’s helmet, of course…):
Exceprt from Chapter 9
Kelen settled himself in the sparse room, the one adjoining the Naagra-Oni’s vast chambers and which Oren had had adapted from a storage closet into a suitable living space. The days were difficult for the Naagra-Oni, largely due to his own doing, and he wanted to ensure his body-guard was within calling distance at all times. Kelen did not care that the room was mostly barren save for the essentials: a functional cot and blanket, stacked shelves to stow his belongings, pegs for his clothes and a decent sized fireplace. He needed nothing more than these small comforts anyway.
Easing out of his armour, he let them drop to the flags. They metal pieces clattered when they landed, the only sound to be heard save for the rapid lapping of the fire on the logs. His bones were weary from carrying too much weight for far too long, and as he rolled his shoulders and stretched his neck, they begged for rest.
Kelen sat on the edge of the cot. Every time he did this, he marveled that the thin fabric managed to hold his weight. Naagra, for those are for whom these simple beds had been made, were as tall as Garguul but not nearly so heavy in girth. The first time he had sat on a cot, he half expected to fall right through, legs splayed and dangling from the wood frame like those of a deer as it struggled out of a ground trap. But one thing he knew about the Amani: they were particular in all they did, seeing to it that everything around them was as perfectly functional, perfectly rendered, perfectly perfect as they believed themselves to be. Every time. Pressing his hands into the cot’s fabric on either side of him, Kelen shrugged and stretched out on it with his hands folded behind his head.
These four walls had been his home for months since he had left the Deep Southernlands. He had fled the marsh and its horrors for North Country, cutting like a scythe through the midland’s forests and plains. He stopped for no one, sleeping and eating as little as possible in order to regain the northern road as quickly as possible. The Northland wilderness, cold and restless as a veiled woman of the night, called to him, luring him back to the birthplace of his own destruction. He could think of nothing else, only of going home.
Upon his return to Illunga, unaware of all that had transpired with his adoptive father since leaving the northlands two years ago, Kelen had looked for him in the Naagra-Oni’s quarters in the north wing. From his stone desk, kissed by the dancing light of the fire, Oren’s eyes had grown wide upon seeing Kelen’s form in the doorway. His irises immediately darkened with suspicion, or fear, or both. But then, a strange look crossed his face as a distracted air took hold of him, as though he were listening to some voice that only he could hear. And then he smiled. Not his usual, cold smile, but one only thinly veiling satisfaction. He was as a cat who has cornered a mouse, a boa constrictor flicking its tongue before wringing its prey to death.
“So, you’ve come home.”
“You are late. The others have returned some time ago. I was beginning to despair, thinking something terrible had befallen you.” Firelight agitated by a draft of cool air flowing in from the hall played across Oren’s face.
Kelen was not fooled by the words of concern. He closed the door behind him and approached Oren’s desk. “Things did not go as planned.”
“And I am eager for you to tell me all. I do not know if you are aware, but Olly and his closest men have not yet returned.”
“Nor will they.” Here, Kelen allowed his only emotional reaction, a slight furrow in his brow. “They were outmatched by a foe they could not hope to defeat.”
“I see.” Oren folded his hands, letting them fall to his lap behind his desk. “I have also heard rumors about you from the men who did return. They say you abandoned the army, for a woman, no less.”
Kelen sneered. “I don’t care what they say. You gave me orders to go after the Papilion and that’s what I did. Olly was left in charge of the men and put under orders to continue the original mission. What happened after that I do not know, as I was separated from the corps.”
Oren’s steely gaze held him fast. Kelen wondered what the old man saw and if he would believe the slightly altered version of the truth.
“This is your version of the story, one that sets you in a better light than what has been recounted by more than a hundred men. And yet, the men who were with you and who knew you best, the very men who could confirm your story are dead. At the hand of some unbeatable opponent who mysteriously vanished into the southern air. Like that!” he mused, snapping his fingers for emphasis.
“As I said, Oren, I do not care what people think or say of me.”
“Where is your axe?”
Surprised by the question, Kelen’s hand flew to the empty space between his shoulder blades. “Another unexpected event. It is gone.”
“Well,” Oren said, waving to his attendant, Lapi, in the corner of the room, “we shall have the Rovers order you another. A Rover is not a Rover without one.”
Kelen held up a hand, stopping the hump-backed servant from leaving. “No need. I’ve since become attached to another weapon of choice.”
To this, Oren raised an eyebrow. “Is that so? How unusual for a Rover.”
“People change, Oren.”
At this, Oren carefully set both hands on the top of the desk. “That may be true for some people, Rover. But not for you. May I see this new weapon?”
Kelen gripped the tightly bound bundle which was attached to the belt at his waist. “One day,” he said, his voice as cutting as steel, “but not today. It must be properly tended to as it’s something I picked up along the way.”
Standing, Oren left the safety of the desk to walk approach Kelen until he was within arms’ reach. Kelen could smell the pomade slicking back the man’s unruly hair and the expensive perfume leaching from his skin. Oren’s pale skin peeked out from the neck of the purple, velvet robes and white fur trim of his seer garb. He knew Oren wore no armour underneath the swathes of material and that at this distance, the Naagra-Oni would make an easy kill. But he put those thoughts behind him. Time was ticking. And good things came to those who wait.
“What is your intention here tonight?” Oren demanded.
“I was called here. I believe we share a common Master.”
“Is that so? And you’ve met?” Sudden interest brightened Oren’s tone.
“More than once.”
“He comes to you directly?”
“Dreams mostly, though we have…met…in the everyday world as well.”
Oren scowled at this, but he quickly regained control. “How much do you know?”
Knowing Oren as well as he did, Kelen discerned the unspoken question underlying Oren’s words: What do you know of your origins in the northlands?
Backing away slowly, Oren maintained Kelen’s icy stare. “So, you wish to work for me, is that it?”
“It is the Master’s will that I act as your guard.”
“And you accept this?”
“It is the Master’s will,” he repeated. “It is my duty to accept.”
The carpet silenced Oren’s steps as he finally retreated for the desk. The silk cushions of his chair also made no sound as he sat. “Can I trust you?”
Kelen’s stare did not waver, but a muscle in his jaw tensed. “You can trust me to follow my orders.”
“Then,” Oren said, “that will have to do for now.”
The temple clock struck the midnight hour. Running his hands through the tangles in his hair, Kelen let go of the memory as his eyes fell on his pack and the wrapped weapon still attached to it. Rising, Kelen pushed aside his discarded armour with his foot as he crossed the room to retrieve his gear. Back seated on the cot, he opened the straps to separate the pack from the long, tightly bound bundle. When it was free, he let the pack drop to the floor.
The curved weapon had been cleaned and meticulously restored, the stop at a weapons’ smith in Azoolah the only one he had permitted himself after deciding to go north. Since then, the lone arm had never seen the light of day but waited in its wrappings.
Kelen blew out the candle and let the fire in the grate burn low. Tonight, he would dream and, as happened most nights, he would be visited and instructed. The Master would transform his dreams into nightmares, infuse his soul with darkness and horror; the Shadow would corrupt his every thought and every emotion down to the very last fiber. The mark on his arm was proof it this. It would darken; every night it became a shade blacker.
The curved weapon weighed on Kelen’s chest. He gripped the hilt through the dirty, threadbare cloth until his hand cramped and refused to open on, even when he willed it to.
Kelen gripped the weapon and bore the pain because when he was lost to the enveloping darkness of sleep, the pain was the only thing that prevented him from being swept away.
Copyright@ 2014 by Dyane Forde