Saturday, August 8, 2015

Shadows Fall: The First Two Chapters

As promised, here are the first two chapters of my rough draft of Shadows Fall. They will still need to be edited along with the rest of the book (once it is complete), but this should give you a good idea of what you are in for. 

In case you missed the prologue last week, it can be found here.

If you have any questions or comments, don't hesitate to put them in the blog comments or hit me up on Facebook/Twitter/My Website. :) 

Chapter One
The Broken One

4,000 B.C.

Ibi raced through the forest ahead of her. His longer legs gave him a vast advantage. Aya darted between the trees, struggling to keep her brother in sight. At sixteen summers, he was a superior hunter, but she was small and quick. Many times her father had told her Ibi was the river, but she was the wind.

“Hurry up, little sister!” Ibi called over his shoulder.

Aya left the path and cut across the stream. She hopped from stone to stone to land with a dry skirt on the other side. Seconds later, Ibi crossed the stream in their usual spot and slid to a stop and the sight of her.

“Smart, like mother,” Ibi snorted and gestured for her to follow him.

Aya followed her brother deeper into the forest. Their bare feet made barely a whisper on the ground. As they walked, Aya clenched and unclenched her fingers around her knife. It was a gift from her father to mark her tenth summer. Soon, she would leave the forest and stay in the village with the rest of the women.

When Ibi froze in front of her, Aya quickly moved to his side. They crouched together in the underbrush. Ibi gestured for her to stay still and peeked over the top of the bush that hid them. Aya waited, clutching her knife. From the other side of the bush she could hear the snuffling of a boar. The animal’s musky scent permeated the air so thick she could taste it.

Ibi crooked his fingers at her to get her attention. When she looked up at him, he motioned for her to go left. Aya nodded. Staying low to the ground, she scampered around to the other side of the boar. From her new vantage point, she could see the animal clearly. It was large, at least three times her size. She gripped her knife tighter.

Ibi’s head appeared over the bush across the small clearing and their eyes met. Aya nodded. With a nod of his own, her brother let out a loud yell. The boar startled. It whirled first toward Ibi, then Aya. It charged.

Aya forced herself to stay still as it raced toward her, trampling saplings under its feet. At the last moment, she leapt forward.

Her knife pierced the boar’s side and it let out a piercing scream. Its front legs slid from beneath it, but it had enough energy left to turn on her. Aya screamed as the boar’s tusk burrowed into her leg. She ripped her knife free and stabbed it again. With a jarring shake, the boar’s body fell to the dirt, pinning her bloody leg beneath it.

“Aya!”

Ibi’s face appeared over the boar’s body. His proud smile gave way to fear when he saw her blood painting the earth.

“I did it,” Aya said.

Ibi nodded. “Yes.”

He shoved the boar off of her and knelt to examine her leg. “You will need to see father.”

Ibi ripped a strip of cloth from the base of her skirt and bound the wound. Once it was done, he tied the boar’s back legs and hefted the kill onto his back.

“You can walk?”

“I will,” Aya confirmed.

She grabbed her brother’s offered hand and rose to her feet. The leg burned as if fire lapped at it, but it held. She limped along behind her brother as they headed for the village. Her father, the healer, would use his herbs to fix her wound. Or she would die of the inner fire like her mother.
Just over the hill from the village, an odd sound reached her ears. Ibi’s pace slowed.

“What is that?”

Ibi shushed her.

As they reached the top of the hill, she saw the village. It was burning. Among the huts, the demons from the north rode their four-legged creatures. Her people were cut down by their weapons. Ibi dropped the boar and ran toward the village.

“Ibi, no!”

Aya limped after him as fast as she could, but he reached the village before she could stop him.

“Iltani!” he shouted.

If his future mate lived, she did not answer.

The sound of his voice drew the attention of several of their attackers. Aya shouted a warning, but it was too late. Ibi crumpled to the ground, an arrow through his chest.

Aya fell to her knees at his side. She could feel the eyes of the demons on her, but she ignored them, gently lifting her brother’s head to her lap. The cloth on her leg was soaked through, a stream of blood leaving her to soak into the ground.

She stroked her brother’s bright hair, the same color as her own. Her father called it sunlight. The same as her mother’s but no one else in the village. It was growing red with their combined blood.
Aya curled around her brother’s still body, until she felt the first touch on her shoulder.

She whirled on the demons like a wild thing. She bit and scratched at them, but they overwhelmed her, binding her hands and feet. They threw her into a cage of thick branches like an animal. She hissed at them as they laughed and poked her with sticks.

The jeering only ended when one of the demons barked something in their tongue. The demons fell silent. The one who seemed to be their leader came closer to the cage, looking at her closely. He spoke often, seeming to be addressing the other demons. At one point, he glanced at her brother. When he reached his hand toward her, she swiped at him with her fingernails. He drew back with a hiss of pain.

After he said many words to the others, he walked away. The demons surrounded her and used two long poles to lift her cage. She hung several feet above the ground, the branches of the cage floor digging into her skin. Aya turned in her cage to see her brother’s body. She watched him, until the trees obscured her view.

The cage bounced with every step the demons took and the branches beneath her grew red with her blood. Every night, the group stopped and the leader tried to approach her. His eyes always went to her wounded leg. Aya bared her teeth at him and cursed him in her own language. She did not want his help. She refused to show weakness.

After the sun had risen on the third day, she fell into an exhausted sleep. When she woke in the darkness later, her leg had been bandaged. Aya cursed the demons all night, ignoring the angry shouts they threw at her. The next morning, the group was clearly furious with their sleepless night. The ones carrying her cage were rougher than usual, bouncing her against the cage bars until she was cut and bruised.

When the leader approached her that night, he left with a scowl on his face. She heard him yelling soon after. The next day, her ride was much smoother. It did nothing to relieve the gnawing pain of hunger or the dryness of her mouth.

The sun rose and set five times before the trees gave way to flat, dry land. Out of the shelter of the trees, the sun burned her bare arms and legs. She ducked her head to hide her face.

Aya took the water the leader offered her that night, but she would not take the blanket. She shivered through the night, unable to sleep. Above her, the pale moon cast its cold glow.

For two days, they crossed the desert. On the second night, Aya took the blanket. When the sun was high in the sky on the third day, something appeared on the horizon.

With each hour, it grew more pronounced. Soon, the blur was a large structure. Aya could not keep herself from pressing against the bars at the front of her cage. Smaller structures, surrounded the larger one, spreading out in every direction. As the group entered the confines of the city, people spilled from the smaller structures. Houses, then.

Aya avoided looking at the curious faces, setting her expression in a dark scowl. Let them gawk at her. The procession moved through the city toward the center where the large structure sat. Its shadow fell over her and she looked up until she felt her neck would break.

It had four sides and three levels. In the front, a massive staircase lead to the top. Aya gripped the sides of her cage with both hands, as the procession started up the stairs. She shivered.

The demons meant to sacrifice her. Her father told stories of them. When her mother still lived, before the inner fire took her, the demons had come to the village. They had taken her mother’s sister and seven others.

One warrior had returned to the village. He had not spoken for many days. When he recovered, he told the village about the demons from the north.

The demons served a blood thirsty god. A foul creature who demanded death to quench his hunger for destruction. The warrior said the other villagers had been taken to the temple and sacrificed.
Aya fixed her gaze on the top level of the structure. It must be the temple the warrior spoke of, and she would be the next sacrifice.

* * *

“Father?”

Baraz turned away from the high priest to look at his son. “What is it, Farran?”

“The humans have brought a sacrifice.”

Baraz waved his hand to dismiss the high priest. After the man was gone, Baraz gestured for his son to walk with him.

“I said no more after the last one. What need do I have of sacrifices?”

Farran shrugged. “They feel they will have bad fortune if they do not appease you.”

“Do I not look appeased?”

His son smiled at his attempt at humor. “Will you look to see what they have brought?”

“Must I?”

Farran chuckled.

They left the inner rooms of the temple to step into the sun. Servants rushed forward to fan Baraz as he walked. He tried to ignore them. At the edge of the platform, a groups of humans waited.

“What have you brought me?” he asked in their language.

The leader of the group bowed low. “In my southern travels, I have found a rare treasure to please you.”

“Bring it.”

The man scrambled to his feet and gestured to the men behind him. Four men came forward with a cage between them. Another wild creature. Baraz fought the urge to sigh. But as they turned to show him the interior of the cage, he found himself enthralled.

A girl child hunched in the small space. Her long, pale hair was knotted and stained red in places and her roughly-hewn dress was tattered. But it was her eyes that caught his attention. The child watched him with a narrow-eyed stare, rebellious and threatening all at once.

His gaze fell to the crude bandage on her leg.

“Why is she wounded?” he demanded.

The leader of the group glanced at the girl and shook his head. “She was injured when we found her.”
He would have doubted the man, but the humans knew better than to lie to him. As he continued to look at the girl, he saw countless scrapes and bruises. She held herself upright, but he could see the slight tremor in her body. She was exhausted and likely in pain. A surge of protectiveness swept through him.

“Does she please you?” the man asked eagerly.

Baraz gave him a long stare.

“I could sell her in the market if she does not please you.” The man hurriedly gestured for the men to carry her away.

“Yes.”

Everyone froze. Even his son could not hide his surprise.

“She pleases me. Leave the cage.”

The man smiled. “Good, good.”

Baraz watched the men hurry away, before he spoke again.

“Bring me one of the others to translate,” he said in the human language.

As a servants ran to do his bidding he met the child’s eyes. She eyed him with clear suspicion.

“What will you do with a child?” Farran asked.

Baraz wondered the same thing. It was a momentary lapse in judgment. He had no need or place for a girl child. The priests would not want a child underfoot and he knew nothing of girls. But when he looked into her blue eyes, he could not let her become an exotic pet for one of the upper class men.

“You called for me, Your Highness?”

Baraz glanced at the servant standing a polite distance from him. He gestured to the child.
“Tell her what I am saying.”

At the servant’s nod, he began to speak.

“You have been given to me as a gift.”

The girl hissed a few venomous words once the servant translated his words. The man winced.

“You will live here in the temple and train as a servant.”

Again, the child reacted violently.

“If you do not do as I say…I will give you to the others to do what they will.”

The threat tried to stick in his throat, but he hardened his expression. If she tried to leave the safety of his presence, he could not protect her. Something about her made him want to keep her alive. Perhaps, it was the fire in her eyes. So much like one of his people.

The child did not speak after his threat. She turned her head away from him and ignored the servant when he tried to speak with her. Baraz outwardly scowled, but inside he smiled at the show of defiance.

“Clean her and bring her to me.”

He turned away and strode back into the temple. Farran walked at his side silently. When they were in his private rooms, his son turned to face him.

“What will you do with her?”

“As I said,” Baraz sighed. He walked over to a padded seat. “She will serve in the temple.”

“And when she is no longer a child?”

“I will release her.”

Farran sank down onto the seat across from him. “The priests will not be pleased.”

“They will do as I say.”

Farran did not comment.


Chapter Two
Ancient Scorn

2720 A.D.

Aya marched across the godforsaken desert with her eyes on the horizon. She ignored the three suns beating down on her pale skin and the heavy silence from the man following along behind her. She was sure he was just biding his time, before he tried another foray into conversation. Aya ground her teeth.

"Aya, I believe we should speak of this."

She stopped and spun to face him. Glaring up into his eyes, she growled, "I really don't."

After a moment, she released him from her stare and bent to take off her high heels. Aya considered tossing them into the near distance, but restrained herself. She gripped them in one hand and continued walking.

"How much further?" she demanded.

A flare of surprise swept through her. It was followed by an inkling of hope. "It should be visible soon," Baraz answered. After a beat he added, "How are you feeling?"

"My feelings are none of your concern," Aya snapped.

The feeling of hope faded into resignation. "Of course," Baraz murmured. "My apologies."

Aya wanted to scream at him. She did not ask to have his feelings clogging up her head. She did not want them. He could keep his emotions to himself. Aya almost turned to tell him as much, but stopped herself. He would take it as license to speak to her.

A bead of sweat rolled down the back of her neck. Aya wished she had something to tie up her hair instead of leaving the blonde strands to stick to her skin. She wiped at her forehead. Her attire was not helping the heat. She was dressed for a meeting at a base, not a trek through the desert. Black was not ideal. As she grumbled under her breath, she stepped on a sharp rock.

"Are you alright?" Baraz asked with a blast of concern through the bond.

Aya slapped his hand away before it could land on her arm. She scowled straight ahead. "I'm fine."

She saw Baraz withdraw from the corner of her eye and clenched her jaw at the wellspring of hurt that filled the bond. Aya walked away from him without another word. It took him only a few minutes to begin leaking curiosity into the bond. Aya almost looked at him to see what he wanted.

"How long have you been the human ambassador?" he asked softly.

Aya increased her pace. Her lungs burned with the heat and dust in the air. Baraz's unease was growing in her mind, increasing every second she did not answer. She peered into the distance in search of the platform.

"Aya?"

She glanced at him. "Where is it?"

He turned his attention from her to scan the flat land. Confusion fluttered in the bond.

"Well?" she demanded.

Baraz's bright blue eyes found hers. "It must be cloaked."

"Of course, it is," she muttered under her breath. "Exactly where was it?"

Baraz was silent long enough that she turned her head to look at him. "There." He pointed at what seemed to be a random patch of ground about a quarter of a mile away.

"You're sure?"

He nodded.

Aya trudged toward the spot.

"When did you come to that country?" he asked, as he followed close behind her.

She thought about ignoring his question, but he drew even with her and sent her a quick look. Aya sighed and bubbles of happiness drifted across the bond.

"After the civil war." At his blank stare, she added, "1870."

His steps faltered. "And before that?" he asked carefully.

"Spain."

Her long dress tangled around her legs each time the hot wind blew. She kicked her skirt out of the way. A faint twinge of amusement drifted to her and she glanced at Baraz. He looked away.

"Do you enjoy being ambassador?"

"Why?" she snapped.

He dropped his head. "I apologize."

"You told me apologies were for severe disrespect," she said, turning her back on him.

"Then I should do nothing but apologize to you."

Aya stiffened. "Don't." She shot a glare over her shoulder. "Don't try to manipulate me."

"Aya, I--" he broke off as sunlight glinted off metal.

The cloaking was either too old to work at close range or not built to hide the platform at less than ten feet. Like a mirage, it swam into view. The platform was the only thing around for miles in any direction. When she looked back from scanning their surroundings, Baraz was already at the control panel.

"Why would you have platforms here?"

He paused in his work to glance at her. There was surprise in his expression and the bond. He clearly did not expect her to make conversation.

"There was a lake over there." He pointed off to their right.

"How long ago?" Aya gestured to the ground beneath their feet.

"A long time." He watched her until, she gave the control panel a pointed look.

As Baraz went back to work, she snuck peeks at him. He looked exactly as he had. The same dark hair, tan skin, and bright blue eyes. She used to love those eyes. Every time he looked at her, she had wanted to kiss him. Now, she mostly wanted to punch him.

"What was the larger platform for? The one we arrived at."

"Supplies." He tapped a button on the panel and it bleated. Baraz muttered something under his breath, too quiet for her to make out, and pressed several more buttons.

Aya sighed. "If that one was for supplies, why isn't it working?"

"No one has been to this planet in over two millennia." Baraz pressed a final button and the platform hummed to life, shaking the ground. "The broken platform on Earth must have randomly selected a location."

"Right."

Aya ignored the hand he offered and climbed the two steps to the platform. Even though she had only used the mode of travel once, she already had an opinion. She hated it. It sucked all of the air out of her lungs and left her with a queasy feeling. Like a ride in an elevator with the wires cut. Aya set her jaw.

Once Baraz stood beside her, the platform activated. It was equally horrible the second time.
Aya covered her eyes with one hand as soon as they arrived at the new location. She heard and felt Baraz take a step toward her. The side of her body closest to him felt like it was bathed in sunshine. Aya dropped her hand and took a step away from him.

"Where are we?"

"Democlaste," a voice answered. It was not Baraz.

Aya followed Baraz's frown to a small group of armed guards. They glanced at her, but most of their attention was on Baraz.

"Ambassador," the same one spoke again. "I am pleased to see you so well."

Aya nodded in acknowledgement.

The guard turned his head to Baraz. "Abdicated King Baraz."

* * *

The guard was a young, one of those born on Sinmer in the past few centuries. Baraz could see the nervousness in his gaze, even as the guard stood straighter. Those with him were equally young. In time, they would rise in rank and move on to more prestigious positions. Until then, they were simple platform guards. And they were in the way.

"I have orders to detain you," the young guard said.

Baraz gave him a cool smile. "Orders. From whom?"

"King Farran."

Baraz saw Aya twitch from the corner of his eye. "I see. And if I refuse?"

"I have orders to bring Ambassador Berk to the palace."

"That does not answer my question." Baraz cocked his head and looked over the group. "What if I choose not to relinquish possession of the ambassador?"

A wave of fury swept through the bond.

Aya stepped forward. "I'll go with you." She walked away from Baraz to be surrounded by the guards. She did not look back.

Baraz mentally winced. He held back most of it. It was difficult to hide the pain from the bond, but he thought he was successful. Otherwise, Aya would be even angrier with him than she was. And she was very angry. Her fury felt like needles in the bond, all of them aimed at him.

He had done everything wrong. In the past and just hours ago. It seemed he was doomed to always make the wrong choices with her. He could feel her seething at his high-handedness, even though he could not see her. Baraz sighed to himself. He could sacrifice his pride, give in to the young guards, for her. It was the least he owed her.

"I agree to be detained," he announced.

The spokesman of the guard group blinked in surprise. Several of them exchanged looks. With a quick nod, two stepped forward. Baraz eyed the restraints they held. The same type once used in The Corridor. Democlaste steel and the energy dampeners. Suppressing just enough of his strength to allow the superior steel to hold him.

Baraz set his jaw, as the guards snapped the restraints around his ankles and wrists. The air filled with their unease when it came time to fully activate them. He did not look at any of them, as the chains snapped tight. The energy dampeners flared on and sent a pulse of fire across his nerve endings. Baraz refused to show his pain.

The guards were almost meek when they backed away from him.

He took a slow breath in through his nose and let it out slowly. The agony faded to a dull ache. The guards moved back from him and reformed in a loose circle with Aya and him in the middle. Baraz glanced at her when they began to walk. She kept pace with him, but her gaze was on the horizon. The clear blue eyes he remembered were shadowed by anger and time. There was not a shred of softness in her face or the bond.

They travelled quickly from the platform at the outer edge of the city to the palace. Baraz was staring straight ahead when he felt a burst of wonder from Aya. He glanced at her without turning his head. He need not have worried about her noticing his gaze. She was gaping at the palace. Baraz had to look away from the child-like amazement.

The grief hit him a split second before she felt it. He could tell the moment it registered in the bond, because she shut him out until there was only a trickle from her side. What he could feel was black with bitterness. Aya slowly turned her head to look at him. Their eyes met for a moment, before he could not stand the coldness and had to look away.

End of Excerpt

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