Friday, July 11, 2014

Excerpt: The Mahaelian Chronicle Prequel - A Song of Sacrifice

Morning! :-) Hope you're all well!

I've got something cool for you today - an excerpt from Betrayal's Shadow's first prequel, A Song of Sacrifice.

First? Yep, there'll be another prequel hitting your eReaders / tablets shortly after the release of Book 2. :-)

Let's get to the excerpt, shall we? :-)

***

Shadows began to stain the bubble of radiance that surrounded Ordaefus; black tendrils like lightning strikes reaching out and swelling, joining together, until he was engulfed in the Dark.
It lasted only an instant – all Travelling did. Translocation was, at least to observers, instantaneous – but he felt the fear twitch inside him, like an animal rising from the depths of sleep. All Singers did, though none would admit it. Even Wielders became silent when the Dark was mentioned. No one had been able to prove its existence, but everyone who had ever sung themselves from one place to another had felt the insistent pressure, akin to the sensation of knowing that you were being watched but unable to find the watcher.
As soon as the Dark engulfed him sparks appeared, surrounding him like a shroud of night sky. He kept his voice stable and strong, fighting the instinct – like a sudden itch – to fall silent and listen for what must surely be crouching nearby, and the light began to spread and swell, bleeding into and eating the Dark. Ordaefus felt his hearts begin to quicken and his song rose slightly in volume – and then the radiance was gone and he was standing in a circle, one of many outside the gracefully twisting spires of Mathra’umaen.

Home. He was finally home.

Air, spiced with the scents of freshly-sung feathergrass and roasting ergoi-meat, wafted against his bare brow and he unclasped his hands, raising them with open palms as his personal contingent of Choir Guards stepped forward into the circle.

“Peace,” Ordaefus murmured, feeling the weight of transitioning through the Dark lifting from his shoulders. The guards turned their backs on him, arms opening smoothly outward so that the hilts of each guard’s songstave touched with a single high note. The air shimmered around the group as a shield domed overhead; dust puffed from the ground where its invisible substance made contact with the dirt of the circle. Ordaefus allowed himself a sigh of acceptance – he was the Song-Priest; the Choir Guard would never allow him to move unshielded. Well, not in the vicinity of Mathra’umaen.

And not with Mahaelal’s Wielders abroad.

Ordaefus knew that Sorhael would have harsh words for him as soon as he stepped into the chambers they shared. She took her role as his Conflict Singer seriously, and she loved him – he couldn’t help smiling when he realised that he had just escaped a Wielder ambush to fall into a situation that was probably infinitely more dangerous.

Ordaefus lowered his hands to his sides, the emotional taint of the Dark now almost completely gone. “I am ready.”

Mathra’umaen was one of only fourteen great Soul-Cities still in Singer possession. It was, to Ordaefus’ subjective eyes, the most beautiful, and not only because it was the first.

Thousands of moon-cycles before, the plain upon which the city shimmered had been a vast soulwood forest, the sentient trees standing in masses and ranks from horizon to horizon, conversing in melodic rumbles as their life-songs seeped back into the soil which had birthed them aeons before. The Elvayn of that time – so much simpler and happier, Ordaefus couldn’t help thinking – had then only recently begun to discover how to wield.

They had been a careful people, then, careful and thankful. They had understood that a gift of immeasurable value had been given into their care. The soul trees had welcomed these diminutive beings, knowing that their ability to wield and manipulate the world’s energies was dangerous and a possible threat, but trusting the Elvayn to be responsible and respectful. It was that relationship, over the following tens of millennia of moon-cycles, which had given birth to the first Elvayn city – the soul trees giving the Elvayn permission to wield their soul-bereft bodies into the soulstone structures and shapes that now made up Mathra’umaen.

As Ordaefus and his Choir Guard approached the city, twenty-two pairs of bare feet making hardly a sound on the fused-soil roadway that led to the Gate of Harmony, the Song-Priest allowed the site of it to fill his senses.

Across the horizon it stretched, as the soulwood forest once had, a place of twisting spires that arched over and into each other, thickening into massive blossoms of halls and accommodation cells, thinning elsewhere into roads and pathways that snaked away and to every direction. Each surface swam with colour, a dance of hues and shades and contrasts, a constant shifting of colour and beauty. It was and always would be a sight that stole his breath – but it saddened him, too.

The cities that had fallen to Mahaelal’s Wielders were drab, colourless places of uniform shapes and precise measurements. Ordaefus had never believed that the disagreements with his cell-brother would have led to such an overwhelming refutation of all that it meant to be Elvayn.

The man had lost so much to his need for control, for order ... Even the skies above those cities seemed wounded – sickly grey-yellow stains hung in the air, leaving moisture-bereft shadows on the ground, products of the structures that birthed the warcraft of his brother’s armies.

Ordaefus glanced down at his vestments, choosing to look past the stains and scorch marks – evidence of his escape from the ambush – and see instead the bright, vibrant colours that proclaimed him and, indeed, his people the true Elvayn. He stood out, proudly so, as did everyone in Mathra’umaen. He wasn’t only an Elvayn of the old, trusted way, but someone who saw the value in being an individual.

His shoulders were the deep, depthless blue of the sky, his chest a vibrant magenta shot through with golden filaments. The chord-belt around his waist was silver flecked with black, the skirt of the robe blending with magenta above to become a soulful purple, eventually mirroring the colour of the dirt at his feet. And tomorrow – depending on whether he would survive his reunion with Sorhael – his vestments would be differently coloured, or the same. It didn’t matter what colours he wielded into his clothes – neither did it matter which colours the thousands of people of this city chose. They were free to choose, and they were called upon, too, to accept responsibility for their choices.

Mahaelal had forced his choices upon so many...

Ordaefus took a deep breath as he and the Choir Guard passed under the splendid arch of the Gate of Harmony, stepping over the threshold of the largest defensive circle the Song-Priest had ever helped wield. The barrier allowed their entry, of course, because their energy-imprint had been wielded into its structure. The defensive barrier thinned and passed through the bodies of the Choir Guards and the Song-Priest, only slightly wielding their essences, as a hand passing through water momentarily disturbs the liquid. The city knew them and allowed their presence.

Ordaefus knew it was wishful thinking, but the air beyond the shield seemed cleaner, somehow, untainted by the ever-present threat waiting beyond the eastern horizon. Waiting and preparing, no doubt. Word would have reached Mahaelal by now of Ordaefus’ exploratory meander – search parties would be quartering the area he had allowed himself to be spotted in, and it was highly possible that his brother was there in person. Mahaelal had ever been the dangerously curious cell-brother, always pushing for answers and for reasons that fit his beliefs.

Ordaefus hoped to someday use that against his brother, though the possibility of it pained him.

Realising that his thoughts had led him out of the moment, the Song-Priest focused again and saw with surprise that his return journey was almost at an end – the colours of the structure at the end of the path they walked matched the colours he had chosen for his vestments this day and so proclaimed it as the Song-Priest’s accommodation cell.

Low to the soulstone pathway and with a gracefully sloping roof, the structure had only one level and didn’t take up much space. Ordaefus hadn’t seen the need for anything ostentatious, nor for the grandiosity that he imagined Mahaelal enjoyed. Uniformly oval spaces in its walls let in the light of the sun so that every room enjoyed its priceless heat, and at night the ceiling opened, slats retracting into the walls to let in the silvery light of the moon. Inside were four cells – one for Sorhael, where she could focus on the struggle against Mahaelal and plan the constant resistance missions, one that he used when meeting with the Song-Priests of the other cities, and a room that they shared; their space of silence and calm amid the unfortunate storm that had overtaken their lives.

Through a gap between two of the guards Ordaefus glimpsed a figure standing in the centre of the main access, with arms folded; he didn’t need to see the storm-grey colour of the robes to identify the figure as his life-mate. Ordaefus steeled himself, beginning to wield his vestments back into their unmarked form before he caught himself. Mahaelal had risen to become such a threat because of what he had kept secret – Ordaefus would not let himself hide anything; not from his people, and not from Sorhael.

As the group approached the Song-Priest’s residence the guards before him shifted to the left and right, opening a space for him to move through. The defensive shield they had wielded made contact with the soulstone walls of his home and Ordaefus felt the tingle of energy-change as the wielded constructs – one physical, the other ethereal – fused harmoniously. The way was now open and he stepped into the gap, offering Sorhael what he hoped was a smile filled with love and happiness.

“You should have informed me,” she said as he came up to her, her voice mellifluous with barely contained emotion. “Your hearts are the beating pulse of this city, Song-Priest. We cannot afford to lose you.”

He lifted his arms as he stepped closer, drawing her against him, accepting her stiff demeanour, and pushed his forehead gently against hers. “You have not lost me, Heart-Song.”

***

As you might have picked up from the excerpt, 'A Song of Sacrifice' features some characters that were only mentioned in the novel. I hope it whetted your appetite for more! :-)

You can order it online from wherever you can access Amazon, but here are the links: for Amazon US and Amazon UK. And if you're on Goodreads, here we go!

  

Be EPIC!

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