Thanks to the phenomenal work of my editor, Ella Medler, the publication date for the second installment in my Khirro’s Journey epic fantasy trilogy has been pushed up considerably; it will be out in time to fill a bunch of Christmas-gift-eReaders. In preparation for its imminent release, here is the blurb and chapter 0ne.
A shattered vial. A failed journey. Two spirits joined as one.
An army of dead men led by a sorceress with an unquenchable lust for power occupies the kingdom of Erechania. The kingdom’s traitor-king seeks to redeem himself, but the sorceress has stolen his son, his last reminder of the wife he lost. Neither the king nor his enemy can know the importance of the role the child will play.
The Necromancer’s last act of magic joined a fallen king’s spirit with Khirro’s, making him the vessel carrying the kingdom’s hope. But the haunted land of Lakesh, the outlaw city of Poltghasa, and the enemy country of Kanos lie between him and his homeland. Dangerous creatures and murderous men seek to end his quest, but he is also stalked by something far deadlier:
An assassin he once loved.
I saw verdant fields stretching horizon to horizon, endless as far as vision reached. A tender breeze pushed waves across flowers of red and blue and yellow and more. No clouds crowded the bright, sunless sky and the lone sound of delicate birdsong was the only thing disturbing the silent calm.
But it’s all gone now, replaced by darkness. No song of birds. No flowery perfume. No indescribable colors. No sky. I can’t tell if I’m awake and blind, asleep and dreaming, or dead yet somehow aware. My arms and legs feel nothing, as though they may not even exist. My mouth makes no sounds, if I have a mouth. I do not breathe. There are only these words in my head and the longing to return to that infinite field.
The blackness is complete. It surrounds me and fills me, holds me fast, floating in nothing, like a leaf fallen on a lake and frozen in place by a winter wind. I don’t know where I am. I don’t know what I am.
I don’t know who I am.
All I remember is lush grass, azure sky, the fragrance of blossoms. Nothing before that perfect place, and after it is only this nothing. I feel there’s more, though, important things I didn’t want to forget. People, places, events—the things that make a life. They’re all gone. If I have eyes, I close them, concentrating my thoughts to discover what more there might have been. But are they my thoughts?
I float in the blackness for a second or an eternity; they’re the same to me. Nothing changes. Eyes open or closed, alive or dead, awake or asleep, the dark—my only companion—refusing to answer my questions.
After some time, or perhaps no time at all, the shadow lightens. The change is almost imperceptible at first; a lighter black, if that’s possible, until my world slowly becomes gray. I try to blink the eyes I don’t have, move the arms I don’t know exist; still, nothing happens. I am only my thoughts floating in a lighter colored nothing.
My surroundings go from iron gray to silver, and finally white, but this is not the white of noonday sun on the sail of a ship. It is snow too long on the ground, a dress washed too many times. There is nothing bright to this white. It is flat and dead, without color or warmth. It is more nothing. If I could sigh, I would use the breath to release my frustration. What did I do to deserve having the glorious world of green and blue, of flowers and grass and sky, taken from me? Could there be worse punishment than being ripped from that and banished to this?
Black spots appear before me, around me. I reach out to them without reaching out. I don’t know what it is, but it is finally something. The first something in…how long? The spots swirl and spin like birds wheeling across a distant blank sky, or perhaps they collect like a cloud of black flies waiting to feed. Either is welcome relief. They make me feel like I have eyes again, like I can see. If I do, I have not the lids to allow me to blink.
The spots collide, whirlpooling against the white background and sticking to each other to make larger patches of black. More bits of dark nothing are absorbed by the bigger pieces, expanding it, spreading. My fascination turns to apprehension as the bigger patches of black carry with them a feeling of dread.
The last few pieces come together in unspectacular fashion leaving a single patch of black before me. It ebbs and flows, a blackened glob that might be tiny as a flea or bigger than the world, for I have no frame of comparison to know which it is or where in between it may fall. Its agitation slows and a shape forms.
At first I don’t recognize it; I don’t remember shapes, only the field and the heavens. When it’s done, it dawns on me what it is: the shape of a person clad in black cloak and cowl. Or perhaps a cloak shaped like a person. It lifts an arm toward me and the sleeve falls away to reveal a white hand, though not so white as my world. I gasp if I can gasp and feel something I recognize as hope.
There is color at the end of the fingers.
I cannot name the colors, but they are such contrast to where I have been. A tear spills from my eye leaving a trail down my cheek. It touches my lip, my tongue, and I taste the saltiness of my joy. This brings more tears.
I am again.
The figure floats closer as I smile and cry and laugh without sound. Maybe this thing, this person, was sent to take me back to my perfect expanse, or to whatever came before. I reach toward it, wanting to touch the cloth of its cloak, wanting to feel something, but I am still without arms, without body, despite the feel of the tear on my cheek, the taste of it on my tongue.
The black apparition comes closer. I search beneath its hood, my new found vision blurred by welcome tears, but see nothing. My blessed eyes find the fingertips instead, the color, and I recognize what I see. On each fingernail is painted a tiny picture of my paradise—emerald grass on one, cobalt sky on another, flowers of many colors on the rest, their petals stirred by an unfelt breeze. More tears flow, some in sadness, some happiness, the rest relief and fear. I still don’t know where or who I am, or what’s happened to me, but I’m no longer alone.
The painted fingertips touch where my shoulder would be. I feel it. The figure makes a sound.
It’s not the sibilance of a snake, but the sound a parent might make to calm a child. It works. I sigh a chest-full of air—I breathe—and finally feel alive. I can see, feel. It still may be a dream, but I’m glad to know I’m not blind, that I don’t feel dead, at least.
The final piece falls into place and I find a voice. The voice of a woman.
“Who am I?”
The figure grasps my almost-shoulder in a gesture of comfort, its grip cold. A shred of apprehension shivers through my core, but disperses quickly like mist before the wind, replaced again by hope.
“Who am I?” I ask again. “Where are we?”
The figure tightens its grip on my shoulder but doesn’t respond. I smile and cry anew.