Friday, September 9, 2011

Ficton Friday - Rose & Blade 1

It's Fiction Friday! That means you get a piece of my original fiction... for free.

In celebration of my debut novel Children of Aerthwheel, I give you the first chapter in a novella called "Rose & Blade". It dives into the history of the world called Prismatica, where Andrew Fish and Greta Del Sol are destined to meet their fates.

As the story unfolds, you'll find hints, clues, references, and lots of little Easter eggs relating to my collection Prismatica and my new novel "Children of Aerthwheel."

In a post-apocalyptic world devastated by mankind's machinations, opposing rulers discover that love and fate are two sides of the same relentless knife.

Rose & Blade

The course of true love never did run smooth...
William Shakespeare


“You dare cross the borders we've established and you step foot on my ship without invitation? And on this, our holiest of days?”

His name was Azariel and he was the self-proclaimed leader of the rebel faction called The Ascended, a growing community of humans who dedicated their lives to improving upon the technological achievements of their long dead ancestors. His airship, one of the few that still existed, drifted gingerly above the shores of what was once the greatest trading port on the planet and an unrivaled cultural center. Now the coast was rubble, home to mutated wildlife and scavenging miscreants, maligned descendents of the ones who once ruled the seas.

Smaller vessels flanked Azariel's ship and kept their weapons drawn toward the messenger’s miniscule transport. It was a poorly constructed oblong piece of machinery; one of its steam engines made a rhythmic clanking sound and the air sack that kept it adrift seemed stitched from a variety of worn leathers. Once in a while, the whole craft lurched sideways as one engine kept losing power.

“Lord Azariel,” the messenger said, placing his chin against his own chest and tipping forward so his left knee rested on the ground. The goggles that rested on his forehead tumbled over his face and hung from his neck. He paid no attention to them. “I have not come here to mock your people.”

“Intentions be damned. You've crossed boundaries. This is a crime."

“Please, Lord,” the messenger said, still averting his eyes and carefully trying to perform the proper bow, “I meant no disrespect. And surely no harm."

“You have three minutes,” Azariel said, turning over an hour glass filled with a handful of the white sands of Lucero. 

The sand began to pour through its narrow passage and Azariel said, “Now speak until I kill you.”

The messenger’s jaw trembled and then the words galloped from his mouth, “The queen has sent spies from the outer lands to infiltrate your armies. At least five assassins, as well. Maybe more.”

“You tell me this because you wish to help your own enemy?”

“No,” the messenger said. “Lord Azariel, I come to you as a traitor to my own ruler."

"You defy the Great Queen?" Azariel asked, eyes wide. He gripped the belt that hung loosely around his waste and let his fingers curl around the hilt of his favored weapon: a knife that was older than anything in his airship..

"This struggle that she wages against your people," the messenger said, "it has torn my family apart. Brothers, sisters, children. The Ascended are the victims of her arrogance. Her disdainful behavior."

"So you believe the Queen should serve with me?"

"Not with you, Lord Azariel! You are the rightful ruler of the divided terrirtories," the messenger said. "The queen is but a salacious whore. A sex-dealing war monger who pretends to have an interest in the Old Order." 

Azariel considered this for several moments as the messenger continued his ridiculous imitation of Ascension Ceremonial Etiquette.

Finally, Azariel spoke, but his voice was soft.

"I stood by the queen's side when the Old Order fell. With her hand in mine and an infant kingdom at our feet, we watched the Temple of Assad burn. Together, we heard accounts of the annihilation of an entire dynasty. Libraries, schools, temples... all destroyed by the mindless zealots of that creature Namenlos. The playing field had been reset and even then, when I knew that I would soon wage war against the very woman with whom I shared a chamber room, I held her hand and wept. Do you recall that time? My people have a name for it, soldier. We call it the Eve of Abandonment."

"I was a laborer at the time," the messenger muttered. "I remember well. I helped clear debris from the library of Acron. Before it was rebuilt as a temple under the Queen's orders."

"Then you have seen the Queen's ability to govern and rebuild in the face of opposition. Is this not an indication of her sublime leadership?"

The messenger's eyes squinted and he cocked his head to one side, "She uses the teachings of the Old Order as a means to control. Her loyalties are a mystery. She is a fraud."

"Perhaps," Azariel said, "but she and I face a common enemy."


"Yes. But even more dangerous to us is that flaw in human nature that urges a person to rebel against those who would help him. The ability to blindly turn against one's best interests."

"But, is this not what you did when you set your blade against the queen?" 

Azariel smiled, but there was no emotion behind the expression. It was an empty and mindless movement of muscles.  

"A traitor can never truly be trusted," Azariel said. "How am I to trust you? You, the dog who turns against his pack? How am I to know you won't someday tear at my own throat?" 

The messenger choked on a few syllables before he said, "I pledge myself to you, Lord Azariel. I have experience in skycraft. I was born to live as one of The Ascended. I pledge my blood to you and your cause. I would see Queen Adelia fall."  

Azariel picked up the hour glass, which had run dry minutes ago. The white sand sat in a useless pile at the bottom of the glass.  

Azariel said, "You will be rewarded for your actions, soldier. Let my men escort you to the lower chambers of the ship and you'll be given a change of clothes. We will dine in honor of your undermining the Queen."  

The messenger deepened his bow with an excited smile, straightened the cracked goggles around his neck, then followed a triplet of soldiers out of the hall.  

"Diego," Azariel said, summoning his eldest and most trusted assistant.  

The dark-skinned man was nearly seven heads tall and decorated in well-worn armor. His square face was a battlefield of scars. At his hips were two blades set into ivory hilts.

"Follow our guest," Azariel told the mute assistant. "Send the Great Queen a message and let her know that there are traitors in her midst. She deserves to know as much. I do not wish to fight an unfair war." 

Diego nodded. His tongue had been torn out by a band of Outland mutants when he was only nine years old. Azariel, a prisoner on the run in those days, helped the injured child escape his tormentors. This had incurred an ongoing life debt. 

Azariel tossed the hour glass across the room. It landed in the hands of a servant, who quietly cleaned and polished the instrument and placed it on a stone table top.  

"Find out where these spies are located. Extract their eyes and send them to the dear Queen, as well." 

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