I thought I would post a quick excerpt of my current project (the dark fantasy refrenced in the horribly behind word counter in the side bar). Some may have seen part of this before if you read my LJ. It has been revised since that version and much expanded on. One quick warning: This is first draft stage and I have a horrible habit of writing the first draft in passive voice.
Excerpt from “A Brief Accounting of The Goddess Cyra and His Majesty King Aldrend of Aterlor and the Beginning of the War of Prophecy” by Omont Cwenmar, Master Historian to the Kingdom of Aterlor in the year 563
Once in a very great while the gods bless our world with an appearance. One such blessing occurred in the year 458 when Cyra, Goddess of Spring and Healing and Patron Deity of the Kingdom of Aterlor, appeared to the young Prince Aldrend. She was frequently seen at his side in the years to come often taking on the duties of Princess Consort to the Heir Apparent. It was widely acknowledged by all, despite the unwed status of the couple, Cyra would be the future Queen of Aterlor when Prince Aldrend took the throne.
Prince Aldrend was crowned King on the 16th day of Autumn in the year 486 following the death of King Aldric on the 2nd day of Autumn in the same year. The Coronation of King Aldrend was, by all accounts, a twice blessed affair in which Grand Master Jarric of the Cyrian Order gave over proceedings to Cyra as the Patron Deity of Aterlor. King Aldrend was the first King to be crowned by a god since King Eori of Perecia’s investiture at the hands of Ifrete in the year 216. This also places Goddess Cyra in the unique position of being the only Queen to ever crown her King.
On the 24th day of Spring, in the year 487, King Aldrend wed the Goddess Cyra. The day was not entirely joyful, however…
Candle light flickered and sent shadows dancing, plunging the freshly scrawled words on the parchment into darkness. The old woman clutched tightly to her worn quill and paid them no attention. The candle was not for her. Age had long since claimed her vision. Her sight now was of a different sort.
“Ill,” she murmured to the silent room, “Ill, ill tidings this one brings. Mustn’t trust that one, but is it too late? Already it is started.”
The guard at the door stared down at the toe of his boot. This posting unnerved him. Standing watch over the crone as she mumbled to herself, staring off at some point only she could see, her quill forever scratching against the parchment on the desk. The old hag was plainly mad. Anyone with eyes and half a mind could see that. Day after day she sat here in this room scratching out gibberish and mumbling under her breath. The stone walls of the room were lined with shelves holding hundreds upon hundreds of scrolls each filled with her spidery scrawl of random words and half phrases. None of it ever made any sense and what good was a seer who could not be understood?
The old woman’s sharp bark interrupted his musing and the guard looked up, startled, “Ma’am?”
“Fetch the king,” her claw-like hand moved frantically over the parchment, “He must be warned.”
“But, ma’am—,” the guard hesitated.
She hissed through her teeth, the sound meant to be both disapproving as well as warning, “I am well aware the king is attending his own marriage, boy! I am not the fool you think I am. Fetch him at once before the bells toll and we are all doomed.”
The guard was not the brightest man, nor was he an idiot. It did not take a great intellect to realize one did not go rushing off to pull a man, especially the King, away his much anticipated wedding. When the bride was also the patron deity of the kingdom his odds of surviving the interruption were slim at best. On the other hand, his standing orders were to comply with the wishes of the Seer whenever possible and to always, without fail, summon the King immediately should the old woman have news. He deliberated, shifting from foot to foot in agitation while the Seer continued her scribbling seeming to have forgotten he was even there.
After several long minutes he came to a decision. Drawing himself up and squaring his shoulders he shook his head, “I’m sorry, it will simply have to wait until— ”
The old woman cut him off, “If you value your life, boy, and the life of your king, you will go now.” Her white, sightless eyes turned on him, pinning him with a stare which seemed to pierce right through him. A chill settled around his heart.
“Ma’am,” the guard snapped to attention, “Yes, ma’am.”
Listening to the retreating click of the guard’s boots against the polished stone floor, the old woman reached out a hand for the candle. The words needed to be made safe. She touched the flame of the candle to the corner of the parchment. Fire sprang up, smoke rising, curling through the vent in the ceiling. The fool boy playing dress-up as a palace guard should not have hesitated, he had cost them too much time. Already she could see the thread of fate winding out before her mind’s eye. What had been seen would come to pass and may the gods save them all.
“Oh, no,” a lyrical voice echoed through the room, “I do not think your gods will save you.”
The old woman set the candle down as the last of the parchment turned to ash. Her eyes narrowed at the unseen intruder, “You.”
A musical laugh rang out as a darkness formed on the opposite side of the table, “Who else, my dear?”
With a murmured incantation, the old woman waved her hand over the pile of ash on the table. A neatly rolled scroll bearing the seal of the King’s Seer, able to be opened only by the King himself, replaced the ash.
“Your words will not save them, hag,” the darkness stated, “It is far too late for that.”
“No,” the old woman agreed, leaning back against the worn chair, her fingers curling tightly around the scroll still on the table, “This is beyond me now, I have done what I can. Do your worst.”
The darkness grew, stretching along the table, “My worst is yet to come, you are just the first course.”
Bells rang out announcing to the joy of all that His Majesty Aldrend Beornmark, King of Aterlor had married Cyra, Goddess of Spring, Breath of Life, Divine Lady of The Cyrian Order of Healers and his chosen queen. The old woman slumped, lifeless, against the table.
She tells her lies, though none will hear, from lips which aren’t her own.
Deceit rings true, masked by fear from those who should have known.
Through Sanctum’s Halls puppet King will fall, broken and alone,
when Blessed children of The Shadowed One bring forth the men of bone.
Excerpt from “A Brief Accounting of The Goddess Cyra and His Majesty King Aldrend of Aterlor and the Beginning of the War of Prophecy” by Omont Cwenmar, Master Historian to the Kingdom of Aterlor in the year 563
By the time the King reached the Seer she had perished. None of the healers could find a cause for her death. The written prophecy was found on the Seer’s table sealed and clutched in her still warm hand.
Fearing for the safety of himself and his new queen King Aldrend abolished the Motiyan Order within Aterlor and declared the study and practise of all Earth Magics an act of treason. The Sanctum — previously a place of study for the earth arts as governed by Motiya, Goddess of Winter, Hand of Death, Divine Lady of The Motiyan Order of Mages — was torn down. Its once towering spires of black stone ground to dust to be disposed of in the sea while the Sorcerers of Ifrete scorched the ground where the Sanctum had stood to cleanse the earth of any remaining power. Out of respect for past service, all standing Mages of the Motiyan Order were granted the Right of Ascension by Queen Cyra. It is said the Right of Ascension grants the receiver a place beside the gods on The Terrace overlooking The Garden.
Despite the promise of an eternal reward in the paradise of the gods many mages fled Aterlor to neighbouring kingdoms where they sought asylum. Most kingdoms granted asylum without hesitation. King Aldrend was furious. So long as the Mages remained alive the threat spoken of in the prophecy still loomed. Declaring the harbouring of refugee mages an act of war, King Aldrend gathered his armies and with the blessing of Cyra set out to conquer those kingdoms which had harboured the rebel mages.
Thus began The War of the Prophecy. Over one hundred years later the battles still rage though there is little doubt the rebel mages have long since perished. Our beloved King Aldrend remains strong blessed with long life and good health by Divine Queen Cyra.
Long may they reign.
~Master Historian Omont
51st Day of Autumn, 563
Motiya’s fingers gripped the stone rim of the well with such force her knuckles blanched. It would be only too easy to kill them. Never-mind outright slaughter of her brothers was forbidden. The rules were quite clear in this game their father had devised for them. They were permitted to act only through the mortals and the influence of their respective domains. There was to be no eliminating the competition through killing. It was too bad really. She could kill them. She could wrap her hands around Ifrete’s neck and be done with him before he had a chance to set her on fire. And Velin, he too would fall. His waves would freeze, useless pillars of ice, before he ever had the chance to wash her away and save himself. She was death, cold and bitter and silent as a shadow. Only Cyra — she felt her breath hitch at the thought of her sister — could ever sense her coming. Cyra was life, and life was always aware of death.
But where was life now?
Her eyes flashed out over The Garden, a sea of green stretched out before her. It was less a garden and more a forest, though the trees where only the hosts for what was grown here. On any other day she would be struck by the view of Cyra’s domain from up here on The Terrace, captivated by the play of light among the trees, the tiny crystals at the tips of each branch radiating light and scattering it like so many prisms. Today she looked but did not see. When had she last seen Cyra? Spoken to her? Strolled with her through The Garden? It hadn’t been long, of that she was certain. Two days? Three at most.
She looked back into the well watching the image of Cyra smiling a radiant smile out at her subjects from an outer balcony overlooking the square. Her husband and King beside her beaming a smile so bright he seemed to glow. They had an air about them, a practised synchronization which spoke of a long standing association. Motiya watched as Cyra placed a familiar hand on the arm of the King. Only it was not Cyra. It had Cyra’s face, Cyra’s voice, but that thing was not her sister. The movements were wrong, practised, graceful, poised and entirely without the exuberant joy Cyra possessed.
The surface of the water shimmered and the image vanished. Motiya stood, her grip finally loosening on the stone. Velin was here.
“Enjoying our little spectacle, Dearest Sister?” Velin cocked a hip against the edge of the well, a finger trailing lightly over the water’s surface.
Motiya remained silent, watching the swirls and eddies stirred up in the water as each particle leapt after Velin’s finger.
“I sense you are perplexed,” His tone was so dry it grated her ears.
Motiya stood so still she could have been made of the same stone as the well, save for the barest twitching of her lips as she asked, “How long?”
Velin feigned great interest in the swirling waters of the well, “It is difficult to say … Time moves so much differently here than in the mortal realm.”
This time there was not even a quiver of her lips as Motiya projected the question directly into her brother’s mind, “HOW LONG?”
Velin winced. He hated when she did that. She was the only one of the siblings who could speak the way Father did. Only, unlike when their father spoke, Motiya’s voice burned like the Abyss. “100 mortal years give or take a decade or so,” he told her, rubbing gingerly at his temples.
She stepped back from the well and turned to face him, her cloak of liquid shadows swirling silently at the motion. “Which of you was it?”, her question, though spoken aloud, still burned through him laced with her barely contained wrath.
Velin hesitated. Motiya was rarely what one would call friendly. She had a bitter edge about her which kept the rest of her siblings away, all save Cyra, yet he would not have called her unkind. More detached, distant — calculating. Yes, that was the word, calculating and possessed of an eternal patience. That, he mused, was not at all unexpected. In the game of mortals their father had tasked them with, all began with Cyra passed through the shifting swirls and eddies of mortality to Motiya. The constant ebb and flow of life and death with spirits ever wasting away and growing anew, passing from the domain of one sister to the other and back again. It was only during the periods of life when the brother’s could exert their influence. A brief window at best and hardly enough time to accomplish enough to win this game. Motiya could afford to be patient where Velin and Ifrete could not.
Yet the dark eyes which seemed to be pinning him to the stone of path were anything but patient. They burned, hotter than any of Ifrete’s infernos and somehow at the same time cold, colder than the deepest, most frozen lake of Velin’s own domain. No, Motiya was decidedly not patient today. He felt a moment of unease.
“Tell me,” Motiya’s words snapped Velin out of his contemplation, “or I will kill you where you stand.”
Velin studied her for a half heartbeat longer. Her expression leaving no doubt her threat was not idle. She seemed to have decided an eternity in the Abyss would be well worth watching him sputter his last breath with her hands around his throat.
“Ifrete,”. The alliance he had formed with his brother was not so important as to be worth his life.
Motiya drew herself up, the light in on The Terrace dimmed as tendrils of shadow snaked off her in waves, “The game ends here.”
She turned and strode soundlessly from the garden, seeming to float above the ground like a spectre.
Velin stared after her. This game had been playing for an eternity without one sibling managing to get so much as a hair’s edge over the other — and yet Motiya’s words rang in his ears with the sound of truth. He shook his head, “Well, well. Big sister has finally come out to play.”
The shadows of her cloak swirled behind her like storm clouds whipped into a rage. She strode down the carved stone stairs leading from The Terrace to The Garden. As she passed beneath the first of the trees the ground began to tremble with her fury, setting the tiny crystalline drops tinkling. Motiya paid them no attention, her path leading her unerringly through the dense forest to the stone archway nestled between the tree trunks and the swirling portal it held.
She stepped through the archway barely noticing the fluid brush of the portal as she passed. The glittering trees of The Garden had been replaced by twisted reflections. For every tree in The Garden, The Wastes had one to match. Where Cyra’s trees where lush and green, the trees here were gnarled and dark. Inky leaves on midnight trunks cast deep purple shadows against the blackened earth. The tips of the branches here were adorned with larger drops, like Onyx, they shimmered in the faded light.
Pausing under the nearest tree, she brushed the pale tips of her fingers against one of the jewelled drops. Memories of the mortal life lived by the spirit inside flashed through her mind and Motiya found herself smiling. Over time the memories would fade, wasting away, the shimmering jewel shrinking and shrivelling to nothing while in The Garden a new crystal grew in the same place. It was Cyra’s task as keeper of The Garden to tend the trees and ensure the spirits grew strong, ready to set forth into a mortal life. Motiya’s garden — and it was a garden after a fashion — here in The Wastes collected the spirits of the dead. It was here Motiya did tending of her own, reaping the spirits of the dead to rest while they prepared for renewal and thus the balance remained. An ever renewing cycle of a spirits through The Garden, Life and The Wastes.
The oldest of the spirits, those which shone the brightest, lent a portion of their power to the god which held their allegiance. It was around this the game was played. Her brother’s would argue they were at a disadvantage since all spirits passed through the realms of their sisters. Motiya scoffed at the idea. Not all spirits present in her realm owed allegiance to her, nor did all spirits present in The Garden owe allegiance to Cyra. Ifrete at least, shrewed tactician he was, must know that, why then this scheme or stunt or whatever it was they had done with Cyra? As she turned the situation over in her mind she walked deeper into the forest of The Wastes. Bits of memory flashed before her as she went fingers grazing lightly over the nearby onyx jewels as passed. A snatch of laughter here, a treasured moment there, a wave of pride and adoration, a sharp stab of fear and confusion.
Motiya stopped short. Something was not right. The spirits left behind their mortal worries when they came here taking only the fondest memories with them. She turned to study the jewel more closely. Beneath the translucent black surface lay the spirit. This was the source of the shimmering light that danced in all the jewels around her.
All the jewels save this one.
This spirit was dim. There was something, some sort of film, a layer of darkness draped over the spirit like a smothering blanket nearly drowning out it’s light. Tentatively she reached out to cup the jewel in her hand.
Stone. A wall. Cowering in the shadows and Cyra, but not. That smile, burning and hungry. Cyra’s face but not Cyra. There were others in healers robes, aged and bent they stood before their Goddess. Cyra approached them her smile widening until it seemed it would engulf her face. And then it did. Cyra’s delicate features split, a gaping maw, roaring, hungry, devouring. Tendrils of light reached out from the old healers and Cyra sucked them in, devouring until even the light of the torches on the wall seemed dimmer. Pain now, white hot through the heart. Looking down. A sword tip covered in blood then darkness.
Motiya snatched her hand away from the jewel as if it burned. What was that? What had she just seen? What had the spirit witnessed that cost it its life? Those tendrils of life from the healers, those were their spirits untethered from their bodies and set free. The spirits should have come here, they should have returned immediately, and yet —
She set of at once, moving from tree to tree, one jewel after another, so quickly she seemed to be flying. There had to be another one. There must be another one. Another spirit who had witnessed the same thing. Jewel after jewel she searched until at last, Yes! There on the next tree over a jewel with no light. She lunged for it.
It was the same room, the same stone, the same torches. Motiya slowed the memory to get a better look at what was happening. Not-Cyra was there with that same hungry smile. It was not healers before her this time. This time it was a group of children, orphans from the look of them in their ill-fitting clothing and uncombed hair, standing with heads bowed in deference to the thing pretending to be a god and their Queen.
“Thank-you, Your Highness,” a matronly woman curtsied low before the Queen, “Is hard times with the war. The orphanage has no space for them. Was breakin’ me heart to think o’ these children living in the gutter.”
Not-Cyra’s smile shifted to a mockery of care and understanding, “Fear not, Lorcastle has a place for them. They will want for nothing,” she said before waving her hand in dismissal, “You may go, Matron. Children, come closer.”
The Matron bowed her head low, before making her way from the hall.
Not-Cyra approached the children as they shuffled forward, uncertainly. Once again Motiya watched as Not-Cyra’s smile widened to the point her features split into a gaping maw. The children began to glow as the tendrils of light, their spirits, left them mixing and swirling toward the cavernous mouth of the Queen as if they were being drawn into a vortex. The light faded and the bodies of the children fell to the floor, still and lifeless.
Motiya dropped the jewel, she had seen enough. She stepped back gathering her frayed thoughts about her. They had replaced Cyra with a Spectre, a creature from The Abyss which had once been a spirit but was now a thing of nightmares. It happened sometimes, a spirit became corrupted by greed or pain or a vice of the mind. It fell to Motiya to help them cast off the corruption if she could. When the spirit had gone too far, had taken the corruption into itself and revelled in it, it could not be saved. It was then it fell to Motiya to cast them into The Abyss, a place of torment and isolation from which there was no escape. At least not usually.
Once in a very great while a Spectre would claw its way out of The Abyss and Father would toss them back down, only Father had vowed not to interfere for the duration of the game. It was obvious Ifrete and Velin had taken advantage of their father’s absence to instigate this plot of replacing Cyra with a monster, but to what end? Why bring a Spectre from The Abyss to take Cyra’s place and eat spirits?
As soon as she asked the question the answer sprang into her mind. With Cyra gone her influence would fade, better still the influence which was already Cyra’s was now being directed to this false god forcing Cyra out of the game. Motiya knew Ifrete would deem a few thousand spirits an acceptable loss in the grand scheme. In his place she would probably feel the same. She was not in his place and the loss of even one spirit sent a surge of rage welling up inside her. That was the second stage of his plan, she knew. Ifrete was gambling on her anger at the loss of the spirits and beloved sister to spur Motiya into action. Thus far she had remained detached from the game, neither caring to play, nor who won. Of course her refusal to play meant she could neither win nor loose, but then, neither could anyone else as Motiya would always remain, unengaged and undefeated. She had been content to let the game go on, eternal and unending. Her brothers were obviously not content with the way things were and had, rather effectively, just forced her hand. Motiya would have to play the game now or Cyra was lost forever while the Spectre continued devouring all the spirits without Cyra around to spark new ones.
With grudging respect she conceded a well played round to her brothers. It was a masterfully executed move. Beneath her mounting ire she felt a certain sense of pride, her brothers were a force to be reckoned with and in her way she loved them dearly. They did not inspire the same fierce sense of protectiveness Cyra did with her eternal exuberant innocence, but Motiya loved her brothers all the same. Even if at this moment she would gleefully dismember them both were they within reaching distance.
Turning back the way she had come, she made her way back to The Garden. Once there she wandered between the trees stopping occasionally to examine a crystal more closely. This would take careful consideration. Only once before had she directly bestowed her power on a mortal. This was not like her mages which were gifted with little to no thought on her part. This was deliberate and altogether more deadly. A glimmer caught her eye, brighter than the rest. Motiya moved closer. Oh, yes! This was exactly what she was searching for.
Hanging precariously from the tip of a fragile looking branch was not one crystal but two. Twins in every respect from the perfect synchronization of the pulsing of the light inside, to each delicate facet sending the light dancing about the forest. They were nearly ready. Only a few moments more and the crystals would crack open releasing the spirits to the mortal realm. Motiya reached out to cradle them in her hands. To the one on the left she whispered a single word in a long forgotten language. The crystal pulsed a deep indigo.
She held out her hands to the wind as the crystals cracked open. The spirits, two tiny balls of light, one red, one white, rose up from her open palms. They hovered before her for a moment.
Motiya fixed her gaze on the white spirit, “Keep her safe,” she told it, “They will not understand and will fear her.”
The spirit bobbed slightly as if nodding. And then they were gone.