Now that Aradia’s Secret has released, I’m going to take some time and work on world-building. I want to get the history straight in my head so I know where I’m going and why. I also want to actually make some progress on ‘the story that never ends’.
I wrote a Prologue this week that I’m not sure will make it into the final books, but it was a way to get the story straight in my head. It’s below, but it hasn’t been edited. Even so, I would welcome comments and suggestions.
Sister Gabrielle Corcoran awoke with a start. She had been dozing in the straight-backed chair that was one of the few pieces of furniture her cell at the Arcana Maximus contained. She stretched, her body aching, and trembled with a chill she couldn’t explain. She moved to the door on tiptoes and cracked it just enough to see if any of the other Sisters, or, worse, the Ibunana, were walking the halls.
The stone corridor was empty. Gabby waited for a moment, just to be sure, for if she was caught sneaking out of the Arcana in the middle of the night, she would be beaten and imprisoned.
With the way clear, Gabby took several deep breaths to steady herself, the she slipped from her cell and out into the night.
Detective Timothy Hawkins trudged through the Warren in the city of Freywater. All around him rose buildings of several stories, made of wood and metal, that, though tall, managed to look squat. His feet missed holes in the cobblestone streets out of habit, for the Warren had been his beat for more than twenty-five years. Though he had risen through the ranks of the Enforcers, he had never been able to secure one of the coveted positions outside of the Warren.
“Once a Warren rat, always a Warren rat,” Timothy muttered as he shivered in a sudden icy breeze, one that cut through his cloak and pierced his bones.
Though Timothy had been with the Enforcers for more than twenty years, his role as a Shadow Walker, one of the champions of the gods, had taken him away from his post too many times for true advancement. He cursed to himself again as he realized just how much he had lost by being a Shadow Walker. It wasn’t a secret; the Shadow Walkers were a recognized force in Grevared, but it wasn’t something he flaunted. And his captain took a dim view of those who had commitments outside the Enforcers.
Northward, in Sangeron, the capital city of the Xaggarene Empire, Daniel Klesko, too, shivered in a breeze that threated to freeze him where he stood. He trembled, his mind desperately trying to grasp what his instinct already knew.
The city was quiet, at least as quiet as Sangeron ever got, for Sangeron was a city that never truly slept. Ladies of the evening plied their trade in corsets laced far too tightly, while others stumbled from frizz dens, taverns, and dark alleys to make their way home with unsteady steps.
Daniel, too, was a Shadow Walker, though he had lost the Stone of Destiny five years before. Now he did nothing but wander the streets of Sangeron, getting food and shelter where he could, his mind a kaleidoscope of past and present that swirled in un-graspable images that defied comprehension.
In the forests of E’ma Thalas, north of the Xaggarene Empire, Illythor, captain of Oberon’s guard, paced back and forth. His elven ears strained for any sound that would explain the disquiet that seeped through his blood, but the only sounds were those of the night creatures moving about the forest. He knew the rumors as well as the next elf; more and more elves were succumbing to the gealtachta na déithe, the madness of the gods. Oberon, himself, had mentioned the rise, and it devastated Titania to see her people succumb.
A rustle to his left brought Illythor’s sword to his hands.
“It’s only me.”
Illythor cursed and huffed out a relieved breath as Ivlisar, his boon companion, joined him on the wall of Oberon’s palace. “What are you doing out here in the middle of the night? Did you piss someone off?”
Ivlisar smiled and shook his head. “Couldn’t sleep.” He stared out over the tops of the trees, their purples, greens, and yellows hidden by darkness. “There’s a fell wind blowing, brother. One that bodes evil for all of us.”
Illythor returned his sword to his sheath and sighed. “Then we’d best be ready.”
Far to the south, across the void, on the edge of the Shizzuria Wasteland, Morgan Harper came awake with a cry. The mechanical owl that sometimes housed the spirit of Abraham chittered softly on her beside table. She cursed and climbed from the bed, her eyes gritty from lack of sleep.
She grabbed her coat from its place by the door and pulled it around her slight frame. With another curse, she opened the door to her small cottage and peered out into the night. Before her lay the streets of Grenvor and the edge of the ice sheets that marked the wasteland. Nothing moved. She searched with both her eyes and her mind for the cause of the disturbance, but she could find nothing.
“What the hell?”
Morgan returned to her home and placed her coat on its hook. She grabbed several lumps of coal from the bucket by the brazier and stoked the fire. She stood in her nightclothes and rubbed her arms to dispel the chill, while her heart ached and longed for something that would never be again. After several moments, she shook off her unease and returned to sleep.
In the untamed chaos of the void, Arianna Henderson leaned against the rail of the Greydawn Spirit. Her feet shifted, one to the other, with a restlessness she couldn’t quite put her finger on, while her eyes scanned the gray nothing before her. Something was coming, she was sure, and she knew she needed to be ready.
“What’s up?” asked Charity Chance, another of the Shadow Walkers aboard the ship.
“Don’t know.” Arianna raised herself and turned to face Charity. “Something’s in the air. I’m restless.”
Charity laughed, her voice deep and rich. “You’re always restless.”
Arianna bit the edge of her thumb and turned to face the void. “This is different.”
Charity shrugged. “I guess we’ll know when it gets here.” Charity motioned to the hatch behind her. “Get some sleep. It’s my watch.”
Arianna nodded and headed below decks to her cabin. Though she tried, she never did fall asleep.
On the other end of Grevared, across the void, in the land of Moirena, Justin Harper shifted in his sleep. He opened bleary eyes to the stone walls of his cell. The chain that bound him to the wall rattled in the quiet of the night, and it took him a moment to realize that he wasn’t in Lemoreal’s bed.
He’d been a slave to the demon Lemoreal for five years now, a slavery he’d entered willingly. Now, he would give his soul, what little was left of it, for his freedom, to regain what he’d thrown away.
He raised himself to a sitting position and reached for the small water skin that was his only sustenance. He took a tiny sip, for he would not be allowed more until Lemoreal chose to reclaim him, and leaned his head against the wall. Something prickled his skin, though he had no idea what it meant. He reached outward with his mind in an attempt to discover what had disturbed him, to sense Morgan and the children they had borne together, but all he could find was the demon.