Sorry I haven’t posted in so long everyone! I’ve been pretty busy working on polishing off Volume 3 and writing Volume 4. Also, because I always put the cover of the next book into the current book, my sister and I have been drawing the cover for Volume 4…which, by the way, is definitely going to be the most amazing cover yet!
Here’s an overview of Volume 3!
A name is being whispered throughout the northern region of the Golden Lands. And wherever it is whispered, death quickly follows. “Hedekira” is the only word voiced by the strange “ghost” who appears at random, causing chaos wherever he strikes. Neither John Hedekira nor his friends know why the ghost is after John…nor that they are going to be in the fight of their lives if they’re caught.
NOTE: Karr is not the Ghost of Hedekira
I dislodge my sword and stand, groaning again. “You know this guy?” I ask Faith.
“Karr?” she says to the bandit.
The thief removes his mask, still keeping his eyes on Faith. “Yeah,” he affirms, revealing his face.
My gaze switches from Faith to Karr, who are still regarding each other with a look of confusion. This is an awkward moment. “Uh, so how do you know each other?” I ask.
“John,” Faith says, eyeing the bandit suspiciously, “this is my brother, Karr.”
Understanding floods my mind for a moment, but then I’m confused too. Faith told me she has two older brothers, but she said they both got married and were living as farmers like their parents. I get why Faith is surprised. “What are you doing here?” Karr asks.
“What are you doing here?” questions Faith.
Karr frowns with annoyance, as if he’s disappointed with her reply.
“I’m helping my friend rescue his little siblings from a band of Evil,” Faith declares. Then she asks again, “So why are you here?”
Karr grimaces, lowering his gaze, when a female thief speaks from the roof above us, “Sir, we’ve acquired our projected spoils. Do you want us to clear out?”
“Yeah,” Karr says.
“Would you like to take prisoners?” the woman inquires.
Karr’s eyes alight on me and Faith. “Just two,” he says flatly.
Bernard comes running up to us from my right. “Faith, are you okay?” he says.
“Make that three,” Karr recants. The woman nods and then flits away.
“Karr, what do you mean?” Faith exclaims.
Karr turns and walks away slowly. Five bandits drop from the roofs around us and replace him, and one of them warns, “Don’t resist.”
Bernard and I exchange a glance. We don’t know if we can take them, and we don’t know if we want to. We drop our weapons and raise our hands. Then the thieves come forward, and they bind our hands. I don’t know if this is a good idea. I don’t exactly trust Faith’s brother. I mean, he was just pillaging a village. And now he’s leaving it in ruins. “What’s going on, Faith?” I murmur to my friend.
“I don’t know,” she replies stiffly. But her demeanor says it all. She’s going to get to the bottom of this.
I hope you guys are excited! Volume 3, I’ve been told, has the best, most well-choreographed fight scenes in the whole series so far!!!
TODAY AND TOMORROW ONLY (UNLESS I FORGET TO CHANGE IT BACK) VOLUME 2 IS ONLY $0.99.
(Smashwords, Nook, and iTunes versions only [and it might take a few hours for the price to change at Barnes and Noble])
Want a preview? Okay! I’m just going to assume that you do because no good salesman waits for a reply 🙂
And you know that you do.
John and Faith now know the plot of the Evil that kidnapped Soror and Frater, John’s little sister and brother; they, along with a host of other humans, are to be sacrificed to the ominous god of death. Meanwhile, Faith is realizing the true, dark nature of John’s desire to hunt the Evil. Can she stop him before his thirst for vengeance consumes him…or will it consume her instead?
PROTAGONIST: FAITH PINCK
I step behind my tree and run. As I do, I see an arrow whiz over my head, and my heart jumps. “That was close,” I think, swallowing. Ahead of me, I see a tree with big roots next to a little ditch, and preceding it is about twenty feet of open forest. Perfect! I can bunker down behind the tree, and the Evil will have to come out into the open to get me. For a moment, I feel a glimmer of hope.
Then an arrow zips right past me, the same height as my heart, and it hits the tree I’m heading for. I jump behind the tree, landing on my knees, and I stab four arrows into the side of the ditch as fast as I can. Then I look up, searching for the beasts, but mainly for him.
I see him. I immediately look away and load an arrow, shooting one Evil down as he enters the clearing, and then another. The other beasts shuffle behind trees, and once again I glance at the archer. I grunt with alarm, and fling myself to the side in the direction of my tree. As if time suddenly slows, I watch the archer’s missile fly through my hair as I dodge. When I’m successfully being covered by the wood, I reach to my left and grab the two arrows stuck in the ground and rise. I’m breathing more heavily than I should be, and my mind is too frantic to devise a plan. I hear the Evil rushing this way from behind their cover. I nock and arrow and peek out from behind my tree, and I fire. I can’t seem to focus; I’m too afraid—too jumpy. The projectile only hits my target in the thigh. Why is what I saw bothering me so much, when I glanced at the archer?
He was smiling.
My pursuers are growing too close. I rise and run. Now I know why I’m so afraid; why this archer petrifies me. It’s his confidence; he and all these beasts. They don’t fear me. They know they can kill me. It’s their own certainty that makes me lose mine.
The ground dips in front of me, and I see that I’m approaching a large gully, a giant, empty bowl in the forest. I reason as I dart forward that if I go into the gully, the Evil will have a hard time approaching me. I hop onto my butt as I reach the edge of the gully and slide down to the center, careful not to stab myself with the arrow I’m carrying. I get to my feet and turn to face my enemies, fitting the arrow in my hand to my bowstring. I look up and see that one Evil is already descending the gully. I aim and shoot, killing the monster with a chest-shot. I release a breath of confidence as I reload, and I shoot another Evil in the stomach as he arrives at the top of the ravine. “Okay,” I think as I reach back into my quiver for another arrow, “maybe I can do this!”
The sale still continues! The first volume of my series is still free as an eBook at Smashwords.com or in the iTunes store. My book is incredibly easy to buy (if you want to call it buying). This “super-ultra-mega” sale is all in anticipation of me releasing Volume 2 (which, as of now, is ready). I guess you could say I’m giving you some time to catch up for free before the next volume comes out.
Just in case you forgot or didn’t know, here’s the plot of The Golden Lands, Volume 1: Shadows in the Sunlight
Left for dead by a band of strange, dark warriors, John Hedekira sets out on a quest to get revenge and to rescue his siblings from the hands of his attackers. Joining him is the kind, innocent Faith Pinck, and together they must stop the evil warriors before they can complete their mission: a dark plot to collide humanity with the world of an unholy, supernatural being.
“Are you okay?” Elizabeth exclaims as I approach Josh and her. She hurries forward to help steady me. My blood coats my shoulder and runs down my arm and side.
“I’m all right,” I say, removing my weight off of her and standing erect. I notice Josh regarding me, dumbfounded.
“You killed that thing?” he asks, his surprise and awe evident.
“Yes,” I reply, sitting down with my back to a boulder, “he’s dead.”
“Is there anything we can do to help you?” Elizabeth asks, glancing at my shoulder.
“That would be wonderful,” I say, genuinely thankful.
While Elizabeth and Josh bandage my shoulder, I breathe slowly, focused and determined. To them, it would appear as if I’m only trying to stay calm, as if I’m patiently registering my pain. Yet, staring ahead at the ground, my thoughts wander elsewhere. The weight of fate is bearing down heavily on me. Something evil and unearthly is knocking at the door. Everything changed so suddenly; the shift in the air, the shade of the light, the silent and yet bizarrely loud groan and watchfulness of the world around us. The couple senses nothing.
But I do.
This is the part where things get tricky. Where the souls of the Passageway need to come through. When they need to grow. When they need to become who they need to be. Or be killed. And die. And become Evil themselves.
∗ ∗ ∗
We keep on heading through the forest of pointed boulders. The vegetation begins to appear slowly. First, a few clumps of grass, then a few weeds. Then a bush, sparse, dry and bleak. Then a tree, tall and strong, and yet still, like the bush, withered and lacking in life and radiance. Then everything slowly becomes combined. We are nearing the forest. I feel as if I can already hear it hissing, moaning, croaking, creeping. We come to the tip of a slope that declines downwards, granting us a view of what we are approaching.
The forest below immediately changes the otherwise pleasant countenance of this region of the Passageway. Dark, shadowy, bizarre, unearthly, fumes rising from this section, animals croaking from that section—Josh and Elizabeth both shift uneasily. They don’t want to ask, because they fear that they already know the answer; but yes, we are going into the forest. Not just because it’s the only way to reach the end of the Passageway, but because Josh and Elizabeth need to face whatever lies within the trees.
The Passageway is a reflection of reality. Reality is a dark, twisted thing.
We come to a halt at the edge of the forest, the trees thick, knotted and stretching out their boughs like bony hands. The depths of the forest are drenched in shadow, and they seem to twist and turn as you stare at them. “What’s in there?” Josh asks.
“Nothing we can’t handle,” I reply. My words seem to calm them. But I don’t think they understand that I just said, “we”.
We go a little ways into the forest. Initially, the couple clings closely to me. The darkness, combined with the eerie noises, give the forest an intimidating, unearthly impression. But gradually, both Josh and Elizabeth grow more relaxed, and they walk steadily along, following where I lead them. We have to stop eventually, as I grow weary, and I’d prefer to stay closer to the edge of the woods for the night.
We don’t make a fire. Not that we necessarily could. The shadows grow deeper, and the forest silent. I peer into the forest, my eyes flicking back and forth in each direction, waiting and watching. Things won’t remain so calm forever. The light overhead scarcely breaks through the opaque ceiling of tree branches, and what light does fall through is pale, eerie, and possessed of a strange, bluish tint.
Josh and Elizabeth are beginning to grow tired. I see their eye-lids drooping, though they try to stay awake. I wish this didn’t have to happen in the night. But it is. It’s coming. But I’m growing frustrated; they’re being so patient, so careful, I’m tempted to provoke them.
I decide, rather, to see them. I slowly raise my head and turn halfway in the direction that I feel their presence. Though it’s barely perceptible, my eyes burn brighter with charis. And I see them. Right before they attack.
You can read the previous chapters in my page entitled “Soul Bleeder”.
PROTAGONIST SWITCH: LOGOS
We commence moving through the rocks. The boulders are all at least ten feet tall, with their tops pointed like the tip of a spear, and they cast an army of shadows behind themselves. The stones are sandy in color, and in spite of everything we’ve encountered so far, they are pleasant in appearance, especially beneath the bright sun and blue sky overhead. Days aren’t always so dark or mystical within the Passageway. The Passageway is a mirror of many things; reflecting such a simple piece of reality—the simple grandeur of an ordinary sky—would be one of those things.
I fill my lungs with the fresh air, on my guard as I should be, but allowing myself to relax as the day prompts me. The air is still rather awkward between myself and the couple; their confusion hasn’t officially cleared, and they still don’t entirely feel comfortable around me. I’m not surprised when Joshua decides to break the silence, “So, how long have you been guiding people through the Passageway?”
“About two weeks,” I answer.
“Have you ever not gotten anyone across?” His voice sounds as if he is merely curious, and I can tell he isn’t doubting my proficiency in performing my duty. Most likely, he wants to know what he can expect from me.
“No,” I say, “at least not yet.” I smile over at him.
A wry smile touches his lips too.
“You said we would be able to regain our zoecharia at the end of the Passageway,” states Elizabeth, her mind seemingly still withdrawn. “How will we do that? Will there be a Levite?” She uses the more common term for a Soul Bleeder.
I know what she’s talking about. She’s referring to the fact that all Levites/Soul Bleeders can give or restore the zoecharia to a person’s soul. Levites and Soul Bleeders act as a sort of mediator between the soul and Elohim, the Giver of zoecharia. I’m a little different in this regard…but that’s not important.
So, you might be wondering, if I have the power to restore the zoecharia to their souls—being a Soul Bleeder—why don’t I?
The Passageway isn’t merely a dangerous trek that people need to embark on in order to restore their zoecharia. The Passageway, though it is filled with perils for the souls within it, is also a subworld through which souls learn to become stronger; to discover something about themselves or the world that will enable them to rise once again into the world from which they came as newly made persons*. I could send them back to the Gray Lands. But I won’t. Not until they’ve learned their lesson. Nothing would be accomplished, otherwise.
“No,” I answer. I turn to them, growing a bit more serious, “You will stand before Elohim himself. He will restore the zoecharia to your souls.”
Joshua and Elizabeth look at each other, their eyes wide and their faces stiff with fright. “Elohim?” Joshua asks. “How? Why would a god be present in the Passageway?”
“Elohim works through Levites all the time,” I answer, “he’s present in the Gray Lands. Why are you so surprised?”
“But we’ll be meeting him personally?” urges Elizabeth.
“That’s right,” I say.
The couple look at each other, and I turn and continue forward. It’s all starting to come together for them. “What will we have to do once we meet him?” I hear Joshua ask.
I turn back, “Zoecharia is sometimes called “Elohim’s gift” or “life”. You should apologize for losing it, and beg that he give you more.”
“But we didn’t lose it!” Joshua exclaims, a note of anger in his voice. “It was taken from us by Shiralk.”
I avert my eyes. It was; this is true. But the blame is just as much theirs as it is Shiralk’s. Joshua first looks at me, and then at Elizabeth, who also stares away from him. A look of confusion comes over Joshua’s face. He opens his mouth to say something, when Elizabeth suddenly speaks, “Josh, I think I need to tell you something.”
I glance up at them, and then turn, continuing forward. They’ll need privacy. This is what I’ve been waiting for.
I go about twenty yards away from them. I can only hear the sound of their voices, but not their words. I sigh, hoping that their conversation will end peacefully, and that their resolve will be changed, or redirected to what it needs to be. So that they can both understand, but be at peace, and trust me.
“What do you mean?” I hear Josh shout abruptly. His voice is suffused with revelation and shock; there is only a hint of anger. I can make out Elizabeth’s voice, coaxing him gently, attempting to calm him down. “What do you mean? Did I?” Josh’s voice says. Then I hear him say, “I’m sorry,” over and over again. He sounds as if he might break into tears.
“Well…good,” I think, smiling softly and hopefully.
A sound suddenly pierces the air. My eyes widen. I look up towards the sky, and then pivot and commence sprinting back towards the couple, dodging around the rocks. The whistling grows louder and louder, and I shout, “Get down!” The couple reacts, but they don’t sense the danger. I lunge in front of them, just as something massive strikes the ground around us and a huge explosion erupts. Wind tussles my hair and cloak, and I squint through the cloud of dust and earth that billows as it quickly flutters and twists like the waves of the sea. His small, piercing white eyes glimmer through the cloud, and I can make out the silhouette of his thick, muscular body. A low, hoarse voice sounds from within the dust, “I’ve been waiting for you, Soul Bleeder!”
You can read the other chapters found on my page, “Soul Bleeder”.
(Note: Peria is pronounced “PER-ee-uh”, and roll the “r” if you can)
I stand keeping watch over Joshua and Elizabeth, who are sleeping. The night would be completely quiet, if not for the wind that howls as it runs through the boulders surrounding us, as if it is a distant echo from the werebeasts, like a once forgotten past now reawakening, stirring the fabrics of time, space, and feeling. It would almost be a peaceful night…if it was not possessed of an unholy presence.
He is here…and I cannot tell him to go away. I cannot defeat him with brute strength alone. He is of the Evil One, but cannot be separated from me indefinitely while I am here upon this earth. His voice, which sounds identical to mine, is dark and sly, and he speaks into my ear, “Such a shame, Mighty Knight; Elizabeth’s such an attractive woman, she deserves a better man than Joshua, wouldn’t you agree?”
“I’m not here to judge anyone,” I say without looking back at him, “I’m here to get souls through the Passageway. It doesn’t matter what they’ve—”
“It doesn’t matter what they’ve done?” the voice hisses, with mock emotion. “Oh, but that’s exactly why they’re here. You know why these two souls lost their zoecharia.”
My eyes drop; I do know why. I hate what they’ve done, but it doesn’t matter. They are more than their actions.
“Mmm,” the voice breathes, “humans give up their zoecharia so easily. Especially when it comes to…” I feel his eyes open, and they alight fiercely and tauntingly at me, “…sensual pleasures.”
“That’s enough, Peria,” I warn him.
“But you know the truth,” Peria goes on. “It started as something innocent and cute, but then they started going deeper and deeper, until they were hopelessly addicted. The further they drove a hole into each other’s hearts, the more they wet their hands with the blood of each other’s zoecharia*, and they gored the life of their souls with their own hands.” His lips smack, as if he’s licking something delectable off his lips, “And slowly—oh, it became the only thing they wanted. Then love ran out, and scrupulous affections was all that was left. Face it,” he goes on, “Joshua doesn’t deserve the woman like you do. You know how pure you are, you know your power could enable you to love any woman perfectly. And yet still you cling to the pain of being a—” I feel his hands fall onto my shoulders, grasping my cloak. And he finishes in a loud voice that rings in my ear, “—Soul Bleeder.”
I pivot away from him, turning so that I can face him, but he retains his grip on my cloak. As I spin, my cloak is torn from my body, and I stiffen. “I gave my soul and heart to Elohim!” I say, “I am a man, so I may desire to love a woman. But I am a Soul Bleeder, and I will bleed for Elohim and for her!”
“Yes,” my dark, mirror image, my form of temptation wrought by the Evil One, says. He looks exactly like me. But we couldn’t be more different. He wears an expression I have never worn and am determined to never wear. His brow is lowered, a shadow beneath his brow, and his eyes are devious and crafty. He is crouching on a rock, staring at me like some strange, dark creature, and his lips are curved into a sly smile. And he finishes, “You do bleed.” And he vanishes into the air.
Slowly, my breaths falling heavily and intensely, I lower my head, and look upon my body. It’s not something you get used to seeing. Blood coats my undergarment, running down my chest and stomach, and I can feel it gradually trickling down my legs. I exhale deeply, my body shivering. It hurts. This is pain. I’m bleeding. This is pain.
I look over at Elizabeth and Joshua. This is not new to me. This is pain. But this is love. I’m a Soul Bleeder. Lonliness and desire fills me; both of which are entirely pure in and of themselves. But my soul has been given to someone else. No matter what suffering I have to endure, I will persevere in that love. And so, with my heart and soul in Elohim’s hands, I bleed for him…and for them.
* * *
When morning comes, Joshua and Elizabeth awake. They nod to me in greeting, rubbing the sleep from their eyes. I wait patiently for them to rise, although I am also prepared to hurry them along if need be. There’s something, or someone, waiting for us. I can feel it.
“Sir,” Joshua addresses me, “we’ve been here for an entire day and night…why am I not hungry?”
“You don’t need to eat in the Passageway,” I answer, “it’s not exactly the same as living in the Gray Lands. You are something between a body and a soul right now. I’d say you’re more a soul than a body, though.”
Joshua considers my words, and then shrugs, “I guess that makes things a bit easier.”
“Definitely,” I agree. There’s a lull, and then my eyes flick to Elizabeth. Peria was right; she is attractive. Her beauty will make it easier for me to protect her; as a Soul Bleeder, I will suffer, but that’s just the way it is. Something seems to be bothering her; something is on her mind.
“You okay?” Joshua asks her.
“Mhm,” she nods. She looks up at me, and our eyes meet.
I can see now. She’s contemplating why their here…or what they did to get here.
Good, this will make things easier.
PROTAGONIST SWITCH: NULA
High up from where I crouch on my rocky cliff, I stare down at the forest of boulders. I can’t help but allow an insane, mad grin to stretch across my face. The Soul Bleeder…he’s coming! “Haha,” I laugh, my excitement amassing. I speak as if he can hear me, “I’ve been waiting for you for a long time! It’s been a while since I’ve fought a Soul Bleeder. And the souls with him will be a most pleasing present for my lord!” I laugh again, rising to my full height of twenty feet, and open wide my two-foot-long claws.
*This is just an expression. Zoecharia doesn’t have blood.
Hey everyone! Just wanted to remind you that today is the last day I’ll be selling volume one of The Golden Lands for $2.99. Tomorrow, I’ll be raising the price to $3.99, and this price will most likely fluctuate as I see fit. You can purchase a copy of The Golden Lands, Volume 1here or here. That first link will lead you to Smashwords, the second to Barnes and Nobles, which has FINALLY received my book. My book is also now in the iTunes Store. I’m glad to see it’s being distributed at last!
If you’re an Ebook person, buy it now before the price goes up! And for those of you who prefer hard copies, I will be converting volume one to a print book very soon!
The werebeasts clamber towards us, even as we dart towards them. Joshua and Elizabeth are holding back a little more than I would like, but they’re still close enough that I should have no problem protecting them. I am their Knight. I will lead them through the Passageway. All they need to do is give me enough cooperation.
The first werebeast comes to a halt before me, screaming a challenge and rising to full height. Without hesitation, I run towards him and slash for his chest. He raises an arm to block my sword, but my thrust is too quick; I pierce him under the rib cage. “This way!” I call to the couple, swerving right. About another ten or so werebeasts meet us. I cleave one’s knee and then plant my foot, pivoting and stabbing one of the monsters in the stomach. Joshua and Elizabeth keep close to my back, a good idea, but they stop, unable to go any further as another three of the werebeasts close in on us. We’re in a bad position.
I need to be fast. I jump at the three Evil about to attack the couple; I cut one’s throat while in the air, and after I land I jump at the next two, slicing diagonally twice. All three of them falter and then slowly drop to the ground, blood erupting from their throats. Joshua and Elizabeth dart after me, into the spaces previously held by the three werebeasts, even as I whirl around to face the monsters approaching from our left. There’s a lot of them…more than usual, I think.
That being said, I’m neither afraid nor concerned that I can’t aid Joshua and Elizabeth through this brawl. But I realize that this time, unlike others, it might cost me something. My sword plunges into the chest of one werebeast, and I hear a roar at my right. I commence pulling my blade free, looking over my shoulder to locate the monster before he can execute his attack. His claws are already descending for me. I try to make it; I try to wield my sword faster; I try to sever the werebeast’s arm. But I’m too late.
It’s light, but the claws rip through my cloak and scratch crooked marks into my right arm.
So I receive the first one.
The pain stings, but it’s brief, and I quickly regain my focus. I send a hard punch into the monster’s stomach, and as it bends over consequently, I hop and drop-kick it in the left side of the head. The next two werebeasts claw at me, but I dodge, my movements fluid and smooth, and then I bound away from them, staying close to Joshua and Elizabeth. We have made our way to the river. Joshua and Elizabeth make as if they’ll jump in and swim across, but their senses stop them; the current is moving perilously fast.
“Go farther down the river!” I shout to them, nudging my elbow in that direction. They comply, moving cautiously along the bank, their eyes flitting towards their pursuers and then towards the ground in front of them. I follow them by back pedaling, but I stop every once and a while to feint at the werebeasts, lest any of them try to come too close.
We reach the area I’ve been endeavoring to get too; a spot in the river where the water isn’t so high, only about knee-deep. “Go!” I say to the couple. Three more werebeasts engage me. The first I slash down the stomach and then push aside with my blade, and the next two I leap in between, pivoting as I bound, so that now I face their backs. Immediately upon landing, I rush right back in between them, into the river after Joshua and Elizabeth. The two werebeasts pause, uncertain, and then cry out as blood spurts from their sides.
On the opposite side of the river, another ten werebeasts have gathered. Joshua and Elizabeth stop short, afraid to go any further. I run past them, saying, “Come on!” Leaping out of the river, I cut down one Evil while in the air, and then I leap off of the air, pushing off of it as if it were solid ground, cleaving one werebeast down the head. The remaining eight break apart and flee, turning away to join a larger group of their kind, which approaches from the cliffs far to our left. The couple join me on the other side of the river, and together we move swiftly for the forest of boulders just ahead. The werebeasts will give chase, I assume, but after the rocks, they’ll have more than me to fear.
In fact, they don’t even follow us into the rocks. And that doesn’t bode well.
But I have more pressing matters to attend to. As we enter into the forest of rocks, the werebeasts come to halt before the boulders. They shriek, snarling and howling, but they don’t follow us. They are afraid of something. Slowly, they begin to retreat back over the cliffs, and into the caves at the base of the cliffs. Joshua and Elizabeth sigh. “What were those things?” asks Elizabeth, catching her breath.
“Werebeasts,” I answer, “they’re a mix of beast, man, and Evil.”
Elizabeth nods, and for a moment, silence follows. “Sir,” Joshua then speaks up, “can you tell us more about this place we’ve entered into? Why are we here? And how do we leave?”
I begin wiping the blood off the blade of my weapon with a small, white cloth, considering my words before I answer. “Joshua,” I finally reply, “what was the last thing that happened to you and Elizabeth before you came here?”
Joshua and Elizabeth look at each other, and then Joshua replies, “We were sleeping. After going to bed, we were suddenly attacked by an Evil. He said his name was Shiralk. I don’t know how he did it, but he stuck his hand inside of us. And he pulled the zoecharia right out of our souls. Then a portal opened up behind us, and we were sucked in. That’s the last thing I remember.” The man clenches his fist, “That bastard took our lives while we were within our bed sheets.”
I stop wiping my sword, and then continue. “Yes,” I agree, “death happens there often.” I don’t think they get what I just said. I already know why they are here, but I still don’t think they understand why. I continue, “Those who lose their zoecharia immediately enter the Passageway. This is both a place of pain and death, but it is also the way to renewal and new life. At the end of the Passageway, you will be given the chance to restore the zoecharia to your soul, and you may return home. But if you don’t make it…” I look up at them, my eyes sincere and yet hopeful, “…then you will become an Evil.”
This is the second chapter of my new blog series, which is set in the same world as my bookThe Golden Lands. You can read the first chapter here.
World: The Gray Lands
Subworld: The Passageway
The portal widens in the shape of an oval, flaring into existence in a single moment. The edge of the portal seems to flicker, black and ghostly, like fumes distorting the air above a fire. There is also a reddish glow to the tips of the fumes, as if it is possessed of a strange, dark power. We exit the portal, grunting with surprise as we realize we are falling through the air, and then groaning with pain as we strike the ground. The portal vanishes in a puff of red light just as quickly as it appeared. We stand.
The place we have entered into is heavily drenched in shadows, which lay deep and thick by the walls of the cave-like corridor that we appear to be in. The corridor is tall and round, and utterly bare. Behind us, the path fades into the blackness, and whatever lies in that direction is hidden by a wall of shadow. Ahead of us, the cave seems to come to an end; we can tell only by the eerie, bluish light that shines dimly before us, revealing the beginning of a large, stony cavern.
A shiver runs through us. We have no idea where we are. We only know who sent us here: an Evil, one of impressive, supernatural power, named Shiralk.
We shift closer to one another, casting our eyes about the place we have landed in with fearful expressions. We don’t know which way to go. That’s when we see a figure move out of the shadows at the end of the cave. We stiffen and then step backwards, unsure of who or what the figure is.
“Don’t be afraid,” the figure says, his voice evidently human.
“Who are you?” we question.
“I’m a Knight,” the figure says, stopping before us. The dim light falls onto him, and we see his face; his dark, actually red hair; his cool, icy blue eyes; and his reassuring but determined expression. “I’m here to lead you through the Passageway.”
PROTAGONIST SWITCH: LOGOS
The two people standing within the usual entrance into the Passageway, a young couple, reveal a sense of distrust. I don’t blame them. But they really must come with me if they want to be saved. The first wave should be coming soon. If they don’t find protection, then danger will find them. Evil will find them.
“What’s your name?” they ask, still hesitant.
I pause, unsure if I should tell them. My name could make them fear me, or worse; loathe me. I decide to reply, “My name is not important. Just know that I have been assigned the duty to protect all who enter the Passageway. And you should come quickly,” I add. “The werebeasts will be here soon.”
They exchange a glance, and then come towards me. Whether they like it or not, it’s their only choice, if they want to live. I’m glad they made this easy. I lead them to the mouth of the cave, which looks out into the bluish cavern beyond. Peering cautiously into the cavern, I ask them in a low voice, “What are your names?” I want to know if they’ll tell me, though I didn’t tell them my name. I want to know how much they trust me, though we’ve just met.
“My name is Joshua,” states the Knight.
“I’m Elizabeth,” states the Beloved.
I look at them and nod in acknowledgement. I know that I have to question them further, in order that I can truly and effectively help them exit the Passageway. But there will be a time for that later. “Sir, where are we?” inquires Joshua.
“You are in the Passageway,” I answer, “it is a subworld that no human can enter on his or her own. You must be sent here.”
There’s a pause, and then Elizabeth asks, “Were you sent here like us?”
I frown, a twinge of sadness etching across my face, but I know they can’t see my countenance. I know why and how they were sent here, and I know it was for a reason very different than mine. “Yes,” I say, slowly considering my words, “but in a different way.” Before they can ask anymore questions, I beckon them forward, and together we enter the cavern.
We cross through the cavern, hugging the walls tight and remaining in the shadows, and enter into a tunnel on the other side. As we enter, I notice the couple stiffen, and they seem to grunt with surprise. They behold the bodies of the Evil I had just been fighting, their corpses scattered about the path. I can tell uncertainty is filling them. “What happened here?” Joshua asks.
Explaining to them what I did should only boost their confidence in me. “I killed them,” I state simply. I turn to them. “Now would you come on?” They really can’t be stopping so much. They shouldn’t be taking interest in the Passageway; they should be concerned about how to get out.
We continue forward. The tunnel breaks off into two passages, the one on the left shorter and more cramped than the one on the right. I’m aware that we want to go right, so I lead them in that direction. The light grows brighter, and the ceiling of the tunnel steadily becomes higher. Where there was otherwise almost complete silence, now we hear the sound of rushing water. At the end of the tunnel, we come to a halt, and we look out over the pleasant view.
We behold a valley, suffused with waterfalls descending from rocky heights on our left, a green, grassy plain below us, and a river flowing out to our right. The air is tinted with a bluish hue, betraying the sense of magic and supernatural power that this area holds, and glowing, violet flowers grow from the edges of the river. The water is especially glossy, as if it is filled with crystals. “It’s beautiful,” I hear Joshua say.
I smile wryly. “Yeah, that’s what most people say…” I look to our left, to the top of a cliff from which a cascade flows, and I spy a scout. “…Until right about now.”
A shrill cry sounds from the top of the cliff, and then almost immediately, fifty or so strange creatures emerge from the cliffs and behind the waterfalls. This is the werebeasts’ typical strategy; an announced ambush. They are something between animal, Evil, and man. Each one stands a foot taller than the average man, and they are coated with thick gray fur on the outside of their arms, legs, and the top of their heads. Otherwise, they are naked. Screaming with insanity, they commence rushing towards us.
So it begins.
“Listen,” I say to the couple, looking over my shoulder at them, “the goal for now is to stay alive and keep each other alive. Both of you stick together and follow my lead. Stay as close to me as you can. We need to cross the valley.”
“We’re going to run towards them?” exclaims Joshua.
“That’s right,” I confirm. And I brandish my blade, quickening my pace down the slope that precedes the valley.
This is the first chapter of a blog series I’m doing set in the world of Terra (which holds the three worlds, The Golden Lands, The Gray Lands, and The Dark Lands). You may not hear from me directly for a long time, because my fantasy world is about to take over. Instead, you will hear the voice of many different characters. Enjoy!
World: The Gray Lands
Subworld: The Passageway
Protagonist: Urdar the Merciless
Race: Ultra Malam
Eye Color: Red
Hair Color: Black
The Knight cuts through my band of Evil with astounding speed. He knows how to move just as quickly as he needs to. And the placement of his strokes is impeccable. Nothing catches him by surprise. He lithely dodges two slashes for his head and counterattacks by leaping into the air, slicing the throats of two of my Evil in a single motion. He lands on his feet, and instantly parries an attack, and then another, and another. He’s good.
But he’s hiding something.
I have fought and killed hundreds of Knights and Beloved. Several have I encountered that possessed zoecharia in their souls, but those that I did encounter fell also to the power I have been given. My fire burns. None can quench it.
But this Knight…he is strong, stronger than he lets on. He’s hiding something. He’s holding back. But why? I squint, watching him slay another four of my beasts with ease. I need to test him. My Malam are no match for him. I need to know who or what this Knight is before I kill him. Before I watch him burn.
He cuts downwards, severing the head of one of my beasts, and then spins, cleaving another Evil in two. He’s getting closer. I don’t know why I’m feeling nervous. This human will be no match for me. I am Urdar the Merciless. He is a pathetic—
He steps closer while engaging my Malam, and I stiffen, grunting with alarm. “Dammit!” I growl in my thoughts, “What the hell is this Knight!?”
Perhaps he hadn’t been close enough yet, but now I can feel it. And I realize that I have to strike while he’s still fighting my other beasts—before he can attack me.
I rise to my full height, roaring, my voice echoing in the dark tunnel we are skirmishing in. With ease, I summon my fire, the flames materializing in my palms. I stare at the Knight. And just as he stabs the last of my Evil, he raises his eyes to meet mine. Now is my only chance. But I falter for a moment, my anticipation rising. I feel it again. I can’t believe it. I’ve never felt this before.
The zoecharia in his soul, its presence is fuller and more powerful than I’ve ever felt before in a single human. Though he is only a human, and I an Evil of terrible strength, I hesitate, wondering if I should challenge him. Wondering if I should execute my strike.
He turns towards me, and he brandishes his blade. His sword begins to glow blue with charis. I’m too late. He’s already accepted my challenge, before I even proposed one, and I am the only Evil that remains.
Then at least I will strike before he can.
I release a huge, monstrous roar, so loud the walls of the cavern shake. My anxiety is great, but I will not let myself be undone by a lowly human, at least before I’ve fought him…before he’s felt my fire! I swing both my arms forward. Red flames explode out towards the Knight. In my fear of him, I’ve accidentally released an exceptionally large blow. But I’m glad; no one could survive this. There’s nowhere to run or to hide. My fire fills the tunnel from top to bottom, shooting out towards the Knight.
The moment I think my flames are about to consume the man, a white light flashes around him, and then a blast of wind surges in every direction from the Knight. I am knocked off my feet, sent crashing onto the ground. I groan and curse, arching my back. Then, after a moment, I slowly rise, glowering furiously at the Knight, and then I stop, amazed and terrified at what I see.
The Knight is standing twenty yards away, garbed fully in armor, a helmet on his head, and a shield in his left hand. He had none of these when our little fight began. Around him, multiple torrents of wind spiral and twirl, and the air itself glows blue. His sword gleams like starlight, and his whole being seems to vibrate with power. But it’s more than that. There’s no impediment any more. I can feel it in all it’s fullness. And it’s extraordinary. His body is humming with—no, exhuding—both charis and zoecharia. And his armor—only a certain type of Knight can summon his armor and shield so quickly. And to have his armor to that degree of brilliance—
It can only mean one thing.
He relaxes his release of power, and the wind dies down gradually. But the brilliance of his blade and his armor still remains. He steps towards me. “Now I know what you are!” I say through my teeth. “I tested you, and I got what I asked for.”
He’s doing it again. He’s bizarrely calm. Instead of obliterating me in the moment that he fully reveals the level of his charis and zoecharia, he checks how much strength he puts forth and keeps only what he needs; charis ready for dispense at a moments’ notice, in case I suddenly attack.
“But what would one of you be doing in this place?” I question him.
“A Knight should be where the people need him most,” he returns, continuing towards me.
“But you’re not just any Knight!” I say. I grin. Though what he is is the source of his power, it could also give me an advantage over him. “You’re a Soul Bleeder, aren’t you?”
“And I would use my power to free you,” he replies, “but I see that you’re are one of those Evil. I will only send you back to your master.”
“He can tell what kind of Evil I am?” I think, alarmed. What if he’s more than just a Soul Bleeder? He has the Eyes. What if he’s—
He stands right in front of me, his sword hefted at chest height. “This will be quick,” he states, as if it will comfort me.
He’s more than just a Soul Bleeder; I’m certain of it! “What are you?” I shout at him. But I can’t raise my eyes to meet his. I’m too afraid. He can see me.
And then I’m certain of it. Slowly, I lift my head, and I stare at his heart, from which I can feel zoecharia flowing like blood, and then I begin, “You’re—!”
“Be quiet,” he commands, “and threaten the souls of the Passageway no more!”
His sword flashes downwards, and I depart from the Passageway.