“Aectetis”

image from werner22brigitte

image from werner22brigitte

This is a little something I’ve fooled around with, off and on, for a number of years… Just a little project to keep my muse engaged with the active, battlefield mentality I often need to write suspense.

I’ve always had a love for Greek mythology, for vastly personal reasons. I will note that this isn’t a researched novel. References are ones gleaned from decades of pure fascination and study of Greek mythology and history. If I ever decide to turn this into a novel, I’ll be doing lots of research… for now, it just remains a little exercise for my muse, that I thought I’d share a bit of, with you. Enjoy! 🙂

 

“Aectetis” —

They were sent from the gates, into the gaping maw of the desert cavern, but neither man went willingly.  No man who knew the tales, or believed in Hades’ wide dominion, would have been willing.  Aectetis blessed himself repeatedly and murmured prayers to Athene, while Taracles muttered curses against the darkness hovering around them.

“This is madness,” Taracles muttered as he thrust his torch savagely into the inky passageway, his sword clenched in one hard fist, his dark eyes steely.  “I tell you, Aectetis; Sikander’s run mad.”

Aectetis swallowed hard, but offered no answer.  He couldn’t have spoken, at the moment, had his life depended on it.  His scalp itched with sweat, beneath the cockle-crested helm, and his leather armor might as well have been Prometheus’ stone, about his neck. It suffocated him. Why was he here? He had neither Taracles’ Spartan toughness, nor the great Aristotle’s Athenian scepticism.  He was provincial, a farmer’s son, with little understanding of either war or philosophy. He believed in the power of the Gods, and mere mortals ought not to trifle with such things.

“I heard from the Emperor’s man that Sikander’s gripped with fevers that roll his eyes up in his head; that he hears voices.  Voices!” Taracles scoffed openly, his voice edged with dark humor.  “Can you believe that? The Furies come to claim his fool head, and yet none dares question his whims!”

A skittering in the darkness brought Aectetis’ gaze quickly around, and he battled down a rising wave of pure panic.

“Do you suppose it’s true? What they say of this place?” Aectetis dared not breathe more than that, lest he anger the spirits here.

“That it leads straight to Tartarus; that the voices of the damned echo here?” Taracles shrugged nonchalantly.

“No.  That there’s a demon down here.  A demon unlike any other,” Aectetis whispered, clutching his heavy bronze shield closer.

Taracles laughed harshly. “Demons?  Aectetis, you’re too old for such children’s tales!”

“But what if it’s true?” Aectetis insisted, unable the still the growing panic in his chest. He swore he could hear the monster breathing – Aechidna’s own foul spawn.  “General Ptolomy says the Emperor’s had terrible visions, in his sleep; that he dreams of a demon come to suck the very breath from his lungs.  Do you suppose –?”
Taracles’ scowl effectively cowed Aectetis.  “Now, you listen to me, Aectetis, and listen well.  Sikander’s a raving madman, and any fool with eyes can see it. I can tell you exactly what we’ll find in these caverns.  Nothing.  There are no demons here, or anywhere else, for that matter.”

“But the locals believe—“

“Ignorant peasants!” Taracles spat disgustedly, as if he’d tasted something foul.  “Their superstitions should not sway an Emperor, or a general, from conquest.”

The comment, spoken as only an aristocrat would dare, stung.  Aectetis forced the anger away, aware that it was a small enough matter, at the moment.  Survival was a more pressing concern than pride.

Silence hovered around them, and Aectetis’ heart beat in dread.  This wasn’t right.  There should be sounds – the echo if their sandaled feet on the cavern floor, the drip of underground water, the shift of rocks, even the sound of their breathing – yet no sound penetrated the oppressive stillness.  The closer they moved toward the wide cavern at the tunnel’s end, the heavier the silence grew, until Aectetis feared he’d gone deaf.

Moving cautiously, they entered the subterranean hall, and abruptly stopped.  No wind stirred here, no sound murmured in the stillness.  It was, Aectetis decided with a shiver of dread, a tomb.  The eeriness of it all crawled along his spine.

A form moved in the darkness of the torch’s jumping shadow.  Aectetis turned his head to better see, just as his torch sputtered and blew out.  A moment later, Taracles’ died as well, plunging the cavern into utter darkness.

“What was that?” Aectetis’ horrified whisper finally pierced the hovering silence.  “Taracles?”

“It was probably a draught from the tunnel.” Taracles sounded annoyed.  “Let me find my flint.”

A moment later, a soft glow sparked in the darkness, and Aectetis’ muscles slowly relaxed.  “Thank you, Taracles.  I –“

“Quiet, fool!”  Taracles hissed, brandishing his blade.  “That light isn’t mine.  There’s someone else down here!”

Aectetis’ voice died on a terrified gasp, his heart pounding harshly in his ears as he flattened himself against the wall behind him.  More than ever, he wanted to flee this place.  But Taracles would see that as cowardice, and as long as Taracles remained, Aectetis could do no less.  He would not dishonor his family, or his people.

“No Boundaries” – Excerpt from COME WINTER’S PALE (Chronicles of a Dragon’s Realm)

image by bogglyeyes

image by bogglyeyes

Today, I thought I would share something completely different, for me. This is blast from my past, reinvented. When I was a kid, I started researching and writing a series of Arthurian Legend inspired books. My original intention was to be historically accurate, and write a series of historical novels. However, as I grew older, and my writing style became more defined, the historical novels I began in my youth began to evolve, as well. In the case of this series, I began to shift toward Steampunk, bringing together the history and details of the legend as I researched it with a Steampunk world. In essence, I recreated the Arthurian story in a Steampunk world.

“No Boundaries” – Excerpt from COME WINTER’S PALE (Chronicles of a Dragon’s Realm, Chapter III, Book 1) –

Some things just aren’t meant to be.  Kata LurAine had heard the phrase her whole life.  Sitting at the knee of her stern, proper grandmother as the old woman taught her to stitch the painstaking designs into the coverlets for her hope chest was the first time.  Or, more properly, just after she’d about turned the white silk red with her blood from pricking her fingers.  That was when Granddam Maralaese decided that Kata was a lost cause – destined to never marry.  A failure.

Kata snorted to herself as she dropped the faceplate of her welding mask back over her face and lit up the torch.  Like she needed some dainty little cross-stitch pattern to make her life whole.  Like she even needed a man.  She was content here in her workshop, surrounded by metal that hummed and whirred with a life dear Granddam would never have understood.  Never mind that metalcrafting wasn’t a woman’s world.  And, okay, so most men turned their noses up at a woman with grease smudges and soot on her face, and sporting helmet-head hair from her welding mask.  But she didn’t care.  She couldn’t pretend to be something she wasn’t.  And it wasn’t a big deal, right?

The torch lowered, and the flame clicked off as Kata rested her palms flat against the scarred steel of her workbench.  She had to quit lying to herself.  It did matter.  It mattered a lot that no one saw Kata – not the real Kata, anyway.  Not that being seen was her goal in life, she told herself stubbornly as she flipped the mask down again.  But it would be nice.

She kicked the torch back on, and let the flash of flame against metal soothe her as  the machines in her shop hummed and whirred on.  If this was her lot in life, she could live with it…

A sound startled her out of her zone, and the torch flame skipped up, searing a long line of sooty copper along the face of the steamship she was working on.  Irritated, she shoved up the mask and whirled toward the source of that sound.

“You should know better than to sneak up on a woman with a torch!”  She glared up into the face of the stunned-looking gentleman – he in his just-so waistcoat and gloves, a dark cane resting between his arm and side that she’d bet any of her machines he didn’t actually need – standing in the stable doorway that served as entrance to her workshop.

He blinked again, clearly nonplussed, and she was left to wonder if he was a little thick in the head.  Then, he opened his mouth, and she was certain he was.  “You’re a woman!”

She rolled her eyes and muttered, “Thought we’d established that, already.”

He shook his head, and stepped forward.  “No, you’d don’t understand.  I was told this was the place to go to commission an airship.  They said you’re the best around.”

She peered at him through narrowed eyes, assessing if he was pulling her leg.  She stalled on his face, again.  He had angular features with just enough smoothness to blend them together, dark hair cropped to his collar in current high fashion, and forest green eyes that were arresting in their intelligence and perception.  Something twisted in her chest, and her throat closed up for a moment.  She hated that feeling – the attraction that zinged through her – knowing there was no future for it.  There never was.

They talk a lot,” she managed gruffy, yanking the mask back down to conceal her face.  “Just who are they, anyway?  For that matter, who are you?”

“Jarath Pherson.”  He doffed his Homburg and strode further into her personal domain, raising Kata’s hackles.

“Never heard of him.”  She set her jaw, determined to ignore him.

He coughed.  “That would be me.   Tarsak Memkno recommended you.”

She froze.  Tarsak?  The little gnome was her idol, her mentor – the man who knew everything there was to know about airships and landracers.  Adrenaline rushed through her.  Tarsak really thought she was good?  A grin spread over her face, and she turned toward Jarath as she lifted the mask again and shut off her torch.  Finally, her chance to prove herself once and for all – convention, and what she should be doing, be damned.

“Well, then, what are we waiting for?”

2015 Release Poll

As 2015 approaches, I’m making my list of projects for the coming year, and when I plan to have them finished. Some are set in stone (Publishers kind of like to know when they’re getting stuff… ;)…), but I decided to try something a little different, and have my readers weigh in on what you want to see, in 2015. So, from my upcoming self-publishing ventures, I’ve created a little poll, where you can vote for the series/books you most want to see released before the end of 2015. Be sure to cast your vote! 🙂

“Lost Magic” — Excerpt from THE DOLPHIN’S LUCK (Icarian Chronicles: The Carnelian Amulet)

carnelian amulet 02This is a brief excerpt, drawn from an alternate timeline series I’m working on. When an archeologist from our world stumbles across an artifact in the Siberian steppes, he has no idea what he’s actually stumbled upon, until he finds himself in a world both alien and vaguely familiar. To get back to his own world, he’ll have to find the key to using the amulet he found. The only question is: If he finds a way back, will he even want to go?

  

“Lost Magic” – Excerpt from THE DOLPHIN’S LUCK (Icarian Chronicles: The Carnelian Amulet, Book 1) —

  

Brandon sighed. He didn’t want to open this can of worms – didn’t every TV show dealing with space-time continuum issues say messing with the world you landed in only ever ended badly? – but he couldn’t very well ignore her question.

 

“The world I come from has all but forgotten magic, Sasha. It’s replaced wonder and awe with science and logic.”

 

Her brow furrowed. “You are mocking me.”

 

How he wished it was that simple. “Not a bit.”

 

“So, in this world where no magic exists, there is no war?”

 

He tensed, aware she wasn’t going to like the answer to that question. Her world was built on the black-and-white concept that if magic ceased to be, so would all the fighting, and all the terrible things that happened in the course of war. Eyes closed, he shook his head. “Quite the opposite. War, fighting, and killing are practically a way of life, some places in my world. Most places have crime – people who hurt and kill others for stupid reasons, and even for no reason at all. To be honest, I think in losing magic, we lost the little bit of our souls that kept us honest.”

 

“Imperial Blood” – Excerpt from THE EAGLE’S MISTRESS (Icarian Chronicles)

goldeneagleOnce upon a time, I started a historical series based around an old legend I found hidden in the stacks of the AFB library. It was a medieval legend of a female pirate, and while it was little more than a footnote in a book on Scandinavian and Russian history, it fascinated me, and I set out to write the account of a female pirate in 12th Century Europe.

Only, I was never really happy with how it came out. I adored the character, but she just didn’t fit her era right, and the politics of the time period made some of the aspects of her story border on the unbelievable. I just was never happy enough with it to really think about publishing it as more than a lark.

And then came the most wonderful idea… I realized it didn’t have to be history as we know it. I had other options! And, in early 2002, I started redrafting Sasha’s story into an Alternate History/Speculative Fiction series… And from the characters and background in her story grew an entire series. This series considers the possibility that Christianity never took hold, and that magic and mysticism prevailed. The continental shift happened differently, leading to a completely different allocation of resources and civilizations, and eventually to a power struggle within the ruling family/caste of the world, between the religious/spiritual and the pragmatic, warrior caste.

And thus was born the Icarian Chronicles, into which I would eventually introduce someone strange to their world, whose understanding of history I will proceed to totally warp. :).  But, for now, the series starts several years before Sasha’s birth, with her parents.

Enjoy!

 

“Imperial Blood” – Excerpt from THE EAGLE’S MISTRESS

(Icarian Chronicles, Book 1) –

Nira returned to her teacher’s side, tugging the shawl up around the old woman’s frail shoulders to ward off the evening chill. With a fond smile, she settled on the low stool beside Malisina’s chair.

“Tell me what you know of him, Mala,” she plied eagerly, curious to know everything about the man who came to disturb their peaceful home. “What kind of man is the Emperor?”

“Emperor, bah!” The older woman fluttered a scoffing hand through the air. “That pup is no more Emperor than I am the Goddess Efri!”

Nira’s eyes widened. This was the first she ever heard gentle Malisina speak ill of the new Emperor. “Have a care, Mala! He may mean to cause us harm.”

This brought a chuckle from Malisina, even as one trembling hand reached out to stroke her face lovingly. “Ah, my sweet child, not you. You have the power to show yon fledgling Eagle the error of his ways. Besides, I mean him no harm. I only tell them as I see them, and he is not yet an Emperor, and nor shall he be fully so, as long as our own sweet Mistress Eleindra draws breath. I fear those two shall be the death of us all, child, if one is not soon tamed.”

Nira drew back, puzzled. Malisina had a tendency to ramble, of late. Some whispered that she grew feeble-minded, but Nira wondered. Malisina was gifted with the Future Sight of a Truth-Sayer. Could her words be prophecy, not mad ramblings? A cold chill brushed Nira’s skin.

“What do you know of him, Mala?” She pleaded, clutching her guardian’s hand.

“Nothing to cause such fear, sweet child,” Malisina assured her gently, her wise old eyes sparkling. That look, alone, told Nira her teacher was far from mad.

“Then what?”

“Impatience, child,” Malisina scolded her, a familiar rebuke. Then, a soft smile turned up the woman’s lips. “Very well, I will tell you what I know. Yon Eagle has been groomed for this day since he was in leading straps. He was harnessed for war before he sat upon his first horse, or flew his first war bird. And yet, there is a sadness to him that speaks of a man who wishes for peace. You must remember this, child, or all that would come after you is lost.”

The warning furrowed Nira’s brow, but she nodded and scooted nearer. What Mala meant, she had no idea, but she would remember. Indeed, how could she ever forget these words?

“Eleindra once told me that her brother drew the blood of war from his own wrists. Some say there are scars there – marks of a boy who does not yet understand the man his father’s death created. And yet, he is strong, with great courage, and even greater arrogance. I believe they breed such qualities into all of Imperial blood, myself.”