Hails ‘n’ Howls, fine Luniakks!
As some of you may be aware, a few moons after starting up Luniakk Publications, and after releasing a few of my short story collections, eye have removed all my previously published books from Amazon, to be re-released here through Luniakk.
These titles include:
The Scarlett Curse: The Sacred Blade of Profanity – Book I
Joshua’s Folly: The Sacred Blade of Profanity – Book II
Blood Moon Big Top
Wolvz: Whispers of War
With the release of Wolvz imminent, plus an assemblage of the past 30 years of my poetry accompanied by the dark illustrations of the Luniakk artist, Mar Garcia-Amorena, and another two short story collections waiting in the wings, the coming moons promise much to torment your sensibilities.
So, while all this brews and bubbles on the Luniakk burner, eye am hard at work, completing the long awaited Book III in The Sacred Blade of Profanity series (title pending).
Here is the prologue and first chapter from Book III as an excerpt for your morbid reading pleasure:
***THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS EXCERPT FOR THOSE WHO ARE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE FIRST TWO BOOKS***
THE SCARLETT CURSE III
(Battle for Sarls Bend)
(Book III in The Sacred Blade Of Profanity series)
The Sacred Blade Of Profanity lay loosely in Scarlett’s limp hand. It gorged itself on the Power that coursed through Scarlett, as her awareness lay silent in void. Astra Kirltth had left south from her dwelling, through the northern tip of Mellowood Forest. A few miles down, she would circle east and into the deep forest, in search of Scarlett and the insidious Blade of Power.
In the meantime, The Blade would continue feeding to absolute gluttony, on the torrents of Power that keep Scarlett bound to the world of form. Over time, the depletion would become irreversible, leaving Scarlett to dwell forever in void. With Scarlett gone, The Blade would drain the current until it ceases and then gods only know what would culminate.
The new moon, now only days away, and the Ritual of Cleansing must be performed by Scarlett. Even if Astra were to find her, there would be very little linear time to bring her to a full recovery, leaving Scarlett with a very poor chance at surviving, let alone overcoming The Sacred Blade Of Profanity throughout the ritual.
The very fate of reality fell squarely into the undoubtedly capable hands of Astra Kirltth.
It was an exhausted little Dera Harke who broke into the clearing behind her cottage, and went straight to her mother’s resting place to sit with her. She paused, mid crouch by Phenoluh’s grave, noticing it had been tampered with. As she sat, Dera carefully moved aside some of the loose foliage, and released her breath with both relief and sorrow. Her mother was still as she had been left, but somebody had definitely been there.
* * *
That somebody stood in his cellar, in a gradually fading haze of post rage. Two children lay dead, while one remained, cowering beneath the staircase. In his episode of raging insanity, Joshua Melkerin, with the screaming Ellie Horace being dragged around the room, had stomped repeatedly on the head of Gilda Sween until her skull was crushed. He had then taken Ellie’s head in his hands, near twisting it clean from her shoulders. Peter Menser had never been so beside himself with terror. Joshua’s explosion of blind, insane fury was a truly terrible sight to behold, and the dread sucked the strength straight out of Peter, as he stumbled for cover underneath the stairs.
“Boy, come here… I won’t hurt you.” Joshua stood with his back to the staircase, Ellie Horace laying quiet and still at his feet. Peter couldn’t move. His limbs refused to obey his silent commands to work. The cellar door was shut and Peter wasn’t sure if it was locked or not, but if he’d had the strength, he would have at least tried to make a break for it. Instead, all he could do was cower, away from the dim flicker of the lantern Joshua had brought down with him. Frozen with fear, he watched Joshua between his upheld arms and tried with all his might to blend into the darkness – hopefully even vanish into it.
“Did you hear me, boy? I said come here. I know where you are. I won’t hurt you if you come out now.” As he spoke, Joshua turned slowly around until he stood, looking straight at Peter. He felt like he all of a sudden had a shining ball of light around him, exposing his hiding spot to his captor. Peter was internally frantic, yet visibly immobile, as he battled the paralytic stasis his body was locked in. He was being offered a gift of mercy – his only hope of salvation now – and he was unable to take it. He knew if he didn’t act, he would suffer the same fate as the others.
Peter closed his eyes and willed himself to relax. Slowly, he lowered his arms from his face, placed his hands on the floor and pulled himself forward onto his knees as Joshua waited patiently. Now he had calmed down considerably, Joshua was rational enough to realise how absolutely horrifying this was to the boy. As long as the lad remained healthy, he would take good care of this one until the traders arrived. Joshua cringed visibly. To say Jahl-Rin was going to be displeased would be a colossal understatement.
Peter had crawled out from beneath the stairs and slowly rose to face the psychopath awaiting him. He stood still and became locked in a terrifying gaze with Joshua, once again unable to move forward.
“Come here, boy. You’re going to help me. It’s ok. I’m not going to kill you, provided you do as I say.”
Peter took one shaky step forward, then another. He moved stiffly as he tried to brush off the fear. Every step was an eternity. He felt as if in a dream, where you run and run, yet don’t seem to be able to get anywhere. He had to look at his feet to be sure he was actually advancing.
“I’ll take this one,” Joshua tilted his head at Ellie, “and you take the other,” he said with a swing of his head toward Gilda. Peter looked over to the girl, and promptly emptied his stomach on the floor. He hadn’t seen Gilda from his position beneath the steps, as her life was savagely stamped out. Her jaw looked elongated and one of her eyes hung, loose but still attached, from the socket. Blood covered her grossly disfigured face, and the top of her skull was a squashed, bloody and brainy mess.
“Well, here. You have this one. She’s smaller anyway. We’re going to take them upstairs and you’re going to behave, do you understand? Now, get over here and stop dawdling!”
* * *
Dera still sat by her mother’s grave, The Mirror placed on the ground between her feet. She rested her chin on her knees and gazed absently into the glass. All the many years that Dera had spent, playing with her friends unseen, visiting wonderful realms and bending reality to her intent, began to elucidate for the child. These weren’t mere games. These were lessons in Power. When the time had come – Dera’s moment of reckoning – everything she had learnt went straight out the window.
The Sacred Blade Of Profanity had been too powerful in its imposition on the child. Dera had been reduced to not much more than a frightened little girl. She hadn’t thought once to use The Mirror, nor any of her learned skills, to direct events to a more fortunate outcome. The vile Blade Of Power had taken hold of Dera, but it wasn’t able to retain its command. The Mirror had protected her. She didn’t have it with her when she’d collided with Scarlett in the dark, nor when The Blade made its way into her hand and then into the flesh of her dear mother. Dera turned her head at this realisation, and let her gaze fall to Phenoluh’s makeshift burial plot.
The little girl’s vision degraded into a glistening blur as her eyes filled with tears. Only hours before, Phenoluh was nothing more than a fading memory to the girl – a passing stranger. Dera was now re-living the events in her mind, all the way back from the Mills Wall marketplace to the present moment. Everything that had happened, everything she had done, presented Dera with a clear, unblemished view of the reality that she had effectively eluded up to this point.
The Prii remained in shadow. It was crucial that Dera faced this trial alone. In a most cruel and unfortunate way, this was Dera Harke’s coming of age.
They watched intently from the shadows of Dera’s mind. This was to be a pivotal moment in the child’s development. She was either going to break, or find her resolve, and all they were consented to do in this instance was observe. Dera was now completely alone. A reality which, as it dawned on her for the first time in its entirety, pushed the young girl into an abyss of overwhelming isolation. She wondered anxiously where The Prii were, and why they weren’t there to reassure her, as they normally would be when she needed them most.
Had it not been for the unwavering discipline of The Prii, they surely would have shirked their responsibility as teacher, and given Dera the companionship her soul so desperately cried out for. Their collective heart ached for their dear friend, but to interfere now would only jeopardise their young apprentice and leave her ill-equipped for what lay ahead. She picked up The Mirror and searched the depths of the enchanted glass for her friends, but they remained unseen.
Instead, images began to swirl into formation within Dera’s awareness. The images transposed onto the surface of The Mirror, pulling Dera into a vacuous expanse of uncharted mind. The Prii silently applauded this feat, watching the child in earnest as she abandoned her earthly woes, and set about exploring this new realm that existed within her psyche.
A solitary light within an infinite darkness, Dera Harke was like a beacon announcing her presence to The Harrilluin. This was a precedent in the history of The Mirror. None before her had successfully navigated their awareness to this extent. Dera and The Mirror essentially became One, which re-established a link with the ancient sorcerers of Harrilluin that had been severed from the time it had first changed hands. None before Dera were in possession of The Mirror long enough to form a bond quite like that which the child had accomplished.
Dera had the distinct notion the darkness in which she found herself was in fact, the inky black pupil of a ridiculously immense eye. At this thought, she felt herself getting larger by the moment. Light began to creep in from the periphery, bit by little bit. The child let go of her focus and instinctively allowed herself to go mentally limp, resulting in an accelerated expansion that made Dera feel ill. A chill raced through her and she felt her body returning to physical form, as the darkness that surrounded her shrank rapidly and seemed to retract to a pinpoint in her left eye.
In an instant, Dera found herself once again standing, only metres away from the mysterious figure she had encountered in her meditation, back at the tree in Mills Wall. Only this time, instead of the spongy, incorporeal realm, Dera was standing on solid earth.
* * *
Tummel advanced towards the girl, with more than a hint of curiosity. When he had intuited the arrival of a being in this realm, he had half expected it to be the young girl. He was nonetheless surprised when he found it to be so. This was the cloaked realm of The Harrilluin, and nobody outside of their order had ever found their way in, let alone knew with certainty of its existence. Tummel slowly began to realise he had found the bearer of The Mirror.
Dera stood fast and watched him approach. She felt extremely weighed down, as though gravity was magnified tenfold. The ground beneath her feet felt painfully hard, sending a dull ache up her legs, which continued throughout her body. The man advancing towards her seemed to move with ease, as if gravity was of no consequence to him. The sorcerer saw Dera’s energy waning and hastened to her.
“Avert your eyes, girl,” he said. “Don’t hold your focus on anything here for more than a few moments. This is not your world, and your energy body is not accustomed to its ambiance. Keep your attention in fleeting motion or you will die. To die here is to die in your own world.”
Dera obediently looked down at her feet. The ground seemed to pulsate with energy and she became transfixed. Tummel rushed to the child and caught her, just as she began to collapse.
“Look at me, child,” said Tummel urgently. Grabbing her shoulders, the sorcerer held Dera upright. “Look into my eyes and empty your thoughts.”
Dera tried with all her might to raise her head, but her energy was draining at an alarming rate. Tummel lifted her head and caught her gaze, holding it with a fierce intent.
“You must remain empty, child. There are worlds within worlds within my eyes. Search for your Power, but don’t become obsessed. There is much you don’t know about this realm, and I am still at a loss as to why or even how you have come to be here. I can help you but you must remain empty.”
Dera looked into the strange man’s eyes. They glowed with Power and indeed seemed to hold within them, an untold number of layers. Each layer, a doorway to another, which Dera found to be soothing and energising. Tummel continued to hold her gaze as the child searched for, and began to find her Power. Her inexperience however, caused Dera to involuntarily obsess. No sooner had she begun to regain her energy, her internal chatter distracted her from her purpose, and it would once again slip back towards oblivion.
Dera knew exactly what the man meant by ‘remain empty’, but that seemed impossible to the child. As she struggled to keep her strength, her thoughts began to dominate the silence that her mind required to survive this place. Dera was losing the battle as each moment passed. Tummel had to act fast. He smoothed one hand down Dera’s face, coaxing her eyes to close, and she began to fall for what seemed like forever, though it was but an instant. When she opened her eyes, Dera was once again in the world of form, but not where, nor when she had been when she left.