Hello all. It’s been a busy month with Christmas on the horizon and NaNoWriMo a few weeks past. I’ve spent time on some poetry for an ebook and hours on my beta manuscript. The manuscript is for the first book of my series Ethereal Seals. I renamed the first installation to Dragonsword to better fit the context.
Lots of edits, fixes, and enhancements transpired over the past several months. Right now, I’m seeking an editor and beta readers. If you’d like to become a beta reader, please contact me through this blog or at my email email@example.com. Thanks.
Without further ado, here’s an up-to-date sample of the book’s first chapter. Enjoy and let me know what you think. 🙂
Death wafted in the air. Shadows crept around the ancient blade. The sword’s destination was a red-haired woman with a weapon of fire and ice. Two armored knights, one a dark twin of the other, created a crescendo of intensity within their shadowy arena. Sparks flew, and the earth trembled. The redhead missed her mark, and the dark twin found its own.
The defeated girl fell to her knees. She retreated into silence before the enemy’s blade finished its job.
The girl opened her eyes. She regarded the legendary sword in her left palm, the weapon now only a stick. Through extensive use, the practice sword was little more than a wooden splinter. She tossed the makeshift sword away and sighed. Dirt mounds next stole her attention. She stood and brushed the dirt off her tan work clothes. “Enough daydreaming and swordplay for the day; it’s time to get back to work.”
The girl picked up a fist-sized crystal of aquamarine where the dark twin had once been. The stone’s surface reflected faint images, the illusion faded.
Pepper yawned and stretched her tall body. The light from the Twins, two stars of the sky, outlined her athletic figure. She winced at the view of midday and combed her hair, running fingers through strands of red. When her hand reached the knot of her ponytail, the redhead withdrew her hand. The girl’s tanned and freckled complexion radiated a youthful look, no more than twenty-three. She shielded her vision from the bright rays of midday, noticing air vessels gliding through the sky. Further still, she observed three moons. One of the moons emitted commercial flashes of activity.
She curled her bare toes in the dirt, feeling the earth swallow her flesh. Her gaze turned to the sloping leas. Distant snowy mountains and thickets stretched into the horizon. The sound of insects tickled her ears. She closed her eyes and allowed a gust to rustle her hair. The air proved humid but balanced with a gentle wind—typical weather.
“That dream was surreal, fighting with a shadow duplicate. Maybe someday I’ll get a chance to explore the world again and figure out what to do with my life.” She frowned. “Yeah right, maybe when I learn how to fly properly.”
Pepper dug into her pocket and withdrew a coin of gold. Despite the penny’s worn edges, the depiction of a gauntlet shrouded in vines shone clear as day. Underneath the design, curvy Atlasian cuneiform, engraved with a master smith’s arm. “The Slyhart family emblem,” Pepper said. She smiled and squeezed the coin before it fell to the ground.
The bauble flashed and light shot up a few inches high. The image of a man with red hair and a long ponytail emerged. He wore a blue jacket with a sword strapped to his undershirt. A red goatee jutted with a bold flair.
“You’ll get your chance at adventure, Pepper,” he said. “Life isn’t easy for everyone, especially us. Treasure it like I treasure your mom.” He fiddled with outstretched arms, as if for a weapon. “When we get back from this war, I’ll have some stories to share. We’ll take some epic voyages too like we used to—hoo-hah!”
A second image appeared of a short woman in a silver dress and a green braid. She bore a stubby tail and pointed ears. A pair of leathery wings folded behind her. She frowned and hugged the man in the blue jacket. “We hope this message reaches you well, dear. We love you very much.” Pepper rolled her eyes. “There’s extra food in the shed and a month’s worth of gold if you need it. Please promise to stay out of trouble. Don’t forget to water the fields.”
“We’ll have these demonic invaders routed by month’s end,” the red man averred. “We’re sorry about the delay, Pepper, but we’ll be home as soon as we can.” He clenched a raised fist as his silhouette wavered with the green-haired woman.
The vision vanished and the coin’s light dulled. Pepper pocketed the coin. She hesitated and brought a hand to her rear. At the base of her spine, there was a stubby tail of scales. It twitched at her touch.
“A tail but no wings,” she said, with a sigh. “Yes mom, I’m right on it.”
She regarded the water crystal in her other hand. Her grip on the stone tightened. Mist spouted from the rock, drenching the rows of crops around her. The crystal shrieked with a flash of light as it finished.
I miss them more than I thought I would. That’s the third message this month.
“I see you still enjoy the farm plots, Miss Pepper Slyhart,” said a calm, masculine voice.
Pepper turned to the voice. Her jaw dropped.
She smiled and ran towards a youthful and slender man of white robes who had approached her from the far road. His blond hair flowed down his back like a stream of gold, broken by a pair of pointed ears. His appearance suggested him in his early twenties as she. He was half a head shorter than she was. The youth carried an oaken staff tipped with crystal and some prayer beads. Vir’gol, they were called, or conduits for divine miracles.
“Sal’av, Tarie Beyworth,” she said. “I wondered when I would see you again.” The redhead and the monk exchanged bows and clasped their hands sideways—a native sign of Atlasian greeting.
“Sal’av, Miss Slyhart,” Tarie said with a smile.
She glanced over his robes and paused on a symbol of a flame imprinted onto the center of his habit. Herbs and medicinal bags hung at his sash. “How are you, my friend? I see—like most elves—you still haven’t grown a beard.”
“Elves don’t grow facial hair,” he laughed, “you know that. Besides, you should use our official name, not the archaic one. The world calls us Nymphians now.” He paused and smiled. “Besides, you Hyerians—you humans—are the ones with all the fur on your faces.”
“I’m just teasing. What news do you have of your abbey and the rest of the world?”
The monk stroked his elfin chin and grinned. “Well, affairs around the planet keep my church busy enough. One involves a clan of brigands and cultists causing mischief in several cities.” He hesitated. “I’d wager our planet Atlas still recovers from the war from years ago, let alone the previous conflicts.”
Pepper clenched her fists. “Those damn Elemental invaders. If they hadn’t shown up, we wouldn’t be in such a state.” She punched at a nearby bale of hay. It scattered over the vicinity. She exhaled to relax. “Now we have these Nog’roth demons plaguing our planet again. What I wouldn’t give to enter the Royal Guard and show them what for.”
Tarie gave a start. “I-I understand your frustration, Miss Slyhart. Maybe someday the Royal Guard at Midvale will accept your application as a knight. Though, I remember you’ve tried applying ten times already.”
“I suppose I can only keep trying, as depressing as it is for me.” She kicked at a rock. “I know I’m worth more. Maybe it’s because my mother is a Dragonite. That makes me half-dragon and half-Hyer.”
“Pureblood Dragonites are formidable,” Tarie said, “what with their supernatural strength. I’ve seen them spew fire and ice from their breath, even half-bloods can do it.
“For all that’s worth, I can’t do any of that. Here I’m stuck defending the farm plots from hill bears, crag wolves, and heavens know what else. My father was a renowned war hero who taught me swordplay and for what? How did it come to this?”
Tarie frowned and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Not many know of your dragon heritage. Thank the divine Aspects too. They say there’s a terrible curse, in which dragons trade their sanity for power.” He grimaced. “Anyway, you’d sooner be imprisoned rather than denied employment in the guard for your genetics.”
“Society doesn’t condemn us half-breeds without cause, but they sure keep us on a tight leash.”
“Take heart, Miss Slyhart. Good things come to those who are patient. If there’s anything my church or I can do, please feel free to ask.”
She smiled. “I appreciate the concern Beyworth, but maybe I’m not cut out for guard duty. I do well as a farmer anyway.” She paused. “It’s been months since I’ve seen my parents. I hope they’re okay.
“I had this nasty dream last night,” she said with a pout. “Honestly, I’ve had it on a routine basis. In my dream, I face off against this shadow variant of myself. This evil duplicate kills me. She’s always two steps ahead of me.” She leaned up, hands behind her head. “I don’t understand it—and the dreams are painful…too painful for a normal dream.”
“You’ve had a lot on your mind. I do believe some food and time off the farm may help you consider the idea better. It’ll be on the church.” He winked.
“You’re serious? You’ve been so busy with the abbey, and I wondered if you—” She hesitated. “I mean, that sounds fine with me, Beyworth. Let me grab a couple of things at my house first.”
She ran towards her conical residence. An oaken barn stood next to the egg-shaped house. Bars bolted the shed’s door, but with the metal rusted and bent from use. A brick chimney opened towards the far end of the estate where a smithy stood. The glimpse of an anvil, a rack of hammers, and metal tools caught the corner of Tarie’s eye.
“Okay,” said he, “I’ll take in the scenery here while you prepare.” The Nymph found a pile of hay for rest. He smiled at the sky and white clouds.
He perked up when his ears twitched at the sound of approaching footsteps. Pepper now dressed in long emerald skirts, guillotined with white and opal gemstones. Her earrings glinted in the afternoon sunlight, a match for her scarlet hair. The fragrance of herbs wafted into Tarie’s nostrils. He stood speechless and slack-jawed, the image of the young woman a stark contrast to the dirty farmer. He cleared his throat. “T-that green dress looks exceptional on you, Miss Slyhart,” he stuttered. “The place I have in mind shouldn’t be too far.”
Pepper blushed at his compliment. “I’m guessing Traveler’s Rest.” She smirked, hands akimbo. “Judging by that astonished smile, I’m right, aren’t I?”
“Yes, Traveler’s Rest is a small local town, but it has its share of marvels and plentiful commodities.”
“How should we get there? My parents took the family’s ship.”
Tarie pointed above. “I take it you still remember the art of flight?”
Pepper bit her tongue and glared at the sky. “I was never good at flying, but I do recollect the basics. Can we try something safer like riding an airship?”
“Ships cost a fortune unless you work for the Grust Cartel; a bunch of greedy and corrupt merchants they are.”
“True, we’d be lucky to rent a small shuttle for the day selling my whole farm. I have a Yazell ostrich mount I use for business trips.”
“That wouldn’t be fun,” he teased. “Come on; I’ll guide you through it. Ships and Yazell are better for long-distance travel anyway. Traveler’s Rest isn’t too far.”
“Frankly, I’ve only practiced Atlasian telepathy from time to time, but with my reclusive and dutiful life, I rarely get many chances to leave the farm.” She sighed and shrugged her shoulders. “My parents never taught me the basics of flying for fear of me traveling abroad with my genetics, I think. They wanted to keep me around the Crescent until I was ready, and I had the habit of going off on little adventures when I could. The one time I did try an extensive flight trip as a child I ended up in a coma for a week.” She cringed. “It’s been years since I attempted it and the idea makes me uneasy.”
“I’ll keep an eye out for you. You can fly close to me,” Tarie said telepathically. The voice echoed in her mind and filled her cells with a warm tingle. “Be sure to ease into it,” he added, switching back to vocal speak. “Remember to first still your mind and then visualize a sphere of force around your body. The air of the Ether should surround you like a bubble.”
“Fine, I’ll give it a shot again,” she telegraphed. “You go first.”
Tarie nodded and kicked off from the ground. His blond locks flowed like gold curtains in the breeze. Tarie gazed down.
With several breaths, Pepper shut her eyes and wrung her hands. The air churned about, swirling against her flesh. Pepper heard a popping noise as gravity weakened. The refreshing breeze of weightlessness filled her being, fed from the ether traveling through her spine.
“Heavens, it has been a while,” she said, lifting into the air, albeit unsteadily.
They set out towards a town spotted miles away. The air invigorated their bodies with the smell of fresh pollen and foliage. Beautiful was the countryside of Atlas, with its mass of levitating islands, each with a share of waterfalls. Flowering groves and forests littered the landscape. Snowy mountain ranges reared on the horizon like sentinels safeguarding the Fertile Crescent.
Pepper regarded a herd of animals fifty feet below her. The creatures bore mats of fur like a bear, streaked with brown and black. Their muzzles and round ears twitched at the two flyers several yards above. One of the bears gave a screeching moan. It flourished its boney tusks at the aerial intruders.
“Look Beyworth, a herd of Grasnouts. Good thing we’re out of their reach. My farm owns a few docile breeds. They’re like a tusked hill bear.” Pepper smacked her lips. “I can still taste their delicious milk.”
“Grasnouts are a dangerous animal,” Tarie said with an uneasy chuckle. “They’re increasingly rare nowadays though.”
“What do you think of Grasnout milk, Tarie?”
He shrugged. “Unfortunately, the abbey only offers the staple water and fruit. It’s part of living a simple life for the divine Aspects.”
“That sounds boring,” Pepper argued.
“Perhaps, but I still—watch it, you’re floundering in the air—appreciate the simple lifestyle of my abbey. The church has done a lot of charity and missionary work, not to mention the refuges from the late wars they took in. I was also—” He stopped.
“You were what?”
“I—it’s nothing,” Tarie added hastily.
Thanks for reading. Hit that follow button if you like what you see. I’ve recently published poetry in an ebook, presented by ZPublishing. Here’s the link to their site. Be sure to check it out, as I get a commission on any sales. Thanks for the support, you guys. 🙂