Update and Dragonsword Chapter 1 Sample

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 energyflux2012@gmail.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.

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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. 🙂

http://www.zpublishinghouse.com?rfsn=2072883.91d12f

 

 

[Guest Post] Spirituality and Magic in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Gods and magic in SFF. Come on and check out this cool guest post I composed. Cheers. 🙂

Richie Billing

I’m delighted to introduce Ed White, writer of creative and visionary fiction, who’s contributing to the blog this week with an insightful post on a significant subject in SFF: spirituality and religion. Enjoy!


The Gods and Goddesses of myth, legend and fairy tale represent archetypes, real potencies and potentialities deep within the psyche, which, when allowed to flower permit us to be more fully human.

Margot Adler

In the realm of sci-fi/fantasy, gods are a curious breed. They represent something abstract—an idea or avatar beyond the reaches of mortal minds. This disconnect from the divine serves as a source of intrigue for the reader, and a subtle impetus for protagonists as they strive towards what no mortal has ever achieved.

Religion also plays a significant role in real-life. Gods and goddesses exist in every culture and region of the world, and there are hundreds of them. The power of…

View original post 949 more words

Dreams of the Scarlet Swordswoman #4

A red-haired girl lay in a field of flowers. She admired the crimson and blue on the delicate blossoms. The girl sighed at their sweet scent and plucked one of the plants, but noticed its petals now decayed. A foul black mist swirled around the flower, reaching for the girl. She threw it away. To her horror, the entire field twisted into black serpents. Their sharp fangs snapped at the terrified redhead.

She stood as a small girl with jade twin tails pressed against her back. Then appeared a bear with a scar over one eye; there was gray in his grizzled fur. The emerald lass clashed with the encroaching serpents using sharp daggers for arms, her long white and jagged skirt dancing like blades around the misshapen flower field.

“Master, we will protect you,” the jade lass said. The bear roared in agreement and savaged several of the serpents with tooth and claw.

The redhead nodded, cringing behind the defenders. She flushed at her own vulnerability, and her eyes darted over the horde of demonic snakes. Dozens of black serpents lay at their feet, but their caresses vanished into puffs of smoke, only to spawn more. For every one they destroyed, two appeared. The redhead bit her lip until it bled, the liquid forming a snake of its own. She swatted it away, staring at her own body and shaking her head.

She looked up at the overcast sky and noticed a star piercing through the dark heavens. The snakes hissed with irritation and drew back. The brilliance touched down near the girl, its shape akin to a robed cleric. The radiance blinded the shrieking serpents, driving them further back into the shadows with the jade girl and the bear. The golden figure stood before the redhead, his hand outstretched. Her heart leaped with excitement, and she clasped their palms together.

“Pepper, please wake up,” he said.

“I am awake.”

“No, this is the astral realm, where your dreams and nightmares become a reality. Please, wake up, everyone is worried.”

“I will try. But, it’s so hard!”

“Keep trying.”

“I see it now,” the girl cried.

She raised her clenched fist. Green tendrils shot from the girl. The black snakes evaporated to mist. The earth trembled and the skies sundered. The symphony of battle faded, and all turned to glass. 

On Pepper Slyhart, my OC: the warrior-woman path

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Pepper Slyhart is the main protagonist of my series, Ethereal Seals. She’s a young red-haired woman in her early twenties. With her sheltered lifestyle, Pepper begins as naive and short-tempered. As a farmer’s daughter, Pepper is athletic and physically capable of holding her own. She is a robust and reasonable woman who ventures into a broad world of mystery and danger. Her greatest opponents are her emotions, reflected by her draconic curse.

The warrior-woman story is one less visited. It is different and challenging because it twists the typical narrative of gender roles. I created Tarie Beyworth, her traveling companion, a secondary protagonist, and Pepper’s love interest. Instead of the man driving the story, I reversed the roles. While Pepper is emotional and insecure, Tarie is moderate and self-assured. Their polar opposites complement each other and allow both characters to grow from the other.

As the story progresses, Pepper learns more about the spiritual path from Tarie and her spiritual guides. This is symbolic of both the divine masculine with the divine feminine, going by new age terms. Pepper cultivates humility, patience, love, and gratitude as she grows. She treats her foes differently, gracing them with words of compassion and the steel of her sword if need be. 

Tarie also discovers his own inner insights, but that’s an essay for another time. 🙂

As a male author, developing Pepper on this path has been a challenge. I can safely say I know little about it, but I continuously strive to improve her and Tarie, with feedback from both men and women alike. Although I feel I should have been born a female myself, this gives me a chance to have my own children in a fictional sense, with Pepper as my daughter, but I digress.

 I hope you enjoyed this short reflective article. Thank you for reading. 🙂

A short synopsis of Ethereal Seals

Sup everyone, thanks for stopping by to check out my content! I’ve considered my pitching cover for my book. After another revision, I may have what I feel to be a closer, more concise variant of the original. Have a look:

As the cycles pass so too does the turning of the etheric cosmic clock. Many have lapsed since a great and terrible war seized a planet called Atlas. Within this mythical land, trouble looms again within the Ethereal Seals Gate, an ancient relic designed to anchor the holy ether around the planet. 

In the modern era, political and racial tensions abound on Atlas. Heroes of old rise from their graves and ancient evils infect kingdoms. The fate of the planet rests on the edge of steel, magic, and science; yet, the legacy of a cursed young farmer’s daughter unfolds, the half-breed progeny of a war hero. 

With naught but an old sword and the will of an elderly hermit, the girl must choose which destiny she hopes to save: the planet, or her own. The doomed girl gathers a company of old friends and odd mercenaries. Together, they struggle against the growing perils of Atlas, a reflection of their own inner turmoil. Facing foes of battle and romance alike, the girl discovers what it truly means to be a bastard knight of Atlas.

I may have to shorten it for more conciseness, but this definitely comes as an improvement to the original. Thanks for reading! 🙂

Index 2: Goddesses and ether shifting

This is a fictional essay of Goddesses/Aspects and ether/magic in Ethereal Seals. It elaborates on the Aspects or elemental goddesses that constitute reality. Each represents a particular facet of the primal Goddess, Etherea. In sum, they are the Ether or Her influence. Of the Aspects, there are seven. Five form the primordial elements: fire, water, air, earth, and spirit.  The other two, light and shadow, bring balance, order, and expression to the primordial five. Below is a detailed description of terms and the theory behind the ether.

Etherea The primal Goddess who constitutes reality. She is Source, the Cosmic Dreamer, conjuring the omniverse with her divine will. All reality spins from her cosmic clock. Ether is her energy, which turns the clock, giving rise to the Aspects, or minor goddesses and facets of herself. A mortal can channel the ether through the process of shifting. See a list of Aspects below.

Fire(Ignis) – The raging passion of the Goddess. This represents Her destructive capacity, be it to destroy or purify. The flames of Ignis are unrelenting, forever turning Etherea’s cosmic clock and inviting astronomical cycles while nulling stagnation.

Water(Aqua) – The soothing grace of the Goddess. Aqua refreshes and maintains. Its polar opposite is Ignis, acting as cosmic preserver against goading destruction. Aqua ensures cycles are adequately renewed and never lost.

Air(Ventus) – The enabling zone of the Goddess. Ventus acts as a medium for the other Aspects to function. Its role as provider allots dimensional space, encouraging the elements to flourish and invigorating them. Without Ventus, the Ether would have no place.

Earth(Terra) – The bedrock of the Goddess. Terra is the substrate that develops solid form, a symbol of growth from the abstract to the material. From Terra, the Aspects evolve and give rise to elemental shapes and entities. Unlike its counterpart, Ventus, Terra is more concrete.

Spirit(Animus) – The breath of the Goddess. Animus unites the Aspects, granting them intelligence, and leading to sentience and sapience from the Aspects’ derivatives. Animus is a return to the abstract after the concrete establishes itself, symbolizing unity among all.

Light(Lumas) – The order of the Goddess. From the chaotic void of nothingness, Lumas brings law and wisdom to the five fundamental elements. The goddess Lumas acts as the rational brain behind the Ether, weaving purpose into the Aspects.

Shadow(Umbra) – The chaos of the Goddess. Umbra grants the Aspects freedom and will to choose. This wild autonomy mixes with the order of Lumas, developing an open reality based on spiritual law.

With the law of the Goddess interwoven with the free will of reality, the Aspects mature within dimensional space, utilizing Ignis as the destructor, Aqua as the preserver, and Ventus and Terra as providers and creators. Animus unites the pieces together, giving rise to worlds, planes, and civilizations. Hence the cycles of reality turn with the passing of Etherea’s cosmic clock.


The Aspects are each divine deities in their own right, whom practitioners connect with at a mental and spiritual level. In this regard, the Aspects serve as conduits between practitioners and Source. Anyone in Ethereal Seals is a potential wielder of these abilities, as long as they clear their mind and harness their connection with Source. Individuals to accomplish this practice forms of meditation. It is easier to begin this process by focusing on a single and specific Aspect of the ether. Expert practitioners may call upon more than one Aspect at a time. Adept practitioners are shifters.

Realization occurs when one finally achieves perfect connection with a particular Aspect. Similar to a state of enlightenment, at this point, it is impossible for the practitioner to forget how to form the link, as it is stored on a subconscious level. The connection does not signify dependence of the individual on the Aspect, but rather a merging of the two as the former accesses a portion of the divine. There are many levels of spiritual awareness, most which take several lifetimes to achieve.

More straightforward shifting is nigh instantaneous, while more complex shifting require rituals or lengthy preparations while in trance states. Shifting is viable while moving, as long as the mind focuses on the task. If the state of the mind fractures without much resistance, then shifting fails. The process of shifting draws from the wielder’s spiritual and mental reserves. Overuse leads to exhaustion and death. Endurance varies on the shifter.

Essential shifting rituals:

  1. Mudra – Hand gestures that evoke the neurons within the fingers that actively connect to the Aspects and mimic sacred symbols. Mudras range from simple to complex. Complicated shifting requires a series of consecutive mudras.
  2. Mantra – Vocalizations that vibrate throughout reality, evoking liaison to the Aspects. This includes chanting to melodious singing. The foundation of Atlasian language makes heavy use of this divine law. To the ears of an Earth human, refined Atlasian accents sound melodious, flowing from one word to the other seamlessly. One might get the impression of ‘pleasantly melting’ from Atlasian syllables. While cruder languages on Atlas exist, the ancient Highborne variant often finds a place in shifting.
  3. Vir’gol – While not required, virgal are useful for the inexperienced, or for conserving energy. They include but are not limited to wands, staffs, gemstone baubles, swords, and so forth. Helps a shifter channel the ether around them. Vir’gol can vary in strength, depending on the nature of the vir’gol.
  4. Astol – A reproduction avatar of the practitioner. Severely drains the shifter, but adds an additional vector for shifting. The astol is tangible as the original and may perform shifting without its counterpart doing so. An astol cannot maintain form for long without damaging its owner’s soul, as the spirit splits between two bodies. Exceptions include those who harbor a secure connection with a particular Aspect or those who have surpassed their mortal limitations and have reached enlightenment.

 

Index 1: ES racial list

A modern list of the races in my fictional universe. This is not yet exhaustive and may change with time.

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Atlasian – Also known as ‘humans’ or generic people on Atlas. They resembles real-life humans, most of a more mesomorph nature. Atlasians are the most populous among the races on Atlas, being the second to develop after Dragonites.  Natural mutations in their kind resulted in the rising of numerous other races. Their skill sets are across the board, being of a high versatile people.

Nymphian –  Human-like in appearance, but retain a slighter build and graceful features akin to elves. Being innately spiritual, they extol great wisdom and compassion. Emotionally, they are oft regarded as level-headed, but are prone to outbursts if necessary. They enjoy life-spans longer than most races.

Bestian – Robust humanoids with animal features, particularly the ears and tail; arguably faster and hardier than other races. Bestians come in a variety of animal forms, ranging from foxes to rabbits and bears. They enjoy natural environments like Nymphians for habitation, though they can adapt well to any environment.

Pygmy – A short and curious race of technocrats. Pygmies prefer cities and technologically sound regions, thereby sating their never ending thirst for innovation. Despite this, they are very adventurous, willing to embark on scientifically sound journeys to other lands. While not physically notable, they make up for it with their resourceful inventions.

Eruodusian – A corrupted race of humanoids, looking like normal Atlasians, but with demonic features like horns and blood-hued eyes. They dabbled in chaotic energies of previous wars, infecting their genetic structure and those of their offspring. Atlas often shuns their kind, forcing many into shadowy jobs like thieves, assassins, and smugglers.  They are cunning and manipulative in their actions.

Dragonite – The root race of Atlas, from which all began.  They serve as caretakers of the planet, safeguarding its knowledge. Dragonites may assume a hulking dragon form if necessary, providing them with enormous power at the expense of some sanity. In their default humanoid form, they retain long ears, short stubby tails, and a pair of dragon wings. The arrogance of the dragon race is often a flaw in their character, though they seldom allow this to interfere with their duties. Dragonites enjoy the longest life span.

Caelestian – Coming from the stars, they infrequently interact with Atlas natives. Being of an angelic nature, these beings retain great spiritual understanding beyond that of a typical Atlasian. Caelestians are unlimited in size and shape, though they typically hold a palpable holy aura around their essence. A lower race may achieve the level of Caelestian through proper alchemical training. Like Nymphians, who they refer to as their ‘lesser cousins’, they uphold wisdom and compassionate virtues.

Faber – The creator race of Atlas, who planted the initial seeds in the primordial dragons’ minds. They are advanced beyond Caelestians, being their senior. Faber may assume any appearance they wish, but they typically take the form of the blue phoenix to embody the alchemical transmutation of the soul. They possess all the experience and knowledge of their racial past and have taken it upon themselves to provide a proper environment for younger souls to evolve. Atlasian scholars postulate that Faber are merely future projections of Atlas’ current denizens.

 

Ethereal Seals sample

This is the first chapter of my rough manuscript for Ethereal Seals. Being an amateur writer, you can expect mistakes or typos throughout. I am continually refining and adding to the document to improve it. Any feedback is much appreciated. Thanks for reading!


 

Shadows crept around the ancient blade. Its destination was a red-haired young woman with a brand of fire and ice. Two armored knights, one a dark twin of the other, created a crescendo of intensity within their shadowy arena. 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.

“I lost again,” moaned Pepper. She gazed at the legendary sword in her left palm, now a worn oaken stick. Through extensive use, the practice sword was little more than an oaken 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–time to get back to work,” she said.

Pepper yawned and stretched her tall body. The bright light from the twin suns outlined her developed feminine figure and athletic build. She winced at the view of midday and combed her head, running fingers through long strands of fiery red hair. Touching the knot of her long ponytail, she withdrew her hand. The girl’s tanned and freckled complexion radiated a youthful look, no more than twenty-three. Shielding her vision from the bright rays, she noticed round space vessels gliding idly through the skies. Further still, she recognized three moons. One of the satellites emitted a bright commercial flash of activity from its surface.

She curled her bare toes in the soft, luxurious dirt, feeling the warm earth swallow her flesh. Her gaze turned to the sloping grasslands, circumvented by clusters of distant snowy mountains and tall thickets. The sound of insects tickled her ears. Humid but balanced with a dry wind–typical weather.

She examined her hands, well callused from horticulture. “That dream I had the other night felt so real. Maybe someday I’ll become a knight and get a chance to explore the world again.” She frowned. “Yeah right, maybe when I learn how to fly properly.”

She dug into her pocket and withdrew a coin of gold. Despite the 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 setting it on the ground.

The bauble flashed and a pillar of light shot up a few inches high. The image of a tall man with red hair and a short ponytail emerged. He wore a blue jacket with a sword strapped to his undershirt.

“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 held his arms out, as if for a weapon. “When we get back, I’ll have some thrilling stories to share. We’ll take some epic voyages too. Hoo-hah!”

An image of a woman in a silver dress and green twintails hugged his side. She bore a stubby tail and pointy ears. A pair of leathery wings folded behind her. She frowned. “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.”

The vision vanished and the coin’s light dulled. Pepper pocketed the coin and drew out a fist-sized crystal of aquamarine. “Yes mom, I’m right on it,” she said.

Her focus fell on the rock. Mist spouted from forth, intelligently drenching the rows of crops around her. The crystal gave a low shriek and a flash of light as it finished.

“I see you’re still having fun with the farm plots, Miss Pepper Slyhart,” said a calm, masculine voice.

Pepper turned to the voice. She smiled and ran towards a youthful and slender looking man of white robes. His bright blonde hair flowed down his back like a stream of gold, broken only by a pair of long pointy ears. He was a head shorter than she was, with an oaken staff tipped with crystal and some prayer beads, nested inside a metal circle. Vir’gol, they were called, or conduits for divine miracles.

“Tarie Beyworth, I wondered when I would see you again,” she said. The redhead and the monk exchanged bows and clasped their hands sideways–a native sign of Atlasian greeting.

Glancing over his robes, she examined a symbol of a roaring flame imprinted onto the center of his habit. Numerous herbs and medical bags hung at his waist. “How are you, my friend?” she said. “I see you still haven’t grown a beard.”

“Nymphians don’t grow facial hair,” he said, “you know that. You Hyerians are the ones with all the fur on your faces.”

“I’m only teasing. What news do you have of your abbey and the rest of the world?”

The monk stroked his 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. Nations have teams bringing them in.” He hesitated. “I’d say 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. Gritting her teeth, she let out a deep breath to relax.

Tarie gave a start. “I-I understand your frustration Miss Slyhart. Maybe someday the Royal Guard at the capital 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. I’ve only ever qualified for the rank of squire.” 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.”

“Dragonites are guardians of the planet,” Tarie said, “what with their supernatural strength. Their breath has dominion over temperature, spewing deadly breaths of flame or frost at will and their wings create powerful storms.”

“For all that’s worth, I can’t do any of that,” Pepper said. Her voice acquired a husky tinge, “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 for heaven’s sake. He 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 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. He shook his head. “Take heart, Miss Slyhart. Good things come to those who are patient. If there’s anything the 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 the guard. I do well as a farmer anyway. It’s been months since I’ve seen my parents. I hope they’re okay.”

“Perhaps it best you ask around this area for ideas? You may get inspired that way. Anyway, I do believe some food and time off the farm may help you consider the idea better. It’ll be on the church,” he finished, winking.

“Seriously? 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 things at my house first.”

She ran towards her cone-shaped residence. An oaken barn stood next to the egg house, painted with a worn polish. Metallic bars bolted the door tight, but with metal rusted and bent from use. A small brick alcove opened towards the end, where a smithy stood. Smoke trailed through a metal pipe in its stone roof. The glimpse of an anvil and a rack of hammers and metallic tools caught the corner of Tarie’s eye.

“Alright, I’ll be taking in the scenery here while you prepare,” he said. Finding a luxurious pile of hay to fall into, he smiled at the sky and fluffy white clouds.

He stood when his pointy ears twitched from approaching footsteps. Pepper now dressed in long emerald skirts, guillotined with white and opal gemstones. Her fiery earrings glinted in the afternoon sunlight. The fragrance of pleasant herbs stung Tarie’s nostrils. He studied her speechless and slack-jawed, the image of the girl a clear contrast to the rugged, dirty farmer. Clearing his throat, he stood. “That green dress looks exceptional on you, Miss Slyhart. 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.” She folded her arms, staring at the farming plots. “I wonder where they are right now.”

Tarie pointed above. “I take it you still remember the art of flight?”

Pepper bit her lip and glared at the sky. “I was never good at it, but I do recollect the basics. Can we try something safer like riding an airship? Then again, airships cost a fortune. We’d be lucky to rent one 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, Slyhart. 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. I still feel rather uneasy about flying.”

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 wind of the ether should surround you like a bubble.”

“Okay Beyworth, you go first then,” Pepper messaged, smiling.

Tarie nodded and kicked off from the ground with his oaken staff. His long blonde locks flowed like gold curtains in the breeze. Tarie gazed down.

Taking several deep breaths, Pepper shut her eyes and wrung her hands. The air churned about her, swirling against the force of gravity. Pepper heard a popping noise as gravity weakened. The refreshing breeze of weightlessness filled her being. “Heavens, it certainly has been a while,” she said, lifting into the air.

They set out towards a town spotted dozens of 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 birthing sparkling waterfalls. Below, flowering groves and rich forests littered the landscape. Snowy mountain ranges of colossal scale reared themselves on the horizon.

They passed over groups of tusked bears, their fur rugged and streaked with brown and black. “Look Beyworth, a herd of Grasnouts! My farm owns a few docile breeds.” Pepper smacked her lips. “I can still taste their extraordinary milk.”

“Unfortunately, the abbey only offers the staple water and bread,” Tarie said. “It’s part of living a simple life for the divine.”

#

Less than an hour later, they landed in a vacant lot outside of town. Pepper tumbled onto ground painfully, thanks to a sloppy landing. Pepper swore at her incompetence and held her stomach. Tarie rushed over to help her stand.

“Damn me,” she swore, “This is why I hate flying.” Her face was green and her eyes unsteady. She tottered before taking a knee.

“E-easy there, it was your first time in a while, wasn’t it? You got too excited with Atlas’ splendors,” he said, with a reproachful frown. “Anyway, it’s not very ladylike to swear.”

Pepper hurled to the side. She then stood and dusted her dress off and glared at the monk “I’ll have my lunch out of me before tonight at this rate,” she snapped. She paused and sighed. “Sorry, I’m not setting a good mood here. Lead the way, Beyworth.”

The settlement they entered, Traveler’s Rest, was a sizable town. A wide variety of marvels stood among its gem-paved streets, comfortable inns, and well-stocked markets. Houses built in spacious rows, their structures of a pyramidal nature. The streets bustled with families, merchants, and tourists. The sounds of kids screaming playfully and melodious flutes flew over the chatter of shop owners hawking their wares. The smell of freshly baked goods tickled the nostrils.

Pepper noticed a tall humanoid made of reflective crystal trudging through the streets. It was a golem forged in crystal technology and programmed to serve the public good. More designed for physical labor than combat, the slender golem moved carefully through the thick crowds, carrying bundles of miscellaneous items. Small spherical vessels darted above the town, tugging floating merchandise behind.

The girl paused on a man in rags, chained at the ankles and arms with reflective crystal shackles. Dirt smeared on his face, adding to the man’s deprived demeanor. On his exposed forearm, the tattoo of a dragon. Two guards in blue jumpsuits and plated shoulder pads shoved the man forward. Their belts dangled with electrical batons.

“Keep going, half-breed,” one guard said.

“A dangerous bunch they are, these bastards,” the other said. “They’re almost as bad as those Elemental wretches. This filth here deserves to be locked up for his crimes.”

Pepper started towards the guards, her teeth clenched. A slender arm caught her. She spun around. “Let me go, Beyworth, I can’t stand by and watch this.”

“Miss Slyhart, please, there’s nothing you can do. You’d have half the town’s soldiers on you within minutes, and then you’d join him once they found out about your parents.” The cleric’s fingers dug into the redhead’s dress.

Pepper returned to the wretched man in rags, watching as the guard herded him off. She ground her teeth. “Someday…this has to be fixed. What did half-dragons ever do?”

The slave in the distance gave a sudden flurry of swings at the guard. His eyes turned to angry slits, like a reptile. Fire blazed in eyes, scorching the surrounding stone. Guards cried out. Citizens parted, but order quickly restored as the guards subdued the crazed man like it was a common occurrence.

Tarie sighed. “There’s the curse of dragon’s blood I told you about,” Tarie said. “No one knows what triggers it, but it only leads to destruction. Every half-Dragonite experiences it.” He noticed Pepper’s stricken mug and patted her arm.

Pepper winced. “Well, I haven’t.”

“You must have the luck of the divine, Miss Slyhart.”

“You aren’t…afraid of me?”

He shook his head. “I’ve known you for many years. I don’t understand it, but you have a knack for control.” He smiled wryly, “Even if you are a hothead.”

“Filth will always be filth,” a nearby guard atop a large ostrich said. Pepper and Tarie gave a start. The young man dressed in a velvet coat with golden buttons and shoulder pads with colorful plumes. Long hair of white rolled underneath his winged helm. A double-spear of black sparkled on his back, etched with runes. His large bird mount bore a helm of metal, crafted with jagged edges to intimidate. He looked down at Pepper and Tarie with a pretentious grin.

“Lord captain Gerald?” Pepper choked.

“In the flesh. What’s a lowlife like you doing here, Pepper Slyhart? Last I heard, you tried yet again for knighthood. A shame a bastard like you has no place among us, nor will you ever.”

Pepper started forward but paused as Gerald aimed his spear at her throat. “Careful, or I’ll have Midnight relieve you of your head, bastard.”

“She’s done nothing wrong,” Tarie said, moving to her flank.

“A priest of the abbey–have you no shame? Defending a third-rate citizen may earn you an arrest. Be grateful her father is a war hero.” He withdrew his spear. “Killing her outright might cause political complications, but for self-defense of an officer, it’s justified. As for her mother, pray she hides from my spear, Midnight. A bitch such as she–“

Pepper growled and charged the captain. Midnight twirled, slamming into the redhead’s face. Pepper grunted and stumbled backward into a puddle of mud, staining her dress.

‘It suits you, half-breed,” he laughed, “I’ve enjoyed our little game, but I’ve better matters to attend.” He slapped his Yazell. The bird gave a squawk and darted down the busy streets.

Tarie helped Pepper to her feet. Pepper watched the captain vanish, her teeth bared. “That damned fiend. I’ll break his face open next time!”

“That could’ve gone worse. How are you feeling?”

“My head hurts a little, but my pretty dress looks terrible.”

“I may be able to clean you up a bit.” Tarie waved his vir’gol over the redhead. A stream of light arced from the gemstone tip. It engulfed the redhead, drying the wet mud with its radiation. Now dried, most of the stains broke off.

“Thanks, it’s still dirty, but it’ll have to do,” she said, wiping a small river of blood from her cheek dry. “Let’s get this day over with.”

He led his despondent friend towards a tavern near the center of town. She squinted at the signpost, which displayed the image of a shining star engulfing a mug of ale. The Cosmic Respite, the display said.

Customers sat at oaken tables while servers patrolled the tavern, carrying slabs of crystal. Glass chandeliers hung from the ceiling and plush rugs layered the polished wooden floor. Small waterfall fountains flowed gently with colorful jade, adding a refreshing ambiance.

“Traveler’s Rest likes to stay busy,” Pepper exclaimed, forgetting the episode in the street. At a server’s hail, they found an empty booth.

“Yes, it is a fairly fundamental gathering center in this part of Atlas,” Tarie said.

The waiter approached the booth, asking for a fare. Tarie obliged with a silver coin with the insignia of the holy flame on it. The waiter took the bauble and distributed two flat crystal devices.

Pepper regarded the slab for several moments, and then glanced around the tavern. She spotted customers drinking fermented Grasnout milk, the frothing yellow nectar swirling with cream. Others feasted on lean skillets of fish. She smiled. “Fish with a side of fresh milk should be good for lunch, wouldn’t you say?”

Tarie shrugged. “I’m not too hungry, but feel free to eat as much as you need to.”

Similar to the water crystal from the farm, Pepper concentrated on the crystal device on the table. A dance of lights took form, materializing fishmeal on a silver plate, accompanied by a fork and knife. “These ration manifestation crystals are handy,” Pepper said, grabbing the utensils and licking her lips.

Tarie ordered a glass of water. “I’ve heard of some who can materialize food without a catalyst, such as these crystals. Who knows, if you manage to get into the guard, you may meet a few.”

Pepper paused and grimaced. She swallowed a tight mouthful of fish. “If I manage that is. It’s irritating not getting anywhere with my life. It’s because I’m a simple farmer, isn’t it?”

Tarie’s brow narrowed. “Miss Slyhart, please stop making excuses like that. You can’t let some snobby man dictate your life. Try thinking creativity with your situation.”

Pepper wolfed down another bite, glowering at Tarie. “That is easier said than done, Beyworth. Not to mention, compared to other Atlasians, I’m relatively unremarkable in both my physical prowess and ether shifting. How does shifting work again?”

Tarie tapped a finger to his lips. “Well, the art of shifting is fairly useful,” he said, twirling his staff. “It draws from the divine goddesses, or Aspects, and their universal ether all around us. Practitioners of the art are called shifters.” He paused, eying Pepper with a small smile. “With the right training and state of mind, anything is possible. Entering a mental state of mindfulness is the crux of it.” He frowned. “But, to use it, one must expend their own etheric life force. Overuse can lead to exhaustion or even death in extreme cases.” The monk shuddered.

Pepper nodded. “Yes, I’ve known that for a while. I even refreshed upon it in the pre-exam booklets at the academy, not that I use it much anyway. I prefer crystals; they do all the heavy lifting, even if they are more limited.” She held one of the crystal slabs up, examining its polished surface. “I’ve studied the basics of crystography. It helps with my blacksmithing. Dad showed me some nifty tricks to work the flux better. I mostly work in my forge when I’m not on the farm, filling the orders. Mom always took over when I was too busy with the farming plots or out of town.” She sighed, setting the object down. “Gosh, I miss those two.”

Tarie remained quiet regarding the redhead. Pepper took Tarie’s silence with a deep sigh. “Anyway, you’re better off not worrying too much about me. I may as well accept what I am, staying in the farm fields. Though it is rather boring, I find it a comfortable lifestyle. It helps feed the nearby villages anyway.” Pepper looked down at her fish and then added, “The crystal manifestations are good, but it can’t beat crops grown with the kiss of the planet or fresh Grasnout milk. Ration crystals have difficulty replicating fermented foods anyway.” She wrapped her fingers around a tall glass of frothing nectar the server provided, downing it with a couple large gulps. She let out a gasp, wiping cream from her lips. “The men can have their Royal Guard. Even if I am a woman, farmer, or whatever else, I’ll make something out of my life!”

Tarie smiled at her. “That’s the way, Miss Slyhart. I’m sure you will grow into a fine farmer given time. Who knows where else it may lead you.” He arched a finger, “If you want to explore the art of shifting further, let me know, as I’ll be more than happy to show you.”

The two finished their food and drink, setting the crystal devices on the table for the waiter to collect. Pepper stretched. “It was a great idea coming here. I feel like it did me good going out with a friend. We should definitely do it again sometime–“

As Pepper spoke, a burly man barged into the pub. He was elderly, with a rugged appearance likened to that of an old tire, but matched by an aura of youthful vigor in his brown eyes. His massive muscles illustrated themselves through his buckskin tunic, breeches, and patched cloak over his shoulder. The man’s full beard of gray further emphasized his wild appearance. A large scar circumvented one eye.

Swiftly scanning around the pub, the stranger settled on Pepper and Tarie. He darted over to them. “You two, this place is in danger. You must evacuate everyone out of town immediately.”

Pepper and Tarie gawked at the man before the former folded her arms. “Would you care to explain the demand you gave there? Maybe you need to settle down a bit.”

“There’s no time. We must act now if you care about the lives of those who dwell in this town!”

Tarie held his palm out. “W-wait, we would indeed like an explanation before we do as you say. Please, good sir.”

The man groaned. “A clan of druids targets this town. They wish to make a sacrifice to their goddess, and they are already–“

A sharp explosion interrupted the man’s speech, rocking the town in the far distance. All three widened their eyes. The elder broke away.

“It’s too late,” the man cried, as he ran, “I must go now, with or without your help!” He dashed out the door, pushing a curious patron away.

“Wait,” Pepper said, “Ugh, stubborn old fool.”

“He said clan of druids. Those must be the ones the church is after–the Sire Clan!”

Pepper nodded, smoothing her skirts. “I would assume they are the same. Let’s get out of here.” She sucked her breath as she left the pub with him, and entered the ensuing bedlam of the streets.