Things are zooming along! I stop this week in the middle of chapter seven. I'm probably a quarter of the way through the book, maybe more. A lot depends on how thoroughly I flesh out some of the subplots. This week, the Romer and Slate and Sorrow part ways, with the Romers planning to sail to the Sea of Wine to escape from Hell, but Slate and Sorrow choosing to stay behind. The Romers have a role to play in the plot, but I currently don't have much in the way of personal story arcs for them. The focus will be on Slate and Sorrow. Later, the Romers do return to take part in a big, climatic battle. But how much time I focus on their side quest is likely to determine whether this is a 120,000 word novel, or a 150,000 word novel.
In this short, raw, unedited excerpt, Slate and Sorrow have ventured forth into hell in the company of a demon guide named Fester. Fester hasn't spoken much before now, and in this scene Sorrow discovers that some demons have annoying verbal quirks:
They watched as the Freewind vanished around a bend in the river.
“There’s no turning back now,” said Sorrow.
“As any demon will gladly tell, no one may turn back from Hell,” said Fester.
“I had no intention of turning back,” said Slate, looking at Fester. The muscles of his left cheek twitched as he forced himself to keep his eyes on the devil. “Walker said you’d guide us. He also said you could read our minds. You know where I wish to go. Take us.”
“I know where you wish to go,” said Fester. “But your lover’s wishes are not so.”
“Okay, first of all, we’re not lovers,” said Sorrow. “Second, if Slate wants to find Stark Tower, I want to help him.”
“You would find that quest a bother,” said Fester. “The soul you search for is your father.”
Sorrow felt the blood drain from her face. “Then… it’s true? He’s here?”
“In the dark vale of despair, where he breathes the poison air.”
She crossed her arms. “How did he die?”
“This news will truly make you weep,” said Fester. “For he died quietly in his sleep.”
She frowned. “But… he’s here? Why didn’t he leave when Tempest opened the gates?”
“Your father believed that sinners should burn,” said Fester. “He fully grasps that now’s his turn.”
“If you want to go see him first, Stark Tower can wait,” said Slate.
She shook her head. “It’s… I don’t know what I would say to him that would do me any good. It sounds as if he’s finally getting taught the lesson I wanted to teach him. I can only imagine his shock at going to sleep thinking himself a saint and waking up in Hell.”
Fester shook his head. “Of this fact, you’re father long has known the truth. His soul was black, and each man he hung was proof.”
“He knew?” Sorrow ran her hands along her scalp, feeling as if this revelation didn’t quite fit inside her skull. “If he knew, why didn’t he change?”
“He gave his soul for a greater good, as you also think you should.”
Sorrow turned her back to Fester. She gave a deep sigh.
“I… I don’t need to see him. I don’t want to see him. Slate’s quest should come first.”
“Perhaps it’s due to birth, how easily lies pass through your lips,” said Fester. “But as you've judged its worth, we’ll set forth on your lover’s trip.”
Sorrow started to protest the second use of the word ‘lover,’ but held her tongue. I could have just been in the demon’s nature to try to get a rise out of her. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.
“Which way should we go?” asked Slate, surveying the hills around them. Sorrow looked around as well, realizing that landmarks she’d been unconsciously cataloging were already gone. The hills were moving, so slowly for the naked eye to notice, but rapidly enough to rob her off all sense of direction.
“We must go toward the snow,” said Fester.
“There’s snow in hell?” Slate asked, surprised.
“Since Tempest’s allied with Hush, half this kingdom is cursed slush.”
“We really should stop asking him questions,” said Sorrow. “If I listen to one more rhyme, I think I’m going to scream.”
Fester said, “Screaming here would be—”
“By the pure metals would you just shut up?” Sorrow shouted at the demon.
“—unwise,” finished Fester. “It would draw the gaze of dangerous eyes.”
“Oh,” she said, biting her fingernails. “Then, I guess I should just keep quiet. Sorry.”
“Too late for regret, I fear,” said Fester, gazing toward the ridge of a nearby hill. “A gibbering guardian now draws near. Should you wish to survive this eternal night, draw your blades, for now, we fight.”
Welcome to my worlds!
I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), numerous superhero novels including Nobody Gets the Girl and the Lawless series, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collections, There is No Wheel and Jagged Gate. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public. If you'd like to get monthly updates on new releases, as well as preview chapters and free short stories, join my newsletter!