I end the week with two more chapters behind me, and a whole lot of plot threads getting tangled together. I'm finding it a little difficult to write scenes with Cinder, Infidel's daughter. I'm still finding that she lacks much in the way of personal goals. She becomes a more driven character over the course of her story arc, but in these beginning stages, I'm finding it hard to articulate why she would ever agree to go along on such a dangerous quest. Oh well. There's nothing to do but move forward, and hope that the more I write about her, the more I'll understand her.
In this excerpt, Father Ver's ghost and Cinder have come with a knight named Pyre to meet Pyre's spiritual leader, a dragon named Brother Wing, who will be familiar to readers of the previous books by different names: Relic and Brokenwing. Brother Wing is now leads the Church of the Sacred Flame, dedicated to the worship of Greatshadow. Father Ver has asked for Pyre's help in rescuing Slate, Sorrow, and the Roamers from Hell. This leads to a revelation that might be of interest to readers of the first few books, a previously unknown connection between Sorrow and Brokenwing.
Same disclaimers as always. First draft. Not edited. Might change entirely.
“I don’t dispute that you believe the threat is real,” said Brother Wing. “I just feel the problem is somewhat… abstract. Meanwhile, the problems this settlement faces are far more concrete. The world beyond these shores grows less inhabitable by the hour. The bay at Commonground is a mass of ships now, as Wanderers seek shelter in the last unfrozen waters to be found. They carry with them refugees from the other lands. Some are upon the ship because the Wanderer’s felt mercy, others because, even in the face of Doomsday, there were still Wanderers with enough love of commerce for wealthy men to buy passage to safety.”
“Now,” said Pyre, “It’s only a matter of time before these men leave Commonground to find new homes upon the Isle of Fire. While we would welcome with open arms anyone who comes in peace to help us build, we know that many of these men will come with war in their hearts, and see our humble settlement as ripe territory for starting a new empire.”
“So you see why I am reluctant to have Pyre join your quest,” said Brother Wing. “Reluctant… but not completely unwilling.”
“I will go where you wish me to go,” said Pyre. “But… why do these people trapped in hell matter to us?”
Brother Wing sighed. “Because I know them. Some of them, anyway. In the Palace of the Inquisition, I dined with Slate and Sorrow. While I’ve never met the Romers personally, in the time I lived in Commonground, I learned of them from the minds of their fellow wanderers. The world will be poorer for their absence.” He paused, looked as if he were weighing something further, then said, “I should also say that I know Sorrow much more intimately than from a single dinner.”
“My mother knew Sorrow,” said Cinder. “I’m told she was very driven. And very angry.”
Brother Wing nodded. “Traits that I found very much to my liking, back then.” His eyes seemed less focused, as if he was lost in memories. “My father cast me aside as a fledgling, my wings broken, with every expectation I would die. But I killed the lava pygmies who came to collect my body. From their minds, I caught the faintest glimmers that there was a larger world beyond the jungle. I filled my belly with the bodies of the lava pygmies, but they couldn’t satisfy my intellectual hunger. Driven by a desire to understand more of the world… and more of myself… I descended the mountain and made my way to Commonground.”
“Even in a city of half-seeds, I cannot imagine they welcomed a dragon there with open arms,” said Father Ver.
“No,” said Brother Wing. “I was met with hostility and violence, driven back into the wilds weeping and wounded. However, as a telepath, I quickly learned to hide myself from the gaze of men. At first I merely hid in shadow, but soon I learned the art of disguising myself in rags. Moving among the crowds of the city unmolested, I drank in the minds of those around me, and soon mastered human languages. I had left the jungle feeling deep emotions, emotions I had no words for. But soon after I arrived in Commonground, a woman in a cloak of fine green silk walked past me. Instantly, she caught my full attention, for here was the first human I’d encountered who felt precisely the same emotions that I’d known since being discarded by my father. She was filled with hatred of her own father, and a deep and abiding desire for revenge against him. In her, I’d found a kindred spirit.”
“And how did she feel about you?” asked Father Ver.
“She never knew me. She was too intently focused on revenge against her father, and the religion that had shaped him, for me to ever hope of winning her over to my cause. Plus, she came to Commongroud at the summons of the Black Swan, who’d hired her to make use of her talent as a sculptor. I stayed near her, always just out of her range of vision. At night, I’d slink into her sleeping chambers and stand by her bedside, exploring all she’d learned. It was from her I learned the basics of necromancy and soul catching, which allowed me to craft my first golem, Patch. Alas, he proved to be a flawed creation, not even lasting through his first fight.”
“I find it very disturbing that you would read her mind as she slept,” said Cinder. “That seems like a horrible violation of her privacy.”
“Oh, it was inexcusable,” said Brother Wing. “I’d never engage in such a thing now. My years upon the Island of the Inquisition exposed me to many, many arguments about what was moral. My most steadfast companions were, I fear, rather hedonistic, and would have argued I’d done no wrong to Sorrow, since I’d never done any actual harm to her. You don’t harm a flower by gazing at its colors or smelling its aroma. I didn’t harm her mind by combing through her secrets.”
“But you don’t feel this way now?” asked Cinder.
Brother Wing shook his head. “No. Now, I inform people when we first meet that I can see into their minds. It is their choice if they wish to stay near me. I gave her no choice. What’s more, with the wisdom of twenty years of hindsight, I understand that the emotional bond that drew me to her, her unquenchable anger, was a poison to my own soul. It took me many years to forgive my father, and come again to love him.”
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!