I started writing a fantasy trilogy back when I was in University, and this is an excerpt from the first book. For a while it looked like it may get published but things fell through and due to the frustration I kind of tucked the books away and haven’t done much with them since. Book three remains unfinished and quite a lot of editing, and re-working needs to be done on the whole arch, which I plan to tackle this year. In the meantime, let me know if you enjoy this and I will consider posting more of the story.
Harmis tread across the cold stones of the dim passageway through the Southern Temple of the Gods. His bare feet picked up the chill of the stones. His long layered robes dusted the smooth floor, whispering softly in the dimly lit passage. He came to a thick cedar door and pressed his ear against it. He heard nothing inside and entered. The room was as dim as the passage that lead to it. Thin slit widows were carved through the heavy stone walls near the top of the dome-shaped room. He leaned back against the heavy door and breathed a sigh of relief. He’d avoided them once more. Pushing away from the wall he moved across the nearly bare room to a table pressed against the farthest wall. The room was not large, and not often used. The desk had a thick layer of dust on its once shiny surface. He pulled out the sturdy chair and sat, not worrying about the dust that would cover the robes beneath him. He breathed deeply.
The time was nearing. He could only avoid addressing the topic for a few more days. Though the ancient scriptures that read of Zeefay’s prophecies were for his eyes only, the people new of the most ancient and most important of the prophecies. He knew what was expected of him. Sitting stiffly in the chair he summoned all of his strength as the ruler of Zeefay. He knew what he had to do. He stood, the wooden chair scraping along the rough floor. He turned and left the room, moving quickly through the passageways. A bell chimed. It was time for the morning prayers. He had yet to sleep; in fact he had slept little in the last several weeks. He had always known the time would come when the prophecy would come to life, and the child of evil would appear. It was written in the ancient scriptures that the child must be killed in the cradle or the entire Realm of Masg would be lost. The other Kings of the realm knew nothing of the prophecy. They held council rarely, and aside from the King of Aeastas, Kayne, none travelled between the territories.
He reached the end of the passageway and pushed through the beaded curtain that hung in the doorway at its end, emerging into golden light. The sun bathed down on the large open courtyard. Harmis was on a stone balcony overlooking the giant slabs of marble, cutting their way down the slope in low, wide stairs. Each platform of stairs was several man-lengths wide. On them were hundreds of men and women, each knelt on crimson and gold swatches of fabric. They bowed their heads flat to the ground and then raised them, murmuring sacred words. Their heavily feathered black wings hugged tight to their bodies. Each woman’s long dark hair was braided in a single long plait down her back. The people’s brown skin shimmered in the light, highlighting the dark stripes of black, which glittered against the suns rays. Each woman wore a tunic-dress that hung past her knees, made of supple fabric dyed shades of deep purple. Gold chains circled their necks and wrists, and heavy teardrop earrings tugged at their earlobes and hung low to their shoulders. Thick eyelashes hooded their dark eyes. The men’s hair was cut short to their scalp and their faces shaved clean. They wore belted robes with snug leggings beneath each dyed a bright orange. The belt was a woven gold rope circling their waist, tying in the back. The same gold earrings that the women wore hung heavily from their lobes. They bore no other adornment.
“My lord,” came a tentative voice from behind him, as he stood back from the balcony, unready to present himself to the people below. He turned to find Neehan, his vizier. As his eyes settled on the slightly shorter man, his vizier dropped to his knees in a deep bow, placing his head against the cool stone at his feet. Harmis reached down and rubbed his hand over his vizier’s short hair, speaking softly,
“Rise, my son.” Obediently, Neehan climbed to his feet. Another bell chimed.
“My Lord, you must relay a time to speak in the Eternal City. The people grow nervous and weary; the hour is growing late, and they need you to reassure them that Zeefay will be victorious.” The man’s skin gleamed in the light, his dark chocolate eyes shiny with barely restrained tears. He shook slightly, from fear, Harmis guessed. Harmis turned away from the man, shrugging off the teal, gold, and sapphire robe that lay over wings. It pooled behind him on the stone floor. He stretched his wings wide, stepping forward into the light, his long, silky black hair parted and draped down his bare chest. His skin glowed brightly in the sun’s rays, split only by the black stripes of his people. His crimson leggings were clad tight to his body and were the only clothing he wore. His muscles rippled beneath the taught skin, his wings fanning out. He stepped to the waist high columned edge of the balcony and raised his powerful arms into the air. The people below sat back on their heels and raised their arms, gazing up at him, worship glittering in their eyes. His fingers were filled with heavy gold and precious stone encrusted rings, which caught the sunlight and flashed brightly. His heavy gold earrings hung to his shoulders, catching the light on their ruby and diamond crusted edges.
“The God’s shine down on us today, my children.” His baritone rolled down through the courtyard. Neehan had dropped to his knees again behind him, to listen to his masters words. “We need not pray for our lives but we must pray for their guidance and assistance in times of need.” He went through several prayers then, leading the people whose voices rose up in a singsong pitch to compliment his baritone. After the prayers were finished he lowered his arms. The people rose to their feet, looking up at him with adoration in their eyes. He held up his right hand, and the wind began to pick up, circling inside the courtyard. The people below him let their wings expand from their bodies, feeling the wind ruffling through their feathers. The Flight Rune on his hand glittered brightly, and his voice rose above the whispers of the wind,
“I call a formal audience with the Gods.” The wind spun through the air, dark clouds building overhead. “I call the audience with the Gods for seven days from today in the Eternal City. I then call a formal gathering in the Great Hall of Records, in which I will relay the Gods messages to the people of Zeefay.” The people’s voices rose in a loud cheer. Thunder cracked overhead and the clouds began to dissipate. Harmis bowed and turned away from the balcony. Neehan was back up on his feet, holding the robe out for Harmis to slip into.
“Very good, my Lord.” His vizier murmured. Harmis’ mouth was set in a grim line despite the happiness of the people below.
“Spread the word among the people, Neehan. I want anyone who can be in the Eternal City for the formal gathering present. Send the hawks.” Neehan nodded and bowed, turning and rushing through the beaded curtain into the dark passageway. Harmis sighed and turned back to the edge of the balcony, watching the people disperse from the courtyard. He gripped the raining tightly, his knuckles turning white,
“Fools.” He muttered at the people below him, before turning his back and pushing through the beaded curtain and out of the light.
Later that night, Harmis lay in his bedchamber in the Southern Temple of the Gods. He had a suite of rooms in every temple that were devoted to him, that no one except those he gave clearance to entered. He had given no one clearance this evening, wishing for silence and solitude. Another sleepless night was upon him. On the small table next to the large bed was a tray of fruit, nuts, and cheese. He had picked at it for a short time, and most still lay on the tray. He knew that he could call for a member of the harem to take his mind off of his problems but was not feeling up to it. He stood from the bed and stretched. The prophecy said that the child of evil would be born and brought to Zeefay. Everyone feared the appearance of the child and relied on him to kill the babe before it had a chance to destroy them all. The baby would bear the Daymon Rune, darker than him and anyone else in the realm. He paced the room, his arms clasped behind his back. His brow was furrowed as he thought about the prophecy.
Frustrated he ran his fingers through his long hair and flapped his wings a few times. I never thought about the consequences of being Ruler, he thought angrily. When he was growing up, there had been no ruler in Zeefay. The temples had waited for the appearance of the one child who would bear the Flight Rune and rule Zeefay, serving as a connection to the Gods. His parents had been thrilled when he had arrived on their doorstep bearing the Rune the prophecy had spoken of. He’d been raised being told he was special, a chosen one who would be the voice of the Gods to the people of his home. He had lived basking in adoration of people everywhere that he had went.
Immediately, when he had turned seven years old, the age of training for temple duties, he had been whisked away to the Eternal City by missionaries, never to see his adopted parents again. He had trained among religious scholars, though never treated as student, only ever as a future king. By the time he was in his mid-teens he had lapped up the luxury of his life. He had any woman he had wanted in his bed waiting for him. The best selections of food, and constant praise. His reality had been shaken when a boy emerged from the Mountains bearing the Flight Rune. The people, who had always treated him with such devout respect, suddenly had eyed him warily. The boy from the mountains had been put through rigorous training to put him at the same place as Harmis. Harmis had continued to study, and kept his life of luxury, less the fawning of every person he came in contact with.
The ancient scriptures did not predict two bearers of the Flight Rune to come forth. Once each boy was deemed ready, they were sent on pilgrimage to the North and South Temples of the Gods. There they were to pray for insight from the Gods. Soon, they had realized something was going to have to happen between them for the true King to come forth. The King’s coronation was to be held the summer after his eighteenth birthday. Finally, when both boys had turned eighteen, they were sent to the Temple of the Gods in the Eternal City. As they had walked through the cloudy, dusty streets, people had cheered for them. Women cried, children begged for each boy to touch them. They reached the temple, climbing the hundred and eighty stairs to its peak, bowing on each stair to the two monks that flanked either side. At the top of the stairs, in long white robes, had been the female head and male head of the Temple of the Gods, charged with governance in the time between Kings. Each leader had blessed them with words of the old tongue and layered heavy gold necklaces around their necks. Neither boy had been told of what was to come once the heavy doors were shut behind them.
The procession through the city had taken hours. The room they were in was small, bare, and growing colder as the sun dropped behind the horizon. They had eyed each other nervously, as the dim light faded and darkness set in. The high ceiling of the room had a large oval hole cut into it, where cool air drifted in and the stars could be seen. Harmis had watched the other boy sit cross-legged on the ground, lifting his head to the starlight. He had watched for hours, leaning against the stone wall of the room as the boy had prayed. Finally Harmis had broken the silence,
“So, are you the King yet?” he’d asked, cynically. The only words they had ever spoken to one another before had been their first greetings when introduced as boys. The boy had opened his eyes, tears filling them.
“No.” he had whispered. Harmis had let out a bark of cruel laughter.
“Of course you are not the King. I am. I always have been.” He’d sneered, stalking over to the boy. The boy’s eyes had cleared of tears a little, leaving wet tracks down his cheeks.
“The Gods, they have told you this?” The boy had questioned, rising to stand and face him. Harmis had chuckled, his Flight Rune beginning to glow as wind overtook the room. The wind had tossed both boys hair about their faces.
“Yeah, the Gods told me.” He had lied, laughter dancing in his eyes. In truth, he’d never gotten any communication back from the Gods when he prayed. Total silence. But he had known he wanted to be King. Harmis had watched as the boy walked to the heavy doors and thumped on them with his fists. The doors swung inward and the two white clothed leaders entered the temple. The woman had spoken first,
“The Gods have chosen?” she had asked, her eyes bright with tears of joy. Harmis had stepped forward, head held high. The other boy stepped back, his head bowed. The male leader had grinned and stepped forward to grab Harmis’ hand.
“Our new King.” He had beamed, before all three had dropped into a deep bow. Harmis could remember looking down at their bowed heads and feeling nothing but joy and triumph. After that he had been swept down the temple stairs and into a bedchamber where women and food were brought to him until he was exhausted and full. He had slept then, the deep sleep of relief and victory. The male leader had come to wake him once the sun was rising high into the sky.
“It is time.” The man had said, as two young temple maidens had come in holding his long ceremonial robe. They had bathed him first and then dressed him, tying his long hair back from his face. They had then taken him out into the Eternal City, through the streets. People crowded around their procession, cheering and throwing bright flower petals. He had smiled and waved, elated that his life of luxury was secured. But then he had realized where they were taking him. Ahead, down the dusty street was the giant coliseum, where gladiators fought and where criminals were put to death. His heart had sunk deep into his chest as he moved through the stone tunnel. The crowds of people flowed into the many rows of seating high above the fighting ring. Every inch of space in the stadium was filled, people pressed together and crowding against the stone walls.
His escorts abandoned him at the opening into the dusty ring. The male leader, still clothed in his white robes, had handed him a sharp, curved blade: larger than a traditional dagger, but smaller than a sword. Its hilt was encrusted with jewels and shone in the bright summer sun. There, in the centre of the dusty ring, kneeling with his hands tied tightly behind his back was the other boy that bore the Flight Rune. Harmis had looked at the boy and then back at the blade now in his hands. He had looked to the leader, with pleading eyes.
“You must cut out his heart. He is an impostor who cannot be allowed to live. It is your first act as King of Zeefay, to protect our people.” Harmis gulped the lump in his throat down and nodded stiffly. As he moved slowly towards the boy, the crowds in the stands had cheered. It had become a deafening roar in his ears. The boy had looked up at him, with a tear-streaked face. His eyes had met Harmis’ briefly before he had torn his gaze away. He had not wanted to kill the boy. He sunk to his knees, knife gripped tightly in his hand.
“I’m sorry.” He had whispered harshly as he plunged the dagger into the boy and savagely cut out his heart. When it was done he had let the boys body fall to the ground, blood staining the light tunic he had been wearing and soaking into the hard dirt of the fighting ring. He had risen, covered in the boy’s blood, and held the heart up for the people to see. The cacophony of cheering was the last thing that he remembered from that fateful day.
Sitting back down on the edge of the large cedar bed, he felt tears prick his eyes. He had been haunted by the memory of killing that boy for decades. He had made a point of never killing another person, and now he was going to have to kill a baby. An evil baby, he corrected himself. Sighing deeply he laid back on the bed and pushed aside the feeling of regret, and the fear of the future.
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