Sneak Peek! Prologue: The Keeper from Kingsblade

26 Jul

“For the word of Elindr is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” – verse from the Breathing Book

_____ _ _____

I am quite old now. I have been the keeper of our realm’s history for over three thousand years. The world has changed much since the beginning. I was born when the land was still learning how to bear fruit, when the birds were still few, and life itself was a breathtaking wonder — a novelty instead of a regularity. But most importantly, I was born when Elindr still walked among us.

It did not last, for the great Lord cannot stand in Darkness and there was much Darkness amidst the people. Bickering, stealing, murder. The darkness grew with each passing year like a suffocating vine, devouring the good lands that the King had created. Not all at once, you must understand, but quickly enough for it to startle the faithful into silence. We did not fight it. We were to content, lulled asleep by the wicked song of the recreants. Evil is not, after all, always so obvious and malevolent in nature. So it took the land and Elindr left us. Not completely, but He stopped walking among us as He once had.

The world became a dangerous place after that. I hadn’t realized then it was only destined to grow worse. We were angry — all the races with one another. It was not long before divisions grew up between the races. The dwarves retreated into the mountains, the elves into their hills and forests. My people, the Yuagckweh, into the plains of the deserts. There was only one race who tried to stop us.

The race of man.

We scoffed at them then, for their lives were but vapors compared to ours. They would not last. For they too easily forgave one another, too willingly gave all they had to one another, and too quickly rose to arms against one another.

They did not perish, though. We did not care for the affairs of men and so we did not know that until our life depended it. And when we learned of their survival, all spoke of it. We said to one another, “They will fall soon enough” or “There is no strength in the race of men. Perhaps they have joined in alliance with the Darkness?” We had grown proud in our deliberate ignorance. And we were wrong.

When the Darkness appeared, they were the first to declare war. They were the first to fall in battle, and there were many who fell. They were the ones who called us all together. It was the first time in eight hundred years that all the races had gathered; the end of the first age was upon us.

It was these men, these humans, who reminded us of our faith to Elindr and urged us to join them. They had a bold king, a young man named Eoran, who said that Elindr had spoken to him. Who had told him about the darkness and a great Deceiver who sought to send us into eternal condemnation. He bore a blade that he called the Kingsblade, forged by Elindr Himself and given to Eoran as a symbol. A symbol that He had chosen Eoran as his champion.

It seemed superficial. Unbelievable. Why a man? Why not an elf? Or a dwarf? Or one of the People? We did not believe at first.

But then, when the Darkness reached our own lands and began to enslave us, we became more open-minded to the young king. We saw him in battle. We saw him come, though he knew he was hated in our lands and had received no hospitality from us before. We were amazed for the Darkness could not stand against him. His ability with the sword — unparalleled. I knew then that Elindr had not abandoned us. No, He left us in the hands of one quite capable. Since then I have realized that He always, despite the hopelessness of it all, sends someone to come and dig us out of our stupidity. 

 

“I want all these infidels
dead! Give them no mercy for they shall receive none when they descend into the Darkness.”

“Yes, m’lord….”

The door to our prison cracked and moaned as a form, swathed in curled fronds of shadow and covered from head to toe in scarred black metal armor, walked in among us like a phantom from some ill-fated, forgotten past.

“So these are the biggest threats to my kingdom? The mighty warriors of Aérlas?” The man erupted into shallow, rasping laughter that seemed horribly out of place after the achingly long moments of enduring silence. “You — the greatest among the followers of the all-powerful Elindr.” His head tipped up long enough for us to see the pale skin of his neck. A low taunt indeed. “Oh, how I love to see you broken. Look at yourselves! And for some reason I thought you would be a challenge to crush.”

He paused and jerked his head around, searching our faces for something. An emotion of some sort? Anger? Despair? Possibly surrender. All I could see was exhaustion. Filth. The rats as they splashed through the muck and the urine that clung to the paling skin around our ankles.

I was so tired. The war had left us scattered and broken, but alive nonetheless. Now, I was faced with the question: would we even survive at all? We had been caught off guard. We had stayed asleep for too long. And, now, we paid for our negligence and oversight.

“I’ll make sure to arrange for a warm welcome when you taste the darkness,” he crooned. I knew him by many names, but there was one that I had always found to fit him well. Pervez in our ancient language, which translated into the common tongue as “the Deceiver of Men”.

“I wonder,” he said, looking at us again with a wild and trembling madness edging his voice, “where your Elindr is now. If He cares so much for His people, then why hasn’t He come down to save you?”

Some of the smallest children screamed as he stepped past them, the clink of his iron-shod feet akin to the shrill shriek of the guillotine nearby. I had stopped counting the times it was brought down days before.

Pervez knelt before one of the smallest, a girl no more than eight winters with faded blue eyes and dirty, tangled red hair. “Oh, my little child, are you cold?”

“Leave her, Pervez,” I warned, though I knew not what I could do to stop him.

He traced his glove bound hand over her pale cheek. “You suffer so much for one so small. Come to me, little one, and I will make you rich. I will make you powerful. I will make you strong.”

Her lips quivered as a moan escaped her. “I-I don’t want to be rich… or powerful… I just want to see the sun shine again.” She turned her head away, her cheek brushing the grimy stone walls behind her.

“You have spirit. The Legions could use someone such as you,” Pervez continued, grabbing her chin and jerking her head back toward himself.

“Make him stop, Rajii… please….” she sobbed, struggling against the grip of the dark lord.

“Elindr,” I whispered. “Why allow your children to endure such pain?” I closed my eyes as a silent tear rolled down my face.

“For this you were called, because I suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in My steps.”

“Rajii!” The little girl screamed. I struggled against my own will, knowing that if I looked I would only see pain. Finally, I allowed my eyes to meet hers.

“I’m scared,” she whispered to me. Tears streamed down her cheeks as Pervez closed his hand around her throat.

I could not look away. “Do not be,” I replied softly. “You go to meet your Father.”

She managed a small nod before her eyes closed and life left her as silently as her last breath.

“So she passes into the gates of the Kingdom Above,” I murmured, lifting my head to where I imagined the sun that could not bear to shine in this black pit would be. “Let her be well received,” I whispered, tears streaming down my cheeks and under my chin. I had no strength left to stop them.

“Consider it a merciful gesture, pastor. The Darkness will welcome her well for the pain she has endured at your hand.”

I turned my gaze back to Pervez. My eyes narrowed for a moment before all expression faded from my face. “She was a daughter of Elindr. She will not taste your accursed shadow.”

Pervez stood and stepped toward me. For the first time, I glimpsed his eyes beneath the shadow of his helmet. There was no light to be found there, only darkness. And there would be no redemption from the shadow for him. Only the fires of Elindr’s wrath. “You are a cur in the eyes of Elindr. Stop trying to please a God who hates you and everyone else!”

“If he were a cur in Elindr’s eyes, he would already be dead. And by my sword, I might add.”

A long breath escaped my lips and I closed my eyes. “Eoran,” I breathed as I looked toward the broad-shouldered figure in the doorway. There was a thud as the executioner fell to the ground.

The glint of the Kingsblade sent shafts of light into the dungeon.

“Elindr delivers us this day,” Eoran said as Pervez shrank back into the shadows. The king pulled a book from the folds of his cloak and handed it to me. “A gift from the Kotkaas,” he announced, smiling. “It is truly a book that breathes.”

“I don’t know if this is the best time for gifts, my king,” I told him quietly.

“There is never a bad time for gifts. Now, you take this and–” Eoran looked toward Pervez and frowned for a moment before extending his hand with another book held calmly in it. “We even made one for you. Although I say we generously. To be honest, I feel it’s a waste of paper. But you can consider it a demonstration of the munificence of those who have chosen to follow Elindr, the one true King above all men.”

Pervez shuffled forward and snatched the book from Eoran’s hand before recoiling and disappearing into the shadows.

“Come, my friend,” Eoran said to me as he broke away my shackles, “and rejoice in this freedom that Elindr has given you. For He has shown us many things in our defeat, and will yet show us many more in our rise from the ashes.”

I couldn’t help feeling that it was too easy a victory.

And I knew it was one that would not last.

***

“A gift worthy of pigs,” Pervez snarled, tearing open the book. His hands snapped to the edges of the book and it felt as though lightning coursed through his veins. He tried to scream, but no noise came. A sharp, hot wind whipped across his face. The pages of the Breathing Book flipped over one another rapidly, forming a spinning arch of parchment.

It was a long, painful moment before the wind stilled and the pages stopped.

“And I saw an angel coming down from the Kingdom Above, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the Deceiver, and bound him, and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive Aérlas any longer.”

The dark lord closed the book with mechanical calm. “So, they give me a gift that mocks me. This is how you choose to repay me, Elindr? You would allow mere men to scoff at me even when You are the one who allows their pain? Do You not think You are being deceptive?”

I AM THAT I AM. ALL THAT PASSES THROUGH MY EYES IS FITTED ACCORDING TO A WONDEROUS PLAN THAT IS FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL WHO TRUST ME.

“And for those who do not trust in You?”

THEY WILL PERISH

 

I realize now that all along it has been men who have kept the world from perishing. Though none of them were perfect by any measure, they shared a love of Elindr and a servant’s heart. We had peace in the Second Age. Elindr spoke to me often in those days. I have learned to love the sound of His voice. I frown now because it has always been there. I was only refusing to listen to it. Indeed, I became much more humble during those years of peace after the wars. Eoran appointed me as pastor of the realm soon after the end of the war and once again Elindr would speak to me, though not in the same way as before.

It grieved me when Eoran died, but his successor was noble and strong. As were his ancestors thereafter. I knew and loved each of them dearly for the race of men is blessed with much strength and beauty.  

I have said that I am old, and this is true. I feel that soon I will go home and at last walk with Elindr as I once did. But first, I must tell the tale of a kingdom almost lost. For I have received visions of a realm I do not know and yet reminds me of our own. I see in it many of the things I saw in the first years — divisions among the races, anger, and darkness. I do not know why Elindr shows me this; I do not feel there is anything I can do to help them other than pray, which I do now. I pray for healing but also leadership, because there was such a one in our own kingdom not so long ago.

Her story is one unlike any other I have known.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

An excerpt from Sarah Spradlin’s novel-in-progress, Kingsblade.

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3 Responses to “Sneak Peek! Prologue: The Keeper from Kingsblade”

  1. brookenicolenorris July 29, 2013 at 1:59 PM #

    Awesome! I am sucked into your novel now and you MUST finish this! It has changed much in three months. 🙂 Good job, once again. I cannot wait to “re-meet” Ryn.

  2. brookenicolenorris July 29, 2013 at 2:00 PM #

    Shoot, not Ryn. Lee. My mistake 😛

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