Hope all of you are doing well today. Quite rainy here, but still peaceful, nonetheless.
I wanted to apologize for the delay in getting this chapter posted. I’ve been a tad busy these days with quite a few projects, as well as setting up some promotions/giveaways/etc . . . for my new books release next month.
To the left you can see a preliminary mini mock-up of the cover for The Prophecy. It still needs work, mind you, but I promise that it’ll be ready by the time the book is finished.
I do so hope that all of you enjoy this first chapter of the story. Would love to know what you all think in regards to it. So without further ado, here’s the chapter for you reading pleasure.
Unfurling the roll of parchment, Somers de Fontaine secured a corner with one of the many books that were scattered across the table that also served as his desk. Satisfied that the vellum would not come free of its makeshift paperweights, he sat down and began to peruse the text that had been haphazardly scrawled onto the paper’s surface. His brow furrowed as he sought to understand the significance of what lay before him. His voice stammered as he read the passage aloud.
|“The fate of Velosia lies within a bright flame. One that has never been seen. She will save, as much as destroy; full of a power that trumpets all. To save that which we love the most, we must lose our greatest treasure.“Yet all will not be lost. She will come bearing gifts from other lands; easing our worries as if they’ve never been.“Love her. Guide her. Keep her safe. She must not fall, for her reign will be supreme.“Within two worlds, she will exist; hardship following her every wake. Yet her flame will not be extinguished.
“Beloved Velosia, hear the call. Guard the vessel well. Do not let it break. For all will perish should she be torn asunder.”
Dear God! he thought. What is this madness?
He leaned forward and opened a scuffed wooden box that sat at the upper left corner of the table. Pushing aside several dusty scrolls, he wrapped his fingers around a small vial and drew it forth. The scent of crushed pine assailed his senses as he pulled the bottle’s stopper free. He tipped the phial over, several drops of the oil within it falling onto the parchment. Another passage was soon visible as he spread the emollient across the vellum’s surface.
Lo rahn picalo mah amaneh.
Shah ta míen nok na hallah,
su eina lo michtau.
Couwgheina rok jashueh.
Siberohs gof ul tesh dos.
Haktar rok jima,
Sa pi om yuweh.
Shah barros tanpuh,
a lo reu om ama facneí.
Reaching for an empty papyrus, a quill, and the ink bottle that lay nearby, he proceeded to translate the writing that had appeared. Consulting several of his dictionaries, he made sure that his translation was clear and concise. Making several notes along the scroll’s margin, he sat back to scan what he had written.
The door shall be opened.
She who is born to greatness,
also holds the key.
Coveted by many.
Destruction follows a set path.
Guided by hands,
so pure of light.
She brings salvation,
at the cost of love’s decree.
It cannot be, he thought as clarity set in. The Gods must be mistaken!
“Are we?” asked a disembodied voice.
Startled, he jumped out of his chair. His eyes roved over every inch of the room, searching for the source of the inflection. While nothing seemed out of place, his hackles rose as he became aware of a presence behind him. “Who are you?”
A soft, feminine laugh was his only answer. His salt and pepper locks fluttered gently as a slight breeze swept past him. His visitor materialized; her tall, slender frame inhabiting the chair that he’d occupied moments ago. She propped the scuffed heels of her boots upon the edge of the table and smiled with delight.
Her blue eyes sparkled with amusement. “Don’t you know me?”
Recognition dawned on him and he dropped to his knees to accord the Goddess of Love and Tranquility the respect that she was due. “Anyah,” he said, his gaze rooted to the floor.
“Rise, my beloved servant. You need not bow to me.”
“But . . .”
She lifted a hand, cutting short his retort. “Please, now is not the time. I have been sent here for a reason, good sir, and we have much to discuss.”
He rose and turned about in search of something suitable to sit on. A chair appeared within thin air, mere inches from where he stood. It drifted towards the floor with a gentle thud. A silver pitcher, and two goblets, soon sat upon the table. Pulling the chair forth, he sat down and regarded the Goddess with veiled eyes.
She turned her palm upwards, causing the decanter to rise into the air. It tipped over slightly to pour the amber liquid within its depths into the cups. The edge of her mouth twitched as she gazed back at Somers. The look of love and appreciation upon his face filled her with the utmost pleasure. Returning the jug to its previous place, she nodded at him.
He wrapped his fingers around one of the steins and brought it to his lips. He took a swig, the mead slaking his sudden thirst. “It is I who should have offered you this drink,” he said.
Anyah smiled, her face alight with satisfaction. “You have served us well, Somers. It gives us great joy to share some of our bounties with you.”
“I sometimes wonder if I am worthy of such an honor.”
“Trust me when I tell you that you are in so many ways. You, and your ancestors, have done us a great service, and you shall be properly rewarded in the afterlife.”
“I’ve done only as I have been instructed by those before me.”
“I know. And for that, we thank you.”
He pursed his lips with concentration as he stared back at the svelte beauty. Her auburn hair hung in loose curls about her face, curling softly across the curve of her shoulders. She was clad in a large purple tunic, the edges of the white camisole that she wore underneath peeking out of her neckline. Her slim thighs were covered in light leather pants, its cuffs tucked into her boots. She wore a black leather belt at her waist, the small scabbard of her dagger hanging from it.
“The prophecy is what brings you here, isn’t it?” he asked.
Her smile vanished. Her eyes narrowed as she stared at the scroll that lay upon the table. “Yes, but I wish that it were otherwise, Somers. We’re aware of the fact that the Velosian’s expect deliverance from the struggles that plague your world each and every day. We also know that The Scholl and the Denmarden covet the powers that all of you possess. They seek to acquire it in hopes of destroying their opposition. That, we cannot allow.”
“What does this have to do with me?”
She pointed towards the parchment, crossing her ankles as she did so. “You did not find that scroll by chance. My brothers and sisters placed it within your path. You are meant to deliver this message to your people, for they must know of what will come to pass.”
Somers shook his head, placing the half-filled goblet upon the edge of the table. “I – I cannot, milady. The thought of entrusting an entire kingdom into the hands of a child is ludicrous, much less one that was to be born to the King and Queen. Besides, it is common knowledge that the Queen is barren.”
Anyah shook her head, several tendrils of her hair falling across her brow. “She is not.”
His head snapped back with confusion. “She’s not?”
“No. The Queen is quite fertile, of that I can assure you. We know that the King yearns to have her bear his fruit and she shall. We will make it so. She will give him many sons, and daughters, too, when the time comes. She is also the one who must carry your messiah. We have decreed it so.”
His eyes widened with surprise. Can it be? he thought. Are they truly answering our prayers? Shaking his head, he tried to make sense of what she was telling him.
“The birth shall be the answer that you seek,” she continued, ignoring the fact that she had read his mind yet again. “The child will bear powers that none of you has ever possessed. She . . .”
He gasped, interrupting her train of thought. “The child will be female?”
“The King prefers a son. One who can continue his legacy.”
Anyah’s face was devoid of emotion as she stared back at him. “We’re aware of that fact. As I said, in time, we will give him that which he so covets. You have my word on that. Unfortunately, we have decreed that this messiah be a woman and this we shall not change.”
“But a woman is not suitable to . . .”
She moved so quickly that he did not have time to compose himself. She shoved her face against his own as she bent over him. “Do not underestimate the female species,” she growled. “We are tougher than you think.”
He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing with the effort. “Forgive me.”
She straightened, her mouth pressed into a tight line. Snapping her fingers, the room dissolved before his eyes. He found himself standing on the edge of a precipice, looking down at one of the many valleys scattered throughout the Trilosian Mountains. A sharp cry was rent from his lips as the rocky outcrop upon which he stood began to crumble beneath his feet. Anyah wrapped her fingers around the collar of his shirt and forcibly pulled him back as the ridge tumbled to the depths below. He turned towards her, an ashen pallor staining the skin of his face.
“Forgive me,” she said, lowering her head in shame. “I miscalculated our arrival point. I did not bring you here to kill you.”
Somers pulled a tattered piece of cloth out of one of his pockets and wiped it across his brow. “It warms me to hear you say so.”
She made note of the trepidation that filled his voice, wishing that she were able to ease his worries. Yet she knew well that she could not. He was an integral part in the machinations of her brethren, for he was their key witness in what was to come. What he was to see that very day would add credence to the message that they would send forth to Velosia and its surrounding counterparts.
She whirled about and drank in the beauty of the world that sprang to life before her. Tall trees dotted the entire length of the valley, their boughs swaying gently within the breeze. Stalks of green, vibrant grass danced to and fro as she willed the air current to flow a little faster. The sweet scent of lilacs and lavender soon wafted into the air, tickling her senses.
He came to stand beside her, his eyes sweeping over the horizon. They widened with horror as he surveyed the chaos that unfolded below. A throng of warriors were setting up a makeshift camp. Several of the soldiers were intent on assembling a catapult, carrying several huge logs towards the base of the contraption. A disfigured werewolf growled with irritation and barked orders at a group of scouts as they lounged nearby. They scampered forth and converged around one of the giant driftwoods and helped their compatriots carry it along towards where the others lay.
Although, he could not hear what they were saying, Somers was sure that they were being reprimanded for their carelessness. As they bustled into action, the overseer stalked off toward another of the camps without a further glance at the warriors.
“They’re preparing for war,” he said, moments later.
“They seek to acquire the very essence that makes your people unique.”
“Our magic, you mean?”
“How is this to play out in whatever sordid scheme you have up your sleeve?” he asked, unable to curb his tongue as the words spilled forth.
A muscle jumped along the curve of her jaw. She waved a hand about and replied, “Everything you have, we have given you. Your people take too much for granted, believing that we will continue to bestow our many blessings upon them. We have decided that this will not continue.”
Somers hung his head in shame. “Forgive me. We never meant to dishonor the Gods.”
“Do not misunderstand me,” she continued lightly. “We are not angry with you.”
“Then why are you permitting such a thing?”
“We want your kind to learn humility. We also wish for you to learn survival amidst the threat of extinction.”
“The onset of war will not make that an easy feat. You know that, don’t you?”
A dark shadow crossed the contours of her face, disappearing as quickly as it had come. “Yes, but we shall not prevent it.”
“We have been nothing but loyal to all of you.”
“Yes, and we are grateful for that. Truth be told, we find most of you lacking in that sincerity. We wish to see what all of you are made of.”
“This is not the way. There are far better means in which to achieve that objective.”
The ground shook beneath their feet as the explosives that several of the warriors had arranged along the base of the mountain went off. Rocks and debris were thrown high into the air as a large portion of the ridge was blasted free. Somers watched as they ran for cover in hopes of avoiding the brunt of the explosion.
His brow furrowed. “What do they seek?”
She chewed upon her lower lip and took her time in answering his question. “Power.”
“You said that they covet our magic. They plan to use it against us?”
“Such a thing is not possible, is it?”
She turned to face him, a small smile hovering about her lips. “It is if we make it so. You’re having come across the scroll that now sits on your desk was not an accident. We have set many things into motion. Things that will change the way of life for you and your kind.”
His scowl deepened as he sought to understand what she was trying to tell him. “Your words seem a tad cryptic.”
“I don’t mean them to be. I just . . . I want you to understand, is all.”
“Understand what? That you, and your brethren, have decided to play with the fabric that exists between our realm and yours until the outcome suits you? That you play a game that neither side may win?”
Her eyes narrowed as she assessed him from head to toe. “You make a formidable opponent, Somers de Fontaine.”
“I’m glad that I amuse you.”
Whirling about to face the expanse of the valley, she pointed towards the group of soldiers. “What you are witnessing today has not yet come to pass. This is but a warning. A message that you must deliver to your people.”
“If I refuse? What then?”
“Your lineage has always been preserved for this purpose. You cannot run from it. Your ancestors were quite loyal and served us without question. So must you. This is what you were born for. You are the last of your kin. You cannot outrun your destiny.”
“What if I were to renounce it?”
“Are you sure?” he challenged, his eyes narrowed to half-slits. “Our lives are not predetermined. We are free to choose the paths that we wish to walk. We . . .”
Lightning crackled in the horizon. A strong wind arose, whipping the edges of his black robes about his body. Large drops of rain splattered to the ground and drenched him from head to toe as the sudden storm started to pick up. His teeth began to chatter as the cold seeped into his bones.
“The threads of your existence are tethered to our hands. We determine what you may do and when. Do not mistake our compassion. We are not that benevolent.”
Somers dropped to his knees, bowing his head at her in reverence. “Forgive me,” he said. “I – I just find it hard to make sense of all of this.”
She placed a hand across his head and nodded to herself. While most of his kind was self-absorbed and indulged in so many excesses, he chose to live a life of solitude; his beliefs strengthened by the blessings that the Gods bestowed upon him. He gave people hope when times were trying and sought to ease the suffering for those that were ill or dying. It was a part of his nature that she enjoyed immensely and she did not want him to lose faith in her or her kin.
Without another word, she snapped her fingers and they materialized within his study. She tossed several logs into the hearth and started a fire with a mere flick of her hand. Warmth soon permeated throughout the room, steam rising from Somers’ robes as they began to dry.
He searched the depths of her blue eyes as she turned to face him, a smile of gratitude hovering across his lips. “Thank you.”
She nodded. “I meant you no ill will, good Shaman, and now ask for your forgiveness.”
“You’ve always had it, milady.” He tapped his lips with a fingertip as apprehension filled him. “The child . . . do they know of her?”
She shook her head, the curls of her hair flying about her face. “Not yet, but they will soon. Already, there have been whispers of this power and they seek to acquire it.”
“What will they do with it should they find it?”
A small, tight smile hovered about her mouth. “What any other person would do. They’re going to destroy all those who stand in their way.”
“My people . . . are they in danger?”
“Can we stop it?”
She shrugged. “Perhaps. While we may be all-knowing, I cannot divulge the outcome of what shall befall your people. You must find out for yourself what that may be. I came to deliver this message to you and have shown you what we needed you to see. It is now up to you to do with it as you wish to. Know this, Shaman. Should you double-cross us, the punishment will be severe.”
He swallowed heavily, trying to ignore the sudden chill that coursed down his spine. “What if my people do not believe in what I have to say?”
“They shall. They see you as a learned medicine man. Your previous messages to them have never once gone astray. Neither will this one. They will believe, and they will act accordingly. At least, we hope so.”
“Milady . . .”
She held up a hand, cutting into his retort. “I have said enough. It is time for me to go.”
“But . . .”
“We will speak again soon.”
She disappeared within the blink of an eye, leaving him alone within the middle of his study. While most of his robes had started to dry, the edges near his feet were till dripping with water. As he watched the droplets fall onto the floor, he wondered what would become of him and his people.
The prophecy that had been entrusted to him was not one that the King, and his subjects, would take lightly. Many would find a way to discredit what he had to say, but he knew that he would prevail in making them see the light. There was a war on the horizon and they needed to prepare for what was to come.