With all of the technical issues we’ve been having with the site (*ahem* sorry that’s still an ongoing thing) I am honestly not sure if I have lost posts, or simply neglected to actually post them. I believe it to be a combination of A and B. Regardless, it appears my feed here is lacking in posts for Firetide Chapters 4 and 5 and now the blog has just been updated with 6 as well~!! So, that’s a lot of missing content. Mea Culpa.
I have mini-lead ins below and links to each one of the chapters, 4-6. I also wanted to drop the news briefly that the first draft of the entire When Comes the Firetide series (*cough* …yeah, yeah… ok. There’s 3. Can we focus,please?) is nearly done. Each book hovers around the 150K mark, so the first draft being done on 450K+ words means I still have a lot to do (rewrites and polishing etc) before it is in any printable form. However, I do hope you’ve been enjoying the WIP posted chapters.
Imperial Encampment, Iaegonul Ruins at the base of The Shards
2nd Som of Justice, Month of Inundation 8178
No shortage of eyes fixed on the returning party. A giant of a Shae named Belks stepped out ahead of the others and ordered everyone to task. Khes had thought Goron was a burly man, but Belks could have passed for a Ganroth if cloaked. His shoulders were massive, and his neck was easily as thick round as Khes’s torso. The Erahs thought on little more than his size before feeling a hand grip her upper arm tightly. Turning her head to look, she saw Goron’s face near hers.
Although he spoke, she heard none of it, nor the barking orders of the taskmaster. Just a muffled rumble of distant thunder. Khes pulled her arm free and straightened on her mount as they came to stop outside the tent of the Teigne. Unaware she was being watched by the knight, Khes slid off the vnesh to stand as Commander Kreios approached the group.
Dismissed by the Erahs, Goron nudged Zakeriel’s shoulder as they handed their mounts over to a squire. “She was barely sitting up last mile or so. Kept… leaning. Looked right through me as if I wasn’t even talking to her.” Although previously indignant toward the woman, he showed genuine concern which only amplified in the young Captain. Although the last complaint on its own would not have stood much ground.
The Captain nodded, “I had noticed much of the same. We should send for Her–”
“Welcome!” Gregoire announced to them all and bowed to Paoel. “I am pleased you have returned. Without incident, I assume?”
“Um…well…” Zakeriel winced and inclined his head. “Mostly…”
Gregoire’s eye twitched as he regarded the Captain, then he looked to Paoel. “Revered Lalsamraat, your journey was not unpleasant?”
“Is good. Paoel is good.” The Tōk made a pleased dook as he leapt from his epicyon and regarded the Commander. “Khes Adaia odh Erahs’Adhali is…” he struggled for a word, uttering a clicking in his throat akin to a growl. “Good liaison.” He hesitated, peering from Gregoire to Khes then back with a sharp nod. “Yes. Good.”
“I am pleased to hear it. I trust Captain Téos has made an equal impression?” His tone was meant for Zakeriel.
Turning his head to examine Zakeriel, Paoel exhaled sharply through his nostrils. One half expected him to stop a foot like a bull. Gregoire did not take this as an encouraging response. Arching a brow, the Commander eyed his protégé then gestured toward the tent. “I was about to alert the Teigne that you had arrived, perhaps we should see him together?”
“Well, I shall have to leave that to the Teigne’s scrutiny.”
Paoel snorted heavily twice then pointed at Khes. “No. Khes needs.”
“Needs what?” Gregoire was baffled at the Tōk’s insistence. As he turned to look at Khes and Zakeriel for answers, he realized that the language barrier had disguised a shift to concern. The Shae language was difficult enough for the Tōk, inflection and tone were near impossible to distinguish within the guttural growling and glottal monotone.
Khes moved to step forward as the Commander looked to her. Weakening at the knees, the Erahs woman collapsed only just catching herself on a supply crate to sit. Zakeriel crossed to her and knelt to examine her face. “She’s sweating… fevered.” To her he pressed with a stern note, “I asked you earlier…”
With little energy she swept his hand away, dismissing his previous show of concern. “It’s nothing.”
Immediately alarmed, Goron stepped back, Obret following suit. “Them things was diseased,” Obret announced.
“WHAT things?” Gregoire demanded of Zakeriel. He looked to Paoel and asked, “was she like this when you joined them?”
Paoel hopped closer to her and sniffed at her hair. “Yes. Scent is same.”
“Lalsamraat, forgive me. I am quite confused.” Gregoire bowed his head with apology whilst turning to regard Khes with concern. “If you are well, perhaps I can lead you in to see the Teigne? I’ll have Lieutenant Hakken see to Khes and the men.”
“Is Dark Blood.” Paoel asserted with a particular struggle to make anything resembling a ‘b’ sound. He gently stroked Khes’s hair as if soothing a child. “She dies.”
“Die– what?!” Zakeriel looked sharply at Paoel. “What are you–”
Gregoire waved for him to stop talking as he pointed at Obret, “find Hereth. Quickly, now!”
Khes pushed Zakeriel back and managed to stand on her own. “Commander, I am fine.”
“She dies,” Paoel insisted.
“Yes, as you said!” Zakeriel growled.
Gregoire stepped closer to her and lifted her chin. He could feel the heat coming from her body. And her eyes, black as obsidian glass, had become blood shot, dark vines of pale violet creeping over them. “Goddess, child, what happened?”
“There was a dying convict–” Goron started but was interrupted by Zakeriel.
“–she was attacked by a diseased Ganroth!”
“Convict—Ganroth…what in the Light of Naaris are you talking about?” Gregoire looked pointedly at Zakeriel.
Khes spoke, her voice getting raspy. “Man was dying…I sat with him…then was tackled by a…”
The woman’s eyes rolled back and her knees gave out again. Gregoire managed to stoop just quickly enough to scoop her up, cradling her like a child to his chest.
“WHERE IS HERETH?!” the aging Shae demanded.
[continued here: Chapter Four: Daylight Iniquity]
Avali Holt, Northern Kestrel Pine Barrens
2nd Som of Fortitude, Month of Inundation 8178
Fingers drummed along the arm rest as Boann sat listening to the hunter. Lowered onto one knee, the woman held her bow across her thigh, touched to the floor as one might use an oar. Her features, not nearly so old as Boann, but having seen many turns more than most of the Clan, were set with a stern glower as J’reth uttered a discourteous laugh.
“I am sorry, Venerate, I simply… I am not certain which claim is more incredulous.” He turned his sapphire eyes on the hunter. “Reene, you are an accomplished hunt–”
“I am your best hunter.” The woman’s eyes held his. “While your House may outrank mine, Tumahnr, I was hunting centuries before your mother pushed you out. And in light of our losses in the last raid and your pitifully inept handling of the Shae, we are now without the House Lihaan– and the best Hunter this clan has managed to ween in a century.”
J’reth inclined his head toward the Venerate, appalled that she had not interjected, but the elder seemed content to let the woman berate him. Crossing his arms, he stood up straight and squared his stance. “The circumstances of our losses of both those in the raid and of Khes tu’Lihaan hardly fall on my head. I will not allow a hunter of House Brash– skilled or not– imply otherwise.” The mispronunciation of her House name was deliberate. Though a subtle difference, the underlying snideness did not go unnoticed. “Nor will I stand here and believe this nonsense about blood sacrifices and… walking dead men.”
Reene drew her chest up with a weary inhalation then dismissed him with a turn of her topaz-gold eyes to Venerate Boann. “I said he smelled of death and rot, not that he was dead. Clearly he was diseased. And I fear there were others. I slayed him where he stood, but I heard…” she struggled for words. “It was like chanting, but it was distant. I simply ask that you allow me a few scouts to inspect further, ensure the clan is not in danger.”
“This… sacrifice,” Boann spoke finally, eyes narrowed with suspicion and scrutiny. “What was it you found, exactly?”
Shaking his head in disgust, J’reth turned his back and paced away as Reene recounted what she found. “It was as I described. Not fresh, had to be a day old. Someone is practicing the arcane magics, Erahsan. I did not have time to inspect everything, but I do remember at least one of the symbols drawn in the blood.”
Boann gestured to the dirt floor. When Reene hesitated, the elder sighed, “it will not conjure anything, it is just a mark.”
Nodding once, she drew with her bow in the dirt not wanting to use her fingertip, in case the Venerate was wrong. The symbol represented was an oval wrapped around the raised tail of an unusual character λ . The tail extended up past the oval in a flourish. As she drew, the Venerate and her Tumahnr adviser craned forward to see.
“I see…” Boann crooned in displeasure as she sank back in her seat. She flicked a hand and immediately Reene dusted it away. J’reth only ducked his head with a dismissive huff and stepped back.
Reene looked between them. “What is it?”
“The symbol of Drhel. It is Seid.” J’reth’s answer was gruff, “but the Seid are not– …the entire point of the Seid belief is–”
The Venerate interjected, “Reene tu’Brash, take two of the scouts. Be back by nightfall. I want to be informed at once if any more of these diseased ones are found. We are in unknown lands. Risks are a luxury we cannot afford.”
“Yes, Erahsan.” Reene stood and genuflected making a deliberate effort to avoid looking toward J’reth. “And the sacrificial altar?”
“Return if you can. If there are any tokens or items left, collect them, perhaps we can identify these Seidr cultists.”
The hunter hesitated as J’reth balked under his breath again. Her head inclined and her throat taut, she inquired, “and the Shae child?”
“It is Shae, but give it a respectful passage. In the condition you described… no parent would be able to identify it, nor would I subject them to the attempt.” Uncharacteristically genteel, the Venerate’s tone imbued them both with a sense of mourning they had shamefully neglected.
Sweeping into another genuflect, Reene’s eyes lit upon J’reth a moment, in spite of all efforts, before she slipped out of the pandal.
Silence hung in the room a moment, not even their breathing audible between them. When the Venerate spoke her voice was as cold as her visage. “How dare you?!”
[continued here: Chapter Five: Red Dust Rising]
Nights in the canyon were cool. Mists lifted off the waters, kissed the skin. Although a thin fog wove between the trees, the stars and fireflies were still bright. The dew on each bladed fern and the spongy moss carpet dampened her legs and feet. Each of her four toes spread wide upon the ground with every step. They dug into the plush cushion to grasp a firm footing on the slick foliage. The shimmer of gold on her brown limbs lent to a camouflage, like faerie dusted saplings sprouting from amidst the emerald canyon. Though Erahs, she looked as much a child of the forest itself, a tree spirit. Such were the Erahs’Calhalla.The snap of a stick turned her head with a sharp whip. A few serpentine gold tendrils slipped from between the platelets of her skull. Each platelet stood tall and folded back looking like broken scales of a reptile, or rough chips of bark, jagged and uneven. All were the same tone as her skin and grew back from her scalp as if to form a crown. Amongst the platelets grew slender tentacles, like the tails of a few dozen saffron-yellow and sage snakes. The few that had tumbled loose coiled and slithered back to intermingle with her ridged scales.
One hand lowered to the bone knife tied to her thigh. Ever so careful not to make a sound, the woman lowered into a crouch. When she heard another crack, the woman turned toward the sound and bared her teeth, sharp like a wolf’s. A distrustful fire flared in her eyes and her berry stained lips peeled back as she uttered a low, warning growl. She heard the heavy thud of a foot too late before her body was tackled to the side. The attacking force rolled with her until coming to rest atop her. The attacker’s hands planted beside her head on either side. Comfortably settled on her hips, he smiled at her proud and playfully possessive.
With an aggressive pound on his bare shoulder, she growled, “Sahaan, you ass!”
To a Ganroth, Sahaan’s laugh might sound like the clicking and chittering of squirrels. The man beamed a vibrant smile and purred, “admit, you missed me.”
Sahaan’s coloring was dark like hers in deeper shades of brown and hints of shimmering black rather than bronze. His eyes were a pale sage green and his tattoos the traditional burgundy. As a male, he had no tentacles, no more than small fleshy spines dark like blackened hickory. He wore only a fur breechcloth bound up by woven rope and the beaded arm band of rank, which the woman was gripping strong enough to indent into his skin.“Nelah…Admit you missed me or I shall challenge you for a liar,” he smirked.
Begrudgingly, the woman pursed her lips then uttered a quiet curse of concession. “Kai…vahahnn.”
“Ha, ha! I knew it.”
Sahaan was still chuckling as she smacked his ass with a firm slap. “May I get up now?” she grunted.
Lowering his head until his nose nearly touched hers, Sahaan showed his own canine teeth and issued a guttural growl, “no. I like it here. I have something to tell you–”
Another sudden snap of wood in the darkness turned her head and the woman covered his mouth with her hand.
[continued here: Chapter Six: Calhalla Mists]