Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Labyrinth Preview: Chapter Two

As I have said before, this is a rough draft chapter. I hope you will overlook any errors that you find, as my editor hasn't gone over this yet. I hope that you've been enjoying the chapters I've been posting, though. I'll post one more at the beginning of June, and then the book will be released on July 10th! I hope you're looking forward to that. Until then, enjoy this preview.

If you haven't read the previous chapters, click here to begin with the prologue or here to read Chapter One.












Chapter Two: Alliances


Adesina felt distinctly uncomfortable.
Thirty-seven sets of eyes were fixed on her, as if expecting some sort of speech or ceremonial gesture.
Instead, the young woman stood still, doing her best to appear calm.
The memory of the prophecy of the Threshold Child rose up in her mind. When she had first heard it, she had only been told a portion—the only part known to the L’avan people. Then, through her visions of the past, she had finally heard the prophecy in its entirety.
Every word was clear to her, as if seared on her mind.

Thus speaks the Creator—listen well:

Tragic days lie ahead, born from the pride of my children.
The conflict between Light and Darkness is far from resolution,
 in spite of what may seem to be a reprieve.
The Blood of my heirs shall be wantonly spilt.
The earth shall cry out in pain and sorrow.
The benighted years of silence shall only be broken
when the Child of the Threshold stands on the brink of eternity—
when a life is freely given in the purity of love.
 Only then will the path leading to the Light appear.

The Sacrifice will stand as a bridge between Light and Darkness,
spanning the worlds and cleansing each of ancient hatreds.
The Sacrifice will bring both destruction and salvation,
like the purifying flames of a forest fire.
In the moment of truth, the Sacrifice shall become the Child of the Threshold,
ushering in the Era of The Return.

Look, therefore, to the advent of the Threshold Child.
One who is of this people yet not of this people.
One who bears all gifts, Dreams as friends,
sees as the enemy and shall be called the bird of prey.
This is the one who stands on the Threshold of a New World.
This is the one who will save my children from the slow destruction of their atrophy
and lead them back to the light of their purpose.

Adesina didn’t know what all of the prophecy meant, but she felt the weight of it on her shoulders. The sense of responsibility pressed down on her and her mind whirled with feelings of inadequacy. She was the Threshold Child, and she was meant to do all that was stated in those divine words.
Sitara broke the uncomfortable silence. “Adesina, do you know the prophecy of the Threshold Child?”
Adesina nodded.
“Do you understand what it means?”
She shook her head.
Sitara’s tone was solemn. “It means that we Immortals have lost our way, and the Creator has provided a beacon to guide us back to our path.”
Adesina frowned. “You mean that I am the beacon?”
A derisive snort could be heard from behind Adesina. “Perhaps,” rasped a sibilant voice.
All attention turned to the speaker, and Adesina turned to see who the dissenter was among the Council.
The owner of the voice was very tall—Adesina estimated that the top of her head would only reach his lower chest—and his form was narrow and lithe. His hairless head was slightly oblong and it was set on the end of a long, snake-like neck. His grey skin shimmered slightly, like granite, and he wore a flowing robe of dark blue.
The crowd of creatures parted as he walked forward to stand before Adesina. Some of the members of the Council seemed to stand up straighter as he passed, as if he lent them greater strength. Others unconsciously turned their bodies away from him, as if he carried some loathsome disease.
Adesina noted that the speaker’s eyes were very small and that his nostrils and ears were no more than slits on his head.
He spoke again in a voice that bore the undertones of a hiss, but was quite unlike the sound of any serpent. “You may give your trust blindly, Serraf, but we Laithur do not. Your desire for the Threshold Child is so strong that you would grant that name to any newcomer to this realm.”
Sitara’s expression became frosty. “And your reluctance for the coming of the Threshold Child would blind you to any evidence of the truth. Look at her, Brother Ruon. She is a child of humanity, and yet she has transformed into a Serraf. What more proof do you need?”
Ruon sneered at Adesina, as though she were unworthy of standing in his presence. “Much proof is needed before the Laithur pledge to follow this…being.”
Toraun shifted his weight uneasily and plucked at his golden beard with two of his four hands. “Brother Ruon, the days of our trials doth come to an ending. Our numbers dwindle, and it needs be that all Immortals join hands in friendship. We hath not the luxury of standing divided at this crucial time.”
Ruon made a sweeping gesture with one of his long, thin arms. “Well, you will certainly get no cooperation from the Shimat or those that follow them,” he snapped in irritation. “You are fortunate that any of the Dark Brethren have attended this meeting today.”
There were several mutters of approval at his words. Adesina began to notice a division among the Council. Not one that was purposeful or organized, but the separation between races that had become natural over countless years. Uneasy or even hostile glances were exchanged between groups, and they almost stood with their backs to one another.
Adesina’s eyes darted back to Sitara, looking for her reaction to this turn of events. The leader of the Serraf wore an expression on her face that spoke volumes of her reluctance to have anything to do with the so-called Dark Brethren.
“The followers of Darkness are not the only ones who have given in to their doubts,” piped up a tree-like creature. “I do not see the Kiorssan or the Melyd here today. I am certain there are others missing as well.”
Ruon, who was looking defiant and confrontational, appeared mollified by that statement. “There are Immortals of both Light and Dark that have not given heed to the instructions of the Ancients. I suppose we that remain will have to suffice for what is to come.”
“What isssss to come?” asked an enormous serpent with feathered wings. Adesina recognized it as a member of the Qetza race.
Sitara’s voice took on a timbre that was heavy with meaning. “The arrival of the Threshold Child signals the end of one era and the beginning of another. She will show us the path that will lead us back to our true purpose—the one given to us by our creators.”
“And those who have chosen not to join us here today?” asked a creature that looked like a horse made of flames.
All eyes turned to Toraun, the apparent Council leader. “They who choose to stay on the lower plane shalt have no place in the New World. All must ascend to a higher state of being in order to move forward.”
His statement brought even more tension to the gathering until it was palpable in the air. Adesina was impressed that the Council members could come together to form this alliance, in spite of what was clearly a long-time animosity.
 Adesina silently pondered what had been said. She could safely surmise that Ruon was a demon, and it surprised her to see a demon at this council. Her eyes turned to the other strange faces that surrounded her, and she wondered how many of them were also demons.
She couldn’t guess based on appearances. Cha-sak and the demon Adesina had fought in Zonne had looked evil in every aspect. She had formed the assumption that demons must look like monsters. Ruon, however, did not look evil at all—strange, but not evil. There was a graceful sorrow that surrounded Ruon’s lithe figure, and his small black eyes glittered with the bitterness of being deeply wronged.
Several of the unusual faces in the crowd around Adesina appeared to be less interested in the accomplishment of the tentative alliance and more concerned with what Toraun had just said.
“Are you saying that some of our brothers and sisters will be left behind?” rasped the rock-like creature.
Toraun spread all four of his hands in a beseeching gesture. “All hath been extended the invitation to join us on this day—even our Shimat brethren. The division that wilt take place as the dawn of the New World ascends will not be of our doing, but of theirs.”
Adesina frowned thoughtfully. How many will be left behind?
Ravi’s mind answered hers. There are thirty-seven races represented here, and legends tell of one hundred Immortal races being born. There are some races that are no more, such as the Gaiana. Others, such as the Shimat, have given themselves completely to Darkness.
The young woman’s frown deepened. And others will simply be left in this realm, abandoned?
Ravi didn’t appear to have an answer for her.
Adesina’s attention was caught once more by the lively discussion of the Council.
“We cannot force anyone to join us, Brother Syss. Individual choice is a gift of the Light, and to take it away is an act of Darkness.”
Syss, the Qetza representative, twitched his feathered wings in agitation. “That issss not what I wasssss sssaying, Ssssissster Chaholand.”
Toraun raised his arms high above his head and called for silence.
“Please, my brethren and sisters, let us not quarrel. Our efforts in convincing those absent here shalt double during what time we have left. For now, there is something of greater import.”
An expectant hush fell over the Council, and Adesina looked around in confusion. All eyes were once again on her, riveted on her young face.
Toraun approached her, his willowy form swaying with a slow grace. Sunlight reflected off of his golden hair and beard, and the robe he wore was stirred by the breeze. Adesina was surprised as he drew closer. She expected him to be taller, but his head was even with hers. Perhaps it was simply magnitude of his presence that made him seem larger.
“All Immortals wert created on the same day,” said Toraun in a soft voice that was meant only for Adesina’s ears. “The Blessed Ancients lent their powers to the Creator, and there was a great celebration of Life when all was completed. On that day, the Creator told of one final child of the Ancients that wouldst be born—one last Immortal created. The Creator decreed that this last born Immortal shalt be our leader in our time of greatest need.”
Toraun’s piercing gaze bore down heavily on Adesina.
“Thou art that child, Sister Adesina. Thou shalt be our leader.”
He placed two of his hands on her head and the other two on her shoulders. He raised his voice as he continued, so all could hear his words.
“I pledge to thee my life and my loyalty, so that my strength shall be thine. Thy fate shalt be my own—thy triumphs my triumphs, and thy failures my failures.”
Adesina felt a rush of warmth surge from Toraun’s hands and through her body. She felt strangely lighter, as if a burden had been lifted from her shoulders.
One by one, each of the other Immortals came forward and recited the same oath while either touching her head or her shoulders, or both. Each time, Adesina felt the flash of warmth and lightening of her entire being.
The early ones to follow Toraun were eager to pledge themselves to Adesina. However, as the faces passed before the young L’avan woman, they seemed less and less certain in what they were doing.
When Ruon stood before her, his small eyes were narrowed with skepticism and he waited long moments before placing his cold hands on her shoulders.
“I pledge to you my life and my loyalty, so that my strength will be yours. Your fate will be my own—your triumphs my triumphs, and your failures my failures.” He removed his hands and added, “I suppose there are worse things than failing on the side of Light. I just pray you show more promise in the future than what I see now.”
Adesina’s temper flared and her fists clenched into balls at her side.
Ravi sent soothing emotions through their connection. Do not let him bait you, Ma’eve. He wishes to start a fight.
I would be happy to grant him his wish, she thought back angrily.
Sitara was the last to stand before Adesina. Not a trace of doubt darkened her lovely face as she gently laid her hands on Adesina’s head. All of the negative emotions that swirled inside of the L’avan woman’s head dissipated with the light of Sitara’s smile.
The Serraf leader spoke the oath slowly and with purpose. The words somehow took on a new and deeper meaning, and Adesina felt her vyala swell from the core of her being.
What just happened?
Ravi’s mind was just as uncertain as Adesina’s.
I…think you have become the leader of the Serraf.
Sitara smiled as if she understood their thoughts and gave the briefest of nods. Adesina stared at her in bewilderment.
“And now, little sister, we must make haste,” said Sitara calmly.
The heads of the Council members standing around them nodded in agreement.
Adesina frowned slightly. “Where are we going?”
Sitara’s smile was both sad and determined. “We are going to win your world back from the Darkness.”

ANNOUNCEMENT

The day has finally come, my friends. I have the release date for "The Labyrinth of Destiny," the third and final book of my Threshold series. I know it's been a long time coming, and I apologize for that. I appreciate your patience with me throughout this process. My book will be available for purchase on Amazon on:

10 July 2015

I'm excited to see the thoughts and reactions of all of you when you read the story's conclusion, and I hope that you're excited to read it. Again, please feel free to post comments or questions here or on my Facebook page or on my GoodReads author page!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Labyrinth Preview: Chapter One

As promised, I'm posting a preview chapter for my third book "The Labyrinth of Destiny" and I will post another one next month. All of this will be leading up to the book release this summer. I hope that it will serve as a way to get you all excited for what's to come.

Keep in mind, this is still a rough draft (none of the book has gone through my editor yet). But you can assume that it's not too far from the finished product. Please post comments and let me know what you think!

If you haven't read the prologue (or if you'd like to review it), click here.








Chapter One: Other Realms




The air was heavy. It almost felt thick as Adesina breathed it in, and it had a strongly herbal scent.

It had been mere minutes earlier that she had been in Zonne—the great desert continent—high atop Daemon Mount where there stood a magical gateway between realms. Now she found herself on the opposite side of the Threshold, standing in a world far from her own.

Adesina barely noticed the strangely heavy air, and she paid no attention to her alien surroundings. Instead, her eyes were fixed on the angelic woman standing before her.

The woman’s name was Sitara, and she was the leader of the Serraf—an immortal race of women with magical abilities.

Sitara greeted Adesina with a warm and musical voice. “Welcome, She Who Was Born on the Threshold. We have been waiting for you.”

“You have?” was Adesina’s baffled reply.

Sitara inclined her head and a lock of dark wavy hair brushed her round cheek. “Yes, we have been waiting for centuries for your arrival. Your birth was foretold by the Ancients, and now you are here.”

Adesina’s mind was a muddle of confusion. “My birth…?”

“I suppose I should say your rebirth,” corrected Sitara.

The haze in Adesina’s thoughts cleared, and the memories of her journey flashed through her mind.

She had traveled to Daemon Mount in pursuit of her kidnapped husband, and she had fought obstacle and demon alike to reach the Threshold. Adesina had released L’iam from the spell that imprisoned his mind and had taken his place as the sacrifice to open the gateway between realms.

“I died,” stammered Adesina.

Sitara nodded calmly. “Yes, but surely you did not think that death was the end.”

“No,” Adesina answered slowly. “I know that our spirits live on. But I am not a spirit. My body still lives.”

Sitara smiled. “Mortal life is like a line from birth to death, but eternity is as a circle—always returning to its source. You have stood on the brink of eternity, and have returned to your beginning.”

“Are you saying that she has become immortal?” asked Ravi sharply.

Adesina glanced at the enormous feline that served as her guardian. She and Ravi had been Joined during their recent journey, which meant they could feel each other’s emotions—among other things. Adesina sensed a deep concern attached to his question, but she did not fully understand why.

Sitara tilted her head slightly to the side. “No Serraf is ever born mortal.”

A jolt of shock and disbelief came from both Ravi and Adesina, leaving them feeling shaken from the strength of the joint emotions.

“A Serraf?” asked Adesina faintly.

Sitara’s purple and gold eyes searched the face of the young woman before her. “You willingly gave your life to save your husband and your world. Your actions awakened the gift of your heritage—your vyala in its purest form. The part of you that is human died to bring to pass the desire of your heart, and the part of you that is Serraf was transformed by the connection to true vyala.”

Adesina had spent the last six years studying vyala—the magic of her people—but there was still so much that she didn’t understand. She grasped at the parts of Sitara’s statement that she did comprehend.

“My vyala saved my life?”

The leader of the Serraf shook her angelic head. “Adesina the human died on the Threshold.”

“And Adesina the Serraf was born,” Ravi’s deep voice finished gravely.

Adesina took careful stock of her personal well being. She did not feel any different. She did not feel weak or ill, as one might expect after…dying. In fact, she felt wonderful. She felt well rested and strong—incredibly strong.

Too strong for any mortal, came Ravi’s grim assessment through their Joining.

Adesina’s pulse quickened with fear. “What does this mean for me?”

Sitara reached out a gentle hand. “Do not be afraid, young one. You have simply passed from one state of being to another. You are still you.”

“Is she?” questioned Ravi. “Would I not be different if I suddenly became human?”

“You were not born to be human,” reasoned Sitara calmly. “Whereas Adesina was born to be a Serraf.”

“How can that be possible?” asked Adesina. “I do not see other L’avan being transformed into Serraf.”

Sitara’s purple and gold eyes were serene. “They are not you. Everything that has happened in your life has led you to this path. This transformation is the culmination of every choice you have ever made.”

Adesina’s brow furrowed in thought. “What if I had made different choices? Would I have not been transformed?”

Sitara lifted a shoulder in a slight shrug. “There is no way to know such a thing. All I know is that you did make the choices that have brought you here.”

Adesina gave a heavy sigh. “Well, what now? What does it mean that I am a Serraf? Do I just stay here with you? What about my people and my home?”

Sitara shook her head. “Your birth is only the first in a series of vital events that are required to save your world. The time for waiting is over.”

Ravi cocked his head to the side. “Do you know of another way back to our world? Adesina sealed the Threshold of Zonne, and it cannot be reopened.”

A lock of Sitara’s dark hair fell across her face as she lowered her head. “That Threshold is my greatest failure. I did not properly protect the Immortals from being drawn in when it was opened, and I did not have the chance to close it fully before we became trapped. Cha-sak and his followers have fought to control that Threshold for centuries. I knew I could not attempt to open that gateway as long as they were there, so I began to work on opening a different Threshold.”

“Did you succeed?” asked Ravi.

The leader of the Serraf slowly shook her head. “The Creator told me that it was not time to open that Threshold.”

Adesina felt a jolt of surprise. “You talked to the Creator?”

A hint of a smile touched Sitara’s lips. “Of course. Why does this surprise you?”

The young woman struggled to find her words. “I guess…it is because I have never heard of the Creator speaking to anybody. I did not know that there was any real…proof…of the Creator.”

“Do you require proof?”

Adesina’s face flushed in embarrassment. “Well, no…”

There was a time when Adesina would have demanded proof before believing anything, but that had changed during her time with the L’avan. She knew now that there were some things that were beyond mortal logic.

Sitara’s expression softly changed from amused to kindly. “The Serraf are the handmaidens of the Creator. It is our privilege to receive direct communication.”

Ravi, on the other hand, continued to look vastly amused. “Perhaps you should have paid more attention to the mythology of the L’avan.”

Adesina shot him a sharp glare before turning back to Sitara. “Did the Creator tell you when it would be time to open that Threshold?”

“Yes—when She Who Was Born on the Threshold stands before it.”

Adesina made an impatient gesture. “Well then, let us not waste any more time! Show us the way to the Threshold so we can return to our world.”

Sitara nodded calmly. “I will do as you request, but first we must meet with the Council.”

Ravi frowned. “Why?”

“Because it is required,” was her enigmatic reply.

The Serraf leader turned and walked out of the cavern where Adesina and Ravi stood. She did not turn to see if she was being followed.

Adesina stood for a moment, irresolute.

We cannot find the Threshold on our own, Ravi reminded her gently through their shared thoughts.

I know, but I hate to delay any longer than necessary.

Her feline guardian smiled. Then consider this a necessary delay.

Adesina frowned in annoyance, but hurried after their guide.

Her sight was dazzled by the bright sunlight of the outside world. She shielded her eyes as they adjusted. She took note of the heavy herbal scent of the air, but didn’t find it unpleasant.

Adesina couldn’t help but stare at the alien appearance of the world she had entered. There was no grass on the ground, but a thick moss that was a brilliant violet color. The sky was not blue, but pink like a sunrise. There were a handful of shrubberies nearby that were yellow, and the stream that trickled by was a vivid green.

Other than the outcropping of rock where the Threshold cave was located, there were no hills or mountains in sight. There weren’t any trees or buildings either. Everything appeared to be either flat or low-standing.

Adesina noticed that there were no other people in sight and she frowned thoughtfully. Sitara was walking down a worn path on dirt that was a glittering black. Adesina rushed to catch up to the Serraf.

“I thought you said that this Threshold was controlled by demons.”

Sitara inclined her head. “It was. Once Cha-sak crossed over into your world, the others abandoned it. The Threshold had served its purpose, and they saw no value in maintaining control over it. I have been watching this Threshold for a long time, and when I saw the demons leave I knew that your arrival was near.”

“So you came to greet us,” finished Ravi.

Sitara nodded. “Yes. I sent my Rashad companion to gather the Council, and I came to act as your guide.”

“How far away is the Council from the other Threshold?” asked Adesina impatiently.

Sitara did not slow her step. “Not far. The Council meets in a valley along the way. This realm is not large, and the two points that connect this world to yours are both on this narrow section of the continent. The Immortals created settlements farther west.”

“I do not see any buildings,” observed Ravi.

The Serraf leader inclined her head. “It has never been our intention to stay in this realm. We have made no permanent changes to a world where we are merely visitors.”

“You have been here for hundreds of years,” pointed out Adesina.

“Our lives are endless,” reminded Sitara. “A few centuries mean little. Also, time appears to be different in this realm.”

Adesina felt her chest constrict with apprehension. “What do you mean?”

“Time appears to be slower here than in the other world.”

The cold feeling of dread rolled out from Adesina’s heart in chilling waves. She had been in this realm for less than an hour, but how much time had passed in her own world?

“How much slower?” she asked fearfully.

Sitara walked on with a calm and stately step. “I do not know. I have never had the means to measure it with any accuracy.”

Ravi’s brow furrowed. “But you are saying that a minute here could mean hours in our world. Or days, or weeks.”

“Yes, that is what I am saying.”

Adesina felt a desire to run back to the Threshold and pound her fists on the walls until an opening appeared. “We do not have time to lose,” she pointed out, keeping tight control on the emotions in her voice. “That demon could be wreaking havoc as we speak.”

“I am aware of that,” responded Sitara.

The three travelers topped a low hill and looked down into a small hollow. A crowd of strange and diverse creatures were gathered there, milling restlessly. Sitara and her companions were spotted, and word spread among those waiting. A Rashad with an unusually delicate build and jet black fur separated from the crowd and hurried to Sitara’s side.

“You were longer than anticipated,” said the Rashad in a melodious voice. “I was growing concerned.”

Sitara smiled at her feline guardian. “You knew I was safe, Riel.”

The Rashad shook her head. “None of us are safe anymore.”

Sitara’s expression became grim, but she did not respond to Riel’s statement. “Adesina, this is my guardian and companion, Riel. She is the leader of the Rashad, just as I am leader of the Serraf. Riel, this is Adesina, the Threshold Child.”

“And this is Ravi, my guardian,” Adesina added.

Ravi had lowered himself into the feline equivalent of a bow. “Lady Riel, I am deeply honored.”

Riel looked at him with interest. “I see that you are the leader of our mortal brothers and sisters.”

“I am next in line to lead my people,” corrected Ravi humbly.

Riel nodded thoughtfully. “We shall talk later. For now, the Council awaits.”

The four of them walked down the gentle slope to the hollow below. Adesina counted three dozen Council members, not including Sitara. All eyes were fixed on Adesina as she approached.

Sitara led them to the center of the crowd, and the Council members seated themselves formally.

“Sitara, Handmaiden of the Creator, name the one whom thou hast brought before the Council,” commanded a clear and ringing voice.

Adesina turned and recognized the willowy figure she had seen in her Dreams in the desert of Zonne. It was Toraun, the leader of the Immortal Council. His golden hair and pointed face were untouched by age, and his four arms were folded across his chest in a stance of strength. However, his eyes were weary with many years and many trials.

Sitara placed a soft hand on Adesina’s shoulder. “I present to the Council Adesina, the Threshold Child.”

A collective sigh of relief seemed to pass through those who had gathered.

“At last,” said a large rock-like creature. “The fulfillment of the prophecy is at hand.”






To read the next preview chapter, click here.