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.