User purge

Hello all. I know we don’t post much, but I doubt anyone minds that. Book 2 is still underway though life is what happens when one tries to write a book…

I just wanted to drop a line to let those who actually pay attention to this site know that we are going to purge the user database to rid ourselves of some spammers. If you find yourself among those removed (since we can’t tell the legitimate user from the fake, unless they have posted a real question or comment) please just create a new user account. You should be able to use the same login info as you used for your original signup.

Sorry for any inconvenience!

Preview – Bloodletting: Part 2

Bloodletting: Part 2

Bloodletting: Part 2

Purchase

Chapter One

Pavil Serevin

Pavil crouched in the dark chamber of ice, touching the walls on either side. It was too cold out and they had burrowed into the snowbanks to escape freezing to death. Inspired by the oroc cages, crafted of earth beneath the giant exposed roots of the Rocmire trees, he and Malec had made an icy shelter. Tightly packed walls, patted down until the ice was so dense it was blueish black, surrounded them in their makeshift shelter. The principle was the same they had used many times as kids making snow forts back home.
Surprisingly, the chamber was warm. Dirty furs were spread across the floor and the lower portion of the walls, making the chamber soft as well as insulating. Pavil ran his hands through them, marveling at how long they had been lost in the forest, to have collected so many hides. This temporary chamber had been their home for two weeks and would be till the midwinter cold snap was done.
Malec was out, taking his turn checking the snares and traps they had planted up in the trees. They had set snares on the ground before, but with the heavy snows, they were too obvious. Catching a fox or other winter quarry wasn’t worth the risk of an oroc noticing the trap. Pavil carefully poked his head out, checking on Malec’s progress. Pavil was constantly hungry; the sparse meals they caught were never enough to actually fill his belly. But they were alive, which was more than he had expected when they first realized the oroc patrols were forcing them deeper into the forest, away from the human border. The sun had finally come out, glittering on the soft white draped over the Rocmire, but it was too cold for it to begin melting. Instead it only made the cold a stark contrast, the smell of the snow all that much more cold.
Shivering in his furs, Pavil watched a bunny hop nervously down the game trail. It had sensed them, but it was, like them, hungry. It occurred to him to wonder what bunnies ate in the middle of winter, and why this particular one wasn’t hibernating. Did rabbits hibernate? He didn’t care; he was too hungry. He stared at the bunny intently. Maybe he could lull it, get them a surprise meal.
The rabbit stopped, staring through the white trees off to the east, ears and whiskers twitching. Pavil heard the sound that had caught the rabbit’s attention a second later—heavy footsteps crunching through the layer of ice over the snow. He crept out of their hidden ice house, careful to smooth over his footprints as he went, trying to figure out where the sound had come from. Their hiding spot was carefully chosen, sitting between several trees. Anyone passing through would naturally walk around their spot, without actually coming anywhere near it. It could be anything, though, not just orocs. It could even be a ravager, some beast twisted by a Heart Shard it had consumed.
Circling west, he kept his footsteps quiet by stepping into the clear spots underneath the trees and easing his way around tree branches heavily laden with snow. He dragged a fur behind him, erasing his tracks. Fluting voices echoed through the clearing, and oroc laughter. He froze, halfway to Malec, scanning the trees for the creatures. They had gone silent. So far, though, he couldn’t see them. Hopefully they couldn’t see him either.
His heart pounding, as quietly as he could, he reached Malec’s side behind a drooping pine tree. Taking a breath, he whispered to his friend. “Did you hear them?”
Malec grabbed him, pushed a fur under the snow, then carefully slid it over both of them. He shifted his shoulders, settling the snow over them, leaving only a tiny peephole to watch the outside world. “Shh.” The orocs came into view.
The creatures’ colors had faded with the season. Camouflaging themselves in the colors of winter trees, their leaves lay on their bodies in dull browns and blacks. They even seemed thinner with the foliage draped loosely around them, though they were still immense compared to a human.
Looking around, the orocs eyed the game trail. Pavil bit back a gasp. Malec glared at him again and elbowed him to be quiet.
Tense seconds passed as Pavil held in the gasp that tried to escape as a whoosh of terrified air. After so long running from these creatures, to be so close and not be spotted seemed impossible. The creatures could probably even sense that they were here.
Malec glared at him again, as if by merely glaring, he could stem the tide of rising panic that threatened to choke Pavil.
One of the orocs bent down and picked up a handful of snow, sniffing at it. He turned to his companions, dangling it from his fingers and gesturing toward the trees. The sense of dread spiked in Pavil’s chest. They had to run. They had to get out of here. But they couldn’t. Movement would give them away for sure.
Placing his hand on Pavil’s shoulder, Malec held him in place as if to say that they were dead if they tried to run. There was only one thing they could do, Pavil acknowledged: wait and pray they weren’t caught. But the orocs were Geists. There was no way they could be this close and not sense the boys’ spirits. It couldn’t end like this. There had to be something they could do. Something he could do.
The oroc dropped the snow and laughed at something one of his companions said. He gestured vaguely in the direction that Pavil and Malec were hiding. Malec’s hand tightened on his shoulder. Pavil squeezed his eyes shut, thinking furiously. There was only one thing he could do, and it was something he had never tried before. Leaning his face to the side slowly, he carefully touched Malec’s hand with his cheek. He drew upon his Pathos power, careful to not let it spill over, to keep it contained.
The oroc conversation stopped, the clearing was silent. Pavil opened one eye and peeked out. The oroc harvesters had all stopped. They were scanning the trees. Pavil unleashed his power. He and Malec were flooded with a surge of Pathos, overwhelming both of their emotions until there was nothing there. No panic, no worry, just utter calm; pure emotionless spirits. Simultaneously, he reached away from the orocs, slamming his emotions into the biggest creatures he could find.
A loud crashing sound came from outside the clearing. The orocs hurriedly closed ranks, forming a circle, watching the trees suspiciously. Crunching sounds, ice being broken by trampling feet, filled the air, and forms came into view. Rocwolves, giant canines that stood five feet tall at the shoulder, padded into the clearing. The white and gray furred beasts growled when they saw the orocs, exposing deadly fangs.
The wolves circled the clearing, working their way menacingly toward the orocs. Backing up slowly and carefully, the orocs brandished their clubs, warily retreating. They fanned out into a semicircle, keeping the wolves from flanking them. The lead wolf snarled and lunged forward.
Swinging its club in a smooth arc, the point oroc smashed a stone into the wolf’s shoulder, sending it flying. Pavil stoked the fear and rage in the animal. It sprang back to its feet as the rest of the pack watched the alpha.
The orocs sped up their retreat as the pack attacked. The orocs were careful to not kill any of the wolves, batting them about like puppies, but never landing fatal blows. With precise discipline, the skirmish moved backward. Finally, the sounds of the fight were distant, then gone. Pavil let out a huge sigh and stood up, releasing the power he had been pushing.
Cold shocked him as his knees gave out and he slumped back down to sit in the snow. He was starving. Pushing his power may have been a bit much on an empty stomach. Malec pushed the fur back, shaking off the snow, staring at his friend in wonder. “What did you do?”
Pavil shrugged. “Dunno. I just, um, threw our emotions.” He pushed himself back up to his feet, being careful to not overdo it this time.
“What do you mean threw?” Malec tossed the fur over his shoulder and grabbed Pavil’s arm. Pavil was wobbling in place.
Pavil’s vision was going fuzzy. “Um, I grabbed everything in us, like panic, fear, anger, and stuff. Then I just chucked it at the biggest pack of nearby emotion I could find that wasn’t the orocs. Malec, I’m really hungry. Like, really, really hungry.”
Malec sprang forward, catching Pavil as he collapsed. Studying his friend, Pavil realized that Malec’s cheeks were sunken. He looked emaciated. Pavil wondered if he looked the same, perhaps worse judging by his friend’s expression. Carrying him carefully, Malec brought Pavil back to their shelter. Was this what Elder Proumin had talked about, what seemed a lifetime ago? Pavil didn’t need his Pathos to feel the fear from his friend.
“I’ll find us something to eat.” Malec left the shelter again and Pavil drifted to sleep, knowing that whatever food Malec was likely to find, it wouldn’t be enough to replenish the energy he had spent saving them.

Chapter Two

Klithissala Kai Dren

Klithissala carefully stepped through the scorched remnants of the human settlement. Cold air blew past her, making her scales shift from a lighter green to midnight green. The wreckage of Jaegen lay around her, a charred skeleton: black beams and stone poking up through the year’s last snow. Around her, in a small circle, the snow melted, the heat from her Mah’Kali casting a wide circle.
The robes were uncomfortable, pulling at her body with their weight, but they were needed. In the winter months, outside of the deserts, all of the ifrahn tribes wore the Mah’Kali. There just wasn’t enough heat in the cold lands. She adjusted the robes, using both her Archon and Volcon magics, shifting, then warming the sand of her home desert, packed tightly into a thin layer between the fabrics in the robe.
Blessed warmth emanated from the sands, heating her veins. Sluggish thoughts sped back up, and she walked forward into the wreckage. The only part of her feet exposed to the elements were the wide hooked talons, excellent in the deserts, but difficult in the cold lands. Last fall they had manipulated the orocs into attacking this village, but it seemed their plan had failed. The Quantus lived. It was apparent. A Psion of unrivalled magnitude had been altering the entire region, forcing people to strange decisions since the raid. Only the Quantus could accomplish that on such a scale to stretch from the castle to the heart of the forest.
Klithissala studied the ruins and the patterns it held. Everything possessed patterns, but some proved difficult to perceive. Her tongue flicked in thought, tasting the cold, fresh air as she considered the reports from her scouts. The battle at Castle Drayston hadn’t gone as planned. It should have been the final spark to catch the tinder, the final piece of kindling on the pyre.
A winter campaign was not easy for her people, but the Quantus could not be allowed to emerge. This village had been the prophesied one’s home. She hissed and scratched at the ground. She believed in the Pattern, not the Prophesies, and this winter’s war was like a blizzard in the sands. The pattern was to kill the Quantus every century, and prophesy showed them where it was born. Even so … was it not just another aspect of an affinity? She gathered her thoughts, focusing. What was important was this mission, this moment. Not to question.
The shards said the Quantus still lived. She knew what had gone wrong. Watching from the shadows, providing the final tinder to spark the village during the attack, she had seen the orocs carry the hatchlings away. Would that she could have shared her knowledge with the forest dwellers. Or even with her own people …
Her plans were as sand under the wind. One could pile them as high as they wished, and the slightest breeze might scatter them to the dunes without warning. In much the same way, the fire the ifrahn wielded possessed a chaotic spirit, as like to burn the caster as the victim. This plan, this course of action, was in danger of burning her tribe. Was in danger of burning the whole world. She wasn’t sure what she sought here. It had been eight months since the village had been razed and the Quantus had escaped. Perhaps some clue. Something she had missed before.
She snatched up a blackened log and snapped it. The wood crumbled to ash between her talons, and she let the wind steal it from her palm. Drawing upon her Archon power, she spun the shasun blades attached to her outer robes, whirling them through the floating ash. She briefly touched the Prios crafted amulet hanging from her neck, but nothing was revealed. Ash floated and fell. Her tongue flicked out, tasting the smell of winter.
They had studied the humans for many sheddings, since the destruction of the tribes by the Dreadknights some thirty years before. Cycles of the snows in the cold lands had come and gone, the softskins unaware of being observed. They had been so sure the Quantus had been here. They had studied and studied, trying to find it, but had taken too long. They had been forced to just wipe out the village. The risk was too great otherwise.
What had they missed, then? Where had the pattern coiled awry? These humans were a fragile, fleeting species in the baking sands of Scaladrin, where weakness brought swift death. Yet here, the humans defied the natural order and cast themselves up as lords and kings over nature. This could not be abided any longer.
As she prowled by the split trunk of a ruined, charred tree, one talon grated over a larger, round lump of bone. Cold ran up her foot, a shock to her system. Klithissala hissed to herself and waved. The snow at the base of the tree melted away, revealing a human skeleton. Her tongue flicked out, tasting the air. She took up the skull and inspected it, her red-and-brown scales contrasting its ivory hue. Staring deeply into the empty eye sockets, she stroked the skull.
“Why did you protect the Quantus as it coiled among you?” She whispered. “Did you feel the shadow of your doom? Did you know you were marked for death? Of course you didn’t. You should have let it go.”
A flex of her talons crushed the skull to shards. Drawing upon her Archon power once more, she spun the shasun blades as she tossed the remnants of the skull. She touched the amulet. As the fragments dropped, she studied how they fell into the snowmelt, which had already begun to freeze over. The three largest shards settled on the outside of the pile, dagger-like tips all aimed in opposing directions. She regarded these with fascination, knowing exactly where they pointed.
Two toward the Rocmire. One toward Castle Drayston.
Klithissala flicked her tongue, thinking on both destinations. She sucked through her nostrils, scenting smoke on the wind. Good. Smoke from fire. Patterns within patterns. She wove in place for a while longer, turning over an imagined hourglass in her mind, weighing the balance of the blood-red sand within it. It might take longer than they’d planned, but she knew what would come.
“The Quantus will be stopped, no matter what the price of blood is,” she hissed as she slithered away, leaving the ruins to the carrion and cold.

Chapter Three

Pavil Serevin

The worst of the cold was over. Snow still clung desperately to branches and thinly coated the ground, fighting the coming spring. Wildlife skittered around the forest, breaking the silence of the long winter as the animals started waking for spring. Even the smells of fresh growth floated through the air, despite the snow and ice. Malec led the way forward, trying to find a path for the two boys to use.
Pavil’s stomach growled. He felt like he had been hungry for months. He had been, in truth, though neither he nor Malec were starving. He wondered, and not for the first time over the months since their escape, what it’d be like to starve to death, which seemed increasingly likely.
It had almost happened to him during the rocwolves escapade. He grimaced, remembering that afternoon. He had slept for days afterward, and in the weeks since awakening he had been having troubles controlling his emotions.
It was all Malec’s fault, of course. He’d agreed with Pavil’s escape plan, intending to get help for the other prisoners. Being the smart one in their bunch, Malec should’ve known better and pointed out all the flaws in the idea. Malec’s fault, for sure.
As he followed Malec through a thick patch of thorny weeds, Pavil shivered and hugged himself in a futile attempt to get warm. Their mad dash through the forest had reduced his nightclothes to little more than tattered rags. Every day—every week—since, they had gotten a bit worse. They both wore hide wraps, gathered from the little bit of wildlife they had managed to bring down. Pavil had also collected vines to tie tanned scraps around their feet, but these only did so much given the wintry conditions. His fingers and toes had gone numb long ago, and he kept pinching his face to make sure the skin hadn’t been scoured off it by the wind. Neither of them had been willing to risk a fire at any point during the long winter months.
His stomach growled again.
“I thought you said you never get lost,” he grumbled at Malec’s back. They’d been traveling for nearly two days since the last group of oroc hunters had almost stumbled across their hiding place. It hadn’t been as close as the time with the rocwolves, but it had been close enough. Malec claimed the oroc camp sat just a day’s walk inside the forest, and the camp was only a four-day walk from here. Head north, and they’d be clear in no time. But the packs of oroc hunters kept driving them further and further away from the direction they wanted to go.
“I don’t get lost,” Malec said, voice tight.
“Then why are we still in the forest? It’s been months!”

Bloodletting: Part 2

Bloodletting: Part 2

Purchase

“Because of the orocs, Pavil. And today because of the river. I know we’re going southeast, but unless you want to swim across here and freeze to death, we’ve got to keep following it until we reach a spot shallow enough to cross, or find a bridge of some kind. With all the oroc patrols, we’re lucky we haven’t been caught. It’d be worse if we turned around.”
Pavil eyed the river. It was still frozen over long stretches.
Though water gurgled beneath, it looked like the ice was still thick. “Why don’t we just cross the ice?”
Malec sighed and paused, brushing some slush off the furs protecting his feet. “Too thin. I can tell. So unless you want to go back and try to sneak past the orocs, we’ve got to keep going south.”
“Voids, Malec, how do you even know what direction we’re going? We’ve been trapped in this stupid forest for half the winter.”
Malec stomped, finished clearing the slush, and walked forward again. “I’m a Magnus, idiot.”
“What does that have to do with anything? …

Video

Confabulous

The Dallas FanExpo and Houston Comicpalooza were both great experiences. We made many new friends, met tons of greats fans, and even got to work with true professionals, Paul McGann, George Giordano, Miltos Yerolemou, Kevin J. Anderson, Glenn Morshower, Steven Sears, and even Peter S. Beagle. The support at Comicpalooza for our little-turned-not-so-little production was over the top. It just goes to show that Peter and I make a heck of a great team, and having George there to guide and direct us was invaluable to say the least.

Thank you everyone for making it an excellent memory.


Giveaway ends

The giveaway of Bloodletting: Part 2 ended on March 26th. Congratulations to those who will be receiving a free copy of the ebook. We plan to release it by June 1st.

Thank you to everyone who has supported our launch of the Affinities Cycle. Especially to Kevin J. Anderson and and the whole team at WordFire Press, and of course, the readers who bring life to the world we have created. You make it so much more worthwhile, and just plain fun.

Giveaway – Bloodletting: Part 2

Don't miss out! Bundle deal ends March 26th 2014.

Don’t miss out! Bundle deal ends March 26th 2014.

We are doing a giveaway through the end of the bundle sale! We are giving away Bloodletting: Part 2. All you have to do is:

  1. Signup for our mailing list at www.affinitiescycle.com
  2. Send us an email from the same address to contact@affinitiescycle.com or use the contact page on the site:
    1. Tell us your first and last name. (Must be included to receive the giveaway.)
    2. Tell us why you bought the storybundle.
  3. Share this. Share this. Share this!

This is our way of saying thank you for the amazing support we have received from everyone!

We will send the free download code for Bloodletting: Part 2 to the email address provided in the mailing list subscription.

2nd Preview – Bloodletting: Part 1

Chapter 1

Tetra Bicks

Bloodletting: Part 1Midday light cut through the valley, warming the otherwise chilly day. Sweat glistened on Tetra’s chest and arms. Wending its way through the valley, the breeze brought with it the smell of grass and growing things. Birds chirped in the distance. He focused on these sensations, hoping they’d distract from the growing tension that straightened his spine and caught at the nape of his neck. When this didn’t work, he cast his gaze out over the village, thinking the familiar, comforting sight might soothe him.

The valley’s edges had been cleared of the woods, making way for stepped crops, allowing packed dirt-and-cobble roads to wind through the busy village of Jaegen. Buildings stood two stories at most in Jaegen, a village that had spread out rather than up. Unlike many villages in the kingdom, most of the roofs were steepled and shingled, rather than thatched. The rains on the edge of the Rocmire Forest were heavy, with monsoons twice a year, and thatch didn’t hold up.

Villagers meandered along the streets, going about the varied tasks of the day, though none came near the grassy clearing at the center of town. There, a massive wooden pole stood, carved and polished to a near-reflective sheen, a glowing green crystal atop it. The crystal pulsed with a rainbow of colors, always retuning to its base green between flashes. Like thousands of other settlements across the lands, Jaegen was built around a shard of the Heart of the World.

A group stood with Tetra, forming a ring around the pole—six other adolescents and an older man crowned by long white tresses with a full and lengthy beard dominating his features. While he leaned on a cane, their instructor’s brown breeches and leather tunic exposed a surprisingly muscular frame for his age. His skin was bronzed by decades of exposure to the sun and weathered by the winter winds he had endured.

The Elder’s attention focused on Tetra. The gangly boy tried to ignore his overheated brow as he concentrated on Sven, who struggled to lift a rock the size of a man’s head. It sat atop a thin pillar of earth that stood at eye level, bobbing and swaying as bits of the supporting column crumbled and fell away. Sven fought to replace the falling pieces of earth, keeping the pillar intact and the stone balanced upon it.

“Concentrate …” Elder Proumin patted Sven on the back, “good.”

Glittering lines of force shimmered in the air as Proumin exposed the magics at play, creating a map of the power the boy used. As a Prios, Jaegen’s elder instructor used his affinity to expose the use of magics to others, allowing for easier demonstrations of how to effectively employ their abilities and learn to work together.

“Tetra,” Proumin said.

Tetra pushed damp brown locks out of his eyes and looked over to his grandfather. “Yes, Elder?”

Proumin raised a bushy, white eyebrow. “Can you help him?”

“I—I’m not sure,” Tetra reached out with his affinity, probing the stone, studying the lines and seams of millennia spent in its growth. The process proved more intimate than reaching out and taking hold of the rock. The elements, the inner power holding the stone together became part of him, as much as his own bones and blood. Yet if he flexed the control, as he would his own muscles, it would cost him dearly. Using affinity magic burned the body’s energy faster than ordinary muscle use. “It has a high iron content. Perhaps Malec can—”

“You’re a Graviton, Tetra. You can help him as easily as a Magnus. Iron is a good start. Look deeper.” Proumin shifted his weight on the walking stick, studying the interplay of magic. “Sven, allow his magic in. Loosen your control without losing your grip on the magic itself.”

Sven grunted. Sweat beaded on his forehead, clumping together the sandy bangs above his hazel eyes. Tetra knew his probing threatened Sven’s tenuous control, but he acted under his grandfather’s orders.

Concentrating harder, Tetra tried to lighten the rock, affecting its density. He stood with legs spread wide, fists clenched at his side. Raising one hand, he fought an invisible resistance as the earth in front of him rippled. Elements and forces bound the stone together, a maze of titanic proportions compacted into a miniscule space. Confusing, almost maddening, to track them all. His back tensed and a familiar pain flared along his spine, threatening his focus. What good did sensing the rock’s composition achieve if he had no way to affect their shape like Sven?

Knuckles whitening, Tetra let a huff escape him.

“It’s alright,” his twin sister whispered. “You’re doing great.” An encouraging smile flitted across Halli’s lips, quickly replaced with a frown. Wavy brown hair crowned her face, where earth-colored eyes sparkled with encouragement despite the frown. He knew she always believed in him, no matter what.

Tetra huffed again, pushing against the mingling magics, exerting his will. Sven ignored everyone, focused on keeping the rock aloft while allowing Tetra’s magic in. The stone jerked and rose several feet. The air around it distorted with a heat wave shimmer as Sven pushed it higher.

“It’s lighter!” The blond boy sounded jubilant at the sudden success.

“Good.” Proumin flicked a finger, using his affinity to brighten the manifested force lines and expose the intermingled magics. “You didn’t lose control as the density changed. And Tetra fused his magic without disrupting Sven.”

Tetra gasped. Pain flooded through his body; a thousand needles pierced his muscles as rivulets of fire coursed through his veins. Nausea and lightheadedness overcame him. The world spun in place, he fought to remain standing.

With two quick steps, Halli stood at Tetra’s side and slipped his arm over her shoulders. He felt her other arm wrap around his waist. Resentment for her interference warred with gratefulness for the relief Halli provided through her magic as Tetra leaned his weight against his sister.

Tetra’s grip on his magic slipped, breaking the bond with Sven. The other boy gasped, and Tetra felt another excruciating stab of pain in his back. He was still connected to the rock, but now his magic was in conflict with his friend’s, rather than harmony. The flows contorted, working against each other as Tetra tried to regain his hold on the magic. The stone sank as Sven tried to retain control of the rock without Tetra’s magic to assist him.

“Alright, that’s enough.” Proumin stared at Tetra. Worry lines creased his grandfather’s brow. “Listen closely, children.”

Releasing his tentative bond on the stone’s density, Tetra leaned harder on his sister. While he appreciated the relief, he also didn’t want anyone to know how bad his old injury was, and Tetra disguised the motion of leaning on his sister by adjusting his stance. The muscles in his back tightened and the rock crashed to the ground.

Sven released his hold on his own magic and the pillar crumbled to the ground, smashing as dirt fell over the rock. “Sorry.”

Tetra smiled wanly. “You did great.” The cool caress of Halli’s affinity probed his spine. Turning his head, he saw her eyes narrow as she studied him.

Tetra pulled away from Halli and sat, ignoring both the pain and his sister’s inspection. She wouldn’t be able to delve too deeply without touching him. That was his only salvation now, his only way to hide his weakness.

“Wrestling with an affinity takes a toll on the body,” their grandfather explained. He pulled up his mat and sat cross-legged, his walking stick set parallel to his knees. “It usually manifests as exhaustion, much the way the body weakens if it goes too long without food. There are even legends of arch mages who have died of starvation by using their magic on too grand a scale.”

“I’m fine,” Tetra lied, forced himself not to look at Halli as the telltale sign of her healing magic faded from his back. A strong Geist, Halli used the twins’ bond in unfair ways, he felt. Their connection didn’t give her the right to constantly probe.

He almost wished her magic wasn’t so good. Almost. Yet magic ran strong in their family. According to Academy testers, Halli demonstrated a once-in-a-century healing talent, and their village only held one other person with such a strong spirit affinity—their mother. Though even hers didn’t have the same potential Halli’s did. Despite that, she was still the strongest Geist the village had ever known. With his back injury, a broken spine when he was an infant, Tetra walked only because of their mother Leta.

Proumin stroke his beard as he watched the children, paying particular attention to Tetra. “Listen, boy. This isn’t about you alone. These are things you all must learn. You all may be strong, but none of you are so strong that you can’t fall prey to your own affinity … especially if you never fully understand the magic you wield. Fusing affinities is no simple task. Two wills and two minds must work together. If you fail, the results can be disastrous. For other races this is a simple task. Every oroc uses the same two affinities, which means they understand how they work without the risks we have. With us, it is not just a matter of understanding the magic, it is also a matter of trusting the person. You must get that into your heads.”

Tetra exchanged glances with the other children, contemplating what his grandfather said. They’d heard all this before, but tomorrow marked their departure for the Academy. These repeated lessons ran deeper than mere words. The concepts Proumin taught would take years to master. They were seeds being planted in the kid’s minds, aimed at growing over the years at the Academy. And yet, he wanted to grasp them now. He had been studying under his grandfather’s tutelage for years, without achieving the control he so desperately wanted.

“Both of you,” Proumin looked between Tetra and Sven, “had to fight your natural resistance to work together. Each of you wanted control, neither wanted to cooperate. This is natural. But fighting to allow another in costs as much, if not more, than using magic itself. To work together, you must let go of this natural tendency.”

The pressure of Halli’s gaze shifted as she considered Proumin’s words. Tetra sighed in relief. This day had been difficult enough without his sister adding to his fear—the ultimate dread of someone discovering his magic usage worsened his spinal injury.

Proumin stroked his beard. “Learn everything you can about each other. The closer your bonds, the stronger you’ll be at the Academy.” He turned his attention to Malec. “A final demonstration. Lift the stone.”

With a sly smile, Malec tossed his black curls aside and set his dark-eyed gaze on the stone. The heavy rock shot into the air. It stopped at eye level and rotated slowly, the small sparks of mica shimmering in the sun. Miming a yawn, he twiddled blades of grass between his fingers.

“Very good, you’ve been practicing.” Tetra watched his grandfather take in the casual gestures of confidence of Malec’s blatant posturing. “… But enough showing off.”

The stone dropped to the ground with a thud, kicking up a cloud of dust.

The Elder tugged his whiskers. “We’re proud of you all. The village hasn’t had the honor of sending anyone to the Academy for four years, and now we’re sending seven.” He rose to his feet, joints creaking and popping. “Continue practicing, but be careful. The magnitude and strength of your affinities could pose a natural danger to you and anyone around if you lose control at a critical moment. Remember that, always.”

Walking to the edge of the green, he paused and looked back to the children. “Take the rest of the day for yourselves. Tomorrow you leave for the Academy.”

“Thank you, Elder Proumin,” the youngsters said in unison. As Tetra’s grandfather exited the green, the children rested in contemplative silence. Noises from the bustling village washed over them: people talking, the soft slap of laundry being cleaned on a washboard, the clack and clatter of a wagon’s wheels over the cobblestones. Everything changed tomorrow, and the normalcy of those sounds would be gone.

As usual, Pavil broke the silence first. “Hear that? Our affinities have personality!”

Halli blinked. “What are you talking about?”

The boy grinned. “He said they have magnitude.”

Katerine rolled her gold-green eyes. “That’s not what magnitude means.”

“What does it mean, then?” Pavil leaned out of Halli’s way as she tried to ruffle his blonde hair.

“It means I’m hungry,” Laney groaned as she flopped back, unruly gold locks curling off her head in all directions. The youngest of the group, only twelve years old, she always found something to complain about.

Halli sat down beside Tetra. Leaning her arms over her knees, she nonchalantly tugged at blades of grass between her feet. The afternoon winds carried the scent of wheat across the village, and Tetra smelled roasting rocboar coming from the village inn. His stomach grumbled.

Halli nudged Tetra with her elbow. “You’re sure you’re okay?”

Forcing himself to smile, Tetra nodded. She smiled back. Neither of them was fooled. She felt his pain; he sensed her worry.

“It means you’re an idiot,” Katerine said, retying a cord around her hair. Malec’s snorting laughter grew, while Pavil’s expression darkened. The rest of their friends seemed to be in a different world from the one that Tetra and Halli inhabited at the moment, one that they, as twins, knew all too well.

“Food does sound good,” Sven said. Laney sat up with a squeal.

“Mealtime?” Halli asked Tetra. He nodded again. She stood and reached out, helping Tetra stand even as he rolled his eyes at her.

“About time,” Laney said. “I’m close to starving.”

Malec copied Halli and held out a hand to Pavil, who took it and jumped to his feet. Pavil pulled hard as he jumped up, and Malec wobbled in place, almost falling over.

“Exaggerating much?” Pavil asked. “I can provide a magnitude of talent to sustain you.”

“I don’t want any magnitude from you,” Laney said, strutting off the village green, holding her hands sternly on her hips.

The others broke into laughter. Sven trudged down the street leading from the green to the Bicks’ residence. Women and men worked hard at the end of the year’s cleaning, ready to welcome the harvest moon with the celebrations it brought. Rushes were replaced and lamps readied for the winter to come. Always full of something to talk about, Laney chattered away beside him as the others fell in step. The day’s heat sat heavy on their heads, but the cool breeze caressing the valley made the day beautiful.

The aroma of freshly cut wheat, grown on the cleared steppes, filled the air along with the quiet hush of the scythes wielded by the reapers. Preparations for the harvest festival were underway. It saddened Tetra to know he’d miss the celebration, though he wouldn’t miss the town itself. Their departure for the Academy in Aldamere had been pushed up nearly two weeks sooner than in years past—due to the prediction of an early winter. Under the cheery autumn sun, winter seemed too far away.

“I wonder what it will be like,” Halli said, gazing into the distance. “Classes. A big city …” Tetra’s sister echoed his thoughts until she grinned and added—“Boys.”

“I can’t imagine it will be anything like Jaegen,” Katerine said.

“By the Aspects, I hope it isn’t,” Tetra said. “I couldn’t stand a place a hundred times the size of Jaegen, but just as dull.”

“It’s not so bad, is it?” Halli frowned, a chiding look he hated. Her being ten minutes older than him didn’t give her the authority to act so disapproving.

He shrugged. “It’s home and it always will be, but I’m ready for a change. Don’t get me wrong. I love everyone here, but it’s so small, you know?”

“Jaegen never changes. That’s one of the things I love about it.” Halli watched a group of children run past, squealing as they played some impromptu game.

Katerine perked up. “You know what we should do?”

Tetra kicked a rock off the path. “What?”

“We should name ourselves.” She skipped forward a step. “Something like The Jaegen Seven, yeah?”

“That’s silly, Katerine. We’re not a band of story time heroes or anything.”

“Hush, Tetra,” his sister replied. “I like the idea. A way to remember we’re a group once we’re at the Academy.”

Tetra glanced at her. “Still think it’s silly.”

Katerine pouted. “I just want everyone to know we’re a group. That we’re all friends.” She lowered her head and muttered, “I don’t think that’s stupid.”

He shrugged again and looked away. “Have it your way.”

“Then it’s settled.” Halli chucked Tetra’s shoulder. “What a magnificent band we’ll be.”

The Jaegen Seven continued toward the Bicks house.

Preview – Bloodletting: Part 1

Chapter Zero

Bloodletting: Part 1Deep beneath the cathedral in the city of Aldamere, a chamber was in use. This chamber, a secret hidden from most, was used once a decade. Fourteen forms, cloaked and hooded, circled the outer edges of the room. Occasional volamps, casting a steady but dim orange glow, barely illuminated the chamber.

One of the forms, around eight-feet tall and very bulky, stepped forward till it occupied the center of the chamber. It pulled a scroll from under its cloak, exposing a reptilian hand.

“We have found one of the lost tablets. It clarifies the creation myth, but … it is troubling. It is missing certain things the later scrolls contain.” the voice was deep, guttural. The speaker was unused to using the human tongue. “We have authenticated it, placing its origin during the second great expansion, year unknown. I will read our rubbing of the tablet.”

The form cleared its throat and unrolled the scroll.

In the beginning, there was the Heart of the World, a gem drifting amongst the stars. It shone in the Void, a light unto itself, sacred and complete.

The Heart was composed of twelve aspects, each a reflection of the aspects of the universe. Together they were the entirety of all that was. Material, Energy, Conscience, all bound together into the perfect reflection of all that was and all that would be.

The four aspects of Material were named Vox for Air, Trocus for Earth, Volterus for Fire, and Europina for Water. Material was the firmament that the universe was built upon.

The aspects of Energy were named Emascodeus for Density, Agleiopan for Raw Force, Magethia for the Love of Metal, and Tachondrus for the Passing of Ages. Energy was the set of rules that tied the building blocks of the universe together.

The final four aspects, those of Conscience, were named Mentak for Will, Empirious for Emotion, Opion for Perception, and Azaria for Spirit. Conscience was the guiding force that allowed the rules of Energy and the firmament of Material to create the abstract, such as love, hate, desire and loss.

And so in the beginning of all things, each aspect of the Heart reached out to the universe, pulling toward it those things mortal children would need to live. For millennia the aspects spun Material and Energy around the Heart Gem, creating their home. Sky and light, earth and trees, these creations became desires to the aspects as they worked.

Thus, when enough Material had been collected to build the world, and Energy applied to set it in motion around its sun, the aspects of the Heart stepped forward unto the new surface and saw the majesty of their creation. In pairs they created the children of mortality—each gifted with two affinities, a connection to those aspects that had created them.

Trocus, the aspect of Earth, and Azaria, the aspect of Spirit, formed the living plant Orocs to live in the forests. Volterus, the aspect of Fire, and Agleiopan, the aspect of Raw Force, formed the reptilian Ifrahn to wander the deserts. Emascodeus, the aspect of Density, and Empirious, the aspect of Emotion, formed the subterranean Velnites, who dwell in the mountains and caverns of the world.

Europina, the aspect of Water, and Mentak, the aspect of Will, formed the oceanic Lelwyn, who dwell upon islands and sail the waters of the world. Vox, the aspect of Air, and Opion, the aspect of Perception, formed the reptilian Dracus, to fly the skies of the world. Tachondrus, the aspect of Time passing through the ages, and Megathia, the aspect of the Love of Metal, formed the mysterious Shikara who hide in the dark corners of the world. And so the six races were created, each to their own aspects, whole and unique in all of the universe.

Once this great work was completed, the twelve aspects communed together and as one created a final race with no great connection to the heart of the world, but able to reflect in it all aspects. Each member of this race was able to reflect a single aspect, as a whole connecting to the pantheon of their parents. This race was named Humanity.

As children are wont to do, the youngest race coveted the greater powers of the older races. The older races, still children in their own right, coveted the reflections of power which the younger race manifested for all aspects of the Heart. War broke out as the races fought to control the Heart Gem at the center of the world, which could grant power on the scale of the aspects themselves.

In their struggles, these sibling races angered the Aspects—who stepped forward once more onto the world, proclaiming themselves Gods rather than parents, and rent asunder the Heart of the World, that the children races should no longer war. Taking the shattered remnants of the Heart of the World, the twelve aspects flung them across the face of the globe. When they were done, they looked down upon their creation and saw the wars cease.

In this act, the Aspects knew that their work was done, that they could allow the children of mortality to grow. There would be a time of peace. For to reassemble the Heart, one race would have to travel to all corners of the world to collect the scattered remnants of the shattered gem. And even in this time of peace, the borders of sea and land, of desert and forest, held strong.

For an age, the aspects watched, and at the end of that age, the Gods saw their work was complete, for though their mortal children still warred, the conflicts were but minor bouts of bickering compared to the near genocides which occurred during the infancy of the world. Without the temptation of the Heart, the children of mortality were protected to grow and so the Gods withdrew.

And so it was that the immortal aspects gave way to mortal races as the children inherited the lands. The forest dwelling orocs, the nomadic desert tribes of the ifrahn, the reptilian dracus, the subterranean velnites, the island dwelling lelwyn, the mysterious shikara, and the last race, the race of all aspects, humanity, dwelt in peace for eons.

Yet peace was a temporary measure. The aspects knew that one day, the children of mortality would once again war, this time to reunite the Heart and gain dominion … and it would be the war to end all wars.

The form looked up from the scroll. “We are troubled. As you can see, there is no mention of the Quantus.”

Quiet murmurs filled the chamber.

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Divine Aspects

In the beginning, there was the Heart of the World, a gem drifting amongst the stars. It shone in the Void, a light unto itself, sacred and complete.

The Heart was composed of twelve aspects, each a reflection of the aspects of the universe. Together they were the entirety of all that was. Material, Energy, Conscience, all bound together into the perfect reflection of all that was and all that would be.

The four aspects of Material were named Vox for Air, Trocus for Earth, Volterus for Fire, and Europina for Water. Material was the firmament that the universe was built upon.

The aspects of Energy were named Emascodeus for Density, Agleiopan for Raw Force, Magethia for the Love of Metal, and Tachondrus for the Passing of Ages. Energy was the set of rules which tied the building blocks of the universe together.

The final four aspects, those of Conscience, were named Mentak for Will, Empirious for Emotion, Opion for Perception, and Azaria for Spirit. Conscience was the guiding force which allowed the rules of Energy and the firmament of Material to create the abstract, such as love, hate, desire and loss.

And so in the beginning of all things, each aspect of the Heart reached out to the universe, pulling toward it those things mortal children would need to live. For millennia the aspects spun Material and Energy around the Heart Gem, creating their home. Sky and light, earth and trees, these creations became desires to the aspects as they worked.

Thus, when enough Material had been collected to build the world, and Energy applied to set it in motion around its sun, the aspects of the Heart stepped forward unto the new surface and saw the majesty of their creation. In pairs they created the children of mortality—each gifted with two affinities, a connection to those aspects which had created them.

Trocus, the aspect of Earth, and Azaria, the aspect of Spirit, formed the living plant Orocs to live in the forests.

Volterus, the aspect of Fire, and Agleiopan, the aspect of Raw Force, formed the reptilian Ifrahn to wander the deserts.

Emascodeus, the aspect of Density, and Empirious, the aspect of Emotion, formed the subterranean Velnites, who dwell in the mountains and caverns of the world.

Europina, the aspect of Water, and Mentak, the aspect of Will, formed the oceanic Lelwyn, who dwell upon islands and sail the waters of the world.

Vox, the aspect of Air, and Opion, the aspect of Perception, formed the reptilian Dracus, to fly the skies of the world.

Tachondrus, the aspect of Time passing through the ages, and Megathia, the aspect of the Love of Metal, formed the mysterious Shikara who hide in the dark corners of the world.

And so the six races were created, each to their own aspects, whole and unique in all of the universe. Once this great work was completed, the twelve aspects communed together and as one created a final race with no great connection to the heart of the world, but able to reflect in it all aspects. Each member of this race was able to reflect a single aspect, as a whole connecting to the pantheon of their parents. This race was named Humanity.

As children are wont to do, the youngest race coveted the greater powers of the older races. The older races, still children in their own right, coveted the reflections of power which the younger race manifested for all aspects of the Heart. War broke out as the races fought to control the Heart Gem at the center of the world, which could grant power on the scale of the aspects themselves.

In their struggles, these sibling races angered the aspects—who stepped forward once more onto the world, proclaiming themselves Gods rather than parents, and rent asunder the Heart of the World, that the children races should no longer war. Taking the shattered remnants of the Heart of the World, the twelve aspects flung them across the face of the globe. When they were done, they looked down upon their creation and saw the wars cease.

In this act, the Aspects knew that their work was done, that they could allow the children of mortality to grow. There would be a time of peace. For to reassemble the Heart, one race would have to travel to all corners of the world to collect the scattered remnants of the shattered gem. And even in this time of peace, the borders of sea and land, of desert and forest, held strong.

For an age, the aspects watched, and at the end of that age, the Gods saw their work was complete, for though their mortal children still warred, the conflicts were but minor bouts of bickering compared to the near genocides which occurred during the infancy of the world. Without the temptation of the Heart, the children of mortality were protected to grow and so the Gods withdrew.

And so it was that the immortal aspects gave way to mortal races as the children inherited the lands. The forest dwelling orocs, the nomadic desert tribes of the ifrahn, the reptilian dracus, the subterranean velnites, the island dwelling lelwyn, the mysterious shikara, and the last race, the race of all aspects, humanity, dwelt in peace for eons.

Yet peace was a temporary measure. The aspects knew that one day, the children of mortality would once again war, this time to reunite the Heart and gain dominion… and it would be the war to end all wars.

Quote

Prophecy…

The Antarian prophecy predates the current eon by nearly two thousand years. Modern historians of Esteon agree that the prophecy was first written down shortly after the breaking of the heartstone, though the turmoil following The Unmaking makes it nearly impossible to be sure. Since Antarian relics are rare and often coveted for their power, most Antarian sources of information that contain insight into the prophecy are jealously guarded secrets.

Even so, the prophecy is well-known among many circles, especially those of human nobility and scholar. It is speculated that members of the pure races, as they often refer to themselves, may know much more. It is also rumored that several Shikara who survived the Unmaking, still live today.

The prophecy speaks of the mythic Quantasi. Humans who possess not only more than one affinity, but all twelve. It further states, to the horror of the pure races, that the magnitude of the Quantasi affinities is matched only by the most powerful of Archmagi who are incredibly rare in their own right.

According to the prophecy, a Quantus will come who will wreak havoc and destruction on the seven races of Esteon in their quest to conquer the world. “The races will again be driven to commit atrocity against one another and the skies will turn red above the fires of destruction. All who survive will lament the glory of the Quantus and pray to the Aspects for the release of death. Woe to the…” This excerpt is in poor condition and is one of the only known Antarian sources that speaks openly about the Quantus. The relic was recently stolen from the Aldamere academy where it was housed for nearly a century.

The prophecy does not speak only poorly of the Quantasi, however. Another excerpt from the same relic states that the Quantasi are always born in pairs, a Quatus and a Quantul who is capable of nullifying all magic around them and a testament to the wisdom and mercy of the Aspects. Though its translation is disputed, another badly damaged section of the relic says that a Quantus will also come to unite the seven races in a time of great need.

It was once believed that the Quantasi were born once every one hundred years. However, there is currently no known or recorded existence of a Quantus since the Unmaking.