I haven't blogged since September, and yes, that is probably the longest I have ever gone without posting to this blog You may wonder WHY I have been gone for so very long, and the answer is... well, mostly school. It's been crazy. Free time has been practically non-existent, and when it is existent it's dedicated mostly to homework. With that in mind, you are now probably thinking that I must be crazy to try and tackle Nanowrimo in the middle of everything else. You would be right... but that is not stopping me!
Now, technically, I'm not doing Nanowrimo the "right" way this year. Instead of starting with a brand new novel that I've never worked on before, I'm following Wayne Thomas Batson's lead and working on the re-re-rewrite of Song of the Daystar. And instead of starting the story at the very beginning, I'm starting at the second chapter... and I'm starting today.
Yeah... *sigh* Nano has officially been going for 8 days now, and I am going to start today... tonight, actually. Probably at home... if I can find somewhere quiet to work. :P My starting word count is 9,212. I've been stuck on Chapter 2 now for MONTHS and it just hasn't been moving forward... so now I'm going to see if I can jump into Nano late and actually get something DONE. If I actually make it to 50k I'll be lucky, and extremely happy, but I'm personally going to be aiming MUCH lower... I would like to hit 20k or 30k new words by the end of the month. With my writing life going as slow as it has been, I don't think that's too much to ask.
And so, in honor of this crazy but satisfying decision, here's an excerpt from the rewrite of SOTD. Only one person has seen any of this rewrite before... so here goes nothing. *gulps* Feel free to tell me what you think of it. ^_^
36 Súlor, 1394 AB
The wind smelled of death, change, and fear… but mostly fear.
Djar’zla inhaled deep, gazing out from the cliffside past the desolation of the Hoarfrost Mountains to the southern horizon and the lands that lay beyond. The winds came from that direction, thick, wretched, and filled with the cloying scent of pain. They swirled about him, tugging at the ancient tatters of his frayed dark robes, snagging the long, thin strands of black hair still left on his balding pate. High above the bite of the jagged peaks, a cloud of great black Corvus wheeled in droves and cawed out a single, solemn word: “Doom!”
The corners of Djar’zla’s mouth twisted upward in a vicious grin as he drew in another deep breath. So… the Ealyone were suffering. Dark satisfaction welled in his chest. They would pay dearly for their crimes against him, and their blood would slake the earth. It had been ages since he last felt the wind or saw the real sky turn grey with predawn light; ages since he beheld the mighty peaks of the Hoarfrost or heard the roar of the great waterfall gushing out into the river called Hoara’s Rush. For centuries he had lain bound in darkness deep under the wastelands of the world, forced into a slumber of nightmares and death by the words and the blood of the Ealyone’s kings. Their anguish now could hardly count as penance for his misery, but their grief brought with it a penchant both bitter and sweet. Bitter because it was a sharp reminder of what he had once been and was no longer; and sweet because it meant that they were in torment – they were breaking.
Djar’zla said the word once, tasting every syllable – every letter – as it dripped off his tongue. Breaking. Oh, the Ealyone were such fragile things! Dust and water, mud and rain. If you dropped them hard enough, they cracked open like a porcelain vase, and once broken inside their minds were malleable as a lump of clay.
They called themselves human now. It was a new word, a curious word – one Djar’zla had never heard before and he rolled it around on his tongue weighing its merit. No doubt the word had been invented by one of their learned men… what were they called? Scholars? Djar’zla chuckled. They were such funny little creatures, the Ealyone, calling themselves one thing or another, as if that would make any real difference. Their minds were just as fragile now as they’d been two thousand years ago. Soon they’d have no more use for petty words; he would make sure of it.
Looking to the skies, Djar’zla barked a command to the Corvus overhead – “Nrythkai!” – and one of the larger birds wheeled away from the rest to land at its master’s feet. Once come of a noble race, the creature now before him looked little more than a reanimated carcass, albeit a vicious one. Large black wings wrapped around its body, rank and oily. Feathers – matted, frayed, and falling out in clumps – clung to skin that barely covered the bird’s skeletal structure. Dagger-sharp teeth jutted out of its beak at odd angles, and long, scaled legs stretched down to razor talons that clicked ominously against the stone.
But the eyes… the eyes were the most revolting, the most unnerving. A masterpiece so flawed in its making, even Djar’zla could not stare at them for long. Irises of deep red, dark as a thick pool of blood, almost black; and pupils – each a narrow slit like those of a snake or a cat – glazed over by clouded, lifeless grey, as if the mists shrouding the serrated peaks of the Hoarfrost had seeped in and couldn’t find their way out again.
The bird shifted uneasily before him, sensing its master’s dark mood. It feared what might become of it should Djar’zla prove aggressive. Djar’zla closed his eyes as the bird’s dread washed over him. He always knew the emotions and thoughts of his creations, could sense them like a snake tastes the air. Fear was always strongest, followed closely by hate. He cared little for the latter; what did it matter if his creations hated him, so long as they obeyed him? But fear…
Such a fitting emotion, Djar’zla thought, allowing the sweet sensation to engulf him. The bird’s terror was like sugar on his tongue. He smiled down at it, satisfied. Fear is a worthy gift to give one who holds the power of life and death in his palms.
When he addressed the bird at last, he made no attempt to hide his loathing. His own creation or not, the bird was disgusting. “Gather your strongest flyers,” he said. “I want to know the truth behind the rumors on the wind. Find out why the Ealyone suffer – discover their torments – and report the cause back to me. It may be we can use this to our advantage.”
The Corvus cocked its head and gurgled something in its throat – a long, unintelligible line of syllables locked together in some form of attempted communication. A question?
Djar’zla sneered. “I don’t care,” he growled. “Stealth is of no consequence in this. Let them see you and cower in fear, but be swift. The time for action draws near, and you will not make me miss such an opportunity because of indolence!” He lashed out with his foot, catching the bird in its ribs. Squawking and scrabbling, the creature scuttled backward, flapping great dark wings until it lifted from the precipice and soared back to its brethren circling above.
Djar’zla watched the skies until a group of the giant black birds separated themselves from the rest of the flock and turned south. Inwardly, he seethed. It was a ridiculous paradox that he was forced to rely on them for news of the southern realms; that he, the mighty Djar’zla, had fallen to such depths. Of course the creatures couldn’t understand what he meant when he spoke to them; they were too dumb for that. They could make out words – maybe a few syllables – but the true meanings behind those words escaped them. It was only their bond to him – the bond between creator and created – that allowed him absolute control and access to their mental pathways. They were pathetic. Absolutely revolting. Dark, defiled, and crippled creatures with no true will and with minds twisted beyond any point of return. They were the imperfect works of his dark genius, purveyors of his misery, and now his only cracked and fogged up window to the outside world.
The irony was not lost on him.
Scowling, he turned away and faced the mountain of his bondage. In its side gaped the sinister mouth of a cave, a fissure torn from the very fabric of the mountain’s stone and left to bleed its poison on the world. Jagged pieces of rock hung from the fissure’s top and jutted from its bottom, like the bared fangs of a Baldhoara Beast preparing to attack. From deep within the darkness of the mountain’s open maw, a sound of groaning – of strong wind – rose up and was spewed out from the giant orifice in a puff of air.
The mountain breathed.
Djar’zla stepped forward as the breeze from the cave brushed the dark strands of hair away from his face. The corners of his lips twisted up in a grin. With one last look at the pale morning sky, he squared his shoulders and marched straight into the blackness of the mountain’s waiting jaws. And the mountain swallowed him.
Djar’zla needed no light to tread the path that wound from the cave’s mouth deep into the bowels of the earth. He had walked it many times since his waking. With one hand placed on the cold stone wall as a guide, he plunged deeper and deeper into the void, turning corners and skirting obstacles with ease. Here he ducked the lintel of a tunnel entrance; there he skirted a fall of rocks that had tumbled down in the dark to seal the mouth of a cavern or passageway.
There were many ancient riddles, many dark and sacred mysteries that lay hidden in the deep places of this mountain – his mountain. Centuries of knowledge stored up, far beyond the grasp of mortal minds. Miles and miles underground, the fissure that was the gate into the world’s core stretched out and became giant caverns and catacombs – mausoleums threaded with crystal and precious metals; chambers where wild and strange beasts roamed, where the dark miasmic juices of the world conjoined, and where evil breathed as a living entity.
The Ealyone had forgotten it, were forbidden to enter it; it was a place no living mortal man had ever willingly set eyes upon, and for centuries uncounted, it had been his prison, secluded and abandoned in the range of the Hoarfrost – a fitting crypt in which to bury what once had been known as truth. While he’d slept, the mountain’s belly had been his bondage, but now that he was awake again, it became his sanctuary, his unbreachable fortress. It was here, within the bowels of the earth’s dark catacombs that the makings of his retribution took on flesh.
Djar’zla turned one last corner and stepped into the familiar giant cavern – his destination. Unlike the other chambers of the underground world, this one had torches lit and burning in sconces spaced along the walls. In the center of the room, a long flat pedestal of glassy black stone rose out of the floor and burned with the reflected light of the torch flames. Djar’zla knew that pedestal intimately; every minute pock and every invisible mar. During the years of his bondage it had been his bier, shackles of its living stone binding him to its surface. Even in the nightmares, the pedestal had been present, a constant reminder of his captivity – a constant reason to hate.
But now there was a new figure on the pedestal. A weak one – a female. The silhouettes of bones poked through the milk-white skin of the Ealyone’s bare torso, and a film of fevered sweat covered her body in a glossy sheen that left damp patches on the thin linen coverings around her waist and upper chest. Clumps of lank dark hair that once had been long, thick, and attached to the creature’s head, now lay around her like a beast’s shed coat. The shackles of stone that had held Djar’zla captive circled the new occupant’s wrists, ankles, and neck, securing her to the pedestal’s surface. The creature didn’t fight against them. Couldn’t. Her eyes were closed. When she breathed, a terrible rattling sound rumbled in her chest – the sound of a living being about to die.
A cruel smile lifted the corners of Djar’zla’s lips. Oh, how ironic for her! She could never have dreamed the consequences of traveling through the Hoarfrost by herself, could never have known what her mere presence would accomplish. After all, so many years had passed since his binding that the story of it was now only legend and myth – a fireside tale to frighten children and awaken bravery in young men’s hearts. It was because of her that he was lifted from the tangle of enchanted nightmares and brought back into the waking world, and he was forever grateful; she had walked into the mountains of her own free will, and in so doing had secured her doom.
Cupping his hands behind his back like a schoolmaster about to give a lecture, Djar’zla stalked forward and addressed the pedestal’s captive. “It is now begun. The line of the Old Kings is failing, and soon the curse laid upon me will be broken. All thanks to you, my queen – my brave little champion.” He laughed, the echo resounding through the cavern, growing longer as it bounced off the walls. The woman on the pedestal never opened her eyes, but Djar’zla detected a catch in her breath. She was awake, however hard she tried to pretend she wasn’t, and he knew that his words cut deep. “It is now only a matter of time,” he continued, “and we have plenty of that. The one good mark left upon me from the curse – I have learned patience well.”
This time she did open her eyes, but their dark brown color had faded from years of ill treatment, the pupils misting over as the whites grew bloodshot from gazing into darkness. She stared at the ceiling, never even tried to look at him. It was this stubbornness that annoyed him most, for whenever she spoke, her words were directed at him, but she never once, in all her years underground, acknowledged his existence with her eyes.
“Your words have no substance,” she croaked. “Whatever daemon you are and however powerful you may be, these mountains still hold you captive. They are your chains. Or why else are you still here?”
“To gloat,” he offered. “To rub your folly in your face. It does my soul no end of good to watch yours break in pieces.”
She drew in another ragged breath. Soon the effort of speech would drain her body of strength, but he admired her audacity. It would be fun to watch her finally fall apart in the end.
“My soul is not broken,” she managed at last, “Only my body.”
“Your body may be all that’s needed to break your soul. Pain is a powerful persuader, and the mind will often betray the heart. You will break eventually, my queen. Your kind always does.”
The woman’s chest shuddered and spasmed as she drew in her next breath, forcing her words through clenched teeth. “What you seek cannot be found in this cavern, Djar’zla. Beware. The blood of the Old Kings is far from ending. Your reign will fall.”
And there she went again, speaking like a curséd Sibyl!
Djar’zla scowled, the torch lights turning a venomous green with his mood. “I don’t care for your riddles, witch,” he hissed at her. “Your tongue is more problems than it’s worth.”
A dry, croaking laugh exploded from her throat. “Riddles?” she gasped. “Riddles!” And her laugh broke into a rattling cough.
Striding up to the pedestal, Djar’zla placed his palms flat onto the black stone and leaned forward until his face was directly over hers. She closed her eyes again.
“What do you know?” he hissed into her face. “You are keeping something from me. I recognize the curse of Sibyl. I know your type. Tell me what it is you see, or I will force it from you.”
Her lips pursed into a tight line. She did not reply.
“Then so be it.”
Slowly, without emotion, Djar’zla let the power from his core seep into the stone. A scream ripped from the woman’s throat as her body arced in pain. Blue electricity sizzled over her arms and thighs, wrapped itself around her torso. The few clumps of hair left on her head burned to a cinder and fell to the pedestal’s surface in ashes. It took so little effort to torment her, so little energy, that he felt it a shame to cut the ordeal short, yet he needed her alive. She was the key to his freedom, after all; he had yet to find the lock, but once it was found, he still needed the key.
Cutting the flow of power, he watched her body sink back to the pedestal’s surface, a charred and blistered, unconscious mess. She was strong, admittedly, but he could see her breaking. She was Ealyone, after all – dust and water, nothing more. They always broke in the end.
At the cavern’s entrance, he turned back to survey the room one last time. Each torch that fell under his stare sputtered and went out until only one still burned. Before he extinguished it, he let his gaze linger over the emaciated body of the woman. “You are wrong,” he whispered to her. “The old king is dead, and his son is young and reckless. The winds speak of torment and betrayal in the southern realms. My reign is only just begun; mountains will fall before it ends.”
And as he turned and left the room, the last torch sputtered out, plunging the woman into darkness.