Fan Art Friday: Week 3

This week on Fan Art Friday, in celebration of the release of Mage and Source, I’m offering up two new covers for my own books, The Gantean and The Cedna.

My real book covers feature portraits of my narrators, but for a different concept, I decided to show the magical aspect of the books and the ongoing saga of the Ophirae stones, the connecting plot arc of the entire series of Tales of Blood & Light.

On the cover of The Gantean, you see the mysterious red Ophira stone that Leila brought with her from Gante in her “barbarian” necklace:

gantorb

On the cover for The Cedna, you see the Opal Ophira, which the Cedna awakens during her tragic love affair with Onatos Amar:

cedorb

These two books were originally conceived as a duet within the series, and I like to think these new covers reflect that, with aspects of the images reflecting each other, the watery center of The Cedna‘s stone matching the watery background of The Gantean.

Next week I’ll reveal the Ophirae covers for Sterling and Mage and Source.

Deleted Scene : More Hinge Backstory

This little snippet was originally in The Gantean, a piece of information about the magic of the Gantean Hinge. Ultimately, I found a way to “show” rather than “tell” this information, but, like a lot of writing about magic systems, I had to write out the theory of it before I could even attempt to integrate it more naturally into the story.

Leila was the narrator telling this info, though it could have been the Cedna, too:

“Because of this Hinge, all other magic was possible, for in its opening, the Ancestors had made the Layers permeable, so that we could walk from one to the next. The Gantean People were the Guardians of this Hinge, and it was our sacred duty to protect it, to keep it hidden, safe, and open. Not just for ourselves, but for the whole world, for all the nations who used magic. The Hinge, high on the ice plateaus of Gante, was the source of all magic.

Every Gantean knew about the Hinge. Such knowledge made us Iksraqtaq. It was a secret funneled into us, never spoken, but lived and felt and inhaled from our very first breath. If we were a stern and somber people, it was because of this great responsibility we guarded. We kept the Hinge open by feeding it the dead, their flesh and spirit and blood, to appease its endless hunger.”

Deleted Scene: Random Gantean Backstory

Here’s a little snippet cut so long ago, I can’t remember if it was originally in The Gantean or The Cedna–although I lean towards the Cedna being the one who said this. You may need to refer to the Gantean glossary in either book to make head or tails of this cutting.

More or less, the basic facts of this backstory may still be true, although Gantean prehistory just never became as relevant to the story as I thought it would…

The Ganteans were not just the last remnants of a barbarian culture, as the sayantaq believed. We were the last of the Hanimen, a tribe of people who had lived on the Peninsula that was now Lethemia for eon after eon. The Hanimen were wielders of magic, the basic magic of plants and animals, earth, stone, and water. For a long time, that had been enough. Until a clan discovered the Hinge. The clanspeople had seen something strange around the edges of a cavern of stone. They had entered the cavern, and perhaps they had been the first to walk the Other Layer, and come back to Ijiq to speak of it. Unwitting, these first walkers had opened the Abys Hinge, making the Layers of magic permeable, so that we could move from one to the next if we were willing to pay with a bit of blood. The Hinge made magic possible, so that we could take the spirit of tree or stone or wind or water, and share our will with it. Iksraqtaq, the People, were the Guardians of this Hinge, and it was our sacred duty to protect it, to keep it hidden, safe, and open, and fed. Not just for ourselves, but for the whole of the world, for all the nations who used magic.

Deleted Scene: Leila and Miki after the shipwreck

I missed Deleted Scene Monday last week because I didn’t have enough time to sort through my material and find an appropriate snippet. Here’s a piece cut from a very old version of The Gantean.

This scene takes place after the shipwreck that separated Leila from her daughter, Tianiq, and the other Ganteans. In this older version, Leila, Miki, and Tiriq ended up on an island instead of being picked up from the wreckage by a following ship. They think the island is where a group of refugee Ganteans have settled, a place called “new Gante,” but it turns out it is inhabited by Lethemians.

I cut this material for several reasons– one, to cut words; two, because it only added world-building, not story; and three, because it ultimately distracted from the plot and slowed down the narrative.

Leila is the narrator:

Barely able to pull our bodies out of the umiaq, Miki and I stumbled ashore. We found an inlet with a thin strand of sand, hiding between outcrops of black rocks. I had tucked Tiriq under my sealskin cloak for the journey, and spirits be thanked, he had slept, lulled by the steady rocking from the sea and the rowing. As we came ashore, he began to whimper.

“Soon,” I told him under my breath, as I helped Miki drag the craft ashore. “We’ll get back to her soon.”

It was too dark to find our way much farther onto New Gante. Miki and I collapsed at the farthest edge of sand, curling close like sled dogs in winter. It was not especially cold, but the storm had left us with a deep chill, from trauma and temperature alike.

Tiriq rooted around at my breast. I drew the throat of my shift down, to give him access. He ate furiously, as if he too had rowed leagues yesterday.

Lush trees provided a backdrop to the beach. The waters before me were still and tranquil, with no trace of the fury of yesterday. The shore could only be the northern face of the island; as I faced the sea, the glow of sunrise emerged from the horizon off to my left.

Miki sat up, and brushed a coating of sand from his face. He rummaged in his pack and drew out two skins of water, and a couple lengths of jerk-dried meat.

“Which way should we walk?” I asked, peering into the dense greenery that lay behind us.

Miki groaned. “It would be better to go round the island in the boat. Surely, if we follow the shore, we will come upon people. We won’t have to leave the boat behind.”

Of course. My mind was disheveled from the events yesterday. All I could think about was Tianiq’s helpless form sinking beneath the waves, the horror and the helplessness of that moment. For Miki’s sake, I pushed it back, and agreed to keep paddling.

Though our muscles screamed their agony, we made time on the calm waters. The island was unvarying in its lush vegetation. Where there were inlets, small patches of beige sand collected, but never the long, wide deposits I had seen at Murana or Orioneport. The island appeared deserted. Many times Miki and I exchanged wondering looks as the panorama of greenery continued. The sheer volume of life springing forth staggered me. How did the New Ganteans know what to do with it all?

Dark freckles sprouted on Miki’s face from the sun. My own skin felt tight and dry, and I kept my cloak loosely draped over Tiriq’s head to give him some small amount of shade. After two days of following the coast, our supplies began to run low. We decided to stop and stay ashore for a day, and see if we could find fresh water and food.

We skirted the edges of the jungle at first, searching for an outlet of water running down into the ocean. On an island as green as this, Miki and I both knew we would find fresh water. It was not long until we were rewarded with a small trickle, cutting down through porous black rocks to a ledge that overhung the sea. We followed the path of the stream upwards, until it grew fast and plentiful. Miki knelt, sipping at the water to taste it, then refilling our two skins. We sat down together on rough black rocks, and sipped water from cupped hands.

Privately, I nursed a doubt that the island we had found was New Gante, but I debated confessing my fears to Miki. He was adamant that he had set the heading right, but the further we progressed, the heavier my doubts grew. Merkuur had told me New Gante was so tiny you could walk around the entirety of it in one afternoon. Yet Miki and I had traveled nearly two full days by boat, and we hadn’t yet rounded the northeastern tip of this island.

“Miki, do you think…” He grabbed my arm with fingers like strangler vines.

“Shhhh!” He pointed to an overhang of rocks and tree branches weirdly melded together above our little creek. Some of the more slender branches had begun to move, slithering down the face of the rocks like rivulets of thick water. Miki drew an ulio from his sack. His crouched with each muscle taut but still, only his eyes following the creature’s passage down towards the water. The snake slid gracefully into the waters, flowing towards us.

We tried to remove ourselves from its path. I had never seen a living serpent, but I had a visceral loathing for it. Miki seemed to know better how to treat it, and I could feel his fear and caution coming over me in waves. The snake made its way up the bank, straight towards us. It bent its black body into an s-shaped curve, retracted its head, and opened its mouth wide. Two fangs dripped with sticky white fluid. Miki pressed into me, his body cueing mine to creep backwards away from the snake. The snake sat frozen with its gaping mouth, and did not follow us. Once we were a good ten spans away, we bolted back down our trampled path through the foliage, racing towards the open visibility of the beach.

“Do you know what kind of serpent that was?” I asked Miki as we collapsed onto the sand next to our umi.

“Not exactly. But my master said the islands in the Parting Sea were full of snakes. He said they lived in the trees, and they could jump down onto you and bite you in the face. The venom’s deadly.”

I shuddered, imagining if the snake had chosen to strike. I hugged Tiriq and let him pull at the stretched out neck of my tunic to get to my milk. Tiriq had been eating nearly double since Tianiq was gone, as if trying to make up for her absence.

“Maybe the New Ganteans were chased out by snakes,” I said.

Miki pulled our last biscuit from his waist pouch. The biscuits were some invention of the Hutre: hard, twice baked breads that lasted forever. He broke it in half and handed me my share.

“I don’t think this is the isle of New Gante,” he said. “It’s just too big.”

I nodded my agreement. “But what is it?’

“It must be one of the Amarantinas. They’re the only islands of any size in the Parting Sea. The storm blew us off course.”

“What about the others?” I said, sitting upright. Tianiq. “If the course we set was the same as they, do you think they would have made it here?” I often forgot Miki had only twelve winters.

“Leila, the only reason we made it here was because we changed our course,” Miki said. “You went into Yaqi and flew, and found an island for us.”

“Merkuur would have done the same,” I said quickly. He too had a bird for a tormaq. “Pamiuq and Atanurat were with him.” I didn’t even know who Atanurat’s tormaq was, for he had lost his tormaquine.

Miki nodded. “I guess all we can do is keep going. If this is one of the Amarantinas, we’ll have to find some sort of community.”

“How so?”

“The Amarantinas. They’re where people like Cerio’s mother go to learn how to serve the gods.”

“They do?” I didn’t remember anyone ever mentioning that.

“Yes.” Miki rolled his eyes. “Cerio said his mother was gone for almost six sidereals. And when she came back, he had to pretend he wasn’t her son, cuz they don’t allow the servants of the gods to make young.”

I stood up, and tightened the lacings that held Tiriq against me. “So now we’re looking for priests and priestesses? We may as well keep going. We can try to find food on the waters.”

We made too much disturbance traveling through the water, and my line caught nothing. Suddenly, the coastline shifted as the sun dropped. Something about it seemed…inhabited. There were no boats moored at the water’s edge, nor any buildings. Maybe it was the clean line of foliage that approached the beach, different from the overgrown masses of green we had grown used to seeing.

“Let’s stop here,” I told Miki, sitting in front of me. The modest waves did little to help bring us into shore, so we paddled until Miki could hop out and drag us in the rest of the way.

Miki scanned the forest around us in the fading light. Tiriq began to fuss and whimper.

“What’s that?” Miki pointed up into the verdant hillside. I looked up, and saw the distinct shape of a roof, strangely familiar, with upturned eves, a line of red glowing against the green leaves.

“It’s a building.”

Miki began to trudge up the beach, and I followed. We found a narrow path cut up through the forest, strewn with rounded black pebbles so that the plants would not take root upon it. Steps led up the hill paved with flat, smooth stones. We followed the staircase up at least forty spans, and the path took a sharp left, widening into an open garden with islands of moss and stone.

Miki froze. The path turned to black sand, and the sand was raked into neat designs. It seemed wrong to marr them.

“Who’s there? Iduma, is that you?” A voice floated through the gate of hewn cedar that walled in the garden. The voice spoke in Balethemian, and spoke it well, with an accent that would have put the speaker in good standing in the High Court.

Miki and I just looked at each other.

“Iduma, the Prioress says we aren’t allowed to go out into the gardens after they have been swept. Honestly, don’t you…” The cedar gate swung open, and a girl stood before us, draped in pink linens of varying tones. Her honey-colored hair was pulled back from her round face and braided down her back. She froze for a moment, long lashes fluttering round her wide brown eyes.

“Oh!” she finally said, as her eyes flicked down at the curving patterns in the sand. “No one’s allowed in the garden after it’s been swept.” She stayed frozen on her side of the sand, and we on ours.

“We came up from the beach,” I told her. “Our ship was wrecked in the Parting Sea. We’ve been paddling for three days looking for people.” At this point, Tiriq began to squall.

The girl’s eyes grew yet larger. “Oh, Lord Amasis!” she said. “I’d better go and get the Prioress.” With that, she turned and fled, leaving Miki and I marooned on the far side of the black sand.

Miki gave me a look. He mostly loathed the Lethemians, and I knew he was happier alone in the wilderness than in their company, even taking viperous snakes into account. He was thinking we would do better to run back down to the boat and flee before the girl came back.

I shook my head at him. “I can’t, Miki. Not with Tiriq. And we have to find out if the others might have come by here, or if there are other islands where they might have landed.”

I had to believe we would find Tianiq and Atanurat and Merkuur. The alternative did not bear imagining.

Deleted Scene: Miki becomes a Dragonnaire

Here’s my first deleted scene. This one takes place in the series timeline right at the end of The Gantean, after Leila has left Costas and her son, Tiriq, to go after Laith and the Cedna. As you will see it is told from Miki, her Gantean brother’s, point of view. Leila left Miki on the ship with to take care of Tiriq while she was away, but there was some lingering animosity between Miki and Leila’s husband, Costas Galatien. This little scene was part of a prologue I had originally written for Mikien’s book (Book 7), but the big timeline changes I made in the overall series arc made that particular prologue unworkable, as I felt the jumping around in time was too confusing. It also turned out that Miki becoming a Dragonnaire was less central to his story than I had originally imagined, so using this scene didn’t have the story-relevant impact I needed for the opening of a book. Below is just a snippet from the entire scene.

Scene: 

Costas sat down on the bed with Tiriq in his lap, ashen. I shifted awkwardly, wishing I could leave, but the ship was small, and I had no where to go.

“I’ll have to call off my men,” he muttered. “I’ve sent them ashore to search for Leila.”

“They’ll never find her. Leila can blend.” It was a uniquely Shringar talent, that easy adaptation, melding into every circumstance like a drop of water into the ocean.

Costas pulled himself together. “Very well. I will allow her to perform this duty. I practically gave it to her myself. But if she isn’t back in a fortnight, I’m going after her.”

I lifted my brows, suppressing a skeptical snort. “To Gante?” Costas had all the usual trappings of a southerner—the rich, thin clothing he wore would kill him in a second in Gante’s harsh climate, not to mention his thin skin and a preference for weapons and magic rather than raw resourcefulness.

“That’s where she’s gone?”

“Undoubtedly,” I said. “But give her at least a moon. I expect she’ll be back to you by then. In the meantime, don’t you have a city to retake?” All through our sea journey from the harbor of Engashta, where Leila and I had gone to find Tiriq and Costas after they were captured by Xander Ricknagel, Costas had been planning how to retake the High City from Ricknagel’s remaining army. Galantia and Province Ricknagel were the only places in the country still held by those loyal to the man who had usurped Costas’s throne.

Costas stared at me for a long moment. Then he threw back his head and laughed. “How old are you, anyway?”

“Fourteen winters,” I said sullenly. As a Gantean—a small one at that—among sayantaq, I was usually mistaken for a child.

“Leila says you are her brother, but I see little resemblance between the two of you. You look fully Gantean, as she does not.”

“Ganteans do not reckon relationship by blood,” I said shortly. “But I call Leila a sister, and I call Tiriq a brother. I always will.”

Costas gazed down at Tiriq in his arms. “You feel for them both like family, though no blood connects you?”

“This is the Gantean way. Our island is a hard place. We look after one another. We are connected by the land itself.” We were connected by blood, too, but in a different way from how he would understand. All Gantean blood fed the Hinge.

“Interesting.” Costas set Tiriq back down on the bed and began to pace. “Allian told me you killed my mage Oruscani.”

I retracted toward the cabin door. I had feared there might be repercussions for killing the mage once Costas pulled himself together and regained his power. I still had the ulio I’d picked up from Leila, the Gantean ritual blade, stuffed in my back pocket. I scrambled for it and crouched. Once again I wished I’d had some kind of training in the martial arts. I’d seen Costas’s Dragonnaires practicing their moves, and they had looked useful. Costas had easily snapped the blade from my hand earlier, and he had all the training the wealth of the world could buy.

All I had were instincts honed by a lifetime of dangers.

Costas stared down at the ulio that I held in front of me. “Now why would you go and do that?” he wondered aloud. “You’re not stupid, boy. You don’t want to fight me.”

“Allian Kercheve put me in binds for killing the mage. He said there would be consequences.”

Costas laughed again. “You’ve been exonerated. Allian was actually quite impressed with you. He said you were fast. Coming from him, that means something. He was the fastest fighter I had.” Regret tinged his voice. Kercheve had died fighting Xander Ricknagel as we’d rescued Costas from his upscale prison in the Duke of Engahsta’s home.

Costas’s eyes never left the ulio. He moved like summer lightning, springing towards me, then darting to the left, and finally snapping his hand down on my arm.

I didn’t drop the blade; I went with the force of his blow, crouching lower until one shin rested on the cabin floor. I spun on my toes on my standing leg to avoid his next blow and skittered away from him.

“Good instincts,” Costas said. Again he moved, this time in a frontal attack, both hands whizzing through motions too fast to track. With the wall at my back, I had few options. I ducked and somersaulted, coming to my feet behind him. Now he was pinned by the wall.

“Ingenius,” Costas said. “But you’re still outmatched.”

I cast a quick glance at Tiriq on the bed.

“Don’t you dare,” Costas said, his face hardening. “If you touch my son, I’ll murder you with my bare hands.”

“I’d never hurt him,” I hissed. “He’s my brother.”

A satisfied look crossed Costas’s face. He struck anyway, launching into a dizzying array of strikes, punches, and kicks, too fast to track. His foot connected precisely with my wrist and the ulio went flying. Before I knew what had happened, he had me on my belly with two fingers digging into the back of my neck like iron pins, his knee in my back.

“This grip,” he said, “is a secret known only to me and my Dragonnaires. I can push so hard I can knock you unconscious, just from the pressure. It cuts off the blood supply to the brain, you see. If I hold it long enough, I’ll kill you.”

I writhed but he held on.

“Listen to me, Mikien. I’m giving you only two choices. One, I keep squeezing. I can do this for as long as it takes. Two, you agree to pledge your loyalty to me, become one of my Dragonnaires, and have your oath bound by a mage. My men have gone ashore and they will be bringing at least one mage back to the ship when they return.”

“What does that mean, bound by a mage?” I rasped. I could hardly breathe, what with the force of his knee into my ribs.

“It means you will swear your life to me, as all my Dragonnaires do, blood and breath. A magemark will be put upon your arm, written in my own blood. This makes you physically incapable of harming anyone who carries my blood. And you will serve me. We will put these good instincts to better use.”

“I’m Gantean,” I spat. “I will not kneel to a southern king.”

Costas Galatien’s laugh had begun to grate on my nerves. “You’re already kneeling, boy. One way or another. Come now, pick life. I like you too much to have you go to waste. And I fear Leila would never forgive me if I killed you.”

“Will you train me to fight?” I asked.

That grating laugh again. “I most certainly will.”

“Yes, then,” I said as my vision began to blur. “I’ll do it. I’ll take the pledge.”

Tales of Blood & Light Boxed Set

Gantean box

A boxed set for the first two books in Tales of Blood & Light is available now. You can now get both books in one file for your kindle here. I’m not sure how long I will keep this one up for sale so if you prefer boxed sets, get it in the next few weeks. I had fun making a cover mash-up for this project.

The Cedna available for Pre-Order

Pre-order The Cedna here!

CednaMaster2EBP

If you haven’t yet heard, Tales of Blood & Light, Book Two, THE CEDNA, is up on Amazon and ready for pre-orders. It’ll be delivered on 12-27-2015.

I have the print proof in hand as I write, and it is looking fantastic. If you love physical books and wish to pre-order a signed and doodled flesh and bones (er, paper and ink, I mean) copy direct from me, just let me know! The cost is $9.99. For Marin/California people, I should be able to have the books to you in time for Christmas gifts.

And here’s a top secret fact: for the next five days, THE GANTEAN, Tales of Blood & Light, Book One ebook is available for a free download at Amazon. FREE!

I’m off to work on revisions to BOOK 3! I’m stuck at home with a bad head cold that’s preventing me from lying down, so I may as well be upright and editing.