Excursions from the Citadel- Excerpt from Winged Invasion

I admit that cannibalism of the war dead does have a logic to it.  Indeed, I may have been the one to slay the man that was in my bowl. Was it a further insult that I found him unpalatable? This particular bowl of stew also came with additional pressures. It had been handed to me personally by a Warlord from the Island of Vattena. I have been in that Warlord’s employ for several years now. Although it was only during the past few months that my Warlord has truly begun to live up to the ‘War’ portion of his title.

The Bevattena, as  Vattena’s residents are known, are shape shifters. Taking the form of birds, the Warlord and his followers flew to these shores on a crusade of conquest.  Prior to arrival of the Warlord and his vanguard, I served the Bevattena scouts as a translator and guide, then fought alongside the Warlord and his men after the invasion. They paid me in advance with salt and silver and, all things considered, I liked the men. They didn’t compete for position. They were not snarky or jealous.  It is a true brotherhood among the Bevattena warriors.

But the bowl of flesh soup made me wonder if I would someday regret my association with the Bevattena. What did I need with a brotherhood? I have never needed anybody. I have never wanted to need anybody. That has always been a point of pride for me.  Perhaps my natural independence was another reason this brown, steaming bowl of human stew made me uneasy. Eating somebody would force upon me an uncomfortable personal connection.

Above is an excerpt from the only novella we have included in the first issue of the Excursions from the Citadel, written by the author of Atop a Pine-covered Mountain that is also included in this volume. It is one of the two conventional fantasy stories in this volume by which I mean a story set in a medieval Western, high magic setting. It is my personal favourite out of all 6 pieces but judge it for yourselves.

This is the last of the excerpts that will be released. Go to Issue 1 Excerpts under the Excursions from the Citadel to access all 6 excerpts for issue 1. If you like what you saw of the excerpts posted on this blog, visit here to get yourself a Kindle copy of the actual volume. Also, stay tuned for issue 2 of the Excursions from the Citadel which will tackle a new theme: Wizards. It will include work from the circle of 3 again and potentially more authors. It will definitely include the second and final part of my Chinese story titled A Thread of Chance and potentially two more stories, one solo and one another collaboration piece of what I dub a M&A collab. We are hoping to release it about June this year.

Finally, we are looking for unbiased Amazon reviews so if you’ve purchased a copy, please leave us your thoughts on our work. Also, we’re on KDP Select which means that we will be running a promotion scheme on this book by making it free for a total of 5 days at anytime of our choice. So stay tuned for announcement of the timing of that if what you’ve read of the excerpts which sometimes doesn’t give a fair sense of the whole story doesn’t yet sway you to grab a Kindle copy of the Excursions from the Citadel.

Excursions from the Citadel- Excerpt from A Thread of Chance: An Overdue Reunion

Each Mortal is bound by a Limit, a Geomancer is also a Mortal.

Every Reading comes with a Price, Know the Worth of the Price.

Every Situation is accompanied by Chance, a single Thread of Chance.

 

It is the idle season. Clusters of women gather to gossip under the rows of willow trees at the village front. A stranger catches their eyes, garbed as he is in a cotton robe worthy of an entire year’s upkeep for a family of three generations.  Their gazes track him as far as they can follow: he’s heading for the rear of the village towards the lodging of Xian Sheng, the Teacher. He walks on the mud track with a stroll which proclaims that he belongs elsewhere, to the wide expandless world beyond the village that is both exciting and frightening. The sight brings the villagers into a state of awe. They had never seen such prestige projected through so simple a motion.

The stranger, Xun Zhen whose name means Seeking Truth, creases his brows in reflection over what he had seen on the way to this village. The prices for staple food have gone up in all the towns but there isn’t a drought in the surrounding regions. That usually means someone has been stockpiling them. Could news of my mission have already leaked out? To whom?  Xun Zhen shudders to contemplate the possibility.

Xun Zhen feels anticipation building within himself for the upcoming encounter. Quickly overtaking, and prevailing over it, however, is a feeling of unresolved mystery resurfacing. Why had He left? Why did He choose this way, of all possible ways? Unwilling to relinquish his grudge, Xun Zhen refuses to refer to the Old Man as anything other than a generic He. He’s no longer worthy of being anything other than a faceless being in my world. He abandoned me along with all that He was, why should the Deserter earn any respect from me let alone still have my affection? Xun Zhen wishes that that he has come today to simply collect his due from Him rather than an actual mission. Least of all his mission today.

Reluctant to move further, he stops on the mud track, which is still a fair distance from a bamboo fence enclosing a grass hut standing aloof and lonely. He can only see the structures from where he stands but his instincts tell him that this most ordinary residence is his destination.

Sa Sa Sa. His gaze turns to the left where a gale is sashaying among the bamboo forest. Despite the wind, no single bamboo stalk bows. The sight recollects to him the words once spoken by the Old Man while viewing a similar scene. “That’s how a man of virtue needs to be. That‘s how We need to be. Break rather than bend.” That is why He chose here. It is the fitting abode for His character.

Xun Zhen moves forwards towards His hut.

“This is Two,” a cultured voice states. It comes from a man who is all white in hair and beard but with a visage of one in his thirties.  He is sitting cross-legged in the middle of the front yard on a seat of stone that the Elements seem to have crafted specifically for him. About a dozen or so children of various ages, wearing patched clothes, sit facing him in the same posture. A surprisingly orderly sight for young children of this social class.

The Old Man has always had that effect, He imbues his unique aura onto everything he touches. I could have been, no, I was one of these children sitting in rapt attention.

Xun Zhen’s mind wanders back to his own childhood, to the first meeting between him and the Old Man.

He looks exactly like the first time I saw him except his hair and beard were the color of ink rather than snow. “Mischievous One, would you like to go with me?” He asked. I thought he looked very ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. I cocked my head to one side as I pondered this puzzle. My eyes roamed across the stranger from head to foot in that way that got Niang – Mother – scowling at me whenever she caught me.

He was wearing a Daoist robe. It fitted him in somewhat but not quite with those men with white beards that they stroked as they prattled about things that we common people don’t, and won’t, know. I didn’t really have a concept of what it meant to be part of the common people, it was just what Niang said I was. So I wasn’t as in awe of Daoists as most of my playmates but more curious.

I stuck out my tongue at him. “Old Man,” I called in retort. I went with him but the name stuck as my special term of endearment for him. He taught me to read and write. He gave me the name of Xun Zhen. “Zhen, Truth, is the core to every being and object. Life is the search for Zhen within and without. Do honour onto the name by never forgetting the meaning behind it,” He said when he gave it to me.  He raised me to be who I am.

So why did He betray me by leaving the way He did? Xun Zhen’s hands clench up into fists.

Xun Zhen watches Him draw three horizontal lines on the muddy ground with a twig, each lower line successively longer than the one above it. The Teacher points to what he just drew, “This is Three.” Next to it, he draws a rectangle from the top of which dangles two short curved lines heading towards left and right respectively. “This is Four.” He continues drawing until Ten, a horizontal line dissected by a vertical one.

“Nine is the ultimate number rather than ten. Does anyone know why?” the Teacher asks his students.

The children all shake their heads and look at him expectantly.

“Because Heaven always leaves a single Thread of Chance. Thus we should always leave a single thread of chance for ourselves and others in any situation.”

Xun Zhen enters. “Well said, I come precisely for a Thread of Chance, Teacher.” He put emphasis onto the last word to mock the Deserter.

Above is excerpt of the first scene from my solo piece in this epub: A Thread of Chance. I’ve decided to give this part the subtitle of “An overdue reunion” since I’ve also included a short meta fiction piece that goes in front with the story itself in the actual publication. Anyone who has read my About page knows already that I’ve always dreamed of producing one day a fantasy series LoR style but based on an ancient Chinese setting. A Thread of Chance certainly isn’t an epic but it is set in my Dragon Empire setting which is what I call this fantasised ancient Chinese setting that I’m still crafting away at.

I’m fairly happy at how this piece has turned out and the process of writing it is quite joyful to myself who often struggle with my perfectionist streak that manifests often in the form of a Writer’s block or procrastination. Ideally, I would have wished more time for editing since this is a piece that came to me late relative to the deadline for submission but I do think it is ready for public eyes. Hopefully, you will judge it to be so too. And if you have comments and thoughts on this piece you would like to share, you are more than welcome to leave a comment.

Excursions from the Citadel- Excerpt from The Lady down the Hall

Lady, woman, girl, mother and wife. These were words Lord-Mage Dodandy Mofrin did not seem to know. Whore. It was his only word for any female and was a shining example of the filth that crowded his mind. Oh if he was speaking, on the unlikely occasion, to the Queen or a whore of similar stature, he would just use their proper name. Of this thing, the mage did not give a thought to as he absent mindedly pushed his sloth prime rib around his plate and listened to the pimp drone on.

It was his normal weeknight – visiting pimps and whores would come and try to get his hard earned coin. The pair in front of him prattled about the whore sitting there smiling at him coyly. They were extolling the fact that she had learned a trick or two since he had had her. This violated one of his two prime rules in whore chasing. He would never visit the same whore twice despite his primary rule being that the whores needed broken in. They needed to know their trade well if he was going to use them. He dismissed the pair, instructing his butler to give the pimps and whore his customary honorarium for just coming to him. He hated parting with silver, but these two pimps had served him well in the past and he wanted to insure they would do so in the future. His last, and hopefully best guest was next.

This guest would be a well known fixer named Kasis, whom he had dealt with many times in the past. Kasis dealt in the same high end goods and services as Dodandy had a craving for. The street had brought him rumours that Kasis represented a often-travelling pimp who had very exotic goods, named Tavaz, who was in town with extra exotic whores. Dodandy licked his lips. At their last meeting, Tavaz had brought him to a very, very satisfactory encounter with a sort of mermaid. He wrung his plump, greasy fingers in anticipation.

The tall, well dressed fixer was ushered in without fanfare. Kasis quickly began his speal. “Most excellent Grand High Lord Mage….” Dodandy tuned him out as he droned on and on, paying a little more attention to his now cold dinner. The fixer was quite long winded when he put his mind to it. Now he seemed especially so. The mage reflected on the manner of Kasis’ address. In his many dealings with the fixer, he had never been quite this long winded and certainly not this nervous. What was his game? No matter what it was, Dodandy had no more patience for unnecessary interruptions to the news that he was dying to hear.

Above is the excerpt from the only mature audience piece we have included in this particular volume, written by my collaborator for The Labor of an Empress. Like all other pieces in this volume, it is a fantasy story based not on our Earth setting but on a distant moon.

The actual ebook has gone alive now. It can be viewed here

Excursions from the Citadel- Excerpt from Atop a Pine-covered Moutain

Cecil was filled with that flavor of arrogance that people use to deny terror.  The maw of his mind drowned his reflexive thoughts of panic by spitting out phrases of assurance and certainty.  As he fled up a mountainside in the southern Rocky Mountains he spat out phrases such as, “Didn’t know what YOU were doing tangling with Cecil Roth. I survived the attack at Cantigny, I beat the Spanish Flu, I don’t die. I just do not die.”   As he ran, all he could hear was the sound of his own labored breathing and the half-believed boasts he muttered through sweat-soaked lips.

Despite these contrived assurances the animal part of his brain knew he was being hunted. It didn’t understand what being hunted meant. Cecil’s instinctive brain didn’t truly understand the realities of the human condition and death as clearly as the intellectual brain of Cecil Roth PhD.  It was just afraid.

In the light of the setting full moon, that instinctive part of Cecil glimpsed a large fast moving shadow to his right. His impulses reacted before his mind could, turning and raising both his Colt M1917 revolvers towards the offending shape. The revolvers kicked in his hands and released a report loud enough to leave a ringing in his ears.  There was a brief gurgling screech and a crash. Cecil watched the shadow covered creature stumble.  He should have kept running up the mountain.  Even without taking his watch from his waistcoat, he knew there was still another hour till sunrise.  But it would take even longer for those redeeming rays of light to touch him if he stayed on the west side of the mountain.  He needed to reach the peak soon.

Above is the excerpt from a piece written by the third collaborator to this epub venture, who is also the leader of this our enterprise of ours and who put together everything. It’s the chase by shape-shifters story I alluded to in a previous post.

Regarding the actual publication itself, we have submitted to Amazon already but there is a 12-72 review period until it goes alive. I will put up a purchase link when it actually does so watch out for it!

Excursions from the Citadel- Excerpt from Labor of an Empress

“Gnats

Giant gnats in stately robes

calling Me to this and that

 

Buzzing

sapping my will

‘Lady, You Must….’

 

‘But the Flood…..’

‘The coffers are nearly……!’

‘You must judge…..’

 

I slam the doors shut

The roar of the fire

The Smells of the Forge

 

The Gnats hammer at the doors

‘Lady….’

‘Lady….’

 

Nothing will clear my head

Nothing will calm my body

I shake in frustration and rage

 

I see it!

My old friend

Worn and Mighty

 

I touch the Hammer softly,

Caress the head

Finally I grasp the wood!”

 

The Empress strides with purpose to the anvil, sparing barely a glance for the scribe frantically scribbling down her newly composed poem in a far corner. She feels suffused by nervous energy and adrenaline at the same time. Her fingers grasp and then twist around each other like vines. The discomfort makes her look down towards her hands. The feeling grows but isn’t physical pain, not yet. She ignores it.

This is an excerpt from the only collaborative piece in this epub, between myself and the author of the urban fantasy for which I posted up an excerpt for yesterday. It’s undoubtedly conventional fantasy- medieval Western, high magic setting. But what is interesting about this piece is that the idea seed for it actually came from one of the entries from that Chinese lore post on Broadswords that I put up some time in October or November of last year.

If you’ve read yesterday’s post, you can probably work out already that it’s my co-author who wrote the opening poem. I didn’t edit it at all despite the fact that mine was the dominant hand at writing stage. But all in all, this is a 50-50 true collaboration in that this story came about as an idea seed supplied by me that was forged into a plot by my collaborator and then we took turns in revising the piece during which we relinquished full control to the other party. This turned out to be such an enjoyable collaborative experience for both of us that we are now going to include at least one collaborative piece between the two of us in each forthcoming issue of the Excursions from the Citadel.

About the publication itself, I’m still not definite on whether or not there will be a delay to publication tomorrow. But as I said earlier, I will keep everyone up to date.

Excursions from the Citadel- Excerpt from Grey

The peace of the kingdom

hung,

dark cloud

rain

The prince sat

huge old throne

worn crown

worn sword

always alone

no kin

no advisors

duty as the peace

restlessly he fingered

throne

then

crown and sword

the dark cloud broke……..

The numbness of the day settled on me. The cold winter morning was punctuated  with the static on the television. The new/old VCR sparked and the tape inside stuttered. It was what woke me up.

Howls erupted suddenly from the walls and floor. I reached for the stereo remote and played my favorite Halestorm song at full volume. “I miss the misery” blasted the air.  It combined with the howls into an ear-shattering cacophonous wall. Used to this mayhem I fell back asleep and dreamed of 22 years ago……

As promised, above is an excerpt from Grey, one of the two urban fantasy pieces included in the first issue of Excursions from the Citadel. Just to make it clear, this piece is not written by me by rather by one of my two collaborators who contributed our creative efforts towards this publication. I’m hearing that there might be some slight delay that makes it not ready for March 1st release but I’m not definite on this point yet. I will definitely keep all of you updated though. And stay tuned throughout this week for daily release for excerpts!