So, I've been working pretty steadily on a book since November. It's a long way from completion, but it's been a while since I've posted anything, so I figured I'd share a little sample with all of you. This is a chapter from my current project, not a final draft, please keep that in mind as you judge me, but I think it's worth sharing. Let me know what you think.
I give you: The God Mage.
The God Mage
By James Jakins
Nathin Trindi stood in the doorway of the cavernous temple and watched the water fall. Torrents of gray rain water poured in steady streams, hiding the carved stone entrance of the temple behind the liquid curtain. From outside, the door would have been almost invisible. Nathin could barely make out the green of the treeline through the deluge. He was tempted to step through the wall of cold water and inspect the front of the temple. The facade carved into the side of the large rocky hill with the images of two gods, swords drawn over the door. The stone images would appear to be weeping. He thought he might like to see that.
In the back of his mind he could sense his cell approaching. Today was a big day for the three of them. Today was their test. If they proved themselves they would be permitted to select a fourth member.
Yerin and Parlan stepped beside him, one on each side. Yerin folded arms over his broad chest and rested a well muscled shoulder on the wall. The tattoo on his right temple stark against his pale skin. His bald head dimly reflecting the light of the chambers many lanterns.
Parlan blew two streams of smoke from his nose. The smoke wreathed around the slender man in faint wisps. His short black hair was mussed, as usual. His tattoo intricately wrapped around his left eye, ink blue to match his eyes.
All three men were already wearing their armor. Deep red, the color of damp clay from the river bed, or the color of bloody mud. Their own blood had been used in the forging. The linked segments moved fluidly with the wearer. At their waists each man wore a long curved sword, the handle wrapped in a fabric of the same red as the armor.
“Ready?” Parlan asked, flicking his cigarette through the open temple door. It hissed quietly as it passed the water.
Nathin stood in silence for a moment. He forced himself to not run his hand through his short, light brown hair. Instead he unfolded his arms and placed one hand on the hilt of his sword. He nodded and turned. Yerin, a good head taller than Nathin, took his position to the man’s left, one step behind him. Parlan on Nathin’s right, slightly shorter. To the casual observer it would have appeared that they had ordered themselves by size. Anyone who recognized the armor would know better. This was a God Mage and his Cell. Armor clinked quietly as the three men walked away from the cave’s entrance, deeper into the temple.
Other than the three of them the large cavern was empty. Their footsteps echoed gently off the walls. The smooth, reflective stone of the floor gave way to soft carpet. Deep blues and subtle golds led the way down a tunnel, compared to the main cavern it felt claustrophobic, though it was wide enough for the three men to walk side by side and still leave room for others to pass them.
The deeper into the temple they went the more people they passed. White robed priests and priestesses stepped out of the cell’s way and bowed slightly as the men passed. Servants rushing around like ants, carrying baskets of laundry or food would stop and bow at the waist, their backs almost horizontal. Nathin would return every bow with a nod of his head. Parlan would wink at any of the female servants they passed. Quiet giggles could occasionally be heard behind them. Several priests that Nathin knew well enough wished them luck once they straightened from their small bows. Nathin thanked those men and silently hoped they would pray for him.
They came to a large wooden door set in the stone wall. Etched into the wood were patterns that matched the markings on Yerin and Parlan’s faces. Nathin stepped to the door and knocked loudly. The door opened inwardly and the three men stepped into the testing chamber. The outside edges of the room were carpeted in a light red. The walls hung with tapestries depicting men in red armor, some were kneeling in meditation, others had swords drawn in battle. The carpet gave way to a wood floor, waxed and shining. The floor was old and well used, deep cuts and gouges covered it’s surface. Despite that it still shone.
The carpeted section of floor was populated with spectators. Six men opposite the door were dressed in the same armor as Nathin and his cell. The armor of these six men was clean and well cared for, but Nathin knew they had seen more battles than he cared to contemplate.
The rest of the carpeted strip along the walls was occupied by men and women in robes of various colors. Along the wall to the left of the door were people in robes of red. The wall to the right were robes of yellow. And along the wall behind Nathin, on both sides of the door, were robes of brown.
In the center of the room, scattered along the wooden floor were six armed men. They wore armor much like Nathin and the others, but instead of red it was of a dull gray. Their swords were unsheathed and hung at their sides, unthreatening, but ready.
“Nathin Trindi?” one of the armored men asked from across the room. His voice was quiet, but it carried well.
“I am Nathin,” he answered.
“Do you bring your Eye?” another of the armored men asked. Brown ink wrapped around his right eye.
“He brings his Eye,” Parlan stepped forward.
“Do you bring an Ear?” another of the men asked. Under his helmet Nathin knew he had markings to match Yerin’s.
“He has an Ear,” Yerin stepped in line with Nathin and Parlan.
“Then earn your Skin,” a fourth armored man spoke.
With that Nathin and his cell stepped onto the wooden floor, the steel of their swords rasping softly as they pulled them from their sheaths. The three of them spaced themselves in a line facing the six men in gray, whose swords were now raised. The large door swung closed behind them.
Nathin quickly looked to either side to judge where his cell had placed themselves. With his left hand he reached under his armor behind his neck and pulled up a hood of a thin black material. As he pulled it over his eyes he could see the men charging him. Then there was darkness. The fabric allowed no light or sound. It covered all of his face but his nose and mouth. He saw and heard nothing, and after an instant of concentration he knew his attackers could neither see nor hear him. For the barest flicker of an instant he could feel his mind touch with everyone in the room. With the ease that comes with years of practice he removed himself from their senses. As he had deprived himself of sight and sound he then deprived everyone from the sight or sound of Nathin Trindi.
Then he could see. He could see through Parlan’s eyes. He saw himself standing totally still, hood over his face, sword in hand. He pulled the sword up and shifted into a fighting stance. He was broader than Parlan, but not nearly as large as Yerin. He couldn’t help it, he smiled, he looked damn good in that armor. He saw himself smile at the sight of himself and had to force down a laugh at that thought. Parlan moved his eyes in an exaggerated roll.
The six attackers had slowed once he’d pulled the hood up, there was always a moment of confusion when he vanished, even when it was expected. Now they split themselves into two groups of three and charged Yerin and Parlan. Nathin was a little surprised to see them so well organized. He could hear their shouts through Yerin’s ears. The men had obviously been allowed to plan before hand. He moved fast, running toward Parlan first. He would need the man safe, without Parlan’s eyes Nathin would be fighting blind. Removing the hood was not an option for this test.
He hit the foremost attacker. His sword sheared through the armor protecting the man’s leg. The man fell with a scream that sounded as though it were coming from his right instead of directly in front of him, Nathin silenced him by spinning around and bringing his sword down with enough force to slice through breastplate. Parlan ran forward and Nathin was able to resist the sudden feeling of inertia and instead focus on his own movements. He watched himself raise his sword and stab the third armored man as Parlan countered and slashed across the second man’s throat.
Parlan stood still and waited for Nathin to turn and begin running towards Yerin before he followed, keeping Nathin in the center of his vision.
The attackers reached Yerin. They hit him as one. Yerin blocked the sword of one attacker with his own blade and took the blows of the other two on his segmented shoulder guards. Yerin threw the men back with what looked like an apathetic shrug.
Nathin forced himself to run faster, and Parlan tried to keep up. Nathin watched himself in the bobbing vision of his friend as he leapt into the air and drop kicked the closest of the gray clad men.
The force of the blow knocked the man back so that he hit his compatriot next to him, they both tumbled to the ground, they recovered quickly and rolled out of the way. The third man had stepped back and turned quickly. He kept his eyes on Parlan who was still several paces away, but swung his sword down. Nathin was still on the ground after his kick and couldn’t roll, Yerin on one side and the two men he’d just knocked over standing up on the other. He held up his sword and he saw through Parlan as his attacker’s eyes opened in surprise at the resistance. Before the man could bring his sword down again Yerin swung his own blade against the man’s chestplate. Sparks flew as the man stumbled back, staring down in shock at the gash in his armor.
Nathin rolled over backwards and stood, he left the third man for Yerin and turned to the other two, now on their feet. He slid on his knees between the men. As he slid he dragged the length of his blade along the leg of the man to his left, the incredibly sharp blade shearing through armor, then as he passed all the way between them he whipped his sword around and drove the point behind the other man’s knee, where there was an opening in the armor. He watched through Parlan as the two men collapsed with blood spraying from their legs. He stood quickly and stabbed the tip of his sword through armor into the chest or back of each fallen man in quick succession. His aim was not perfect, having to aim his blows with Parlan’s eyes, but he knew it was good enough.
He could hear the final, wet breath from the last man as Yerrin finished him. Parlan cast a quick look around the room, seeing all six men down Nathin rose and pulled off the hood. He looked through his own eyes as Parlan and Yerrin took their places at his sides. The three of them bowed to the six men in red armor against the wall.
One of the men raised his hand. All the men and women in brown robes rushed forward, there were around twenty of them. They respectfully pushed past the three men and avoided the fallen men in gray. They lined up facing Nathin and his cell in one row that stretched across the wood floor. They dropped to their knees and bowed at the waist, hands in laps, and waited.
All of the candidates were compatible. Nathin knew that. On an intellectual level he understood that it really didn’t matter who they chose, the cell would still function. He had learned to trust his instincts, however. The three of them marched back and forth along the line several times. Finally, as one, all three of them stopped. Before them knelt a small woman. Her skin pale like fresh driven snow, hair darker than a moonless night. And when she lifted her head to look at them her large, brown eyes burned with a hunger that Nathin recognized. He had seen it in both Yerin and Parlan.
Nathin put a hand under her chin and raised her so her back was straight. He placed his other hand on her head while the other two each placed a hand on a shoulder.
“I have found my Skin,” the three of them said as one.
The six men in armor nodded and all but they, Nathin, his Cell, and the young woman left the room.
“Rise, Skin,” one of the men said as the six of them walked forward. Their gaits betrayed them as seasoned warriors. Every step precise, hungry.
The woman rose. The top of her head didn’t quite make it to Nathin’s shoulders. As she stood she shrugged out of her robe. Her skin was paler beneath. Nathin kept his gaze on her face, a pretty oval of a face. She turned so her back was facing Nathin. The small of her back was covered in pale, thin scars, intricately placed. The white scar tissue formed a design similar to those on Yerin and Parlan.
Nathin began to remove his armor. Yerrin and Parlan helped him, untying and removing each piece of armor and quilted padding beneath until the man stood naked. His muscular chest was completely covered in tattoos. The shapes even more intricate and detailed than those found on his cell.
Behind him he heard the door open and two old men entered accompanied by two young women. One woman carried a large wooden box by a handle. She rushed over to the others in the room. She beckoned Nathin and the naked woman to kneel. Nathin stepped up next to her and they knelt in unison. The woman placed the box on the ground and opened it. She flipped the box open and she began pulling out trays of tools. Needles, bottles of ink, and small curved blades.
The two old men with their shambling pace made their way to them as the woman removed the final tray from the box. She hurriedly rose and spread mats from the box on the ground behind Nathin and the woman. The two men knelt on the mats. Each placed a hand on the back in front of him, eyes closed in concentration. The backs of their hands were covered with the same intricate patterns that covered Nathin and his cell, so elaborate that almost no skin was visible between the fine lines of ink.
The other young woman that had entered with the men was running between the bodies of the men in gray armor. In her hand she carried a small cup that she was filling with blood from each of the men. Several of the men were still alive, patiently waiting until their blood was collected. Once the woman had enough from each she ran a knife across the man’s throat, whether alive or dead. They made no sounds other than a rattling final breath from those alive.
She approached the group in the center of the room and bowed as she offered the cup of blood to the other woman. She bowed back and accepted the cup. She dropped to her knees next to a tray of bottles and with a glass dropper began mixing small amounts of blood with ink. The only sound in the room was breathing and the soft clinking of glass.
As one the old men straightened, pulling their hands from the naked man and woman. They each held their outside hand out, palm up. Parlan and Yerrin each selected one of the curved blades and handed one each to the old men.
The man behind the woman found a spot on her back that was free of scars and cut a shallow line, connecting two points of scar tissue with the cut, completing the design of knots and curves.
Nathin’s back was free of scars but the man cut a small line in the same spot. Blood welled from the cuts and the men caught several drops on their blades. The woman mixing the ink took her dropper and took several drops from each, adding it into the ink she was mixing.
After a while longer she placed a large jar of ink beside each of the old men, along with several needles of varying sizes. The men picked up needles and went to work.
The six men in armor walked past, bowing their heads as they passed. The two young women each took a post beside one of the old men, preparing to offer whatever was needed. Yerin and Parlan took up positions in front of Nathin and the newest member of their cell.
The doors closed again leaving the eight of them alone with six corpses and silence. Blood mixed with ink as the two men worked. Outside, the rain still fell.