Saturday, May 30, 2009

Discovery Showcase - Silver Mage

Note: I'm changing things again! My reaction is at the end of this excerpt instead of in a comment.

Silver Mage (Amazon USA, UK)
by CM Debell
Genre: Fantasy
Published by Matador

Blurb

In the first age of Andeira, men and dragons brought together the two halves of the elemental magic of the world to create a union through which the magic, and the world, could support and renew itself.

When war broke out, that union was destroyed, deliberately severed by the long-dead mages in a desperate attempt to stop their enemies. They knew the price of their actions – the dragons would disappear from Andeira until such time as it would be safe for them to return, stripping the world of half the elemental magic it needed to survive.

What the mages did not realise was that their enemies would survive the severing of the union, threatening the prophecy created by the dragons to ensure their return in a later age.

Three thousand years on a crippled world is slowly dying. New powers have risen in the world, powers that have no wish to see a return to the old ways, and the ancient enemy is stirring once more. For the few who remember what Andeira has lost, time is running out for the prophecy to be fulfilled.

But in the wrong hands, prophecy is just another weapon.

Excerpt (2,000 words)

In the last days of the Golden Age of Andeira an old man stood alone on the mountainside, waiting for his enemy to come to him. The night was silent, shrouding him in its heavy darkness, and though it hid the world from his sight he could still see. Far below him, surrounded by black peaks, lay the home of the dragons, the birthplace of life on Andeira, wild beautiful Andeira that both races cherished and kept whole by their union. A place that once had welcomed him but was now closing itself to his kind. The sadness of it brought tears stinging to his eyes but he brushed them away. There was no place now for that grief. Too many others were crowding in on him—for a friend lost, for everything he loved that was slipping away.

For the fault that was his, for the pride that had led him to keep it to himself.

And yet I hoard my secrets still, even now when the world is collapsing around me.

His hands clenched tight in the folds of his robes. I keep them because it is my duty, he told himself fiercely, but the reassurance was empty, for the secret he had kept had brought them to this.

‘Duty?’ murmured a voice from the darkness. ‘What a burden that must be, Lorrimer.’

The fear slivered down his spine but he refused to let it show. He turned slowly, looked into the eyes of the other.

‘I did not think you would come.’

A wry smile tugged at his enemy’s mouth. ‘Then why are you here?’

Lorrimer held his gaze, straining to see past the shutters that kept out the world. He shrugged. ‘Hope, perhaps. Fear, mostly.’

‘Fear?’ Aarkan quirked an eyebrow. ‘You fear me?’

Lorrimer shook his head. ‘What you are becoming, not what you are.’

A soft laugh answered him. Aarkan moved closer, youth and strength where he was old and bent, confident where he knew only doubt. Lorrimer looked at the man who had brought his people to the edge of ruin, and felt a stab of bitter grief for everything he had been. Tall and dark, black hair brushing his shoulders, Aarkan returned his gaze. His skin was coloured a deep tan by the sun, his hard, handsomefeatures sculpted from granite. Features so achingly familiar, changed beyond all recognition.

A smile twitched that face to wry amusement as Aarkan permitted his silent scrutiny. Arms crossed over his chest, he was utterly composed.

Why should he not be? Lorrimer thought bitterly. He has within him now more power than any mortal creature.

‘What am I becoming, old one?’ Aarkan asked then, gently mocking.

Lorrimer closed his eyes, holding back the emptiness. He wondered where Srenegar was, knew the great dragon would be near. Had to be near, for these two could no longer hold themselves apart for long. They had looked into the heart of creation, just as he once had. They had seen the power that it held, and they had opened the way to the river of bright power that would carry them on its soaring, glorious tide to the centre of all things.

‘Something other than you were born to be.’

‘Something greater.’

‘No.’

The denial was instinctive. It was utterly wrong, this thing they had done, that they tried to do. They were the children of Tesserion, the Maker of life, charged to stand guard over her creation not to remake it, as this man would do. To preserve the world as she had made it, as it was meant to be.

Long ago when Andeira was young, Tesserion the Maker gave her first gift to the world she had made. She gave the dragons. Wild and free they roamed the empty world, wielding the elemental magic that was their birth-gift, but the world was still unfinished and their magic incomplete. Tesserion had another race to birth, and Men followed after and brought about the dawning of the Second Age of creation. To Men she entrusted the other half of the magic that was Andeira, the elemental power that brought forth life and carried it home in death.

Two halves of a whole, utter opposites yet perfectly matched. The magic that divided them brought them together. Together they took the final step; they joined their magic, tied it tight, and bound themselves to one another. Earth, Air, Water and Fire, made pure at last, brought forth the last element and allowed it to pour out into Andeira, the Spirit of Tesserion breathing life into a half-made world.

That union defined existence; it made existence possible, perpetuated through every generation. Lives shared, made richer for the sharing. Twin magics wielded as one. It was a partnership that served the needs of both races, that tempered their vulnerabilities and their strengths, and it made the world whole at last.

But for Aarkan and Srenegar, having looked into that darkly beautiful place at the heart of creation, it could no longer be enough.

‘Give up this folly,’ Lorrimer pleaded. ‘Do not challenge the council. Return –’

‘To what I was? Is that why you came? Did they send you to reason with me?’ Aarkan shook his head. ‘You cannot stop me, Lorrimer, nor should you try. This is my right.’

The old mage felt he might drown in the sorrow of it. ‘None of us has that right, Aarkan. You trespass where you do not belong and if you choose not to see that, others cannot be so blind. This union you seek is wrong. To join one soul with another is to take creation into your own hands, and that was never the province of any save the Maker herself. Such a thing as you will become was never meant to walk Andeira’s fair lands. It takes neither courage nor strength to resist you. If we want to live, we have no choice.’

He saw anger then, a wildness seeping into his enemy’s eyes. Aarkan took two fierce steps foward before control pushed back the shadows of madness­—the madness that would consume him and tear him apart before it destroyed him utterly. Breathing hard, hands clenched, he recovered himself, and Lorrimer knew real fear then, knew how close he had come.

‘I do not bring death to my world,’ Aarkan told him, his voice rough-edged by anger. ‘Why should I wish to destroy? What would be left for me to –’

‘For you to rule?’

Met by silence, the quiet words echoed around them for an age. Then Aarkan threw his head back and laughed out loud to the wind. ‘Does not the Maker rule her creation, old man? Should I not do the same with mine?’

Lorrimer felt something break inside him then. What have you created? he wanted to ask, but he feared the answer. So instead he turned away, gazing once more at the world he loved that was changing.

‘I have come to warn you.’

‘How noble. What is your warning? That the council will refuse me? That my own people have turned against me?’ It was said mildly, but there was sudden fire in Aarkan’s eyes. And somewhere out in the vastness of the night a dragon was stirring. ‘That it must be war if I refuse?’

‘What need have you of such warnings? No, I have come to show you your future.’

‘My future?’ Aarkan scoffed. ‘What can you show me, old man, that I have not already seen?’

‘You see only what you choose,’ Lorrimer replied, taking his courage in both hands. ‘Not what is, not what will be.’

Aarkan took a step back, and Lorrimer felt the shifting strands of his magic grow. ‘Do I?’ he asked silkily, and as he spoke the landscape around them began to change. Behind the mountains the sun rose, though the dawn was hours away, and its golden light shone down on a new world. A world that Lorrimer knew, and yet was not his. ‘I will show you what I have seen, Lorrimer, what you have seen.’ And the far-flung web of his magic settled around them.

Lorrimer saw the Maker’s world brought to glorious bloom under a golden sun, the smallest blade of grass full to overflowing with Tesserion’s grace. Even the sky seemed to shimmer, a heat haze of swirling magic, and the breeze that plucked at his cloak whispered with life. But his eyes saw more clearly than Aarkan’s. Beneath the heady, frantic pulsing of life lay the start of the decay, and he knew this vision for what it was, the last flowering of Andeira before her decline. Before the sheer power of the magic Aarkan would unleash burnt her to a husk.

It would pass in a heartbeat, that moment of pure perfection, the instant in time that Aarkan’s vision held steady by force. It would pass and leave behind it a dead, decaying world, empty of life, but even knowing this he could not help but glory in it.

‘You see what I will do?’ Aarkan asked, his voice unsteady with rapture. ‘Do you not see?’

And Lorrimer did see. He saw to the very heart of it, to the ambition that twisted his enemy’s soul. No longer content with partnership, no longer content to be constrained by the limits of mortality, they believed themselves to be poised on the edge of something infinitely greater. Lorrimer ached to his bones at the tragedy of it, for he had once stood where Aarkan stood now, and he too had dared to dream this dream. The man before him was no longer truly a man, and his dragon had no kinship now with others of his kind. No longer two souls, not yet one, the individuals they had been were crumbling away and in their place was something other. Where two races had brought to each other one half of the elemental whole, they sought instead to make just one, born of the two, that would be the elemental whole.

Aarkan believed he could rise to the greatness of Tesserion herself, and her creation would be his to control. But he was wrong. There would be no glorious flowering of Andeira, there would be no ecstatic triumph over their mortal natures. Instead there would be a war that would bring an end to his world, as those two became one and that one knew neither who nor what it was, only the hunger for power.

‘I see,’ Lorrimer replied, tearing his gaze from the treacherous vision lest it snare him too, as it had almost done, so many years ago. ‘But do you? Look closer, my friend. At the heart of life there is only death.’

Silence, so cold and deep it seemed to freeze them both, then rage rose in a sudden wave, sweeping aside that beautiful, dying world. The night crashed down, hiding the light of the burning sun, and the dragon in the mists below screamed in fury.

‘Even you deny this?’ Aarkan demanded. ‘Even you, who has seen what I have seen?’

‘Even I, more than anyone. My friend, you do not know what you have done.’

Lorrimer expected to die then. He had seen his death in Aarkan’s eyes, but it did not come and he would never know why. He wanted to believe that even at the brink of his descent into the creature he would become, there remained in Aarkan enough of the man he had been that he could not murder one who had been a friend. But as Lorrimer looked one last time into his face he saw no recognition there, only dark anger and darker purpose, and the dragon that raised itself up behind him. The thundering of great wings fanned the air into eddies, snatching at Aarkan’s cloak so it whipped behind him like living shadow. Then they were gone, leaving him old and alone at the ending of the age.
Discovery Showcase Information

Here are the upcoming Discovery Showcases, in the order in which they may appear:
  • Tamar Black - Djinnx'd
  • Prophecy of Hope
  • The Heroes of Nightingale
If you want to have the first chapter of your unpublished or self-published novel featured at Fantasy Debut as a Discovery Showcase, please read how to do so here.

My Thoughts

Some comma errors were very distracting at first, but by the end of the opening paragraphs, I stopped noticing problems and was just caught up in the story. Some of the elements may be a bit cliched (dragons, power-hungry antagonist) but the blending of dragon and human power was intriguing. Yes, it was done in Dragonriders of Pern, but not in such a way that the union was forbidden, and that had the potential to unmake all of creation.

I found the dialog smooth and polished. It's too bad the opening paragraphs weren't grammar-perfect, because the rest of the excerpt is quite gripping. So if you jumped down here to read my thoughts, I think it's worth reading the rest of it.

I loved the line in the blurb about prophesy in the wrong hands being just another weapon.

I get the feeling that this is a prologue; that the old man is not the main protagonist. If I had the book, I would keep reading.

I'd love to read your reaction as well!

7 comments:

Tia Nevitt said...

Why did my formatting not persist? It looked perfect in the blogger edit window! I'll try to fix it.

Tia Nevitt said...

Unfortunately, my fix required me to erase all formatting and manually clean up the line breaks. I really need to figure out a better way to do this. I may have to require plain text only, with a space between paragraphs.

KP said...

Intriguing, yet another book to add to the list...

Tia Nevitt said...

Cool!

darkened_jade said...

Sounds good - it is a bit rough to start, but the story definitely grabs you.

Charlotte Debell said...

Thanks Tia for posting this here and for your critique. You are right - it is a prologue - and some commas are in the wrong place :)
Thanks to everyone for the comments

Tia Nevitt said...

You're welcome; it was my pleasure!