Monday, November 12, 2012

Teaser for Nanowrimo 2012: "The Shadow of the Queen"

Here is a snippet from my Nano 2012 novel, "Shadow of the Queen". In this scene, Ziya must find her way out of the Otherworld before it is too late.

Night after night, the Priestesses came for me. I was careful to take Healer Panluman's medicine before their arrival. The strange seeds enabled me to observe and to remember what the Priestesses did to my helpless body. The smoke from the nightwort increased every night to the point of flooding the chamber with a gray cloud. The Priestesses had obviously built a strong immunity to the stuff over a long period of time.

I managed to find gaps in the curtains of smoke and slip through into clean air. These gaps increasingly grew smaller and smaller, but I found them anyway. They started as single portals, then double-linked, then triple-linked and more. If I went through the portals in the wrong order, it deposited me back to the beginning, and I had to try again. Eventually, I discovered they also had colored auras, and by matching those auras, I traveled faster to the end.

Those gates stretched into corridors, the corridors into rooms, and the rooms into scenic views. Mountain ranges, blue lakes, forests full of green woody plants. All of them boasted their own unique mazes. I spent an unknown amount of time within them, trying to find a way out.

Finally, I found myself in a barren landscape, gray and lifeless. A poisonous fog lingered at the edge of my inner Vision. Quickly, I strode off away from the fog in search of a door. As I traveled, the ground became uneven and riddled with holes and cracks. The wind strengthened and whipped my ghostly form to and fro. Dead trees, slate-gray rocks, crumbling just went on and on in every direction.

Lightning flashed through the sky. I looked upward to find a glowing square directly above me. I nodded to myself, gathered my strength, and launched myself up through the sky. It was just at my fingertips when a lightning bolt slammed into me. I landed hard on the rocky ground, my bones snapping upon impact. A white-hot blaze of pain took my breath away, and I simply lay there, gasping for breath.

Blessed Suraya, what was that? I dragged myself up into a sitting position, only to feel a sharp stab in my right hip. I gasped at the agony that shot up my entire right side. My hip was broken, my knee dislocated, and I felt a rib or two move in ways that sent my muscles into spasms.

I was going to die in this Goddess-forsaken wasteland. Once my soul ceased to exist, my physical body would quickly follow. I realized that this was how Dehali and Muralkani met their deaths. They hadn't even passed the initial tests; neither had reached this final stage.

No, I will not allow the Priestesses to claim my soul for their own purposes. I will survive! My injuries are only within my mind...I can overcome anything they set for me!

I dragged myself onto my left knee and supported myself with my good left arm. The portal hovered directly above me, warm and inviting. My shattered right shoulder screamed in agony as I forced my hand to clasp the emerald pendant around my neck.

Suraya, give me strength to escape this prison. Give me the Will to return to the living! I clutched the pendant, even as sickness and shock passed through me in long waves. The stone under my fingers grew warm, then hot. I forced my eyes open and gasped as the dusty ground under me began to glow green, with a scarlet edge. Power flowed into me, but it was sluggish, and the ragged spurts only increased the pain.

There was Earth energy, but hidden deep within the ruined landscape. There was no way I could tap into it before my limited strength gave out. Yet there was more than enough death, enough suffering, to fuel the Fire. I felt it overtake the serene emerald, appropriate the Earth energy for itself, transmute it into the Flame of rage and desire.

If I gave into the Flame, it would change my life forever. Which path should I choose? Earth, and die with a pure soul, or Fire, and survive and allow the Dark side of the Goddess to claim me?
My thoughts began to dissolve. Time was running out. I closed my eyes and let the Wheel of Fate make the decision for me.

The ground rumbled under me, as if gathering itself for an explosion. Then it erupted in a maelstrom of hellfire. The power thrummed through my veins and repaired my injuries in a single agonizing moment. I screamed and extended a newly-regenerated right hand at the portal above my head.

And with one massive push, I launched myself through the black sky. More lightning bolts attempted to strike me down again, but their stings were nothing compared to the song of Fire in my veins. I entered the portal and bore down on that pinpoint of light that led me back to the Living.

My last thought was, No one can stop me now. No one. I am the Goddess and the Goddess is me.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2012

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