JUXTAPOSED: Chapter Two — Derek Barton

JX CH 2

CHAPTER TWO — THE ENDDAWN ENCAMPMENT:

Thomass stretched his neck, staring up into Enddawn’s blackened skylights high overhead. A massive storm crashed and raged over the building, flickers of lightning streaked along the storm’s underbelly.

It’s another record-breaking storm…just like the one on the night she died.

A thunderclap set off a brief spark in his mind’s eye — his sister, running right behind him through gales of pouring rain. The Crest’s raid on his village had already separated them from their father. Her tiny hand ripped violently from his grip. An explosion from a cannon cluster only yards ahead of them had launched the pair to the left and on top of a rubble pile. Moments later, the soldiers found him, semi-conscious, covered in her blood as he lay a few feet below her impaled body. Ppt. PPt. PPt. Phantom drops pooling on his chest.

The faint clatter of hail snapped him back to reality as it bounced off of the skylight glass, almost drowning out Overseer Thressden’s words.

No one here is ever that lucky.

As if he had the same thought, the Overseer of Kav’zera’s prison encampment gripped the microphone stand attached to a gray cabinet. He stood upon a floating metal platform, hovering above the crowd. He angled the mic closer to his face. His voice was a deep bass and a bit on the gritty-side.

“…The incursion into Bre’oal has interrupted our normal supply caravans. I understand that some of you have been harking this as a positive, a victory of sorts for your fellow traitors among the Yularis.” He paused and his eyes scanned the crowd of youths standing in line formation in front of him. Not a single face was raised or a pair of eyes upturned to meet his.

The first rule at Enddawn impressed upon newcomers, normally on the receiving end of an ionized baton, is that no one is ever to look in the face of the Crest Overseer or any of the Malatt guards.

“Meal rations will be reduced to two half-meals per day until further notice. I realize this might seem taxing or harsh to some of you, but in such violent times as these, one must be resolved and steadfast. To be shining examples to those around you who might be seeking direction. Your sacrifices and efforts to make sure the colonists eat before you are recognized by me and the Council. The Crest will always be there — to take responsibility for you. President-General Rhiet may not understand your recent betrayals, but he’s given you this gift of a second chance to join society. You are here to re-educate yourselves and—”

“—that’s hopeless!” Thomass uttered the curse barely hidden in a hacking cough.

Sudden and shock-induced laughter erupted through the crowd of eighteen prisoners. Everyone’s eyes found him as he stood in a tight-knit group of four. He’d only been brought here two months before, but already he’d won the loyalty of many of the ex-patriots.

Realizing what happened, everyone tightly held their breath and waited for a new storm to burst. Thomass leaned and peeked past his closest ally, Rovunn, to the side where the carbon glass reflected the Overseer’s image.

“You’re screwed,” Rovunn whispered. Worry registered in the black boy’s eyes.

Overseer Thressden, thick in a frame which was more iron muscle than any fat, stared in stony silence. His piercing black eyes matched his salt-and-pepper flat-top hair and matching thin goatee. The man made no movement and seemed to be seeing Thomass for the first time ever. Capturing Thomass’ image of stark white hair, heavyset body and crystaline blue eyes.

“Indeed, some of you will never come to appreciate the blessings of the Crest,” Overseer Thressden continued. He then took a deep breath and pressed forward with his speech of prepared propaganda.

Thomass didn’t know if he was spared or if the Overseer hadn’t actually seen him. Either way, he knew his mouth had nearly cost him again.

On the other side of Rovunn, Welleum, a thin boy with shaggy sandy hair, slid his right boot to the side, dragging a parcel of white paper. Rovunn checked to see where the guards were then with care stepped lightly over the paper and slid it to Thomass.

After copying Rovunn’s spot-check of the Malatt, he slowly dropped down, pretending to tie his boot. Lifting his foot, he read:

L.S. 4 HERNANDEZ @ 23
BRB DODGENS?

Using the end of his bootlace which he’d dipped previously into pencil shavings, he marked a Y on the note next to the name Dodgens, the guard who they intended to bribe.

‘Bout time! That cockroach won’t do this again after tonight.

Charells, one of Thomass’ group, was recovering in the infirmary for his stolen food rations. “L.S.” was the abbreviation for “lesson-session” which is what Hernandez was going to get for snitching on Charells to the Malatt.

As Thomass stood, he slid the note with his boot down the line intended for the prisoner Elexendar. The idiot bent down and picked up the paper without thought, reading it before his face. Greige, a dark, olive-skinned boy snatched the paper out of the his hands and ate the note.

“ENOUGH!” The Overseer roared as he swept the hoverplate down right above their bowed heads.

“EXPLAIN — DON’T MAKE ME WAIT!”

Thomass could feel the waves of heat from the plate’s engines. He knew the man was directly over him. His shaking hand came up and swiped nervously at his long bangs.

Before he realized what he did, he looked up at the man. “I, uh, I’m sorry, uh, Overseer, sir. I just ne—”

Intense rolling pain coursed along his left side and down through his boots. The series of electrified stingers gripped the muscles in his calf so sharply his toes even curled by reflex. As he sprawled onto his back in pure agony upon the concrete floor, Thomass could not even remember the rest of what he was going to say.

At the front of the prisoner lines, the Overseer landed his hoverplate. Two sets of hands gripped Thomass’ arms and drug him on his back. The Malatt then pressed his face to the floor before Overseer Thressden as he removed a charged Viperglove from a shelf in the cabinet.

“Prisoner Thomass, why have you stopped answering me?” His fist, wrapped in a red metal gauntlet, rained down and struck between Thomass’ shoulders.

“I asked you for a reason for your lack of engagement.” Another strike landed on his right hand breaking two of the boy’s fingers.

The Overseer coated in a fine sheen of sweat shook his head. “I don’t think you understand the language we speak here.” The fist then cracked the left kneecap.

“You seem unwilling to speak to me. You’ll have some time to think about it in The Shaft.” Thomass didn’t know where the last strike hit him as the metal Viperglove blasted him into unconsciousness.

 

***

 

A set of handcuffs dug deep into Thomass’ wrists, blackened welts formed in a loop. The tips of his boots barely touched the floor as he was suspended from chains in a blue neon-lit shaft.

Voices, muted and slurred, whispered to him. The words chanted in a sing-song tempo.

Open to your Mind, Open to your Message.
This is not the end of your Tale.
Speak with the freedom of Death.

There was an unusual accent, a foreign element to the speech. He was almost entertained by it. A faint smile crept over his lips.

“Who’s there?” Thomass mumbled, his lips cracked and baked by the neon lamps.

Something is wrong!
Who said that?
Did someone follow us?

The voices clashed and clouded together as the whispers were said at the same time.

“Who’s there?” Thomass repeated, a little louder this time.

There was no response and he was met only with silence. However, the pain in his back and hands, especially his right began to speak to him.

So this is what they’re all afraid of? This is The Shaft?

He’d gotten a few worse injuries in some of the Yularis clashes than what the Overseer had done to him, but he doubted he’d see the infirmary soon. Yet when he first came to the Enddawn Encampment, all they talked and gossiped about was what happened in The Shaft. Terrible, nightmarish stories.

Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.
Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.
Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.

Again, the strange voices echoed in the quiet of The Shaft. This time he realized he hadn’t truly heard the words. They rang out in the recesses of his mind.

“Who’s there?”

Suddenly a voice answered inside him, demanding, Spirit tell me your name.

It’s Thomass… Who in the Viles are you?

And the voice actually replied.

My name is Alexendar.

Sentinels of the Shield (Character Backgrounds – Rough Drafts) — Derek Barton

Barrier 2

 

So, as you know, I am working diligently on the development of the third and final book for my Wyvernshield fantasy series.  Right now the working title is tentatively called Swimming in the Ashes.   

To be completely honest with you, I have been stuck in my outlining process and overwhelmed by the complexity of the story I want to tell you.  In an effort to work out the kinks, I have done a deep dive into the resource and reference material I will need to tell the tale.

I thought you might like a sneak peek and look behind the curtain at how I world-build.  Here is an excerpt of my work, delving into some minor characters that will be introduced in the book.  These ten people will all be in the lands of Tayneva (some old regions and some yet explored).  In The Bleeding Crown, I got to explore quite a bit of Aberrisc.  Now in this book, I want to explore much more of the globe of Tayneva, giving you all a glimpse of the lands, forests, seas, and mountains where my characters live and breathe.

To better understand these little bios, I need to provide you a snapshot of the politics of Tayneva at present.  Currently, there are thirteen unique countries or areas on the two land masses of Tayneva.  The larger continent is home to two political affinities:  the Keliada Alliance and Rovmantysa Front.  Their political and military agendas have set them apart for generations.  The balance for global power had been tilted mainly toward King Jehah II’s Keliada Alliance when they gained the new allegiance of the war-tribes of the Kraat Mountains. However, Wyvernshield, a former ally to the Keliada Alliance has cut off all connections and remains in question.

In these short background stories, you may note the (A), (N), and (E) designations.  These letters stand for that specific land’s political stance.  (A) for an ally to the Keliada Alliance. (N) for a nation that has neutral political connections — Risa, Corrta Vasts and the city-state of Wyvernshield hold this designation. (E) is a known enemy and allied with the Rovmantysa Front.

Sentinels of the Shield:

Areth Ryeton – Profession: Blacksmith – Lives in the small city of Y’bora, Nyemante (A). An athletic, young man of 24 years, black hair and blue eyes. Due to being orphaned at the age of three, he has a strong passion for justice and protection. His parents were killed on a family trip by road bandits. He works hard at making weapons “to protect the innocent”. His skills have earned him a small shop with an apprentice. He doesn’t have any children, but his girlfriend is one of the city guard. He has average intelligence, but a very good sense of humor.

Shondra Basque – Profession: Mending Nurse – Lives in the farming village of Korael, Risa (N).  An attractive slender woman of 28 years, honey brown hair with vibrant green eyes. A very giving woman who has worked her whole life at developing her Mending skills. She has dreams of one day going to a larger Mending School perhaps in Keliada or Trudora. Works in a local hospelle. Her husband and son are forest scouts/hunters.

Shei Goldendaar – Governor’s daughter – Lives in a small town called Rouse Gardens, Rovmantysa (E). Short for her seventeen years but has long brown hair and blue eyes. In spite of her family’s wealth, she is very down to earth in spirit and attitude. Often has a sarcastic wit. She always gives of herself and volunteers her days helping the local townsfolk. She studies history and politics in hopes that she can make a difference in the world. She has ambitions of being a leader as her father and maybe even more. Her mother died shortly after her birth, so her father is very over-protective and sometimes controlling.

Komay Naha – Profession: student teacher of the blind – Ramanon, Risa (N). Only eight years old with reddish brown hair and green eyes. Exceptionally bright and cheerful, but a bit insecure due to a large smattering of freckles all over her face and arms. She has been working with her mother at a school for the blind for less than a year. Her father died defending Wyvernshield in the Viestrahl Horde Battle. They fled Wyvernshield and moved to Risa.

Broud Vaesko – Profession: Candlemaker – Lives in Falldew, Trudora (A). Seventy-two, he is a wisened ex-soldier living in semi-retirement as a candlemaker. He has white hair and brown eyes. He is outgoing and has a dry wit sense of humor. His shop does alright, but he mainly works for the interaction with people as he has no family. Has an old, female collie dog, Kayray, which he worries about should something ever happen to him.

 

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JUXTAPOSED — Chapter One — Derek Barton

JX CH 1

 

Since The Hidden has been finally completed and now out for sale on Amazon and Kindle, I have been thinking about a new series for my blog.  This is a rough draft of Chapter One.  

Series Synopsis:

Parallel realities, Tayneva and Kav’zera, two worlds with vast differences, have become suddenly entwined.

Tayneva — The island nation of Risa is home to the Temple of Kove. Always a place of sanctuary for any in need.  A group of six clergy students find adventure and purpose through an unexpected source.

Kav’zera — The Enddawn Encampment, a military youth prison houses revolutionary agents who rose against The Crest Tyranny.  A group of six rebels may get their one chance at freedom.

Can these two groups of boys learn from one another?  Will they help each other at the risk of their own lives?

 

CHAPTER ONE — TEMPLE OF KOVE:

Alexendar was transfixed, his focus locked ahead, his head and heart conflicted. As a young clergy student, a Bhik-sunii at the Temple of Kove, this was developing into a bad habit for him. Often lost within his inner thoughts and emotional turmoil, the Fathers were noticing Alex’s marks were slipping within the student ranks.

Early morning sunlight warmed the large cathedral and washed over the first four rows of pews.

“Welcome back from your extended holiday break,” Superior Tressmen spoke out from behind a wooden podium, his voice a deep but monotone bass. He was tall and slender beneath ornate tan robes. “We know this is a taxing time of the year, yet we are grateful for all your efforts in your studies. Also, The Fathers and I are aware of the sacrifice you and your families had to undertake to return to the temple. In times as these, we must be resolved and steadfast. To be shining examples to those around the world that look for our direction. With a shielding hand to protect us, our Father, Lord Rhote demands strict observance, yet also he demands the continence of stone in our beliefs and thoughts.”

Alexendar was in the third row by the outside aisle, among five other boys sitting nearest to a row of towering, stained-glass windows. They were all bored, tuning out the lecture. Of the clergy class of eighteen boys that spread out among the cathedral, these six were an especially tight-knit group.

Alex’s hand came up subconsciously and brushed aside his sandy brown mop of long hair. It was blocking his view of the drama unfolding — a silver-furred spider with a red cross down its back crept down a cord of its web, advancing upon a struggling ice-blue fly.

His heart ached to snatch out the poor insect, saving it from a gruesome death in the mandibles of the spider. On the other hand, the spider’s web was hanging in the inside corner of one window frame. Few opportunities to eat had presented itself these last couple days. Alex had noted the spider’s presence one day during the vespers hour the week before.

How do you put more priority on one soul over the other? Its nature and its fate. Yet should I act? Do I have the right to interfere?

Alex winced, groaning softly as the spider wrapped spindle legs about the fly and slowly rotated its victim.

Thomess who sat next to Alex was a heavier boy with stark white hair and round features. With a smirk on his lips, mirth in his eyes, he nudged Romunn who sat on his right with his elbow. He poked a chin toward Alex, both witnessing Alex’s emotional reactions.

Romunn, a dark-skinned youth from a fishing village outside of Rovmantysa, shook his head and whispered, “Such a lost little princess…”

“And me without a lace tissue for all of his tears!” Thomess added.

“Perhaps it is not too late to go to Mending School so he might save all the world one day!”

Alex finally caught wind of the other boys’ taunts, his cheeks darkened. “Shut it!” He punched Thomess in the ribs.

Laughter erupted from the others around them and interrupted the Superior’s lecture. The balding, thin man paused and glared at the group.

Satisfied with his warning, he straightened his shoulders and continued, “Yes, the rest of the world may be obsessed with this new queen in Wyvernshield and what her actions may mean. However, we as emissaries of Rhote must be absolute and without bias. While the armies of the Keliada Allliance or the Rovmantysa Front swirl about in chaos, remember we cannot afford such ties, such luxuries. We are neutral so that there is always in every land, country, and continent a Temple of Sanctuary.”

Romunn leaned over and whispered to Alexendar, “You take everything too serious. We were only poking fun.”

“I know. Sorry.” He shrugged, more embarrassed than before.

Gregge, the shortest boy among the newest Bhik-sunii, sat behind Romunn. He had black hair and olive-toned skin. “We have to go tonight. I swear I have it this time.”

Alex twisted his head slightly to acknowledge the boy and still look like he was paying attention to Superior Tressmen. “I am willing. How about you guys?”

The two eagerly nodded their heads then looked at their remaining conspirators, Willeum and Charlse. Willeum was similar to Alexendar in features but he kept his brown hair short and cropped. Charlse had freckles and spiked red hair.

“Where at?” Willeum asked too loudly.

Shushing him, Charlse smacked the boy in the back of his head.

“ENOUGH!” the Superior bellowed.

The cathedral was immense and elaborate for this was the primary center of worship to Rhote, but the concrete wall of silence which fell upon the Bhik-sunii, made the room grow exponentially.

Not a breath was taken in the expanse of the cathedral. Every back stiffened and every shoulder straightened. The Superior was usually a tolerant man, and many considered him like a father away from home, but there were times another side had surfaced. This provocation revealed that side once more.

“EXPLAIN!”

Again, not a breath was taken.

Superior Tressmen gripped the wood podium, then he snatched up a thick tome of worship in front of him and slammed it immediately down like a clap of thunder.

“EXPLAIN! I AM LISTENING!”

Alex’s hand returned to his forehead and swiped nervously at his long bangs. He shifted in his seat, trying to prepare his words, starting to rise. Thomess’ arm crossed his chest, pressing him down. Then he glanced over at Romunn.

Trembling slightly, Romunn rose from his seat and faced the offended cleric. “Father, I apologize for my behavior. I did not mean any disrespect or to take away from your message for today.”

“What were you doing then, Cam Romunn?” Tressmen’s voice still tinged with fury.

The boy kept his head down. “I found out there is a testing this afternoon which I failed to study properly for over the holiday. I was asking the others what they knew of the lesson.”

“Right.” The Superior’s tone spoke loud and clear he was not believing this story. “Anything else you want to add? Anyone else here wish to elaborate?”

When none of the boys spoke, he noisily gathered his tome again in his arms. “In the future, I expect better use of my time and yours, Cam Romunn. Since you felt obliged to share with everyone and ask of everyone to share in your dilemma, I will ask that everyone share your penance for today by doing an extra three sets of vesper studies.” His words were immediately drowned out in a chorus of groans. “And… Cam Romunn, after completing your testing this afternoon, you have an appointment with me in my study before the dinner hour. We will adjourn now so that you will all have time to thank Cam Romunn and the others…and begin your work on the vespers.”

It was not long before the six youths gathered at their favorite spot of shade from several Okia trees on the temple grounds.

“I cannot believe you did that,” Charlse was marveling at Romunn, shaking his head.

“He would not have had to if you were not all mouth and no brains,” Alex snapped at the redhead.

“It was Willeum who got Superior Tre—”

“—What? No! It was you,” Willeum shouted as he shoved the boy off his feet and into the dirt.

“Hey, guys, stop! If you get caught fighting, then tonight is totally called off,” Thomess exclaimed.

All chatter and the fight ended instantly as all eyes shifted to Gregge. He nodded and answered their unasked question.

“Yes. I found it — The Ritual of Delann-Vaik.” A toothy grin spread across his face. “It has to be the right one. I mean, it says right in its title, The Call Through Death. I mean I might need some help later with some of the translation and gestures, but this will work.”

Alex shook his head. “I know you are the best in the class for the ancient languages and such, but do you really believe you have translated the words right? This will not be like last year?”

Gregge rolled his eyes, thrusting his arms into the air. “When are you going to let that drop? When will I hear the end of it?”

“Look, Gregge,” Charlse growled at him. “You nearly got us all expelled and half the temple garden burnt. We were lucky that rainstorm covered everything up. You have to be sure!”

Romunn laughed, “Hey that fire got us out of graoul soup for a month. I think you should do it again! Gregge, I believe you.”

Everyone laughed as they normally did at Romunn’s jokes.

“I am sorry you have to get the Belt,” Gregge said.

“Just make it worth it tonight.”

Thomess pulled out of his pocket a small brown pouch. “I have some extra oron-root. Anyone want some?”

As they relaxed, sitting on the ground, and sharing the contents of the pouch, Romunn asked quietly, “You guys have to promise you are not going without me. I mean, I may be a little…slow walking tonight after my appointment with Superior Tressmen, but I want to be there.”

Alex who was sitting in his usual spot next to Romunn, put his arm over the boy’s shoulders. “You would never be left behind. You ought to know that by now.”