Thursday, December 17, 2009

Forging The Seraph

Another note from the author...

I'm releasing the prologue of the first Seraph book (and later, the first few chapters on the Seraph website) to show you, my appreciated readers, that I am working on the book. It is taking much longer than I thought; the origins of the Seraph and her crew have required a great deal of thought and sketching. I'm not going to try to place a date on the completion of book one yet (I've learned my lesson about that), but I promise I will be in touch when it is finished. And if it takes too long, I'll try to get some short stories up so that folks don't lose interest. ;)

Thanks again for reading. Your interest means more to myself and the other Seraph mates than you'll ever know. Now, without further adieu, the prologue of Forging The Seraph.

Forging The Seraph

Book One of the Flight of the Seraph Series

By Shane McElveen


The fierce, black brine thundered mercilessly against the ancient white stones of the Lancian prison isle, Isle Blanche. Heavenly strands of aetherfire danced a random, twisting dance across the heavens ­- illuminating the bones-bare island with a soft, steady blue glow – scrawling thin, ominous messages upon an angrily churning sea. At the highest aether cannon turrets, even the hardiest of seasoned guards was ill at ease tonight.

This fact was not lost on Marquis Gerard Arseneaulte, Castellan of Isle Blanche. The castellan peered out from the window of the guard post, staring musingly through the hammering droplets which now bombarded the glass.

“She’s seen worse nights than this, sire,” offered the grizzled head guard, growing awkward in the silence as he and two other guards stood at attention.

“Of course,” started Arseneaulte, turning abruptly away from the window. “My apologies, Captain Barbeau.”

“Not at all, sire. I’m sure you have important things on your mind. New prisoners, perhaps.”

“Indeed. What do you know of the slave in cell 437?”

“Well…we’ve all heard stories from the shipmates that brought him here, sire. Heard that he’s some mad cannibal slave sent here for attacking his mistress. But all three of us were with the battalion that escorted him to his cell earlier, and he was peaceful as a lamb. Giant fellow, black as pitch. Wore that odd hat on the table.”

Barbeau pointed to a tall, worn black leather top hat perched on the round wooden table in the middle of the guard station common area. The tattered hat band consisted of small leather pouches, bones, fangs, and a small monkey skull positioned in the front.

The castellan shivered and turned to go. “Very well then, Captain. If there are no further questions, I shall…”

“One question sire, with all due respect,” interjected a large young guardsman.

“Yes, Lieutenant Bram,” asked the castellan impatiently.

“Why was a feral slave not hanged or otherwise put down, sire? Why go through all the trouble of bringing him here?” asked Bram. Arseneaulte and Barbeau exchanged meaningful glances, both frowning as they turned to Bram.

“The lady owner of the slave was none other than the Emperor’s cousin, Lady Amelie Couvillion. And the lady herself requested that the slave be held here and beaten regularly, but never severely. The lady will send someone from time to time to…check on him. Those are our orders, from Emperor Couvillion himself.”

Bram cleared his throat, torn between the ridiculous order and the ridiculously high level from which the order descended.

“Well then, sire, I shall make the rounds and inform the men guarding him to take special care,” said Barbeau. His glare seemed to dare Bram to ask any more questions. Bram remained quiet.

“Yes,” said Arseneaulte, turning back to the window. “See that you do.” With that, the castellan opened the staircase tower door and disappeared within, his high-heeled boots echoing crisply against the stone steps.

Down the hall, from the guardsmen, Solomon Hungan sat, his massive form cramped within the small stone cell. He crouched over the carefully dissected corpse of a thin grey rat. He poured a small tin cup of water over his left palm ,washing the small assembled bones clean before closing his eyes and muttering low, moaning words. He drank the rest of the water from the dented tin cup, and then dropped the handful of rat bones into the cup. The bones rattled within as he continued to chant, the sounds of forbidden and dangerous words disappearing into the grim walls of the room even as they left the dark man’s lips. He rolled the bones into a drying circle of rat blood, tracing their meaning with red-stained fingertips.

“Nothing,” Solomon growled in his thick Rum Isles accent. “Dat rat won’t do at all. Me got to have me hat. Me need dem bones.”

The thickly-accented words, “Me ned dem bwuns,” echoed in a soft growl from cell 437 - down the hall, to the fourth level guard table - chilling the three guards as they abruptly ended their discussion of perhaps having a friendly game of cards with the creepy top hat as the central prize.

“Hey! Shut up yer hole in there, ye black bugger, before I sew it shut!” shouted Bram.

“You leave that man be, Bram,” warned Barbeau. “We’ve been ordered hands off except for scheduled beatings. You break that one like you did Du Breens, you’ll pay for it proper.”

The third guardsman, Coyer, parted his fingers under his chin and pretended to hang to his death, his face growing purple from exertion. Barbeau smiled and stood to go.

“There’s an aura of darkness about that slave, mark me. Sensed it as we brought him in.

Murdering cannibal. Dabbles in witchcraft, so I heard. It hasn’t been right on this isle since he got here. You leave him be, understand?” The Captain returned to his rounds, attempting to act at ease. “I’ll return in an hour or so with a bit of refreshment. We’ll play for the hat then, Lieutenant.”

“Yes sir,” said Bram half-heartedly, looking with renewed interest at the thick wooden door that stood between himself and the supposed monster. He waited until Barbeau was out of earshot, pouring himself a mug of water as he dropped to the table beside Coyer.

“Superstitious old women, the lot of them,” muttered Bram, rising from the table and draining his mug. “Come on.”

“What are we doing?” asked Coyer hesitantly.

In answer, Bram placed the macabre leather top hat atop his own head and started for cell 437. He moved his aether pistol around to his back, drawing his belt knife and cudgel.

“I suggest you do the same,” Bram said to Coyer. Coyer drew his cudgel as Bram listened intently at the door. Soft, mumbling moans continued to emanate from under the door. Little light could be seen through the door’s edges, as the only window to any cell was a thin light-emitting slit along the top of each cell’s back wall. As Bram listened, he heard only the steady muttering of the cell’s occupant and the distant roar of the aether storm.

Bram threw the door to the room open, striding inside.

“Evening, little soldier boys,” chuckled Solomon. He moved like a snake from the floor of the cell, his sharp silver teeth ripping deep into Bram’s neck before the large guard could lift a weapon in his own defense.

Coyer screamed in high pitched, clarified terror as Bram’s blood sprayed all over his face and chest. Stale warmth soaked his breeches and ran into his high boots. He fled down the hall, screaming frantically as Solomon peered after him, dropping Bram’s limp body unceremoniously into the small cell. Solomon licked his lips.

“You go fetch a mop now, soldier boy,” roared Solomon after the fleeing guard, “An’ you tell dem not to worry about my dinner!” He chuckled merrily, blood dripping from his chin as he slammed the door to his cell closed again. Blood pooled slowly into the hallway, where the screaming Coyer’s exclamations were now only frantic echoes.

Solomon Hungan unbuttoned a satchel of bones from inside of his top hat, then placed the ominous hat back on his thickly dreadlocked head. He spilled the bones within the small satchel into the tin cup, and shook the bones over and over, chanting low.

As he read them, he whispered through his thick island accent, “White mon from da sea…will ride on da winds. Pirate riding on de angel’s back. He will hate dat witch as we hate dat witch. He will be enslaved for a friend. A healer mon, being ridden by a wolf. Pirate mon will kill dat witch. Bomb mon…wounded mon…will set us free.” Solomon smiled a shark-like, red-stained silver smile and laughed to himself. Finally, he had only to wait for that pirate man to arrive.