In Book One: Dark Innocence, we enter into the dark labyrinth where Kyr is a slave of the powerful sorcerer-king, known as the Soul-Drinker. Kyr knows nothing beyond obedience, punishment, and the depraved life dictated by his evil Master. How he comes to leave this outer and inner prison, is part of this powerful, sensuous adventure story of the soul.
From Chapter Two ~ “The Rod and the Collar”
The Warrior Mage jerked out of a doze and jumped up from the faded blue chair by the hearth, rubbing his eyes. “What is it?”
“It’s time. One of my spies managed to escape the Labyrinth, and brought news. Kyr was chosen as the new Favorite three days ago. Poor boy, the Soul-Drinker has undoubtedly been torturing him with his cursed Rod. We must attack the Labyrinth immediately. The sooner we get this over with, the less he has to suffer.”
“At last!” Rajani’s fierce grin was that of a panther sensing its prey. “I’ll give the sign.” He strode to the table and grabbed the signal lantern. “Shai’ya!” he commanded. And the wick of the lantern caught fire. Outside on the porch facing the City, he waved the narrow-beamed lantern back and forth four times, launching their long-planned attack on the Soul-Drinker’s Labyrinth.
From Chapter 8 ~ “Dark Moon Fire”
ON A LONELY BEACH, fire burned in a circle of sea-tumbled stones, casting wavering light on surrounding sandstone cliffs. Mirrored flames danced on the gently heaving surface of a black satin sea fringed with white lace. Cool breezes sailed in from far across the ocean, pungent with the scent of briny depths. Dark shapes against the twilight sky, Gorth and Seranu kept watch from the cliff tops, one in the North, one in the South.
Between cliff and fire, twelve fist-sized obsidian stones incised with powerful warding runes formed a larger circle. Within it, the Warrior Mage sat facing fire and sea, girding for battle with the dark sorcery of Dauthaz. As sunset flamed crimson and burned to coals, the stars emerged, blazing in diamond glory on this moonless night.
Rajani took slow, deep breaths, sending a spear of his kailitha deep into the bedrock beneath him, and spreading branches out to sky and stars, sea and wind. Staring into the crackling fire before him, he focused his mind on the slow surge and shush of the waves, drawing in the power of Earth, Fire, Water and Air until all fears and concerns fell away, leaving only steady resolve.
“Zhovanya dagantali, Zhovanya ganarali.”
In a deep voice, he chanted, calling on the Goddess to protect and guide him. Long into the night, he sang, as the silent stars wheeled with slow grace through their eternal courses.
“Zhovanya dagantali, Zhovanya ganarali.”
At last, the star-limned Firebird rose above the cliffs and spread its wings over his circle. He fell silent.
Zhovanya’s sacred Presence descended upon him, filling his circle with vibrant stillness, weighing on him with ethereal heaviness. His heart grew lighter at this sign of Her support.
“O, Goddess, it’s been so long!” he whispered. “Thank you.” He bowed his head to the sand, the blessing of Her Presence soothing his ever-troubled soul.
He could allow himself no more than a moment. The stars were moving and his task must be completed while the Firebird still soared. He sighed and rose. In the sand by his feet sat two clay jars and the Master’s black Rod, bound in rune-marked leather. With great care, he took up the first jar and poured a stream of shimmering white sand into the fire.
Flames roared up, blazing brilliant white, casting sharp black shadows across the beach. When the crystalline flames settled, he took up the second jar and tossed sparkling green powder into the fire. Again the flames blazed high, this time a radiant green. Diamond flames rose again to dance with the emerald fire, sending up showers of sparks to rival the stars, snapping and crackling with avid passion.
“Kaa’a ta lak!” he commanded, casting the rune-shrouded Rod into the eager flames. The leather shroud was scorched black, but the runes glowed with a golden light. The Rod began to scream like a live thing, a high eerie whine.
“Zhovanya dagantali!” he cried, jumping back in alarm, almost stumbling out of his protective circle.
The Rod’s piercing shriek grew more vile and unnerving as the magical flames ate away its leather shroud. The ocean began to roil, sending waves crashing onto the beach. Each wave reached higher than the last, rising toward the roaring fire.
He began to sweat. The Rod had to be destroyed before the ocean drowned the flames. “Shai’ ya!” he shouted, urging the fire on. The flames leapt higher, green and white intertwining like lovers. The runes went dark as the leather shroud burned to ashes, revealing the Rod, glowing a sullen red. Black, oily smoke began to rise from it, smelling of rot and filth.
“Kaa’a tay!” He clapped sharply, then spread his hands apart. The white and green flames separated, diamond fire feeding hungrily on one end of the Rod, emerald on the other. The Rod’s whine grew more frantic as the enchanted flames devoured it.
“Vaa’a lan!” He clapped again. Emerald and diamond fire united in a dazzling golden blaze, enveloping the Rod. Its nauseating whine ceased. A blessed silence fell. The flames resumed their usual yellow-orange, and died down.
Rajani breathed a sigh of relief, but at once a fetid miasma of black smoke arose and hovered over the fire, twisting and turning. The ominous cloud sent tendrils questing here and there. One by one, they turned, reaching toward him with malevolent intent. His gut contracted and his body shuddered.
“Gods above and below! It wants to possess me!”
The black tendrils touched his invisible circle of protection but could not breach it. With silent menace, they writhed and groped, seeking any opening. He checked his circle and hissed in dismay. A warding stone was askew.
A feather touch of Her Presence brought him calm courage. He straightened the stone, drew his blackwood wand and pointed it around the warding circle.
“Vaa’a lan ti! Dagantali!”
A deep hum arose from the obsidian stones. His protection restored, he looked up―and groaned. Protected he might be, but the writhing cloud of smoke hovered outside the protective barrier, surrounding him completely. He was trapped.
“Zhovanya ganarali.” He took three deep breaths, emptying his mind. Then he waited for guidance.
”Ah.” He stood facing the ocean, his arms outspread.
“Waaa-Rah!” he sang, his voice echoing out over the sea. “Waaa-Rah!”
From the ocean, a sharp breeze sprang up, smelling of salt and lightning. He drew his blackwood wand and moved it in a spiral.
“Waaa-Rah Tavor!” He gestured sharply toward the smoke
The wind whirled toward the black vapor. The vile smoke shrilled and contracted into a ball, fighting to retain its coherence, but the whirlwind tore it into rags, shreds, wisps―nothingness.
All that remained of the Rod was a doleful wail. Now this too changed, becoming a bittersweet melody of mourning and gratitude as the souls sacrificed to create it were liberated from grotesque evil at long last. The wind swept out to sea, cleansing the stench from the air. Silence returned, serene and pure.
From Chapter 23 ~ “Shards of Laughter”
HIS OLD COMPANION, SILENCE, awaited him in this room they had assigned him. Stretching out on the cot, Kyr buried himself in the ice. It enveloped him, weighing him down until he could barely breathe. Deep in the night, he grew so cold inside and out that he began to long for the fire, the pain, the blood, the fiendish pleasures of the Master’s Hall. For most of his life, that was all he had known of warmth.
The pain of clawing his nails into his arms was trifling. He needed more. With quiet stealth learned in the Labyrinth during his cat-and-rat feud with Gauday, Kyr rose and left his room. The Moon was hiding, and he ghosted across the star-lit courtyard, seeing no one.
In the dining hall, he searched the tables and counters and under them, finding nothing. He shook the doors and drawers, but every drawer and cabinet was solidly locked. His throat ached with screams of frustration, but the ice had his voice. Desperate, he turned to flee he knew not where.
A dark figure stood in the doorway. Some long-held control snapped and he rushed at the figure blocking his way out. Expecting a collision, he was shocked to find himself flying through the air into the courtyard, landing hard on his back. The ice inside him shattered into shards of bitter laughter that came tearing out of his throat.
Naran winced, knowing the pain in that brittle sound.
The laughter began to edge toward sobs or screams. Kyr clenched his jaw shut. The gray-robe sat next to him on the cool bricks of the courtyard and joined his silence for a while. Then he said, “What were you looking for?”
Kyr sat up, wondering if he could entrust the caustic darkness roiling inside him to this “Aithané.” The ice had been splintered by the sharp laughter. The surrounding darkness of the mild summer’s night, and Naran’s quiet attention provided gentle shelter.
“I got so cold inside, so cold.” He shivered and wrapped his arms around his knees. “I wanted to feel something, anything warm—pain, blood. I was looking for—a knife.” He was warm at last, blushing in shame, but Naran merely nodded.
At this, all Kyr’s tension and dread drained away and he sagged with exhaustion, resting his head on his knees. For a time, they sat together in the comforting darkness. Under the silent march of the stars, the fountain gurgled, and crickets sang duets with hidden frogs.