Cover & Excerpt
by Ramiro Perez de Pereda
The good part about being immortal is that you cannot die. That is also the bad part.
Brash, young, and markedly sociopathic, Cyan has the makings of a full army commander if he lives long enough to be promoted. But when a close brush with death breaks his resolve, he is rendered unable to lead his men, let alone leave his tent, for weeks.
The tide starts to turn when his superiors send him a magical artifact that ensures he will not die on the battlefield. Unfortunately for Cyan, he soon learns that not dying can be worse than not living - a side effect of the artifact's magic turns more of his body to lifeless iron with each passing day. Knowing time is short before he becomes just another statue in a town square, he sets off on a quest to rid himself of his cursed immortality.
Genre: Fantasy Action/AdventurePurchase links: Darkwater (Paperback) Amazon Smashwords B&N
Content/Theme(s): Magic, Wizards, Dragons, Swords and Sorcery
Release Date: March 1, 2014
Publisher: Darkwater Syndicate, Inc.
Excerpt & More
Cyan Wraithwate’s campaign in the Elashi Southlands had come to a standstill. He was loath to admit it, even to himself, but he was terrified.
The battle fought a week from yesterday brought him closer to death than ever before. A chance arrow struck him dead-center in the chest, punching clear through his breastplate, knocking him off his horse. He awoke hours later in his tent, his wounded chest swollen and warm, in frightening contrast to how clammy he felt.
He sat cross-legged in his tent, elbows propped on his thighs, face in his hands. He hadn’t left his tent in days.
A rustle at the tent’s entrance drew his attention.
“This had better be important,” Cyan spoke into his hands.
“Good evening, Captain Cyan,” said his visitor.
He did not recognize this man’s voice. Cyan raised his head.
Standing by the tent flap was a lanky wisp of a man enveloped in yellow robes. Every inch of him was draped in yellow fabric except for his clean-shaven head.
Cyan frowned. No doubt this man was a wizard. Cyan had never met a wizard he liked, much less would trust with anything more important than latrine duty.
“Why are you here?” Cyan asked.
The man paced inside with an imperious air. “General Godfrey sent me. He is disappointed over the news that his shining young protégé has lost impetus.”
“If all he sent you out here to do is recite the obvious, then you can save your breath and leave.”
The man drilled into Cyan with his steel blue eyes. “I am known as Wren. And I did not come solely to discuss the obvious.”
Wren reached over his shoulder and slung off a small shoulder pack. He withdrew a forearm bracer polished to a high gleam. Two serpents were embossed into the metal. One coiled into a horizontal figure-eight pattern and the other did likewise, but vertically, bisecting the first.
Cyan’s eyes flitted down at the armor and back up to meet Wren’s. “Apparently, you got your facts wrong,” he shouted, yanking his shirt open to reveal the bandages on his chest.
“You jump to conclusions,” said Wren. “Wear this, and you need not don any more armor.”
“You’re a closeted academic.”
“Is it that you are afraid?”
“You’re wasting my time.”
“See that I’m right,” Wren spoke over him. “Try it on.”
Cyan held his tongue, but shot Wren such a look of derision as would make a nun faint. Grudgingly, he obliged. The bracer fit as though it was made just for him; the leather straps did not even need adjusting to fasten the armor to his forearm.
“And now?” Cyan asked.
“Now we do a test,” said Wren, an instant before snatching a dagger from beneath the folds of his robe. Cyan roared with surprise as Wren’s knife flashed before him. A chill entered his body through his neck.
Cyan fell, cupping his wound with his hands. Blood surged between his fingers. Everything went gray, then black.
* * *
Cyan awoke with a start and kicked off the ground, springing to his feet and hollering all the while. Wren pointed his fingers and launched a smoldering ray of fire at Cyan that exploded at his chest. The burst knocked Cyan head over heels, landing him onto his back with the wind knocked out of him.
It hurt too much to move. Cyan’s body let up wisps smoke.
“I am going to kill you for that,” he wheezed.
“For what?” Wren asked, arrogant as ever.
“For…” Cyan trailed off.
“For killing you?” Wren suggested.
“But did I really kill you?”
“No,” Cyan stammered. “No, I suppose not.”
Damn Wren for being right, he spoke the truth. Cyan touched his injured neck and found that the flesh there was intact. Even his puncture wound in his chest was gone.
“Now you see the power of the bracer,” said the mage. “Each time you are laid low, it will bring you back and grant you monstrous strength. But there is a catch.”
“Isn’t there always?”
“You must not take the bracer off,” Wren said with emphasis.
Groaning, Cyan brought himself to sit up. “Is that all?”
“Good. Get out of my sight.”
Daybreak saw Cyan astride his horse at the head of his army. His troops fell into position around the palisade wall of an Elashi hamlet. This would be a difficult siege. The week-long hiatus he had given the defenders plenty of time to make preparations.
He called out to the people behind the walls, “Open your gates and surrender, and we shall be lenient with you. Refuse, and we will burn you out of your homes.”
The Elashi men on the palisade catwalks held up both hands with middle fingers held high. Cyan was unfamiliar with Elashi culture but knew enough to recognize this for a rude gesture.
He gritted his teeth. “You brought this upon yourselves!”
Raising his battle-ax, Cyan gave the signal for the battering ram to advance. His army gave way to a crew of engineers pushing a wheeled ram. The engineers butted the device up against the palisade gates, then rocked the ram’s head back on its fulcrum to send it careening into the fortifications.
The ram stuck the gate with a deafening crack of splintered wood.
Coarse yells went up just as the ram smashed the gate. Cyan’s horse reared as Elashi ambushers surged from out of hiding behind the palisade’s blind spots. The ambushers fell upon the siege engineers’ flanks like a wave at sea, utterly cutting the hapless men down.
Suddenly the sky darkened as though by a swift moving cloud. Cyan looked up, for a moment taking his eyes off the action, and saw that iron barbs rained down upon them.
He had led his men into a trap.
Cyan tugged on the reins and his mount threw him to the dirt. His shoulder gave a sharp pop on hitting the ground. Wincing, he dragged himself along one-handed, fleeing from the defenders’ charge. His horse gave a panicked scream as the hail of falling arrows tore into its flesh. It reared again and toppled over onto Cyan, crushing him under its weight.
* * *
He awoke in a panic. Facedown and gasping for breath, he spun onto his backside and sat up.
The sun was half set. The battle was over. The bodies of an entire Elashi legion were fanned out in a circle around him, with him at the center.
Cyan stood. The palisade was leveled. Beyond it, waning daylight shone through black billows of smoke as the Elashi settlement burned.
“By Nordon,” he whispered. Had he done this? He wasn’t sure. He held up his forearm for a better look at his enchanted bracer, turned it one way then the other for any clues it might hold.
This was too much. Wren had gone too far. Cyan’s orders were to subdue the Elashis, not to decimate them. It might be years before the Elashis would be in any shape to offer up regular tribute. This would get Cyan court-martialed for sure.
He tugged at the bracer’s leather straps. As he undid the first band the bracer began to grow warm.
“What the…?” he muttered, then broke into a scream. The bracer glowed with searing heat like a blacksmith’s forge. Smoke rose from his burning flesh. Cyan clasped the bracer with his other hand to yank it free but scalded himself and tore his hand away.
As abruptly as it began, the burning sensation stopped. The bracer had become a sooty black color. The leather straps that fastened it to his arm were gone. It had become a solid metal tube fused to his skin.
The world spun. Cyan clutched at his temples. His vision rippled as though running water fell before his eyes. When finally his senses settled down, he realized he was no longer in his tent. Cyan stood in a cavernous library. Books were stacked in shelves that ran floor to ceiling as far as he could see.
He was not alone.
“You tried to take the bracer off, didn’t you?” said Wren in a matter-of-fact tone.
Cyan spun to face him. “You!” he bellowed. “You tricked me!”
“Did I?’ Wren asked. “I gave fair warning against taking it off.”
“You didn’t say this would happen.”
“I felt I didn’t need to.”
Cyan glowered at him.
“Was I not perfectly clear?” Wren went on.
“Then how did you expect me to take it off once I was through with it?” Cyan asked.
“It would have been simple, if you had come to me first.”
Touché, Cyan thought. “What do you mean would have been?”
Wren frowned at having to state the obvious. “I mean, it’s now going to be a lot harder to take it off.”
“So do it,” said Cyan.
“What do you mean you can’t?” he shot back.
“It’s too late for me to do that now.”
Cyan reached between his shoulder blades and drew his ax. “I don’t have patience for your word games, wizard. So you’d better start making sense before I cut it out of you.”
“You don’t understand the powers at work here,” Wren explained. “That one bracer has more power infused in it than any living creature can ever imagine. With it on you can be like a god, undying and eternal. But to safeguard against someone taking this power from its wearer, it bonds itself to the flesh of the user when someone attempts to remove it.”
Cyan eased his stance, lowered his ax slightly. “So I’m a god now, am I?”
“You are immortal,” said Wren.
“For how long?”
“For as long as you are alive.”
“That’s forever, right?”
“So long as you wear the bracer.”
“What if it comes off?”
“So then I’m a god?”
“Answer my questions!”
“I thought I had,” Wren drawled. He clasped his hands at his chest. “You will forgive me, as I am very busy. There is other work I must attend to. Should you need further assistance, merely call my name.”
Wren extended a hand and a small white card popped into being between his fingers. Cyan took it and glanced it over. Printed on the card was the mage’s name and occupation – Wren, Owl Mage.
“So now what…” Cyan began, and cut off. He was back on the outskirts of the Elashi village. Wren and his library were nowhere to be seen.
“Hmph. Wizards. Always here one minute and gone the next.”
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