I realize it’s been dragging on a bit. The Evil Day Job was really interfering with my writing—for the past two or three months, things got so insane there that I was coming home every night and finding myself too exhausted to write much—and that’s put me really off schedule.
The good news is that my husband and I made the decision that my writing needed to come first. So with some trepidation, but his blessing, I’ve quit that job to write full-time. Gods is, I’m estimating, within about 15,000 words of completion. I’ll keep people posted, and hopefully make an announcement soon about it being finished!
So, please bear with me. I think you’ll find it worth the wait. The story has taken a lot of unexpected twists and turns, and I really love where it’s gone. In the meantime, here’s a sneak preview! This scene takes place about a third of the way in, as Master Geilin begins training a new type of mage not seen in Dasak for thousands of years—one skilled in the use of Taaweh magic!
EXCERPT — Gods by James Erich — Chapter Three
The south courtyard had become a hedge maze. No, worse, Sael reflected. The maze wasn’t composed merely of yew and cedar hedges, but also had stone walls that hadn’t existed in the courtyard the day before. Apart from the hedge, and two guards posted by each entrance, the courtyard appeared to be empty.
“What is all this?” his father asked sharply, as they approached. He didn’t raise his voice, particularly, but it could still be heard clearly in the enclosed space.
Sael thought he heard giggling—the giggling of a woman—coming from somewhere in the maze, followed by what sounded like young men snickering. The vek looked as if he were about to boil over.
Fortunately, before that could happen, Master Geilin called out from the depths of the maze, “Your Grace! Forgive me. I will be with you momentarily.”
At that, the stone wall immediately before them melted into the cobblestones like warm butter, leaving no trace that there had been anything there just a moment before. Behind it, branches of yew curled to one side, forming a direct path into the center of the maze, where Master Geilin stood with four others—three young men Sael only vaguely recognized and… Tanum.
Geilin bowed formally, his students imitating him. “Your Grace. Your Lordship.”
“Master Geilin,” the vek said coolly, “Might I have a word with you in private?”
Geilin walked forward calmly, a stone wall rising up out of the cobblestones behind him to prevent his students from listening in on the conversation.
“I don’t recall giving my permission for Lady Tanum to be included in your classes,” the vek told him, when he drew near.
Geilin looked perplexed. “I’m very sorry, Your Grace. Lady Tanum informed me that she had permission.”
“She did not.”
“Father,” Sael interrupted. “Tanum and I spoke of it before Koreh and I went into the mountains.” He hadn’t exactly agreed to let Tanum train, but he wasn’t opposed to lying in order to help Master Geilin and Tanum save face.
Fortunately, his father didn’t see fit to grill him on the subject. Though he looked at his son with an expression like someone who’s just bitten into a lemon, he turned to Geilin and asked, “These boys…. Clearly you’ve not chosen your apprentices from among the vönan.”
“I did try, Your Grace,” the wizard replied. “But it’s a big step for a vönan to deliberately sever himself from the power of the Stronni, even though we’ve been cut off from it for several weeks now. None are yet willing to take it. They are all watching me to see if I burst into flame or, worse, become powerless.”
“I suppose we can’t blame them.”
Geilin shook his head and ran a hand over the spot where his tattoo had once been. He’d mentioned to Sael recently that it didn’t exactly hurt, but he could feel that it was missing. “No, sir. But although I’ve found my training as a vönan an aid to learning Taaweh magic, the Taaweh themselves insist it isn’t essential. All men—and women—have the ability to learn it.”
Sael saw his father’s eye twitch at the obvious reference to Tanum, so he attempted to redirect the conversation. “Those young men looked familiar,” he said. “Who are their families?”
“They are stable boys!” his father snapped.
Sael was taken aback by this, but Geilin seemed unperturbed. “Only Nalekh lives in the stables, Your Grace. I believe his family resides in Tessam. Bol and Ahvi are brothers and they live in the servants’ quarters.”
“The servants’ quarters?” Sael was just as surprised as his father. Master Geilin was creating a new order of mages… out of servants?
“They were the only volunteers, Your Lordship,” Geilin explained patiently.
The vek sniffed. Then with an air of resignation, he asked, “Have they made any progress?”
“Today is their first day. It will take some time.”
“How much time?”
Geilin merely spread his hands to indicate he had no idea.
The vek gave him the bored half-smile he normally reserved for servants he’d grown weary of talking to. “Carry on, then.”
Sael had no doubt that Geilin sensed the disapproval behind that smile, but the old man merely nodded and said, “Thank you, Your Grace. Your Lordship.”
He bowed formally and left them to return to his students, the stone wall melting away as he approached it.
The vek muttered under his breath, “I confess I’m skeptical about how useful these new ‘mages’ will prove to be,” before heading back toward to the keep. Sael fell into step behind him.
This courtyard was somewhat smaller than the main courtyard and it was bordered with decorative wading pools in the four corners and bordering the entrance. When Sael began to walk past one of these, something reflected in the water caught his eye and he slowed to get a better look.
It was Koreh.
Not a ghostly apparition, but a very clear view of Koreh’s face and shoulders against a bright blue sky. The angle put his face in shadow, but there was enough light reflected up at him—rippling as though he were peering down into a moving river—that there was no mistaking it was him. His eyes lit up with recognition, as though he could see Sael too. Their eyes locked for just a brief moment, before something dark seemed to swim between them and the vision disappeared.
Sael staggered and made a grab for something to steady himself. He was surprised to find his father there, though the man had been ahead of him a moment earlier. His hand gripped the vek’s strong forearm tightly, as he fought back the wave of grief that threatened to overwhelm him.
“Are you ill?” his father asked. “How do you summon that blasted Taaweh physician?” He was reacting with his usual haughtiness, but Sael could hear the note of concern in his voice.
“I’m all right, father,” Sael told him, though he didn’t feel all right. His heart felt as if it were being wrenched out of his chest. “Just… a little lightheaded.”
It couldn’t have been Koreh. It had to have been a trick of the light.
But it was so clear.
“Have you eaten anything this morning?” the vek asked. Then without bothering to wait for an answer, he said, “Let’s get you inside. I’ll have something brought up from the kitchen.”