As I mentioned here, Wizards of the Coast has graciously authorized me to post monthly excerpts from my forthcoming novel, The Godborn (book II of the Sundering Series), in the lead up to its October release.
I plan to post a total of six excerpts (saving the juiciest for last, natch :-)), one each month starting in April and going through September. None will contain spoilers and each will be between 900 and 1,800 words. As I mentioned, I’m going to try and feature a different point-of-view character in each excerpt, so you get a sense of the players, the tone of the book, etc.
So, without further ado, I give you the the second excerpt (the first is here). This one features the Most High Telemont Tanthul, ruler of Thultanthar, and Rivalen Tanthul, his semi-divine son. I hope you enjoy.
Telemont leaned on his magical staff and looked out the glassteel window of his tower library. The shadow-fogged air allowed only filtered starlight through its canopy, but Telemont could see well enough. The city of Shade extended before him, the dense jumble of its towers and domes and tiled roofs blanketed in night. It was his city, and he’d fought and schemed for centuries to preserve it and its people, along the way compromising . . . many things.
“Something’s changed, Hadrhune,” he said. “The world shifts under my feet.”
Behind him, his most trusted counselor cleared his throat. “Most High?”
Telemont gestured with one hand, the shadows from his skin forming a wake behind the movement. “There’s power in the air, odd stirrings in the currents of the world. It’s troubled me for months. The gods are maneuvering, to what end I don’t know.”
“Most High, that’s why—”
Telemont nodded impatiently. “Yes, yes, that’s why I collect the Chosen. I search for them and when I find them I put them in cages, question them while I try to read the story of the changing world. And yet the question remains, and I still have no answers.”
“Most High, Prince Brennus, with his unmatched skill in divination, could—”
Telemont’s irritated gesture put a knife through the rest of Hadrhune’s sentence, and it died in silence.
“Prince Brennus,” Telemont said. “Is . . . unfocused of late.”
He watched a patrol of veserab-mounted Shadovar knights cut through the shrouded air above the city, the undulating flight of the serpentine veserabs swirling the shadowed air with each beat of their membranous wings.
“Perhaps you should put this mystery from your mind, Most High? All of the Chosen we’ve captured can be killed within an hour. You need only give the word and I can inform the camp commanders—”
“To kill them now would be premature. Many of them don’t even know what they are. Those who do don’t understand what role they’re to play. No, we keep them alive for the moment and learn what we can. Matters must clarify eventually.”
“Most High, if I may be forward . . . ”
Hadrhune paused, awaiting Telemont’s permission for candor.
“Continue,” Telemont said.
“Is it possible that the focus on the Chosen distracts from more worldly matters? The battle for the Dales goes well, but Cormyr and Myth Drannor must still be dealt with.”
“Oh, war with Cormyr and the elves is coming,” Telemont said. “Yder clamors for it. Our forces are prepared for them, but the Dales need to be pacified completely first. But this matter of the gods and the Chosen, this is something else, something . . . bigger. I need to understand it before events outrun me.”
“Shall I state the obvious, Most High?”
Telemont said nothing, but he knew what was coming.
“There is one Chosen you have not imprisoned or questioned.”
“Rivalen,” Telemont said, and a cloud of shadows swirled around him.
“Yes,” Hadrhune said, his velvety voice treading carefully. “You sent for him, but he did not respond. Yet.”
“He will come,” Telemont said, thinking of his son, the son he no longer trusted, the son he no longer understood.
“As you say, Most High. When he comes, perhaps with his newfound power . . . ”
“His stolen divinity, you mean,” Telemont interrupted.
Again, shadows churned.
“As you say, Most High,” Hadrhune repeated, the doubt palpable in his voice. “In any event, if the prince is a godling, perhaps he has insight into what’s happening.”
“I think not, Hadrhune. The prince no longer thinks like a man.”
Nor did he think like a Lord of Shade. He was lost in the nihilism of his faith. Telemont had scried him many times. Rivalen would stare into Shar’s eye, not moving for days at a time.
“Most High,” Hadrhune said, “I concede that Prince Rivalen is unstable but . . . ”
Telemont felt Rivalen’s presence manifest in the room as a sudden weight on his consciousness, a density in the air, as if the room’s dimensions changed shape to accommodate him. Hadrhune must have sensed it, too, for he gasped.
Rivalen said, “You speak of me as if I cannot hear every word you say, child.”
“Child!” Hadrhune said, and sputtered in rage.
“You requested my presence,” Rivalen said, ignoring Hadrhune, his statement directed at Telemont.
“No,” Telemont said, still not turning, still staring out over Thultanthar. “I sent for you.”
Rivalen became still more present in the room, weightier. The darkness deepened, thickened somehow. Telemont resisted the impulse to mentally run through the wards and spells that guarded his person.
“You don’t send for me anymore, father,” Rivalen said. “You request my presence. And I come if I will it.”
Hadrhune recovered himself enough to say, “You will refer to him as the Most High, Prince Rivalen.”
“And you will say nothing more or I will kill you where you stand.”
Hadrhune gasped again to be so addressed, but he heeded Rivalen’s admonition and said nothing more.
Telemont made his face a mask and turned to face his son.
By now, Rivalen loomed large in the room. Hadrhune, standing near him, indeed looked like a child. Rivalen’s golden eyes glowed out of his sharp-featured face. He’d inherited the features from Telemont, but father and son shared very little else anymore.
“Divinity has made you ill-mannered,” Telemont said.
“Prince Rivalen was never known for his grace,” Hadrhune said.
Rivalen turned on Hadrhune, arm upraised as if to smack him. A sizzling mass of black energy gathered on his palm.
Hadrhune’s eyes flared. He blanched, retreated a step, and held his staff defensively before him. Veins of blue light lit the crystal atop the staff.
“Rivalen!” Telemont shouted, and slammed the butt of his own staff on the tiled floor, causing a roll of thunder. “Violence is prohibited in these chambers!”
Rivalen froze, his narrow eyes fixed on Hadrhune, the annihilating ball of power crackling in his palm. “Your prohibitions no longer concern me, father. You couldn’t stop me. Not anymore.”
Telemont let his own power gather. Tendrils of shadows formed in the air, snaked around his hands, his staff.
“You’re mistaken, child,” he said, but wondered if Rivalen spoke the truth. He sensed the power in his son. Telemont had no doubt that he could hurt Rivalen, but he doubted he could kill him.
“He goes too far, Most High,” Hadrhune said, his voice high-pitched, his breathing heavy and fast. He did not lower his staff, did not release the defensive spell burgeoning in its crystal cap.
“Run along, lapdog,” Rivalen said. The ball of energy in his palm dissipated into nothingness.
“Most High—” Hadrhune began.
Rivalen clenched his fist and the crystal atop Hadrhune’s staff shattered with a pop, raining pieces onto the floor. Shadows bled from the tip of the wounded staff. Hadrhune cursed, wide-eyed.
“I said leave,” Rivalen said to him. “You aren’t needed here.”
Hadrhune’s eyes burned, but he ignored Rivalen. “Most High?”
“You may go, Hadrhune,” Telemont said, his eyes on his son.