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The clock is ticking as the world descends into darkness.
Aeden is entrenched within a hidden web of a changing world. Unwittingly an agent of salvation and of death, he in turn discovers himself, love, and finally the answers to his past.
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|Product dimensions:||5.06(w) x 7.81(h) x 1.13(d)|
About the Author
Chase Blackwood's life has been defined by struggle the way a moth battles an insect zapping light. He's studied martial arts since childhood in an effort to overcome fear. He's lived in a half dozen countries in an effort to "find himself," traveled to over 50 countries in an effort to "find humanity," lived in nine states just for the hell of it, oh... and the military has had something to do with that too. Chase has enjoyed combating terrorism, working as a federal agent, and also really likes puppies.
His most recent passion, puppies aside, has been working on the Kan Savasci Cycle, a series of fantasy novels that pulls from his life experiences to make the most vivid world imaginable. Stay tuned for a more romantic side...for the ladies, and guys, really for anyone who enjoys the genre.
Read an Excerpt
"Hatred is a seed that once planted becomes near impossible to uproot." Herlewin's Letters of Apology
Aeden hated Yazid Nur Komal. He was rude, arrogant, and condescending. The man spoke of piety and service to god, but would excuse himself from prayers. He would speak of the sanctity of life and then would beat the whores he paid to sleep with. Yazid was without morals. If he understood them, he blatantly spit in the face of the gods. Most importantly, Yazid was the man who had killed Odilo. For this, Aeden had vowed to kill him.
The only thing that stayed his hand were his adopted brothers, Neri and Adel. Timing was everything. Killing Yazid would be too obvious to the discerning eye of Jal Isa Sha'ril. The Jal was intelligent, scheming, and ever aware of the motivations of those around him. His ability to discern thoughts before they became action was eerie.
Aeden would stay awake late into the night dreaming of ways to rid the world of Yazid. The more violent Yazid's imagined death, the better Aeden slept. It was an odd amalgam of emotion that threatened to strip him of his humanity. His thoughts painted his life in angry, vengeful strokes. He needed balance.
The Jal knew this and only just accommodated him. Despite being forced to work with Yazid; eating together, training together, and sleeping in the same room, Aeden was granted relief.
This relief came in two shapes. The first, was in the form of a quiet and unwavering man, Kardal Jabir Sha'ril. Where Yazid spoke too much, Kardal rarely spoke. In fact, Aeden couldn't remember hearing Kardal utter more than a dozen words in the last two weeks.
The second form of relief came from the Jal himself. Practice of logic and rhetoric was what the Jal called them. Aeden later referred to them as forced debates.
It was then no surprise that the Jal invited Aeden into his chamber. It was early afternoon in mid Lenton. The day was hot but bearable. It bore the subtle hint of change in its wake, the way Hearvest spoke of falling leaves to the north.
"Sit," the Jal said with an extended hand.
Aeden looked about the room briefly. He saw two guards at the far doorway. He had passed two when he had entered. The room, however, was empty save for the Jal.
"You seek to escape? Perhaps kill me first I presume," Jal Isa Sha'ril said, his hooded eyes narrowing.
Aeden would have been lying if he said the thought hadn't crossed his mind.
"In spite of all I have given you, all I have offered?" he continued, attempting to sound hurt. "You think you would have fared better under a different master?"
"No," Aeden finally replied.
The word master, echoed resoundingly in his head. Aeden had no master, nor did he crave one. In his heart, he was free. He wove his own fate.
"Good, I would hate to have wasted my time," the Jal paused for a moment and took a sip of sweet wine before continuing, "of course this isn't why I called you here."
Aeden remained silent. He knew the Jal enjoyed hearing himself speak. If Aeden were to ascribe him a weakness, it would have been pride. For all the Jal's ambition, intelligence, and knowledge of historical events, he was proud. The Jal needed others to know what it was he had accomplished. Perhaps today was another sermon on his self-made station.
"No, we have more pressing matters of greater urgency. Would you care to guess what matters lay at hand?"
The Jal seemed to enjoy testing him, probing the hidden corners of his mind for weakness, strength, for the Sight.
Aeden struggled to think straight. His mind seemed to swim in a perpetual pool of grey and red. He hadn't slept well the night before. Rarely, in fact, did he sleep well. Not until Adel and Neri were free would he sleep well.
"I assume it's because of what Yazid had said about you," Aeden replied.
The Jal raised a carefully trimmed eyebrow. He took a moment to study Aeden the way one would study a painting.
"Clever, but you paused too long to concoct that lie," the Jal sat back in his chair, "I will give you one more chance, do not bore me, or insult my time."
There was steel in his voice. Aeden cringed ever so slightly. As angry as he was, he knew not to purposefully seek out the wrath of the Jal. He had only once seen a new servant defy the purser. The servant now walked with a permanent limp and was missing a hand. The high-pitched screams as a screw was driven into the servant's leg had echoed down the corridor with resounding weight. The servant had never spoken up again.
The memory faded as Aeden focused on the Jal's question, what matter lay at hand? Aeden once again glanced about the room. A simple roll of papyrus lay upon the table next to the purser's decanter. It could have been a message from any number of wealthy individuals. Only one, however, would stir a sense of urgency from the Jal.
"The caliph wishes your attendance," Aeden replied.
The Jal's dark eyes simply stared at Aeden for a moment.
"Interesting," the Jal took another sip of wine, "Yes, he seeks a meeting."
"Why?" Aeden asked before he realized his place.
The Jal raised an eyebrow, but didn't seem to take offense.
"That I'm afraid is beyond my knowing," a tiny smile touched the corner of the Jal's lips.
The Jal's eyes then focused on Aeden. His hooked nose was partially cast in shadow giving him the predatory look of a falcon.
"Why do you think the caliph wishes a meeting?" the Jal asked curiously.
Aeden remained silent for a moment. It was an impossible riddle. He had spent so little time in the A'sh that its ways still remained hidden to his eye. He had crammed years of history into his young mind over the course of a couple months. It was a peddling amount in comparison to the wealth of knowledge the Jal retained. Why ask Aeden?
His mind raced, knowing the Jal expected an answer. What did he know about the caliph? Surprisingly little after he gave it a moment's thought. Did it have to do with Q'Bala to the north? Sha'ril and Q'Bala had been at war for over two hundred years. Maybe it was a simple matter of money. The Jal was the purser of the caliphate after all.
"I don't know," Aeden finally said.
"Of course you don't," the Jal replied, but this time with a hint of reticence in his voice. "Send in Yazid."
Aeden nodded and backed out of the room.
Aeden figured Yazid was sleeping. It was already late morning, which meant the Jal's guard was recovering from a night of excessive drinking. Alcohol was a vice frowned upon by church doctrine, particularly in Sha'ril. Yazid, however, paid as much attention to church doctrine as he did personal hygiene.
Excessive drinking often left Yazid inebriated, angry, and a few times incoherent. Aeden once had the opportunity to poison Yazid. The guard was already drunk that night, like most nights. It would have been a simple matter, but something stayed Aeden's hand.
Was it mercy? No, it was more visceral than that. It was the lust of confrontation. Aeden wanted the satisfaction of cutting Yazid's throat. Slicing it causally the way Yazid had cut Odilo's throat. Only then would Kegal, the god of destruction and death, be satiated.
Aeden rounded a corner and traveled across a small courtyard. A fountain splashed serenely within. It was a symbol of great wealth to have a fountain in a desert kingdom. Water was as precious as gold. It was another subtle reminder of Aeden's place within the Jal's world.
He crossed the courtyard and carved a line to the barracks. Aeden could already sense the presence of his new foe. It was like the taste of rotten fruit, lingering irritably in the back of his throat.
Reaching out a hand, he swept back the green, silk curtain. The fabric was soft to the touch, like the smooth skin of a woman's stomach. Aeden's mind lingered briefly over the fragile image of the archduchess.
Fantasy was ripped from his wandering imagination by the snoring grunt of Yazid.
There, on a bed before him, was the loathsome guard. He still wore the same clothes he had the night before. The air was stale with the smell of alcohol sweated through overused pores.
How easy would it be to kill him right there? Why didn't he?
"Does the dog wish to hump my bed?" Yazid said, opening a blurry eye.
Aeden was momentarily startled. He buried his thoughts and felt the familiar flush of anger rise through him. It was like the heat of the sun on burnt skin.
"The Jal asked me to fetch his ugliest guard."
Yazid Nur Kamal sat up and rubbed his eyes with his palms. Aeden had already walked out, not waiting for the man's reply.CHAPTER 2
"Decorum was created by nobility to boost their sense of worth in the eyes of other nobility." Herlewin's Letters of Apology
Late afternoon fell over the city in a coppery haze. Sunlight infused every corner with a golden warmth that only the season of Lenton could provide.
The kiss of the sun felt good on Aeden's tanned skin. He had grown darker within the hot embrace of the A'sh. His white hair was only more apparent in contrast to his darkened tone. It had grown to a length requiring a tie to keep it tidy. He felt taller and stronger, but he also felt lonelier and angrier.
Aeden glanced about.
Kardal was to his left, walking on the other side of the Jal's litter. Behind him Aeden could feel the cold, hateful stare of Yazid. It was like a pebble within a boot, grating slowly at his resolve. He did his best to ignore the man. He used a technique Ayleth the Widow had taught him some years before. "When faced with hate," she once told him, "understand the root of their hatred by understanding their circumstance. Only then will their words fade to nothing but a distant whisper."
Aeden did as he had been told. He soaked in Sha'ril the way dry cotton soaks in water. He studied the movement of the people. He observed the lines of the city. He thought on the words of the Jal. Last, he remembered the tiny irritants that Yazid had allowed Aeden to glimpse. Each sliver formed a tiny image of a greater whole.
Yazid hated what he could not understand. He enjoyed taunting others to make him feel smarter. He drank to hide from the responsibilities of Verold. He killed for the pleasure of feeling in control.
The thoughts made Aeden sick. Yazid was a despicable man. Aeden didn't want to understand such loathsome qualities. There already was enough darkness pervading his incessant thoughts. He needed a respite.
Aeden watched the slaves carrying the Jal's litter. Their black skin glistened with the effort. Normally the Jal would have preferred to walk, but when attending the caliph's summons, it was customary to arrive in a manner befitting one's station. For the Jal, it was as the Purser of Sha'ril.
It was a small procession, but stately enough to garner the attention of those in the streets. Merchants looked up as they passed. Buyers turned to gaze upon them and children stopped their playing to admire the guards' shining plate armor.
Aeden already felt uncomfortable in the ceremonial garb of the Jal's guard, but the added attention of those on the street made his skin itch. It felt as if their peering gaze scratched at his very skin. Again, Aeden tugged on the metal breastplate he wore. It was more decorative than functional.
Aeden's thoughts were ripped from his mind by the words of Yazid.
"Why the Jal decided to bring a dog to this banquet is beyond my sight," Yazid muttered just loud enough so Aeden could hear.
Aeden had learned Adhari more quickly than he had Heortian. He wasn't sure if it was because of the constant insults, the stress of the situation, or that he was getting older. Perhaps they were all valid reasons, he thought to himself, anger roiling quietly underneath it all.
"Maybe you'll be allowed some scraps dog," Yazid continued, attempting to bait Aeden.
Kardal raised an eyebrow and his mouth twitched slightly. Was he trying to smile?
"I'll feed you both to the dogs if you continue your bickering," the Jal growled from within his open-aired carriage.
Yazid fell silent and Aeden smiled. Even Kardal coughed to conceal a small laugh.
The Jal was already irritated at traveling by litter. Aeden hadn't been with him long, but had learned to pay heed to his mood. When the Jal was irritated, it was best to remain silent. Aeden still had his brother monks to think of.
Silence enveloped the Jal's litter as the group turned down a larger street. It fell upon them like a silken scarf, lingering upon sullen lips.
Aeden drank in the details of Sha'ril. Each piece of the greater city helped him ease his thoughts. Awareness had become a form of meditation. The skinny dog skirting down an alley was an idle distraction. The hawkers selling to the crowd were a nuisance.
Aeden glimpsed two women.
Women were rarely allowed out and those that ventured into the fabric of Sha'ril were carefully covered in layers of cloth. The heat must have been unbearable. About their necks were leather collars with a chain attached. A chain they held in their left hand to indicate they were still unmarried.
Aeden remembered the first time he had seen Sha'ril women. He had mistakenly thought they were slaves. Female slaves, however, weren't allowed the honor of clothing. It was a clear and marked distinction, one that had shocked and slightly aroused the young Aeden. It was a conflicting emotion that still haunted him.
"Halt before the Imperial Gate!" a man shouted.
Aeden's attention snapped forward. Before the small procession stood a massive stone archway. Above the closed doors was flowing script. Aeden couldn't understand the words. They were an older form of Adhari.
Flanking the arched entrance were two towers capped by golden domes resting upon fine pillars. Men stood under the shade of the domes, crossbows held lazily within their hands, as they looked down upon the approaching group.
"Jal Isa Sha'ril, the purser and noble subject of the mighty Caliph of A'sh, Lion of the Desert," Kardal took in a breath and continued, "beckons entry."
It was strange to hear Kardal speak, let alone shout. Shivers crept down Aeden's back despite the heat of the day. He glanced at the Jal. The Jal's eyebrows were knitted in thought as he appeared to be focused on the towers themselves.
"The Caliph of A'sh, the Lion of the Desert, Protector of Sha'ril welcomes you graciously," a guard bellowed back. The shouting seemed absurd to young Aeden. One of his tutors, under the direction of the Jal, had told him the louder the announcement, the more important the person. It was meant to be heard.
The tall green doors swept inward on silent hinges. A wedge of sunlight spilled through the opening as if they were entering the very gardens of heaven. The opened doors revealed a pillared walkway that carved a path into the heart of the massive palace complex. It was said there were over a thousand rooms, two thousand wives, and a palatial guard composed of over five hundred men.
Fruit trees lined the open-aired arch-covered walkway. The scents of lemon and orange lingered in the air like the perfumed passing of royalty. Soldiers stood at regular intervals. They stood unflinching as the small procession ambled by. Numerous water fountains gurgled and splashed, announcing their ostentatious presence in the gardens behind the statuesque guardsmen.
It was before a large, round building that the slaves let the Jal's litter down. The Jal smoothed his fine shirt as he stood. Yazid and Kardal stepped forward to flank him as Aeden brought up the rear. They summited a series of wide steps leading to a simple, yet elegant building. Hundreds of slender, tall columns marked its exterior, as did a golden dome. Sunlight filtered through the pillars in a mosaic of color, as a gentle, perfumed breeze, wafted through opened windows.
"Announcing the arrival of Jal Isa Sha'ril, purser and noble subject of the mighty caliph," Kardal boomed.
The Jal nodded his head imperceptibly. Yazid scratched at his nose, and one of the guards glanced at the group through the corner of his eye.
"Enter," a senior guard bellowed back.
The foursome mounted the final steps and entered the Palace of a Thousand Columns. A cool shade embraced them as a gentle breeze swept past. The litter carriers were escorted away to an unseen waiting area.
"You are to remain silent," Yazid said, turning to look at Aeden.
"As are you," the Jal said to Yazid.
Yazid's face turned red. Aeden grinned.
"The caliph awaits," a man in fine silks said, gesturing for them to follow.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Tower of the Arkein"
Copyright © 2017 Chase Blackwood.
Excerpted by permission of CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
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