I should have posted this this morning, but I will level with you, dearest internet. I’m pretty freaking terrified right now. There is a certain vulnerability involved in this that I’m not quite sure how to get over… so I’m just holding my nose and jumping.
Yesterday, Fantasy Book Critic was kind enough to post my cover art reveal and an interview about my upcoming book (check it out here). I’m going to post my cover art for anyone who missed it, and then… the prologue of the book and dear god let it not suck.
So, here it is.
PRE-ORDERS ARE HOW YOU HUG AN AUTHOR WITHOUT BEING WEIRD.
FOR REVIEWERS: I’m planning on having arcs ready in the first week-ish of March. I’m making a list, so if you want one, feel free to hit me up.
And… here’s your excerpt. I’m going to go hide now.
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO
Matthew Esco stood atop a hill, surveying his kingdom.
Well, it wasn’t his kingdom yet, but it would be. Soon. Very soon. The sun was rising, painting the world in colors of indigo and violet. Beautiful. A flushed earth, so full of that liquid gold. That shine. It would make him richer than god. And it would help so many.
He was not here to bask in the new day, however. No, he was here to commit himself to a cause. This final act of his would secure his daughter’s future, and all of her children, and their children after that. This shine. It was his legacy.
But to keep this find under his thumb, he had to do something horrible. Already other businessmen with big ideas were heading out west to claim this land as their own. Already, people were trying to chip away at what was his.
He refused to let that happen.
This last step was the hardest. It was so… final, and uncertain. Nothing more, really, than an idea he couldn’t let go of. It was a risk, but it was worth taking.
His daughter would inherit it all. When she lived a life of luxury and security, untouchable and immovable, she would thank him for his sacrifice.
This was love, this burning. It was not as sweet as honey; rather, it was a wild thing. A tempest. A raging forest fire. It was hungry, and it demanded. For what would a father not do for his child?
The world was such a fickle thing, hard and merciless. He’d seen so many souls ground under the bootheel of Fate. So many promising lives changed in the blink of an eye. Unpredictable. Insecure. He didn’t want that for his daughter. Didn’t want her to be at the mercy of turbulent waters or the storms and winds that buffeted a person’s days. No, he wanted her to have a safe harbor to call home, and the financial security to last generations. She would not be forgotten, overlooked, or overwhelmed. Not Lila. He wouldn’t allow it.
His mind flashed to his ex-wife, all those years ago. She’d left him, and their daughter, with nothing but empty pockets and each other.
Matthew knew desperation. He knew fear.
It was Lila’s first, wracking cough when the winter chill hit. It was not having the money for a healer. It was not knowing if she would survive the cold months, to see the spring.
No. He wouldn’t walk down that road. This moment was not about yesterday, but tomorrow. He refocused his mind on the present.
Lila. He loved her so much it hurt.
He would do anything for her.
Even if it hurt. Especially if it hurt.
The well was open at his feet. Open, with all that shine pooling down low in it, glistening like a rainbow. Like a promise. He shivered.
Shine does that which is in its nature, directed by the wishes and thoughts of its user. The more a person gives it, the more it does. So, he would give it everything he had.
This was his last love letter to his daughter.
Resolve filled him up, hard as stone and just as unyielding. It was time. No more delays. No more memories. Action was required.
The knife was sharp as he drew it over his wrists, being sure to cut all the way down both arms. The bite was cold. Agony filled him up inside. Blood ran from the wounds like lava. Hot and potent. Full of life.
He fixed his thoughts on all the shine under his feet, in what would soon be his territory. No, Lila’s territory. He thought of how it belonged to him, and his daughter, and then her children after her. Then, brought his focus to what really mattered: How desperately he longed to protect this place. It would be a little haven, both part of, and away from everything else.
All the shine held in the belly of this land, all the wealth that could be made from it, untapped and waiting. It would always, eternally, be hers. No one could ever take it from her. This place would be protected and held.
Fate, he loved her.
Legacy was such an odd word, full of long, stretching vowels and even longer consonants. It filled his mouth up like wine, heady and intoxicating, demanded to be savored.
His. Hers. Theirs. Forever.
The world was going gray around the edges, soft. He wished he could have seen her one last time. Wished he’d had the strength to tell her what he was about to do. She wouldn’t understand. Not yet. Maybe in a few years, she would, but for now, she was too rebellious. Too headstrong. She would only see death, where all he saw was life.
His mind drifted and he pulled it back, locked it down tight. Thought of all that shine, pouring all his desire into this one pivotal moment. Shine. Protected land. Lila. Legacy.
He wasn’t afraid.
That was a lie. He was terrified.
Blood. So much blood. He had no idea a body could hold this much. It was everywhere, spattering all over the ground, pouring into that well. All that ruby falling like rain from heaven to be swallowed by that hungry oil below. That promise with teeth, feeding on whatever he had left. Demanding it all, and he was giving it. Freely.
He fell to his knees beside the well. He could almost feel the heartbeat of the world under his feet, sluggish but there, a dull throb at the edges of his senses. His own heart was matching that rhythm. Synchronicity. It was agony and ecstasy. It was the pain of becoming something more. His last, exquisite birth.
He repeated his purpose in his mind. Shine. Protected land. Lila. Legacy.
The world was going dark.
Something happened… a sound, or a motion. Something that cut through the ocean-roar of his ebbing life and focused his attention. A boy somewhere off to the side, wide, dark eyes, brown hair already going violet from all that exposure to shine. The boy was watching. Watching Matthew Esco die.
He couldn’t be here. He couldn’t see this. He was a weakness he and Lila could not afford. He had to be dealt with.
There was no time.
He felt Fate step up beside him, felt its weighty hand on his back, pushing.
Falling, it turned out, felt a lot like flying.
The boy had seen people die. Of course, he had. A person didn’t travel all the way across the known world with nothing but a wagon train and hope without seeing death a time or two. He’d helped bury bodies. He’d lit the Fate fires beside each grave, and watched during the long night, hoping he wouldn’t have to scare off wolves.
Yes, he knew death.
But he had never seen a man kill himself before. Not like this. Not with a knife so sharp it looked like it could cut the world in half, nor with such cold, calculating intent. He’d never watched someone bleed out. Never watched their color go from healthy and hale, to gray and pallid, and then… gone.
And if that wasn’t horrifying enough, now he was watching as a shape formed. Wispy and ephemeral at first, like a dream, something his eyes hinted at, but couldn’t latch onto. He witnessed, cold with dread, the shape become real and solid, and another man who looked exactly like the dead one, took his place on the lip of that same well, feet planted in the hard earth, shoulders back, dark purpose carved into his every line.
Alive, but not. A man, but not.
The boy didn’t understand. He didn’t need to. Didn’t need to know the details of what happened to know it was terrible. The wrongness was in the air all around him. It was a pressure, a chill, like a creeping sickness. Quiet, but no less dreadful for it.
He didn’t know what to do. Didn’t know how to understand what he saw. That man-not-man stood at the edge of the well, staring at all that shine now stained with blood, at the dead body, exactly like his own, that was likely floating in it. Staring down, unmoving, not even breathing.
Suddenly, all he could think about was being away from that place, from whoever he’d seen die, and whatever he’d seen born. Away and away. His heart beat like a drum, and his legs twitched. His foot snapped a twig, and the man-not-man looked up, fixed on him and…
The boy ran.
I am here to tell you my story. Here, in this small, lightless room. You want to open me up and examine my beating heart, stir around the embers of my soul. You desire to know how I came to be what I am.
To understand the end, you must know the beginning. I will dissect myself for you. I will open my veins and I will bleed.
You likely find comfort in the fact that you have me contained. That I am here, waiting for my fate. You have made me out to be a monster. I ask, what is a monster if not a warning against the dark? I have done you a service. Perhaps you will recognize that, someday.
You have not yet realized this ending was inevitable. My path was set for me when I was five. This outcome is not a mistake. You made me.
We may not share blood, but I am your child all the same.
All I ask is that you spare Ianthe.
It is not her fault that I love her.