The third part of my book Drawn Breath is called Orphans. It has to be the most enjoyable part in my opinion in terms of writing and the countless rereading and editing. For those who have read part I and part II the characters are brand new and it is set in a vastly different realm to what one may have grown accustomed to in Wrought Iron and Amelack Somatres. It is likely to be up and available in the New Year but since it is Christmas I decided to put up the blurb and a little taster:
"In the child mines of Hold only the strong and the broken survive. This is the undisputed truth. Buried alive under the earth are hundreds of orphaned children, working as slaves for the betterment of Hold. Death is certain here and none live very long. The children turn to cults and rituals to survive, helplessly mimicking the savagery on the ground above them. In the sun-starved tunnels follow four new characters: Caral, the boy who survived the Glass Rain and has an innate understanding of the world. Roan - alleged to be superhuman, yet beneath his legend is a tortured mind. Baran - an arrogant boy obsessed with blades. Sima - an influential power-broker in the inner workings of the mines and a dangerous beauty.There are no spoilers in the following excerpt:
Orphans weaves the stories of these four as they realise their potential and strive to overcome the fetters they were born into. But in their struggle, is something else, something subtle and resounding created? The epic Drawn Breath continues with this enthralling and heart rending tale of human endeavour: Part III."
Sima was seated reading in a Senior Mining Officer or Pustule's office. All around her were gold ornaments on a mantelpiece that went around all the walls, renditions of small animals, embroidered hourglasses with gilded sand grains, a large clock was at the back of the office, its bronze pendulum swung side to side with soft clicks. Next to it was a cabinet filled with bottles of liquors and spirits from all over Hhaam. Directly opposite her was a padded leather chair. On the oak table she was was seated in front of was a carafe of some purple fluid with two crystal glasses next to it. A single bright torch in the corner burned white with Calce. None of these items interested Sima; she was consumed by something more important. Access to many libraries from above land was one of the benefits afforded her by being one of the Ignited. Her eyes rolled across her history book: The Peoples of Mickali:
‘The Mickali people were very superstitious. They were obsessed with Death; they personified it and venerated it in hope of some means of appeasement. But they saw Death as beyond communication with humans, thus any intercession with Death was through the Jackals: animals that were rife in that period which they viewed as the gatekeepers of the Underworld.’
Officer Murgen came into his office closing the door with a click and walking past Sima. She did not look up.
“Sorry about my tardiness. It's becoming harder by the day to control the rabble.” he said with a groan.
He sat down in front of her, leaning back and stretching with a sigh. His sleepy eyes slid up and down her. He was in the brown robes of the Pustules, leather straps were woven around his elbows and wrists. He wore worn black leather gloves open at the finger tips. His mine scarf was down around his throat revealing a grizzled jaw and short straggly brown hair with blond streaks. His skin did not have the redness of the Mines, a sign that he was a typically absent Pustule who only had superficial understanding of the inner workings of the Orphans. He leaned forward after taking her in.
Sima's eyes remained down, she shook her head gently.
“You know control is all that matters here. Chaos is anathema.” Murgen filled his glass “And you Orphans seem to know this, you make your own rules, your own codes of conduct and abide by them. All we do is feed you and house you and monitor your progress in the mines. Indeed, you are all steadfast and this is praiseworthy.”
Sima raised her eyebrows slightly. False words, he does not know anything of what goes on in Koltoom, of the pain of the people. She showed no other sign she was listening.
“But as I am sure you know the masses need a chosen few to lead, this is the only effective mode of society. And this is where your cult comes in.” He took a wide gulp of his drink then drummed his fingers on the table.
‘The Jackals were described by the Mickali as ruthless and inexorable, the true delegates of mortality. They only dealt in absolutes, no human on Hhaam could wager with them, one could only be one of two extremes alive or dead, there was no middle-ground to debate on. However there was a divide among the people, some believed the Jackals could be bargained with through communion and sacrifices, the others believed in the original concept that the Jackals were beyond any whims of mortals and were simply exponents of their god, Death. Arguments seethed between the two factions. Those who believed in sacrifices became more bloody in their actions in an attempt to extend their lives. The original faction saw this as futile and said “The Jackals look upon you and laugh. Death does not care.”’
“Supri in her...wisdom asked me to speak to you.”
Sima stopped reading and looked up through those jaded eyes, she waited.
“Don't worry, not just you, all of your priesthood. She wanted it known that changes are going to occur in all the mines where the cult has spread, and to trust in her. The Mining Officers are fully behind this. All will reveal itself in due time.” He smiled leeringly at her.
That fool, she thinks we fear the Pustules. She really has lost it.
He got up now after downing the last of his wine and strolled very slowly around his table.
“For it is only with the intention to maintain these children. All they want is a story to help them sleep, to drive them on and make them work, to alleviate their fears of random death, just out of sight on all sides, to give them some significance in their little lives, to give them a happy ending.”
“Longevity.” Sima said, her eyes following Murgen as he came round to where she sat. He planted his backside on the table, rubbing his thighs. Sima resumed reading.
“Yes, of course you understand. Supri told me you would. She told me you would...yield.”
He leaned forward at peered at her body noting her firm, full chest rising and falling slowly, her Yamenca wrapped around her soft honey skinned body, her slender legs folded over each other showing the curve and dip of her hips.
“She is a good girl, well-versed. But she, no she has nothing on you. You are becoming a beautiful woman. A Lori Island native, such a rarity... I have always wondered what you were like, Sima.” His eyes looked dreamily over her hair, thick and bunched over her shoulders. He shuffled closer to her. Sima was still, her eyes moving left to right over her pages. “To touch you... I have wondered why they called you that name.” He moved closer still his eyes boring into her.
“Would you show me Sima? Why they call you Black Lasserie?”
He reached out to touch her chest. Before he could even lay a fingertip down Sima lashed out with her left hand in a back-fist, the force and speed of the strike spun Murgen's neck right round to face the far wall, snapping it, he expired with a feeble groan, the side of his face that her knuckles impacted on caved in, blood and teeth sprayed out over the gold ornaments on the mantel piece knocking some of them over. Murgen's large, adult body whipped round in the air, lifting off the table and fell down to the floor, as it fell, his head smacked into the table and blood splattered along it narrowly avoiding Sima's book, which she did not even look up from. The carafe toppled over and poured the rest of its purple innards onto the office floor. Sima held her fist in the air like a sledgehammer, blood dripped down from her knuckles, landing in drops on Murgen's forehead that was face down, his dead eyes rolled up looking at the ceiling.
‘...The Jackals allowed those to pass painlessly onto the Underworld who carried no conceit, those who did not seek to challenge or bargain with Death but bowed in humility to the natural order of the world. Those who claimed immortality, those who had no real insight into the beauty of being born, living then dying, they indeed felt pain in their passing.’
Hope that whets your appetite a little. Merry Christmas!