"The Frost Field" novel. Opening chapters.
Thank you for the words of encouragement about my new novel, "Frost Field."
I'm excited to share the opening of the book with everyone. It's not a "typical" fantasy book - which I hope is a good thing, but I guess we'll see... :)
I certainly welcome feedback - good, bad or indifferent. And here we go...
THE MAGE CHRONICLES, VOLUME 1
by Chris Hood
Emoah is a vast world very far removed from our own and, in many ways, even more unusual than is traditionally found in fantasy narratives. Although many, if not most, previous works in the genre are housed in a world reminiscent of Medieval Europe, I’ve always preferred a setting with less familiarity. And, if I’m being totally honest, I very much enjoy the freedom to sculpt my realm without limitations. It’s certainly easier for the writer (and probably for the reader) to simply have a world that is essentially “14th century England with magic and monsters.” I prefer a fantasy realm that’s more extraordinary, less predictable and I look forward to introducing the reader to all the unique aspects of this one.
A few notes:
Emoah’s path around its sun takes 277 days to complete the year. Early civilization, upon garnering a basic understanding of the heavens, adopted a system of 100 seconds per minute, 100 minutes per hour, 16 hours per day. Therefore, a year on Emoah is 40% longer than an Earth year.
There are two common units of distance. A “dorum” is a larger measurement roughly equal to ½ a mile or ¾ of a kilometer. A “length” is based on a rough average height of the various intelligent species equating to about 7 feet or 2 meters.
“Humans” are very similar to the modern inhabitants of Earth, although a bit taller, more slender and with somewhat more defined musculature. Their numbers are few as most died during a catastrophic event 300 years earlier.
There are 11 other intelligent species that populate Emoah as well as countless other creatures of all shapes and sizes. These are listed in the glossary (see back of the book) for reference and clarification.
Most of the inhabitants of Emoah live on the two largest continents – Tiafolt and Karakina. Separated by a vast, dangerous body of water, these two regions prove vastly different from one another including lifeforms, topography and resources. Because of the limited interaction between these two continents, they share little culturally and there is great desire for the rarities of the other land.
A map of Emoah can be found below.
There is much more to discover about the people, places and things of Emoah. I hope you enjoy the journey.
The neck was cleanly severed; the blade passing through it with seemingly no resistance whatsoever. It wasn’t the first such kill that day. In fact, decapitations were one of the more frequent causes of death in this battle – a testament to the practiced skill of the invaders with their respective blades. What was odd about this one, Osscov reflected, was that the recipient of his blow seemed unaware of his own death for an abnormally long moment following that mortal blow. That particular enemy had gathered with six others, waiting for the right moment to attack Ghul Gel, one of Osccov’s companions. Small groups of defenders had broken away to face each of the five invaders, restricted by the confines of their surroundings. Yet Osscov was so quick to dispatch those which focused on him that he quickly turned his attention to aid his allies. The guard with the shiny, new spear never realized there would be no chance to wield it, yet alone draw blood. Behind him, Osccov’s blade did its business without fail. Yet the warrior stood in place, still seeming to watch Ghul Gel fighting one of his companions; still looking for an opening through which he could launch his own attack. Two full heartbeats thrummed in Osccov’s chest, the adrenaline and exhaustion of battle elevating their intensity. Yet the body held its shape as though still one unified part instead of two. The moment was broken when one of the other defenders, standing beside the upright corpse, realized Osccov was attacking their flank. Her movement bumped the man beside her, ending the morbid anomaly of those prolonged three seconds and sending the corpse collapsing to the stone floor. Unlike her friend, this particular defender at least was able to face her killer. She swung a curved saber of her own which Osscov dodged easily as his sword pierced her heart. The peculiar death in that particular skirmish would come back to Osccov later when he reflected on the day’s victory. Not the first or last life he would take that afternoon, the absurdity would warrant a place in his memory. Although no way for him to know the exact number, at that moment there were still more than a hundred residents of that isolated dwelling that would die at his hand trying to defend their home and their leader. Dozens of corpses already laid in their wake. A striking number considering the mere handful of attackers – and the brief amount of time the fight had been underway. It had all started such a short while ago, the sun itself seeming to lack the time or inclination to move in that interim. Yet it had started just as bloody, outside, at the dock leading to this island fortress…
Three hundred and nineteen. That was how many people Korxan killed that day. They weren’t actually dead, yet. It wouldn’t happen for a few more days, but it would happen. He dispatched the order that morning and had spent the afternoon contemplating it. The directive could still be rescinded. A messenger had plenty of time to reach his troops before the workers crossed reached them. He had had time to change his mind, but he knew he wouldn’t. He couldn’t. What lay in the balance outweighed three hundred lives. Tens of thousands were at stake. Possibly every life in his city. That was how he justified the order. The unfortunate victims were laborers from Reev Set; duped into taking work in Korxan’s city of Zeqku. They’d set out with the handful of his representatives that assembled them for the ambitious municipal project in the metropolis to the south. These were men and women with families, eager to make three times a traditional laborer’s wage for the better part of a year. Hard work but excellent money. Except the job was a fiction, a ruse. It was crafted solely to draw a small group of innocents far enough away to kill them with ease. No, not kill, murder, Korxan reminded himself. He was murdering several hundred people. It wouldn’t be the first blood on his hands. Far from it. But the Maal War was a long time ago. Generations. Few living gave much thought to the stories. Korxan was one of only a handful that had been alive back then. The rest of Emoah gave little enough concern to happenings a few years prior, let alone the legendary war fought by their grandparents’ parents. He’d led an army back then. Tens of thousands died. Those deaths, on both sides, could reasonably be laid at his feet as well. So much death already in his long life. Reev Set, had so many eager recruits that most had to be turned away. That same berg had supplied more than two thousand troops for the previous war. Almost none returned back then. And Korxan was responsible. Yet, here they were, allowing time to erase that darkest period of history in exchange for the promise of a full purse. Time, it seems, is the ultimate panacea. Or perhaps greed was just too great of a motivator. Yet, still, he couldn’t bring himself to fault them. It could be argued that there was a certain recklessness in taking employment from the great mage of Zeqku with his bloodied history, but that was so long ago. For more than a century he was regarded as little more than a city leader and a successful one at that. That vast metropolis thrived under his control. He was as loved by the citizenry as any leader in Tiafolt. But even with his atrocities more than a century in the past, he would have suspected greater animosity to linger. Perhaps time was little more than a practitioner of irony. So these three hundred and nineteen eager workers were on their way to Zeqku. In two days’ time, they’d be set upon by a contingent of soldiers who would slaughter every one. Korxan could still call it off, could still stop it. Yet he knew he wouldn’t. It had to be done. He would murder those men and women and they would only be the first – for those deaths would bring conflict and once again the land would be plunged into chaos. And those three hundred would be the first salvo in what was destined to be tens of thousands more to perish. And, yet, despite how he tried, he had found no way other than war to achieve his ends. And no other way to ignite this war than this massacre…
The crimson patches had quickly dissipated with the aid of the ocean tides swirling ceaselessly through the cove. Bodies floated quietly, swaying with the susurrations of the waves that buffeted the island and crashed against the sheer walls of the inlet. Just a short while earlier, the sounds of battle echoed alongside war cries and the ubiquitous rhythm of the endless tides. Wood, steel and aarium connected with the flesh of men and beasts as an alarm went up signaling the attack. The squat, imposing island had been called Canvet Isle since time immemorial. It was only the recent revelations that prompted the adopting of the new moniker – Canvet Caverns. It was black and barren. Foreboding. Clearly uninhabitable. Inaccessible, it was said. It shot out of the sea sixty dorums from the mainland with sheer vertical walls all around - including the tiny bay with an entrance so narrow as to be navigable only by a small boat. That slender pass, the only path into the cove, and the treacherous steps carved into the rock face, were the only way to the plateau at the top. With a formidable army ever waiting in defense, it seemed unbreachable. At least that was the thought, but no one expected Osccov to declare war - although it probably shouldn't have come as a complete surprise to the current ruler of Canvet… All around, the cliffs were at least ten lengths and offering barely a foothold across the entire expanse of black, glassy rock. The island was well known, being so close to the mainland, but for a thousand years, no one had hazarded to attempt a summit. No one had the inclination for what would surely be a daunting, if not impossible, task, without appreciable reward. From a distance, the plateau capping it off appeared as barren as those sheer sides. Or so it was thought. How Meepa-Ohl came to inhabit the island and create her unusual fortress could be chalked up to no less than six popular legends, each as different as the previous one. The favorite legend, or at least the most repeated, seemed to be that she was shipwrecked and found herself at Canvet. Through force of will, despite being exhausted and on the brink of death, she managed to work her way up the sheer face of one of the walls to the relatively smooth, barren top. Anyone who had set eyes on the island felt the story unlikely as even a climb aided by the proper tools seemed surprising elusive as though nature itself preordained the island was to be insurmountable. Another popular tale had Meepa-Ohl’s lover laying claim to Canvet, and that he was the one who had the steps carved into the side of the wall within the cove. He was the one who had the dock built at the base of those steps and that he had already discovered and possibly even expanded the caverns before even bringing his companion to this desolate place. Although many variations of this version existed, they all seemed to confer the same theme - that after seeing the potential of Canvet and the riches, power and security it would yield, she killed her lover to lord over it on her own. Regardless of how she got there, Meepa-Ohl had been the self-proclaimed Queen of Canvet for more than a dozen years and had not set foot off the island in all that time. She had become a recluse, surrounded by the riches the caverns provided and the army she had hired to protect it. When her emissaries traveled to the port city of Ciyo for food, supplies, weapons and the sometimes odd and often extravagant acquisitions their leader commanded, they were met with three things: 1) fear - for the queen's Rhak or Prollo agents were always accompanied by a contingent of Fo Fet bodyguards whose size, strength and general ill-temper proved imposing; 2) curiosity – as Canvet's riches and its inhabitants were the stuff of legends and those who resided there shared no stories of the place; and 3) respect – as the queen’s representatives paid very well for whatever they needed. In fact they overpaid, never efforting to bargain or haggle. They seemed to have an endless supply of wealth which only further fueled the tales of the vast riches of the Caverns of Canvet which no one outside of the self-proclaimed Queen and her colony had ever seen. The skiff bobbed gently against the small dock, having been tied up hastily by the raiding party a short while ago. All was silent. The fight raged far above, but had not yet moved into the caverns themselves. Eleven bodies were in the water around the sloop, one rubbing against the small boat and another tangled against the dock itself. The trek along the dock to the sheer walls was a short one with four more corpses to mark the way. The steep stairs carved into the Ignatius rock proved a daunting ascent under the best of conditions. The invaders fought for every stride. No bodies littered the steps which peppered the cliff wall, having either fallen or been pushed from the slender path, plummeting into the water below, but several sprays of blood evidenced the fighting had taken place here as well. At the head of the stairs, atop the plateau, the greatest signs of the battle were still evident. The path to the entrance of the caverns was no more than forty lengths, but whatever advantage the attackers had from their surprise assault had been negated by the time they reached the top of the island fort. Reinforcements had flooded from the sole cavern entrance in defense of their home and leader just moments earlier and the vestiges of that stage of the battle were everywhere. One of the six brave invaders lost his life along this path, his head nearly severed from his body with lifeless eyes staring out at the cloudless sky. The corpses of thirty more defenders littered this area as well, blood splashed across the landscape and pooling in the fading afternoon light. The defenders were primarily Fo Fet, but a half dozen other races were in evidence, all equal now in death. Meepa-Ohl was indiscriminate in assembling her military, asking only for the ability to defend her and her island kingdom and a willingness to trade unfettered loyalty for a generous stipend to this end. The Fo Fet were natural warriors, a full head taller than Humans and with a thick, scaly brown skin. Their backs had the remnants of what was surely the shell of distant ancestors, but still impenetrable to most weapons. They likewise had similar thick carapace-like coverings on their arms and legs requiring armor for only their front torso to make them very tough adversaries. Although their soft, fleshy faces were unprotected, they had the unusual ability to tuck their faces down almost entirely into their upper chest, bringing the thickly shelled back of their head to the forefront where a second pair of eyes existed solely for this purpose. As tough as the Fo Fet were known to be, the small group of invaders was proving their own mettle as they fought for every step to the dungeons below.
[to be continued]