Years ago, Random House asked me to write a book around the Elemental universe. As a first time author, I was assigned an editor, Dave Stern, who soon became a good friend of mine.
Over the course of writing the book, now sold on Amazon, Dave and I would go back and forth on the story along with Random House's requests to ensure that the book was commercially successful. I will be the first to admit that my vision of the story may not have been as commercial viable as theirs. After all, the editorial team assigned to me was the same team managing the Game of Thrones series who, fortunately for me, had a lot of extra time to spend with me due to a Dance with Dragons being late.
The end result, however, is that what is on store shelves is dramatically different from the original story I wrote.
Thus, for the first time, I will share with you the original draft of the book with you.
I hope you enjoy it.
Draft 1, July 2009
Long ago, the world of Elemental was the scene of a devastating war between two factions a race of titans. The culminated with a final battle that broke the world and laid waste to the land. This cataclysm ended the reign of these immortal titans and ushered in the time of mortals who struggled to rebuild their world.
When the world was broken, the great continent of Athica was split in two. To the west, tribes of men dominated. To the east, a myriad of races, collectively called “The Fallen”, lived together.
Across the landscape, a handful of artifacts, shards of an ancient crystal worshipped by the Titans rested. The Titans sequestered the world’s magic into these shards and rooted them to the world. From then on, few mortals could make use of magic.
Some mortals, it was discovered, could channel the magic in these shards and became powerful sorcerers. These sorcerers became kings and emperors in their own time. A War of Magic soon raged across the recovering landscape as each faction sought to gain control of the shards.
In the end, the race of men gained the advantage with its Channelers pushing the Fallen back into the wastes of the east. Once satisfied that the Fallen were no longer a threat, the Kingdoms of the west set up an outpost on the very edge of the Eastern continent near the great bridge that connected the two continents. For a long while, there was peace.
As with all things, the time of peace began to dwindle. One by one, the channelers passed on until there was only one left. King Galor, “The Sorcerer King”. Having united the western continent under the flag of his native kingdom, the Altar, he has recently sensed that a grave evil has risen in the far east. To that end, he has sent Lord Tandis the Arnorian, his most trusted advisor, far to the east, across the bridge to the stronghold of Outpost to investigate.
Chapter I: Xander
The afternoon sun peeked between the forest canopy far above. A whole world of life lived far in the trees oblivious to sunny haired boy far below. The sunny haired boy, no older than 15, surveyed the ground below looking for midnight stones. These shiny black quartz stones were fairly common in “The Henge” as people called it. Little did the boy know that the stones were fragments of long destroyed beings who had been constructed by the powers to battle for this world. All that was left now were their fragments, much prized by the locals for their beauty despite having long ago forgotten how lethal the beings they were attached to once were.
The sunny haired boy was named Xander. He had lived on his own in these woods for many years after his parents had been slain. Not surprisingly, he was far skinnier than most boys his age. On the other hand, other boys his age considered him unusually lucky. Not only did he have a knack for finding the pretty midnight stones but he was friends with Princess Angenica, daughter of the Lord Ambrose who ruled The Henge from the Keep known simply as Outpost.
The Spring rains had made the shallow stream beds rush with water which, Xander knew, made it easier to find the stones. Leaping across one such stream, he found himself amongst several converging river beds. It was the perfect spot.
The boy knew if he concentrated, he could picture every place he might look and soon know the right place to actually look to find what he wanted. Soon enough, Xander saw a couple of midnight stones being uncovered by a nearby running stream.
The Spring day made the woods more humid than they would be later in the year. This forest had grown up around the spine of the empire after the cataclysm. It was still quite ancient as forests go in this part of the world. The forest, however, gave away quickly to the grass lands that surrounded the village that was set just outside the Keep of Outpost.
With his prize in his pocket, Xander began his trek out of the woods and back to town. As soon as he left the woods, he could see trouble coming. Three boys were coming his way.
Xander knew they were coming probably before they knew where they were going. The boys knew he was an easy target. As an orphan, he had no standing in the Kingdom. He had no proof that he was a proper citizen or the descendent of the so-called blood traitors down in Kraxis. As a result, in matters such as these, he was on his own.
Soon enough, the sloshing on the soft ground the boys made marked the beginning of the confrontation. At this point the forest was a good hundred yards behind him and the village that surrounded the keep was still in front of him.
“Well, if it isn’t the skeleton boy,” said the biggest one.
The big one, Morlis, had always been big for his age which more than made up for his lack of wit. He had been a bully for as long as Xander could remember knowing him.
“What do you want, Morlis?” Xander asked. He knew the answer but in his mind, Xander was weighing every option he could think of as quickly he could.
“You hear that, Mor? The skel acts like he doesn’t know what we want. You know what we want. We want the midnight stones you stole from us that you use to impress the princess,” said Vincor, Morlis’s slightly smaller but even nastier friend.
“Give us the stones, skel and we might let you off with just a black eye,” said Oro, the last of the thuggish trio. Oro was the most dangerous of the three. He wasn’t as big as Morlis or as smart as Vincor but he was more sadistic than the two combined.
“How are they your stones?” Xander asked. He needed only a little more time for several options in his mind to converge to avoid the beating the boys intended to give him regardless of whether he gave in.
Oro snorted, “They are ours by right since we belong here and you don’t. You’re just an orphan living off the good will of others. You have no ma or pa so you scurry around the keep. “
Xander inwardly sighed with relief as their window of opportunity closed and many different options now presented themselves to him. Xander laughed “Yes, what you call scurrying other people would call working. Maybe if you didn’t loaf around all day and instead worked an honest day you would appreciate the value of things. You are all 16 years old, a full year older than I am and you’re still nothing but thugs.”
Oro raged, “Get him!”
The three thugs prepared to pounce on Xander when a voice cried “Stop!”
The three boys froze instantly. Behind them walked the Princess Angenica. Besides being the daughter of the lord of Outpost, Angenica had a unique magical talent, anyone would do whatever she commanded instinctively. Everyone but, ironically, Xander.
“You three boys are lower than worms!” Geni said harshly.
“Get onto the ground and slither like worms,” she commanded.
The three boys instantly obeyed without hesitation and did exactly as she asked without question or resistance.
“I swear, Xander. I leave you alone for a few minutes and you nearly get yourself killed,” Geni teased. “What are you doing out near the woods anyway?”
Xander smiled and held out his hand. In his hand set 3 midnight stones.
“Oh, Xander, you’re the best! I don’t know how you manage to find these. I’d almost think you have some sort of magical tracking ability. No one else ever seems to be able to find things like you,” Geni laughed.
Geni was astonishingly pretty for a girl her age. Being the daughter of the ruler of this province, she had utmost personal confidence but more than that, her magical ability ensured she tended to get her way.
Of course, as was quite well known, Xander, like most people, had no magical talent unless luck could be considered a talent. He just tended to know what to do to avoid trouble or find what he wanted to find.
Geni considered the 3 bullies squirming on the ground, now thoroughly muddy. “You three continue slithering until the sun sets.”
Xander couldn’t help but smile as he looked up at the afternoon sun. It would be still some hours before the sun set.
Geni turned back towards the village that surrounded the keep and gestured for Xander to follow her.
“My father is having an important visitor today so I have to find something to stay out of the way until dinner. Let’s go find master Barlon, I hear he found an injured Garling,”
Xander smiled and simply said, “Sounds like a plan.” The two ran towards the village while the three bullies continued slithering in the mud.
# # #
Lord Ambrose was a powerfully built man. In his youth, he was a warrior without peer. His skill with weapons was only surpassed by his ability to lead men. Until he had been assigned to lordship of the Henge, Ambrose was a well known adventurer.
The years out on the Henge had not been pleasing to him. He desired to return to the wilds and continue his adventures. But with his wife gone, he now had other responsibilities and the King had been adamant that he guard and fortify Henge and its Keep “Outpost”.
Now, word had been sent to him that the King’s high advisor, Lord Tandis would soon be here.
Lord Ambrose had not seen Tandis since he was a small boy. His coming meant the circumstances were dire. But since the death of his wife 3 years ago, the Fallen had not troubled the Henge. So fierce had been his wrath against the tribes of Fallen that not a single Fallen had been seen in years.
Ambrose was a champion of men. Unlike his daughter, he did not possess the ability to force people to do his bidding. Instead, his magical ability were undirected. It was sheer presence. Things and people just tended to go his way no matter what. But leadership skills were real and required no magic. He won friends and allies easily while foes feared but respected him.
His once jet black hair had begun to gray around the edges. Like most of those who descended from channelers, he had been sent to the city of Capitar to be tested to see if he could channel the magics in the shard that was rooted there. He learned he was no channeler. Instead of disappointment, he felt relief. He had no desire to sit on a throne but rather he sought to adventure across the world which he did for many years.
Only a channeler could legally inherit the throne of the kingdom. Even if it wasn’t legal, as a practical matter, only a channeler would have the magical might to command the respect of the many provinces that made up the Kingdom. Without that power, the kingdom would likely break up into petty city states again just as the lands of the Fallen had done so when the last Channeler of the fallen had been slain many years ago.
His daughter, Angenica, would turn 16 this very Summer and with that would come the testing where she would travel to Capitar to see if she could summon the elemental forces of the shard to her bidding. Lord Ambrose had mixed feelings on that test. If she succeeded, a heavy burden would fall to her in the future. If she failed, it would mean that the Sorcerer King would continue to have no viable heir and he was long past the time when one would have expected him to make way for another.
Lord Ambrose had not sensed anything out of the ordinary in recent times emanating from the east. He had begun to send his scouts further and further East to try to confirm the misgivings that the Sorcerer King had but to no avail. The Fallen seemed to have disappeared entirely from the world as far as his scouts could discern.
Looking through the tower window, Ambrose could see the country side. In the distance, he saw his daughter running and laughing back towards the village with her urchin friend. Those two had become close friends since the death of his wife. He knew why she liked him – he was the only one who seemed immune to her power, something he had promised to look into someday. Having a friend who you knew liked you because of who you really are was a feeling that his poor daughter would ultimately have little experience with.
Turning his glance to the north, he could see the riders that accompanied Tandis trotting towards the keep. Their horses looked weary from what appeared to be a journey made in haste. At that moment, a knock came at the tower door. Mirdoth would be there.
“Enter, Mirdoth,” Ambrose said calmly. Ambrose continued to watch the travelers make it to the keep wall and then turned to Mirdoth.
Mirdoth had been advisor to Ambrose’s father. The years had been quiet and that time had been gentle on Mirdoth. Now in his 90s, Mirdoth was coming to the end of his service to the house of Aereon. Despite his age, Mirdoth appeared far more youthful. Most men only lived to theirs 70s.
Long white robes covered Mirdoth’s thin frame. His eyes were long and his face lined from years of serious study combined. But his eyes still glowed with a sense of mirth that was notorious in his youth. His hair had had been black once but was now white as snow. In Mirdoth, Ambrose could see a shadow of things to come for him if he lived to be as old as Mirdoth.
“The Arnorian has arrived, My lord.” said Mirdoth.
“I see that, my friend. Have you sensed anything of the evil that our lord king has sent him to warn us about?”
“No, my lord. But when the king sends the Arnorian this far from the core of the kingdom, the need must be great. The need must be…imminent,” Mirdoth said at last.
Ambrose frowned. Tandis the Arnor or Arnorian as Mirdoth liked to call him, looked like a mortal man but it was known by some that he was no man. He had appeared as he is for as long as any living man could remember.
In Ambrose’s youth, when Mirdoth was his mentor in the realm of history, Mirdoth would read of the heroic deeds of Tandis the Arnor during the War of Magic. Some said he even had fought in the wars leading up to the cataclysm.
History had written that it was Tandis who made the difference in the battle of the Henge when the Fallen had recruited the Black Dragon to their cause and had laid waste to much of the combined armies of the Kingdom. Tandis alone fought the dragon and smote it with his mighty sword.
A herald came to the door to announce Tandis’s arrival. Ambrose beckoned him to show the Arnorian in and Mirdoth and Ambrose sat on two of the 4 chairs that surrounded a large wooden table. A servant came in ahead of Tandis and placed glasses of ale for refreshments.
Lord Tandis entered the tower. He looked unchanged from the last time Ambrose had seen him. He had brown and silver hair and his face had been lined over time with the cares of the world but was untouched by age. Unlike most men, Tandis had no facial hair. Mirdoth’s beard flowed far below his chin while Ambrose possessed a short black beard with touches of gray sprinkled through it.
“Welcome friend Tandis,” said Ambrose. “I so wish that your visit did not herald dark times. I would so much rather spend the evening having a great feast in celebration of your visit. My father told me of the great gatherings that his father and you had after the triumph in the War of Magic.”
Tandis smiled and the lines on Tandis’s face faded for a moment. One could tell that while Tandis had led a long life with many struggles, he was the kind of man who was no stranger to feelings of love and joy.
“It is good to see you, my lord,” Tandis said. His voice filled the room. Neither loud nor quiet, the voice of Tandis had a soothing quality to it that seemed to project itself exactly where it needed to be.
“I wish the circumstances were indeed not so dire. A terrible thing is rising in the east. War will soon be upon your door and it is a far greater war than any has seen since the War of Magic,” Tandis said gravely.
Ambrose was struck by a foreboding. For war to come now when he was in his declining years with no male heir to stand in his steed was wrenching.
Mirdoth, who knew that Tandis had no sense of the dramatic was shaken. “What could it be? Have the Titans returned?”
Tandis frowned, “No. The last of the titans has not been seen since the Empire of Sorcery. But there are worse things in this universe than the Titans. I fear that something of incredible power has been awakened and is manifesting itself to the east. It will not be long before it reaches towards your realm, my lord.”
“What could it want?” Ambrose asked.
“I cannot fathom the desires of a being of this kind. Mortal desires such as wealth and power are meaningless to sentience of this scale,” Tandis began. “I do have some suspicions, however.”
Mirdoth whispered, “The shards. It must want the shards.”
But Tandis shook his head, “At this point, anything is impossible. But I have no doubt that it will happily make use of them. It was with those shards that the titans created the Fallen in the first place along with the other ruined beings of this world.”
Ambrose sat in silence for a moment. “What is your counsel, Lord Tandis?”
“Many things. First, prepare your keep for battle.”
“Second, evacuate your civilians across the bridge.”
Mirdoth was aghast. “That will cause a mass panic. It would take months to organize an orderly removal across the bridge.”
Tandis paid him no heed and continued. “Third, pray that The Destiny have provided a potential counter to this doom.”
Ambrose chuckled ruefully, “I have long had little faith in unseen gods, my Lord Tandis. Especially since the death of my beloved wife.”
“The Destiny are not gods of the personal nature,” Tandis replied. “The universe is a very big place and no one knows what the powers beyond this world have in store. But the events unfolding at this moment are on a scale that I hope that they choose to influence in what ways they can.”
The three sat in silence.
# # #
In his dream, Tandis was always back at home in the distant past. He and his friend Tylan were racing over the water. Once they realized that if they ran fast enough that even the water could not block them the world was theirs to know.
On occasion, Tandis would look behind him and see the great wake he and Tylan were leaving. Ahead, a new land, a new continent stood ready to be explored.
He was in the Springtime of his life. His powers growing each day and there was no limit to what they might accomplish.
“I’m so glad you’re back, Tandis!” Tylan exclaimed. Tylan had been his friend since the beginning.
“I wasn’t gone!” Tandis laughed. “I watched the formation of those mountains! It was breathtaking!”
Tandis and Tylan were very different. While both immortal, they both felt time very differently. Tandis had no sense of it. He could watch two continents slowly collide over eons. Tylan, like others of his kind, sensed each day, each month, and each year as specific units that they felt and measured.
“You are so strange, Tandis,” Tylan said. “You and the fledglings, you would watch the stars form and end if you could.”
“Oh yes!” Tandis said happily.
“Did you know some of the fledglings are able to make...um, more of themselves,” Tylan asked.
“I heard something of it. I don’t have much time for them, their light is so dim and their curiosity so limited. I’m far more interested in what King Metronir and Lord Avalan are working on,” Tandis replied.
“Yes, they believe we will be able to travel between worlds! I cannot wait! Speaking of which, I am due back at the council!” Tylan said.
Without another word, Tylan disappeared over the horizon.
Tandis smiled as his friend left. The shores of his world were beautiful beyond description. He looked into the water and his vision changed.
He saw Tylan slain by Lord Avalan to save Tandis’s life. Flames were ungulfing the lands. Tandis fell to his knees in grief as time stood still for a moment.
Suddenly, a ghostly form of Tylan stood in front of him.
“The Fallen are not the source of your concern. It is not about conquest. He seeks the silver orb!” Tylan said.
Tandis blinked, “Who?”
“The nemesis. You must avoid him at all costs. Instead, recover the silver orb, bring it to safety,” the ghost said.
“I don’t understand. You’re not Tylan, this is a dream!” Tandis said and tried to rouse himself.
“We will help you. The undoing of the nemesis lies in a boy, find him, set him on the path,” the ghost said.
Tandis found himself awake in bed again.
“The Destiny!” Tandis said aloud. He was alone. It was night. He was in a room in the inner mansion of the Keep of Outpost residing in the Eastern Henge.
With his thoughts collected, Tandis set his mind to understanding his vision.
# # #
Next up: Calis
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