Oh, life. How you insist on unfolding your way, instead of my way.
Yep. Control freak alert. Ye have been warned.
Anyway… Gone are my days of pumping out a book ASAP in hopes of making a buck. They sapped the a lot of joy out of writing. Now, I simply write because I’m a writer. I love exercising my imagination and sharing my work. So long as people enjoy my work and get something out of it, I’ll be happy. Very happy.
I present to you my latest project: Prism, a story that’s like Game of Thrones but for teenagers. It’ll be a series. How many books? I don’t yet know. Here is a draft of the first chapter (of which I have some concerns and appreciate all feedback and constructive critique):
Khyte stood before two giant doors wreathed in curare vines, admiring the sculptures chiseled deep into the darkened metal. The highest surfaces still shone bronze in the sunlight, yet the deepest cracks were black as night. Khyte’s parents insisted these doors led only into the oldest catacombs of royal families eras past, but he couldn’t help but wonder what else might be down there.
All the other catacomb doors had the royal crest carved into them: a pyramid floating in a river and a half circle of branches floating over the peak. The river and branches were symbolic, but the pyramid was a replica of Prism, a city contained inside a magical shield in the shape of a pyramid.
This brass door had Prism, too, but it lay superimposed over the sternum of a man in a loincloth, arms spread so people could see the tattoos in his palms, legs together with toes pointing down at a bed of curare vines carved into the doors. The man’s eyes were closed and his hair splayed out like it was caught in a head-on wind. What puzzled Khyte most was the man’s spirit animal, a bear, enveloping his entire body, as if man and spirit animal were one.
Everyone had a spirit animal in life, but they accompanied their human either alongside them or hidden within; not merged into one. Were there legends surrounding this? Of course. People who believed the legends? Yep. People who didn’t? Wouldn’t be a legend without any skeptics. Khyte wanted to believe, but skepticism withheld him from committing to the idea. The combination seemed possible but, if it were, the military would’ve used such power to their advantage long ago.
“Khyte!” a stern voice snapped.
He whipped around. Commander Skotos stood before him with dark eyes leering down his beaklike nose. How the nose guard never broke was beyond him.
Crap, he was staring again. “Morning, Commander,” he said to Skotos’s steel toe boots.
“Start running,” Skotos said in his gruff voice. “You’re already late.” He cuffed Khyte’s shoulder, a prince’s shoulder, without hesitation.
Ignoring the hit and swearing under his breath, Khyte adjusted the belt holding up his sword and broke into a jog, his personal bodyguard jangling behind him. He hadn’t realized so much time had passed. He seemed to have a knack for that.
A gloved hand swatted the back of his head.
“I heard that. You need to grow up, Khyte. You’re fourteen already.”
Oh, fun. Nagging. Khyte understood Skotos had his best interests in mind, but Khyte didn’t understand why he wasn’t allowed to swear when Skotos and all the other showers used colorful language now and then. “I apologize, Commander.”
“I’ll pretend you mean that.”
They jogged along broad stone streets lined with carved stone homes. Aristocratic civilians shuffled out of the way as Khyte and Skotos passed, most casting wide-eyed looks their way, along with a few glares that widened into shock once they recognized their prince. Khyte always had to wear a tabard embroidered with Prism cupped inside a pair of hands, the royal crest.
Being royalty had its pros and cons. As much as Khyte hated being babysat by one guard or another, he wouldn’t trade his status for anything. He had princely plans to lead soldiers to glory on the battlefield one day. One thing that his parents and tutors had drilled into him was that peace was never permanent, hence Prism being safely tucked away inside a magical shield.
“You know,” Skotos said, “if you’re going to stop by those doors every day, you should pick a better time to do that.”
His reply should’ve been, “Yes, Commander” but instead he said, “Do you know what’s behind those doors?” He’d never asked before because he thought he would’ve figured it out by now.
“Dead royalty tucked in crypts. Everyone knows that.”
“I know but–” They turned and headed down stone steps stretching over one of the thousands of canals flowing through Prism. Despite the tier structure, part of how the city stayed so bright were all the watery surfaces sunlight reflected off of. Prism was built in twenty one tiers of rigid grids with several square miles of emptiness in the middle, not even flora; just a lagoon at the bottom. Khyte and Skotos reached the bottom of the stairs and continued straight. “But why are those doors different?”
“It was the first crypt ever built. How do you not know that?”
Khyte’s first tutor, Bohren had been a dry old bat who droned on in a voice that put the young price to sleep. Bohren died of old age a year ago and was replaced by a far superior tutor whom Khyte couldn’t stop paying attention to. He popped a guilty grin and flinched at another swat to his head. It was hard enough to feel it, but not enough to hurt. “You’re striking a prince, you know,” he said plainly.
“A prince who doesn’t know how to get to morning drills on time, or pay attention to his tutor.”
“They hired Dame Zwaan!”
Skotos’s pace faltered. “That’s the…” he traced an hourglass shape in the air with gloved hands.
“Yeah,” Khyte said, picturing Dame Zwaan in one of her many low cut dresses.
“Ah,” the Commander said with a knowing smile and sped back up into a fast jog. Despite being weighed down with a full set of black and silver armor, a sword, and a mana pistol, he was mildly winded. “I see what the problem is.”
Khyte snapped back to the present and hurried to catch up. “Problem?”
“I’ll talk to your mother, her grace, about getting you a different tutor.”
“No!” Khyte seized Skotos’s arm, yanking them both to a halt. People looked in their direction. He let go but didn’t move. “Please don’t.”
Skotos faced him, panting lightly. Drawing a deep breath, he put a hand on Khyte’s shoulder. “Boy, I was your age once. You’ll get more out of your lessons with less voluptuous distractions.”
“What’s voluptuous mean?”
Skotos cupped his hands in front of his breastplate shimmering with magical wards.
Khyte couldn’t help but picture Dame Zwaan’s lovely breasts, breasts that looked so soft and–
The Commander said, “If you’re to be a quality War King one day, you need more than combat and leadership skills. I’ll talk to your mother about getting you a less distracting tutor.”
“Please don’t, Commander.” Khyte wore his best pleading gaze, one that worked only on his mother now that he wasn’t a child anymore. “Please. If you were my age once–I mean when–”
“You have to know how cruel that’d be to send someone like Dame Zwaan out of my life.”
Skotos closed his eyes and slowly let out a breath through his beak nose. “Fine.”
“Thank you!” A balloon of hope rose in his chest.
Skotos held up a finger. “On one condition.”
He didn’t like the sound of this.
“I’ll be testing your knowledge of history. If I find you lacking, you can say goodbye to your favorite tutor.”
“But… no…” Khyte sputtered more nonsense as he tried to find the right words to defend his stance.
“But yes. Those who fail to learn from history–”
“Are doomed to repeat it. I know, I know.”
“Oh good, you know something,” Skotos said mildly. “Let’s get going. You are terribly late.” He hopped back into a jog.
Khyte reluctantly jogged alongside the Commander, dreading the punishment he and the rest of his unit would suffer for his tardiness.
Whatever. He didn’t want to think about that just yet. Dame Zwaan’s future was on the line. “You wouldn’t really tell my parents to get a new tutor, would you?”
“Yes, I would, Your Highness.”
Your Highness. Skotos never addressed Khyte like that, unless he was dead serious. He’d learned that in his early years the hard way.
“You’re the eldest child, heir to the throne, and proving to be excellent on the battlefield—once you show up. Prism cannot afford a distracted Prince.”
“This is blackmail!” They headed down one final flight of stairs and took a right.
“I know. Deal with it.”
Khyte sorely wished to keep Dame Zwaan around but he had no clue how to pay attention to more than her breasts when she displayed them so openly. He had to get Skotos to back down. “It’ll be your word against mine.” The word of a prince against the word of a crotchety Commander. His parents would readily side with their son. Khyte hurried into a square tunnel that led to the training arena.
“I’d bring Dame Zwaan with me so you’d be in the same room as her.”
Bosom aside, Khyte always felt butterflies in his stomach around her, even though she had to be twice his age. There’d only be a small chance he could hold his composure.
“And then we’ll see how well your word holds up against mine.”