I know a lot of time has passed since I posted content related to the The Cradle of Destiny. The main reason is I must remain cognizant of word count; the contract with my publisher stipulates I can post up to 5000 words in the form of excerpts. What you will read below puts me in the 3500-word range.
Initially, chapter content comes to me visually, which is probably how it works for most creative writers. Considering I am not in their heads, indicating probably keeps everything honest. Once I have the visuals locked down, I am able to sit down and put it to words, remaining mindful of word variety and proper proof reading once finished.
I like to treat chapters similar to how one would view episodes of their favorite series, especially when crafting an ending. If the content is flowing properly and warrants an ending leaving readers wanting to venture further in to the story, I will certainly provide it. Some chapters are merely informational, which is a good thing if they are dispersed throughout a story evenly enough to avoid sensory overload or boredom. The use of chapter titles and quotes are seldom used; fortunately. I have received positive feedback thus far in my use of them.
The excerpt below is one of two breaks, three scenes total of a chapter introducing Bayne Thaddeus, whose character portrait was posted on November 9, 2017. When I first started writing The Cradle of Destiny, I could not wait to write this particular content; I hope my restraint is reflected in the words below.
Whispers of Death
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” – Mark Twain
The rise of a new dawn spoke to him; profoundly now and when he had first arrived 200 years ago. Light from Lystrom’s distant sun danced across coastal waters creating an elemental choir of color honed by a masterful conductor. A sea breeze walked lazily atop silken sand, ushering granules into water filled cracks and concealing signs of the prior night’s nocturnal inhabitants.
Glare from the ascending sun impeded his methodical scan of the never-ending coastline. Raising his right hand, he formed a shield to allow for a continued search, hoping to help explain how what stood before him came to be. Eyes moved lithely upward from left to right, the skyline filling up more of his primary view. A reflection in the distance caught his attention, a mere pinprick but enough to create a smile.
You should have stuck around my friend. The image he spoke to was clearly a shuttle based on its size and rate of ascent but who it belonged to was another matter.
We shall find out soon enough.
Bayne Thaddeus, an imposing figure at 2.04 meters, sat cross-legged atop one of the higher dunes forming the shoreline. His physique optimized muscle thickness in relation to balanced proportions. Large hands, rough and seasoned from years of physical training and practical combat experience, rested comfortably on his knees. A well rounded, square jawed face sat upon broad shoulders and a wide back. Shoulder length silver and grey hair thrashed wildly in the morning breeze, occasionally brushing against his chin. Originally a lighter green, his eye color had deepened over the years; a byproduct often experienced amongst his race. Two noticeable scars; one bisecting his left eye and the other scrawled across the full length of his forehead provided glimpses into a past wrought with struggle.
Bayne looked at the black, pulsating mass roughly six meters below him. They were standing four abreast and five deep, approximately 20 in total, hate filled yellow eyes staring up at him. Their leathery skin glistened, jaws gnashed, and spindly hands clenched. It was a sight most would find disheartening, especially if they knew what was good for them; he found it liberating.
These must be the Kel’ran, Lourous told me about so many moons ago. Hmm…one appears to have scampered off.
Bayne corrected his prior assessment of their numbers and began to cycle through a variety of tactical scenarios. Experience taught him to never allow doubt or subtle misdirection an opportunity to shroud the mind. Up to now his only experience with these beings had been a verbal discourse with his prior pupil, where anatomy and physiology were the contextual elements.
He paused to quickly recall the event in his mind, still finding it rather odd Lourous would have traveled such a great distance to drop off the dissected body. An encrypted message sent through his secure channel would have been much more efficient. It had been the second and last time Lourous would visit the old warrior – a regrettable but necessary arrangement.
Bayne stood to greet them; satisfied he was properly focused and prepared for what very rightly could be his final battle. He welcomed the warm embrace of sand between his toes while he brushed it off his backside. His earth toned tunic and leggings comprised of fibers from the ingenious plant life hung loosely against his body, providing greater flexibility for stylized movements.
“Who you seek is no longer here.” Bayne announced his tone deep and smooth. “I would prefer you vacate this planet in a peaceful manner. I have no desire to shed blood today.”
Bayne eyed the mass of beings inquisitively, while they looked at each other not quite sure what to make of him. After a few terse mumblings and forceful shoves, one of them stepped forward.
“The abomination,” it growled. “Where is it?”
Bayne cocked an eyebrow. “An interesting descriptor. You are a day late, I’m afraid.”
“You lie!” The being’s eyes grew wider. “I detect two Sy’Arrian scents; the abomination’s is quite potent.”
Bayne found the budding dialogue intriguing. Maintaining the being’s focus not only provided more insight into their intellectual capacity but an opportunity to continue searching for the one who had stepped outside their ranks.
“Smell?” He probed. “Some odors last longer than others. A residual effect, I suspect.”
“It is the Source I smell! It permeates everything; a stink coursing through your kinds veins.” The being sniffed, swaying to the left and right, an indication to Bayne the situation was about to get ugly.
Interesting. Lourous alluded to the possibility they could somehow sense us. This ‘source’ could it be…
“Akasha.” Bayne stated flatly noticing the being’s eyes grow wider once again.
“Yes!” It hissed. “The abomination’s taint is especially pungent. He must be hiding nearby.”
“I can assure you,” Bayne paused noticing subtle movement at his right periphery. "That is not the case.”
Before a retort came, Bayne reacted to the threat encroaching on his position. Akasha flowed effortlessly, burning through his being to reach out and reshape the elements. Sand erupted underneath the creature attempting to slither towards him forcing it to reel upwards. Bayne extracted nearby ocean water to mix and bind the granules, quickly crafting an earthen spear.
“Tisk, tisk,” he waved a forefinger at it sternly. “I do not appreciate being stalked.”
Bayne perforated the being’s chest, delivering a critical blow with a forceful thrust. It exited the creatures back, a dark purplish fluid spewing from its mouth to coat the sand beneath it. He savagely ripped the weapon from the creature’s chest, sounds of crunching bone and tearing flesh echoing in the wind. The seasoned warrior quickly elevated its broken body and tossed it callously at the larger group. They fanned outward, a dull thud and shower of sand signifying its final resting place.
The group looked at their deceased comrade, its remaining life force spilling outward to create blood cakes in the sand. In unison they looked skyward, necks stretching to produce an earsplitting yowl. Bayne winched slightly noting it to be a combination of both a howl and high-pitched screech. It lasted mere seconds; their focus now back on him.
A cry of unity. I have not seen such an act for several hundred years. They are not who they appear.
“And here I thought we were establishing rapport,” Bayne kept his tone purposefully flat. “You were receptive to courtesy, but resorted so soon to this underhanded attempt to remove me from the equation. No, no, no; this will not do.”
“The time for talk is over! Now we fight!” Their hands opened wide, claws springing from fingertips.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Bayne remarked calmly, leveling a scowl in their direction. He bolted upward, allowing the wind’s natural course to carry him effortlessly. He folded into a ball, slowly stretching outward upon reaching the zenith of his ascent. Ocean air filled his nostrils, salty and fresh serving to rejuvenate his senses; he hastened his descent.
The ground cracked and groaned when he landed behind them, the vastness of the sea acting as his backdrop; sand and water sprayed outward. The two substances quickly crawled up his body, churning between liquid and solid states. Bayne felt them work with his own chemistry, molecules binding with one another to eventually form a breathable, clear and hardened exoskeleton. It was smooth and flexible.
Fully aware the entire action had taken less than two minutes, Bayne knew his foes could sense Akasha, so logic would dictate they would be aware of surges in its use. If he intended to remain sufficiently ahead of their counterattacks, both timing and a degree of fearlessness must be utilized. Before finishing the thought, they were upon him.
Bayne tucked outer extremities closer to his body, avoiding the outright severing of an arm or leg. Darkness enveloped him, the sheer mass of their bodies dousing all light and straining his muscles. A flurry of claws slashed, glancing off his protective shell; a carapace he knew would not last long if he did not act swiftly.
I need to rid myself of a few passengers.
Crystalline spikes sprang from the protective shell, skewering three of the beings instantly; gurgling of blood filled lungs signaling to him the desired effect had been achieved. While the bodies slumped to the ground, Bayne noticed how quickly the remaining group spread out to form a perimeter not wanting to suffer the same fate.
He stood to full height just in time to face two of them already too close for a truly effective countermeasure. A cestus forming a solid anvil shaped armament completely enclosed his left hand. Bayne lowered the weapon slightly before bringing it full force to backhand the being square in the face, crushing it instantly. The resulting force sent its limp body cartwheeling several meters towards the warm embrace of the sea.
In one fluid motion, Bayne spun toward his right side to address the second threat; the being’s clawed hand missed the flesh of his left check by centimeters, removing a sizeable chunk of the old warrior’s hair instead. He swiftly snapped the beings lower leg at the knee with his foot, forcing it to howl in pain. Bayne brought the cestus upward to smash the being’s face before delivering a finishing blow to the back of its head. The force of the downward impact buried it head first up to its shoulder blades in the sand; the body quivered a few seconds before expiring.
Sensing doubt in his opponents, Bayne opted for a more offensive approach to help thin their numbers further; it was a calculated risk, one he knew from experience would drain his energy and could rightly end with his demise if it were not executed perfectly.
Heels planted firmly in the moist earth, he divided his attention between the ocean before him and the air carrying its briny aroma inland. Akasha augmented every muscle fiber and nerve ending in his body allowing the Sy’Arrian to utilize each element in its raw form.
Sand to his left began to move due to a slow and steadily increasing wind, a smattering of granulated clumps beginning to splatter against the beings faces; attempts by them to block it ended in futility. The wind swiftly transitioned from eye watering gusts to a small, isolated sand storm forcing granules into every orifice. Elongated fingers clutched their throats, grit filling lungs and caking eyelids. Bayne narrowed his focus even further, sending funnels of sand directly into their mouths.
While the creatures to his left began to slowly suffocate, an oceanic wave six meters in height and width rushed at him. A force all its own, it veered off before crashing into him, swooping toward the threat to his right. The creatures attempted to leap to safety but were hit full frontal, the sheer force nearly crushing their skeletal structure. The wave split itself into sections, forming individual tendrils that coiled around their victims. Each tendril acted independently, swinging their prey wildly in the air before violently slamming them into the ground three times in rapid succession. Twisted and broken, four of the creature’s limp bodies were cast several kilometers out to sea.
Bayne released his grip on Akasha, its empowering effects trickling away, while the forces around him returned to their former state. As expected, he felt weary but considered the maneuver successful. A canvass of the immediate surroundings supported his assessment; the four lying dead to his left, partially buried under a blanket of sand plus the four thrown out to sea came to eight. In total, 17 of the original 20 were neutralized, including the one subdued prior to this fight. Strength waning, he turned to face the remaining four.
“Your power has left you, old man.” The largest of the four uttered in a throaty voice.
Bayne’s protective shield melted away, the breeze immediately cooling exposed skin. He stepped back towards the shoreline, stopping in a spot where his feet remained submerged up to the ankles. Those who remained moved in slow controlled movements, closing the gap between themselves and their quarry. They fanned out; to cover his front, right and left sides.
“Well then,” he articulated calmly, motioning them to come closer. “Do not keep an old man waiting.”
I welcome your feedback. Feel free to post your questions, comments or concerns. I will respond, if need be, when I able.