Sword & Sorcery Epic Fiction
What is a priest without a god?
One young woman searches for the answer. And it will decide the fate of her people.
Chapter 1 (Sample)
First the rains came. For eighty-eight days and nights the rain pelted down so hard one could drown by looking up. The rivers crossed their banks, the flood waters rose covering the first four tiers of the city of Ullan. Only the wealthy and the palace itself were spared any destruction. The hovels of the poor, those on the first tier, were wiped out, erased by the hands of the gods.
After the rains stopped came eight hundred eighty-eight days of drought. The flood waters receded leaving the landscape open to the planet’s two relentless suns, Sol Major and Sol Minor.
Crops baked in the fields. The endless heat scorched everything. Fires broke out, animals died, and then people began dying. They died of thirst until the Well of Life was found deep within the caves.
Famine took hold, with its unyielding grip. People cried in the streets, begging for the gods to help. But no help appeared.
When the people could tolerate no more, with dry mouths and empty bellies, that's when the winds came. At first only a cool breeze to stave off the oppressive heat. Then the winds increased and continued growing in strength to a force so great they would render flesh from bone. Only in the early morning or late at night would the winds subside enough for people to go outdoors. Eight thousand days (24 years) and still the winds had not ceased.
A girl, Navia Qein was born into the wind-driven world. Her father gave the newborn the name because it meant Strong-Wind. From the moment of her birth the girl was
tough-- tough in spirit, determined and resolute. Navia grew up alone, without siblings. But her house and heart were full of love.
Despite the continual battering of the wind the people of Ullan held together and for Navia that was a blessing.
Navia found herself torn so many nights. When the suns set, the winds would ease a bit. Navia would often cry herself to sleep, praying to gods she did not know, that were either no longer there or no longer cared.
Navia cinched the worn rope around her waist, lowered her goggles and cast a firm grip on the shovel. She stood just outside the small window which was wired shut to keep the wind out of the home.
Her father slid the bolt slowly past its point; the window slammed open missing Navia's face by an inch. The heavy metal window crashed into the wall holding its iron hinges.
The young woman made a running dive out the window and into the maelstrom. A wind was so strong it pushed her back. Only the top half of her went through the window. She hung there like a top in the wind, helpless, until her father grabbed Navia's ankles and thrust her the rest of the way outside.
And so, it was this morning and every morning she remembered. As the only child of the house, it was Navia's responsibility to shovel the dirt and dust away from the front of the home. If she did not, the house would be covered in a few days.
It was always best to shovel during the early morning when the winds were the weakest. The intensity of the squall would increase as the suns got higher in the sky until it was no longer possible to go outside without being blown into the heavens.
The people lived in cellars and one-story structures, because nothing else withstood the wind. Nothing except for the old temple, a long-forgotten structure dedicated to unknown gods, erased from the memory of their people.
Navia would wander through the ruined temple on the way home from her work at the atoll. The atoll was an underground farm used to grow the food for the people of the city. Navia worked there with her father.
The atoll was the only thing keeping the people of Ullan alive. It was a massive underground structure dug out just after the rains dissipated. Originally the elders of the city hoped it would be a place the citizens could get out of the burning heat of the drought. Later Navia's father came up with the plan to turn it into a greenhouse to feed the city. Crops no longer grew above ground because the suns burned them, and the winds ripped any plant from its roots. The atoll was the only way to keep the city alive.
Navia helped her father keep the place running. She would care for the crops, fix broken panes, build raised beds, whatever her father needed.
"Father, I'm leaving now."
"All right Navia, I won't be much longer." Her father pressed the palm of his hand on his heart then bowed. Navia did the same. It was a ritual they performed for each other, meaning 'I love you.'
Navia forced open the atoll door and climbed up into the street. The wind tore at her clothes. Wrapped head to foot in white robes to prevent the heat from causing her sickness, goggles down, the girl walked forward toward the forgotten temple.
Light like most Ullans, Navia had to lean into the wind to stay upright.
It was only two hundred paces to the rear entrance of the temple but in the onslaught of the wind it would feel like fifty times that to the muscles in Navia's legs.
She pushed herself past her limit today, getting to the temple. The young girl fell to her knees just inside the stone archway.
Breathing hard, choking and coughing on the sand that leaked through her Iqa', the garment that wrapped Navia's head and face, acting like a mask against the continuous dust.
Navia lay on her back for a few moments staring up at the roofless temple, watching the wind roar past and with it, anything not tied down. She saw a door fly overhead half expecting someone to still be holding on.
Something must be done. The wind will kill us all. Erase us from existence, thought the girl. Navia glanced around at the pillars still standing, holding up a godless sky. Why did the gods leave or die or whatever happened to them?
Navia stood, thankful to be out of the cyclone. Wandering through the many posts and pillars, she would spin the Anichoskorlos, the ancient prayer wheels of the ruined temple. She did not understand what the prayer wheels said or the gods for which they were consecrated. She simply enjoyed their rhythm. They turned at her hand, some protesting more than others. All except one.
She had tried on countless occasions, but one wheel would not budge. Again, this day, like every day in the past, Navia placed her hand on the wheel, feeling the cool brass against her fingers. She took a deep breath then pushed. The wheel did not move. Navia locked both hands on the wheel and put everything she had into it. Nothing.
"That wheel won't move."
Navia startled at the voice, "I...!"
She turned to see an old man, far beyond his years, bones bent and twisted with some unknown malady, step out of the shadows. "I said that wheel will not move."
"I'm sorry. I thought I was alone." Navia made her way to the closest exit, "I apologize for disturbing you."
"Don't you want to know why it won't move?"
Navia halted at the door. She did not turn around to face the stranger, "I do."
The young girl thrust herself out into the wind and disappeared in the maelstrom.