This, then, is my experiment. It follows on from my blog of last week about new models of writing, about how the current model does nothing to support writers anyhow.
I have no idea where this story is going. It's certainly not going to happen quickly but in between other stuff I'm writing. But, every so often, I'm going to be popping up chapters of this book, The Last Seer (read into that what you will. At some point my sub-conscious might even explain it). They will be early drafts, so don't expect sparkling prose, and any comments about where things are going, what is or isn't working, will be more than welcome.
It's designed to be read by people new to the Abendau series, as well as those familiar with the original trilogy (although reading this first will give spoilers to the trilogy https://www.amazon.co.uk/Abendaus-Heir-Inheritance-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00VF6C1Q4, be warned).
Baelan stretched in the early-morning sun, heat already building around him. His hair, grown long as tradition demanded, was pulled back into a tight ponytail, making the skin on his face stretch. Some days he felt like an ancient placed on this planet, not a 25 year old unsure of his place, or their purpose in being. He closed his eyes and brought his hands onto his knees, striving for steady breathing, for acceptance.
The thoughts of others in the temple came and went. He tried to do as his teachers had suggested, to make the thoughts part of the rhythm of his life, but couldn’t. They confused him. He had to fight the urge to yell at them to be quiet and give him peace.
Instead, he continued breathing. He thought of the sun on the back of his arms, how it was warm. He caught the hint of spiced tea in the air and focused on it. Chabau blossom and wild honey, he thought. Traditional tastes of the temple, perched on llutha, a single rock high above the desert, overlooking the tribal plains. Acceptance, Baelan willed himself. Belief. Inner calm.
His eyes flew open. It would not work. It had never worked. Thoughts invaded him, this time his own. His mind buzzed, wanting to be busy, wanting to use what had built within it. He stared down at the desert. One of the nomadic tribes had moved closer since yesterday morning, their tents pitched perhaps half a mile away.
With one blink he could destroy their encampment. He could engulf it with sand or set it on fire. He could send the desert lizards into a frenzy against it. Wild excitement came to him, a dark wish to do so, but he fought it off.
He stood, moving right to the edge of the meditation platform. He stared down at the sands, far below.
He could not live like this any longer.
He turned his back to the desert and took hold of two wooden struts set into the rock. He let them take his weight, leaning back, feeling the drop behind him. Carefully, not allowing his thoughts to move to what would happen if he did let go, the resolution that offered, he felt downwards with his right foot until he found the first step set against the cliff face.
The wood was hot under his hands – by midday platform-time would be a trial every acolyte feared and yet faced when commanded in the service of Ankshara. The beloved mother had faced the desert heat, after all, had forged a way to survive: so, too, would her children.
With care, feet flinching from the hot wood, he climbed to the bottom. He placed his feet on the sand. It, too, was hot, sliding under his soles as if it was alive. He took time, to be sure of his thoughts.
If he took the next step, he would cut himself off from his family. His mother, with the tribes, half proud of him for his service, half fearful of losing him. She would be the hardest to turn from, and the easiest – for she, being of the tribes, would meet him in the afterworld. His father, infidel that he was, would never be met again. Baelan’s throat tightened. One part of him embraced never having to face the bitter sweetness that was his father’s relationship with him: the closeness that came from sharing so much of one another – his DNA matched his father’s to 97% - of knowing the same power. Only his father had ever understood – and it was he who’d managed to teach Baelan even the semblance of control he had.
Had his father entered his life earlier, would it have changed things? If Baelan had learned to work with the power and accept it? Had he been nurtured as Kerra, his half-sister had been, would he be as happy as her, a Space-Pirate, running illicit Deep-Space jobs for high-paying clients? Perhaps. He’d never know.
With the scant acceptance he had learned through two years in the monastery, he pushed the regrets to the side. The past could not be altered nor the future feared, but only met. The time to meet his had come.
He made his way to the great hall, ducking through two rock-stacks, glad of the respite from the beating sun. He reached the end, by the entrance to the Great Chamber, and bowed to the statue of Ankshara. The words of devotion came easily, learned since childhood, when he’d whispered them to a different icon in a different church. The memory was enough to chill and unsettle him and he spent moments, hand on Ankshara’s shoulder, seeking strength, before he could make his way to the Great Chamber. His grandmother’s reign was no more; he worshipped the true goddess now.
He crossed the hall, red dust swirling at his feet. His short-robe did not stir the sand into the frenzy of his formal garb, so the dust stayed around his ankles, caked to his skin. Walls loomed, following the line of the rock, reaching up to an ornately carved-out ceiling. Pictures of the first mother ship were picked out, of Ankshara herself, of the other survivors of the SpaceFall, stick thin and starving.
He bowed before a long, low platform. Two men and a woman stared down at him. Elders, their faces sand-lined.
“Have you decided?” asked Father Tabathna, the central figure. His voice was low, and mellow, kind when needed, demanding when not.
Baelan bowed his head. This decision should not have taken him weeks to make, let alone months. It had been shining in front of him, demanding his action, since he had arrived. Fear had held him back.
Not just fear. His lessons had taught him the need for inner truth, that a lie to oneself must always be challenged and met. The desire for power had held him back. His power was what made him special. The boy from the tribes born to a purpose. The boy who could turn his mind to magic. He breathed in and out, in and out, until he gave a sharp nod. “I have.”
“And your desire is?”
“My desire is that my power should be given to our lady Ankshara. That I should sacrifice the centre of myself for her.”
Silence stretched, but it was a purposeful one, not unpleasant. The Elders were pleased at his decision. Ankshara had been honoured. It was the right thing to do, to close the power off from himself and learn to live without it, in this new life, removed from his past. His father had done so – so, too, could he.
Why, then, did he fear it so much?