I have had, on my deck for months, the edits to my book. Even after going over it hundreds of times on a computer screen, once on paper I caught a thousand mistakes. My advice is to always read it over in paper before you give it an ok. As a way to motivate myself to once again go over this tory word by word I thought I would share as I go. Just a little each day. So here we go.
Through the Barrier, part one of Princes and Priests
Slowly Shannon lifted his awareness. Something had stirred him from his cool dark trance back to the waking world. His energy settled into the form of his body, accepting the burdens, the tensions, and the pain that held him together. Something was wrong.
The runes he had long ago carved along every seam and edge, deep into the timbers, the entire length of the ship, were flickering to life. Glimmers of light flashed faintly along them. Something was very wrong indeed.
He rose from his chair with the grace that whispered of his ancient race. Slipping from the cabin, Shannon paused at the door before stepping out. He closed it softly behind him.
Beyond the walls of the unlit cabin, the world pressed against him like the brilliant sun and heat of a desert. He gave himself a moment to adjust to the energies.
To him the world was more light and energy than solid matter. He saw people as glowing matrixes of life and thought, emotion and heritage, all spun together into form. All things, sky and water, wood and stone, blood and bone, all were made of energy.
Even as wizards had to shift sight to see the world as he did, he had to shift his own to see as they did.
Instinctively he tightened his shielding against the heartbeats and glow of the souls on board.
The wizard crew of this ship needed to tighten their shields. They were leaking far more energy than they should. Many of them were simply too lax. He would speak to Elliott about it.
Far more noticeable, than the lazy wizard crew, like sun glare in the eyes, were the two priests on board. Their presence had been the reason he had gone into trance almost as soon as he was on board, even before they had left the harbor. One of them had actually come up to him and objected to his wardrobe. If only the dwarf had any idea why he wore what he did the world would shudder. Shannon blocked them out even more.
He scanned to the east. There was a darkness building out there that was about to tear across realms. Demons – a lot of them – were working together. Shannon needed to have a word with Elliott right now. Cutting across the deck he spotted the captain.
Dressed as flamboyantly as a drunken dwarf might be, Elliott was hard to miss. Between his looks and his clothes he looked like some hero from a Ramdellen romance novel. His brilliant yellow coat was long and studded with black diamonds, green opals, and griffin quills. He could have bought a small kingdom with that coat, if he had wished for such. Instead, he wore it day to day as most men would wear plain cotton. Where he had gotten such a thing Shannon didn’t know, or are, but it wasn’t the only such thing the pirate captain owned.
Captain Elliott’s daily wardrobe didn’t stop there. His ears, wrists, and waist held a king’s treasury worth of gems, gold and silver. The captain was a lot of things, but poor was not something he had ever suffered. Shannon had warned Elliott that such arrogant show of wealth might hurt him one day. Of all the advice Elliott had taken over the years, humility was not one.
A full-blooded Purtan, Elliott was one of the last members of Shannon’s family. The captain had no idea what that meant. No one did, and Shannon worked hard to keep it that way.
Elliott was on the quarter-deck talking to his first office with a scowl and a hint of annoyance. He was in a short temper. Likely he felt what was building to the east, but on such a subconscious level he had no idea why he was so agitated.
Elliott wore very powerful and complex shields that Shannon had put on him over a decade ago. Barely a hint of Elliott’s energy escaped those shields and what did escape made him look like a simple man with nothing more remarkable to him than his blue eyes and black hair. The shields were solidly protecting him from attack, but unfortunately blocked certain insights he might otherwise pick up on.
“Uncle,” Elliott said, stopping the conversation and turning to Shannon. He knew something was wrong. Once Shannon went into trance on a trip, he stayed there until they came to harbor. It was simply best for everyone if he did. His tolerance was far too short and his rules much too harsh for most men.
Shannon looked from the energy he could see building to the east and north. Mortal eyes would not see what he could. The power had not torn though realms yet, but when it did, it was going to be impressive.
“There is a dark wind to the east,” Shannon said simply. Elliott looked, but his eyes only saw blue sky. To all reason it seemed that the weather was perfect, but Elliott had learned to trust Shannon.
Not so long ago Elliott had been as difficult and arrogant as his father had not been. That had changed when Elliott had been attacked by the Elven priesthood and Shannon had been his only ally, appearing seemingly out of nowhere. Shannon had stood between a beaten Elliott and the elves who had killed his entire crew, stolen his wife, and were out to destroy his small son. In that moment, Elliott had seen a hint of the power in the man he knew as his uncle.
When Shannon had pulled Elliott’s son Dave from the hands of an elf bent on the destruction of the boy’s soul and had healed the wounds inflicted on the two of them, Elliott’s eyes had been opened. Elliott had seen the depth of the vast magics Shannon held, as well as his love and concern for the two of them. Everything had changed between them.
“Drop anchor or try to outrun it?” Elliott asked softly. “We will have to cut west a good ways to catch the current and wind to have a hope to out run a storm.”
If the storm was being created by elves or just about anything else for that matter, Shannon would have said to cut back toward the coast and drop anchor. He could hold out against almost any attack, but this was spinning with Gerome’s cursed energy.
“Outrun it, Elliott. There is no other option.”
Elliott didn’t ask for explanations or hesitate. He shouted out orders. Lifting his hand he activated the runes carved into the masts of the ship. They flushed with power, the ship lurched forward and the sails actually fell limp as the following wind was equaled by the ship’s momentum.
Over the captain’s door were carved magics that would blur and confuse all magic signatures on board. With a glance Shannon activated the glyphs. With priests on board it was better to be certain that they could not pin-point who was doing what. Much of what they might require would be outlawed and if Shannon had to use any magic of his own he would rather have it all confused and muffled from the senses of any passengers.
Elliott, as the ship’s captain, would have the legal right to protect his ship from the storm, but the rest of the crew, including Dave or Shannon, would not be exempt from prosecution for using magics. It was better to take precautions now.
Spells active, Shannon crossed the decks toward the forecastle. It would be better to be on a higher deck to watch the sky as things came at them.
Racing across the deck a small boy almost ran into his legs. Shannon had to catch the child to not step on him.
The moment Shannon lifted the small weight off the deck, he felt suddenly off-balance and almost as if he knew the soul inside the fragile body in his hands. It lasted only a flicker of a moment and the feeling passed. Trying to place how he might know the boy or some relation of his, Shannon set him back on his feet
Shannon had barely let go of the boy when his mother caught him back, a protective hand on her son’s chest, pulling him to her legs. She seemed a simple woman at a glance. Her clothes and her look implied that she was of low means, but her shields were impeccable. Not so much as a breath of emotion or the energy that came with it emanated from her.
Shannon had met master adept empaths unable to maintain such shielding. It was so impressive he had to stop and actually look at her. Whoever she was and for whatever reason she dressed so plainly, she was anything but common.
“Take no offence, Master Purtan,” a big Ezeeren laughed from the side rail where he lounged, smoking an ivory pipe. “The poor maid doth seem to have lost her power of speech at your face,” he roared with laughter and mock bowed to her in an obvious insult that the two seemed to already have been working on.
“Take the boy below,” Shannon said to her. The Ezeeren, he noticed, had a faint glow to his soul that seemed out of place with his manners and sported a wardrobe to rival Elliott’s, but Shannon ignored him otherwise. “A storm is coming.” He stepped past the woman and her child to get to the next deck level.
“Go to hell, Ivan,” he heard the woman mutter in Common Trade.
“Never seen a Purtan before?” Ivan teased her further, but Shannon’s focus was on the gathering storm and he paid no attention to the two and their conversation.
“David,” he said, spotting Elliott’s son hauling on ropes with the men. “Go help the captain.”
Dave looked about to object to having to leave his place with the men. The young man perceived the order as an insult, but the reality was that even at his young age, he already far surpassed his father in power. Once Elliott had been a very powerful wizard, but those days and that power had been lost in the Elven attack and Elliott simply needed his son’s help.
Watching Dave go, Shannon whispered out magics gathered over time and across realms. He added more shields to his nephew to hide any magic Dave might work in the hours to come.
Shannon had just reached the steps to the forecastle deck when the ship leaned and at speeds no normal ship could handle, they cut from the southern route they had been on toward the west. They needed to get a good 90 leagues further out to catch the Mid-current. There, ocean and wind would push them southward with a speed that when amplified by the magics would get them down to Et in under three days, if need be.
Shannon glanced up to the rigging and the magics within it with a sense of pride and hope as Dave’s energy added to the spells his father had activated. With hope came fear: should anyone else ever know the truth of who Dave was, not even Shannon could guarantee his safety.
Dave had no comprehension of the power he held and even less of the bloodline he alone, in all the world, kept alive and viable. If prayers had any hope of being answered, Shannon might have prayed to the angels to protect the young man, but Shannon’s prayers were only met with bitter silence now and the task of keeping Dave safe fell to Shannon alone. The angels had deserted Purt
Shannon looked west where even at this distance he could feel the Barrier Shield like the static prickle of lightning just before it strikes. Even in its old age, the Barrier was quite impressive. It was 10,000 years overdue to come down, but still was as solid as stone should a ship hit it. Nothing went in and nothing came out. At times, pirates had found the ruins of ships, timbers crushed to little more than sawdust, washing away from the Shield. Its weight was tangible enough it displaced water, and while you could see through it if the weather was right, passage was not an option.
He brought his attention back to more immediate concerns. In his mind, he expected the energy-glare on the section of deck he was headed for to be the dwarf. He had ignored both priests as best he could. Both were shielded with skill, so unless he actually looked, he wasn’t going to be certain of the second one’s rank, but it was most unlikely that there would be two priests of equal power on the same ship at the same time. The dwarf was a cleric and few in this age truly reached that level. However, it was not the dwarf whose energy he was feeling so strongly.
Shannon’s foot hit the deck a little hard and for a moment he felt a sick twist to his tension about the oncoming storm. There was more to it than just a random attack by Gerome. For a moment Shannon thought he had to be wrong. Oirion was just north of the Valreen border in Norwood. He should not be anywhere near Awens. If he had been anywhere near, Shannon should have felt it and the man had no reason to be on the Water, certainly not on this ship, of all ships.
Shannon might have been witnessed with a flicker of a startled look if anyone who knew him well enough had seen him at that moment. Shannon focused on the man across the deck to be certain.
Elliott caught up to him on the top step with a question on his lips.
“What is Oirion Hennen doing on your ship?” Shannon demanded.
Elliott gave him a baffled look, then followed his eyes to the man at the rail. The famous Hunter looked ill, haunted, and maybe a touch seasick.
“I had no idea who he was; just a man who wanted to get south to Krish. Is it a problem?”
Shannon wanted to point out that if it wasn’t a problem, he would not have mentioned it. It was bad enough that Oirion was so law-abiding, but he was also a Hunter, for God’s sake. Oirion would not tolerate anyone using forbidden magics, not even a ship’s captain.
Nothing good ever came out of it when Shannon ran into Oirion. Things just got far more complicated. Shannon might have sworn if he was any other man, but his expression was little more than a flicker of a scowl across his brow.
Shannon twisted more power into the runes that would hide the magics of the crew from the eyes of a priest, and more specifically from Oirion.
Inside the black glove Shannon wore, his golden scar began to bleed, forcing him to shift his focus from fighting Gerome to shielding against the two priests. That scar had once been sanctified rings, one for his priesthood and the other for his wedding vows; now both were an ever-burning reminder of his soul-bound partner’s betrayal.
Shannon had to keep the priests from sensing what he was and himself from going insane at the same time. It was not an easy task, but Shannon had been fighting with Gerome for 5,000 years. He now had shields and magics that sprang to life when triggered by his own blood or Gerome’s proximity. Magics laid into every fiber of his clothing spanned realms and offered instant relief.
The shields blocked Shannon off from his former partner, but also from the world. It damped awareness of magics about him but he was going to need the further protection. He felt his own cold power rise up to choke down the part of him that buzzed and twisted inside his mind and soul.
Shannon was about to turn back to the lower decks, but Oirion caught his eye and almost seemed to recognize Shannon. That glance was the most unsettling thing of the day, and today seemed to be one unsettling moment followed by another.
Oirion’s focus, however, went from Shannon to the east. Shannon turned to look just as a flash of lightning cracked across the sky, filling it with dark clouds that had not been there moments before. The demonic magics and pressure of the storm rushed out of the east at them with such force that they could see the wind across the water’s surface. It ripped the smooth waters into white caps and kicked up spray off their tops. Lighting began to flicker in the dark clouds that were rushing at them.
Shannon shifted his footing and reached out ever so gently, lest the priests feel any hint of his magics. He took hold of the crew, spinning their emotions into wards of protection against the evil in that wind, but also into strength. Shannon would be able to keep them on their feet for however long it took for them to outrun Gerome and his minions.
Elliott roared orders. Shannon held the rail, his mind on the magics he was working.
“That can’t be natural…” Oirion said, joining Shannon on the steps down to the main deck.
“Get below, Father!” Elliott ordered Oirion. “Things are about to get a little rough.”
Oirion nodded and moved to get off the open decks. Elliott joined Shannon just as the wind reached them. Shannon was aware of Oirion staggering at the force generated by the wind hitting the ship, but Shannon’s shields held. The Hunter had to feel the dark stain in the magic behind that storm and if he had not felt seasick before, he certainly would feel ill now.
Elliott swore and rushed to command his crew.
Shannon set his feet and turned his attention to the crew and the magics they would depend on. The ship shuddered and strained. Waves slammed up over the aft. The sea rolled upward and for a moment Shannon was looking directly down at nothing but a seeming chasm of dark magics and blowing water. The ship reached the top of the wave before rushing down the far side.
Magics flared in effort to hold the ship together. The power activated with enough force that the rails and masts lit up so that every sailor could see in the utter darkness that was suddenly upon them. Without such magic, the next crushing wave would have ripped them to splinters, crushing bone; casting every man into the depths and their souls into the hands of the demons behind the storm.
Shannon closed his eyes and set his feet as solid as the dragon that formed the prow of the ship. Another wave slammed up over the stern and he felt several sailors cast out their invisible magic ropes to try to hold on, but one of the ropes snapped and its owner was swept away. It was not a good start to what promised to be a very long trial.
Silence descended in Shannon’s mind. All his focus was on the magics he held in his hands. He could not falter with the energy of the souls now so afraid. If he slipped at all, the result could be devastating. It would affect far more than just those few souls upon this ship. He cooled his mind and slowed down all thought to think of nothing other than the energies he directed.
Time seemed to stop altogether and his discipline held in place. He spun fear and pain into strength and endurance without limits. When he let them go, he would be soul-weary, but they would all be alive and the Dragon’s Claw in one piece. It was now up to the crew to control the path of the ship.