No Delusions of Grandeur

Polish SkullsSkulls. Sand. Shadows.

Three of my favorite things.

As I near the release of this, and thus slam the door shut on a too-long writing project, I sit in a rotting leather chair, my feet propped on a destroyed-by-cats ottoman, and reflect on my existence. I should be happier, I think. I should shimmer like Twilight’s vampires and bounce like Barney the fucking dinosaur after a line of coke. Throw a party, I tell myself. Celebrate it. Relish it. Savor it.

Fuck it.

 I’m not in the mood.

It’s not that I don’t feel a sublime sense of satisfaction. Or oceans of relief. It’s just that tonight, with the wind battering my windows and my candle sputtering its final breaths, I feel a little bit pointless. Self-satisfaction, I tell myself, is for the narcissistic. Get your ass back to work, my brain commands. Right. Now. And I will. There won’t be a party. Or a fist pump. Or even a celebratory glass of wine.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Yes.

If I finish a book and only a few thousand people read it, does it matter?

Yes.

Maybe.

As I gloom in my writing cave, I’m reminded of a poem from the 70’s. The Deteriorata is a prose-form poem written to both mock and celebrate 1927’s Desiderata. It pretty well summates my feelings, my ‘F it’ mood, my devotion to sarcasm, cynicism, and indifference, and my awareness that a few quick breaths from now, the fleeting afterglow of publishing a million words will vanish into the air. As though it had never been.

Here it is:

Deteriorata 

You are a fluke of the universe. You have no right to be here
Deteriorata. Deteriorata

Go placidly amid the noise and waste
And remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof
Avoid quiet and passive persons, unless you are in need of sleep
Rotate your tires
Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself
And heed well their advice, even though they be turkeys
Know what to kiss, and when
Consider that two wrongs never make a right, but that three do
Wherever possible, put people on hold
Be comforted that in the face of all aridity and disillusionment
And despite the changing fortunes of time
There is always a big future in computer maintenance

You are a fluke of the universe
You have no right to be here
And whether you can hear it or not
The universe is laughing behind your back

Remember The Pueblo
Strive at all times to bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate
Know yourself
If you need help, call the FBI
Exercise caution in your daily affairs
Especially with those persons closest to you –
That lemon on your left, for instance
Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls
Would scarcely get your feet wet
Fall not in love therefore. It will stick to your face
Gracefully surrender the things of youth: birds, clean air, tuna, Taiwan
And let not the sands of time get in your lunch
Hire people with hooks
For a good time, call 606-4311. Ask for Ken
Take heart in the bedeepening gloom
That your dog is finally getting enough cheese
And reflect that whatever fortune may be your lot
It could only be worse in Milwaukee

You are a fluke of the universe
You have no right to be here
And whether you can hear it or not
The universe is laughing behind your back

Therefore, make peace with your god
Whatever you perceive him to be – hairy thunderer, or cosmic muffin
With all its hopes, dreams, promises, and urban renewal
The world continues to deteriorate
Give up

(Tony Hendra, National Lampoon Radio Dinner, 1972)

And so I’ll close up shop tonight, contented but not. I’ll eat some Ramen, knock back a Scorsese film, and plot new beginnings tomorrow. There’s no glory in finishing one book…nor six…nor likely a hundred. There’s no party long enough to satisfy me nor a woman cold and cruel enough to fascinate me.

It doesn’t matter.

I’m not giving up.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Devourer of Stars

Devourer of Stars Teaser Image

Last week, J Edward Neill shared a History of the Ur, where you had the opportunity to learn about the villain of his fantasy trilogy, Tyrants of the Dead.

They move from star to star, swallowing every planet in darkness, building black towers on every surface, and turning oceans to deathly broth. Once a planet is blanketed in shadow and every living thing smoked out, the Ur eject clouds of star-snuffing darkness from their towers. The darkness consumes the planet’s star, and the Ur move elsewhere.

I had the pleasure of painting one of these diabolical interstellar shadows last year for the cover of the final book in the trilogy. What you see above is only a fraction of the painting Devourer of Stars. You’ll have to wait just a bit longer to experience all of his beautiful darkness. In the meantime, here’s small playlist of some of the songs that inspired me along the way.

A Jumble of Bones

skelly 

Dear Santa,

I’ve been a lousy kid. I haven’t been particularly good this year. Or productive. Or nice. I’d apologize, but I wouldn’t really mean it.

Can I have a few presents anyway? Pretty please?

This week’s entry is a mixed bag (of bones.) I’m starting if off with my private Christmas list. Mind you, I’m not actually expecting Santa to bring me any of this stuff. But perhaps if I write it down, you’ll read it and commiserate that you’re probably not getting anything cool either:

My list:

XBox 360 Version of Dragon Age: Inquisition (Origins rocked. The first sequel sucked. I wouldn’t have time to play it anyway. But hell…)

Several free nights at the movies. So I can see Nightcrawler, Horrible Bosses 2, Gone Girl, St. Vincent, and yes…even Mockingjay.

A new pair of MMA gloves. Because my old pair is ruined…and even writers need to beat the bejeezus out of things now and then.

 

Moving right along…

I’ve decided to do a little experiment with one of my short stories.  As of today, my popular short Old Man of Tessera goes up on Smashwords with a ‘pay whatever you like’ option. That means if you want to pay $0.00, you can pay $0.00, and I’m fine with it. If you feel like a few thousand words is worth $1.63, boom! you can pay exactly $1.63. It’s a neat-o option. Frankly I don’t care if I sell five hundred copies at $0.01. At this point, it’s all about getting my words in your face.

oldmantesseracover1sm

Click me. Buy me. $0.01 or $100,000.00…it’s your call.

Speaking of books…

In the last week, the cover art for Nether Kingdom – final book in the Tyrants of the Dead series – arrived on my doorstep. Graven out of the shadows by resident artist Amanda Makepeace, it’s the penultimate piece for the conclusion of my dark fantasy trilogy. I’ve showed fragments of it here and there already, and while I’m not yet prepared for the big reveal, I will offer a new glimpse today. That, and the promise of this cover being pretty much everything my dark little heart desires.

Ur Hand

The Ur…clutching hearts and seizing dreams since humanity dared its first breath.

The Ur appear throughout the Tyrants’ series (as well as in numerous other creative iterations of mine.) In the upcoming Nether Kingdom, they’ll make a final move to rebuild their haunted civilization atop the ruin of mankind. Someday I’ll write a short explaining how I dreamed the Ur in the first place. In the meantime, I can hardly wait to finish NK and get it out for everyone to see. It’ll be at least five minutes of bliss before I sit right back down and begin working on their origin story – Darkness Between the Stars.

Thus, as hoped for, the Jumble of Bones comes to an end.

Catch you later,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Down the Dark Path

Softcover Edition of Dark Moon Daughter!!

The next few weeks promise to be new-release heaven. 

So let’s get it started with:

Book II in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy

Sequel to the darkest of all dark fantasy epics

As the enemies of mankind plant the seed for mankind’s end, Andelusia must decide:

Fight them…

…or join them.

Dark Moon Daughter – Alternate Art softcover edition now available (and on sale!) via Amazon:

Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle Cover

And in 2015, the trilogy reaches its terrifying conclusion with Nether Kingdom.

Read on.

J Edward Neill

The official Tyrants of the Dead glossary

Three Books

Six Nations

Dozens of Characters

One Civilization bent on Mankind’s destruction 

 

TheOrbOfSoulsSlider

 

Welcome to the official Tyrants of the Dead glossary. Herein you’ll find descriptions and blurbs for every major character, place, historical event, and artifact appearing in the Tyrants’ trilogy. This appendix is for all the folks who’ve read the books and for those who are thinking about it. Fear no spoilers! No major event taking place in any of the three books will be revealed.

Scroll down to begin!

 

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CHARACTERS:

Andelusia Anderae – A young woman from the tiny Grae village of Cairn, Ande (as she’s known to her friends) dreams of a life that is not hers. She is the title character in Dark Moon Daughter.

Archmyr Degiliac – Also known as the The Thillrian, The Pale One, and the Pale Knight.  The son of a hated Thillrian lord, Archmyr murders so many of his father’s rivals as to be branded a butcher and forever exiled. He comes to prominence after being captured by the Furyon Empire and recognized for his ruthlessness.

Arjobec – A captain in Furyon’s legion, the aging Arjobec serves as a guide and oftimes moral compass for his master, Dacin of Dageni.

Bruced (Bru-sed) – Fiercest warrior of Gryphon, but soft-hearted and loyal. Bruced’s hatred of the Grae province of Mooreye is legendary.

Dacin of Dageni – The youngest of the Furyon warlords…and the most powerful. Dacin was raised in the brutal Furyon province of Dageni, largest of the slaver colonies. He defeated the hated Davin Kal in the span of three years, and is swiftly recognized by the Furyon Emperor as the warlord most capable of destroying Graehelm.

Daedelar – A swarthy Thillrian captain-for-hire, Daedelar boasts of having once sailed to Cornerstone and back.

Dank – Also known as Dancmyrcephalis or the Little Man, Dank is an advisor to House Gryphon, a well-traveled sage, and (as some believe) a sorcerer dabbling in black magicks. His oaths to himself far outweigh any promises he makes to Graehelm or its lords.  

Emperor Chakran – Furyon’s suzerain. To seize the Furyon throne, Chakran allies with Malog, rumored stronghold of the world’s last (and most wicked) sorcerers. Chakran desires the rebirth of Tyberia, a legendary nation he believes is his birthright to rule.

Emun Gryphon – Lord of Gryphon, and most popular of Graehelm’s Councilors.

Garrett Croft – Friend of Rellen, and most feared soldier of Mormist. To earn redemption for crimes against Graehelm, Garrett makes an oath to Emun Gryphon to forever protect the Gryphon household.

Ghurk Ghurlain – A captive in Thillria’s dreaded Sallow province, Ghurk is the son of a powerful Thillrian lord.  

Grimwain – A swordsman and fallen knight. After being exiled from Romaldar for making threats against the Romaldarian king, Grimwain travels east to the Mohrlahn, seeking the aid of the Anderae.

Jacob Nure – Nephew to the ailing Grae king and renowned for his martial prowess, Jacob is closest in line to the throne.

Jix – A diminutive Thillrian man in the service of King Orumna. Jix is tasked with fulfilling many of Orum’s strange requests.

King Orumna – The most corpulent and ineffective king Thillria has ever known. King Orum prefers to eat his way to prosperity than do anything to advance his kingdom.

Lord Ahnwyn – Lord of the Graehelm stronghold of Gallen Hold. Leader of the famed Triaxe Knights. Warden of the south.

Lord Lothe – Lord of Graehelm’s Barrok province, and the general of Graehelm’s northern army.  

Lord Tycus – An ambitious Thillrian lord. Tycus is often fair, but just as often harsh.

Marid of Muthem – A young soldier in the employ of Duke Ghurlain, Marid is woefully in love with Andelusia.

Marlos Obas – A cranky captain of the Gryphon guard, Marlos is appointed by Rellen to lead a cadre of soldiers to Mormist.

Myklokain – Rumored to be a member of Grimwain’s family, Myklokain is long-dead, but not.

Nentham Thure – Lord of the hated Grae province of Mooreye. Tall and crow-beaked. Councilor Nentham is universally disliked by his peers and rumored to have designs on Graehelm’s throne.

Nephenia of Yrul – Daughter to a high Yrul lord, Nephenia is married off to a Romaldarian noble in the hopes of gaining Yrul’s complicity during the war to come.

Ona – A mysterious and stunningly beautiful young woman from far southern Thillria.

Rellen Gryphon – The only child of Emun and Sara Gryphon, and the youngest of the high captains in Graehelm’s military.

Revenen – The Lord of Malog. Eldest of the Archithropian line.

Saul of Elrain – After Saul’s family is displaced by raids from the north, Saul bargains with Elrain’s king. In return for the promise of his family’s safety, he accepts the grueling task of delivering an important letter to the lords of Graehelm.

Sara Gryphon – Emun Gryphon’s wife, and the wisdom behind many of his policies.

Ser Arjobec – A Furyon captain, guide, and among the most trusted of Dacin’s advisors.

Ser Endross – Hardiest (and luckiest) of Ahnwyn’s knights, Endross is perhaps the noblest soul in all of Graehelm.

The Ur – An ancient civilization from beyond, beneath, and between the spirit realm, the Ur desire vengeance against mankind for removing them from power.

The Uylen – A race of cursed humans living in a haunted Thillrian forest. In recent years, it’s rumored the Uylen have wandered far from home seeking fresh prey.

The Warlock – The son of a powerful Archithropian decendant, the Warlock’s plans for Thillria are far-reaching.

Thresher – A masked iron knight in the service of Romaldar, the terrifying Thresher accompanies Unctulu and relentlessly hunts Romaldar’s enemies.

Unctulu – A loathsome servant of Romaldarian lords, Unctulu is entrusted with the care of the Needle, an ancient Ur artifact.

Vom – A powerful pupil in Revenen’s care, Vom trails Emperor Chakran throughout the war to ensure the Emperor follows Malog’s plans.

Wkhzl – A weary old shopkeeper in the Triaxe fortress city of Kilnhome. The strange relics contained in his store are like no other in the world.

Wrail – A wicked man from the nation of Romaldar, Wrail claims to possess powers of the Archithropian line.

 

DepthsofUndergrave1md

 

PLACES:

Archaeus – Capital city of Romaldar. Filled with white marble towers and elegant stone dwellings. Archaeus is also home to the dreaded Wolfwolde.

Cairn – A small village in northwestern Graehelm. Andelusia’s home. Cairn is a peaceful place, but harbors more than a few dark secrets.

Dageni – A smoking, pitted, volcanic province of Furyon, Dageni is home to tens of thousands of slaves who toil to extract precious Dageni ore.

Darken – A stinking, swampy forest in southwestern Furyon. Darken was once the site of an Archithropian burial ground, and is avoided by all wise folk.

Denawir – Capital city of Thillria. Denawir’s gardens are legendary, but less so its king, Orumna.

Elrain – Far north of Graehelm, Elrain’s colonies surround a massive lake. Scholars postulate Elrian was the site of the earliest battles between Archithrope and Niviliath.

Furyon – Not quite the foul, reeking realm Graehelm’s lords predict, Furyon is a land of beauty and deep culture. Until, that is, Emperor Chakran remakes it to serve the war against Graehelm.

Graehelm – The largest of the modern nations, Graehelm is ruled by both a king and an oligarchy of councilors. The Grae lands are largely inhabited by the decendants of Niviliath, the losers of an ancient war against the Ur-worshipping Archithrope.

Grandwood – The vast forest in Graehelm’s heart. Home to the hugest trees in all the world. Grandwood itself is larger than most smaller nations can claim.

Gryphon – The home of Eumn, Sara, and Rellen Gryphon. The old-world city is placed strategically between the Graehelm capital and the troublesome Mooreye province.

Illyoc – The largest city in Furyon. During the Emperor’s rule, Illyoc is transformed from a peaceful trade hub into a stronghold of war, complete with vaulting black towers and cathedrals to house Furyon’s nobles.

Malog – The black citadel of Furyon. Home to the direct decendants of Archithrope. Not built by mankind.

Midnon – A black fortress hidden somewhere in Thillria, Midnon is the Warlock’s stronghold.

Mooreye City – With seven gates and mighty walls, Mooreye City, citadel of Nentham Thure, has long been a source of worry for the rest of Graehelm.

Morellellus – Furyon’s prime trade port, and the harbor for its armada of warships. Morellellus was once a simple trade port, but has been completely remade by Chakran into a fearsome city.

Mormist – The mountain and forest realm of eastern Graehelm. Mormist is the buffer land between Graehelm and the sea (and Furyon).

Romaldar – A realm of vineyards, rolling hills, and silver lakes. Romaldar’s people have always envied Graehelm, but have long lacked the power to make a meaningful challenge to their northern neighbor.

Sallow – In Thillria, no place is more feared than Sallow. Its twisted trees and slate-capped mounds have long sheltered the dark, dismal Undergrave.

Shivershore – Southernmost province of Thillria. Hard to reach, harder to endure. Lying next to the Selhaunt Sea, Shivershore lives up to its name.

The Cornerstone – An island created by the Ur. A twisted, magical place where nothing ages. The site of the bottomless pit built by the Ur to ensure the doom of mankind.

The Nether Chamber – A dungeon far below Romaldar’s capital city, Archaeus. Thought to be a breeding cavern for the spirits of the Ur.

The Undergrave – A network of caverns below Thillria. The caves run too deep to be man-made, and yet…

Thillria – Weakest of the world’s nations, Thillria’s sometimes brutal climate and lack of resources render it uninvolved in the affairs of more powerful lands.

Triaxe – Mountainous home of the sturdy Triaxe knights. Southernmost vassal of Graehelm. Triaxe is also home to Erewain, largest mountain in the known world, and the legendary site of mankind’s final battle against the Ur.

Verod – A crumbling castle in westernmost Mormist, Verod was once home to a huge Graehelm garrison, but no longer.

Yrul – A great valley surrounded by sharp, jagged peaks, Yrul is home to a proud, strong people who are hated by most civilized lands.

 

Grae Map Public View File

 

EVENTS OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE:

Archithropian War – The two thousand year-long war between rival nations, ended only after millions of deaths, countless cities turned to ash, and entire swaths of landscape brought low.

Destruction of Davin Kal – The precursor to Graehelm’s invasion. Emperor Chakran ordered the death of the Davin Kal as training for his protege, Dacin of Dageni. 

The Rebuilding of the Five – Legend tells that during the Archithropian war, the lords of the east, having failed to subdue Niviliath after a thousand years, chose to unearth and remake five artifacts of the Ur and use them to destroy their enemy. In truth, only one was remade. The others were simply found…and used

The End of Tyberia – Little is known about the supposed realm that once stretched from Elrain to Thillria. Scholars say it was a powerful kingdom fractured and divided by Graehelm lords of old. This claim alone is enough for Emperor Chakran to propel Furyon into war against the Grae.

 

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ARTIFACTS AND RELICS:

The Ur Blade – Though never called by its true name in the books, the Ur Blade was fashioned to be the destroyer of all other swords. When used in battle,  the Ur Blade can summon Ur fire and draw upon its wielder’s passion in such a way as to make them nearly invincible.

The Eye – Some believe The Eye was one of the five artifacts left behind by the Ur. This is untrue. The Eye was fashioned by men, and is merely inhabited by the Ur.

The Greyblade – Fashioned from a fallen meteorite by a master Romaldarian weaponsmith, the Greyblade is given to a powerful knight during his search for Grimwain.

The Moonblades – Grimwain’s twin swords. Pale as milk. Almost translucent. Utterly unbreakable.

The Needle – Several Needles have been found since the fall of the Ur, each with a different power. One in particular, the largest and most deadly, is unearthed by a Romaldarian knight in a graveyard under the moonlight.

The Orb – Rebuilt twice since the fall of the Ur, the Orb of Souls was the prime weapon of Archithrope and of Malog. The giant black sphere, lined with pale tines at its base, feeds upon death in order to enslave the living and ultimately ensure the Ur will be resurrected.

The Pages Black – A book of ten pages, each containing a different and increasingly more horrific power. The Ur despise the Pages, for the powers therein belong to them, and yet they adore whenever a mortal uses one of the spells.

The Tower – A common misconception is that Malog is also the Tower. Untrue. The Tower lies in Thillria, existing as a conduit for the Ur to influence mankind, among other things.

Wkhzl’s Dagger – A knife given freely away by the shopkeeper Wkhzl. It’s not meant to harm the living, but has a different purpose entirely.  

 

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Copyright 2014 – All rights reserved

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

 

Nether Kingdom – Prologue

What follows is a free excerpt from Nether Kingdom – Book III in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy.

The first two books are available here and here and here.

Nether Kingdom is by far my darkest work yet. In writing it, I plummeted into my mind’s lowest caverns, wandering paths I never knew existed.

The full version of Nether Kingdom will arrive in time for Christmas 2014, just in time to darken the holiday season.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Servants of the Sleeper 

A

An hour before dusk, they came to Mooreye.

    As the sunlight drew back from the crumbling towers and broken streets, the two stalked the grounds as though they were the city’s new masters, free to despoil the kingdom of the dead. They moved like smoke, soundless as spirits, drifting through alleys and hollowed homes. The shadows of a thousand burned-out buildings lay heavy on their backs, and save for the plaintive caws of the quarreling crows, all was quiet in their wake. Mooreye lay dead, a tomb for the fallen, a stark reminder of what the Furyons had done.

    Just before nightfall, the pair began their work. Their stage was Mooreye’s grand courtyard, in whose center a pale tower speared from the weeds, and whose sides were fenced with iron spikes taller than any man. The first of the graverobbers, a bulbous beast of a man named Unctulu, licked his lips and wormed into the loam, his fingers like hungry larvae searching for their next meal. Nearby, Thresher drove his rusted spade into the dirt, sloughing aside huge gobs of soil. Their work was rapid and inelegant, for none were near to question it. No one had been to Mooreye since the Furyons destroyed it, and none were likely to come after the robbers’ work was finished.

    No man, no matter his origin, could claim such hideousness as Unctulu. As he knelt in the twisted grass and speared his maggoty fingers into the earth, his sparsely-toothed grin split his face like a festering scar across a pale, misshapen melon. Worse was his cadaverous skin, quivering over his bones, flapping beneath his half-rotted raiment of leather and rags. His only possessions were his bag, stuffed with all manner of moldering food, and his belt lined with some twenty cork-sealed vials, clinking constantly as he dug. Unctulu was heedless of the sweat rolling from his hairless, malformed head, and unaware of the gurgling, toad-like sounds oozing from his throat. Had anyone asked him, he would have told them he relished his disgustingness, that it was ‘not ‘Tulu’s job to be pretty.’

    Compared to his companion, Thresher seemed a titan, moving ten times more dirt than Unctulu. He said nothing as he tore great shovelfuls of soil away, and he never tired. Thresher’s face lay hidden behind an eyeless, featureless iron mask, and his body beneath rusted, lobstered mail. How it was Thresher saw the world, and how he exhumed so swiftly, none would dare ask.

    “Ah, Thresh, this is too easy, yes?” Unctulu gurgled. “A month more and we’ll be back home, feasting like kings. Well, you might not feast, but I will.”

    If Thresher heard, he gave no sign. Wordless, he continued to dig. His armor groaned and shuddered, but he moved as though completely unencumbered, gouging out great chunks of black earth with each stroke.

    “Slow, slow.” Unctulu patted a mound of soil. “I can smell it, can’t you? The grave’ll be as shallow as the Sleeper said. Easy work, after so long to get here.”

    Five shovelfuls more and Thresher hoisted his spade over his shoulder, laying it to rest beside the steel greatsword on his back.

    “Good, good.” Unctulu lapped up a strand of escaping saliva. “Yes, yes, this is the spot. Pale bones, we’ve found. Right where Master said.”

    The evening sky dimmed to a deep, somber gray. Burbling, Unctulu rummaged through his bag and produced a spherical lamp. “Yes, Thresh. Much better.” He stoked the lamp until it glowed like a tiny moon. “My eyes…not like yours. Need a little light for digging.”

    In the lamp’s pallid light, Unctulu clawed a last few fistfuls of dirt away from the hole Thresher had dug. “Look, look.” He shivered with satisfaction.

    “This is the one.”

    Half-covered in rotted clothes and decomposed beyond recognition, the corpse beneath Unctulu’s fingers was laid out in awkward fashion. “Buried right where he died.” Unctulu’s smile broadened. He dug the dirt out from between each rib, each spinal disc, each brittle bone from collar to knee. Smacking his lips, he removed a vial from his belt and poured its contents along the length of a protruding hip. The foul liquid fumed and sizzled, melting the rest of the dirt away. “Now, now,” he cackled. “Looksey, looksey, Thresh. What have we here?”

    Greedily, he ran his fingers along a leather belt looped around the corpse’s hip. Two empty scabbards were affixed to the belt, one to each side. Unctulu tugged the belt and scabbards loose, afterward dousing each with a second phial of black liquor.

    “See, see…” He slid one finger across the faint symbols etched on the scabbards’ steel caps. “The Raven. The crossed swords.

    “The marks of the Pale Knight.”

    The scabbard and belt were no ordinary items. The courtyard was no ordinary plot of land. The dry, dead grass and all the streets of Mooreye had been the site of a great and bloody battle. “Every grave, every cairn.” Unctulu grinned hideously, “Grae or Fury, dead and gone. But not this one. Of all the corpses here, this one’s different. Thillrian, he is. The worst of them, right where he should be.”

    Unctulu rose. Beside Thresher, hulking and silent, the bloated man stood a full head and half shorter. “Now is the time, Thresh.” He looked up. “Give me the item.”

    Thresher reached for the plate covering his left shin, finding a narrow seam betwixt the joining of two greaves. With fingers locked in a coal-colored gauntlet, he withdrew the object hidden therein. The night trembled, the breeze stopped blowing, and the last of the day’s light faded away.

    The object was to blame.

    It was a gnarled, needlelike tine, thick as a man’s thumb at its widest and sharper than any dagger at its point. Long as a thighbone, it looked fashioned of polished obsidian, but in truth its make was unknowable. When Thresher held it high, it made the shadows move, stirring the darkness like stew inside a cauldron.

    Unctulu looked longingly at the tine, his throat welling like a toad’s. “It’s time, Thresh. Remember what we’re here to do. Now and only now, you’re to let me have it. If I don’t give it back, you’re to butcher me, but otherwise I’m to use it.

    “Just. This. Once.”

    Thresher released the tine. Unctulu grasped it from its thicker, duller end and waved it from side to side as if to carve a lesion in the night. When Thresher reached for his sword, Unctulu grimaced. “Oh, all right. Well and well. Good and good. I’ll play nice.”

    Thresher left his sword in its scabbard. Sniffing the air and swiping the saliva from his chin, Unctulu hunched over the exhumed cadaver. “If you’d eyes, Thresh, I’d tell you to close them. This’ll not be pretty.”

    Unceremoniously, he stabbed the tine into the soil, wounding the dirt next to the corpse’s ribs. The tine punctured soil and loose stone as though they were water, sinking down to half its length. Gurgling, Unctulu left it in place, sharp end pointed to the heart of the earth, the other aimed straight at the star-pricked sky.

    “A long way we marched,” he drooled. “And all for one man. How many nights have we blackened the road, Thresh? How many times did the Grae almost catch us? I’d sooner raise up the whole city than this one cruel carcass. But it’s as the Master wishes, and so we’ll do as we’re told.

    “We’ll bring him back.”

    The tine lay half-buried in the loam. Mist arose from the punctured earth, the grey vapors swallowing the open grave and slinking across the bones like a tongue. Unctulu’s lantern light played across the mist. It gleamed white at first, then blue, then lavender. Unctulu held his breath as the vapors thickened, the mist winding in ever tighter circles around each bone, adhering to the marrow like mortar.

    “Look, Thresh. It’s working.”

    A tremor rattled the courtyard. The grasses near the grave withered and turned to ash. Where once the cadaver’s brittle bones had lain bare to the night, fresh tendons reknit themselves, and muscles, raw and red, took shape. Layer upon layer, pale flesh stitched itself atop a template of veins and sinew. Organs pumped to life, and a new heart spasmed, thumping a black rhythm in a body eight years dead.

    Faster than Unctulu could swallow ten breaths, the body became whole. The deep shadows lessened, and the night’s natural sounds resumed. Unbroken, the tine expelled itself from the dirt and rolled to a stop at Unctulu’s feet.

    “Disgusting, wasn’t it? It’s different watching it happen to someone else.” Unctulu snatched up the tine. “Ah…well…I suppose you’ll want this back.”

    Thresher snared the black tine and slid it back into his greaves.

    The body stirred.

    The man in the grave seized a sharp breath and exhaled.

    “Look at him.” Unctulu gave a three-toothed grin. “Not jealous, are you Thresh? Seems eight years in the dirt leaves a man in better shape than eight hundred. Worry not. You’re still prettier.”

    Thresher tilted his head. Behind his iron mask, thoughts unknowable roiled.

    “You want to know?” Unctulu asked.

    Thresher remained still.

    “Of course you do,” said Unctulu. “This’ll be the last of the ones Master raises, leastways for now. No one wanted him during his first life, and no one but Master wants him now. Look at him, whiter than his bones, waking up from his nightmare. Well…if his dreams were rotten, he deserved it. More than any other, I’d say. More even than me.”

    Thresher tilted his head again.

    “That’s right, Thresh. Don’t you know who this is? This be Archmyr Degiliac, mass murderer, ruin of the Furies, butcher and raper and slaver. The Pale Knight, they called him.

    “And they’ll call him worse yet.”

***

Copyright 2014 – J Edward Neill – All rights reserved

 

Sketchbook for the end of the world

 Let’s face it. I’m likely the worst artist on Tessera. If you want beautiful, colorful, deep art, check here.

Otherwise…let’s dance.

A few months back, I shared a few sketches I drew ages ago during the inception of Down the Dark Path. Each sketch depicted a fragment of the story as I’d originally dreamed it. My pattern was: I dreamed it, I drew it, and years later, I wrote epic fantasy novels about it. It sounds simple. It wasn’t.

Recently, I dug up about forty additional sketches.  Most (read…all) I sketched during my early twenties. They’re simple, sometimes juvenile, and somewhat faded by years spent moldering in an ancient paper envelope.  Even so, to this day they reflect my early conceptual visions of the Tyrants of the Dead series. If I were a true artist, I’d spend my time painting reimagined masterpieces for each one.

But I’m not.

So you get sketches…

Gryphon Inn

 

We begin with a tower deep in Grandwood. It’s ten stories high, surrounded by oak trees, and hides a wizard’s laboratory in its walls. I named this tower Gryphon. About ten years after this sketch, I wandered back to it. I decided Gryphon needed to be an entire city, not one lonely tower in the woods. And so Gryphon, home of Rellen, was reborn.

 

 

 

 

Knight 1

This was my original concept sketch for Rellen Gryphon, one of the heroes of Down the Dark Path and Dark Moon Daughter. Rellen later lost his halberd, became younger and blonder, and sat atop a horse instead of a bizarre, long-snouted mutant mule, but his pose…reining up to watch the Furyon horde draw near…still belongs to him.

 

 

 

 

The Whisperers

 

Long ago, I only had the vaguest notion of what the bad guys in the Tyrants series looked like, but this is how they began. I’m not spoiling anything, because the modern-day Ur look very little like this trio. And yet, somehow…I still remember the night I dreamed them. White eyes… Pale as death… Whispering black thoughts into fragile minds…

Hmmm…

 

 

 

Ghoulish

Nothing fancy about this dude. Every other sketch I created in the beginning just happened to be of a ghost, a ghoul, or a skeletal horror. I suppose this guy could be the murderous spirit who shows up in the swamps of Furyon. You’ll just have to read it and decide for yourself.

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KiraniSexy Elf

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It’s no secret. Women are usually more pleasant to draw and dream of than zombies, ghosts, and stone towers. These two ladies were characters who lost their spots in Down the Dark Path during the great 200k-word ‘let’s make this novel more serious’ culling. Even so, I remember them, though these drawings do them no justice.

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Soul Orb Sketch J

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Now we’re getting somewhere. This is my first sketch of the Soul Orb. (The final version graces Down the Dark Path’s cover.) Notice the ghoulish faces at the Orb’s base and the demonic eyes gazing out of its center. This is among my favorite sketches.

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Night Wisdom

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My original concept for Dark Moon Daughter’s antagonist, the Warlock. He later lost the horns and the jewelry, but kept the hood. Because…you know…every diabolical wizard needs a sinister cloak to hide behind.

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What are YOU looking at

And lastly, a bit of adolescent fun. The original Andelusia was sassy, sneaky, and completely willing to use her beauty to snare men’s adoration. Here she seems to be saying, “What are you looking at?” And yes, she’d have used that knife. You probably had it coming.

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That’s pretty much all the sketches I have related to the big fantasy trilogy. Maybe someday, after I write my fiftieth novel and the ideas cease to flow, I’ll get some art lessons.

I could definitely use ’em.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path