Hey everyone! Here’s a the prologue for my upcoming novel Child of Ashes: Volume 1 The False King
Somewhere in the Damned Lands…
I knew I was dead, but to truly feel nothing was a horror I never knew I was afraid of. The cold I had always hated somehow felt like nothing. Even the warming bright rays of the sun every morning and afternoon did little to bring any feeling. I felt no hunger, no exhaustion—cursed to feel only pain and emotions in a body that should have stayed dead. It takes the joy out of living, but am I really living right now? The real me died only to be reborn in a chaotic land of a never-ending war.
The Damned Lands were all but a fairytale when I was a child. A haunted land that is meant to scare both children and adults into obedience. A land of eternal battle where souls from the mainland would be resurrected and brainwashed to fight an endless war of chaos. When I awoke here after I had died, I was not sure what to think of it. The first thing I felt was an unnerving cold that revitalized my body. I just wish someone told me it would be the last thing I’d ever feel.
My hand can feel the brittle blades of grass as I drag it across the ground. There is color, but it’s dull, dry even. The trees are not so different. Alive, but the green in their leaves is gone—that is, if they still had leaves. Everything in this land truly is devastated, all to fuel a blind war that had lost its purpose hundreds of thousands of years ago. At this point, I can’t tell what’s more dead, the resurrected armies fighting each other endlessly or the lands where they waged their war for eternity. The only thing that ever felt alive, truly alive, are the gray skies that bless us with blue every now and then. But those days are too far apart in between.
A rustle in the bushes catches my attention. A woman, Reyna, walks over beside me, joining me on the grassy hill overlooking a large open field in the distance. There, two armies appear on opposite sides. It’s not long until they collide, crashing together as the sounds of metal and screams echo all around the field. Its horrifying to think that the two princes that rule these lands have been fighting this brutal and mindless war for countless centuries. When does it all end? Can it end?
A sigh escapes her. “Another battle?” Her voice is low, devoid of any energy. “How long do you think that one will last?”
I reach over, pulling a dagger from my belt. Without any hesitation, I perform the same check I do every day. I wrap my palm around its blade and glide it across quickly. The sharp sting of pain riddles my palm and I lay my eyes on a gash right in the middle of my hand. But as I feared, the pain quickly subsides, and the wound in my palm closes, leaving not as much as a single trace.
I let out a soft breath and put on a smile as I turn to her, refusing to show her my true feelings about this ‘life.’ “If we’re lucky, probably twenty years?”
She grins. “I say fifteen.”
“Do you want to make a bet on that?” I nudge her.
“With what money?” She chuckles. “Even if you did bring your past life’s money with you, something tells me you’d be the one in debt.”
I clutch my heart playfully, hurt by her words a bit. “You do remember that I was the king of Aithon back in my time, right?”
She grimaces as she holds back her laughter. “Oh, your poor country…”
I roll my eyes. “This new body of mine may be immortal, but your words still hurt most of the time, Reyna.” A large crash in the distance from the battle catches my attention. “How did you do it?”
Reyna’s smile fades as she turns to me. “Are you sure you want to know? You’ve only been here for a couple months. I want to spare you the thought of it, at least.”
“The two princes command mindless slaves of war. But me? I have my mind; my consciousness is completely of my own will. How?”
Reyna takes a second to respond. “I can hear the princes’ whispers,” she reveals. “I could feel them wrap their hands around souls that just want to be put to rest. When their eyes are set on one, there’s no freeing it. I figured, if I couldn’t save them… the best I could do was steal them from the princes. Bring them under me instead and free them from being a mindless warrior. So that’s what I did. Whenever I feel the princes’ battle for a soul, I throw my hand in it. When I can, I resurrect them, and I give them their own will.”
“A third side.” The words escape me. “How long have you been here… exactly?” The clashes in the distance seem to intensify as I let my words ring around us.
She shrugs. “Maybe over a thousand years?” She catches herself. “Conscious, at least.”
I hesitate a bit. “Are you…?”
“Tired?” she finishes for me, and nods. “Life is only precious because you know it can all end one day. But this… this curse to live forever, to never be able to die? It’s a fate worse than anything I can ever imagine.”
I pause as my eyes linger, nodding toward the battle right before us. “You’ve told me this curse can be lifted. It was one of the first things you said when I woke up. But is it even possible?”
She buries her face in her hands, as if having contemplated this millions of times. “It can…” Her voice is unsure. “My people can, I mean. It’s our destiny to do so.”
She unravels her rolled up right sleeve, revealing a long series of dark tattoos. Black markings almost chaotic in look as they spiral with no recognizable pattern and wrap all around her shoulder to the end of her forearm. She closes her fist and the tattoos glow. “A land of eternal fire, blessed with endless clashes…” she recites. “…only to be cleansed, by a child of ashes.”
I let her words float in the air. “The Prophecy of the Lands of Eternal Fire… you believe a child of ashes can truly save these lands?”
She pauses, the life draining from her tired eyes. “Save it… or doom it.”
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