“Soultainted” Update and Excerpt

Mornin’, y’all!

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As per my usual arrangement, I had a plan for this week’s blog, but it’s gone a bit awry. I ended up with some unexpected things in my schedule last week, which threw off my schedule for this week, and then I got some more things added to this week, so… basically I need to get on top of it all. Instead of trying to rush my idea for another post about storytelling, I’m going to take some time to actually research a little more and think it through better.

In the meantime, I thought you all might enjoy this excerpt from Soultainted. This is the entire prologue, a portion of which appears at the end of Unquickened. As you are all (hopefully) aware by now, Hector is Logan’s previous identity, and he’s present here in all his morally complicated glory. The physical descriptions may seem unfamiliar to you, but keep in mind that these creatures have switched bodies and names for quite some time.

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I also wanted to share a brief update on the status of this book. I’ve been deconstructing my previous draft, reassembling it slowly in Scrivener, editing previous chapters, filling in gaps, and making notes about scenes I still need to write. It’s slowly coming together, so I did a compilation last week, just to get an idea of how much more I need to write/rewrite. Right now, it stands at about 100k words, which is about two-thirds the length of the other books. This means that 1) I have a pretty big gap to fill in, and 2) it may end up being longer than the other books.

I’m okay with that.

This book is going to be somewhat ambitious, and it will take what it takes.

I’ll have more to say about that later, but for now, please enjoy this excerpt from Logan/Hector’s perspective.


Two thousand years ago—

Carnage. Hector inhaled deeply, breathing in the battle, the aroma of death, from where he sat on a pile of rubble. One hand held a bloodied sword; the other hand tingled with the magic that pulsed in his body. He lifted his empty hand to his face. Not empty. Full. These people will know who I am, what I am, the power inside this body. These people will understand who their masters truly are.

The others roamed the battlefield, seeking out the dying. He watched Emrys examine a corpse, kick it to one side, and move on to a body that twitched with final movements. Emrys crouched next to the dying man and put his hand on the man’s neck. The man’s final screams were silent as Emrys drew his soul into himself, a look of rapturous delight on his face.

Aldora stepped over bodies at Hector’s feet to stand at his side. Her skin almost glowed with the souls she had consumed that day and all the days prior. “They retreat,” she said, her voice strained with the effort of holding back power. “We have won.” She slid herself between his legs and leaned down, blonde hair tumbling over her shoulders to hide his face in a curtain. She took his face in her hands. “We will set up our kingdom here, in this place, and rule these pitiful people for eternity.”

Hector stood, pushing her gently to one side. “I have no interest in being your plaything, Aldora.”

He walked across the site of the battle until he found her—the one he always sought, the one he did everything for. She stood tall and proud, her long black curls cascading over a warrior’s body to end at narrow, childless hips. He reacted to her every time he saw her. Kilda. The only time he felt his own power retreat was when Kilda cast her black eyes onto him, when he felt her draw him into her world.

She turned that gaze on him as he approached. She always sensed him. Her face bore signs of anguish. “This is what we’ve wrought,” she said, gesturing across the field. Only then did he notice that her sword remained sheathed and her bow remained slung across her back. “This, Hector—this desecration, destruction—all for what? For what?

“They need rule, these humans. When we leave them to their own devices, they fight and kill each other, war over this land, destroy this creation.”

“And it is theirs to destroy,” she shouted. “Alshada has spoken—has decreed that this creation belongs to them. They are the favored ones, Hector—not the Sidh, not the Syrafi, not even us. The humans.”

“But they need rule. They need us to rule them.”

This? They need this? War, chaos, destruction, the consumption of their very souls?” She shook her head and pulled her bow over her head. “No. I will not share in this.” She broke the bow over her knee and dropped the pieces before walking away.

He picked up the bow and ran after her. “Kilda, wait—wait.” She stopped, and he turned her to him. “I know this is distasteful to you. I know you are not like the rest of us.” She scoffed and turned her head away. “Your Syraf blood runs true. You have not been poisoned by your human side.”

She turned back. “You do not understand. It is my human side that saves me.”

“Saves you from what?”

“From this—from the curse of the Forbidden, this need to indulge in chaos, war, consumption of souls.” She paused. “It is my human side that saves me from becoming what you are.”

The words took his breath away. From what I am—what am I, then? “We don’t have to stay. We can leave—we can go north, to the far north—the lowlands where you like to hunt. We can find a little village, live in harmony with these people.”

“Until what? Until you get a taste for their souls? Until you long for chaos?” She shook her head and swiped tears from her cheeks. “I love you, Hector, but I will not be party to this any longer. And I cannot be with a man who would kill this way—who would revel in this destruction.”

His grip on her arm tightened, but she didn’t react. “Kilda—”

“I am leaving. Now. This world you and the others have created—this world you’ve destroyed—it’s yours.”

“Where will you go?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Somewhere else. Far from this, and far from you.” She pulled her arm away and turned to go.

He wanted to follow. He wanted to bring her back. He wanted to go with her, wherever she might go. But his feet remained rooted to his place, stuck in the truth of what he was. She’s right. And I do not deserve her. But gods, what will I do without her? He lifted one foot to follow her—

—and the world exploded.

He couldn’t be certain how long he lay in the muck as the air around him rang with echoes of the explosion. The ground rocked beneath his body, and he struggled to lift his face out of the mud. He tried to push himself up, was knocked down again. Oh gods—Kilda!

Something tickled his foot and moved quickly up his calves, inside his boots, around his legs. Water. Where is it coming from? He coughed and sputtered when it came to his mouth. The coolness brought him to full awareness. Salt. He spat, sat up, was knocked down by a wave of water that swept over him, into mouth, nose, eyes, ears. The onrush sent him tumbling over rocks, trees, the debris of the battle they had just fought. He tried to find purchase—tried to grab onto something, anything solid—but his hands only found bodies and detritus.

His body slammed into something solid, pushing whatever breath he still had out of aching lungs. Bubbles floated up to an unseen surface. He could make out faint light above, but he feared moving away from whatever object had interrupted his tumble. He turned slowly, ensuring that one hand always remained on the hill—it’s a hill—it feels like a hill—and it’s large—as the other hand found another divot, pockmark, tree root, or something to keep him in control of where his body went. Even as the waves tried to push him over the hill and onward in the continuing rush of water, he pushed back with every bit of strength he could muster to stay in contact with the hill. Slowly, slowly, in movements so miniscule that he wondered if he made any progress, he worked his way toward the light above, thankful for the Syraf blood that kept him from drowning.

At last, his head broke the roiling surface of the water, and he gulped lungfuls of fresh air. As strength came back to his body and he worked his way up to the top of the hill—a hill that remained partially above the inrushing water—he looked around for Kilda. Nowhere—where is she? Did she—oh gods, where is she? “Kilda!” He cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted louder. “Kilda!

“She is gone.” He spun to see Emrys, his mouth drawn down into a tight line, hands clenching and unclenching at his side, blue eyes full of wrath at what was before him. “She was swept out. I saw it.”

Hector gestured out at the water. “Who did this? How—”

“Alshada,” Emrys said, biting off the word as if it hurt to even say it. Water dripped from his long, blond braids. “He did this. He broke the world.”

Hector looked out at the water again. Everywhere—as far as he could see—only water and small dots of land, presumably the tips of hills that stood tall enough to rise above the water. “What do you mean that he broke the world? What—”

“He split it,” Emrys said. “He fractured it. Broke it. What words would you have me use, Hector?”

Hector wiped his face free of water and shaded his eyes to scan the low, vast sea before him. “How?”

“How?” Emrys snorted a laugh. “He is the creator of it all. It is his to break.”

“Is he done?”

Emrys shrugged. “I don’t know. All I know is that one moment I was standing on a battlefield, and then next I was nearly drowning.”

“How did you survive?”

“I slipped between the elements.” He paused. “I have flashed from island to island all over this new sea. I have not found any other survivors.”

Hector’s knees collapsed. Kilda, I should not have brought you here. “I killed her.”

“What?”

“Kilda—it’s my fault she died. It’s my fault.” He took a deep, shaking breath and stared down at his hands. “Oh gods, Emrys—what have we done?”

“We have taken what was ours. This world was promised to us. It was ours by right—”

“Promised by who? By Namha? What authority did he—”

“This world was given to him by Alshada,” Emrys said in his infuriatingly cold, detached voice. “You heard him. You heard the curse that was placed on this world and the promise that was given—that it belongs to our master until one stronger comes to defeat him. Our master has given it to us. It’s ours to conquer and control.”

“And where is our master?” Hector looked up as Emrys moved to stand in front of him. “Where is he now? In the midst of this, with most of his children and servants dead?”

Emrys frowned and folded his arms. “I do not know.”

Hector slumped. “I told her that if she joined us, she could share in our rule. I told her that we could rule together—that she could be my queen, the queen of whatever land fell to us to rule. I promised her everything if only she would come here. And she came, and now what?” He shook his head and put his face in his hands. “I’ve killed her, Emrys. She is dead because of me.”

“She is dead because Alshada threw a temper tantrum.” He took a deep breath. “If you wish to remain wallowing on this hill, I have no way to help you and nothing more to say. Stay here until the water takes you, if you will. I am leaving.”

“Where are you going?”

“To find our brethren and make new plans.” He hesitated. “Will you join me?”

Hector shook his head. “Go.”

Emrys disappeared in a flash of light.

As soon as his legs would allow, Hector stood. He crossed his arms and stared at the water. Swept away, Emrys had said. He saw her swept away. Could she have survived? Could she have found a hill or some way to gain purchase, some way to find air and footing? What if—

He stopped the thoughts and shook his head. She said goodbye. Even if she lived, would she wish to see me? Does that matter? If there is no Kilda, then what am I? Just a creature—a beast with a tainted soul and impulses that she cannot abide?

And under the questions of Kilda’s survival he thought of Emrys’ other words—He broke the world. Alshada broke it—he broke the world. What does that mean?

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