As I promised in the Boosting the Signal post for Well of Sorrows, here’s the companion post for Book 2 of the series, Leaves of Flame! And since this is Book 2 of the series, the Colin of this book has far different goals than the Colin of Book 1. As you can see in the piece Joshua has sent me for this book! Enjoy!
I wanted to thank Angela Korra’ti for the chance to signal boost my novel LEAVES OF FLAME, the second in the series, here at the blog. This is an epic fantasy, with the first book called WELL OF SORROWS (available now) and the third book, BREATH OF HEAVEN, written but not yet released. Here’s a little scene featuring Colin, the main character, and what’s motivating him in LEAVES OF FLAME. If it piques your interest, then check out the books, available from Baen in ebook format, and on the Kindle and Nook. Hope you enjoy!
The White Fire of Aielan’s Light burned bright and cold in the depths of the mountains of the Alvritshai. The flames licked upwards from the stone, without source, tendrils brushing the ceiling, acting exactly like a regular fire, but silent and a pure white that caused Colin’s eyes to ache as he stared at them, entranced. But if the Alvritshai knew he was here, inside their most sacred shrine—if they knew his purpose—
He shook himself, then knelt, pulling his backpack from his shoulders and setting it on the floor. From within, he drew out a bundle of cloth, which he laid on the floor, shoving the pack aside. He tugged the cloth aside, revealing a length of heartwood, gifted to him by the forest itself, as long as his arm. It had been soaking in the waters of the Lifeblood for years in preparation for today. Tonight, he intended to forge it in the white flame, in Aielan’s Light. He needed to imbue the heartwood with the fire’s protective power. He hoped that the Lifeblood would give it the wood the strength to survive the forging process.
And if he succeeded . . . if he succeeded, then the three races of the New World—human, Alvritshai, and dwarren—might have a chance against the destructive darkness of the Wraiths and the Shadows.
Reaching forward, he grasped the length of heartwood, felt a pulse of response from deep inside as it recognized him, recognized the power that flowed through him, and then he stood. Holding it before him, he closed his eyes and gathered himself before stepping into the white flames. They wrapped around him, enfolded him in their cold silence, seeping into him, judging him. He’d stepped into their fires before, been judged, so now he reached out into the fire’s presence, formed his intent in his mind and beseeched the fire to help him.
The races needed protection. The Shadows had awoken, had learned to expand their influence beyond the prison of the Well within the forest. They were a plague upon the land, led by Walter and those that had been turned by the Lifeblood to their cause—led by the Wraiths. The races were vulnerable, were being attacked on every side as the Shadows fed upon them. They and the Wraiths needed to be stopped. They needed to be destroyed. They needed to be imprisoned again. And only Colin could do it. But he needed the Lifeblood and the Fire and the permission of the forest. He needed their sanction.
And so he asked, and permission was given. The forest provided the heartwood, the vessel, and the bane to keep the Shadows and Wraiths at bay. The Lifeblood provided the healing, the strength to sustain the warding for decades, for longer if necessary. And the Fire provided the soul, the consciousness to recognize those tainted by the Well.
He felt that consciousness seeping into the heartwood. Reaching forward, he guided it with purpose, felt it take form, felt it merge with the heartwood, with the Lifeblood, combine into something more. But it needed power. It needed to last, and so he forced more and more of the flame into the wood. It surged through his body, throbbed from his fingers into the wood, until the wood was engorged. Yet it needed more. If it were to last, it needed more, and so he let the flow continue, until he felt the heartwood trembling beneath his grip, until his arms began to shake. He fell to his knees, tears streaming down his face, gasping, the Fire around him billowing higher in utter silence—
And then the heartwood split beneath his fingers with a shivering hiss and exploded.
Crying out, he stumbled back out of the flame and collapsed to his side. Lifting himself up, he roared in defiance, hands clenching into fists over the splinters of wood that remained, then sagged forward into hitching, frustrated sobs.
An hour later, he picked himself up and gathered together his pack. He stood staring at the White Fire of Aielan, jaw set, teeth clenched. He would have to try again. And again and again and again, if necessary. Because the three races still needed protection from the Shadows and the Wraiths. Because they were still dying by their hands, by Walter’s hand. And no one understood how devastating the Shadows and Wraiths could be. Would be. Because no one, other than Walter and the Wraiths, had drunk from the Well and knew its insidious power besides Colin.
And he meant to stop them, even if it meant sacrificing his own humanity to do it.