The Illusion Conundrum, Part V: Excerpt #2

In the interest of keeping up with my current WIP and blogging (almost) every day, here is an excerpt from the novel, working title Illusions.

In the last scene I showed you, we left the main character, Dranna, after a young woman wielding strange music-magic destroyed a demonic creature in the library she was visiting. When the dust settled after the beast exploded, her friend and confidant, Felthar, was gone. Poof.

But Felthar isn’t dead.


Felthar was . . . somewhere. That was for sure.

It wasn’t death. He would have known if he were dead . . . wouldn’t he? But it felt strange. He couldn’t see anything – like the world had ceased to exist for a brief moment. But he could feel his own body, the scratching of his clothes on skin. The ground beneath his boots – there was ground, apparently – felt rough, uneven. But it still existed. The air – if that’s what it was – hung heavily on his body, almost like he had jumped into the center of a deep, dark lake and sunk to the very bottom.

His vision returned slowly, in hazy spurts. The physical world was there, but something felt . . . off. Everything was grayscale, colors less vibrant. In fact, the only color here was the whitish gray color of the fog clinging to his skin. He peered into the mist, squinting to try and see something, anything that wasn’t this sickly, colorless air. No luck.

A noise clattered against his ears from somewhere in the mist ahead, like bootsteps on cobblestones, except the sound was muffled, as though his ears were filled with cotton. He inhaled sharply, and as he did so, he realized why he felt so wrong.

There was no wind.

That’s . . . not . . . He couldn’t remember a time before wind. Always, it had followed him. Through his childhood, adolescence, adulthood. The windlings were a race of people born from the very air itself, created from the swirling rage of the gods thousands of years ago. The “Roots” that Dranna liked to go on about had never meant much to him – the most important Root for him, the only one, was Wind. Siranha, they had called it in the old tongue. Even when there was no breeze to lick his skin, the Wind was there. His body was the breeze. It was a comfort and a tool, one that he could use to mold the world to his liking and move between places with the speed and ease of one quick breath.

But now, his bones, his flesh, all of it – solid. The air was dead, for the first time in his life.

With that thought, bile rose in his throat.

The dark mist around him began to dissipate as Felthar’s heart beat faster. Wrong wrong wrong. A scream built inside his chest, at the back of his esophagus. This place wasn’t in the material plane.

He searched his memories of the moments before he had appeared in this strange world. That young woman, with the dark skin and light-colored dress, had executed some sort of spell with that instrument. A golden flute, wraught to look like flower petals opening at one end. He had been pulled in twenty directions at once, his body coming undone with whatever power was in that music. His insides had . . . separated. And before he realized what was happening, everything had gone dark. Dranna, the library, Merickh, all gone.

Dranna, where are you?

The clattering noise echoed again from the fog, this time accompanied by a fuzzy, metallic clink. Felthar strained to see into the thick covering. What light there was didn’t really originate from anywhere; it was almost like the illumination came from the fog itself, but it didn’t show much. He looked down at his hands, and even his palms were a pale, grainy color thanks to the eerie half-light emanating from the air around him.

He took a few steps foward into the mist. There was something in front of him, a vague outline. It looked almost human. As he tried to squint through the fog, the outline gradually solidified into a man of average height, facing away from Felthar. His shoulders were slumped, but he was focused intently on something in the distance. Now that Felthar’s eyes were acclimating to the gloom, he tried to see what had captured the man’s attention.

Felthar took a step forward, reaching a tentative hand toward the figure. The man turned around, a flash of surprise on his sunken, pale face. “Wait,” he said with a voice like thunder, like a whirlwind raging across a distant sky. “Why are you here?” Black chains encircled his wrists, and the black shirt he wore hung off his body in tatters, dark pants torn in multiple places. His hair had once been an ebony hue, but now was streaked with white.

This man . . . Felthar’s mind scrabbled for purchase. The chains. Inky black against the man’s ivory complexion, old, rusted, heavy – yet the man wore them like jewelry, encircling each wrist independently. The skin beneath the obsidian metal was rubbed red and raw, and the rust shone the same murky brown color as dried blood. A prickling against Felthar’s memory, a story told to him as a child, a story of a man who had been cursed by the wind gods forever to wander in the Place That Was Between. This could not be real. This man . . . if he was who Felthar thought he was, then Felthar must be dead for sure. Because there was no way this man could be alive, not after a thousand years. For that matter, there was no way he could be real.

This is a bedtime story. This is a fairy tale.

It meant that Felthar had somehow entered the Place That Was Between, the madness-inducing half-realm that had been created when the two Worlds, Ylpha and Omega, had been torn apart thousands of years ago. Which was, decidedly, impossible.

“You.” The man intoned the word again, and this time it wasn’t a question. His sunken eyes glinted.

It also meant that this was Renn Siranhan, the father of wind, the very first Wind Warrior, Siranha’nal. Their order was named after him.

Gods, Felthar prayed, deliver me from this place. He willed the wind to pick up, to carry him away from this ghost story, this nightmare. The Place That Was Between was nowhere a living soul should visit. The winds remained dormant, and the gods continued to ignore his pleas. He had never felt so naked in his life.

The man – the fairy tale – took a step toward him, but stalled. He looked back at whatever he had been looking at before Felthar disturbed him. Felthar squinted into the fog and realized that there was a soft yellow light emanating from somewhere in the distance.

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