New Year’s, Publishing, and Excerpts

 

Happy New Year’s!

 

So, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to publish a book. Does it count if I did that on January 1st? Or does it have to be another, different book? This is quite the dilemma.

ImageBut on the bright side, I finally published Starling, after who knows how long of working on it. Right now, you can find it on Smashwords and on Amazon. (Barnes and Nobles, Kobo, and quite a few others should have it within the week, I’ll let you know.) Just search ‘Starling E.B. Thompson.’ It’ll come up. For now, it’s only in eReader format, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less excited about other people being able to read it. I want to know what you all think!

Here’s the little book blurb you find that tells you what the story’s about:

The stars are going out.

But they aren’t truly stars.

They are cities for a long forgotten race of people, the Starlings. These Starlings have protected the humans down below from other peoples who would wish them harm, but now they face an enemy they have no hope of defeating. In order to warn the humans of the war that is to come, they send down an ambassador. But the humans have problems of their own they must face before they can deal with the war the Starlings are losing.

 

And here’s an excerpt for you (there should be a longer one on Amazon, if you’re interested):

A long time ago, the humans and the Starlings were races whose fates where intertwined. The humans gratefully allowed the Starlings free access to their land, and awarded them great honor and respect. In exchange, the Starlings swore to protect the humans from those who would wish them harm. But for reasons long forgotten, this strange Alliance was shattered. The Starling people withdrew from the Earth, forsaking the feel of the wind on their face and the warmth the sun brought, and retreated to their own dimly lit realm high above. The humans were angry, and rightly so, but neither side would admit their faults. And so, the Alliance remained shattered. Out of respect for the friendship they once shared, the Starlings continued to watch over the humans, protecting them. But they never once returned to the human’s realm. Time passed, anger faded, and the race of the Starlings became a legend told to reassure frightened children when sleep had forsaken them. But the human race had long since forgotten the significance of the stars. They had forgotten that the stars were not stars at all, but cities, home to the Starlings. And when these stars began to go out, and disappear forever, the humans were not worried. Little did they know, the stars going out was a herald for the beginning of the end and the catalyst for change.

CHAPTER ONE

———-/—/———-

The hallway was much like any corridor in the castle. It was wide enough that at its narrowest point four men could walk side-by-side. Its walls were made of large blocks of a pale white stone native to the land, called ndrayen. Moonstone in the common tongue. Throughout this corridor, there were few paintings, tapestries, or other adornments. The decorator had instead prized the stone’s rough beauty and had chosen to display it. The floor, however, was covered with a rich green carpet, mimicking the patterns of treetops seen far below in the human realm. The carpet was not only for beauty; like all things in this castle, it served a practical purpose. It helped muffle footsteps and absorb sound, preventing loud echoing from overwhelming the occupant’s sensitive ears. And instead of candles ensconced in the walls, the corridor had large windows every so often, letting the natural pale light create its dim atmosphere.

The hallway was much like any corridor in the castle. Its peaceful atmosphere had been shattered, and it’s quiet hum of daily life absent. Debris littered the floor, and the once beautiful carpet was now liberally filled with scorch marks. Large black stones lay scattered across the hallway’s length, cloven in two from the sheer force of breaking through the castle’s wall. The wall the corridor shared with the outside was constantly being battered by stone projectiles for the enemy’s assault was relentless. Relentless and effective. More common than windows were breaches in the walls, scattering debris everywhere. In some places, the breach extended to include parts of the floor, making the already structurally unstable hallway treacherous to navigate. This partially explained why the corridor, once a main flow of traffic, was deserted.

Or, at least, mostly deserted. A young Starling carefully picked her way through the rubble as she made her way down the hall. Though young, she had an aura of grim determination, much like soldiers who had seen far too many atrocities. She too, had seen more than her fair share. For the past month, the castle had been bombarded by an unseen enemy. The surrounding town, Jay’naldra, had become deserted in the face of the onslaught. All its people were now crowded in the castle’s bowels, hoping and praying that the projectiles couldn’t reach them. What Fighters they had left patrolled the castle’s hallways, constantly alert for any traces of the enemy, but they consistently found none. The enemy seemed content to bombard their safe haven and tear down morale. A fortnight earlier, a small band of Fighters had left the castle’s relative safety and had gone in search of the enemy. They had hoped to bring back information and weaknesses, or at the very least, force the enemy to fight instead of continuously bombarding the castle. The Fighters found the enemy, but they could bring back no information. What was left of them had been unceremoniously dumped in the castle’s courtyard. No one knew how this had been done, especially since no one had seen anything. The Starling people began to suspect they were being toyed with and fear crept into them. Those in the lowest levels huddled close together and did not speak. All this, and more, the young Starling had seen, for she was a Healer, tasked with treating illness, mending the injured, and reassembling the dead. It was grim, depressing work and ill-suited for her, as the princess. But she stubbornly insisted it was her responsibility as a Healer, and they could not argue that.

And so the Princess AnnaLydia suffered without complaint alongside her people. Her once bright eyes faded till nothing but a dull lifelessness shone. Her once expressive face became blank and stone-like, a sad beauty replacing its youthfulness. Her long silver hair was bound tightly, though strands had worked free from their restraints and now hung limply down her back. Her white dress was a simple style, and although she was fed better than most, being both a Healer and a princess, the belt encircling her waist was cinched tight. And though as of yet no enemy had breached the castle’s interior, she had wary searching eyes that were constantly alert, and a hand that kept straying down to her belt where a dagger now resided, just in case.

It took some time, but AnnaLydia made it to the king’s audience chamber. There were other ways to get there, of course, but the majority were blocked with debris, had lost large portions of the floor, or had otherwise been rendered impassible. The two door wardens quickly opened the large double doors and gave abbreviated gestures of respect. The princess smiled wanly. The door wardens did not return her smile, instead, gesturing her through so they could close the doors once more. She quickly took the hint and entered the chamber. The door wardens had been relieved of their normal duties and told to go down in the castle’s depths with all the others, but they had, in no uncertain terms, replied that it was their duty to guard any room the king and queen occupied and they were going to do just that, regardless of a waging war. Such dedication was admirable, but then, the royal family was well liked, being just and fair.

Once on the other side of the door, AnnaLydia saw the king and queen tiredly arguing with a dozen or so different advisors, some military, some not. Raising her voice so she could be heard over the noise of war’s destruction, she asked, “You summoned me?” Just then, another projectile hit the castle close by and its very foundations shook in protest.

“Anna!” the Queen cried in relief, all semblance of formality long since forgotten. The war did that. Taking away formality and leaving uncertainty in its place. “You took so long, I feared the worst…”

“You worry too much, Mother. I’m not a helpless child,” AnnaLydia replied, blushing slightly at her mother’s overprotectiveness. “Besides, the North Corridor has been rendered impassible. One of the stones tore through the floor. There’s a whole length of the corridor missing floor, almost twenty yards. I had to go the long way,” The advisors quieted a moment, absorbing this piece of news, before promptly beginning to argue on what this meant for the defenders, how to reroute what little foot traffic they had, and simply what to do in general.

“No, she’s not a child anymore, my dearest. That is why we have agreed to let her go on this mission,” the King gently reminded his wife in his deep voice, ignoring the argument, which had become rather loud.

“What mission?” Anna asked excitedly. She had never before been allowed to go on a mission, not officially. To give her one meant they finally trusted her as a princess, to handle the mission as best she could. She just hoped it wasn’t some boring diplomatic entreaty for help, meant to place her out of harm’s way.

“I don’t think she’s ready for this mission! Not when so much is at stake! My Lord, I must insist…” an advisor protested, breaking off his argument midsentence, silenced by the King’s angry glare. The advisor mumbled something that vaguely sounded like an apology before scurrying out of the room. The advisor’s words only stirred Anna’s interest more. If the advisor thought it wasn’t for her, then maybe it wasn’t some simple diplomatic mission. Maybe she was being given something much more important. That thought excited her.

The King turned back to his daughter, “As you well know, our people protect those below us. This insures the human’s safety from those who would wish to do them harm. We have done this successfully for many millennia, all the while hiding our presence from those we deem to protect. But this time is different, this time our enemy is too great and knows far too much about us. It will take time, but we will fall.” He hated to reference his kingdom’s last failsafe, especially in front of his wife and daughter, but he was merely speaking the truth, and felt that the occasion warranted such brutal honesty.

“Father! Don’t speak of such things! It will not come to pass! Our people will-”

“We will stall,” interrupted the King. “The people below must be warned. They must know that we can no longer protect them. That is your mission: to inform the human king. It will be exceedingly dangerous; the humans are fickle and self-absorbed as a whole. You can’t trust most of them, if not all of them. So keep your wits about you, remember your training, and don’t tell anyone who or what you are, except their king. Should someone correctly guess, you can admit or deny it if you wish, but as we have become a legend to them, I doubt anyone will. Do you understand what I ask of you, my daughter?”

“Yes, Father, I understand,” Anna replied quietly. “But if we fall, will I see you again? Or will I be stuck among the humans?” she asked, spitting out the word ‘humans’ as if it were a disease one might catch. Her parents exchanged nervous glances. She would have to overcome her unconscious ideals of arrogant superiority if she were to succeed and they didn’t know if she was up to the task.

“We do not know,” the Queen slowly said. “It is possible that you will be unable to return. It is also possible that your father and I may perish in this war.” Upon hearing this, all color drained from AnnaLydia’s face.

“That would be a fate worse than death!” she protested, yelling to be heard over a nearby explosion. Explosions that were getting uncomfortably closer by the second. Soon, they would have to permanently evacuate the audience room or risk becoming entombed within it.

“Nonetheless, you will go,” the King sternly said. Seeing his daughter’s face, he added, “It won’t be so bad, my daughter, and I will feel better with you down there instead of up here in this mess.”

“When do I leave?” Anna asked. There was no use arguing with her father, not when he adopted that particular tone. That she knew from experience.

“In a moment. First your sword and supplies. Do not lose them!” the King warned, handing a belt and bulging knapsack to her.

“I, too, have a gift for you, my daughter,” said the Queen. She passed Anna a necklace as intricate as it was delicate, one whose appearance suggested a starburst. Looking closer, Anna realized that it wasn’t a starburst, but an ayonai, a starlily. It was a priceless gift, she knew, for it was a key to just about anything in the human realm. To anything a Starling had once touched. Her mother softly added, “So you never forget us, no matter what happens.”

“Oh, Mother! Such a thing, it isn’t possible!” Anna cried, tears threatening to spill down her face. She was surprised at the tears, she had thought that she had cried until she could cry no more.

“AnnaLydia!” her mother gently admonished. “You are a princess, remember your place.”

“Don’t show fear or indecision; show that I have the courage to lead my people.” Anna quietly finished, her mother’s mantra burned into her mind from constant recitation.

“Good girl.” The Queen smiled gently and tightly embraced her daughter. Anna inhaled her mother’s sweet, familiar scent, committing it to memory. Just in case. Her mother pulled back, ending the hug, and Anna was shocked to see the tears running down her mother’s face. Regal tears to be sure, but tears all the same. “May the stars shine their light upon your path, and may they hold you forever in their favor.”

“May they bring us back together,” Anna quietly added.

“Now go, and fulfill this task given to you,” said the King, glowing with energy.  “And be safe.” And in that brief moment, he was once again the tenderhearted father she loved.

The room faded away as the King, a powerful Caster in his own right, used his magick to send AnnaLydia to the world below. She felt as if she were falling, and in a sense, she was. Familiar sights flashed before her as she fell through the clouds to the planet far below. Thanks to her Father’s magick, she fell slowly but awkwardly. Her eyes closed against her will. They did not want to see the ground rushing up to meet her, nor did they want to see the stars slowly fading out of sight. A wind current caught her, buffeting her around at its whim, and her stomach lurched in protest. Her eyes flew open and she wished they hadn’t. The sight was disorienting, and again, her stomach protested. Her ears, too, began to protest, unused to the wind whistling through them. After what seemed like an eternity, the sensory overload became too much and she blacked out.

 

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