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Short story - THE DEATHBROKER

My Plans for 2019 (and introducing TYRANTSBANE)

Hello, friends. I owe you an update since 2018 (and indeed January of 2019) have come and gone.

I’ve spent the last few months hard at work on what will soon be my body of material. I’ve just begun a new day job and am therefore settling into a routine that will enable me to chip away at the “work list” that I’ve set up for my writing. The rest of this post will serve as a preview of what I’m working on this year.

First, I wanted to formally introduce my debut novel to you. I’ve mentioned it briefly here and there, but I’m ready to really spill it now. (Please remember that this is not a commerce-ready pitch or blurb, but a rough and early preview!)

Tyrantsbane is a dark fantasy epic comprised of two converging stories. It’s the first installment in the Tyranny of Heaven trilogy. I plan to stick with the comparison, Blood Meridian meets The Witcher. That isn’t just a marketing plan; I refer back to this as the core guiding principle when doubt clouds my way. But at its core, it’s a much more emotional and social story than those titles. It’s about not giving up who you are, about crossing some lines and refusing to cross others. It’s an antihero’s journey.

We meet the protagonist Sofia Arcta — now calling herself Sofia Kurtz — soon after she’s defected from the Lucent Empire and turned against the Temple Inquisitor under whose authority she’s survived thus far. To return to the Empire would almost certainly end in crucifixion, and she has no one and nothing in this far-flung place, but survival comes first.

Tyrantsbane begins in medias res shortly after a fatal and calamitous event has ravaged the former colonial city of Prophet’s Landing, the capital of a long-abandoned colony which was ruled by the bandit-queen Rexana’s silver and lead only days before.

Now death fills the air itself. The Inquisitor, along with a horde of warrior-priests spared by their strange rubber masks, reign over the few survivors with mace and spear.

The greyclad traitor burst into the ossuary door. The noise echoed through the stonewrought, blackfilled depths. It crept across the silent city.

Only now was Sofia divested of all that she had been. Her origins as remote as her fate, she knew not whether she was born for this treachery or if she herself was its maker.

She slammed the door shut behind her, then knelt and unwound the bloodied white cloak coiled like a serpent about her. Leather straps held the Taulite mask tight across her face. Each breath made the sound of a bellows. Somehow the artifact stolen from the deep had kept the miasma at bay, and now darkness shrouded her.

She finds refuge in the catacombs as she searches for someone who should be her foe by any reasonable expectation. She steps over the slaughtered and exsanguinated corpse of the tyrant who reigned only days ago, leaving footprints in her blood. Sofia takes the gun, but leaves the scourge.

There in the dark depths Sofia seeks and finds Helseth, whose ruthless campaign brought about that tyrant’s end. She’d heard of him in her time riding with the Cartel, where they had spoken of him as if he were a specter. Maybe they couldn’t be blamed for it. Among the last of the elves, the bloodletter wears armor forged from human bones. This preternatural killer of men has seen too much to believe in heroism. His bloodsoaked visage speaks only of war, but there’s an exhaustion behind it. His thirst is sated.

They set a fire and wait for the miasma to clear.

Hunkered in the old catacombs, the only safe place in Prophet’s Landing since the Inquisitor’s attack, two would-be enemies recount what brought them to this point and plot to pursue the silvermasked Inquisitor - the real villain of the story.

Only when Sofia recounts her traitor’s tale beside a bonfire do we see how far she’s really come, and learn the circumstances that brought her so far from the land of her birth, that saw her turn from girl to woman. She started this journey as a woman of middling privilege, as the adoptive daughter of a Gilead. That her adoptive father is a senator spared her the Empire’s worst cruelties, but there was never a place for her in the “patrician” class. Her family, if they could even be called that, were insufficient to confer citizenship. She’d have to earn that the normal way, through military service.

So she became just another sentry sitting atop a wall, gazing into the night for threats that would never come to the heartland. In an effort to escape military service and hasten her citizenship, she agrees to both escort and report on a Temple Inquisitor who passes through Monsaire on some secretive quest. By the light of flame, she tells the bloodletter (and us) of how how she saved the Inquisitor’s life and thus became complicit in his crimes. How she delivered him to the Outlands and in so doing delivered the Citadel and its ancient secrets to him. How, upon finding herself born on the wrong side of things, she turned traitor instead of remaining complicit in evil, and in so doing sacrificed all she had and all she was. Darkness besieges her “Hero’s Journey” on all sides. She begins to see the Lucent Empire as just another incarnation of evil despite its pious trappings.

At the same time, the elf Helseth tells of his century-old quest for vengeance whose fulfillment opened the field for the Inquisitor and his Taulites. As far as he’s concerned, Rexana’s crimes were incidental. Tyrannical as his sister was, and as ruthless as her reign might have, his motives were only ever personal. He’s doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, and that doesn’t change even once an entire revolution springs up to ensure the bandit-queen’s downfall. And why should it? It’s their freedom, not his.

But as the bloodletter hears the traitor’s tale, it becomes clear just how much was sacrificed so that he could find her and help her stop the Inquisitor.

That’s all… for now. As you might imagine, there are many layers I haven’t touched on and many characters who’ve gone entirely unmentioned. All in time!

I wish that I had the humility and sensibility to start with a simple (or at least straightforward) story. Alas, Tyrantsbane is what came to me first, and I must do what it takes to do the story justice. I plan to do an in-depth post on some of the challenges I encountered. Frame narratives are hard.

Sofia’s descent into the heart of darkness, Helseth’s ascent from it, the inevitable moment where they take up arms together - I have a duty to get it right. I’ve really poured my soul into this story for the last few years.

Practically speaking, I expect to have a final draft done around Q3 2019. I believe in this story, to be honest, and I plan to submit this one to agents once it’s polished. I say this with humility and without expectation.

Besides Tyrantsbane, here’s what I’m working on:

Deep Places

Horror/Dark Fantasy with a distinctive theological twist. A Lucent Empire Inquisitor (yes, that Inquisitor) delves below the world’s surface with armed and armored temple-knights at his command. But steel cannot sunder the truth, and men were not built to know it.

First draft is complete (special thanks to those who helped me extract the best bones from it!)

I intended to write it as a short story. It came out as a novelette. I’m rewriting the final version as a novella. This is necessary to fully flesh it out. I’ll probably self-publish Deep Places and as such it may be the first material I actually release. We’ll see.

The Book of Perseverance

A serial that I’m thinking will consist of seven novellas. It features the darkest setting of the bunch, but the most heroic story. It takes place a little after the events in the Tyranny of Heaven trilogy. Jack Vance meets Dark Souls might work as a comparison? There’s a some Mad Max in there, too. This one is still in the outlining phase.

They won the war, but it killed the world. Now on this last day Gilead had no god and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

Elijah trudged on in search of something better. The cold seemed to worsen every day since the Fall but ahead the crumbling old wayshrine glittered in the final day’s roseate light. The world’s lingering farewell.

The Empire has long since fallen. The Creator is nowhere to be found. The very sun is dying in the sky and it neither sets nor rises. It just hovers near death, just like humanity.

Elijah, once a temple-knight of the Lucent Empire, now wanders the timeless wastes. Some survivors remember the times when things grew. Others were born under the endless twilight and only know tales of the world before. All shun him for what he was… for the tyranny his order had enacted in preparation for what they ultimately failed to prevent.

But the wanderer soon learns that there might be a way off this dying world. The necromancer who rules the ruins of Gilead insists it’s true. Somewhere among the deep places lies hidden a chariot of fire to carry men to another world entirely. Elijah gathers survivors of all stripes to brave the aberrant monsters and vicious marauders that populate the dying earth in hopes of finding something better.

“Only with this Creation’s undoing are we free to go forth and forge our own. We needn’t stay and listen to the whimper of this world’s end. Per aspera ad astra, as they said even before my time. We are free to chase the stars as was always our destiny.”

“What about here?” asked the ex-knight.

“The eyes are not here,” recited the Wizard. “There are no eyes here in this valley of dying stars, in this hollow valley, this broken jaw of your lost kingdoms…”

The General and the Shōgun [working title]

Novel. Akira Kurosawa meets Dark Souls. The Imperial Legion invades Naihon to subjugate the samurai who reign there. Bloodshed and war precede ineffable darkness.

Minamoto Nanshū, General Kurtz, the Deathbroker, a Lucent witch-hunter whose deeds would see him become an Inquisitor…

I’ve already said too much.

Tyranny of Heaven 2 and 3

What’s a fantasy debut without a trilogy? I have the general outline of the whole thing already laid out and I’m gradually sketching detail as it reveals itself in the writing of Tyrantsbane. If you’ve made it all the way through this overly-wordy post, you might have pieced together a vague sense of where the trilogy goes.

Alright, I’ve rambled enough. I truly can’t wait to have some of these stories in front of you, so I’ll get back to it. Thanks so much to the friends and fellow creators that have supported and inspired me.

Expect to hear more from me soon.

Chris | 正雄

(C.M. Shigeta)

A letter of introduction from C.M. Shigeta, a new dark fantasy author