When I start a new WIP, I give it a working title. This one has had several titles kicked around.
The Would-Be Dragon
Chronicles of the Fire Damned
Will of Fire
But Pyromage has stuck. Pyromage may very well be the series name. The Pyromage Series. This book will either be Baptism of Fire or Crucible of Fire.
Why am I hemming and hawing?
Crucible: a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.
Baptism: a person's initiation into a particular activity or role, typically one perceived as difficult.
I'm leaning towards Crucible. Because the situation Homura faces is severe and it is a trial. He's also elemental fire. And, he's becoming something "new" that was already inside of him. I don't necessarily want to give away what the trial entails *cough* dragon but it's revealed in the third chapter. Rather, revealed in it's own way.
There's also an entire world building that I have to let the reader in on. It's Elddyn's job to do that. But he's not just a talking head. He and Arkenu are proactive characters. They know what's going on and together reveal what the reader knows. Of course I'm hoping for integrated personalities, not an info dump.
This is a fine line between letting the reader "in" on the world and info dump. When the genre is fantasy, there's gonna be a little of telling. But I'm trying to avoid telling altogether. I've included an excerpt in which I'm hoping unfolds the world little-by-little to best of my ability. You be the judge.
The images below are my inspirations for Arkenu and Elddyn. On an awesome note, I've gotten together with an illustrator and will hopefully have accurate visual representations of my characters. I'll post them as they come!
Excerpt ♦ Pyromage
Knowing Kuval, he’d looted it from someone. I could imagine the mercenary winning this prize over some arm-wrestling match, though unlikely anyone would wager this artifact. But it was curious how he’d gotten this in his possession. The devil’s dagger was a unique blade. An heir loom representing power, wealth, and legend. This was not an eating knife. It was a relic thought lost in the Rider’s War. No one had seen this since Yair. The greatest of all Fire dragons. Not even a note accompanied the box it came in. My dragon’s blood sang with knowledge of the item. This was the original box. Impossible. How was it in Kuval’s possession?
“Thomas?” I called to my assistant.
The older, stout gentleman popped his head into my office. “Master Elddyn?”
I smoothed over my white-blue locks and made sure my diamond teardrop shaped earrings faced bottom down. “Did Kuval say anything about this?”
My human companion stepped all the way inside and peered at the box. “Only his price.”
I coughed and nearly choked. “Of course.” He had no clue as to what he’d brought me. “Did he say where he got it? No, wait…” I held up my sleeved hand. “Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.” Knowing who the original owner was would certainly bring trouble.
Thomas chuckled. “He didn’t say.”
“Thank mercy.” These types of treasures always held a curse.
“He said he’d be back tonight.” Thomas gave me a knowing smirk.
“Oh, that man. Seriously?” I was not a revolving door. I’d gotten our relationship down to a professional basis, or at least I’d thought I’d made myself clear. I wanted to concentrate on finding my dragon. Kuval was in the business of killing them. I wanted nothing more to do with that man other than business. He fetched profit but his sensual ways had gotten me into bed more times than I wanted to admit.
The outer bell rang. We had a customer. Thomas eyed me.
“Are we still open?”
I nodded. “Might be him.”
My assistant left me to my new acquisition. Thing was, this relic was too powerful in the wrong hands. My nerves jittered. There was something off. If the blade surfaced after its three-hundred-year hiatus, it meant big things happening. Not just in Aleenia, but in all of Neith.
It could also mean my dragon might finally surface. The one in my dreams, calling to me. The one promised to me by the Veteris.
A presence invaded my thoughts, as if a pair of eyes were on me. I took the blade by its ornate key shaped handle, whispered forgiveness of my rough treatment, and stuffed the knife inside the pocket of my robe.
Thomas rushed into my office, nervous and shaking. I pulled back. “Thomas?”
“Kenwald?” My chest thudded.
“Such perfect timing,” I uttered. A relic and now an assassin. I did not believe in coincidences. I stood, check my reflection in the mirror, made small adjustments to my hair and made myself think happy thoughts to bring a natural smile to the conversation ahead.
This could be deadly.
I stepped out of my office and into the showroom. There stood the commanding, cloaked figure of the master of assassins. Arkenu was incognito. Not a good sign. He was a man who preferred to take matters in his own hands. Especially for high end “situations”. His motto, justice by my own hand, proved fatal to those who crossed him.
I dipped my head in respect, treating Arkenu with as much difference as a noble. He was dangerous as a venomous snake. Show no fear.
“What my I do for you, master Aegis?”
His sly glance measured me up and down. Sexy and dangerous. “Elddyn, you are rather important here in Aleenia.”
“I only do what I can.” Oh fantastic. The Aegis Guild “security tax”. He was most likely after money.
“I’ve made it safe for you here for a long time.” His for free was implied, but nothing’s ever free.
“I do appreciate you.” So just tell me what you want and be done with it.
“I give my services to you because of your stature.”
“Yesss…” I hissed air. Please don’t draw this out like a nihilistic regent.
“Elddyn, this is important.” Arkenu peered out from under his hood. A serious face for a serious man. At least he did not take his occupation lightly.
“Arkenu, I am aware of your security.” That also posed as spies. “I understand the effort you maintain on my behalf as unnecessary as it is.”
“Is it unnecessary?”
My smile fell. “Is there a pledge out for me?” Was he warning me? Have I pissed someone off?
“Don’t rattle me.” I sighed. “Out with it.”
Arkenu paused. His eyes weighing me. Assessing.
Perhaps he wanted me to approach him. I smoothed my hands down to my sides. “Customers know I am discreet. Requests are made in confidence.”
“Are they?” He took a step and loomed over me.
Having enough of the word game I waited out his entertainment in silence.
Arkenu turned and stepped over to the glass case, examining the items.
He wanted something. Not money. But some thing. Of course, not believing in coincidences, I had a suspicion as to what particular thing that might be. But I wasn’t going to hand the devil’s dagger over to him. He probably knew that. Hence this wordless mind torture. If he was waiting for me to crack, he’d be disappointed. Patience was my virtue.
“Traveling merchants are those who are in search themselves.” Arkenu remained focus on a bobble inside the case.
What was he getting at? “I’ve been here for twenty years. I don’t qualify as a traveler.”
“Not much for roaming?”
I shook my head. “No.”
“But you weren’t always.” Arkenu turned towards me. “Were you?”
I pressed my lips together. Knowledge. If he went that far into my past, he might be looking for information. “In my youth, I did gallivant a bit.”
Arkenu smiled. Damnable. I’d given a piece of information away. Something valuable. Humans tended to be…cautious around Drakes. Of course, to them I looked as if I were as old one of their children coming of age. To my own people, I was Elddyn, meaning Elder, old, wise, ancient.
“Are you looking for a youth potion?” I teased the Guild master.
Yeah, I didn’t think so either. Attempting to throw the prince of lies off the scent of what he’d gleaned from my careless tidbit was like trying to drag a scent hound off a blood trail.
“Elddyn, I fear for your safety.”
A less experienced assassin would attempt intimidation by playing with a knife or some other contraption. For Arkenu, words were his weapon of choice. His voice delivered emotional blows. He was not an amateur making overt glances at a dangerous colleague. His six-foot-two stance achieved the right amount of leer needed for scare tactics. The hood covering his face, leaving his expressions to the imagination left enough of a foreboding image.
“And why would that be, Guild Master Aegis?”
“People are often…rude when they find out those they trust are not who they claim to be.”
Ah. There was the true threat. He would not endanger his men to kill the likes of a Drake. My own human customers would do it for him. Arkenu’s ability to wield social justice, and getting “the people” on his side was bar none. Even though I could defend myself from an angry mob, I would still suffer. Who among Aleenia would support my boutique after knowing I was a Drake?
I shrugged. “Many would gossip, but without proof…”
Arkenu leaned forward, showing me as much of his chiseled face as his hood would allow. Eyes black as coal glimmering with the malice of a hardened war chief. “You are no fool.”
The master assassin tired of this game. He stayed silent and let me stew my own fabrications of the consequences. I could imagine my store burnt to the ground. The people I cared for, dead. My own life in jeopardy. Light footsteps padded behind me. Thomas.
The Guild Master raised to his full height and pulled back his hood, revealing a cunning smile to my assistant. “Good man, Thomas, is it?”
“Yes.” Bless my helper, he stood firm but with a drawn, pale face.
“Has anything of interest been admitted lately?” Arkenu kept a friendly, amenable voice. Which made him all the more terrifying.
Thomas turned his attention to me. I dipped my head ever so slightly. Please Thomas tread with caution.
“I can’t say.” Thomas wrung his hands and smiled.
“Can’t usually means won’t.” Arkenu stalled for a moment, then started forward.
I grabbed his arm. “Don’t.”
He halt and turned his eyes to me. “Give it to me.”
The corners of my lips quirked up. Just as I was going to give a facetious answer, Arkenu pushed my throat and slammed me to the wall. My vision faded for a moment. I couldn’t breathe. My reaction was instinctual. I called upon Vesi and pulled forth the water within Arkenu. His eyes leaked first. Liquid streamed from the corners of his eyes.
“Stop,” Arkenu growled.
I grabbed his arm and squeezed. In a rasp, I spoke, “Let go of me.”
He pulled back, letting me breathe.
The force of the choke made me wheeze and sputter.
“Master!” Thomas came running to me.
I pushed my second behind me and stood in battle stance.
Arkenu recovered quickly and raised a hand in supplication. “My apologies. I am impatient. The last piece of the puzzle has come into play and it’s time.”
“Time for what?” Thomas wielded his anger toward the Guild Master of Kenwald.
I shushed my assistant.
The assassin straightened, cast a sweeping hand to Thomas, but held my gaze. “Isn’t he your apprentice? Won’t you tell him what he’s willing to die for?”
Thomas’ complexion went gray. “Die?”
My assistant was not yet adept at translating an assassin’s language. I’d never wanted this for him. He had a home. Family. A daughter. A wife. A profession. Happiness. I could not let Thomas get involved in any of this.
Arkenu turned his attention to my assistant. “Since your teacher is resistant I can enlighten you.”
“Don’t.” I grit my teeth.
“The Devil’s Dagger is not just any knife.”
“All right!” I raised my palm to stop Arkenu’s speech.
“Master?” Thomas’ eyes held a desire to understand.
“Remember what I’ve told you about knowledge?”
He nodded. “Knowledge is power.”
“Do you remember the rest of it? Everyone forgets there is a balance in all things.”
“Knowledge is a double-edged sword. It can give you power, but if you don’t have the means to protect it, it can kill you.”
Good. He remembered. I lowered my voice for only him to hear. “If you know, you’re a witness. What happens to witnesses here?”
Thomas’ eyes widened. He understood. Witnesses disappeared. One never revealed what one knows. Not unless necessary or for profit. But only when that knowledge won’t come back and take a chunk out of the knowledgee in the ass. If I didn’t know about the Devil’s Dagger, I might happily hand it over to Arkenu. But if that happened, If I gave the talisman to the assassin, a human…no.
“It would be in the right hands.” Arkenu stepped forward.
I whipped around. “Don’t move.”
He took me seriously and stood at the other end of the shop. “Elddyn…Elder. I implore you to think this through. Desperate men take unfathomable risks. Do unfathomable atrocities. Prejudices make men do things even worse in the name of righteous condemnation. They turn on friends, lovers, their own blood.”
My heart sunk. If there was any mystery left that Arkenu knew I was a Drake, it’d been demystified. His bread crumbs of information left just enough to expose me to those who understood about drakes, but left the unlearned ignorant.
“I know you have it.” He held out his hand.
“Spies are good for that.”
“No. I know.” He pressed his palm over his heart.
“You are not the forgotten prince,” I snarled.
“How can you be sure? Prophecy says…”
“Prophecies are wrong!” Oh, how I knew prophecies were cow dung.
Arkenu leaned back and eyed me. “All the same.” He held out his hand.
I pushed Thomas backwards, towards the door. This megalomaniac thought he was the descendant of Yair. No. It didn’t work that way. He was pure human. Not even one percent dragon. I couldn’t be paid to consider the notion. Prophecy be damnable.
“Perhaps you’re not as smart as I thought.” Arkenu dropped his arm. “There is no way out.” He wasn’t going to chase after us. That meant he either had a man by the door, or was confident he’d catch up. Maybe both. Scenarios played in my mind. All of them left Thomas dead. Unacceptable.
“If you’re thinking you’re Vanfald guild friend can help you…” He waved a hand in the air, as if he were sweeping away all obstacles. He did not finish his sentence and let my thoughts make their own conclusions.
“Kuval?” I smiled. “He can take care of himself.”
“True, he does play at challenging rogue dragons, but I wonder how well he does against one that is trained to kill.”
“I’m sure he’s fine.” I’d heard rumors of a pyromage inside the Kenwald guild. Didn’t mean he was a dragon. He could be a Drake. Arkenu was trying to bait me.
“Then you haven’t heard? I’m surprised, Elddyn. Mayhap you’re losing your touch.”
I grit my teeth. He was pushing all my buttons. “A Pyromage does not a dragon make.”
“Ah, so you have heard of Homura.”
This conversation was getting too risky—for Thomas. The more he heard, the more he’d understand. The more in danger he’d be. “Thom…” I whispered over my shoulder. “Your duty for the day is done. Go home.”
“Hazardous decision, isn’t it?” Arkenu stood without a care in the world. “You’ll be left alone.”
“Thomas?” I looked back at my assistant.
His wide eyes were glued to Arkenu. He was terrified. “Master?”
He gave me a curt nod.
Arkenu shrugged and waved a hand at my shops front door. “Try your luck, intern.”
He had men posted outside. I grabbed Thomas by the wrist.
“Give it to me.” The Guild Master held out his hand.
“No,” I snarled. I shouldn’t have confessed I had the Devil’s Dagger, but pride got the better of me. Damnable. He now knew I had the blade.
A genuine smile crossed Arkenu’s face. “Since you have been generous, I’ll offer a trade.”
Bastard. Pushing my face in my admittance was childish. “I won’t hand it to you.”
I narrowed my eyes. What was he playing?
“Trade. Thomas for you.”
“Go home Thomas.”
“Yes, intern. Please go now.”
“Master Elddyn?” Thomas pulled at the hem of my robe.
I refused to look at him. “Get out of my sight.”
“And do come back tomorrow.” Arkenu threw a glance to my assistant. “Tell no one of our conversation. Don’t worry about being short one master. I’ll make sure you have a man to…help during business hours.”
Nice. I could help but curl my lip into a contemptuous snarl.
“I don’t like this.” My assistant refused to go. He still clung to my sleeve.
“Damnable, Thomas, my life is in your hands. Don’t tell anyone about this. Leave now. Come back tomorrow. You can run the shop on your own.” My shortness almost brought the man to tears.
“I’ll be back tomorrow.” Thomas nodded and let go of my robe.
Arkenu opened the shop’s front door and gave a bird call. He let Thomas pass and looked to me. “You too. Let’s go.”
“I should lock up.”
“Your shop and your wares will be fine.” Arkenu leveled his gaze as if to say I’m not stupid. Well, it was worth a try. I followed the guild master out. We walked North East, towards Brogan Prison just as the sun dipped beyond the horizon.
Until next time!
♥ ~ Stephy