Word count as of April 2017: 70K
I know that's a sucky explanation so let me try again. The reader gets to explore riding along with a deeply damaged dragon and his gut wrenching, claw-scraping journey to become more than he is while reconciling with the responsibility and consequences of a horrible mistake.
What I find so amazing about this process is the concrete visuals I get in my head for these characters once I have a visual. Now I can see him. What he looks like. How he moves. Even the clothes he wears. Before, there was an undefined body. Sure he had eyes and hair, even body type, but the details? Not so much. That's why I like working with artists. I now have a concrete picture I can go to and describe him clearly.
That would be Kuval.
And here he is...
The last concept is the addition of Homura. Once we get his eyes pinned down and the three of them together, we'll do the pen lines and coloring. It's been such a fun process. I feel very lucky to have an artist that loves them and brings them to life.
And...here is the latest excerpt for your enjoyment. Thank you for reading! (And putting up with my quirks.)
Excerpt ♦ Pyromage
Only those that knocked on the gate of hell, begging to be let in, begging for release from life, were my kin. Confidence, faith, sentiment—none of these words described me. But Kuval sweat out such creed without his notice.
He took the pole-clamp contraption and hoisted the rod over his shoulder lifting me into the air by my neck. My head felt like it would detach from my body. In an instant I was choking, gasping for breath, kicking my legs and trying to free my arms.
“Oh, sorry.” Kuval glanced back with an evil twinkle in his eye. He leaned the pole down just enough so I could tiptoe my way down the alley. I could barely breathe. This clamp-rod was an effective method of transporting a prisoner—me—from point to holding cell.
As we walked, Kuval took side streets and dark lanes through the city. Few candle lit windows offered light. Those glancing out their windows didn’t linger, especially those that met my eyes. The sparse people we did pass didn’t give me a second glance. We were in Kuval’s territory. These people were not of the upscale variety. Their clothes were cloaks, rags or non-existent. I didn’t expect any of them to go out of their way for me. Not for a Pyromage. None spoke and few glanced at my predicament. There wasn’t a curious eye among them. These were the hopeless, the broken and the forgotten masses of Aleenia.
Multi-storied, crumpled buildings eclipsed the moonlight as Kuval strode down the dirty streets. Most buildings were made of brick and mortar. Others were shack-like made of wood. All of them run-down, poorly made, or on the verge of collapsing. The wretched underbelly of Aleenia was a good place to hide, or get sequestered.
Kuval jostled me around like a successful hunter bringing dinner home to his family. “This place use to be the jewel of Aleenia.”
All I could answer was a grunt. Though I wasn’t really answering him. More like trying not to suffocate as we walked.
“But that was back when Yair ruled.”
“Yair is a myth,” I spout.
He washed a what-do-you-know eye over me and kept his steady pace.
The Brogan prison came into view. Shit. Was he turning me in? I would flame out and ash a crap-load of guards before going in there. It housed the worst of the murderers, thieves and unsanctioned assassins. Its surrounding wall was fifteen feet high. The prison itself was a four story mass of thick stone. Rumor had it they knew how to deal with my kind in there too. But I was a sanctioned assassin. Not a rogue.
“They’ll arrest you as well,” I said.
Kuval looked back at me again. All he gave me was his confident smile. Great. Kuval was throwing me to guards of Brogan.
But he turned away from the prison and headed into town. As he walked and I choked, tip-toeing down the streets, the moon cast its last light before hiding behind the western mountains. The tin roof of the water tower that supplied the eastern part of the city reflected the moonlight. The tower became bigger as we got closer and closer. Finally, it was apparent that the water tower was where we were headed.
When he turned down a flight of cracked stone steps it was the first time my heels touched the ground and I could truly breathe. Darkness enveloped Kuval as he stepped into an alcove. Metal keys jingled and a door creaked open.
“Don’t flame up or it could become very wet for you all of a sudden.”
My neck was jerked forward and I went down into the darkness. Stairs lead to a very large, dark room. Cold stone assaulted me with its musty mold-ridden ambiance. My insides began crackling against the element of water floating in the air. I shielded myself with the thinnest layer of heat to dry out my surroundings. The place was equipped with a peculiar stone altar. Clamps, big enough to hold down a wrist or an ankle, held fast on the sides of the stone slab. A pipe system ran along a wood ceiling. If my hands were free, I could reach up and touch the panels. Kuval’s height was nearly too much for the short ceiling. We were directly under the water tower.
“Word of caution,” Kuval said. “I don’t know how much water there is above us, but it’s enough to last all of Aleenia for three days.”
“So don’t burn the ceiling.”
“I’d be fine. You, not so much.”
“Perfect place to sequester a Pyromage.” It was common knowledge that fire and water did not get along. Since I was an element of fire, pure water did not treat me kindly.
We walked inside and my sight adjusted. Jars, beakers and other equipment suited for a laboratory sat on a long wooden table spanning one side of the room. On the other side was a small kitchen, if one called a sink and a butcher block a kitchen. Otherwise the room seemed sparse.
Once inside, Kuval turned me around and walked me backwards until the back of my knees hit solid rock. He’d backed me up to the altar. I had no choice but to sit down. He appraised me turning the clamp-pole side to side, forcing me to twist back and forth.
“I’m guessing you’d rather see it coming.” His eyes sparkled with mirth.
Oh shit. He was going to kill me. “No—”
He pushed the rod, choking me as I slid up the altar. Kuval stepped up, hovering over me with is legs straddling my hips and shoved me on my back. My arms and hands didn’t have anywhere to go since they were locked behind me and because they were tied at the small of my back, my chest stuck out. My open coat fell away exposing my pale, hairless chest. Kuval gave me an appreciative look. He spread my legs out, using his feet, kicked my ankles into the altars clamps and locked my legs so they couldn’t move.
“Do you know what Vandfald means?” Kuval eyed my body. He held onto the rod as a pole and swung around, enclosing my head between his boots. His hands had to be killing him.
“I know it’s your guild’s name.” I wanted to tell him what he could do with his sizable erection.
“That’s true.” He gazed down into my eyes. “But it means water fall.”
Bastard. I knew what he was doing. He was lining up his cock and my mouth so he could imagine… I shuddered.
He released my neck from his contraption and jumped down. My legs were spread and clamped to the stone and my hands were tied behind my back. I could sit up, but nothing more.
Kuval rummaged underneath the long table. He’d grabbed a bucket, dipped it in a water trough and threw liquid at me. Ice water splashed over my body.
“Motherfucker!” Water stung like a thousand paper cuts. An entire bee hive could sting me all at once and that would still be better than the water searing my skin. I gasped and struggled while steam rose from my body.
“That should keep me safe for a bit.” Kuval unlocked my legs, grabbed my boots and slipped them off. Considering I never tied the laces, it made taking them off easier. While I was still recovering from the dowsing, Kuval grabbed the top of my pants and pulled the buttons open.
“Do you know why we’re called Vandfald?” Kuval took hold of my pants and slipped them down. “No underwear, nice. Good thing I didn’t know at Barkeep’s or I might have shoved you down on the counter right then.”
I flailed my pale legs, trying to knee him. He was gone one moment, then another wave of ice water covered my body. This time making contact with bare skin. I screamed and twisted in pain. My body was being cut with invisible knives. Everywhere the water touched drove my fire magic further and further into the safety of its host—me.
“We call ourselves Vandfald because we know how to deal with Pyromages, or in your case, fire dragons. I’m not gifted with elemental water magic, but I know all the tricks.”
There was that word again. Dragon.
Until then, happy reading!
♥ ~ Stephy