December 12, 2011

Call of the Chained God in PSF7!

My story, Call of the Chained God, has been accepted for the Philippine Speculative Fiction #7 anthology!  Still awaiting word on when it’ll come out, but in the meantime here’s a teaser:

Issander pushed himself to quickly take down the two mercenaries who’d discovered him, desperation driving him to take extreme risks.

The sell-swords in their turn were no fools, and fought exclusively on the defensive to delay him, knowing they only had to last until the others arrived. Their swords rang like bells in the twilight, Issander at a serious disadvantage as he was attacking with a shorter blade than the falchion and saber the mercenaries carried. They had attacked so suddenly, there’d been no time to draw the longsword.

Out of the corner of his eye, Issander saw three more mercenaries running towards him. Must finish this, now!

Screaming an incoherent warcry, he launched an all-out attack, driving both his attackers against the wall of some ancient edifice, then played his gambit. He let one of the mercenaries slip aside, and as expected, the veteran fighters pulled a reversal on him, pinning him against the wall. Believing his prey caught, one attacked -- and died. The other gave back, waiting for his comrades.

Leaving his shortsword buried in the dead mercenary’s flesh, Issander ran. The four now pelted after him, hallooing for the rest of their party. But now, with room to maneuver, Issander’s agility and his knowledge of Calistorr proved decisive. He quickly lost them in the darkening maze of streets and arcades.

Years of being hunted had sharpened Issander’s evasive instincts, so that even as he ran he was formulating his plan for escape. To complicate things further for his pursuers, he planted the still-lit glowstick just beyond the entrance to a crumbling tenement. If his hunters were stupid, they’d enter – and meet the current resident, a twelve-foot arachnid of virulent temper and even more virulent fangs.

Issander took the course his pursuers couldn’t know, into a window of the same tenement and through a series of chambers sealed from the mutant spider’s reach, and out another window at the back. With the first two moons rising, there would be more than enough light to navigate the city streets. Now all he had to do was see if he could get back to the Upper City tower he’d appropriated as his personal castle, get his mount and gear, and ride out one of the other gates.

Nevertheless, thoughts of flying again filled Issander with smoldering anger. The months he’d spent alone in Calistorr had been the longest period of peace he’d enjoyed in a long while – never mind the brushes with the wildlings and other predators, who were only doing as their natures bound them; it was freedom from human enmity that he craved. When he was finally able to pause for breath, he ripped off the headcloth to let his sweaty head cool, exposing the root of his problems.

The phoenix glyph.

Images of the Recognition ceremony drifted behind his eyes like shards of a broken mirror - the singing, the pounding drums, the lines of Jerdaryan nobility standing disdainfully in archaic parade armor, the searing as the crystal focused the Holy Sun's rays on his forehead. The disbelief on the faces of the Sun Speakers, as they saw the glyph revealed on Issander's brow for the first time.

The Stone of Recognition never lied, for it read the psychic traces of a mortal's bloodline. And it had inscribed the Imperial Phoenix on him, the Powerless half-breed, the disfavored half-caste. Now he was Issander sa-Rayhar, blood of the very first of the God-Binder Kings. Issander wished he had received any one of the other eight House glyphs but this one. Better yet, he wished the Stone had never pierced the strange opacity of his mind to psychic touch, and given him no mark at all.

From the Slave Legions he had been elevated to the rank of jerdar-knight and prince, acknowledged son of Jeran Artanis of Thasaion. Artanis’ pure-blooded children had never forgiven him for it. And now they had sent Lord Tyrus to hunt him down.

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