This is the first installment of the second book of the “Bloodlines” trilogy, by yours truly. I will post the entire draft of the book here in serialized form before I collate and publish it for Amazon Kindle. The Shaking of Epheria is a working title.
He fled. He could not even remember the last time he had fled.
He also couldn’t remember the last time he had felt less like a Deity than he did at this moment. Whatever it was that he had just seen, though, he wanted nothing to do with it. A man like him didn’t get far without being able to anticipate danger early on, and this was danger, indeed.
Glancing behind him, and saw the fading glow of the trail his fellow Deity left behind when she ran. He had only caught a glimpse of her, a glint of gold hair against high, proud shoulders, yet that was all he needed. She was certainly involved with this, somehow.
That thing. It felt like it had reached out for him as surely as if he had seen the grasping fingers. In that moment, flux expanded into a world much too large for them to be lording over like self-entitled children playing explorers.
His dignity rebelled at that. Stupid. Of course, a Deity would naturally hate such a feeling, but his hatred was less pressing than the warning buzzing in the front of his mind.
If there were ever a good time to get out of the world of the Reehlers, it was now.
“Lorin, can I talk to you? It’s about something serious.”
“Anything, you know that.”
Sifani crossed her arms skeptically as they walked beneath the cool shadow of their tower. “Let me qualify – can I talk to you and you just listen? No advice, no easy solutions, just you listening to me.”
“Well, now that’s a little bit harder to promise. You do wax long and boring sometimes…”
Sifani punched him in arm. In addition to the so-very-Lorin-like comment, she had caught his eyes straying again as she tried to keep hold of his gaze. True, it wasn’t very often he saw her in a dress – she wasn’t usually inside as much as she had been of late – but this was serious business!
He twisted his lips boyishly. “Ow.”
“Eyes up.” She smothered a smile, and beckoned him follow her to the nearby bench where they sometimes stole a few moments alone. Positioned just behind the tower on a square of struggling grass under a wizened tree, it was the closest thing to a garden view the band would ever have.
They sat down. Lorin smiled quickly at her. “So? Talk to me.”
Sifani drew in a deep breath. “Does the silence ever bother you?”
“No,” he answered, a touch too confidently. He pulled a knife from his boot and began trimming his nails.
She narrowed her eyes at him. Lying had never been high on his list of skills.
Keeping silent, he started on a thumbnail, whistling quietly between his teeth.
“Well,” she continued, “it bothers me. After all that happened with my mother, this calm is unnatural. It’s like…like prison, almost,” she struggled to articulate. “If I keep my head down, chances are, I’ll stay alive and untouched to a ripe old age. But if I don’t take action, if I don’t make some noise eventually, well, there’s no chance of escape, or of living free for the rest of my life.” A pause. “I think that living free is worth the risk.”
The knife in his hand stopped moving. He looked up, met her eyes with a look that strengthened her resolve. “You know I agree with that.”
They sat quietly for a minute, considering.
“It was only a month ago, Sifani,” Lorin finally proffered, examining his left hand. “Not long. The silence can’t last long, anyway, not after, you know, you went on a little crusade to take down one of the Deities and all.”
Sifani snorted. “Maybe. Ah, Lorin. I just wish I knew why the other Deities kicked me out of the epheria like they did. I have a feeling it’s not because they took a fancy to me.”
Lorin pushed a black curl off his forehead irritably. Sifani watched his pointedly blank expression. He was holding his tongue.
“I see that look! You think I should break the silence myself, and just go to flux and ask them!”
The young sunlight flashed off his teeth as he grinned. “I’m sorry, Sifani. Much as I’d love to, I can’t confirm that. You told me not to give you any advice.”
One month ago – the first and last time Sifani had used the powers particular to her Reehler bloodline – seemed part of a different lifetime. Then, she had been mired in the chaos of finding out things about her past she should’ve always known, and entering the epheria had been something of a comfort to her.
That comfort ended when she opted to follow her mother into flux. There was nothing safe or agreeable about the process of ripping apart the pieces of her own being to become an un-being. All Sifani knew is that while she didn’t want to do it again, she also did.
In the secure familiarity of her own room, she sat on the edge of her bed and calmed her buzzing nerves. It helped to have Lorin standing nearby, watching over her, though his presence was more of a token than a necessity. She took long, slow breaths to the shuffling rhythm of his footsteps, until her mind could sink back into the daydream state that was the threshold to both flux and the epheria. That, at least, was as easy and thoughtless as walking.
Forcing herself to focus on the pieces of her own being, on the other hand, was like trying to walk a straight line on the deck of a ship heaving on the high seas. It was less terrifying and yet no less terrific than that first time she had done it, now knowing what to expect. She felt as if she floated an infinitesimal distance from her mind and self. She was unreal, a mere echo off the wall of reality.
Despite her previous experience here, that sense of unreality threw her. How could a person grow used to it? For a moment, thought and intention were nearly lost, so faint that not even the emotion of panic could touch Sifani. In weak muscle-memory of her actions a month ago, Sifani willed herself to reach past the nothingness and grabbed hold of the pieces of herself before it was too late.
She clutched to the metaphor that had kept her together before: she was paint and paintbrush, paintbrush and artist, and she dipped brush into paint and mixed the colors into something strange, beautiful, and altogether beyond her.