As promised during my Rochford Directs back in December, that on the 10th of January I would post spoilers from the third installment of the ROTE CHRONICLES and so here are the opening chapters to Book 3, with complimentary photos while my illustrator gets to work on her new workload.
Here are the unedited, raw versions of Chapters 1-3:
The Man in the Mask
“It is only when your world crumbles all around you, do you finally realise all that you have lost.” – Masquerade
Lurking inside a crumbling ruin, a long figure sat upon a throne, his exposed eyes focused on the bones beside his feet.
“Life, so precious and even easier to snuff out.” The figure chuckled in his own wicked way.
Raising a single gloved hand, he put it to his face. More acutely, he put it to the mask that took up three quarters of his face.
Only the top left side of his face was exposed and unlike a normal man, his eyes were not normal.
Both black but with different white markings in each. His right eye, the only part visible on the right-hand side of his face, bore the mark of the Elohim. A singular Eye surround by six triangles, three pointing up and three pointing down.
His other eye was more sinister, a single circle with both a crescent moon and a pentacle within its rounded edge. The mark of the Shanzi.
The exposed skin was both pale and scarred from too many long years spent in battle.
Years spent at war.
A black hood covered the rest of his head, as a grand darkened robe, forged from shadow itself, covered his body, sitting above black undershirt and trousers.
But it was not just robes he wear, but dull grey armour as well. A single shoulder plate on his left shoulder with metal plates above and below his right elbow.
Then there were a singular plate on his left arm, securing his sleeve around his wrist, whilst housing a concealed blade.
As an added measure, he also bore a chest-plate and some additional metal on his legs.
He was more than just a mere man.
He was the legend.
The Soldier of light.
The General of Night.
What was once the favourite son of the Elohim, became the black ship of the family. One that went over to their mortal enemy, learned what he needed and turned against them.
Aligned to none, the Masquerade desired only one thing, the end of all, including those responsible for his creation.
“One day, all shall be dead.” He decreed, speaking in a tongue, no one in all of Sancti was fluent in, a language from a world older than the one they live on.
A movement from his left stole his attention.
“What is it Wraith?” He spat.
The being before him, was without true form, a ghostly warrior dressed in a similar fashion to the one it served.
“The hour approaches. He will soon be joining us.” The Wraith breathed hoarsely.
Masquerade looked away. “You are certain?”
Without a single sound made, a great blade burst out from the plate worn on Masquerade’s left wrist. A blade as long and as wide as his arm.
“Good. I look forwards to meeting him.
Masquerade’s eyes glowed and the markings appeared to have moved. From nowhere, bolts of purple electricity danced around the blade as another Wraith appeared in their presence.
The man in the mask was quick to react. An act which saw him shove his blade to the throat of the unrobed Wraith.
“Be still your tongue and you may keep it. Here I am all that matters. I hold the answer to your every question and only I deem it necessary when you need to know more.” Masquerade poked the blade, slicing the shadowed neck of his “guest.”
“You will serve me for if you refuse I will show you a fate worse than both death and the realm you have escaped from. Is that understood?”
Black blood seeping from his throat, the Wraith with no choice bowed his yes.
Although none could see it, Masquerade smiled beneath his mask. “See him clothed.”
In a single cloud of smoke, two more Wraiths, identical to the first, appeared and laid hands on their new comrade in arms before vanishing.
“And our numbers continue to grow. In time he’d make a welcome addition, but time we do not have.” The sole Wraith in the room hissed.
“As you have stated already. Everything is proceeding exactly as I have foreseen. But remember this, if you fail to end his life, I will end yours. You pledged your loyalty and gave me nothing but endless failings. My patience is waning and my blades have gone too long without action.”
Had the Wraith possessed visible facial features, they would display his fear. He was more than just a phantom of shadow once, once he was a noble warrior, just like all the other Wraiths, but the one they serve, he was far worse than any of them have ever seen.
Masquerade was faster, stronger and smarter than those who called him Lord, but it was his unpredictable nature that really made him dangerous and he knew it.
“Be gone with you Wraith.”
And just like that, in the same puff of smoke as before, he was gone, leaving the Lord of Ruin seated upon his throne built of bone.
Blade no longer needed, it retracted back to where it came from. He placed to fingers to his exposed temple.
“Soon Zach, you and I shall draw blades and it is then will we find out which of us is truly worthy.”
A Past not Forgotten
The man in dark robe looked round his room, searching for his bed. He needn’t have drunken as much as he did, but that didn’t stop him from finishing an entire barrel of ale.
A foolhardy move for a man whose lips had not touched alcohol in over a decade, but it was necessary. He needed further services from the Captain who sailed him to Retina, services that would have the Captain come back for him within a couple of weeks.
Had he made such a request when the Captain fearful of returning to the village suffering from an outbreak of an unknown diseased, the man’s request would have been denied outright. But to ask such a favour when the man was completely drunk out of his senses but with his first mate sober enough to remember all, of course the Captain was pleased to oblige.
But the Captain was the kind of man who doesn’t like to drink alone, and seated with a tea-total first mate, of course the man in the hood, the Elohim, had to drink with him.
He collapsed onto his bed as he thought of his home world, a world from removed from Oceania and the lands known as Sancti.
His people, referred to as the most talented of all Watchers, were something far more. Known to some worlds as the Shining Ones, to other worlds such as Earth, they were called Angels.
The most divine warriors across the entire universe, the ones without equal until they turned upon each other absent opponent. Even those most holy need a worthy adversary to keep them united.
The Elohim imaged his son, a boy of light, a true symbol of the divine, but their golden land of celestial light was soon to see its end.
The revolt was underway and already the fallen sought to triumph those who remained devoted to the light. A divide that tore even brothers apart.
Images of the fight against his younger brother flooded his mind and shrug them off, he could not. That was the Elohim’s biggest problem when it came to drinking, everything he sought to deny, the things he wished to forget would also come rushing back.
But at least the images brought with them the picture of his first love, the woman he would lose to another when she discovered her true soul mate. That was the way of the Elohim, marriage did not exist, only pure love. The fist innocent love and then the true love that would last for all eternity.
The Elohim found himself praying for sleep to come and send him on his way, tomorrow was going to be a long day, especially when the morning would see him dealing with the aftermath of his night’s drinking.
Before his eyes, his son appeared once more, during the time of the great war on their planet, the War of the Aeons. His son was beside him, fighting in battle during the night they found themselves alone, surrounded by a sea of their enemies.
After a week of endless battle, they stood atop a mountain of corpses. Their swords engulfed with blood and their breaths heavy.
This was the day his son was lost to him, not in death, but a vow, a vow to never fight beside his father ever again. A vow that would see him renounce the ways of the Elohim and sent him straight into the arms of those he slaughtered.
The father never saw his son again. Not once in the hundreds of thousands of years that have passed since.
“I have never forgot about you my son.” The Elohim slurred before at last, the sweet bliss of slumber graced him with open arms and carried him off into the land of nod.
Formation of the Una Mens
Outside the aged ruins Masquerade labelled his Kingdom, his Wraiths gathered in number. Five of them stood amongst the spiked trees indigenous to the realm of Mares.
Their voices, a mere raspy hush, similar to the rustle of leaves expressed worry.
“His Lordship is growing restless. All this waiting has taken its toll.” One remarked.
“Perhaps a sacrifice is needed? A singular death to tie him over until our cherished arrival makes his appearance.” Quipped a second Wraith of equal stature.
“A sacrifice you say? Care to volunteer?” The first Wraith interjected.
“How about the new recruit? Our number is suffice enough. We do not need another.” The third Wraith murmured.
“A fair notion, one that was said the last time we had this discussion, and yet you stand with us, having joined the ranks of your brothers.”
The comment was enough to silence the third Wraith, one of the more recent additions.
“The fact still remains, our Lord is hungry for blood and as we all know, the boy will not reach this land in time. His patience is almost gone completely, he will kill many of us before his rival comes and there is nothing we can do to hasten his journey.”
“Then by this time tomorrow…” The Wraith never got to finish his words, a black blade burst through his mouth.
Lightning bolts of purple flickered around the tip.
“You will all be dead!” Whispered Masquerade.
He retracted his weapon from his servant of shadow, and started on the others.
With very few swings of his blade, all his men fell dead in piles of ash.
In the time it took him for his blade to return to its secured setting, the Wraith from his throne room appeared beside him.
“The revelation of their treachery is indeed true. You merely prolong your existence.” Masquerade turned to look at his minion square in the face. “You yet to secure it.”
Before another word could be expressed, the wearer of the mask left in the form of a gigantic lightning bolt, one that roared like thunder.
Giving it a minute to ensure he was indeed all alone in the forest, safe from his master, he waved his arm.
A legion of Wraiths appeared before him.
“Our plan worked, the sacrifice has paid off and his thirst for blood has been quenched. Twenty-eight of us remain, more than enough to take care of all those who travel with the boy.” He cried to them all.
“I still say it wasn’t enough!” A Wraith called out.
Disgusted by the remark, almost all the Wraith moved away from the one who spoke. Their “appointed” leader chose to address him.
“What do you know?”
“I know his Lordship, of his history and his hunger. His taste buds have been teased and now he’ll crave the main course!”
“He killed five of us, two would have been adequate and yet we served him up more!” The leader hissed. “The bloodlust has been met.
“You are all fools to think that!” The singled-out Wraith cackled.
“You think us alone, his Lordship far removed from this discussion, but he is here. In the trees listening to every word you say.
“He knows of nothing!” A number of Wraith cried.
Their reply was an angered voice that screamed across the island.
The entire sky light up with thunder and lightning, flashes of purple encompassing all.
All Wraith present knew what was about to come to pass, many of them were about to cease from existence itself.
Masquerade only required four of them, the rest were just added bodies come a time he felt compelled to erase a life. That was wicked talent, he doesn’t kill his victims, he ensures their complete eradication from time itself.
Bolts of lightning flashed across the forest path and with every flash, another Wraith became a pile of ash, the result of tears wept from the universe that birthed them. A lost son never to come home.
In seconds only five Wraith remained standing, the one that was singled out and four others who still held value to their true leader.
But even then, their worth was very little.
“You are spared, purely because I chose to spare you. Do not forget that.” Masquerade called out, appearing in the middle of the clearing they stood in.
The Wraith all feel to their knees.
“Each one of you are skilled warriors in your own right. The ones who come, even he, are a pale comparison, as are you to me.”
Masquerade’s eyes began to move once more. The silver flashing purple.
“I have waited for too long for this day, none of you shall ruin it for me. Is that understood?”
“Yes your liege.” The Wraith cried as one, knelt around their commander.
“I allowed your numbers to swell too much. Quantity was an oversight. Less is more. You will fight as one, be as one. One mind. One body. One entity. You are my Una Mens. Gain my praise and I will see you all elevated beyond your current status.”
No desire to await their reply, he sent them on their way. With a simple flick of the hand, they were all forced to retreat into the night.
Both Book 1 and 2 can be found on Amazon right here:
Be sure to check back for more news will be on its way in coming days.