Below are excerpts from Elsuon - The Stonecutter's Son and Elsuon - Came Synralia — Books I and II, respectively.
CHAPTER 1 - THE LAND OF SUZULON
Passing rows of gibbets and their rotting tenants, Branadan and his son, escorted by Rainglaives, crossed over the largest bridge into the Keel. It was there, as the officers verified Branadan’s credentials, the architect pulled his son aside to counsel him. “I have stood before many lords, Allesson, as have you, and you have done well; but this is another man entirely. This is not going to be what you think it is. No, this is a different work altogether. Listen, stay alert, lest this place swallow you with its speech. You will hear of strange things and see stranger ones. Things will appear at first heavy and usual, and you may feel like you are swimming against the tide instead of being carried along with it. Be patient, my son. Listen and learn. For here, in what you will soon come to, all things matter. Hear, for there is diamond dust in the mortar of this place. If you press through, you will come to a better current, good, and strong. In time all things shall knit together, and the yarn thereof shall be clear.”
CHAPTER 2 - THE HONORABLE SULEON PREED
“You forget you’re old until something young and beautiful walks by you. Like the first flowers of spring: always faithful to their yearly appointments, but always in bloom before you expect them. This proves the fault lies with us. She smiles, if only because she is too young to know how unfortunate the days are. The young are decades from dread,” Suleon gave Allesson’s shoulder a parting squeeze, joking, “And you, young man, could be that dread.”
CHAPTER 3 - THE ARCHDUKE OF NYMIRIA
“I should tell you, Master Branadan, the name Panamori is worth more to me than yours, which has come to me only recently but not without laurels, I grant. We know whose company the man keeps, and we have no endurance for warlocks here. Clashchanters and Prince-Ghasts, Well Known Men and wizards,” he sneered. “All this talk of bones and hexes: I am sick to the back teeth of merlings and mystichora, all hiding under the eaves of vicious spirits. It wrecks the mind to consider their craft. It is long overdue that someone should haul that throne-stealer over a comb, but let the Long Souls score their own bastards, I say.”
CHAPTER 4 - THE LORD OF LIGHT & SHADOW
As the Archduke gave his orders, Allesson wandered towards the ironwork and peered through it. In the room stood several monstrous, four-footed skeletons. Other bone-frames, covered by leather tarps, nets and guide ropes, were erected farther way. A small crew of artisans busied themselves around new remains, armed with hammers and lathes, wire and glue, punches and awls, commissioned to reframe every ball and socket, every fang and scute, and every mortise and tenon to their former hinge. The skeletons averaged eight feet at the shoulders, sporting a hull of crisscrossed ribs that bowed down from overdeveloped spines, maws that could bite warhorses in half, and claws that could score rock. Unlike the smooth bones of lesser carnivores, these skeletons were perversely flanged. Their rune-grooved bones, though now displayed in silence and stillness, were so terrible in their implication, one could not glance at them and mistake them unsorcered. No, these dragon-dogs were a dark enterprise, centuries in the perfecting, magnified by curses and elaborated upon by mystics who, along with a hideous strength, ingrained a rapacity to the beasts equal in force and cruelty to the dragons and dire bears they were bred to destroy. In the common tongue, they were feared as Hounds of Havok, for once born they were as much a danger to their owners as to their prey. Incapable of being tamed, after they had cleared the land of terrors, they were lured back to the sea and drowned.
CHAPTER 5 - THE SWORD OF OLD FAIRHANDS
It was a strange device: conceived by a reclusive people who tunneled through the world at depths unimagined by those races that cherished the sun. How the chisel could break even the Stones of Dior so easily, he could not guess. In truth, half of him did not care, for he had yet to lay it against a mineral it could not split. Thus, in the plainest terms, Branadan was a man who could work with stones others could not. Fame came quickly and clung to him, despite his irascible nature that more patient nobles tolerated. Privacy, eccentricity, even arrogance often attended brilliant minds: poets, masters of prose, alchemists, and other imaginative souls. Soon it was said (and not too softly) that this Branadan, this Only Son of Nine, could rip the Hard Wealth, the defiant Stones of Dior. As the moment proved, he could shape stones that trebuchets and battering rams could not breach, and this one fact made his name the first on the lips of many men with military ambitions, including the Archduke of Nymiria. His voice thinned to a whisper. “Hard to believe, just when one wishes away all talk of miracles, one appears.” He ran his thumb down the sharp corner. “Almost arrogant, how they refuse to be denied.” As the memory of his wife came upon him, he sneered and stood, unable to fathom how inexplicable events come to some and not to others.
CHAPTER 6 - THE SHRINE OF THE STARMOVER
In the early years of the Penance of Andial, when the Nymirians claimed the ruins of the Wended Skel as their intervening capital, their landing stirred the envy of local powers such as the coast-cruising Abareeds and regional terrors like the Ghul-Maraud who maundered up from the astringent rivers of the country to war against them. Confident in the strength of their obedient blue drakes, the Nymirians held their ground in those early decades, until their sky wardens succumbed one by one to a strange and incurable distemper. The oldest of the breed, classed as pennyroyals, changed as a dark and hideous riot played out in their sleek, cerulean frames. The fabric of their souls as much as their shells competed in this insurrection. In just a clutch of years, the beautiful soarers of the Old Country, lured to exodus across the Sea of Pleats by the rebel sorceress Anjal, had transmogrified into the gale-nested Karganoi—The Lightning Drinkers.
Learning the Abareeds were stronger near the sea that far from it, that the Ghul-Maraud were allergic to their imported trees, and that the Karganoi, new to being, rarely strayed from their electric havens, the Nymirians made their long escape to the mountainous south. Riddling through the Perch of the Gorgons and skirting the baffling Valley of the Moon Seeds, they came to a wild and lustrous country framed by rivers of fire and braced by unbreakable ranges of white rock. If these wonders had not stunned them, there was, on what became their far eastern border, a mountain that turned slowly, as if it were the great spindle of the world.
CHAPTER 7 - THE THREE WISE MINISTERS
“Aye, them too, those lack-souled fools. A people who excel in the art of ruin,” Tremblay said. “You are pushing an open door with the Archuke if you say the Abareeds must be deprived of their best forts and destroyed. Conquered by the Drolobards in ages past, they took up the ramblings of their mad prophet, that butchering heretic of old, Mindojamin, and hear mysteries moaned out by hanged men. Now marred after them, wherever the Abareeds raise their flags one finds poverty, ruin, slavery, slaughter, boxes of hands and baskets of tongues. When weak, they speak of peace; but when strong, they are heralds of carnage. Like the flaxen, bronze-swinging Sajans and the old seafaring Rothbards, these iron-proud Abareeds are what is worst in men, for there is too little love in them. They cannot rise above their tribe, or any other, so remain savages. Logandriel and the courts of Liorganda worry little over the Abareeds, if only because these Nymirians blind them before they can leer east.”
CHAPTER 8 - THE MAN FROM ARROWFELL
“Killing an innocent man is murder. Killing a guilty man is justice. Those are the rules, and you don’t need anyone else to tell you what is right or what is wrong. All those counselors and pleaders, jurists and judges, with all their casuistry and sophistry, they are good for nothing, those heel-catchers, except to lay some ruined reasoning on you. They long ago picked the bones of the law clean. Better for the world they had never been born. If there’s agony after the grave, it is reserved for those men whose blood is as bitter and cold as any murderer’s. Here it is: a man has the right to defend his life, the life of his family, and to make safe everything within reach of his arm. He has a right to eat, and to work, and think and believe as he wishes. There is no such thing as high or low born—only born. You must be careful; tyrants and zealots will always disagree, and they are everywhere. After that, there is only the quick and the dead. Everything else is decoration or delusion. What is truly right and wrong has close to no accord with the law. I do not tell you to break the law, but I do not tell you to obey it either. When in doubt, do what is right in the eyes of your mother for she was kind, gentle, spoke the truth in all circumstances, and was charitable to everyone. She gave without thought of recompense. Traffic with other men the same you would have them traffic with you: that’s it. That’s the truth of life.”
CHAPTER 9 - IN PRAISE OF STONE
Then he heard it—music. It swam like an idea, a caress of light, pure and astonishing. It was all faint and feathery, without corners, like the brush of soft armaments affixed to angels. He believed it had pined through the ages, like something beautiful taking its first and only endless breath, or a perfect mind half-silently hovering over everything else. Within it were ascending piles of pitches, sound masses, mystifying tonal clusters—and hope. Yes, hope. Under it, shouldering it, was a lone and almighty chord, like the hum of a special voice full of colors that are only heard, something more than harmony, and a most holy mood. The young man dreamed, transported by the Sound that casually repaired all the cracks of his life as it passed them. In this prime acoustic promise, there were no losses, no regrets, and no fears. The Sound soughed through all his anguishes, great and small, like some supreme breeze, and dispelled the fog of all that was not Itself in the boy. It was as if the Sound touched Allesson as he should have been, as any man can be, in some alternate undented life. It was lavish, and endearing, and enduring to the point of romance, as if this music could only smile and kiss. All that Allesson knew of Man’s best emotion paled before the Sound, now revealed as a song—a plurality of Self and Other and More. It was all things in all places in some unimaginable order: incontestably right, invincibly compassionate, precise, and desiring. All this was the Sound.
CHAPTER 10 - THE LADY HEZARYN
“No, we have no need for the corsetiere in this country. The Daughters of Sudanué know too much passion turns fondness into a fever. Besides, a river that overflows its bank is too bold. Men always want more than they’ve earned, even when a little is the better share. Poor creatures, you only ever vote with your eyes, never seeing the slender as the better sum. Only a man believes he can squeeze a lemon into a honeydew. But women, we know even the bravest knight first tilted from a rocking horse: why should we be more than maidens?” She put the curious orb down and it lazily rolled toward the edge. Hezaryn and Allesson watched it roll inexorably toward a fall. She looked at him; he looked at her. As expected, it dropped off the ledge and split in two against the hard stone floor.
CHAPTER 11 - ANDOM THE EXILE
Andom remembered, “The Blue Astor, the most beautiful sword of the age, murdered by the Slender Verdict. Murdered by hope.” He looked over to the glass maillot. “At least the Soulring was spared.” He broke from wonder, suddenly refocused. “No! Mauslophet has no interest in your disobedient mountain or its treasures, for those belong to the living; but there are others that do covet the mountain, for Ashen Garde.” Andom walked back to Allesson and stared into his eyes. “Too much evil. Black princes draw and quarter the year, unwilling to share what they pull apart. The Prince-Ghast has returned. Cast out by a goddess’ ice, even he cannot brave her curse. Nor can he recover what he desires most. His greed knows no end. Verily, he will trade a shimmer for a shine, a green hue for blue, and come against the Lord of Tintasalem, for he splits the difference between his brother’s pupil and Mauslophet... who lures him to the Saintfall.”
CHAPTER 12 - A LADY FROM ROYOS
She chuckled as his openness, handing him her left battle sleeve. Like her boots, it integrated all the necessary plates to protect the forearm, elbow, and upper arm. Inter-locked, they depended from a diminutive shoulder plate or pauldron. The size of a page’s armor, they were openly feminized. From the pauldron hung three iridescent feathers that wavered between dark blue and black. The largest was a foot in length and belonged, Allesson believed, to a great blue bird of prey. The entire upper arm was overset by an ornate plate stylized into a sleek northern face, itself integrated into a faux visor. The eyes were slanted and wide-set, after the look of elves, while the nose curved sharply, capped by a nose ring not dissimilar to a diminutive door knocker. The lips were plush and feminine. These features were bordered by a wide flange enchased with runes. At its base, the trim tapered to a daggered chin, while above it branched into an open crest. A jewel of amber was set it the forehead and contrasted its black gloss with striking effect.
CHAPTER 13 - THE HANGED MAN
Untying the belt, she examined the scabbard and found it in excellent shape. Black leather molded over wood, it had a gypseian style to it, with a bronze locket and tasseled chape. A vermiculated, bronze metal band wrapped the scabbard in the middle. Giving Allesson a last look, she pulled the sword out with a quick motion. A foreign work, it was about three feet long with an elongated handle and two feet of gently curving blade. At the tip, the blade turned up in a trailing point. It had no crossguard, not at least as they were fashioned in Eastern Fortunes. Only a slight bronze lip indicated the end of the filigreed and vermiculated handle. The blade was dark, almost black with glints of deep ocean green—when the light was oblique—and single-sided. Grooves swept forward, crossing the width of the blade at ever-widening intervals and angles. This fluting was shallow at the tip and deepened on its run to the handle. Hidden within the patina were several glyphs, sinuous and inscrutable.
CHAPTER 14 - MELHASE IN HIS GARDEN
It may well be fair to say that any man, regardless of his mood, feels his world constrict down to the point where a woman touches him. As if that same man, and everything that he is, upon contact with a woman, half expects not to survive her touch. Thereafter, he may be swept up in a mind-rattling passion he can easily mistake as a coronation to her interest. As for Sujon, yes, she was beautiful and like all beautiful woman, she had no need to make that claim herself for the world made it for her. Whether in distant lands or here, she was reminded day by day, by the lingering glances, double-takes, and many fumbled introductions that her endowments, the largesse of her looks, had been placed on the outside, turned out for the entire world to admire—whether she wanted them to be or not. There was no door, no gate, on this astonishing facet of her identity. It did not hide like intelligence, or talent, or saintly compassion, but was a steady transmission, a never-ending broadcast so beaming that to ignore it was the most insincere response to it. Ever on display, she had to measure her responses to anyone, so as not to immediately deceive them into believing they had those opportunities they desired but were in fact, never offered. However, this stonecutter’s son, this affable Allesson, had not only saved her but taken her in and treated her with civility, honesty, and no small measure of respect. These actions, combined with his easy manner, strong mind, leaping wit, and yes, his looks were proving her glaive’s evaluation: he was a good man.
BOOK III - BONUS
CHAPTER 15 - THE DISTANT SON OF HULST
“The first bit of justice that didn’t involve flags, battlefields, or bannermen, was an Abareed captured near the Wild Hollows, those winding lowlands, down near the Barrow Whelks. Barely a man, he had been caught on the wrong side of the line. He was hungry, so he ravished a young girl, a beautiful young girl with hair the color of the sun, out picking berries. He left her body in the creek. By chance, a knight was passing through on his way to the Festival of the Hollies: saw him out behind the acers, those blood-red acers. They know the color of guilt, don’t they? Aye, they do. He was still carrying her basket her mother had woven for her, still eating her berries. When I heard about it I had him brought to me. The matter with the Abareeds is an old one. He had shown me his strength, his great Abareed strength: yes, he destroyed a child with it. Such are the terms of Mindojamin and I agree to them. I purposed in my heart to show him my strength. I just reached out and squeezed,” the Archuke luxuriated in the memory. “And just like that: he didn’t matter anymore.” He looked down at his hand. “Her name was Anoel. That’s what they call it now, that little brook: the Little Anoel. On account of this, little girls with hair the color of the sun, and everything else, I show evil no mercy.”