The following is an excerpt from Obsidian Waith, a fantasy novel slated for publication in 2017-2018.
I am an entity of darkness. Only the shadows keep me company, whispering their strange songs in my head. I feel them floating over me like the caress of a demon. It grips me tight until I cannot breathe. I am drowning in a sea of ice and shadow. It is much more than just an ocean of death—it is a living entity that overwhelms me like a god. A scream washes up my throat as black flames leap from my flesh. I paw at the inferno crawling over my body. The most primal part of my being knows I have precious few seconds left to live. I am drowning and burning at once. I look toward the surface shimmering under a colossal black sun. A woman’s voice cries out clearly in this murky void. She screams my name over and over as my soul turns to dust.
Nazair awoke with a start, staring wildly into the depths of the forest. The senseless void from his nightmares was replaced by the canopy of towering trees. Birds twittered in the low hanging boughs. Sunlight splashed across his face from his high perch in the knotted branches of a birch tree. His back rested comfortably against the pale trunk as the autumn leaves spiraled past him in their dance. He recalled climbing the tallest tree in the forest at nightfall and drifting off to a restless sleep. Only a fool would sleep on the ground where beasts and creatures reigned.
A feathered breeze ruffled his thick raven hair, stirring sensations in his heart that he feared he would never feel again. He stroked his face to ensure it was intact, running his fingers along his strong jawline and a shadow of a beard. He held his hand in front of his eyes as if he could seize the gold-tinted mist. Everything was as he left it when he fell asleep. He didn’t know if he should thank the gods or not for the fact that he still drew breath—because in his heart he knew the vision from his nightmare held a grain of truth.
He looked down at his hand.The sight horrified him. Flesh-eating darkness gorged on his hand. Much the same way as a parasite, it nourished and grew as it consumed. Sometimes the black mass drove him to convulsions when it inched closer toward his heart. It was a miracle that he lasted as long as he did. Too many times the thought of cutting off his arm occurred to him.
Nazair always let the irrational notion pass because he knew the curse ran much deeper than blood and sinew. It had latched itself onto his soul. This plague would continue to feast on him until there was nothing left but dust.
A twinge ran up his arm and he felt unexplainably less alive. With a snarl, he tied off the bandages around his hand, futilely trying to conceal the object of his torment. That gesture brought him more comfort than it did any practical benefits. If he put the sight out of his mind—if he didn’t acknowledge how much closer the darkness was creeping toward his heart—maybe it would disappear entirely.He laughed in the face of his self-pity.
This was no time for brooding or indulging fear. Left with a limited number of days, necessity demanded that every second be devoted to a solution. After leaving countless cities behind, he wondered if his search would result in a cure. Perhaps he was destined to wither away in vain.
“No!” he screamed to his own surprise. More than just his life was at stake. His existence teetered on annihilation as this curse drank away the last exquisite morsels of his soul. He also remembered the scream in his nightmares—the woman crying out his name.
The only person who gave him meaning would perish if he didn’t save himself.