Guest Post – Bones of the Earth
Free today and tomorrow: The Bones of the Earth
Scott Bury’s first novel, The Bones of the Earth, is available free on Monday, October 8 and Tuesday, October 9 from Amazon at (http://www.amazon.com/Bones-Earth-Dark-Age-ebook/dp/B006PI0NRG/).
The Bones of the Earth breaks many rules of the fantasy genre. Set in the Eastern Roman Empire during the Dark Ages, it tells the story of Javor, a social outcast from a remote Slavic village who encounters mythical horrors and has to find the answer to the riddle: what are the bones of the earth, and why has the earth itself turned on humanity?
The story blends mythology from the many cultures : Greek, Roman, Slavic, Teutonic, Sarmatian, Celtic and more.
The following is from the beginning of Part 3 of The Bones of the Earth; Javor has reached the Roman port of Constantius, on the Euxine Sea, which we now call the Black Sea.
A half moon had just risen. Low grey clouds, just shadows against the purpling evening sky, flew ahead of a chill wind from across the Euxine sea.
Javor shivered and drew his ragged cloak closer around his throat. He tried not to make noise as he hurried. He thought he could see his destination in the failing light: a rickety shed at the end of an even more rickety dock, teetering on long poles over the water, separate from all the other buildings in the harbour. In the shadows it looked like a great water-bug perching near the shore, waiting for … something.
He knocked on the door, which was only a cracked and weathered plank. It rattled under his knuckles and opened into blackness. He heard a faint repetitive creaking and a laboured breathing over the gentle sounds of the water below his feet. A musty odour came out. Javor scowled and stepped in hesitantly.
Inside, he could see only dim shapes in the faint light from the open door. There was no fire, yet the air was warm and stuffy. The repetitive creaking came from the far corner. Javor gradually made out a figure squatting on the floor, arms wrapped around his knees, rocking back and forth.
“Hello?” said Javor. “Are—are you … umm, Paleologus?”
The figure stopped rocking and raised his head. Javor could now see that he was wearing a hood. A blanket was wrapped around his legs. “Who are you?” demanded a raspy, aged voice.
“My name is … Janus,” Javor answered. He didn’t know what prompted him to use the name that Photius had given him at the Roman fort, but it seemed somehow safer in this dilapidated city filled with strange looking and heavily armed people.
“Janus,” repeated the croaking, old voice, and the figure resumed rocking. “Janus,” it rasped again. “So, Photius sent you?”
Javor was shocked to hear the old magus’ name.
“How did you know?”
“From the ring on your finger. What do you want?”
“Photius said you might have answers.”
A strange croaking and wheezing came from the figure. Javor realized it was laughter. “Answers. No. Only questions. There are no answers. There never were, never will be,” the figure rasped. He stopped rocking and lifted his head. Candles flared to sudden life, the light chasing shadows into the corners of the shed. Javor started. I should be used to that old trick by now. Photius used it often enough.
“He is dead, then?” Javor nodded, then gasped as the candlelight illuminated the figure’s face: it was a woman, an old, old woman. Her white hair hung long and limp. Her thin face was all long vertical lines: long, deep shadows dipping below high cheekbones, lines leading from each side of her long nose down to the corners of her mouth, vertical lines like a row of spikes along her upper lip, lines leading down from the corners of her mouth to her chin. There were more deep lines on her neck leading under whatever clothing she was wearing. Yet more lines criss-crossed her forehead. Her eyebrows were mere darker shadows. Her heavy eyelids drooped to almost vertical at the sides.
But her eyes were lit by a piercing intelligence that flared in the shadows. They searched Javor’s eyes for something, some truth, that Javor could not say. Finally, her eyes dropped away and she looked sadly at the dirty floor.
“You knew him well?” Javor asked as the silence thickened like smoke.
The woman nodded. “We were lovers once. Many years ago.” She started rocking again. “What did he tell you about me?”
“He told me to look for Paleologus, or rather, ‘old wisdom,’ in Constantia. He said you would be in a place like this, in a wooden shed over the water. No one here knew that name, but finding this … house wasn’t all that hard. It stands further out over the sea than any other place.” He shivered as the wind found a way in through cracks in the walls.
“Paleologus,” the old woman laughed sadly. “Yes, that would be his idea of a joke. ‘Old wisdom’ indeed.”
“Then what is your name?”
Still looking at the floor, she answered “Once, I had the nerve to call myself ‘Sophia.’ The true wisdom. Oh, what a foolish girl I was. But I was strong then, and beautiful, and Photius loved me …Oh, he made many bad choices. He chose the wrong side.”
She sighed and looked at him. “The gods are at war, as never before. Sky once loved Earth and together they brought forth life and many beautiful and horrible things, but they were all alive. Now, Sky has turned away from Earth, and seeks to suppress her … and all the great civilizations have turned away from her, too—Rome, Persia, all now worship Sky and call Earth evil. They despoil her soils, pollute her waters…”
This made no sense to Javor. He lost his patience. He put his knife and amulet into Sophia’s hands. “What do these mean?”
Sophia’s eyes grew wide. She held the dagger and medallion under the candlelight, which flared brighter. “Where did you get these?”
“They were my great-grandfather’s,” Javor answered, shielding his eyes from the candles which burned even brighter now as Sophia turned the knife and amulet over and over, examining them closely. “He was a soldier in the Emperor’s army. He brought them back from the Caucasus, where he defeated a giant.” Sophia shook her head and whispered in a language that Javor did not understand. “What do they mean?”
Bang! A gust blew the flimsy door open and the shack filled with moaning wind. The candles flickered and died, no longer stoked by Sophia’s will.
“They are coming,” she whispered.
“What? Who’s coming?” Javor pushed the door closed.
Sophia pressed the knife and amulet into Javor’s hands. “Take these, Janus or whatever your name is. Keep them with you, but watch over them. They alone can protect you. You must run, you must go to Constantinople, but show these to no one else.”
“I know, I know, they protect me. But how? And from what? What is chasing me, and why?”
“Find our old Order at the Abbey of St. Mary of Chalkoprateia. From there, you must seek the four hundred. Only the four hundred can end this war.” The wind got stronger and Javor could hear strange noises in it.
“What are the four hundred?”
“There is no time,” Sophia said. “They are coming!” Sophia wasn’t looking at him, but seemed to be looking through the wall. “To Constantinople! You must go now!”
The Bones of the Earth is available in e-book form exclusively from Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Bones-Earth-Dark-Age-ebook/dp/B006PI0NRG/) and in print from Amazon and other bookstores.
The e-book version FREE until the end of Tuesday, October 9, from Amazon.