Well, maybe not, but it sure feels good to say. I was having a bit of a rough stretch. Only able to crank out 25k words in 7 weeks for the sequel to the Lazarus Men. Books aren’t supposed to be that hard to write. So, I made the executive decision to put the project on hiatus and explore a project that has been bouncing around in my head for about a year. It is unlike anything I’ve done before. Most of you know by now that I spent a few decades in the army, a few years in different wars, and have a degree in military history.
With that in mind, I decided to form a fantasy story based (on the premise) of the Syrian civil war. Thrown in the Afghan warlord system and I had a plan. The result is what I call: Coward’s Truth: A Novel of the Heart Eternal. Here’s a taste for your Monday enjoyment. As always, read on my friends. Read on.
THE HEART ETERNAL
Ghendis Ghadanaban was once a city of wonder. An oasis where the cultured and civilized flocked to impart their knowledge and culture upon the world. A city so fair it was ruled by a genesis of gods, one at a time. Golden towers speared to the heavens, desperate in the pursuit of wealth and knowledge. People of every culture were welcomed with open arms, for the gods were benevolent. Kingdoms dispatched emissaries with longstanding embassies to treat with the ruling body. It was meant to be a golden time. Ghendis Ghadanaban represented everything good about the world.
Once, but no more.
Today the sprawling streets contained thousands of refugees, for the kingdom was locked in a years long civil war. Once pristine streets were cluttered with detritus. The stench of filth permeated entire districts no matter how hard the Prefecture attempted to maintain some semblance of order. Yet despite the gripping turmoil, the city endured. It became stronger. It’s light brighter. Citizens and refugees began to refer to it as the Heart Eternal, for not even the violence of war was strong enough to eclipse the light of hope.
Sandis Vartan sipped from the small glass cup. Hot turang, he’d discovered, was the best thing to take off the night’s chill. The caffeinated properties of the drink were widely discussed and bickered over. Sandis heard none of it. His elevated position among the clergy precluded him from the restrictions of the masses. Pursed lips filled with cracks only age brought touched the glass and he sucked the hot liquid into his mouth. A wry smile crossed his face as he imagined the scolding his mother would have given if she were still alive. It was a daily ritual.
A platter of fresh fruits and pastries sat off to his right, dominating nearly half of the marble table, prompting him to wonder how much his staff thought he ate. By their estimations, he should be well over four hundred pounds. Not at all representative of his slender, almost painfully thin, frame. Frowning, Sandis ignored the food and finished his drink while gazing out across the city.
White birds drifted in flocks over the terra cotta tiled rooftops of the wealthy. Beyond, almost obscure in the morning haze, stretched the rest of the city. It was his duty to patrol the streets and bring the word of the god king to new arrivals and those suffering from lack of faith. He didn’t understand their worry, for the god king was kind and benevolent. No ill came to Ghendis Ghadanaban during his reign.
Sandis knew the truth of matters. That the current ruler was the forty-seventh of his line. Each ruled over the course of several mortal lifetimes, enriching the city and residents beyond measure. Sandis enjoyed the comforts of that knowledge, even while struggling with understanding how anyone could dispute otherwise. Yet they did. Heralds and criers began popping up more often as throngs of new people arrived. One of the problems with the world, he’d determined long ago, was that people tended to bring their belief structure with them after fleeing a land where those beliefs failed.
Slippered feet, hurrying down the pillar lined corridors, disturbed his few moments of daily tranquility. Sandis turned to face the linen curtains acting as his doors, drink in hand. He didn’t wait long. Two men, boys really, entered without observing protocol. He spied the strain, the unmitigated stress in their eyes, and began to fret. They were breathing hard and were red-faced with worry.
“You had best explain yourselves,” he said with a rasping voice. Sandis was a generous man, but not one to encourage disrespect.
“First Prophet,” the smaller of the two said with a deep bow. “You must come quick. Omoraun Dala’gharis is dead.”
The glass slipped from his hand to shatter in a thousand pieces at his feet.