Rising is cheaper than:
A cup of coffee
A gallon of milk
A gallon of gas
A Stephen King novel
A speeding ticket
A doctor's appointment
Flying me to your house for a visit
Is this an appropriate marketing strategy? I don't know. How about letting “Rising” market itself?
This is one of the shortest chapters in the novel, a flashback scene to one of Zen's first memories, though of course it's not written as a memory. Scenes like this are difficult to do well, so it's a risky proposition using this one. I hope I did it well.
Excerpt of “Rising”:
Ten Years Ago
The room was dim, lighted only by candles so that the air was a misty glow of hazy smoke.
Thomas Mar sat at the table in the middle of the cellar and watched the glassy-eyed child in the corner. The boy sat with his legs crossed, his back against the wall. Shelving, a hammer, and box of nails lay against the wall next to the boy. Across the table from Tom lay a jar of ink and a quill.
The child didn’t notice as Tom flipped through the pages of the book in his hands. A thin book, but powerful.
The cover contained a single word.
Tom lay the Sornac on the table and opened the ordinary spell book to his right. It was far thicker and more decayed than the Sornac, but the spell book was not nearly as old—though many lifetimes older than Tom.
He thumbed through the pages, searching for a familiar spell. He found it in the middle of the giant tome but hesitated. There was no way to undo the spell once he activated it. And there was another risk. An even greater one. Using this spell could very well destroy the Sornac, if it could be destroyed. The spell was not meant for books, but for other objects, less fragile than paper.
Was it worth desecrating this masterpiece of magic?
If he could not at least hide it, Tom knew he must destroy it. It could never fall into the wrong hands.
“Don’t go anywhere, Zen.” The boy didn’t respond. “I must give this my full attention.”
I’ve crossed the line this time, he thought. There’s no going back, but if I’m lucky I can go forward.
Tom dipped the quill in the jar of ink and copied the symbol from the spell book onto the Sornac’s cover. He took his time, under candlelight, not daring to make a mistake.
When he was finished he stared down at the image of a pentagram. Surrounding each of the five points was a single small circle meant to signify locks, or barriers. In the middle of the pentagram was another shape, this of a pentagon, and inside it was an unrecognizable symbol, unknown to the world. It was the remnant of a long-abandoned tongue.
Tom read the rest of the spell aloud, his left hand lightly pressed upon the Sornac’s wet cover. His hand would smear the symbol, but this would not interrupt the spell.
Only time will reveal
What was once plain to see
Other words Tom spoke in a strange, eerie language, using familiar letters organized in odd patterns. He spoke slowly, working carefully to pronounce the words with precision, though he did not know what they meant.
He finished and lifted his hand. The drawn symbol was gone, as was the title. He opened the book and skimmed through it. The pages were there, but the ink was now invisible. Nothing could unlock the book’s secrets except for time itself.
Thirteen years would pass before the pages would be visible again. He had thirteen years to find a better spell, or to find a way to destroy the book, but part of him knew this was impossible. Even if there was a way, he would not use it. He could hide the book again, but he also knew this method was not sure enough.
Much could happen in thirteen long years. He could lose the book, or die. It was a dangerous thing to toy with fate, the future, time. But at least the book would be safe. At least for a little while longer.
I’m not doing this for me, Tom thought. I’m doing this for the entire world. I hope they can appreciate the risk I’m taking for them.
He took the Sornac to the only finished shelf, placing it where no one would expect to find it. He put it between its opposites. A book of healing and a book of life. They were both thin books, gray, matching the black Sornac. Tom envisioned this room full of magical tomes. He craved more secrets, and would some day have a library to rival a witch’s.
For now he had more pressing matters. Even more pressing than the Sornac, or protecting his own life. He turned around. Zen had not moved against the wall.
Tom only had a few minutes before the moon would rise and Zen would wake from his state of lifelessness.
“Is there anything you want from me, Zen?”
The boy looked at Tom for the first time in days. Tom took him in his arms and carried him to the corner of the cellar where a door stood. Tom had built it to separate what had once been a small storeroom from the rest of the cellar. Now it lead into a secret chamber. In time the door would be covered by shelving, and books, and no one would know it was there except for the two of them. It would serve its purpose as a barrier for tonight.
Tom carried the child down the few steps, into the dark room below. It was a small, square room two body-lengths long and wide. The walls were thick, but old, having been built when the city was young. The room would have to remain dark. Tom didn’t trust leaving a candle here. In the darkness he undressed the child so his clothes would not be ruined.
“Don’t be afraid. I will never let anyone hurt you.” Tom kissed him on the head, feeling the boy’s long brown hair against his lips. Zen’s green eyes reflected like iron coals, absorbing what little light entered through the opening. Tom exited the room, clothes in hand, and closed the heavy door, locking it with a key of his own design.
Tom went upstairs, leaving the cellar. It would be a long night for them both. Neither of them would sleep.
The moon peaked above desert sands, reflecting silver onto the gold ground. A monster was born in the darkness. It howled, though no one could hear it. It beat against the stones, though no one could feel it.
No one except the creature living in the city’s sewer, a sewer far older than the city itself. Outback had been burned by fire and rebuilt by a new generation, destroyed by war and rebuilt again atop its ancient foundations. Few had entered the startling black passageways, and fewer still new of their design.
In the room, safely tucked away from the world, a young boy cringed in pain as he transformed from human to beast.
From the first sound the newly transformed beast made, the creature listened. She lifted her head and stared into the darkness, but for her the darkness was like day.
The agonizing screams did not dissipate. She stood up, and though she was not sure of the location, was well aware of the direction. She walked along narrow passages cut off by streams of waste. The beast howled, and the creature drew closer until she came to the wall separating them.
On the other side Zen finally grew calm, aware of her scent. She put her ear against the wall. Zen placed a paw against the wall and dragged his claws downward, displacing the ancient mortar and sun-baked brick.
Given enough time he would eventually break through, but tonight his errand was cut short as the moon vanished into the west and his power faded. In the morning Tom Mar came to the room to find the naked child fast asleep. He had brought new clothes and he woke Zen to dress him.
In the candlelight Zen spoke.
“Where am I?”
“Don’t you remember anything?” Tom asked, his voice filled with sympathy.
Zen shook his head. He pulled his pants up, buttoning them, and swept his hair from his eyes with the fingers of both hands. He looked at Tom as if for the first time. “Are you my father?”
Tom nodded. “I think there’s much to learn, Zen.”
Zen followed Tom from the room, eyes searching the unfinished walls. There was much to be done here. He walked ahead of Tom up the stairs and could hear Tom’s heavy footsteps behind him.
The shop looked as empty as the cellar, but it was not the same. It was much larger, and it was bright. On the shop ceiling were several rows of electric lights. There were a few stacks of books on a table near the front of a large-paned window, and a front door stood on the corner adjacent a staircase.
Zen knew this was supposed to be both a store and home, but it was empty of everything that made either. He didn’t care. Something stirred a memory of rain. He would never have to sleep in the rain again.
“In a week I’m going to open my new shop, Zen, and I need a helpful young man to employ. Are you he?”
Zen smiled, his face lighting up and he choked on his first response.
“Slow down, now. Speak slowly when you get excited.”
“This will be fun!”
Tom wondered if the boy remembered anything of his past life, or if his feelings were rising from some deep subconscious mind-chamber. In the child’s poverty, he certainly wouldn’t have been rewarded like this, and his energized body language showed his deeper emotion. This would be a game to him, to serve customers, run errands, sell books. Zen’s excitement was intense, and Tom wondered if the boy would always be like this, if the excitement would never fade.
He hoped it would not, that Zen would be different than the others.