Friday, August 10, 2018

Schisms The Scribe Cycle #2 by James Wolanyk


Schisms
The Scribe Cycle #2
by James Wolanyk





Pub
Date: 7/10/2018

Three
long years have passed since Anna, First of Tomas, survived the purge
in Malijad after being forced to use her scribe sigils to create an
army of immortals. Safely ensconced in the shelter of the Nest, a
sanctuary woven by one of her young allies, Anna spends her days
tutoring the gifted yet traumatized scribe, Ramyi—and coming to
terms with her growing attachment to an expatriate soldier in her
company.
Away
from her refuge, war drums continue to beat. Thwarted in her efforts
to locate the elusive tracker and bring him to justice, Anna turns to
the state of Nahora and its network of spies for help. But Nahoran
assistance comes with a price: Anna must agree to weaponize her magic
for the all-out military confrontation to come.
Dispatched
to the front lines with Ramyi in tow, Anna will find her new
alliances put to the test, her old tormentors lying in wait, and the
fate of a city placed in her hands. To protect the innocent, she must
be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. For even in this season of
retribution, the gift of healing may be the most powerful weapon of
all.




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Excerpt:

The lodge’s main hall was quiet and hazy with a pall of pipe smoke. Most of those lying on the earthen floor were Hazani, their tunics and wraps hanging from the rafters to dry the day’s sweat. A pair of Huuri, gleaming translucently in candlelight, lay huddled together near the door with their packs clutched to their chests. But the stillness was deeper than an absence of guests; the lodge’s ornate silk carpets and silver kettle sets were gone, likely converted to a few stalks or iron bars by a crafty peddler.
Déjà vu crept over Anna, thick and threatening.
Yatrin and Baqir headed for the latrine dugout behind a partition, while Khara slumped down beside the door. The woman fished a cylinder of aspen and a blade from her pack, whittling with rhythmic scrapes, eyeing Ramyi as she wandered aimlessly between cushions and hookahs. When Anna was certain of everybody’s routines, she jogged up the spiral stairwell in darkness.
The muffled cries of babes leaked through locked doors on the second and third levels, but the fourth was silent. Anna wondered if that was conspicuous, or if it might lure unwanted attention from those who searched for that kind of thing, but she trusted in Tensic’s judgment: Many of the veterans in Anna’s company, living or dead, had arranged things through him. Sharp minds and tight lips were rare things in the north.
Anna crossed the corridor and its patches of moonlight, halting at the sixth door. She gave a soft tap with her knuckles and waited.
Silence.
She recalled her infiltrator’s instructions, the exact exchange of one knock for one cough. If she hadn’t been so headstrong, she might’ve fetched Yatrin. But she was. With heartbeats trickling through her core, Anna reached into the folds of her shawl, unlatched a shortened ruj from the clasp on a ceramic-plated vest, and cradled it against her hip. It was the length of her forearm, strangely cumbersome despite her having trained with it nearly as long as it had existed as a prototype among Hazani cartels. Two stubby barrels housed in a cedar frame, a fully-wound cog on its side, payload sacs of iron shavings waiting beside spring plungers. Most of her fighters had taken to calling it by northern
name: yuzel, thorn. Crude, inaccurate, unpredictable—but that had become the nature of this war.
Anna pressed her back to the wall and took hold of the door handle.
Cycles of training coalesced in her stilled lungs, in the hare-twitch muscles of her wrists, inviting peace in the face of unease. Clarity gave form to violence, after all. In a single breath she shoved the door inward, dropped to one knee, swept her yuzel’s dual barrels across the room.
The mirrorman’s body was sprawled out in a wash of candlelight and ceramic fragments, flesh glimmering with slick red. Stale air and sweat wafted out to meet her.
Shes’tir.” Her curse was a whisper, a surge of hot blood.
Anna stood, keeping the yuzel aimed at the shadows around the corpse. Piece by piece, the room revealed the scope of their work, starting with blood-spattered mud-and-straw walls. A dented copper kettle, an overturned table, a tapestry shredded by errant blade slashes. Then she saw it, gleaming
like a spiderweb or silk strand: a trip wire was suspended across the doorway, just above ankle-level, set with enough precision to rival some of Malijad’s best killers.
But subtlety had never been the way of southerners.
After edging to the left and right, examining the chamber’s hidden corners for assailants she suspected were long gone, Anna stepped over the trip wire and approached the body carefully.
His face was distorted, bulging out and cracked inward with oozing welts, both eyes swollen shut. A garrote’s deep purple traces ringed his neck. With some difficulty, Anna discerned that he’d also been a southerner, not a local conscript or hired hand from Hazan; he’d had naturally pale skin, now darkened by years beneath a withering sun. A mercenary. But his role—passing information through a mirror’s glints—had made him their best chance for information on the tracker’s whereabouts.
Their only chance, after three years of frayed leads and compromised operations.
Anna bent down and turned the man’s head from side to side, noting its coldness, its turgid and leathery texture as a result of beatings. His lips were dark, and—
Ink.
A dark, narrow stripe of ink ended at the crest of his lower lip, originating somewhere far deeper in his mouth. The application had been hasty, forceful even. Using her middle finger, Anna peeled the mirrorman’s lip forward. A triangular pattern had been needled into the soft tissue, still inflamed
with networks of red capillaries but recognizable all the same: It was an old Nahoran system, more a product of surveyors than soldiers, aiming to meld coordinates with time.
Here, now, her only chance.
Anna reattached her yuzel to its hook, slipped her pack off, fished out a brass scroll tube and charcoal stick. With a moment of silence to listen, to observe the empty doorway and the night market’s routine din, she copied the symbol onto the blank scroll. She then furled the parchment
and slipped it back into its tube.
Its weight was eerie in her pack, crushing with importance she understood both intensely yet not at all.
She hurried out of the chamber and toward the stairwell, but before she’d cleared the corridor she glanced outside, where she noticed a dark yellow cloth waving atop a post near the paddock. It hadn’t been there when they arrived. Her breath seized in the back of her mouth and—
A door squealed on its hinges.
Anna pivoted around, yuzel unclasped and drawn in both hands, eyes focused to the slender ruj barrel emerging from the seventh doorway. A dark hand followed, swathed in leather strips far too thick for northern fighters. She slid to the left and squeezed the trigger.
It was a hollow whisper in the corridor, perhaps a handful of sand pelting mud, a rattle down her wrists. Iron shavings collided as the magnetic coils accelerated them, sparking in brilliant whites and blues and oranges. The wall behind the shooter exploded in a burst of dust and dried grass, sending
metal shards ricocheting and skittering across the floor. A scream ceased in a single gust, as bone and cloth and flesh scattered just as quickly.
The shooter staggered forward in the haze, howling as he stared at the stump of his wrist.
Anna fired again.
When the dark cloud vanished, the shooter’s upper half was strewn down the corridor and dripping from the ceiling.
She spun away, sensing the tremors in her hands and the hard knot in her throat, and started down the stairwell. Three years of violence hadn’t made killing any more pleasurable, nor even easier, but decidedly more common. In fact, time had only made her more aware of how warriors were shaped: The nausea and terror remained, but everything was so perfunctory, done as habitually as breathing or chewing. Not that she had the luxury of being revolted by that fact. As she descended she  unscrewed the weapon’s empty shaving pouches and replaced them with fresh bulbs.













Scribes
The
Scribe Cycle #1

Pawns
in an endless war, scribes are feared and worshipped, valued and
exploited, prized and hunted. But there is only one whose powers can
determine the fate of the world . . .
Born
into the ruins of Rzolka’s brutal civil unrest, Anna has never
known peace. Here, in her remote village—a wasteland smoldering in
the shadows of outlying foreign armies—being imbued with the magic
of the scribes has made her future all the more uncertain.
Through
intricate carvings of the flesh, scribes can grant temporary
invulnerability against enemies to those seeking protection. In an
embattled world where child scribes are sold and traded to corrupt
leaders, Anna is invaluable. Her scars never fade. The immunity she
grants lasts forever.
Taken
to a desert metropolis, Anna is promised a life of reverence, wealth,
and fame—in exchange for her gifts. She believes she is helping to
restore her homeland, creating gods and kings for an immortal
army—until she witnesses the hordes slaughtering without reproach,
sacking cities, and threatening everything she holds dear. Now, with
the help of an enigmatic assassin, Anna must reclaim the power of her
scars—before she becomes the unwitting architect of an apocalyptic
war.













James
Wolanyk
is the author of the Scribe Cycle and a teacher from
Boston. He holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of
Massachusetts, where his writing has appeared in its quarterly
publication and The Electric Pulp. After studying fiction, he pursued
educational work in the Czech Republic, Taiwan, and Latvia. Outside
of writing, he enjoys history, philosophy, and boxing. His
post-apocalyptic novel, Grid, was released in 2015. He currently
resides in Riga, Latvia as an English teacher. 





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