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Torchlight at Dusk: Prologue

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Below I've pasted the prologue to my (as of now) planned 7-book epic, entitled "The Nightfall Sequence". It takes place somewhere between 300-350 years before the "present day" but should serve to set up the rest of the entire series. At this point I am most likely 6-8 drafts away from "completion"--I am editing the entire work start to finish for the first time as I write, and it's in dire need of tlc. I suspect it will be "done" by Dec 2011.

Hopefully there are no rules about repeated postings--I suspect the site will see many snipets over the next year and a half.

At this point, general comments are welcome and encouraged--I have a firm idea of where the plot needs to go, but the details of how to get there are obviously being worked on.


I present to you the Prologue to "Torchlight at Dusk: Book I of the Nightfall Sequence"

The wounded lion roars its last,

The ancient boundary crumbles.

Fires burn along the walls

Guard them, lest all be overrun.

What was once united,

Now divided,

Will be one.

--Issana, Abbess of Mat Kon



Prince Wilim ran down the broad marble corridor at full tilt, one hand clamped down on his heavy gold circlet. Warm bright morning sunlight filtered through arched casement windows, creating patterns he darted through on his way to the throne room. He yanked open a tall door as hard as he could and thudded down the spiral staircase that led from the Imperial Residence to the public areas of the Summer Palace in Zinke. Reaching the bottom, he pushed the door open and started to run again, narrowly avoiding four servants carrying a huge carved chair.

Portraits of his ancestors lined the walls; his father had just begun teaching them to him. He was named after his great-great grandfather who'd built the Imperial Library in Izdar, the main capital of the Empire. He passed through several long banquet rooms where the luncheon after the ceremony would be held. Smartly dressed servants in blues and greens were laying the clothes very carefully under the watchful eye of a Chief Steward.

The ceremony he was very nearly late for was the Choosing Ceremony, where he and his siblings stood before the Orb and the Guardian and it chose who the next Emperor or Empress would be. He skidded around a corner and saw his father, the Emperor Pelgar and several others waiting for him at the entrance to the throne room. After a dark look from his father to slow down he did so, trying to breathe normally even as his chest pounded.

A young dark-haired man stood waiting for them at the shut doors to the throne room. "Your majesty," he said, inclining awkwardly around a box he carried. "I'm glad your youngest arrived." His father gave him a withering look and he blushed and muttered, "Sorry."

"I wouldn't want to begin without him," the man continued.

"Wilim, you remember the Guardian Perclus, yes?" He nodded in reply. The last time he'd seen the Guardian was months ago at the annual inspection tour of the Barrier.

"Your highness," Perclus said, setting the box down on the ground and just looked at it. "I considered carrying it in, but I thought it might be more dramatic this way."

His father laughed and turned to the guards, motioning them to open the doors.

The entire court waited expectantly for them in the huge ornate room; silence fell as the court stood. Standing at the other end, his brother Antor looked bored, while his mother and sister looked annoyed. He and his father marched up the center aisle and he stood next to Antor, who at nine, was two years older than he. The court bowed as they walked up the aisle and onto the large dais at the other end of the room. The thrones had been cleared away and a carved marble table set in front. It was currently empty, but the front row of nobles eyed it as if they waited for something.

"Took you long enough," Antor whispered to Wilim, knocking him on the shoulder. Wilim jabbed him in the ribs, not saying anything.

"It is time," his father said shushing his two sons. He stepped forward and called out, "Guardian?"

Perclus marched forward with the box hovering in front of him as he walked down the center aisle and up onto the dais. If anything, the court bowed more deeply for the Guardian.

When he reached the dais, he set the box down on the table and pulled its red velvet wrappings off, revealing a glittering enammled box. With a flourish, he opened the latches and stepped aside. Inside the box was the Imperial Orb of State, a delicately crafted piece of silver and gold stone that seemed to shimmered under the light. It was perfectly round, and mostly silver, although veins of gold wove their way around in a seemingly random pattern.

"Your majesty," he intoned, motioning Pelgar III forward. His father placed his hand on it, and it bathed him in a green light. "The Orb acknowledges you as rightful Emperor, as chosen by the God. Do you swear to abide by the choice of the Orb for your heir and successor, whomever that may be?"

"I do," his father replied without hesitation. The light grew brighter for a moment.

"You speak the truth," said the Guardian, and his father stepped away from the Orb. "Please call your children forward and place their hands on the orb, one by one."

"Fola," their father called, and Wilim's sister stepped forward. Tall and thin, her dark ringlets cast a haughty shadow over her face. She'd boasted to Wilim a couple of times over the past few months that she would be the next Empress. When he'd asked Steffan, his tutor about it, he'd replied that only sometimes was the eldest chosen.

She set her hand down on the etched stone and held her breath, waiting for something, anything to happen. It felt as if the entire court waited on her. After a long minute with no green light or anything else happening, Wilim saw her let it go, disappointment. The Guardian looked to her and shook his head.

"She is not the Orb's choice, majesty," the Guardian said gently. Fola stepped back, tears welling up in her eyes. Their mother, Dina held her close as she sobbed softly. Wilim noticed that a not insignificant section of the nobility looked decidedly uncomfortable at the prospect of not having Fola on the throne.

"Antor step forward," Pelgar called out again, and his brother stepped across the dais to their father. He squeezed his brother's hand once before he left for good luck. If Fola wasn't the choice, then Antor should be.

Antor placed his hand on the orb's etched surface and looked up at their father. Whatever was supposed to happen didn't, because the Guardian repeated his rejection of Antor. His brother stepped back, a smile across his face as he stood next to him. "I knew it wasn't going to be me."

"Wilim," he father called

"I was sure it was going to be you instead," he replied.

"Wilim," his father said more insistently, and he stepped forward slowly. He wasn't sure what was going to happen; all he knew was that he'd have to put his hand on the orb. It seemed a mile between where he stood and his father, but he was there soon enough, the bright silver orb directly in front of him.

He placed his hand on its cool surface, feeling the etched lines under his fingertips. Suddenly it grew warm, and emerald green light welled up out of the orb, growing stronger as it moved to his hand, and then up his arm. The light pulsated up his arm, over his shoulder, and coalesced on his head. He tried looking up to see the shape of what was there, but he couldn't.

The court burst into raucous applause. An orchestra began playing the imperial anthem. His father and mother both hugged him tightly. Even Fola eeked out a smile for him.

"The Imperial House of Miron continues," the Guardian projected out to the still cheering crowd. "All hail Wilim V, Prince-Imperial!"

Everyone in the room bowed down to him at that--his father, his mother, even the Guardian inclined his head slightly. He looked up at his father, and couldn't believe he'd been chosen!


Prince-Imperial Wilim V sat trying very hard not to itch his at the tight black wool collar against his neck. He pouted and shifted his neck, trying to find a more comfortable position. He sat next to his father, whose eyes flickered down onto him for a second. He stopped immediately, knowing that look. If he continued, there would be consequences.

He stared out onto the colorful parade of soldiers as the last of the pikemen marched by; the ends of their sharp pikes glinting in the late afternoon sun, and their regimental colors snapping in the wind. A military band struck up a livelier march in the distance. Staffon whispered into his ear the regiment number and its home garrison.

Wilim sat on a raised dais in the middle of the parade route overlooking the Zudor Sea. The broad avenue was narrower here, and the dais set back between a cavity between two buildings. The dirty, smelly harbor was packed with hundreds of ships from across the empire carrying goods and soldiers. The first gun infantry units finally marched forward in perfectly straight lines. He couldn't help but smile a few of them acknowledged him with a bow as he waved enthusiastically to them. His ascension had been proclaimed all over the city, and the entire population had gone wild when they first saw him. Their green and purple dress uniforms were clean, the brass buttons catching the light at odd angles.

A flock of seagulls careened out from the rooftops, cawed their way out to the open ocean catching Wilim's eye; he followed them up over the harbor and into the distance. When he'd turned back to the parade, it had stopped, a large group of soldiers directly in front of the Imperial Box. Staffon stopped his narration, stumbling over where that particular unit may have come from. As one the soldiers raised their weapons; the burnished metal of their guns dull and menacing, pointing out in all directions. Pelgar nodded to Golfan, the Captain of his Life Guards, and the guards tightened up around his family. Wilim knew at that point something was out of the ordinary.

"Father, what's going--" whatever he'd wanted to say drowned out by the screams that broke out from the citizens amassed around the soldiers. Many fell to the ground at the boom of the sudden volley from the gang of men, maybe one or two hundred moved towards the dais. Wilim was afraid and crouched down on his throne, ready to flee but unsure of what to do or where to go. He looked around frantic and nearly sick at the sight of so many people covered in streams of red shiny blood. Strong arms lifted him up from the red velvet cushion and placed him behind his throne with his siblings. They huddled together, fear freezing their tongue, just staring at each other. His father and mother stood beside them, speaking rapidly to the six Life Guards on the dais, even as the soldiers surrounding the stairs fought their attackers, trying to hold them back.

"They are to be protected at all costs, especially Wilim. You know what is at stake if he dies." The soldiers nodded grimly as his father continued, "Fola, Antor, watch out for your brother. I love you all," he said, hugging and kissing them all in turn. Wilim looked up at his proud father, tears filling his eyes as he hugged him tightly around the waist, his small arms barely able to wrap around his waist. Pelgar turned sharply at the sound of a piercing scream, and saw one of the Life Guards on the stairs charge down into the onslaught of attackers. It was time for them to escape.

"Go while you still can!" He shouted, pulling out a pistol from his belt. The Life Guards grabbed their charges, and Wilim's heart raced.

"He is mine!" A great shout echoed over plaza above the melee. Wilim watched from the back of the dais as a giant man strode forward, knocking soldiers on their heads, kicking and shooting his way to the dais stairs and up them. His leather vest stretched over a powerful chest and grey breeches covered massive legs. His fingers glittered with jeweled rings. "I've waited a long time for this moment, your majesty," he sneered. With an easy sweep of his hand, knocked Pelgar onto his back.

"Zenzi, I will have your--" a fist slammed into his father's face, cutting off whatever reply he gave. Wilim shut his eyes and cowered in the corner, partially hidden by the soldiers, partially by a curtain. He heard his mother scream, and the man called Zenzi laugh wildly, his deep rasping laugh ringing soundly in his ears. With a sob he opened his eyes, struggling against his protector to get to the front of the huge wooden platform, but unable to move. Wilim opened his eyes and saw sis father and mother lay dying in front of their thrones, blood pooling out from their wounds. He nearly retched.

"Your Highness, you must be silent," a voice broke through his grief. "We must get away. Your family, the Empire depends on it," the soldier said as he lifted the young price up and hurried noisily down the stairs, wading into the thick, panicked crowd. He and his siblings were as shielded as they could be as they made their way down the tiny passageway between the dais and the small alley behind. He was first, surrounded by a dozen or more guards, weapons drawn. Fola stumbled behind him, her pale blue dress flailing about as she pushed forward, surrounded by her own soldiers. Antor was last, and Wilim saw him half-running, half-carried as the need for swift movement grew too great. They turned as a group of raiders followed them, and prepared to stand their ground. Antor suddenly fell limp, and the guard behind him pitched forward as the raiders overtook them.

He hardly had time to scream as the wave of raiders pushed toward them harder and faster. They forced their way up to one of the main avenues spilling out into the frantic crowd, moving as quickly as they could. The group spread out as most of the soldiers protecting Fola and he formed a line across the street and engaged the raiders.

Wilim forced himself to look as the battle turned quickly against the harried soldiers. The pride of the Empire was overwhelmed quickly, and the raiders surged ahead, anxious for their quarry. Wilim could see the grim and hungry expression on all of their faces. A quick shot to the back of the soldier carrying Fola caused him to stumble, and she fell underneath him, her leg caught. Wilim, still carried by his soldier. A shriek escaped her lips, as an axe fell across her neck. He knew she was dead.

"Scatter!" one Life Guard cried, and the remaining ten men and women took up positions around a narrow part of the street and held their ground. His defender, panting hard, pushed himself one last time, barreling into a crowded part of the avenue, determined to lose them both in the melee. Further and further into the crowd they pushed, the horrid sounds of the raiders growing weaker and weaker.

The street ahead cleared momentarily, and his guardian surged forward and ran, shedding his cloak behind him letting it float to the ground. He turned one final corner and ducked into an open doorway, leading to a cavernous building. Wilim felt his feet land on the damp ground,. After a momentary shock, he started to cry, his chest heaving with the effort. Tears streaked down his cheeks, knowing that he'd never see any of his family again. The soldier knelt beside him and wrapped him in his strong arms.

His tears stopped after a long while, and he stepped away from the soldier. "What's your name?"

"Martis, Philon Martis," his guardian replied, bowing. "I'm from the--"

"Aknorian province, I can tell. Father taught me," Wilim replied.

A crash from outside the alleyway pushed them deeper into the shadows, Wilim peering from behind Martis's leg. Looters and raiders ran past in an effort to catch a fleeing baker. When they'd gone, Philon looked down at Wlim and shook his head. "We've got to keep moving and hiding, highness. It's not safe here."

He nodded, and they peered out the doorway, up and down the dirty alleyway. The screams and groans of injured people carried over the air and Wilim cringed. He stepped instinctively into the warm afternoon sun, wanting to help, to do something, but seconds later he was back in the dark, lofted high into the air by Martis. "Your highness, it's not safe. We need to move deeper into this building. We'll stay here for the night, and move in the morning."


Day turned to night, but the raid continued, the Zinke sky lit up by fires consuming the ancient buildings. Screams and cries for help punctuated the warm night, reaching into their warren deep inside the abandoned building. Philon lay beside to Wilim, facing the door, his calloused hand resting lightly on his sword. Wilim stared at the cracked ceiling, unable to fall asleep, mourning for his parents, brother and sister. Silent tears streaked down his now dirty cheeks, and hunger wracked his belly, as he hadn't eaten since that afternoon.

Finally exhausted, he fell into a deep sleep.

He stood in the center of a vast gray chamber, arches soaring high above him and cool hungry mist swirling around. Dark shadows peered out of a hundred open archways, their sinister eyes catching his as he twisted around, trying to find them all. Suddenly, a blinding white light shot through the mist from above, scattering the dark shadows. It pulsed in front of him, and he felt warm and safe, and looked up into the light.

"My son you are safe," his father's voice called out.

"Father? You survived?" Wilim asked, his hopeful voice barely above a whisper. Somehow in the deep silence of the chamber it sounded imposing.

"Martis will protect you for what awaits you and our House."

Wilim moved toward the light, hoping to see his father's face. The light grew brighter and brighter as he walked as close as he dared. He couldn't see anything other than the light.

"Father, where are you? Where's mother? What's going on?"

"We were attacked, Wilim. You are all that is left of our line. You are the Arch-prince Imperial, no matter what else may happen. One day your descendants will rise up and avenge our deaths. This I speak." His father's voice changed as it spoke, becoming deeper and fuller, if that were possible. What his father said was right, and he felt himself know that he would survive this.

"What about the Guardian? Can't he protect me?" Wilim begged.

"I have other plans for the Guardian. This must be so. The God wills it," his father said, his voice booming throughout the vast cavern. A shower of mortar fell in the distance. Wilim nodded, not really understanding, but knowing if the God willed it, then it should be so. "Be well," his father said kindly, his voice dissipating into the mist. A moment later the white light shot back up into the ceiling, leaving Wilim alone once again.

"I will," Wilim swore to the now empty hall and he walked through one of the doorways before the grey mist could return.


It was dawn when Wilim woke, more tired and hungry than before. "Did you dream, your highness?" Philon asked, his deep voice tentative and concerned.

"I saw my father. He said that you would keep me safe," Wilim answered simply.

"I was given a mission by the God himself to ensure that you survive your trials, which I pledged with every ounce of my strength," Philon told him, kneeling and bowing his head. Wilim put his hand out as he'd seen his father do to his soldiers.

"I accept your pledge," Wilim replied, his voice cracking. After a moment he withdrew his hand.

Philon stood and brushed himself off. "I suggest we move out of the city then. There are raiding and looting parties all around us, and if they should find us here...." Philon trailed off. He took his hand and lead him out into the warm early morning sunshine. It was as good a beginning as any.

(Prologue fin)

I look forward to your insightful criticism.



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Exciting read, and great fun.

It's evident you need a good editor to fix the many places that require attention.

The story grabs one's attention, and makes him want to read more.

The scene of the rebellion and escape isn't credible as written and needs more thought.

All in all, a great start.


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Thank you for your comments--I've made notations in the text where you've indicated & will take the under consideration when I edit the prologue next.

It is, as I freely admit, still in a formative phase--there is MUCH work to go before it's anywhere close to being polished.

Thanks for reading & the encouragement--glad to know it is at least a good start. :-D


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To preface, I'm not really good with 'editing' and discussing things like development, as I couldn't develop my way out of a wet paper bag. I seem to specialize in getting tangled up in stupid little details that often pass unnoticed by others. I'm not sure that's a particularly admirable or useful trait.

My first problem was "Wilim". I got totally hung up on how one would actually say that name. If it were a double L there would be no doubt.

I can't see there being any way for such a rebellion to happen without there being some awareness by the supposedly knowledgeable Emperor.

I agree with Cole that the escape doesn't seem plausible. As all the protectors of the children fell, it should have become harder to escape, as the ratio of searchers to escapees increased.

There are lots of pronouns that don't reference to the correct person.

The Emperor would never stoop to using a blustering comment that obviously would do nothing but result in his being beaten. It struck a discordant note with me.

The lack of definition of the years leaves one at loose ends, trying to put it into our own time frame. 853 A.D. says something to us. 578-624 does not. Pick some other reference, even if it not explained, just to ensure we know better than to fit it into our own.

Overall, I found it very addictive in its appeal, so I'd encourage you to continue.

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Thanks for your comments--all of them, regardless of how "small" the detail. One of the things I struggle with is to ensure that in the grand sweeping epic-ness of the tale that the "little" details remain consistent--and believable (well, for a fantasy story).

I will take everything under consideration, as I said with Cole--I am very much still in the planning stages, so I thought I'd get some feedback on what (will surely be) a very, very rough draft.

I'm very glad that both you & Cole found the concept intriguing--the idea for the world and the story has germinated in my head for the past ten years, and is very much informed by my studies in history, as well as my reading of fantasy, etc. I very much want to have a feeling of movement, of almost a frantic pace throughout the entire work.

Anyway, back to editing & writing. Many thanks!


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Hmmm, there's always "Willem," as in the actor Willem Defoe. I think that reads better, but still retains the ancient flavor a little bit.

The reality is that the language of this era would be a lot more stilted than you have it. Let's assume there's a translator that reconfigures the speech for modern audiences.

My only suggestion would be for more description: tell us more about how this world looks, smells, and feels. Engage the senses: make us feel like we're actually there, seeing the ruins, the old rooms, animal-skin rugs, and so on.

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The Pecman,

Agreed--it is one of my biggest failings as a writer to "sense" the world--my artistic background is primarily the theater, and so as such it is very three dimensional. Translating what I see onto the page is hard, as I am afraid the reader will get bored as I describe the mosaic pattern of the marble floor, or the throne room, etc.

I've mad a note of that, however, as I have the other suggestions and incorporated that into my notes for the next draft.

Thank you very much for your comments--they are very helpful.

And I agree about the name (& the speech)--it does need to sound a bit archaic. Perhaps Wilem or something akin to that. I'll play with it a bit.

Many many thanks!

Back to the drafting process...

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