Many centuries prior to the war of the gods mankind was still prominent on Elvarra, coexisting peacefully with the immortal races, protected and guided by the dragons.
From the original seven kingdoms of man only the oldest and strongest still remains, Fireland, the blessed desert rose.
But the peace and tranquility is just a front.
Ruled by the last human mages, Firelands corrupt monarchy takes all the land and its people have to offer.
Erimes, a young thief from the streets of Firelands capital opposes the monarchy and the only mage he trusts is his beloved childhood friend Sarai Fireheart.
Unwilling to accept the fate that befalls all mortal mages - an early death - he sets out to find a cure.
With every step towards their goal the lovers wander deeper into a swamp of lies and hidden tragedies.
Omega 7even - Novel Version
This is an extract from the first volume of the Omega 7even novel that will be out in late 2016/ early 2017.
More information will follow over time.
I hope you enjoy reading. :)
Ashford sat in the desert like a lonely, blooming rose; golden towers reaching towards the sky like stamens, roofs spread irregularly like petals glimmering in the relentless light of eternal day. The center was always bustling with activity, the air rich with spices and the sounds of hundreds of people going about their daily habits in the narrow alleys.
Towncriers announced the latest news and gossip to the rich and the poor alike as hordes of curious passers-by stopped to listen.
It was the last day of the summer fair, the time of the year the desert tribes celebrated the birth of the gods. They had always done so since the beginning of human history, and even now, in modern and more civilized days, the nobles of Ashford held the celebrations in the name of their patron deity.
It was customary that on the fair's last day Ashtarc, the Dragon God himself would descend from the heavens and bless the city and it's inhabitants with wealth and fortune.
However, the custom had been broken years ago and the Dragon God had not been seen on the summer fair since. Some said it was a curse, some believed it had been a ruse from the beginning.
With the growing poverty of the common people, belief in the blessings had dwindled. Only few seemed to remember that it all began at the same time.
The fair however was still held year after year and drew millions from all over Elvarra to the flourishing city.
Overall, the wealth of few grew steadily; but so did poverty and the corresponding tension throughout the populace. Even though they lessened during the Summer Fair, incidents increased day by day. So did the number of criminals.
He should be out there at the fair, enjoying the festivities with his precious partner. But instead Erimes had agreed to help one of his 'colleagues' out of a bunch of trouble.
Oh, the irony of it all. Breaking into some rich fellows house, taking a bit of pocket money … he had done it millions of times before, only getting caught once – with consequences he did not wish to speak about, thank you – and knew exactly how to go about it.
Not this time though. This time something had gone wrong, had been different. And the worst thing was that he could not put a finger on WHAT or HOW.
One moment everything was working out perfectly, and the next he remembered being dragged out of the building by guards.
So, instead of strolling through the decorated streets, checking out market stands for buying rather than stealing and drinking himself senseless with his siblings from the orphanage he was in Ashford's least favored place; the dungeons.
It was a damp and moldy maze, the dripping of water the only consistent sound in the almost-darkness.
The stark contrast to the unyielding daylight of the city was disheartening. Those not used to darkness rarely resisted it for long.
He had been here for how long? Five or six hours? Not long enough to already be worried about hunger or thirst, but with the minutes ticking away in motionless silence it felt much, much longer.
The only entertainment was a small rat that sometimes stuck its tiny head out of a crack in the wall, sniffing the air with its quivering whiskers. The thief watched it come and go, fixating the small animal with an almost predatory stare. If he were to be down here for long, it might just turn out to be his only means for survival.
Erimes was no stranger to hunger. As a child he'd often hunted rats and mice down in the sewers below the city for food. He just preferred them grilled.
Imagining Sarais disgusted expression brought a sour grin to his lips. The magician would most likely sooner starve than eat rats.
"Already checking out the hunting grounds?” A voice to his right chuckled, almost childish amusement so very misplaced in an environment like this.
Erimes frowned. How could he have missed another person in such close proximity? His gaze flickered to the adjoining cell, spotting a man in the dim light.
Amber eyes met crimson as the stranger bared a row of perfectly white teeth in a sheepish grin.
“It was getting lonely in here buddy, how nice of you to show up.”
Great, a nutter. The lack of sunlight and water could do that to people. Make them go crazy.
“Who are you?” His frown deepened, cautious. If he had learned one thing in his youth, it was to never trust strangers. Strangers who acted innocent or friendly? Trust them even less.
“Oh, forgive my poor manners,” if possible his grin grew even wider and Erimes could have sworn the sharp front teeth looked like fangs, if only for a second. He shook it off though, his mind and the dim light were most likely just playing tricks on him.
“Ash Crescent is my humble name.”
Ash was a common name in Fireland, but Crescent was of elfish origin. The stranger was obviously not human, but he wasn't an elf either. His complexion was too dark, he could see the honey colored tan even in the dim light, and he lacked the slender build. A halfling, then. A rare sight, and Erimes couldn't help but feel at least a little bit intrigued.
And he could at least return the courtesy.
“And I am Erimes, the Swift.”
“Of course you are!” The man's eyes lit up, “you hold quite the reputation.”
Erimes' eyes narrowed. “You've heard of me? How?”
The halfling – Ash – moved closer to the bars, still fixating him with his ruby eyes.
“I'm the royal family's blacksmith. There are many who owe me a favor, and even more who tell me all kinds of stories from the city.”
“And yet here you are. How, I wonder, if so many owe you favors?”
That earned him a honest laugh. “You got me there. Indeed, here I am, out of the King's – or rather the Queen's - favor. But how I lost it, I honestly can't say.”
Erimes snorted. “I don't think they need a reason.”
He disliked the current system with a passion, the way the nobles and especially the royal family lived off of the people, feigning ignorance to the poverty growing year by year without lifting a finger to change it. After all, they grew only ever richer themselves.
“Maybe. What about you then? Is your master displeased with your escapadesof thievery, or has he grown tired of you in general?”
Erimes' eyes narrowed again.
“What the hell are you on about?!”
The halfling just shrugged.
“That mark on your back. Beautiful it may be, but I doubt someone like you would show so much devotion to one of the highborn families to mark himself with their family crest. With a branding, no less. And here I am, believing that slavery was already forbidden.”
“It is. And I'm no slave to anyone.”
A blatant lie, and even Ash must have known that. Yet, the halfling remained silent as Erimes glared at him.
Officially, slavery WAS forbidden. The fact that his life belonged to another was due to his own choice. More or less, at least.
Robbing the storage of Lord Fireheart had been his first and – until today – only mistake. He had been eleven, lacking in both skill and knowledge, and he had paid dearly for it.
The day was still vibrant in his mind, every cursed moment of it.
He had been caught while his friends had managed to get away with the loot. He had refused to sell them out, no matter how severe the beating got. They had been lenient because he was a child, he knew that they would have truly tortured him otherwise. But nonetheless he still remembered. Remembered how the furious man advanced on him, every whiplash accompanied by hurtful words, remembered Sarai's desperate pleas for his father to stop … and he remembered how he had finally been forced to make a choice.
Either face execution, the penalty for thievery, or give up his freedom until he had paid off his debt – something that would never happen in his lifetime. However, Erimes had valued his life too much to die, and thus he belonged to the Lord of House Fireheart ever since.
Most of the time he had been treated considerably well thanks to Sarai, who would always step up for him, and the old lord had soon noticed that Erimes was most useful to him as his ailing son's servant and companion. They had always kept their close friendship secret, even then, and many times Erimes had actually enjoyed being able to stay around Sarai so much, forgetting that in truth he had no other choice.
Five years later Lord Fireheart had passed away, and Sarai advanced to head of the family, taking over all his fathers possessions and responsibilities.
The first thing the young magician had done was declaring Erimes' freedom, but as the mark of ownership was impossible to remove, it was really only between the two of them. However, Erimes had stopped caring many years ago.
“My life belongs to the current Lord Fireheart either way.”
He glowered. “So you can keep your smart remarks to yourself.”
Ash raised his hands in defeat, toothy grin still plastered on his face.
“No offense. So, you're close to the young Lord Fireheart? He's a nice kid, I met him once. Shame he's most likely going to die before he turns thirty.”
The halflings words cut into his soul like a knife. He knew that it was the truth, had always known, and noone but Sarai knew better than him just how true those words were. Erimes always tried to ignore the painful fact. But he knew, gods he knew that the hollow feeling in his soul whenever he thought about it would one day be a constant companion.
And that day came closer and closer with every passing moment. Yet here he was, wasting precious time he'd rather spend by Sarais' side.
“I know ...” He wispered. Fate was a cruel thing.
The two men sat in silence for a while, each absorbed in their own thoughts.
Erimes was wondering how long he would have to stay here, if he would see daylight again at all. If he would see Sarai again at all. The penalty for thievery was still death. Firelands jurisdiction was barbaric like that. But it wasn't unheard of that some criminals were just forgotten and withered away in the dungeons, dying of starvation or they just faded, like a flower deprived of sunlight.
He wondered what fate held in store for him. At least if he died here, he would not be forced to live in a world without Sarai.
He was selfish like that.
“What would you do to save him?”
The other man's words snapped him out of his glum thoughts.
“If there was a way to save your friend.” Ash repeated, voice even and all humor drained from his face. “How far would you go?”
The atmosphere between them had changed, and even though he could not understand it, Erimes felt the shift in the air. Without the childish smirk, the halfling suddenly looked like someone divine, like the immortals whose blood he shared. And he heard himself answering without realizing that his lips had started moving.
“I would rather die than live in this world without him.”,he spoke with bitter determination.
The moment passed, and Ash smiled again. This time though it was a different, eerie kind of smile.
“What if I told you there was a way to save him?”
Erimes' heart skipped a beat as his breath hitched in his throat. Was the Halfling playing with him? Chances that he was were pretty high, the man was obviously bored beyond belief … but if he wasn't, he might loose his only chance to save Sarai.
He still was at a loss for words, but he had to take the chance.
“Everything comes with a price, my friend. But I will help you if you do me a favor first.”
Erimes frowned, but he could detect no sign of deception in the other mans eyes. And over the years, he had learned to read people pretty well.
“I'll do whatever it takes. But if you're lying and this is just some sick joke, I'll kill you.”
“You're honest.” Ash smiled. “I like that.”
He held out one hand, palm open, and used the sharp nails of his other hand to cut the soft flesh, barely deep enough to draw blood. A single drop of red touched the floor before the wound closed again, most likely thanks to the immense lifeforce of his elven blood.
“I swear on my blood that this is a honest offer. If my words are false, Father Death may take me now.”
When nothing happened, he grinned at Erimes again. A blood oath was a rite older than mankind, and the thief knew that all ancient races held it in highest regards.
“Very well, I'll trust you. For now.” He sighed. “So, what is this favor you want me to ...”
He didn't get to finish the sentence. The door to his cell was thrown open and two guards rushed in, faces crinkled in disgust.
“Get up, you useless piece of shit.” One of them snarled, barely giving Erimes any time to react before he was roughly yanked up from his sitting position by the iron chain that connected to his shackled wrists. He didn't resist, as he had no interest in receiving another beating.
Looking back over his shoulder he hoped to receive any sign from the halfelf as to what he was supposed to do now, but Ash was gone. Probably disappeared back into the shadows of his cell to avoid being spotted by the guards.
And there went his first and maybe only chance for a cure … but to be honest, Erimes didn't have much time to dwell on lost chances. As he was dragged through the corridors and up another flight of stairs to the main building, he wondered if he was really going to die this time. Well, at least he had lived a life suiting his free spirit, without playing lapdog to the corrupt monarchy.
At the same time, a meeting took place somewhere in the ruins of the old city.
Three upmost different people had gathered around a stone fountain long dried, well hidden from view by the half collapsed structures of ancient buildings.
The first was a woman. Small in statue and equipped with quite feminine curves. Long crimson locks framed her delicate face, matching the color of her eyes. Glowing red pupils in a sea of black. Everything about her screamed 'Akarian'.
With her were two males. A tall, fierce looking man with raven hair, clothed in black and silver armor despite the heat, a warrior. The third and last of the trio was a much more fragile looking man with silverish hair, dressed in robes of whites and blues, strangely untouched by the sand that covered most of the grounds.
The warrior spoke up first, crossing his arms in front of his chest, frowning.
“He is after the Book of Ancient Calling, no doubt. I wonder why and how he thinks he'll be able to take it without being able to touch it.”
“I doubt he doesn't know about the protection, Crow. Either he's found someone able to take the book out of the tomb, which is highly unlikely, or Fahrid Ashton has agreed to hand it over to him himself. But as things are now, that is even more unlikely.”
“Both of you are right.” The woman answered. “He can't get the book himself and I doubt he's stupid enough to try. However, we can't take any risk. The book is a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands. I want you to observe, and interfere if necessary.”
Both men nodded and bowed before heading towards the city. The woman remained, crimson locks dancing in the warm breeze. For now, only time would tell if her presumption was correct.