Below is the prologue of a new project I’m collaborating on with the working title The Timekeepers.
There was no sound, the bed was comfortable, the room was dark, but her thoughts kept her awake. Lately, her regrets had been coming by night to visit and show the beautiful fabrics of time that might have been if she had only acted differently. She could not go back and change what was already done.
Even with this.
She glanced at her wrist, the moonlight reflected off the glossy surface of a watch, making it difficult to read. Was it two hours after midnight, three? Did such a distinction matter? It gave her so much power, yet the trinket was nearly useless.
She left her bed and lit her sand lamp. The light flared for an instant before simmering down to a constant glow. The room was well furnished, there were two old wooden chairs, the stone-carved bed, and a desk hanging from the wall by two ropes. Beside the bed was a cord she could pull to bring a servant up. She hesitated for a moment, then pulled it.
As Timekeeper of the Steelheart clan, she lived as lavishly as anyone could in the Reik. She knew there were places on Earth where people lived in relative luxury, but they were born into lush, temperate climates. They did not know the the harshness of the Reik. They didn’t have to deal with seven power-hungry clan leaders. She had been told to bring unity, to forge one nation from the many clans.
I’ll likely die before Pactor Hewin kneels to anyone.
She walked across the room to look out of the wide, open windows over her town in the desert desert. All the people in it were hers. In the distance she could see the lights of other towns, and those were hers too. They followed her commands, fought for her, died for her, and thankfully, most of them liked her. Something that could not be said for her father.
And that’s why he and Ardin are dead.
Her father had left the world in a precarious balance. One incident, one clan shifting its allegiance, could mean war. It would be immediate, and it would be as merciless as the Reik.
The desert takes no prisoners.
A common saying among the Enultagen, though she did not agree. She would not say it aloud, but she knew that the Enultagen were prisoners of the desert. Explorers sent in search of new, more bounteous lands had come back empty handed, or had not come back at all. She had seen the Reik from above, and the only escape was death.
The Enultagen would escape soon enough if circumstances did not change. There were more and more people, but only the one river: the Eolif. When water becomes scarce, blood rushes to replace it. Another common saying among her people. Though she wished to unite the clans, it was her duty as Steelheart Timekeeper make other clans bled first.
What is taking the maid so long?
It had been minutes since she pulled the cord, but no one had showed up yet. No doubt she had woken someone, but ample time had passed for someone to dress and ascend the stairs.
She let out a sigh and told herself to be patient, but she did not enjoy waiting. Without someone to talk to or something to do, her mind inevitably return to the thought that had kept her awake: I need to have a baby.
Someone knocked three times on the door, and she immediately knew something was wrong. Any servant would know to knock twice, delay, and knock once. She rushed over to her bedside and pulled from underneath it a long, glistening, obsidian-edged saber. Just as she crouched behind the bed, the door crashed open and a volley of darts flew over her head and bounced off the dried clay wall. As she flung herself over the bed, she counted five black-robed figures reaching for their knives.
In an instant she was among them with her sword, and with two blows she felled two of her assailants. Then the other three formed a triangle around her, keeping her at bay with their knives. What fools they were to bring such small weapons to bear against a timekeeper.
She lunged at one with her sword. He moved to block with his knife, but the force of her blow shattered it, sending bits of broken obsidian flying into his eyes and across the floor. The other two slashed at her, but their knives tore only the fabric of her nightgown. She would never have imagined four years ago in Everco that her training there would prove useful so soon.
She punched one assassin in the face, stunning him long enough to grab the knife from another and send it plunging into his chest. With her sword hand, she finished off the man who was attempting to claw the shards of stone out of his eyes. It was then that she saw another assassin hiding inside a doorway down the hall. He had a bow drawn and aimed for her heart. She grabbed a hold of the disarmed assassin in front of her and pulled. The arrow splintered dove into the man’s wrist and collided with bone, the head shattering inside his body. While the archer tried to notch a second arrow, she charged from the room and smote him with her ancestral blade.
Then she heard a whistling from behind. She whipped around just in time to see another black-tipped arrow flying through the air to greet her. It pierced her chest and she crumpled to the ground. Another assassin was standing in front of window at the end of the hall, a triumphant smile beginning to play across his lips. She tried to stand but could not. Already her head felt too heavy to lift. With her last moments, Miramond Steelheart picked up her sword with both hands and flung it across the room, hitting the assassin square in the chest and defenestrating him. The last thing she heard was the sound of her guards coming too late to her rescue.