Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Prince from the Shadows Blog Tour: Excerpt

A Prince from the Shadows (Heroes and Flame Blood and Myst #1)
 by J. Curtis Mace

A Prince from the Shadows (Heroes and Flame, Blood and Myst, #1)

Summary from Goodreads:
A reluctant prince determined to be a better man than his father, the king, has ever been, Jeodyn spent his last year alone in the wild studying the banned art of manipulating the Myst, an act of rebellion but more in remembrance of the old ways. Now, everything he learned and everything he’s ever known about himself will be tested, when he’s called to do what his father should but never will: defend their family.

Noirlok, Lord of the ShadowLands and Father of the Night’s rebellion, knows no man will stand between him and his revenge. He'll either have the love he defeated the heavens and waited an age of the world to reclaim, or he'll destroy the House responsible. Since overcoming a mortal death and taking charge of the dark legion known as Shadorym, he has vowed to see the Blood of Vallyn pay for taking that love, and his life, from him.

When Jeodyn's sister, Jynn, disappears, the fight to defend what they all have at stake begins.

Chapter 14 – Dreams and Waking

When his eyes finally shut, Jeodyn was unaware of it. They’d been worried and watchful, but quite fatigued also; had he been aware of it, he wouldn’t have let them close so quickly. But something was pulling on him, making his eyelids heavy, drawing him into sleep. Eventually, he succumbed to it.
When Jeodyn woke, the drab room he fell asleep in was gone. He found himself in a deep valley of pale stone, with small, crudely-built structures in two lines beside him. Each different in its own way and yet all the same, the squat buildings formed two rows and an aisle between them, which led to a large, rounded hill of a bluish stone in the distance. The strange mountain radiated a dull glow of azure blue; its dim light reflected off of everything in the dream. Jeodyn looked around, wide-eyed and lost, hoping in vain to find his way.
“There is no way yet to be found,” a woman’s voice spoke, seemingly from the very air around him. “You are here. That is all the direction you need… for now.”
“Who are you?” Jeodyn asked. With no one around, he simply called out into the open air. “Where are you, and why do you hide? I’m a stranger here, but I mean no harm… so long as there’s none intended against me.” He turned around again looking for a sign of who had spoken, or anyone else who might be around. But for the glowing stone and small houses and himself, the valley was empty. “I am Jael, from the West, and I pose no threat.” The name he’d chosen for himself came without thinking.
“I know,” said the woman’s voice, now very near to Jeodyn’s ear, so close it startled him. He turned around quickly to find a familiar-looking, old woman standing behind him, a few lengths away and nowhere near as close as he expected her to be. “I am the Lady of this valley,” she said. “…and I do not hide.” She looked Jeodyn up and down, as if judging him, then she spoke again. “I know that you pose no threat, and I know who you are… Jeodyn. Born to the son of Dorbaer, heir to the highland throne of the West, you are a vessel of Vallyn’s blood, and I know you much better than you think.” The Lady’s face was hidden by the deep hood of the cloak she wore, but Jeodyn could see her frail chin and thin lips showing beneath it; she was smiling.
“You know a lot,” he said. “More than you should… who are you to know so much of me?” Then a flash of recognition struck him. “I’ve seen you before,” he said; it was the old crone from the tavern. She hid her face, as she hid it then, and she wore the same blue cloak. He wasn’t mistaken. Oddly, Jeodyn felt quite comfortable in the Lady’s presence, though not yet relaxed enough to share in her smile. He folded his arms and waited to hear how she knew so much about him.
“And I have seen you,” the Lady said. Her voice was soft, and it relaxed him just to hear it, whether he wanted to be or not. Her clothes matched the color of the valley and everything in it perfectly, as did her hair and even her skin which also put him at ease. “I know the quest that calls you, and I know the shadow that would keep you from it… the one and the many.” With that, the Lady fell silent and the smile faded from her lips. “I know the road you seek,” she said. “…and the fight that awaits you there.”
“Then be less vague, please, and speak it plain.” Somehow Jeodyn knew to respect the old woman, and for some reason, he did, to his heart. But the need now was pressing; he couldn’t mind his tongue for the sake of simple formality. “If you know me as well as you say you do, then you’ll know this quest before me is one of the utmost importance. Why would you hide the answers I seek from me, when it seems you have them so readily available?”
“Because answers only come to those with the eyes to see them.” The Lady smiled again. “What do your eyes see?” she asked.
Jeodyn looked around the valley at the wealth of strange, blue stone glowing all around him. “I see nothing,” he answered. “Nothing that could be of any use to me, anyways. What should I be seeing?” But the Lady turned away from him, obviously irritated, and started away at a swift gait.
“More than you do,” Jeodyn heard her say as she went. “More than you do.” She stormed off without so much as a quick look back and trailing the hem of her cloak behind her. The dream shifted then, more to Jeodyn’s will than hers, and he moved with it. In an instant, he was standing in front of the Lady, far more surprised to be there than she was to see him. “What do you see?” asked the Lady again, unaffected by the trick.
“Rocks.” Jeodyn answered. “Just blue rocks… and though they are very nice blue rocks, they are not what I seek.”
“Then what do you seek?”
“Answers.” Jeodyn was losing his patience, but he held his tone. Somehow, he could feel what she was trying to show him was very near at hand; he just couldn’t see to find it. “I seek answers,” he said again and waited for her response.
“But you cannot find any answers in nice blue rocks.” The Lady’s smile returned, testing Jeodyn’s patience even further.
“No… I can’t.”
“Then where must you look? How does anyone find an answer they seek?” The Lady wouldn’t let her riddle go, and Jeodyn was in no mood to entertain her any longer. If she knew all it seemed she did, why would she not share the answers she was no doubt keeping from him? Why was she not saying anything of worth? Then it occurred to Jeodyn that he’d not yet thought to ask.
“I could ask my question,” he said, and a broad smiled curled the Lady’s thin lips.
“You could, but only the right questions will yield you the right answers.”
“Who are you?” Jeodyn asked quickly, before she could perpetuate the riddle any longer.
“I am the Lady of this valley. I have told you that already… that is not what you seek.” Her smile burned Jeodyn all the more, but he was getting close. He could feel it, and he followed quickly with another question.
“Where is my sister?”
“You know that already,” she answered. “You knew that dark road even before you started upon it… that is not what you seek.” Then without another word, the Lady turned her back again. She walked away at a slow and tired pace, more fitting this time to what he’d have guessed of her age.
Then in the distance over her shoulder, Jeodyn saw a beautiful white horse running swiftly along a far ridge. It was the only life he’d seen in the valley, aside from the Lady and himself, and he watched the animal until it disappeared behind the round and pitted peak of blue stone. Quite a magnificent animal it was, but it had no place in Jeodyn’s dream. It could speak nothing of the answers he sought, so he dismissed the mare as quickly as it had come and gone.
Jeodyn was at his wit’s end now. He could feel the dream failing around him, and he’d yet to learn anything of worth or consequence from it. Exasperated, he threw his hands into the air and followed after the strange old woman, slower this time. “I don’t know why this has to be so difficult,” he said. “I just want to know who’s taken my sister… and what these things are that are hunting me.” The Lady stopped then, and her head perked up. Turning back to face him, she lifted her chin to show a delicate nose and pallid cheeks, all sharing the glow of the valley around her. She was smiling again. “What are these things hunting me?” Jeodyn asked again, and he waited to hear what answer the Lady might give.
“You know that also,” she said. A look of chagrin passed over her slender face. “…but I will tell you what you ask. The rightful name given to them is Shadorym D’Hyn,” she said. “Marking their mortal roots, as well as the darkness that changed them. Once men like yourself, the Shadorym were dark in their hearts and darker still of pride and purpose, sooner to kill a man or rob him, than work for him. They lived completely indifferent of others and lusted greedily after all the pretty things a man might cherish in this world.
“Before the change, these were the dregs of a society already near to waste, and they found their way in shadow, as their transgressions were easier to commit after dusk in the deep recesses of the night. Cloaked in darkness, the men who became Shadorym used the absence of light to their every advantage, to remain hidden from lighted eyes. They would steal, rape, and kill without question to allow themselves the amenities of life they were each too lazy to acquire of their own labors. All was an indulgent excess of trespass and thievery, but you know as well as I, that such a life cannot be lived for so long, without bringing change to those who live it.
“These men lived in darkness, just as they killed and even died in darkness, and shadow soon fell over them. To their eyes, the change brought an illumination of the night, which allowed them to see keenly into shadows where the weak sought refuge from their trespass. Later, the darkness deepened, to make their entire person dimmer, until even the palest of faces was lost completely to shadow; this too they used to their advantage. Being darker of face and substance, they blended completely into the shadows that kept them, and many unsuspecting men and women lost their resolve, their coin, or their lives to the dark places of the night that had come alive to take them.
“The men who had once plagued the Erthlynd night were no more, and in their place, was born a race of shadows that, in time, took the name of Shadorym D’Hyn to mark them. Consumed by the very darkness they dwelt in for so long, they were forever altered, and fear took them with the change, and the bleakness of being lost to the world of men proved the end of many. But eventually, those remaining heard another’s call… from a dark road hidden in the east. An exodus of Shadorym from the lighted world followed, and darkness gathered near the Southern Fall. There they found a vast and lightless expanse to keep them and serve their dark work.”
The Lady was shaking her head by the end. She looked disgusted by the story. “A vile race they are,” she said after a moment. “…vile and dangerous. These Shadorym move like a fell wind through the dark places of the world. They can disappear into a speck of shadow and cover great distances in the night. They hunt you now, even as we speak, and it is on the order of another that they do so.” Jeodyn already knew much of the story the Lady had told, but the last of what she said intrigued him greatly. The one who’d given this order to hunt him was no doubt the one who took Jynn and was now the only one he cared to know about.
Jeodyn knew his next question and most desperately wanted the answer. But as he watched, the light of the Lady and the valley all around her changed from blue to white and swelled to become terribly bright. Shielding his eyes, Jeodyn found the Lady amid the glare, and he posed his question. “This one that gave the order, who is he?” The Lady lifted her head and the smile broadened on her lips to show a hint of teeth. Finally, he’d get the answers he wanted, but she said nothing to him.
For a long moment the Lady smiled, but spoke not a word, and just as he was about to ask his question again, something soft and warm nuzzled at his back; he turned to see the white horse from the ridge, standing very near behind him. The animal stood tall and proud and bowed its head for him to touch.
Jeodyn wanted to indulge the beautiful creature, but his question had yet to be answered and he couldn’t be taken from it. When he turned back, however, the Lady was gone. In her place, he saw only the bright, white light, now stinging his eyes. It grew as he watched it and consumed everything. “His name is Shiloh.” Jeodyn heard the Lady’s voice inside his head. Then the horse, its lady, and even the valley were all gone, lost in the sting of brilliant light now blinding him.
Lying on an uncomfortable bed of wood and straw, Jeodyn opened his eyes to the glare of the sun shining in through a dirty window. A bright bolt of light fell over his face and pained his eyes. Morning had come, quicker and easier than expected, and with it a new day. He’d made it through the night undetected by the Shadorym outside the city and had even learned a bit more about them.
The dream still held in Jeodyn’s mind, more like a new memory than a dream. If the Lady was to be trusted, more Shadorym were coming after him, and he’d be best served by traveling only in the light of day. The question still burned in his mind of the one who’d taken his sister and now ordered the the hunt for him. That fire though would only be quenched by answers; answers, or by meeting that one face to face.
Hoping to remain undetected by the others until that day came, Jeodyn started out of bed and into the morning. The Dark Road was still two days away, at the least, and he didn’t know how far away the next city was. No matter how far, he had to make it there before nightfall.

Alive with all the emotion of the dream and excited by what he’d learned from it, Jeodyn left his room for the main hall of the inn to find a quick meal before beginning his day in earnest. Descending the stair to the hallway, he could hear the noise of business already bustling in the common room. Hoping to pass into it without much notice, he walked quietly to the nearest empty table and spoke to no one.
Before he sat, Jeodyn scanned the room, assessing those about, and saw nothing of note or concern at first. Men and women milled about, eating and drinking and talking about the work they each had ahead of them. Some were already indulging themselves in ale and pipesmoke, and all had a look of reluctance to start the day. Laughing to himself about the laziness of eastern folk, Jeodyn was just about to take a seat, when his eyes fell on two men he hadn’t seen at first, sitting in a darkened corner across the room.
The shadow hid them well, and at first he couldn’t easily tell if it were one large man or three smaller ones watching him. But whoever they were, they were definitely watching him. The shadows stirred as his eyes fell on them, revealing their number as definitely two, and Jeodyn became immediately wary of them.
Dark cloaks hid each man’s entire person; their hands and face and every other mortal trait was covered in black, and they were easily lost in the shadows. Once Jeodyn noticed the two, their reaction told all he needed to know of them. The first elevated its head, as if to see Jeodyn better, and beneath the hood of his cloak showed no face at all but a featureless dark. No doubt, they were Shadorym, and they were both aware of him, their prey.
Seeing the two shadows, Jeodyn didn’t sit. He left the table and passed through the room quickly, though not fast enough to draw any attention to himself, and started for the door. Before he could reach it, the flash of something just outside the front window caught his attention. He looked just in time to see the trailing hem of an azure cloak pass by the glass, the same from the Lady in his dream and from the tavern the night before. Jeodyn started out the door to follow her. The two Shadorym stood quickly to follow him.
Once out the door, Jeodyn saw the Lady nowhere around. He started in the direction she’d gone, hoping to catch another glimpse of her, but saw nothing. Before he could round the first corner, the two large figures in black left out of the inn, into the street, and started after him. Jeodyn turned a corner to his left only to find a dead end and then back around another corner to the right, where another of the tall, black cloaks was searching an inn at the far end of the dirty street. This one noticed him too and turned his way.
To avoid this newest hunter and still stay clear of the first two, Jeodyn ducked onto a side street largely hidden behind a cart of wilted vegetables. He slipped behind the cart’s owner and started into the alley. Rounding the first corner he came to, Jeodyn heard a commotion behind him of the old cart being upended and its owner crying foul in the street. He just kept running, turning corners as quickly as he came to them. He worried about running into another of them unexpectedly, but he never did. Eventually, he came to another dead-end, where the outer wall of the city barred his way.
He had no time to get back to the inner streets of Dresdin, and with no place to hide and nowhere else to run, Jeodyn waited for the Shadorym. Looking around though, he knew it would be hard fight coming, especially in such a small space, and he quickly reconsidered, opting to best the wall instead. No need to fight here, when the one he wanted was someplace else.
In one quick stride, he was standing atop a small shed at the rear of the building to his right and stretching for the highest cross beam he could reach with his foot. He jumped to grab the top of the wall and threw his leg over, strattling the top for a moment before dropping to the ground. Still, he heard nothing of the Shadorym behind him. As he turned to find the road leading south from the city, Jeodyn stopped right where he stood, face to face with an oddly familiar animal, which took him back to the dream from last night.
In front of him, with its head bowed and its front leg bent, stood the most beautiful horse Jeodyn had ever seen. Its white coat shone in the sun like new snow, and its blonde mane hung long and loose from its proud head. The animal looked a perfect, living image of what he’d seen in the dream of the Lady and her valley. No way it was the same horse; it couldn’t be.
With no time now to ponder the question, Jeodyn started past the horse, but it moved with him and blocked him from leaving; he moved again and the horse moved too. It seemed the animal wanted to be taken. No doubt it’d make an easy time of the road ahead. But not wanting an angry owner after him also for the debt of a stolen horse, he started around it again to the south.
He’d only run a few steps, when he noticed the horse following him. Trotting slowly along, the proud animal stayed closely at Jeodyn’s heels and stopped with him when he turned back. It bowed its head again, almost asking him to mount its back, even giving permission to do so in the same gesture. But Jeodyn knew the offense of stealing a man’s horse, especially one so finely bred as this. The horse wouldn’t let him go though, and even followed again as he tried to leave a second time.
He was about to tell the mare more forcefully to leave and go home, when he saw the Shadorym behind him again. Little more than a tenlength separated him from the Dresdin wall, when the three dark cloaks passed easily over it. They saw Jeodyn immediately and started quickly towards him. They passed smoothly and easily over the ground and were closing fast. Even the horse at his side seemed to feel the situation pressing them; he stamped anxiously in the dirt and frisked at Jeodyn’s hand and chest. With a last look at the three Shadorym now very near and another two just starting over the wall, he conceded to taking the mare.
Once the decision was made, the horse dipped its head again, and as quickly as Jeodyn could throw his leg over its back, the animal lifted him and was off. The proud, white horse passed over the hills leading from Dresdin, like the wind over a plain. And though the Shadorym moved faster than Jeodyn could’ve ever run to elude them, the horse sped away and left them easily. In little time, the shadows were lost behind them and only the day lay ahead.

Make sure you stop back here tomorrow for a guest post
 by J. Curtis Mace and a giveaway!