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S&S: The Flame of Sin

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  • S&S: The Flame of Sin

    This is a story that was born with my fascination w/ REH's Solomon Kane, but my meticulousness lead it into something else and untimately into a whole diffrent story of my own image, with hints toward its original intent. Here is the first chapter of that story. I'm considering the whole story for publication, so comments, concerns, questions, etc are welcome :D

    آ© J. D. Perez


    I have lived to see strange days.
    I have seen great mountains of fire fall from the heavens, and the gleaming cities crumble beneath the waves of the burning sea. I have seen great shadows carpet the surface of the sun and moon, so that neither day nor night was illuminated. I have seen great scores of armies marching down against monstrous things; terrible beasts that once lurked the shadows, but now walk openly under the sun.
    Of old these things are known as the Cathأ¼lic Age.

    —The Thousand Year Journal
    Lucian Amaranth

    ACROSS THE BARREN slopes and atomic-scarred mounds that rimmed the ruined earth, the morning dawned bruised and grey. A sharp, howling wind like that of some hideous beast stirred over the mountains down toward the dark, silhouetted figure plodding against the uneven terrain. Against the flanks of his pale horse whipped the ends of his weather-beaten coat—a great, flapping mass of thickly dense shadows drawn close along the elongated features, so that only the bridge of his predatory nose could be seen. His dark, wide-brimmed hat was an old battered thing surmounted by an iridescent feather—yellow. . . orange. . . red.

    Sheathed around the slender waist was a hand-and-half bastardsword—a double-edged weapon with cruciform-shaped hilt, ringed pommel and straight-brass quillons. At the thigh was equipped a Rossiyan kindjal—the renowned knife-blade of the kozakai mercenaries of the northern steppes of Kazakhstan.

    Lucian Amaranth, fresh from the fiend-haunted lands of Gomer rode straight and silent through the random tangle of steel and fallen debris. From beneath the brim of his slouched hat gleamed a pair of smoldering blue eyes that blazed not unlike two pinpoints of baleful fire. His dark, moody eyes gazed across at the leveled mass of shanties, hovels, and tenements stacked together against the flame-streaked horizon.

    So this is Izmyr, pearl of the Egean, thought Lucian, spurring his mare through the gaping town entrance. He glared at the scabrous brown walls that once stood as the ramparts and parapets of a antiquated seaport to the south and west of Turkei—a festering carcass from some long-forgotten and pre-cataclysmic age. Further down the half-crumbled walls, Lucian saw no man guarding the roads, or neighboring boulevards; heard no swift patter of sandaled feet; saw no steel-gleam from neither shield or spearhead. He smelled the stench of fresh fish mingled with sweat, even though no dhow or carrack occupied the wharf-side.

    His eyes darted to the spider-cracked windows that lined the walls of a rundown palace, seeing the faint flicker of fiendish red glares that monitored his steady, forward strides across that grim, ghostly harbor.
    Through that first light of the morrow, Lucian brooded somberly over this strange and ominous silence: So this is where you have concealed yourself, Mordikai? You have chosen to make Izmyr your final resting place, after all.

    Engrossed amidst the muddled thoughts, Lucian mechanically fingered the hilt of the Rossiyan kindjal, rousing as though shaken from an inner reverie. He soon drew rein before a war-wasted cathedral that towered over the skeletal remains of downtrodden Izmyr, knowing for certain that he had reached the end of his quest—a seven year and nine-thousand mile search fueled out of a fanatic, merciless combat against the vassals of hell.

    This is the final act Mordikai, thought Lucian, leaning forward to dismount. Ahead of him, like some quiescent sentry, towered the ornately-carved architecture of flying buttresses, parapets and mullions cloaked beneath a thick mantle of moss and lichen; a long-deserted remnant of centuries old Western Expansion into the near-east.

    Lucian now mounted the fractured flight of steps, thrusting the rusty, semi-arched doors with a single strike from his crimson-stained boots. A stream of light spilled into the once darkened hall. He inched forward and stood there a moment, staring at the fallen masonry, and mosaic patterns veined with grime and dust. He had half-expected to see a scintillant interior wrought of spiraling staircases of quartz and bronze; arcane columns of ethereal crystal and gild-worked tapestries of theological significance. But aught was to be seen nor found.

    Kindjal in hand, Lucian inched stealthily through the shadows of the lofty hall, curious to what manner of strange reasoning had stayed the sorcerer from taking political asylum in the ceaseless decadence of the Cathأ¼lic Empire.

    Surely, reasoned Lucian Amaranth, Mordikai knows of this quarrel against him. The murder of his allies as struck a heavy blow to the heart of his sorcerous kin. But still you linger in Izmyr—why? Why have you not escaped?

    At the east end of that deserted hall, Lucian drew silent as a ghost, halting for a moment where the choir-screen stood separating the main aisle from the inner sanctum. He mounted the podium, instinct alone telling him that the sorcerer was behind these velvet hangings. His fingers stiffened around the kindjal, hardening themselves to strike ere some sorcerer’s tongue mesmerize him.

    He pushed the choir-screen aside, taking in the inner sanctum with a cynical gleam: beyond the velvet hangings was seated an old, grizzle-haired man, riveted on the numerous scrolls of creased parchment spread across a highly-carved writing table—a pathetic faأ§ade for a Gomerean demi-god, thought Lucian Amaranth.

    Treading forward warily, Lucian anticipated the frail old sorcerer would soon writhe into some ghastly mold of demonic arrogance. But such a transmutation, however, did not arise, even as his shadow slid over the table and onto its withered occupant. “I would sheath that weapon,� said the old man. His gaze remained intent on the scrolls set before him.
    Lucian refused to abide by these words, sensing an undercurrent of craftiness meant to befuddle the mind.

    “You would dare shed blood here,� added the old man; “in this House of God?�

    “What is this, Mordikai—?� retorted Lucian Amaranth. “Have you lost hold over the arcane so, that you now shy away under a gaffe?� His voice was a thin, apathetic sound—a scarcely audible whisper resonating amid the large, roll-neck collar of his weathered coat.

    “Another one comes to murder the demi-god,� said the old man, as though voicing his thoughts aloud. His gaze shifted toward the tall, dark, grim-faced man and added: “If you are the adversary of that sorcerer, then please, stranger, sheath that knife. Have a seat, so we may confer the matter over some Gomerean wine. My name is Bilge, the proprietor of this cathedral. Your name—?�

    “One moment you threaten me,� growled Lucian; “next you offer me a glass of wine?�

    “You and I,� answered the old man; “seem to share a common hatred. I’m most curious to hear how this demi-god has incurred your wrath, stranger; like many before you.�

    Lucian apprehensively sheathed the kindjal, saying: “Where’s the sorcerer hidden, if not in this House of Cathأ¼le? I was informed that a sorcerer by the name of Mordikai had taken refuge here. Men of honorable tongues have told me these things; men who have lived to reiterate a sickening affair: I was told that ladies are now sold in the soaks, as though like sheep to the slaughter. I was told none dare wander the streets alone, fearing the maws and talons of demonic apparitions than the threat of earthly thieves and cutpurses. I was told—â€?

    “These men speak true,� interrupted Bilge, taking note of the mounting timbre in the stranger’s voice. He gestured toward the chair located directly across the writing table, said: “Please, take a seat, stranger, we have much to discuss.�

    Lucian took a seat with an unspoken reluctance and thought:
    The High Priestess of the temple of En-lil spoke true—it was not a falsehood, after all. I didn’t ride through the Anvil of Hell for aught. The trade routes have fallen and now the buccaneers of the Black Lands plunder the Egean Coast without fear, nor favor from the papacy. Izmyr is dead!

    “Something to drink, friend?� invited Bilge, offering the stranger a burgundy-tinted decanter of the aforementioned wine. “4448—a fine Gomerean harvest, I am told.�

    “I do not drink,� stated Lucian Amaranth. He removed the wide-brimmed hat, and positioned it over the table, revealing the black opalescent strands of his square-cut mane. His face was a long, flat and unreadable thing marked with the thinness of travel and starvation, but deeply scarred—both physically and emotionally, with the severity of his labor. His deep-set eyes were a haunting affair, which only furthered the calm, yet predator-like nature of the stranger’s pallid features.

    He now unfastened the steel-clasps of his roll-neck collar to bare the concealed indicators of a puritanical nature; knotted loosely around the parched throat was the clerical band of the iconic preacher.

    “Forgive me, Father. Had I known—�

    “Call me Lucian,� said the preacher; “for there is only One who is called the beginning, and the end, who is stern, and moralistic, repressive, and chastening, and who is called Our Father in the heavens.�

    Bilge studied the preacher with that same rueful glance set aside for those quixotic lunatics that roamed the streets of Old Izmyr, chronicling those half-remembered legends of obscure antiquity, which included anything from the Dawn of the Red Inquisition; the rise of centuries-old Cathأ¼le; the rebuilding of Rome, and the Fall of God Emperor Aleksandr IV—Enemy of the World.

    He leaned across the table and poured a mug of water from an adjacent decanter for Lucian, all the while reflecting upon the words spoken by the preacher a second ago. Did they stemmed from his own pious beliefs, or from a fanatical mind born underneath the flames of a wasteland sun—or both? wondered Bilge.

    “You think me mad,� stated Lucian, subsequently draining the mug of water.

    “Nay,� answered the old man, frowning on the idea of a preacher being armed not unlike some sword-for-hire. “There has not been a holy man in these regions since the coming of the sorcerer, Mordikai. For three years now, the Izmyrians have endured hunger, and famine, and disease. We have seen the city coffers desiccated and the coastal wealth ruined. The Izmyrians have little love for the benevolent deities of their forefathers.�

    “Do you count yourself amongst them?�

    “Nay—never,� snapped Bilge. “I am Izmyrian; not a wretched heathen. What’s more, what sort of heathen would find pleasure in hearing accounts concerning skirmishes against the sorcerers—although, I know not whom, or what nation would fund such an audacious seven-year campaign.�

    “I have heard that in the mountain palaces of Bulut, Savas the Necromancer was slain, and that on the banks of the Melchiorian River, the drowned corpse of Hakan was discovered. And lastly, I heard that Riyad the spider-witch was found torn to shreds, and eaten alive by her own arachnid subjects within the gardens of Gأ¼lbahr the Wicked.â€?

    “You are well informed,â€? said Bilge, lifting a single scroll of parchment from off the cluttered table. “I was just informed of these splendid tidings through my grandson’s courier, who saw the gardens burn to the ground from his port-side estate at Gأ¼l. Lucian, how did you come to learn of these tidings? I don’t see you as a man of idle chitchat.â€?

    “I am that nameless nation you spoke of,â€? said the preacher. Lucian fell into a brooding silence for a space, and when he resumed speaking it was with a curious monotone: “I know these things because I was the one who sent their souls burning into Sheol. I was the one who decapitated the Lord of Bulut. I was the one who suffocated Hakan at the banks of Melchior; though he pleaded quarter, I gave none. And lastly, the spider-witch, whom I pushed off a balcony high at Gأ¼lbahr.â€?

    “You sound more like a butcher, than a holy man!�

    “Aye, my God is no Prince of Peace,� said the preacher; “and nor is my God numbered amidst the patron saints, or stone idols, or constellations. My God is a Lord of Hosts. He whom flooded the earth, leveled Sodom and Gomorrah, and flattened the walls of Jericho. He who is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.�

    “And it is on behalf of your God that you butcher these wicked men, eh?�

    “Aye, though in part,� said Lucian Amaranth; “for it is an oath to the dead that binds me to this bloodshed.� His face grew sour with reflection, weaving together the recollections of seven years strained and dedicated to the pursuit of divine justice. His bright-blue eyes narrowed to mere slits underneath a tampered brow.

    “Whom were they, these dead for whom you fight?�

    “Men who sought deliverance from their sorcerous oppressors,� said the preacher; “men of the northern steppes of Kazakhstan, who had turned against their Rossiyan-Monghulian heritages to serve the Ancient of Days. As a wandering preacher, I aided these freemen in toppling the temple of their heathen ancestors, and erected a church over the ruins, as a replacement to their rituals of sacrificial carnage. But this newly founded faith would not persist, for the sudden change did not find favor amongst the sorcerers; three of which now rest in Sheol and beyond.

    “Mordikai, their chief spokesman visited the village numerous times, poisoning the hearts and minds of men with a cunning tongue. I saved those I could, but those who lost faith and followed the sorcerers back to Bulut, were never seen or heard from again. The elders and I speculated at the time that the sorcerers were sacrificing to the Nameless Ones, seeing that on moonless nights ash would rain down on the hilltops as though we were nestled beneath a mountain of fire; oily- grey ashes of men and women who had heeded the call of Shaitan. But for months we endured the tongue of Mordikai and the wiles of his foul necromancy, forcing the sorcerers to take direct action or lose the populace. In the winter, Mordikai marched down from Bulut with a thousand of his minions; strange, twisted abominations bred from the pits of nethermost hell. As the frenzied ranks turned the fresh fallen snow into a black cloud of death, we armed what men, and boy we could, though in our hearts we knew it was a futile attempt. Women and children we shielded in small compartments underneath the tents and huts. And I, though having never told the villagers of my past as a scout on the grazing-plains of Aithiopia and Kuإ،, stood before them with the left-hand of the sword, and the right-hand of the righteous.â€?

    The preacher slammed a clenched fist against an open palm. “But many branded me as nothing more than a humble shepherd defending his flocks against wolves—what fools they were! If they had but allowed me to lead them, I knew that God would have granted us victory. . . .�

    “So much bloodshed over men that lost faith in you, Lucian?�

    “Aye, but even in their decent,� said the preacher, “those men were my brothers, for whom else shall I call neighbor, if not my brother? What profit a man that bares love only to those who love him?� Lucian watched as the old man stirred with the profound significance of his response.

    Whom shall I call neighbor? wondered the old man.
    In that moment of theological reverie, an abrupt scream ripped through the elevated hall of the cathedral, stirring the old man with fear and hesitation. Lucian on the other hand was not affected nor hindered by the screech, having grown remarkably accustomed to the repulsive cries of elder-world abominations that crawled from the dark, and shadowy realms of pre-human existence. He leaped to his feet, ripping the kindjal free from its unadorned sheath.

    A second scream reverberated through the hall, finding recognition within the old man. It was a piercing form of his niece’s soft contralto—a sweet, gentle voice admired and dearly loved of the traveling minstrels and warrior-troubadours that frequented Old Izmyr.

    “Sheath that sword, preacher! Do you not recognize the whimpering voice of a woman?� asked Bilge, sensing the preacher’s impulsive nature.

    “Riyad was a woman, too,â€? cautioned Lucian. “She was sweet and gentle—’til her servants had me thrown to the hell-bred spiders of Gأ¼lbahr!â€?

    He glared as bony fingers brushed the choir-screen aside, revealing a slender figure. His bright-blue eyes studied the young woman-child with a cursory glance—face oval and naأ¯ve; eyes large and radiant; bronze skin silky-smooth with prepubescent age. Her hair was long scintillant tresses that glistened not unlike polished obsidian. Her silk trappings and gem-encrusted trinkets were an ungodly affair befitting the indecent mold of a street wench.

    She treaded nervously toward the old man’s side; eyes set on the length of steel. “Oh Uncle, we have been deceived! Mordikai has broken his agreement with us. Even now, the minions of Rasul have encircled the cathedral and await my leave-taking. The sorcerer has grown weary of his own seraglio-girls and wishes the warmth of my sympathy yet again.�

    “This is unjust,� cried Bilge. “You were promised a whole month with me—its been a week!�

    “God has surely forsaken me, Uncle—!�

    “I find your lack of faith disturbing,� intruded the preacher. “Where is your God now, you ask? Well, the answer is simple: you have forgotten Him—the whole of Izmyr has forgotten Him. His divine presence no longer dwells in these leveled ruins, only the spirit of the world—the spirit of Shaitan.�

    “I am one man,â€? argued Bilge; “what can one man do against the might of sorcery? I was once a preacher like you, Lucian. I have prayed at each temple of the Izmyrians, from Yagmur the god of rain to Khorvatat, the goddess of health and water. Lucian, I have even prayed at the shrines of Rose-Cults like the Aygأ¼l and the Nesryn. And yet, we have been left unanswered. We have tried and failed.â€?

    “You failed given that these are heathen gods. You will not fail again,� said the preacher with a righteous certainty. “I have been sent into the hells of this ruined earth to seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, and plead for the widows. I will not leave Izmyr ’til the flames of Mordikai are quenched.� Lucian paused for a moment and softly added:

    “Where two or more are gathered, I will be there.�

    “Three against sorcery,� scoffed Bilge. “Meryem and I, we are not trained with neither the bow nor the blade. What weapon then shall we use—our faith?�

    “The Hand of God is cut short is it?�

    “You would have us face the Mouth of Mordikai, and expect divine intervention, eh? It did not happen last you faced the sorcerer at Kazakhstan. Aye, I have faith this Ancient of Days has truly aided your holy crusade; I have heard the reports. But, however, dashing blindly into battle is the madness of bloodthirsty warriors and fanatics—which are you, preacher?�

    Lucian said nothing, pausing to hear the subtle dissonance of inhuman voices that cried out the young girl’s name. His dark, moody eyes darted toward Meryem, who kneeled at her uncle’s feet.

    How many innocent lives must be forfeited ’til thy divine plan is ended, oh Lord? wondered the preacher.

    Lucian stirred and replaced the old, wide-brimmed hat from off the disorderly table, casting the hawk-like features into a shadowy darkness. He treaded toward the choir-screen and glanced over his shoulder toward the old man. And grimly said: “Blessings are upon the head of the Righteous One, but violence covereth the mouth of the Wicked. The name of the Righteous One is due for a blessing, but the name of the Wicked will certainly rot.�

  • #2
    are public comments okay? i'm rather shy about giving or receiving them, so if it's okay with you, it's okay with me. : ) (otherwise, i'll e-mail ya.)


    • #3
      Go ahead, just post it here. I'm not gonna throw a fit. I appreciate the feedback


      • #4

        You got a story there! ;) I'm interested in far-distant Cathulic Age, too. One would hope it (religion?) would take us forward, not back, but... there it is. And here we are.

        Little things like using multiple adjectives for the same description i'd look for and perhaps change.

        I liked some of the names of the people and things! Cathulic Age, Bilge, kindjal... heh heh!

        ehm... One quote sounds like Darth Vader? "I find your lack of faith disturbing"... It's just a PERFECT line, i know.. but...

        So keep on going!


        • #5
          Originally posted by Poetgrrl
          ehm... One quote sounds like Darth Vader? "I find your lack of faith disturbing"... It's just a PERFECT line, i know.. but...
          I know, trust me, tried and tried many time to reword it, 'til a fried braincell later I said leave it be, it'll get lost in the context of the story :lol:


          • #6
            :x George Lucas!!


            • #7
              Well, I'm glad you liked my story though. I know about adjectives and such, that's why once I get done with story rewrites I'll pass it on to my friend the english teacher from HS, same guy who turned me on to Elric


              • #8
                Hello Azariel,

                I thought it was written well. I enjoy stories that have religious characters in it. It reminds me of a cleric going on a mission. It all fits together real well. The dialogue is good.

                "With a deep, not-unhappy sigh, Elric prepared to do battle with an army." (Red Pearls)
                - Michael Moorcock


                • #9
                  Originally posted by lemec
                  Hello Azariel,

                  I thought it was written well. I enjoy stories that have religious characters in it. It reminds me of a cleric going on a mission. It all fits together real well. The dialogue is good.
                  Thanks. All from countless hours of nit-picking my own work. Yeah, I wanted to do a Sword & Sorcery, but tried to look at the least used idea which was Solomon Kane, which had much potential had REH continued it. So taking Mike's opposite idea, I flung the story into the future and went from there :)


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Azariel
                    Originally posted by lemec
                    Hello Azariel,

                    I thought it was written well. I enjoy stories that have religious characters in it. It reminds me of a cleric going on a mission. It all fits together real well. The dialogue is good.
                    Thanks. All from countless hours of nit-picking my own work. Yeah, I wanted to do a Sword & Sorcery, but tried to look at the least used idea which was Solomon Kane, which had much potential had REH continued it. So taking Mike's opposite idea, I flung the story into the future and went from there :)
                    Very cool. 8)

                    "With a deep, not-unhappy sigh, Elric prepared to do battle with an army." (Red Pearls)
                    - Michael Moorcock


                    • #11
                      I appreciate all your comments. Now off to finish the last 2 chapters of this novella :)


                      • #12
                        I just printed this off so I can read it at home. I'll give you my thoughts come monday.

                        "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
                        --Thomas a Kempis


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by EverKing
                          I just printed this off so I can read it at home. I'll give you my thoughts come monday.

                          Have you gotten around to reading it, E?


                          • #14
                            Not all the way through. I keep meaning too, but I'm a scatterbrain, what can I say? :(

                            I'll read it today and post my impression. I can say from what I've seen that I really like the concept and the atmosphere of piece. I'll give more detail this afternoon!
                            "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
                            --Thomas a Kempis


                            • #15
                              Well, I've had the chance to go through it and make a few notes.

                              Overall, I like it. I was immediately drawn into the character of Lucien and would love to learn more about his past and like lemec, I'm usually attracted to religious characters or stories with religious undertones...especially when that religion takes the form of the dark and highly superstitious religion of the Dark Ages. The description of Izmyr left little doubt as to its nature and condition and was, in my opinion, beautifully drawn.

                              It does rely too heavily on dialouge for my taste. It could work with this story; but, Preacher or not, Lucien does not strike me as the type of man who feels the need to explain his actions and expound on his past...seeing him do so seems slightly off. The conversations I can see him take part in would be those of a more philosophical/theological bent; "What is the nature of Man?," "What is the Nature of God?," "What is the relationship between Man and God?," etc... Of course those questions have to be discussed under the right circumstances to work in a piece of fiction...they have to have something to do with the story. I would recomend taking more time to delve into the background of the character; don't try to force it all out right away. I think it is the idea of introducing the "Hero" in his entirety in the first chapter that forced you to add much of this dilogue. If you are still insistent on having a complete protagonist intro for the first chapter then perhaps draw out the conversation a little more, have Bilge prompt Lucien for more answers instead of Lucien volunteering so much information freely; or, you could have Lucien just hint at some of the information, internally or externally, and let the reader (either themselves or through Bilge) infer what they will.

                              There are a few nit-picky little things that more of an editorial nature, and I'd hardly consider myself a grammarian, so its just as likely that you are correct and I am wrong in these areas. Really though, they have no bearing on the story, which what I'm commenting on. One that I will mention though is at the beginning of the second paragraph:

                              Sheathed around the slender waist was a hand-and-half bastardsword--a double-edged weapon with a cruciform-shaped hilt, ringed pommel and straight-brass quillons...
                              This is a technicallity, and due to the influence of D&D with their "bastardswords" changing the common perception of how that is defined, it may be moot. However, technically speaking a "bastard" sword is one that has a hilt in the form of a "bastardized cross", that is to say a sword whose crossguard or quillions are bent, angled, or otherwise made not straight (see the Raven Armoury's Stormbringer for a great example of a bastardized hilt). So, a sword--hand-an-a-half or not--with a cruciform hilt (stright quillions) would not be considered a bastardsword. But, as I said, the D&D definition of a "Bastard Sword" being any sword designed for either one, or two handed use is becoming the prevailing interpretation and being as this is a set in a post-apocolyptic future it is possible that the D&D influence definition of "bastardsword" has become official, huh?

                              I'd have to say that I am anxious to see the next installment!
                              "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
                              --Thomas a Kempis