Long Island Athanate – second last installment

This post was supposed to get the story to the end, but this scene jus’ growed and growed. So, okay, this is the second last installment of the Long Island Athanate. To come, there’s the scene that you’d expect from the last sentences of this chapter, then there’s an epilogue.

I have had some feedback in the comments, but not as many people comment as actually visit these posts…

So… some prompts. Please comment in response:
Are you enjoying the story?
Has any of it caught you by surprise?
Do you like the present tense mode of telling a story?
Do you like the split point of view, switching between Julius and Elodie?
What is the story lacking?

Or ask any questions brought up by this installment / the whole story.

I’ll post a link to a downloadable word document in the comments if you prefer to read that way.

Chapter 14

Julius

Warder’s Court, South Prospect, Brooklyn

They kneel on either side of the woman they’ve just claimed, either as kin or toru. Julius is unsure which.

“Heal her, Julius,” Livia says.

“I can try, but—”

“Do better that that! Heal her! Swear it,” she cuts across him, grabbing his hand and lacing his fingers with Elodie’s so their hands are tied together.

Elodie has lost consciousness.

Julius opens his eukori, the Athanate mental sense that allows for sensing and influencing another person’s mental or physical state. His vision darkens. He senses them: Skylur and Livia are like terrible dark suns hanging in an alien sky above him. He forces his mind away from them, down to Elodie, and allows her sensations to flood his mind.

He sways, stunned and disoriented. He feels, as if it were a distant memory, that hands support him so he does not fall.

Elodie is dying. He knows it is entirely possible to follow someone down into death while locked together by eukori. Some Athanate die like that when their kin die. What he is trying is dangerous.

As Julius-Elodie, they know the blinding pain in their head, the pressure of it, the exhausted and feeble pulse of blood through their heart, the tired rise and fall of their chest, the whisper of air.

“Brain tumor.” Julius mumbles. “Too late.”

“You can do it! Swear,” Livia says again.

“I will heal her. On my Blood, I so swear,” he says, the words coming slowly and indistinctly.

Julius is so completely in sync with Elodie that her mouth moves to form the same words.

Julius feels Livia’s eukori touch on him. She gives him the strength to keep Elodie’s heart pounding and her lungs breathing.

I can do this. I can.

He’s aware, through Livia, that Skylur watches impassively.

He’s telling us that it’s our problem.

My problem.

He can’t think about that now. He can’t talk either. He has to concentrate on this woman, Elodie, or she’ll slip away.

“Bring the three of them,” Skylur orders the security team. “Feed Mr. Barlett and let him rest in one of the rooms upstairs.”

Julius loses eukori contact with Livia and her strength ebbs from him, but he’s steadier now.

The Altau security carry him and Elodie. It’s awkward. They hold him and the woman side by side, so he can maintain physical contact with her and use his own body’s capabilities to maintain hers through the eukori link.

He can’t sustain her like this for long. He’ll have to move to the next phase, healing her. He’ll have to bite her for that.

They go down a spiral staircase. One floor. Another.

They’ll be going to the oordeelstoel, the Warder’s Seat of Judgment, but Julius loses all sense of location while he concentrates on keeping Elodie alive.

If they’d just reach wherever their going and leave him, that would help. As they walk down the steps, it’s like trying to do it carrying too many things at once. Every time he thinks he has a firm grip on Elodie’s life processes, something else fails, falls away into darkness and he has to scrabble to get it back.

It gets better when they stop.

The Altau guards lower him carefully on the floor, propped against a wall. They reposition Elodie so she is lying back against him and he has his arms around her.

“I will not let you fall,” he whispers to her, though he knows she can’t hear.

In the stillness, he tries to clear his mind. He visualizes inhaling pure light and breathing it into her body.

His fangs manifest and he bites her. Syncing with her body, his Athanate glands have formulated bio-agents to attack the growth in her head, as if it were in his own. As he bites her, these flood into her blood system.

Breathing light into her body, as he sees it.

It will do no good if her heart stops beating, so he has to stay locked with her, keeping the boundaries between their bodies blurred.

He’s never healed someone so close to death. He’s still not sure it can be done, but he gave his oath to Livia, and that might as well be his own life.

He’s aware of Skylur and Livia at the edges of his perception. He hears their voices as if down a long passage.

The guards have gone, leaving the four of them alone. He’s also aware they’re in some kind of a wide corridor that curves.

Not the oordeelstoel. That would be a conference room or a court or an auditorium.

A flicker of hope lights his heart and is dashed as he listens to what they’re saying.

“Compassion, Livia? For a human?” Skylur says.

“Ruben likes to take on hopeless cases,” Livia replies, waving it away. “And if he succeeds, maybe there will be some entertainment out of it for me.”

Livia is deliberately pushing Skylur as if she has a death-wish. Julius wants to interrupt, but he can’t even speak.

“What have you done with the other Houses?” Livia says.

Skylur smiles thinly. “Why do you care?”

“Being Basilikos might make me un-human, but it doesn’t make me un-Athanate. I care about them. I’ve cared ever since they asked Julius and me to run our association.”

“You care even for the Panethus Houses? And the humans in the Panethus Houses?” Skylur says. “If you say you care for them, how do you make a distinction between humans inside and outside of our communities?”

“I don’t make those kind of distinctions generally and I don’t hate humans, I just believe we are superior,” Livia says. “You hold a mirror up to me, Altau, as if that were all that’s required. I see myself, but what you don’t understand, is that’s not as you see me. Tell me why I’m wrong. Or at least answer my question about the other Long Island Athanate.”

Julius wishes she would hold back, but that’s not like her.

“I have done nothing, yet, with the other Houses,” Skylur says.

Julius can see both are refusing to give an inch, but it’s Skylur who has the power.

Livia has run out of patience. “So, we’ve established I am Basilikos, and I’m not going to change,” she says. “You are Panethus. We aren’t compatible. You have claimed this territory and we’re not strong enough to contest it. How do we resolve the situation?”

“You mean how am I going to resolve it?” Skylur replies. “Like this.” He presses a discreet button set in the wall against which Julius is resting.

The opposite wall cracks in the middle and begins to slide open.

There’s a darkness beyond the retreating wall, and the impression of size, of depth. A breath of air, dry and chill, carrying a hint of scent that might be sage.

Then lights begin to brighten slowly, revealing a bare arena.

The floor is sand, smoothed so that there is not a ripple in the surface.

Julius’ heart misses a beat before he can catch it, and his senses dull again as he has to concentrate on re-starting Elodie’s heart and calming his reaction.

He knows what it is, even though he’s never seen one, outside of Livia’s oldest books.

“The Warders, long before they were Warders, or Athanate Houses in the Netherlands, were old,” Skylur says. “Older even than House Flavia.”

“A Mandaviran.” Livia’s voice echoes in the chamber. She is standing right at the edge of the arena. There is awe in her tone.

Julius tries to say no, but keeping Elodie alive is taking all his effort. He stretches one hand out, as if to call Livia back, but she’s not looking.

The Mandaviran. Sometimes called the Hero’s Circle. Or the Last Place of Judgement.

It is an old and bloody tradition, so old that the books say the last sanctified Mandaviran existed in fabled Itrexia, the long-lost city of the Athanate, where the high towers of morning gazed out over the glittering Caspian Sea.

Even if it wasn’t pure myth, Itrexia is long gone. But modern Athanate books sometimes mention the Mandaviran, in a famous saying:

Beyond emotion, there is reason.
Beyond reason , there is logic.
Beyond logic, there is faith.
And beyond faith, there is only iron in the Mandaviran.

The Mandaviran is the place of the last argument of Athanate. If all other courses fail, then two sides unable to reach an agreement meet on the sand.

Livia is more than a match for anyone else Julius knows, but Skylur is older, faster, more powerful. For them to meet on the sand is merely offering Livia an honorable death.

He raises his mouth from Elodie’s neck, calls out: ‘No, Livia! Wait!”

But immediately, Elodie begins to slip away, and he has to return to healing, torn between the woman he loves and the oath she made him give.

Julius can only watch as Skylur opens a cabinet on the wall.

He brings out the glittering pelea, the one-sided armor that covers a fighter from the shoulder to the hand. It’s segmented like a lobster, heavy and slick and held by leather straps. And he brings out the kinirak, the blade. It is a sword like no other. There is a brace which lies along the forearm, with leather and chainmail straps for the top of the forearm and the wrist. The handle stands up at right angles to the brace, positioned so the wrist is never bent. The blade itself flows from the back of the brace; opposite the handle. It has an easy, graceful curve so the tip ends in line with the fist. It has all the horrific beauty of a tool designed to be perfect in its function of delivering death.

I have to heal Elodie and stop this.

Desperation gives Julius a healing strength he didn’t suspect he possessed, but progress with Elodie feels as sluggish as the flow of tar in comparison to the flickering speed with which Skylur and Livia strip off, don the pelea and fix the kinirak in place.

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About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first book, 'Sleight of Hand' is available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/Sa0D3n

21 responses to “Long Island Athanate – second last installment”

  1. Justin says :

    Personally I like the jumping around between character viewpoints, it’s a good contradiction between Amber and the main storyline.

  2. Sarah L says :

    I’m absolutely loving the story. To be honest I am hungry for anything you give us from the Athanate world. I love all the interlocking parts and pieces, how there are many different opinions and people, all locked into the same world, with all the actions that lead to an outcome. As such I do really like the differing view points, it keeps everything fresh and has me second guessing. Skylur has always been a mystery for me, and this story has only deepened that. Initially I hadn’t pegged Julius as Athanate so that took me by surprise when I realised. I also have about 50/50 success with predicting where you’re taking a story and this has been no exception. I guessed where Elodie was going but still don’t know where you’re going with Livia 🙂 As for that I’d like to see more of – just more of the world! I enjoyed how Amber got mentioned when informing the pack leader about the half ceremony so I guess it would be nice to see all the stories interweaving at various points and maybe characters meeting. I like the New York Houses and would definitely read more.
    I think I say this about all your books but one of the things that I like most about what you write is that it is never a passive read, I always feel challenged and engaged with my thinking.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Sarah.
      Skylur has been acting oddly (as observed by you and others – see below). Is there a reason, I wonder? 🙂
      I am immensely pleased by this aspect of the feedback, because I’ve always tried to write Skylur as someone who’s ahead of the curve and near impossible to truly read, as befits someone of his age!
      Yup, we know where Elodie was trying to get to, but where has she arrived?
      We will see some interlink with the main Bite Back threads, because what’s happening here is actually quite important, but I have to be careful how I reveal it in the main story – I don’t want people to be put off thinking they have to read everything I write just to get the full picture.
      Julius as Athanate – I intended this from the first chapter, but as that wasn’t going to be a story, I really didn’t think the background through. I now have to work out a credible way that Julius can have become a Roman Catholic priest.

      • Sarah L says :

        Personally I don’t see it as much of a surprise that an organisation such as the catholic church would have Athanate – they were and still are to a certain extent a power house of the world, and the church has always amassed much mystery in it’s history. To have some Athanate explanations seems logical. I’m sure over history, pretty much as you’ve implied, the Athante have had a hand in many events. I like Julius – he seems almost human for all his 400 odd years.

  3. Jason says :

    I love it and hate the cliffhanger just give me some closure before you stop the story.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Jason. This thread will be wrapped up in the next installment.
      Cliffhangers are a good indication for me as a writer, because if you didn’t care, it wouldn’t be a cliffhanger. I have to say, in one series I recently recommended on the Facebook page, *every* book ends in a sort of cliffhanger. I feel that the only real cliffhanger I’ve imposed in Bite Back is the end of Cool Hand, but boy did I get some stick for that! 🙂

      • Justin says :

        As is just and proper. That cliffhanger was horrible, however the timeskip understandable . I don’t doubt that Skylur has a plan, and that he knows the NYC Athante better than they know themselves and is moving them to his design.

  4. james Jensen says :

    enjoyable story and the shifting view is a nice change. thank you for the writing.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks James. Looks like it’s on track wrt reader interest. I am starting to think I should maintain the practice of a serial novel to complement the main writing, though I will not be able to promise an episode a week.

      • James Jensen says :

        There are a few authors doing this and then they take it down offline to publish some add a bit more

  5. E says :

    This has been an interesting aside within the Athanate world. To me, the present tense narration and the two view points are quite fitting for this story. Both add a sense of immediacy and reflect how harried the characters become during their various travails. I only really have two concerns:
    Skylur: In my opinion, it seems out of character for him to repeatedly indulge Livia’s recalcitrance after how he quickly and decisively dealt with political opposition in previous Bite Back novels (especially Angel Stakes). If the Eastern Seaboard Association and its leader were mere annoyances and distractions from the larger and far more important political picture, one Basilikos without an extensive power base seems hardly worth his time and effort. Likewise, unless this cliffhanger is a clever fake-out, he doesn’t seem to be the type to get his hands dirty in an arena.
    Plotting: One of my favorite aspects of the Bite Back series is the intricacy of the narrative. Each book juggles several plot lines that intersect and amplify each other: the literary equivalent of a Swiss watch. Since this story came out as blog posts, I understand that it cannot have the same forethought or tightness. It’s kind of a trade off, because instead of neatly tying concepts together, the story brings up different ideas (eg. the urban witch/were communities, Basilikos house structures, and Anthanate philology) and lets the reader imagine where they might go.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks E.
      I’m very pleased with the feedback. The present tense was deliberately chosen to give a sense of being harried, even if I didn’t intend to write more than one scene when I started. I have been working on this as a style, and I’m looking to write a book that is really non-stop from page 1. I think that will likely be my next serial on this blog.
      You are absolutely correct to question why Skylur is behaving as he is, and I will answer in the next and concluding episode.
      Yes, it isn’t possible in the time I allocate for this serial, to create the ‘clockwork’ of a main novel (thank you for that image!). It has been fun to write with less planning.

  6. Richard says :

    Looking back on these chapters I find myself viewing the atheanate more as a separate culture entirely from a human culture. This adds a greater depth to the storyline and also makes it harder to predict upcoming scenes, making the story that more engaging.

    I don’t think you should ever write scenes from skylar’s perspective.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Yes, in Bite Back, Amber is constantly engaging with the human world and in this serial, that is limited in the narrative. It does give a more inward focused feel.

      Of course, Father Julius has been very integrated into the local community. Livia does not interact with human society much. Keensleigh and the Adirondack pack are also not integrated. The Adepts are somewhere in between.

      I might occasionally peek into Skylur’s and Diana’s heads, but from a narrative point of view, they’re too powerful.

  7. Tara says :

    Love this storyline, and really everything from this world. I do find the first person narrative a little bit awkward sometimes, but the changing points of view works for me.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Tara.

      All the options are compromises, I guess. Both 1st person and present tense give immediacy, but 1st person makes it difficult to construct natural-feeling complexity, and present tense can become tiresome, as well as awkward.

      I’ll continue experimenting on the blog, but the main Bite Back will remain 1st person & present tense. I *may* use alternate points of view.

  8. weberse says :

    > Are you enjoying the story?

    Hell yes!

    > Has any of it caught you by surprise?

    The end sure did.

    > Do you like the present tense mode of telling a story?

    Personally I prefer past tense.

    > Do you like the split point of view, switching between Julius and Elodie?

    Switching between different points of view has the potential to become confusing. Fast. Visual pointers at the beginning of a chapter help a lot (e.g. the name of the character like you used). I saw the use of color coding for different characters once (although red and green where a rather poor choice for me because I’m red-green color blind…).
    I think 2 pov are all right but more might not be a good choice for longer texts.

    > What is the story lacking?

    A couple of hundred pages 😉

    Your novels are an awesome read but there are long dry spells in between new releases. Don’t get me wrong: I prefer a well crafted book to an assembly line style of writing any time! But those short stories and the other novellas keep me afloat during the wait.

    I’m eagerly looking forward to whatever you are coming up with next!

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Weberse for your detailed reply and useful feedback.

      Any colour coding would be wasted on my b&w Kindle! 🙂

      I prefer past tense myself, but I keep getting told that present tense makes things ‘immediate’, so I’m experimenting. Bite Back and the major companion series will remain in the past tense.

      I can see opportunities for more than 2 PoV, but I’ve got too much to do on Bite Back 6 and Bian’s Tale to worry about testing those sort of multiple viewpoints.

      I do need to get some solid progress on the main novels. I’ve been very slow this winter. I have excuses, but they’re just that.

      I’ve enjoyed writing a serial, so I’ll keep going with something. Serial writing and posts come out of ‘personal development’ time, so it’s not really holding up the main books, and it does keep my writing fingers flexible. 🙂

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