6 More Days Till Summer

2009 Good morning, everyone! Thanks for tuning in to yet another installment of my social marketing experiment: “Can we move the needle?” In the week leading up to its release, I’ll be “teasing” the first chapters of the third installment of my serial novel, Seasons of Truth, and you’re among the lucky multitudes that get to read it before anyone else.

You are reading this today, yes? I’d hate to think I’m writing to a bunch of Carlos-come-latelys. But if you need to take a little time to get up to speed, that’s okay. Summer is an ideal jumping-on point if you’ve not yet read Winter or Spring, and those installments will be just as awesome if you buy them all at the same time.

More on that in a bit.

Some people may find it odd that Summer is releasing after Labor Day, but around here it seems right. 2014’s days have finally caught up to those in Seasons of Truth (give or take 8oo years), and Fall will also be more or less “correct.”

No, I won’t tell you the release date. Yet. You’ll have to content yourself with this here awesome cover art until I figure out the exact spot on my oh-so-busy release calendar.

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But that’s a whole season from now, and here on the minus-sixth day of Summer, it’s time to dig into Chapter One.

Once upon a time, Seasons of Truth was an Epistolary Novel. What is now Chapter One of Summer had a good three year run as the opening lines of the entire book, and now that it’s back to its “proper” place, it kicks off the frenetic pacing of our third serial installment.

Come, sit with us a spell, and peek behind the curtain of night.

Just don’t pretend you weren’t warned. And if you somehow missed yesterday’s chapter preview, you can read it here.

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Chapter One

JOSIAH SAT BETWEEN THE CANDLES, an island of reality in an unreal place. Their flames combined to surround his hands in golden light—a reddish-orange outline from the right, a bright white glow from the left.

The chair was uncomfortable, but comfort was the least of Josiah’s problems right now. The rhythm of his breathing, punctuated by his pounding heart, betrayed his fear to the accusing darkness. The heat of the candles was not nearly enough to explain the sweat running down his face, and Josiah wished he were somewhere, anywhere else.

Why am I here? They didn’t tell me it would be like this…

His tongue moved, breaking the lines of his dry mouth. How long had it been? An hour, two? Despite his aching back and legs, the candles seemed not to have burned at all. Josiah wanted to measure them and know for sure, but to do so would require moving his gaze from the cup at the edge of the light—and the hand that held it.

The rumors had started as soon as the “Sword of Rome” arrived in the city. At first he had dismissed them as idle talk. The man across the table from him was not ten feet tall, nor did he have knives for hands. He was not bathed in blood.

Or is he?

“Are you ready, Father?”

The hungry darkness swallowed up Josiah’s words, and the response he received made him even more uncomfortable than the chair.

“Yes…Constable. Bring them now. You will stand… silent. Witness. Reflect on…what you learn.”

The voice was made of gravel, each word clawing its way across the table and sending his heart racing even faster. The hard man across from him hadn’t spoken since growling instructions to remove the torches and brazier that would normally light the room. When Josiah returned from that errand, the impossible candles were already burning.

He didn’t remember why he brought the jug of wine, or what had become of it. He could smell it in the air—thin, watery and bitter. But where was it? The cup had not moved since Josiah sat down, nor had the hand holding it.

By now it must be soured in this heat. If only he would raise the cup and soften his rough throat.

If only I’d thought to bring my own goblet, or perhaps some bread…

“It shall be as you say, Father.”

Each word Josiah spoke cemented him in this reality. Each heartbeat pushed him further back into his chair, making the world outside the candles’ light seem far away. He thought of fresh wine, full of rich notes and body. Of the moon and stars and cool summer breezes. Anything but the cup.

And the Voice.

“Of course. There is no…other way. You will see…things. Hear things. You will learn.”

“Yes, Father.”

Josiah hoped whatever lessons the priest meant for him would be over quickly. Each minute he spent here was an ordeal, one he could only escape by…

“Constable?”

The sweat on his face and neck was suddenly ice cold.

“Yes, Father.”

“Your first…lesson. Addressing…men of Faith. There is one…Father. We all serve…at his will!”

The unseen chair shifted, and from darkness emerged a face as angry as the words. The cup was forgotten, replaced by a cold, dead stare framed by a twisting white scar. Light from the candles clung to the sharp edges of an otherwise clean-shaven jaw, pulling shadows high onto his forehead.

Josiah felt something scraping across his soul as the priest spoke. All he could see were the man’s hard eyes, even as his ears registered the sound of unfamiliar words. Each one stabbed deep into his mind, and the more he tried to understand them, the more they slipped away like sand in a glass.

When the words finally stopped, Josiah was sitting in his chair with tears streaming down his face. The candles were as unchanged as ever, but the cup had moved and was unattended on the table.

“Bring in the…first one. You have more…to learn. Bring more wine…when you…return.”

The words were hardly louder than a whisper, but from the deep blackness on the other side of table they sounded like an avalanche.

“Yes…Brother.”

More wine.

The words echoed in his mind as he stole another glance at the empty cup. It was a simple thing, hardened wood turned on a lathe and lined with some dark coating. It drew him in, welcomed him as if there were room enough to crawl inside and never be frightened again.

More Wine!

The needs of Josiah’s feet triumphed over those of his soul. He stood, careful not to jostle the table and upset the priest further.

If I am to be witness to an inquisition, I should take care not to become the object of one. The girl first, I think. Her account is incomplete, but more reliable. She is the best source for the answers he seeks.

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