Hope this blog post finds you well and reading something great!
I am currently writing the final third part of The Tempered Steel of Antiquity Grey, my new SF&F hybrid novel bringing together mechs, dragons, and a young girl’s discovery of a planetary secret that will change her life and her world. I am super excited about it and I can’t wait to finish it, edit it, and find it a publishing home.
Since I haven’t posted much lately on my blog, I thought, “Ya know, Shawn, why don’t you post an excerpt from the book?” But I don’t want to ruin anything when it comes to the story. Finding the right excerpt is key. I settled on a past memory scene that would work well. It is below, for your perusal!
The girl in the scene is a young Antiquity Grey. And it helps explore why the character is the way she is in the novel.
Hope you enjoy it!
The girl plays in the sand, letting the hot desert fall through her little fingers.
The day is a beautiful one but all days are gorgeous to her when she is outside with her parents. They left their aeries that morning with a small picnic, heading to the edge of the desert where few go. It is one of her first memories, one that fills her heart with love and dread. Her father has a present for her. She is giddy with excitement. She rarely gets gifts of any kind. She understands her family fell out of favor with others who live in Solomon Fyre and that continues to this day. They have lost a great deal while other families seem to have more. She suspects that her real last name is not Grey but far different—but she doesn’t have the courage to ask because it would only make her father angry and her mother sad.
She knows what not to say. Her grandmother taught her.
She is only seven years old.
“Antiquity, are you ready?” her father asks. He smiles like the rising sun.
“I am! I am!” she shouts, jumping around, clutching her hands before her. Her mother wipes away the sand that has been kicked up on their picnic blanket.
“Wait here,” he says. With a skip and a jump that makes her giggle, her father disappears around a large boulder.
She can barely contain the anticipation.
When he reappears, he is holding a small air-bike, a perfect size for only one of the three.
She cannot believe it.
“Where did you get it, Daddy?” she breathes.
“From an old junker, at the edge of the city. I suspect he didn’t know me. Here you go, Sweet Rose,” he says, grinning all the more. She loves it when he calls her that. “Want to try it? It will take some practice but I think you are old enough now.”
She does want to try it. More than anything. She has had to watch other kids playing with one another and each other’s toys. She is not allowed to play. Every time she tries, she is pushed away, told to play alone with her own toys. But she has very few toys and the ones she has are ancient and broken. The air-bike is her first real gift. One that can’t be taken away from her.
He holds the air-bike steady, the machine floating above the sand. He nods to her. She swings her leg over the seat. The air-bike bounces a bit but stays aloft. She looks back at her mother whose eyes are shining with happiness.
It takes all her effort but she holds onto the bars to steer while getting used to the seat. Her father points to the throttle and braking systems. She tries to memorize it all but it’s too much. She depresses the throttle as he lets go. She falls off. Determined, she gets back up, dusts herself off, and lifts the air-bike up herself. She gets back on. She focuses on balance, on gripping the handles, to stay on the bike. She throttles it up again like her father showed her. The bike responds, edging forward slowly above the sands. She wobbles a bit, fighting the gravity that threatens to unseat her. She focuses while giving the air-bike a bit more thrust. It moves faster. She holds on, excitement building, the girl learning how to balance more effectively even as she controls where the air-bike goes.
She learns quickly. Soon she is flying over the sands. She circles their picnic location, the sands flying up every which way. She is giddy with happiness. She can’t hold it in. She laughs and laughs at her new freedom—her new toy.
Grinning, her mother hugs her father from behind as both watch her.
It is a fun day.
The voice shatters the moment. Scared, the girl tries to brake the air-bike. She does it too quickly. It jerks her forward, and she teeters off the seat to the sands. Fighting tears, she stands up even as her mother rushes to her side.
Her father is not there though as he has before when she has been hurt.
Instead, he faces the owner of the voice.
A group of men are walking down the arid hillside from the direction of the city. The girl has not seen them before. But they are like many in the main part of the city beneath the aeries where the girl and her family live. They are poor. Broken. And angry about it.
She realizes her father stands between the men and his family.
“You should not be here,” the man growls. He points at her new air-bike. “And she should not have that toy. You are Grey. You are nothing. You own nothing but your former home. You pay forever for what you did.”
“Why must my family pay for the sins of the past?” her father asks. “For what my ancestors did or did not do? I am not them. My wife and daughter are not them.”
The man leading the group walks up to her father. He is larger and muscled. He has lost much of his hair while his red beard is bushy and unkept. The girl has seen people look at her strangely—sometimes even with disgust—but not the hate glimmering in this man’s eyes. He gets into her father’s face, staring him down.
“Your family destroyed our city. You are shamed. To stop it from happening again.”
The other men join the first. They surround her father. Like all children, she knows a fight is going to happen when she sees it.
“Please,” her dad says, hands up. “Not here. We don’t want any trouble.”
“You shouldn’t have left your precious aeries then, Grey.”
With that, the man strikes. A heavy fist crashes into her father’s face. He goes down like a dropped doll. The girl screams. So does her mother. As the other men descend on her helpless father, they kick him even as he tries to defend himself. It is clear he will not walk away.
“Run, Marxa!” her father yells, already bloody.
Her mother doesn’t hesitate. She picks the girl up with wiry strength. They are fleeing. Jostling. Chaotic. Her mother is crying. Fear unlike any the girl has known blooms inside and she begins to cry as well. She doesn’t look back for her father because she’s afraid of what she might see.
“Ox, get the woman!” she hears the leader scream.
“I won’t kill her!”
“A little fun then before I do the deed.”
The girl looks back as a scrawny man runs after them. Ox closes quickly and grabs her mother by the hair. He yanks her back so hard all three tumble to the hot sands. Her mother lets her daughter go as she fights back, punching as hard as she can. The man gets on top of her. She bites their attacker even as she tries to blind him with her fingernails. It only angers him further. He grabs a nearby rock and smashes her head.
Her mother goes limp.
Ox drags her back down the hill, behind the boulder that had hid the girl’s gift.
But she is already running, back toward the city.
She cries until the world is a blur. She cries until she can’t breathe. She cries until her legs burn with agony and she falls into the arms of a stranger on the first city street she comes to.
She cries for hours at what she has seen, in the arms of her grandmother. Until sleep takes her.
The horror of the memory blends away into a new one.