The City of the Drowned: Prologue

Forward: In 2006, I started work on the sequel to my 2004 novel, The Dark Age of Enya. It quickly dawned on me, however, that POD (Print on Demand) was not a good way to sell books. Clearly, I had to seek big name publication. Two-thousand four was a painful time in my life, realizing I had to dump four years of work (1999-2003) to rewrite Enya. I also had to toss out the work in progress sequel The Dark Age of Enya 2. Flash-forward to today and the magic of the blogosphere offers me the opportunity to share Enya 2 with the world. Renamed The City of the Drowned, this is high-fantasy adventure reminiscent of Robert Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs. In The City of the Drowned, you will find exotic locations, pulse-pounding action and terrifying monsters. What more could you want? Oh, how about Xandr and Thelana, the first naturist-inspired heroes?

The story so far . . .

Thelana was forced to leave her home and family to escape the encroaching drought and hunger. But in the outside world, her people, the Ilmar, are shunned as barbarians, so Thelana is forced to become a thief to survive. After she is imprisoned for attempting to steal from the Temple in the city of Hedonia, she is rescued by Xandr, the only other of her kind, before Hedonia is destroyed by a tsunami and an amphibious race known as the merquid. The two have many adventures together, fall in love, and then one day they rescue a young girl from slavery. Her name is Emma and Thelana immediately takes a disliking to her. Through Emma, the Ilmar learn of the Kingdom of Mythradanaiil and of the doomed Princess Radia, who may or may not embody the natural forces of their world. With Emma tagging along, they reach the fabled kingdom in the North, but are too late to rescue the princess from a goblin horde. Before vanishing into the ether, Radia manages to impart to Xandr a jewel containing her power. To escape the goblin underground, Xandr, Thelana and Emma battle many monsters. At one point, Emma is wounded saving Thelana’s life. Eventually, the three make their way to a stable in Alogas, where Thelana steals some horses, and then, camped out in the Endless Plains, she dreams of her lost homeland. So opens the The City of the Drowned  . . .      
 

The City of the Drowned 
by
Nick Alimonos
10/16/2006
Prologue:
In the midst of the Ilmarin wood stood an ancient camphor tree of substantial girth with great gnarled roots that looped and twisted in great amorphous bundles from the earth. Its leaves spread a nexus of light and shadow beneath its form and skirting its foot a shallow brook washed gently. Drifting atop the watercourse, the occasional leaf dipped into a niche at the bosom of the root where it was gathered among the fallen leaves. For the young girl who stood atop the rugged bark, forearm over her eyes, it was a place like any other, deep in the wood. Among the trees she was with old company, with the soil in her toes and a mischievous wind in her braided hair. The life of the wood beat against her exposed skin, and through it, her soul. Winter was passed and there was plenty of harvest. Today was a day like any other in timeless youth, much as the day before, and now only the game held sway in her mind.
“Four . . . three . . . two . . . one,” Thelana’s emerald eyes snapped open and she glanced about, searching for clues as to the whereabouts of her sisters. There were no broken twigs or footprints to follow. But there was the faintest sound of shuffled leaves. With her chestnut braid whipping behind her, she darted about the trunk of the tree. Just as she came around to its opposite side, she spotted a slender heel slipping around the bend, marked by a watery splatter and a giggle.
“Oh, gee,” Thelana mused aloud, “I guess there’s nobody here. Maybe I’ll just look elsewhere.” With the agility of a frightened hare, she circled the trunk once more, this time catching her younger sister, who looked, with her single auburn braid, much like herself, except that she was pale and gaunt and much less boyish than Thelana, so that at times her ribs and shoulders poked from beneath her skin. Like her older sister, Nicolita was without a stitch of clothing. They were Ilmar, after all, and a covered body was an awkward sight for them. Just as their siblings, their parents and cousins, and every person they knew, they lived each and every day without shoes or undergarments of any kind, their bodies as one with the trees and the earth and the sun and the wind. Outsiders called them naked, but the word was meaningless to the Ilmar. 
“Nicolita!” Thelana exclaimed. “You should hide further away, not just behind Old Man!” It was the name she’d given the tree, as she had given names to every plant within miles of her house. But it was Old Man she loved most, her hideout for daydreaming, stargazing, and a place of play. 
Nicolita fixed her eyes on the ground. “I thought you wouldn’t think to look for me here,” she timidly replied, “I thought you would think it too obvious.”
“Oh Nicolita!” Thelana sighed. It was unspoken knowledge that her eight-year-old sister was a little slow, in both foot and mind, and for that Thelana had set herself up as a kind of guardian. “Well, come on!” she exclaimed, “let’s go find Britannia!”
Dashing hand-in-hand over the brook and across the leaf laden thicket, glancing here and there as they called out their sisters’ name, between soaring trunks and heavy boughs, they played out the seek portion of the universal childhood game of hide-and-seek.
At last they came to a hilltop overlooking a great plain and distant mountains. Fiery-amber clouds reamed with gray unfurled across the horizon like a great crumpled quilt. Wisps of pink sailed the pastel blue of Enya’s canopy. At their feet, shoots of Ilms swayed across the slope, the deep orange and bright violet petals brushing against her knees as Thelana stooped to examine the flower from which the name of her homeland derived, ‘Ilmarinen’ meaning ‘place where the Ilms grow.’ And then a rainbow colored butterfly fluttered past, diverting her eye, and she shouted a challenge to her sister, “Let’s see who can catch one first!”
Down the slope they ran, Ilms parting at their feet as thousands of awakened butterflies swarmed about them.
“Hey!” a voice shouted angrily, and up from the Ilms a third girl sprouted, much more like Thelana than Nicolita, robust in frame but blonde haired and blue eyed. “Aren’t you supposed to be looking for me?”
The girls paused and the butterflies escaped. “Oh!” Thelana exclaimed, her hands held shyly behind her back. “I’m sorry . . . you just . . . hid too well, I guess, and we got bored!”
Nicolita nodded in agreement.
“Besides,” Thelana continued, bringing her arms about to reveal, frantic between her clenched fingers, a captive butterfly. “I got one, and you didn’t!”  
“Hey, that’s no fair!” Britannia complained. “I wasn’t in on the game!”
“Well then you lose,” Thelana said.
The three of them converged in the midst of the flowered valley. “Let me see it,” said Britannia, bending to examine the prize. Nicolita watched from afar, repulsed by the squirming thing.
Suddenly, a flying pine comb smacked against the side of Thelana’s face, and the butterfly was free, and she stared angrily into the face of her laughing brother.
“Borz!”
“I am telling Mother!” Nicolita threatened.
But he continued to laugh.
“Borz!” Thelana cried again. “I am going to twist off your arm!”
“Oh yeah?”
“Yeah!”
“Ah, but can you catch me first?” He went sprinting into the eclipsing sun.
“After him!” Thelana shouted as she with her sisters bounded across the plain, where the Ilms flourished and the butterflies grazed, and high-hopping hares, mistaking them for predators, hurried from their path. 
The chase was long and Thelana was swift, indeed swifter than her older brother. But Borz had started further ahead and now had gone from sight, whereas, far behind, the other two girls’ feet fell heavily.
“Wait up!” Britannia called, panting.
“Are you tired so soon?” Thelana replied, resting her palms atop her knees.
“Let’s forget this,” said Nicolita. “We’ll be late for supper.”
“All right,” Thelana replied, “but my cheek still stings.”
“Where is Borz anyhow?” Britannia asked. “I don’t see him anywhere.”
“Oh, he’s probably still running scared,” Thelana answered. “I’ll go find him.”  
They meandered through the field, shouting his name, but Borz was nowhere to be found. After a long while, when the turquoise moon engulfed a quarter of the sky and the sun reddened against it, the three children came to a clearing strewn with boulders where the Ilms were broken and wilted. Launching herself atop a high mound, Thelana peered across the plain to where the hills sloped upwards and the forest began anew. But there was no sign or mark of Borz. Something caught her eye, a curious shape glittering in the light of dawn. As she led her hesitant sisters, they soon came within sight of it, their mouths agape in wonder.
“What is it?” asked Britannia.
“I don’t know,” Thelana replied. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.” It was strange to them in that it was of dull gray-silver, like the color of the lake in moonlight, but it was also hard and smooth, like the most well cut stone. Strangest of all, it was made up of perfectly straight lines and sharp angles, more symmetrical than their dinner table. 
“I think it’s a door,” said Thelana, approaching it.
“I’m scared!” Nicolita bellowed, ducking behind her other sister.
“Don’t touch it!” Britannia warned.
“It is a door . . .,” Thelana agreed, noticing its iron handle, “but to where . . . there’s nothing here. Maybe we’ll find Borz hiding behind it. He must have known about this. He must be playing tricks on us . . .” and with that thought her lips bent into a smile. “Oh, Borz!” she called, reaching for the handle, “we’re on to you. You can come out now—”  
“No!” her sisters screamed in unison, almost prophetically, for in that same instant the door flung open, and there was nothing behind it but darkness, and emerging from its metal frame came a human form, towering high above them, thrice Thelana’s height, and she could see that the man-like thing was fully suited in molds of the same, dull gray substance, without so much as a naked patch. The creature clattered forth and Thelana sensed that its clothing, if it could even be called such, was part of its own flesh, so that man and garment moved together as one entity. From its forehead a central horn protruded smooth and straight like a pike, and its whole right arm was a tremendous blade. There was no question that the only course of action was to flee. But Thelana’s limbs gave way to fear. She remained stunned as the left arm snatched her throat, pulling her through the door.

Go to Chapter 1: Orientation

4 thoughts on “The City of the Drowned: Prologue

  1. Just a few interesting tidbits here: I really, really had to force myself to not edit any of this. Hell, I know it can be better, but sometimes as a writer you just have to accept things and move on.

    Secondly, much of this prologue was inspired from life. I knew both of Thelana's sisters personally, the women who inspired them anyway. Brittany was born and raised as a nudist at Paradise Lakes; if ever there was a poster child for the benefits of nudist living, she was it, a brilliant girl with incredible athletic talent. She easily beat me in volleyball, tennis, and ping-pong (OK, I suck at sports, but her skills were impressive nonetheless). She also made a game of disappearing behind trees and pillars. She was so skinny it was easy for her to hide. I've dedicated the character of Britannia to her.

    Nicole was a tourist from New Jersey who I also met her at Paradise Lakes. She was new to nudism, but took to it like a second skin. She loved to read and write and was completely at ease around me. We spent a wonderful two days together—but nothing came of it because she had to go back home the following day, and neither of us believed in having a fling. Sadly, Nicole suffered from lupus. Unlike Brittany, who was full of explosive energy, Nicole's disease was telling, which made her almost as bad at sports as me . . . She inspired the creation of Thelana's weaker sister, Nicolita.

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  2. This was not at all what I expected, which in a way made it much more interesting to read.

    It's amazing how far you have come as a writer since this was written. It looks almost amateurish next to things you have written last year, which I think says volumes for your dedication to your craft. I can see why it was difficult for you to hold off on editing it, though.

    I also loved the sort of behind the scenes look at Thelans's sisters. I love seeing things like this; really getting to know just how characters came to be. Additionally, I enjoyed your description of the monster. Was this based off anything, or completely from your own imaginings? As far as the actual story itself, did you have plans you want to share for where this storyline was headed? I get the feeling that Thelana's family would have played a significant role in this tale. Is this still true for the future? Finally, I have to ask, is this the last we will see of this particular novel, or do you have some more surprises in store?

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  3. Well, thanks, I think. If I had to rewrite this, I'd certainly cut and clarify the early passages and focus more on character. I was suffering here from Tolkien-envy (always a bad thing).

    The monster, as you refer to him, is Swordarm, who was very briefly mentioned in The Dark Age of Enya. In the rewrite, Ages of Aenya, you learn the origins of Swordarm, who I redefined as a character, because characters interest me more than monsters these days.

    As for seeing the rest of this, YES! . . . it's a complete story arc, 100 pages. For the initiated, you can think of it as “Omen V: The Untold Story.”

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  4. I get the idea you're talking about a more honest world and feeling its life all around you, something best experienced by 'the naked'.

    Don't you ever wonder why, with personal hygeine removed from the PE programs and everyone showering in little booths at the gym, why our society is TEN times more sex-obsessed and just weirder about nudity than the world our fathers lived in? Do your realize that the first exposure most young people will have with the human body will be a sexual experience -not wading in a creek full of crayfish or showering after soccer? And we wonder why, for so many of us, that nudity, even in a lockerroom, is now confused with sexuality?

    Screwy world.

    You're on to something with your naturist philosophy, and you illustrate these ideas so beautifuly and powerfully with your naked barbarians, Xandr and Telana. Don't give up on them, Nick.

    I think what you're doing is very progressive and healthy and even righteous.

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