Monday, November 12, 2012

Changes to The Awakened: Book Three

Here is a list of the changes to Book Three in order of their appearance:
 - New cover artwork by Mike Heath at Magnus Creative
 - Title changed to Hands To Make War: The Awakened Book Three
 - Reformatted the entire manuscript for readability and consistency
 - Added a hyperlinked table-of-contents
 - Updated Map of the Orudan Empire
 - Slight changes to the diagrams of the High Temple (profile and aerial views)
 - Put “The Prophecy” on its own page in order to highlight the context of The Awakened
-  Slightly altered the chapter organization
 - Added one new scene in Chapter 1
 - Added two new scenes in Chapter 17
 - Added one new scene in Chapter 29

Here is the new cover artwork, the updated map, and the new scenes.  Enjoy!

From Hands to Make War, Chapter 1

Adair sat on a wide, cushioned bench and raised a steaming cup to his lips.  The comforting aroma of fresh, strong tea brought back so many memories.  He could almost see Maeryn sitting across the dinner table, smiling while Saba laughed at some joke.  He could hear the way Kael and Ajani’s excited voices bounced off the stone walls in the courtyard.  Even the early morning carriage rides to the guard towers at the city limits of Bastul, and trying to fend off the winter cold with the other soldiers around warm fires, seemed now like nothing more than pleasant dreams—distant illusions.
He knew better.  But he had also experienced a great deal of disorienting trauma in the last few days.  And now his mind was struggling to come to terms with the world that now held him captive.
Before him were windows that spanned from floor to ceiling and offered a view of the low, morning rays of sunlight carving out the texture of the fields and forests to the south.  While the outside of this foreign habitation appeared dilapidated, the inside was in perfect repair.  Polished, stone floors.  Ornate, wooden doors.  Wrought-iron hinges and handles.  Everywhere he looked, he saw wealth, intentionally hidden from the outside world.  But the most confusing sights were the numerous glass surfaces—some hanging on the walls, some laid out on tables—all flickering with light and images, as if looking through someone else’s eyes.  They appeared as windows to another place.
Despite the foreign surroundings, it didn’t take Adair long before he realized that this building was a hideout of some sort.  And judging by the effort these men expended to bring him quickly and safely to this place, he had also realized that he was the object of their care and the reason for their secrecy.  They had stolen him from the other soldiers in the jungle and were now keeping him hidden.  It occurred to him sometime between the meals and bathing beneath a cascade of hot water, the redressing of his foot wound and the clean, soft clothing they gave him.
And now, after a full and undisturbed night’s sleep, Adair waited patiently as a small group of new arrivals removed more unusual objects from boxes and began to set them up around the room.  Some of the strange items, crafted from metal and glass, were connected to each other by smooth ropes.  But these ropes didn’t appear to be restraints or shackles.  The objects weren’t bladed or pointed and, combined with the men’s calm demeanor, Adair felt confident that he wouldn’t be harmed by this new development.  In fact, he suspected that these men were here to help him in some way.  With any luck, they might even help him figure out where he was.
When their equipment was set up and nods were shared between the group of three, one of the men sat down on the bench opposite from Adair.  He laid a writing utensil on the short table between them, alongside a rectangular, perfectly-smooth piece of parchment. He uttered a phrase in a foreign language, then touched his own chest, repeating the words and gesture several times.  Then, he picked up the writing utensil and carefully wrote a series of characters on the parchment.
Adair, watched in fascination as the characters appeared at the end of the quill without the involvement of an ink-pot.
The man pointed at the parchment and repeated one of the words, then touched his own chest.
Adair smiled, at once intrigued by the equipment of these strange people and the understanding of what this man was trying to accomplish.
“Adair,” he said, placing a hand against his own chest.
The man quickly turned to the other members of his team and exchanged a few words.
When he looked back, Adair repeated his name.
The man smiled, then pushed the piece of parchment across the table and held out the quill.
Adair accepted the items and slowly wrote his name on the piece of paper.  When he was finished, he laid down the quill and pointed at his name.  “Adair,” he repeated.
The man smiled again, then reached across the table and pulled the parchment toward himself.  He removed a flat, rectangular object from his pocket and held it over the table.  Suddenly, a flash of light illuminated the whole room for just an instant.
Adair flinched.
The man quickly looked to another of his team members sitting in front of a glass panel.  A moment later, an image of the parchment and Adair’s writing appeared on the panel and the man turned to his superior and nodded.
Adair was amazed by what he was witnessing and thoroughly impressed with their technology.
The leader of the three-man team laid another piece of parchment on the table, produced another quill, and began to write a much longer string of characters, filling up the parchment from left to right and top to bottom.  When he was finished, he rotated the paper so that Adair could see it.  He pointed to the first character and spoke three sounds.  Then he pointed to the second character and spoke one sound.
By the time he reached the third character, Adair understood what he was doing, and nodded his head.  “It’s your alphabet,” he said aloud.
The man smiled again and quickly handed Adair another piece of paper.
Adair put it on the table and began to write.  Between each stroke, he slowly mumbled.  “This…is…the…Orudan…alphabet.”  When he was finished, he rotated the page and slid it forward.
The man held his object over it and another flash lit up the room.
When the image appeared on the other man’s glass panel, Adair pointed at the first character and spoke all of the sounds associated with it.  As he demonstrated the Orudan alphabet to these foreign men, he glanced around and saw that a few of the soldiers who had escorted him here were still standing guard around the room.
Their faces showed no emotion and their eyes continually moved from one window to the next, scanning the terrain visible outside the building.
Adair had always been good at reading people. It was a skill that had served him well throughout his military career.  As he studied the body language and expressions of the men in the room, he was able to sum up the situation.
Somewhere outside was an extremely dangerous enemy—one that required opposition of the greatest skill and care.  And they were hunting for Adair.  Inside this remote and lavish residence, disguised by a run-down facade, five of the fiercest soldiers Adair had ever seen were trying to protect him.  Meanwhile, three interrogators from the same organization were brilliantly using their skills to establish communications with Adair in the most efficient manner.  There was a sense of urgency behind everything they did.
And all the signs pointed to one fact—that Adair either was, or possessed, something of great value to them.

From Hands of War, Chapter 17

Aaron Stafford walked into the living room of the safe house and handed a cup of hot tea to Adair.  “Are the gods smiling upon you this morning?” he said in Orudan.
“They are,” Adair replied with a smile.  “And are they smiling upon you?”
“They are,” Aaron repeated.  It was one of the few sayings that he could speak in Adair’s language and the short exchange was a common one among ambassadors in the strange land from which Adair came.  But it would be the last open exchange among the two men from different worlds; the rest of the morning’s conversation would take place with the assistance of a translation software program Stafford and his team had developed hastily over the last few weeks.
Both men sat down in the overstuffed chairs that faced each other over a coffee table.  The two other members of Stafford’s linguistics team were already setup and waiting for him.  They looked anxious to get going.
Despite the urgency of the work they were doing, Stafford felt that certain indulgences like morning tea and a familiar greeting, while taking extra time, helped to set an atmosphere of cooperation and made progress more easily attainable.  He’d even come to enjoy this morning ritual and was developing an appreciation for tea, having abandoned his usual coffee for the sake of making some sort of a connection with Adair.  Stafford slowly took a sip from the cup in his own hand, then set the mug down.  He leaned in toward the microphone.
“The technology that you have described—the boats, the use of horses and carriages, even the weapons of warfare—seem to be an odd assortment of technologies used by various cultures from our own history.  The Vikings.  The ancient Greeks and Romans.  The Germanic hordes.  The Phoenicians.”
As Stafford spoke, the laptop sitting in front of him processed all of the audio data captured by the microphone, dissected it into its constituent sounds, found a corresponding match within the database of Orudan phonemes, and reassembled his English into the appropriate characters and sounds in Adair’s language.  The foreign string of letters running across the screen flickered as he spoke, but quickly assembled into a coherent sentence.  When the translation was completed only a few seconds later, Stafford pressed the return key and listened as a computerized, monotone version of his own voice spoke in Orudan from the laptop sitting in front of Adair.
Adair leaned forward and nodded, indicating that he understood.
Stafford continued his explanation.  “And yet, the places you spoke of—Bastul, Leoran.  And the people—the Orudan, the Syvaku, and the Korgan.  None of these exist anywhere in our history.”
Adair’s eyebrows wrinkled slightly, but his face remained calm.
“So, if the device that brought you here utilized some sort of time-travel technology, it didn’t do so from a point in our past.  It seems more likely that it is a teleportation device—something that allows the transportation of matter across extremely long distances without using the physical space the separates them.”
Adair lowered his head and stared at the table for a moment.
Stafford felt horrible about his conclusions, but he had to keep going, despite the effect his words must be having on the man sitting across from him.
“In this world, there is much that my people still do not understand.  But we spend a great deal of time studying the stars.  And as of this moment, there isn’t another planet—in our solar system or elsewhere—that is capable of sustaining human life.  At least, not yet.  Not to the extent of what our technology can reveal.”
When Adair’s gaze lifted from the table, his eyes glistened, but his face was a mask of determination.
“I’m sorry, my friend,” Stafford offered.  “You have clearly come from another world, but I don’t where that world is.”

* * * *

Adair kept his gaze steady, even as he felt his hopes crumbling.  These people—with all their amazing devices that allowed them to fly through the air, across land, and over water.  These people who could learn someone’s language in a few short weeks.  These people who possessed weapons that spouted fire and could kill a man instantly.  These people couldn’t help him.
Stafford kept talking, but Adair hardly paid any attention.
“And yet, you call your world Earth.  And your explanation of the origins of the universe bears striking similarities to some of our more-popular mythological stories.  There has to be a connection to…”
Adair let the man talk while he organized his own thoughts, thinking carefully about his next move.  Now that he was sure these men didn’t mean him any harm, and it was clear that they didn’t know how to help him, Adair realized there was only one other path to take.  And as much as he appreciated their kindness and cautious approach over the last weeks, he knew it was time to drastically change the course of the conversation.
Adair leaned forward and spoke into the device sitting on the table in front of him, interrupting his counterpart, the ambassador of this strange world.  “There is one other option you haven’t considered,” he said, pressing the button as he had been instructed.
Stafford stopped talking as soon as Adair’s voice came out of the device in front of him.
“I could have a sickness in my mind.  Everything that I’ve told you may just be the ramblings of a crazy man.”
Stafford was speechless.  His eyes shifted quickly around the room as deep furrows developed along his forehead.  After a long silence, he leaned forward.
“Are you telling me that you’ve been lying to me?”
Adair felt terrible about abusing the man’s kindness, but he had no other options.  “I have a wife who’s missing her husband, and a son who’s missing his father.  I have to get back to them.  What I’m telling you is you need to take me back to that place and send me home, or you’re not going to get any more information out of me, and I’ll cast suspicion on everything you think you’ve learned so far.”
Stafford’s mouth opened like he was about to say something, but no words came out.
Adair glanced quickly to the soldiers standing guard around the room, the swift and silent killers who had protected him and brought him here.  Then he looked back to the man across the table.  “You have the resources to take me back,” he assured him.
“It’s a very complicated matter.  And I don’t have the authority—”
“Then you need to find someone with the authority to make it uncomplicated!” Adair shouted.  His words came out of Stafford’s device without the same volume or passion, but the resulting silence in the room indicated that his message still got across.
Stafford’s face was red now, and he suddenly looked like a defenseless animal.
Adair leaned forward once more.  “I forgot to tell you about the Sky Kingdom.  In my world, anyone who pledges allegiance to the gods of the skies is given the wings of a bird.  And they are free to live for eternity in the immeasurable blue above.  And did you know that the sky is really a vast ocean, and we are the ones who are living above the earth.  We are upside down, this very moment, looking down onto the waters of the earth.”
Stafford’s innocent and surprised expression evaporated and was quickly replaced by anger.  He rose suddenly from his chair and stormed out of the room.

From Hands to Make War, Chapter 29

The ceiling, walls, and floor of the room were gray.  The lighting was dim.  All the surfaces looked like one another, except for the wall of glass on the opposite side of the room, beyond which Adair couldn’t see anything.  He wondered what was the purpose of a window that didn’t reveal anything.
At the door, Team Leader Devon Greer stood guard with his hands hanging comfortably at their sides, inches away from the weapon on his belt.  From the few occasions where he’d witnessed the man in action, Adair knew the soldier could have it unsheathed and ready in the blink of an eye.
Aaron Stafford sat across the table, pushing buttons on the translation device that he had just set up.
All the faces were same, only the location had changed.
A knock sounded at the door.
Greer reached over and casually opened it.
A tall man walked through, dressed similar to Stafford, with pants and a jacket made from an expensive looking fabric.  He was much older, with short, gray hair and cloudy, green eyes.  He came into the room surrounded by an aura of authority, but also with a precision of movement that suggested he still lived a life of rigid discipline.
Stafford got up and immediately offered his chair to the man who took it and sat down slowly, all the while keeping his eyes fixed on Adair.
“My name is Jim Helmsley,” the device in front of Adair translated.  It was still using Stafford’s voice, not yet set up to replicate this man’s speech.  “I’m Director of Western Operations.  I apologize for the change in scenery.  Our enemy was closing in on your location and we had to move you in order to keep you safe.  I hope you will forgive the lack of comforts.”
Adair nodded.
Helmsley continued.  “I hope you also realize that we’re here to protect you.  Right now, some very dangerous men are looking for you.  Their resources vastly outweigh ours.  And if they capture you again, you will likely endure torture before your death.  I understand you are a soldier?”
“I am,” Adair answered.
“Then you must also realize the value of information in gaining the upper hand on an enemy.  Clearly, you’ve already demonstrated the principle of leverage in your discussions with my men, here.”  At this, Helmsley nodded toward Stafford.
Adair kept his eyes on the man, waiting for him to get to his point.
“Given your situation, I can respect why you have chosen to take this route.  But let me be perfectly clear.  We are not your enemies.  So, if you want to stay alive, I suggest you cooperate.  I’m not buying any of this insanity nonsense.  I’ve watched the recordings and I know that your descriptions of this other world are accurate.”
Adair leaned forward.  “As you said, I am a soldier.  The prospect of death and even torture doesn’t scare me.”
“Yes, but death at the hands of our enemy would also prevent you from returning to you home,” Helmsley said, sitting back quickly in his chair with the first sign of mild frustration.
Adair knew his argument was illogical and was starting to get to the man, but it was necessary to steer him to right conclusion.  “So we both have something that the other wants.”
Helmsley turned his head slightly to one side and looked quickly down at the table.  “No.  You see, I don’t have what you want.”
“Then why are you here?” Adair pressed.
“I can’t send you home without that device.  And in order to get access to it, we have to take and control that valley.  And then, we still have to figure out how to use the device, which I why I need the information in your head.  It’s not a simultaneous exchange.  One depends on the other.”
Finally, Adair had the man where he wanted him.  “So, we have an agreement then?”
Helmsley squinted as one corner of his mouth lifted slightly.  He had just become aware of what Adair had done.  “Alright,” he agreed with a smirk.  “If you tell us everything you know and we can manage to secure that compound, then I give you my word, I’ll do everything in my power to send you home.”
Now it was Adair who was smiling.  He turned to Stafford who was standing a few paces off.  “What do you want to know?”
Helmsley scooted back from the table and stood up, folding his arms.
Stafford came forward and leaned down to table.  “I want to know what it looked like.  I want to know how you activated it.  I want to know what it felt like to be in transit.
Adair looked up at the man with whom he had shared many conversations—the man that he had even begun to think of as a friend.  “Do they have any tea in this place?”

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