In anticipation of my novel, Thoughts of Steel, releasing in early 2016, I give to all your thirsty eyes the story that started it all. Monolithic is the novella that explores Vesik as a human, and the things that result in his becoming the monster he is in Thoughts of Steel. Three unique characters find themselves in a terrible predicament as they attempt to use their power for selfish reasons.
Here are the first two chapters of Monolithic, that you could pay $$ for on Amazon and receive along with it 8 other awesome stories. I hope you dig it.
Cavia bathed in the soft, warm glow of the spring sun sitting above the horizon. Long shadows pulled away from buildings, people, animals, and fences as if they longed for freedom. A young man led a horse along a path, taking as much pleasure in the gorgeous evening as he thought any happy person would. He wondered if the world he lived on, Zepzier, ever could experience such joyous evenings as this. Certainly life was better in every way in the country of Baronfall, and even more exquisite in Cavia.
Buildings were sparse along the path but the man knew that they’d end up smashed close together soon, once he got deeper into Cavia. The man held reins that guided a horse name Sugar through the city. He headed towards the square with a cart full of crops pulled behind the horse. He reached out and stroked her chestnut colored flank, then gave her a quick hug with one arm and continued on.
As he made his way onto the main road, a dear friend of his mother’s came into view. Merith pulled up beside him with her own cart. “Hello, Vesik. I swear every time we’ve ran into each other, you’ve grown a foot taller. How are your parents?”
It was true that Vesik was tall even at the age of eighteen. He had grown into a lanky young man. Very little muscle clung to his bones and even less fat. The tips of his black hair reached into his eyes but he kept them swept to one side.
Vesik took a moment to recall that he always loved the sound of Merith’s voice. She was growing older, the thin lines on her face a testament to that, but she was still pretty. Her high cheek bones gave way to roundness that accentuated her wide smile. Sparkling blue eyes looked out between long lashes. Regardless of her age, Vesik believed that men would be tripping over each other to get a look at her each time they heard her soothing voice.
Vesik said, “Managing. Father’s back is still causing him trouble but he’s stubborn as a log about getting his work done. Ma’s great though. I’m doing all the trips for her so she doesn’t work herself to death. We went through those terribly hot, dry summers for a few years. If the temperature hadn’t lightened up like it has then they would have worked themselves into the ground by now.”
“I don’t know why they haven’t moved out to the forest yet. It baffles me that no one else has caught on either. That’s people though. Sure, it can be tough managing around the roots and lack of sunlight but all anyone would have to do is find a workable place.” Merith flicked her hand at the air as she dismissed the idea. “Oh, have you met my son yet?”
“No, I haven’t. Ma told me that you conceived a couple of years ago right?”
“That’s right. He’s in here somewhere.” Merith rummaged through her cart until she came back with a squirming little boy. She placed him on the ground and took the carrot he had been chewing on from his hand. She shot him a wilting look but did not reprimand him then.
“Here he is. Honey, say hi to Vesik.”
The little boy looked into Vesik’s eyes with visible intensity. Vesik caught the boy’s gaze and thought that he was either a troublesome brat or a well-disciplined child. He decided on the latter as the kid said, “Hello, sir.” in a very respectful tone. Vesik could tell he was fierce though, with boundless energy waiting to break through his well-mannered character.
“Well go ahead and tell him your name too.”
“My name’s Phalax.”
Vesik crouched so that he was at Phalax’s eye level. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, young sir. How old are you now?”
“Five.” Phalax held up five fingers to accentuate his answer.
“So grown up already.” Merith and Vesik smiled at one another.
“I’m learning my sword skills already. Watch!” Phalax dove for a stick on the side of the road and flourished the piece of wood through the air with little skill or grace.
Merith said, “That’s not good form, Phalax. Show Vesik what daddy taught you.”
Phalax nodded forcefully then calmed down. He held the wooden blade before him in a guard position. He managed to stay perfectly still for three seconds – which was no small feat for a child his age – then cut the air with a controlled side chop.
Both Vesik and Merith clapped as Phalax brought the stick back up in front of him. He then dropped the stick and scampered to his mother’s side.
Vesik, Merith, and Phalax walked on together. The bold little boy even added some of his own interjections into Vesik’s and Merith’s conversation.
“He’s adorable, huh?” Vesik’s mother, Elara, replied as he told her of his encounter with Merith.
“Yeah, he is.” His father, Erik, had remained quiet the entire time, his mouth mostly hidden beneath his bushy mustache although Vesik could tell he never once smiled at his tale. Erik sat at a table and stared into it as if he was watching a scene unfold between the grooves of wood. “How much work did you get done for the next crop, father?”
Erik slowly looked up at his son and Vesik got a sense that his father was going to tell him something that had nothing to do with the question he had asked. “Not enough. I was … preoccupied. Wandering mind.”
“About what?” Vesik saw his mother avert her gaze to the floor and knew that it was going to be something that he didn’t want to hear.
Erik looked hard into his son’s eyes. “You don’t mean to live here all of your life, do you?” Erik continued when he saw a confused look settle on Vesik’s face, “I mean, don’t you want more than this? You don’t have to be a farmer your entire life, son.”
“Well I haven’t ever thought about it. What else is there for me? I have a home and family right here. The farm is a part of my life. How would you two manage without me?”
“It’d be difficult but we’d find a way. I’m just saying that you only live once, son, and I don’t want you to look back and think that you wasted your entire life picking crops.”
Vesik thought hard about what he wanted to say. Somewhere within him he reveled in the thought of discovering new frontiers in this life but he also felt a fear of many things. “And if I don’t want to leave?”
Erik sighed as if he hoped not to have to say these next words. “You don’t have a choice. I’m sorry, son; I don’t want you thinking that we’re kicking you out. We just want your life to mean something to you. We want to help you though, as you have helped us. The college is accepting new students in a dozen days or so. The Watch is always accepting recruits. Just pick a direction and we’ll get you started.”
Vesik thought for a moment and decided that the feelings of pain and anger welling up inside him were immature. He honestly felt thankful as he said, “Well I’m not sure yet. Can I have a few days to think about this? I mean which path to choose.”
Erik smiled and Elara couldn’t help but hug her son with tears in her eyes. “Of course, son. We’re both very proud of you.”
That night Erik and Vesik stepped outside into the warm spring night and sat together on a bench with their backs to the wall of the house. Erik handed Vesik a mug of ale he had went and procured that very night.
“First I want to thank you, son. There have been many times in my life when I felt like the people in this world had no right to live. You know you are just like my father; you wear his name well.” He looked at his son. “You two almost have the exact same set of ideals and traits.”
“Thanks, dad. I think it’s because of how good you were to me and ma growing up.”
Erik shook his head. “Thank you, son, but that’s not it. I was the apple that fell far from the tree. I wasn’t like my father. I spent a lot of time as a young man depressed. I looked at Zepzier through cynical eyes. I always thought the worst of things. I don’t know how but you inherited this amazing ability to find love for all living things, just like my father. It skipped me somehow and I know I would have been much better off had it not. This whole world would be better off if people were more like you and my father. It’s a gift, son.”
Vesik nodded and drank deep of the bitter ale.
“Also, I am very proud of you for what you have done around here. You’ve been a godsend.” Erik paused and smiled at his son. “That being said, do you have any idea what you want to do?”
Vesik had been thinking about that all night and still was unsure. “Well it’ll either be college or the Watch.”
“I’m not here to tell you what I want from you, that isn’t my place. You’re a man now, Vesik. All I want you to know is that if you choose the Watch, it’ll be hard. Remember, one day you may have to hurt someone else, or even kill them. You’ll have to make hard choices but you’ll also be keeping people safe. I don’t know how much you care for academics though. This will be a tough decision for you.”
Warring thoughts clashed in Vesik’s mind. He forgot for a brief moment that he was holding a mug of ale until a drop landed on his boot. He had pondered a similar notion himself. He was scared of failing, of being a disappointment, of having to ever take charge of anything. Making this decision had been terrifying on its own. Now, faced with the reality of being a Sentry was enough to make him crawl into a shell and away from the world.
Mindlessly, Vesik brought the mug to his lips and sipped the ale. The tang and sour of the drink snapped his mind back to the present and he knew his answer. He wanted to be a Sentry, to be a hero and an accomplished man. But he wasn’t strong enough to handle such a responsibility yet.
“College, dad.” A thrill ran through Vesik as he made his choice, borne of fear for what lay ahead and his inability to commit to what he really wanted to aspire to. But then he reassured himself that he could attain that dream later, and he felt better on all fronts. He drank quicker.
Erik nodded then said, “We’ll go to the college tomorrow and get it all figured out. This will be a good thing for you, son.” Erik struggled to find words to say, Vesik could tell he was brooding. He finally said, “The gods know you weren’t going to pull a woman out of the ground here. Maybe you’ll find one somewhere in the city.”
They both shared a smirk and the tone of the conversation turned from serious to one of light banter. They finished their drinks together and went inside. Vesik felt a pang of trepidation as he lay down in his bed and knew that if not for the ale clouding his feelings and thoughts, he would have been up all night, staring into the darkness and fearing the future.
It turned out that Vesik took to academic subjects fairly well. He found himself excelling in matters that dealt with numbers and money without having to study much. He quickly decided that he’d search for a job dealing with money, perhaps as a lender’s assistant. Regardless of his professors’ qualms about the importance of a well-rounded education, Vesik took classes that only associated with numbers, money, policy, and writing.
Not even six months into his schooling did Vesik begin seeking a job, although out of necessity more than anything else. His father had stashed away some money but not much. The silver Erik had given the college was just enough to get him through his classes currently and now he wouldn’t have enough money to return next term.
After listening intently to a discussion from one of his professor’s on the economic reasoning behind lending money and the goal of interest, Vesik approached the man. He waited behind two other students, still running through the new information he’d been taught today and committing it to his memory. Finally, the professor said, “Yes, Vesik?”
“Professor, Illium, I was hoping you’d be able to provide me with some guidance.” Although Vesik had yet to actually ask anything of the man and he was not being scrutinized or forced into some responsibility, he felt as though he was beginning to float. The nervousness that came with just speaking to his professor was profound and frustrating. He tried and failed each time to battle his nerves when doing something so simple.
Vesik’s voice suddenly sounded small as he continued, “Um, what kind of work do you think I’d be … um … that I’d qualify for at this time?” His heart beat against his chest as if he were about to defend against a savage army of barbarians for his very life.
Professor Illium knew well of Vesik since he had taught him in several classes before. Vesik had mustered the courage to speak with the scholar several times before and so Vesik was comfortable that he knew enough about him to give him a solid answer. “Well, not much, Vesik. I’d say something such as beginning to lend money or even work for a lender would be beyond your scope now. But, I know you are versed in the skills required for basic mathematics and some assistant work. Perhaps you could serve as a good clerk for an office of some sort. One that didn’t require you have any responsibilities that dealt with any sizable sum of money. But why are you asking this? Do you plan on dropping out?”
Vesik shook his head then said, “No, sir. I just need to make money to cover my tuition here.” As was routine, Vesik’s nerves began to slowly calm as the two conversed at length.
“Good. I wouldn’t be pleased with you leaving so soon. I hope my advice helps, just don’t get in over your head somewhere; you need to focus on your schooling.”
“Of course. Thank you, professor.” With that, Vesik turned and left. He then went to the office of the school and spoke with a man at the desk. He asked if the school knew of any positions that needed filling as a clerk in Cavia as many employers came to the school to look for men and women to hire. The man told Vesik that he had not but took his name and promised to inform professor Illium if anything became available.
Vesik then left the school and headed home. Never had he went out with friends as he saw others do, primarily because he didn’t have any. Although he longed to be included in such activities, the stress of meeting people and being asked to do anything was too much for Vesik to overcome. He never once was approached by anyone in school as he absorbed the professor’s message then swiftly headed home, avoiding gazes and conversation. Although Vesik wished he was strong enough to be social and make friends with which to go drinking and carousing with, he was happy with his progress in school.
Just several weeks ago, professor Illium had come to Vesik’s home along with his wife to have dinner with Vesik and his parents. The professor had remarked on Vesik’s strong intellectual ability and Erik and Elara seemed as though they would pounce on him with hugs and praise. Thankfully, they saved all that until after Illium and his wife had left. Vesik quickly came back to his present and thought about what it would be like to work a real job as a person’s assistant.
Only three days had passed until professor Illium stopped Vesik after class one day. He said, “You have an interview with Captain Bors of the Watch. He is in need of a clerk to handle his appointments and whatnot. It’s today, now in fact. Do you have something better to wear than that?”
Vesik was so caught off guard and his mouth had gone so dry that he forgot how to speak. Truly, his stomach must be burrowing its way through the earth at this very moment, he thought. Finally he said, “Um, no.” Vesik looked down at his green tunic and the loose red leggings that flowed down his legs. He didn’t even have a belt to tie his tunic about his waist tightly and suddenly realized how shoddy he must look. Shame burned in him and he felt himself fluster.
Illium said, “No need to worry, Vesik. Come with me. The clothes I have for you may be a little big but they’ll do.”
Vesik wordlessly walked with his professor as the man spoke about what Vesik should be wary of during the interview. He absorbed this lecture as if he was in class, committing each point to memory as if a small man lived within his head and chiseled words onto his brain. Soon, they were at the man’s house, Vesik sitting awkwardly in a small living room waiting for his professor. The man quickly returned with black pantaloons, a red sash, and a white shirt with long sleeves and a collar. Vesik quickly stripped off his unworthy clothing as Illium retrieved a pair of brown, leather boots.
“Be quick, Vesik. You should get to the Watch house early rather than late. It’d look best that way.”
Illium’s words were law and Vesik hastily pulled the clothing on. All of it was slightly big but not as oversized as Vesik’s earlier outfit. He had no idea how to tie the sash correctly so Illium did it for him. He wished he had some flashy piece to show off, a bracelet, pin, or necklace to aid him. But he wouldn’t dare ask his professor for something so gracious. Vesik finally pulled the boots on, admiring them as they stopped a quarter of the way up his shin.
Professor Illium looked him over quickly then said, “It’s a good thing you don’t grow much facial hair yet or we’d need to give you a clean shave. Now, go to the Watch house near the square. You know the one I speak of?”
“Two blocks north of it?”
“That’s it. Move quickly but do not show up sweaty and flustered. I’ve sent along a good review of you and your ability in academics. I didn’t send any other students because I know you need this and that you’d do well. Let me know how everything goes in class tomorrow. Good luck, Vesik.”
Vesik fought the urge to hug the man, thanked him quickly, picked up his clothing, then hustled from the house.
Half of an excruciating hour spent obsessing over a fantasy of what the interview should be like passed all too quickly. Captain Bors himself walked from a hall, seemed to not even notice Vesik, then went behind an oak counter with a man seated behind it.
Captain Bors was a squat man with a wide build. His gut poked out from between his coat although he seemed to possess strong arms with thick muscle. A goatee circled his mouth and covered his chin. Bushy brows sat above dark eyes split by a pointy nose.
“Where is he?”
Vesik wanted to stand and introduce himself but was stuck to the bench he sat in. The clerk said, “Right there.” His pointed finger felt like a thousand prying eyes.
Bors looked at Vesik and seemed to take stock of his entire life. “Hello, Vesik. Illium said good things about you.”
Vesik used a mechanism that he discovered helped him often. He dipped his head as if nodding but really was just hiding that he was closing his eyes so that he could speak. “Captain Bors, it is nice to meet you.” When Vesik looked up again, Bors was throwing him an odd look. Vesik realized he had forgotten to look up the entire time he was speaking.
“Yes, well. Follow me.” Bors took off and Vesik quickly got up and began following.
Bors kept quiet as he led Vesik around a few corners and into his office. Vesik felt as though he was floating and that the air was hot and cold at the same time. He was sweating beneath his clothes.
A low, empty desk sat outside of the captain’s office, a polished chair behind it. Vesik could see himself there, rifling through the few drawers, filling them with important papers and items, doing calculations and setting appointments. He’d be someone that other people would have to request permission from. He’d have authority.
The pair moved past the desk and into Bors’ office. The room was small but not cramped. A desk sat towards the back of it, one bookcase butted against one of the side walls that sported only a dozen books and pamphlets, the chairs seated on either side of the desk were padded unlike the one outside the office, and on the sill of a window above Bors’ chair sat several bottles of amber colored liquids along with three glasses next to them.
Vesik lowered himself into his seat, and waited as Bors did the same. The captain said, “My last assistant was incompetent. He had to be let go. But, the college usually turns out good men and women. My last assistant wasn’t from the college. So, Vesik, tell me a little about yourself.”
Why did Vesik have to talk so soon? Why didn’t Bors just blather on while Vesik could get by with nods and fake smiles? “Um. I farmed growing up. My parents, they owned a farm. Well, they own the farm now too. Um. So, I helped them my whole life. I joined the college two terms ago. And … yeah.” He hated that he ended most of his responses that way when he was nervous.
Bors nodded his head and tapped his fingers against his desk rigorously. “So, just two terms? But you’re confident in your ability?”
Vesik nodded his head and then sat still, his eyes plastered to the captain’s judging gaze. Bors wasn’t speaking so Vesik said, “I’ve taken two classes in assisting.”
Something close to approval passed Bors face as he made one big slow nod. Vesik hoped he wasn’t sweating so much that Bors could tell. But then he felt a bead slide down his temple and his hopes were dashed.
“Why the Watch, Vesik? Why not a job somewhere else?”
Now is where Vesik’s answer mattered for a lot. He could tell that Bors was proud of the Watch, the badges and patches on his coat showed as much. But he also straightened up in his chair as he spoke about his beloved organization.
Channeling his best display of confidence, Vesik tried to straighten up to match Bors and hold his gaze. He somehow managed both as he said, “I’ve always admired the work that the Watch does.” He inwardly marveled at his steady voice. “Cavia wouldn’t work without the Watch. My father told me of a time where two Sentries save my mother and I from being killed by a rogue when I was just a boy. I’ve revered them ever since.”
The smile that crossed Bors’ face caused Vesik to smile back; he’d said the right thing. He’d somehow managed confidence. Bors said, “Vesik, do you have any more classes to take today?”
“Yes, sir. I have two more at the eleventh hour of day.”
Bors suddenly got up, turned around and looked outside. He then said, “It looks like it’s the tenth of day right now.” Vesik surmised that he must be looking at a sundial outside his window. The sun would begin falling behind the horizon in two hours. “Vesik,” he turned as he spoke, “what would you think of skipping those classes just for today? To begin working?”
A cold worm slithered through Vesik’s intestines. He’d gotten the job as Bors’ assistant! He was so excited that he felt the familiar flash of embarrassment and nervousness. “Of course, sir!”
Bors thick-fingered hand shot out and Vesik met it with his own. Vesik winced at the pressure of the squeeze and Bors smiled. “Glad to have you, Vesik. Now, let’s toast to this new partnership.”
W0ith practiced ease, Bors spun around, procured a bottle of dark red liquid and two glasses, then spun back to place it all on his desk. He filled each to a knuckle length deep and Vesik stared at the liquid as if it was a magical potion. He’d never had hard spirits before, just ale, and even that was rare. He prepared himself for the strong concoction, told himself that he mustn’t spit it out for any reason.
As Bors plugged the bottle with a stopper, Vesik thought of how his new employer was such a genuine man. Bors was a good-spirited sergeant with a love for his profession. Vesik knew that he’d enjoy his position with this pleasant man.
Bors lifted both glasses and proffered one to Vesik. The amber liquid within swirled as Vesik took it and he moved the glass back and forth to hide the trembling of his hand. Bors held his glass out and Vesik clacked his own against it softly. Bors said, “To your success as my assistant.”
It was nearly impossible for Vesik to take his drink as he smiled so wide. But Bors threw his drink back and Vesik had to follow suit. The liquid cascaded down his throat, seemed to get stuck, then began burning holes through his flesh. He nearly coughed the drink all over Bors but he forced the drink down, the contents of which were surely part acid. Tears came to Vesik’s eyes and he wiped them away as he heavily sighed and wished for the burning sensation to leave his throat.
Sparkling light seemed to leap from Bors’ eyes as he savored the horrid drink. “Strong, huh?”
Vesik vehemently nodded his head.
Bors slammed his glass down and said, “Right! Here, I have some work for you to get started on.” Vesik stood with his empty glass in his hands as Bors opened a drawer and pulled three folders stuffed with papers from them. He looked at the mass of paper and saw days of work within those folders. He wondered how long Bors had went without an assistant. Regardless though, Vesik was ecstatic. He couldn’t wait to run home to his parents to tell them of his success. For the first time in the world outside of his home and parents’ farm, he felt as though he’d won.