The Third Eye Initiative
Copyright © 2013 by J.J. Newman
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Cover by Lindsay Newman
My wife Lindsay, whose countless contributions made this book possible. Tsaeris was her baby; I just gave him a place to live.
Goran Zovkic, whose help with cover design, and as my personal sounding board, has helped me shape this book during many nights of beer fueled brain storming.
Patrick Scott, for his fair and concise critiques during the editing process. Your blunt and honest opinions helped make this a far better book.
Trevor Martin and Dave Mackay, for their constant support and never-ending push to keep me writing. And for listening to me talk for hours on end about my book.
And my family and friends, too numerous to name, who have read, and supported my work since I typed the very first page.
Occupying the southern reaches of the continent Arindine, The City stretches over many leagues of once fertile land. A sprawling labyrinth of streets and
alleyways broken into hundreds of districts, The City is massive beyond description. Many live their entire lives without ever seeing the world outside. It stretches as far as the eye can see, from horizon to horizon.
The City is old. My mentor taught me that The City had once been named, but the name has been lost in antiquity. It doesn’t matter. It transcends the need for a name. There is only one place known as The City.
The City had become a hungry void of rape, murder and corruption. It was only a matter of time before all of that darkness gave birth to something like this. Something both terrible and necessary.
no apologies for our dark craft. After all, it was
who created him. We were just the ripples in the pond. A symptom of a much larger disease.
Before my time, the fate of the city was influenced by a great many people
whose names will never find their way into the history books. Will never be spoken about outside of this Chronicle, neither remembered, nor forgotten. As far as The City knew, they never even existed. They worked in the shadows. They lived in obscurity.
Even among them, there were those
whose decisions and actions influenced The City more greatly than the others.
For better or for worse.
Excerpt from “The Sydarin Chronicles” by James Sydarin
The inn smelled of stale beer and tobacco smoke. Old wooden tables and creaky chairs were arranged haphazardly around the common room. There were several small piles of hay at different spots on the filthy floor, likely to cover up an even greater filth. A bar dominated the west end of the inn, lined with men drinking and chatting among themselves and the innkeeper. The wooden walls of the inn were chipped and stained, poorly kept and almost never cleaned. The inn offered several rooms in the rear of the single story structure, as well as a stable, but they were as poorly kept as the common room. It was a typical inn for the Darson district.
The men drinking in the common room matched their surroundings so perfectly, that one could almost believe that they were observing a staged performance about dive inns and the men who drank there. The men smoked, drank cheap ale and looked angry. Most had dirty beards and clothing that had seen much better days.
One man at the bar wore a hood
and had a neatly trimmed black beard. His clothes were dark and well-kept and he wore a short sword on his left hip, yet he did not seem out of place. Where the other men looked badly tempered, this man looked dangerous. Where the others were loud, he was quiet and contemplative. Yet the men around him seemed to know him, and were comfortable in his presence.
The man with the hood was partly engaged in a conversation with two other men at the bar, Odus and Louis. The two were infamous for their ability to find an argument in all things, from money, to the quality of the ale they drank. If Odus claimed his ale was delicious, Louis would call it swill. If Louis was proud of a new hat he had found, Odus would tell him he looked like an idiot. They were the best of friends.
Louis stared at Odus for a moment, and then laughed in his face. “You foolish drunkard. Now you believe in fairy tales?” Louis laughed again. “You sure it was him? You sure it wasn't nymphs or pixies? “
Odus' nostrils flared in anger, and he glared at his friend.
“Did I say it was pixies or Nymphs?”
Odus, there are countless people in this city. Things happen. That’s just a name for stuff that people can't explain. You can't find your house key,
took it. Dead body in a gutter? Must have been him.”
And you’re an idiot man-child.”
Odus choked in anger at the insult, and looked to the man with the hood for support.
“What do you think, Elias?”
The man finished his tankard of ale, and placed a silver coin on the bar. He stood
up from his stool and looked at the two men.
I think you're both idiots.” He started walking towards the door, and then turned back to the men. “And there is no Gravelock.”
Louis grinned smugly at Odus, as if that settled it for good. Odus muttered something under his breath, and then turned back to his ale.
The man with the hood almost knocked over a small boy on his way out the door. The boy had to leap aside to avoid being trampled.
The boy looked back at the door as it closed. A part of him wanted to shout at the man, but it was too late. The man was gon
e. It was probably for the best, as the boy was not much of a fighter, and that man looked pretty dangerous.
The boy was about thirteen years of age, and he was small. His hair hung just past
his shoulders and it was dirty and unkempt, much like his clothes, which were little more than rags.
The color of his hair was strange for a boy his age.
When clean, it was stark white, though the layer of dirt gave it more of an off-white tone. The boy often wore a patched leather cap to cover his hair when there were purses to be cut, as standing out in a crowd was bad for business in the pickpocket and purse cutting trade. The rest of the time he wore it loose. Sometimes it even helped to fill his beggar’s cup, if he could convince some of the more gullible passersby that his hair was the result of some terrible disease.
The boy climbed up into the now vacant stool, and ordered an ale. The innkeeper stared at the boy.
“You know the rules, Tsaeris. Money first.”
Tsaeris looked at the man, his grey eyes wide and innocent
. “You think I would just drink and run, Owen?”
Tsaeris sighed, and placed a copper on the bar.
“There. Can I get my drink now?”
You ever think of spending some of that hard stolen money on food now and then?”
You ever think of minding your own business?” Tsaeris retorted.
Owen placed a tankard of ale in front of Tsaeris.
“That mouth is going to get you in trouble someday. You mark my words.”
Is the lecture billed into the price of the drink? Because I only have the one copper.”
I'm serious, Tsaeris.”
Owen, stop. I don't come here for the company, or the conversation. I come here to drink. If you're so concerned about me eating, then give me some food. If not, then leave me alone. Food is easy to steal. Booze is a lot trickier. So given the choice, the copper is going to booze.”
Owen looked like he wanted to put the boy over his knee and give him a proper spanking.
“I was just trying to give you some advice.”
I only ordered the drink.”
Owen walked away from the boy, muttering.
Tsaeris sat at the bar and drank his tankard of ale. He nursed it, making it last long enough for Odus and Louis to get nice and drunk, after which, he would engage them in conversation, throwing in the occasional perfectly timed compliment. Just as the conversation would start to get interesting, Tsaeris would finish his ale, and move to leave. The attention starved men would ask him why he was leaving, and Tsaeris would tell them that he was out of both coin and drink. The men would offer to pay for a round, then another, and before long Tsaeris would be drinking on their coin for the rest of the night.
It was almost midnight when the half drunken boy stumbled out into the street. He steadied himself on the door frame of the inn, and
let his eyes adjust to the darkness. It took a moment for the smell to reach him, but when it did Tsaeris gagged and covered his nose with his sleeve. A horse had died while tied to a hitching post outside of the inn, and its owner had just left it there.
, Tsaeris thought to himself.
Waist high lantern poles adorned the street at regular intervals, casting their yellow-orange light on the corroded cobblestone road, and the dark brick
and wood of the surrounding buildings. There were still a few people walking the streets, and Tsaeris kept his eyes and ears on high alert. He knew the type of people who wandered the city at this time of night. Some of the people were like him, but most were worse.
Tsaeris steeled his shoulders, and started forward, anxious to get away from the decaying horse carcass. He tried his best to stay in the small safety offered by the light of the lanterns, but the spaces between them were dominated by the shadows cast by the buildings lining the street. He knew that any one of those shadows might hold a predator, ready to snuff out his life the moment he left the lantern glow.
He kept his hand close to the dagger hilt in his belt. It was only a hilt, as the blade had long since broken off, and he could not afford a new one. Yet it offered him a nice, dangerous bluff, which his small purse cutting blade could never match. Predators usually went for the easiest prey available, and sometimes looking slightly more dangerous than the most immediate people around you was the difference between life and death.
He stood in one of th
e circles of light, and stopped suddenly, a feeling in the pit of his stomach crying out in warning. Whether it was caused by a sound picked up by his subconscious, or an instinct honed by years living on the streets, he didn’t know. Whatever it was, it had saved his life more than once. He stood in the circle of light for a few long moments, when he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Another street kid around his age entered the pool of light beside him.
The two boys stared at each other, and then turned their gazes to the shadows between them and the next circle of lantern light. The shadows betwe
en lanterns seemed a mile wide; though Tsaeris knew it was no more than fifteen paces. The boys continued to glance from each other and back to the shadow, as if both understood that death awaited one of them in the darkness. At least that's what Tsaeris felt, and he could only assume from the boy’s demeanor that he felt the same.
The boy looked at Tsaeris one last time. Tsaeris nodded to the boy to give him the impression that they would run in at the same time, a tactic that some street kids used to confuse and outmaneuver a threat. The boy nodded back, and then counted down with three fingers. When the countdown finished, Tsaeris took one quick step forward
, then stopped to wait as the other boy bolted into the shadow.
After a few moments, Tsaeris heard a loud smacking sound and the boy cry out. The predators had foun
d their prey. That was his cue, and Tsaeris ran with all his heart into the shadows, hoping that the predators were nice and distracted.
Tsaeris reached the next pool of light, but did not stop running. He heard voices comi
ng from the shadows behind him and moments later the boy began to scream.
Tsaeris ran, but he was not disturbed. This was The City. They were street kids. This stuff happened every day. When you called the streets home, you knew the monsters you shared it with. Evading the monsters was a victory, and Tsaeris felt good about himself.
Sure, he had tricked the boy into believing that they would run in together, but that was really the kid’s fault for being stupid. Why would Tsaeris risk his life like that? If they had entered the shadow together, he was just as likely to have fallen prey as the other boy. Tsaeris did not take those kinds of risks if he could avoid them. He never understood why other street kids would. Maybe that’s why so many of them were dead.
It took him only a half hour to reach his favorite sleeping spot in this neighborhood, and the rest of his journey was quiet. He approached the old abandoned Church of the Light on silent feet.
Not so light these days
, he thought to himself. Most people avoided this place. It looked as haunted as a building could, and the cemetery in in the rear only added to the brooding atmosphere. The high tower had long since collapsed. The large chunks of missing stone and the fractured door frame gave the front of the building the illusion of a screaming face. Superstition and fear of the unknown made it one of the safest places in the entire district.
Convinced that no danger lurked inside the church, Tsaeris entered. The church was
black as pitch, but Tsaeris had spent many nights here. He knew where the broken remnants of pews lay, as well as the piles of stone. His mind’s eye knew the place so well, that he navigated the darkness with no trouble at all. He made his way to the rear of the church, and opened the crypt door. The wooden door was in poor condition, yet it made no sound as it opened; Tsaeris kept the hinges well oiled. He could see a staircase twisting down beneath the church, leading to the crypt and he was instantly on guard. He could see the stairs because a small amount of light was coming from below.
His practiced feet making absolutely no sound, Tsaeris slowly descended the staircase. When he reached the bottom, he stopped and peaked around the bend. He breathed a sigh of relief.
“Drake, what the hell are you doing here?” he asked the boy, who was warming his hands by a small fire.
The boy jumped, and almost fell face first into the fire from shock.
“Tsaeris! Don't do that!” Drake was breathing heavily from the shock before a fit of coughing racked his small frame with violent spasms.
Tsaeris chuckled. He suddenly realized with some regret that he was no longer drunk. His adrenaline in the street had burned off the effect of the ale.
He sat beside Drake, and looked inquiringly at the older boy. Drake nodded and pulled a flask from under his torn tunic. He tossed it to Tsaeris, who took a long pull.
Like Tsaeris, Drake looked like the typical street kid. His finger-length brown hair was filthy and uneven. Drake boasted that he cut his own hair. Tsaeris believed him.
Tsaeris noticed that Drake was looking very pale, and thinner than usual. “Drake, when was the last time you ate?” Tsaeris asked. He wasn't concerned, really. Just curious.
I don't know. A few days.”
Tsaeris nodded. That explained the gaunt look.
The two boys had often shared a shelter. Even street kids needed company occasionally, and they sometimes slept easier than they would have alone, feeling a small measure of safety in the others presence. The safety was an illusion, of course. If somebody had wanted either of them dead, the presence of the other would do nothing to deter it. In truth, neither boy was likely to even defend the other. Tsaeris sure as hell wouldn’t. Survival was all that mattered in The City, and street kids were at the bottom of the food chain. They were the rabbits trying to survive in a wolf’s territory.