Hey, guys, really hoping to have some HUGE news to share regarding Martuk…the Holy, Martuk…the Holy: Proseuche, and The Martuk Series, Vol. 1: A Collection of Short Fiction.
Until then, because it’s been ages since I’ve shared from these fantastic Martuk short stories, here’s an excerpt from The Tall Priest found in The Martuk Series:
His heart popped and spit.
“And, oh Gods,” I said as the flames licked the ruddy, bloody muscle clean, “I give you his soul.”
The Soldier lay behind me, still bound and bleeding.
He had sighed when I took his eyes, the blade that gouged and sliced and dug shocking him into a peaceful calm, the pain so great there was no more pain. Only a quiet desire for the end.
And as I straddled him again, my fingers once more holding him steady, my knife on his chest, he had breathed, once, twice, and then, the end finally here, had slipped Beyond the Veil.
I still took his heart.
I worked feverishly. Had cut and then cut again. Forced the blade deep. Shoved my fingers into the glistening wound and pawed at the torn flesh to move it aside and rip it away. Had reached deep to break the bones, and then rummaged deeper still. Slipped my hand under the broken shards and into the steamy warmth, my fingers feeling for the familiar weight of this treasure.
I tore it loose. Grabbed the slick muscle and sawed at those sinewy bits that insisted it stay near.
It came free, was placed on the plate and then, at last, in the fire.
“I give you his soul,” I repeated, the shiny organ gnawed by the red and white and yellow of the flames.
There was nothing more to do.
To my Gods I had given the Soldier’s sons and his strength, his pride and his name. I had offered the doomed man’s voice, his sight, and then his soul.
I turned to him.
He lay inert and now useless.
I approached and knelt, my hand on his naked flesh.
My finger traced the twin mountains of his chest, the blood in the cavernous wound around his stolen heart now thick and cool.
I dipped it into the viscous liquid.
After a pause, I drew a circle and then two lines. And another line with a curl there. Then three more lines, a fourth sitting on top.
And still more, the red guided by my finger, these symbols a lingering echo of a familiar path I had walked many times, his torso soon covered with signs and pleas and cries to the Gods.
I moved and knelt next to his head.
My hands smoothed his hair, the locks moved into place, my gaze refusing the sight of the sunken lids of his stolen eyes. Or the gentle curl of his full lips, trapped forever in a small grin.
I cut free his bonds, hooked my hands under his arms and turned to drag him to the fire.
They came, the Whispers, moving close.
A sound ripped the silence. The deep crack of strong stone.
I looked up, into the dark, searched.
The stone basin shook and then listed, the bones in the stones stretching from their sleep as the water popped and spit, the calm surface covered by a veil of steam as the clear liquid bubbled.
The Darkness was near.
Yes, the Gods had heard me.
The fire grew, stretched to the ceiling as the flames rose to straighten their backs and lift their heads and reach their arms wide.
I bent low, grabbed the dead man again and dragged his body closer to the now immense heat of the inferno.
His ankles were still bound.
Moving quickly, I dropped him and knelt by his large feet. My knife sawed at the rope, first one foot, and then, that one free, I reached for the second.
A heavy sigh.
I stopped, the knife still, the bound foot returned to the stone.
My heart raced, the water bubbled and spit, the fire raged, sweat stained my brow, and I breathed, gathering my courage.
The sightless holes where the young man’s eyes once were had opened.
And then the dead Soldier sat up.