2018, Amanda's Sketchbook, Literature, The Black Chasm


Miss Shy Girl - Kitya and Finn
“Don’t be shy, mya Kitya.”

Good afternoon, readers of the world!

It’s official: My goal for finishing Draft 2 of my book is Feb. 28, 2018.

It will mean buckling down and writing another 7-8 chapters on the double, but I think that it is doable. At that time, before I send it off to an editor to pick apart and push around, I will be developing the final cover image, getting together a launch team, and starting some other marketing projects- and I was wondering if anyone would be able to help me out. Do any of you know any tips or tricks to marketing? Do any of you know anyone who enjoys epic fantasy novels and is looking for a new read?

Or maybe you know someone who might be able to relate to the novel’s characters and events.

It’s about the struggle for the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and safeguarding that right from everyone who would threaten it- be it from external forces, or from those who would destroy it from within.

What do you think? Does this intrigue you? If not, inserted below is an excerpt from Chapter 1: Finn.

Ariella was sitting at Finn’s side, quiet for the moment. They were on the perimeter, keeping watch for anything out of the ordinary, and Aranye and Parye were tussling just a little ways away. There was nothing out there, nothing but the snow and the scent of peat smoke on the breeze. The Song in his head, though… something was wrong.


Finn blinked. The Song faded to the back of his mind. When he turned and regarded Ariella, he found that she was gazing off into the distance, her fingers worrying at a loose thread at the hem of her tunic. Her bare arms were pebbled with goosebumps in the chill air.

“What is it?” he asked. She glanced at him, and her dark green eyes were distant. Finn frowned. She was acting odd.

“Do you… Do you ever wish you were married? Maybe with a couple of children?”

…What? Where had this question come from?

“I-” He paused. What was the right answer to this question? What answer could he give her that would not land him in trouble? “I guess… I guess so? I mean, if Brynna hadn’t refused me, I would be married, by now, so- yes?”

Her gaze sharpened. “And have you ever given any thought to marrying anyone except Brynna?”

Oh, shit. His palms began sweating. What do I say? ‘No, I’ve never given any thought to marrying anyone save Brynna, but I’ve thought about sleeping with you plenty of times.’ Yeah, that’ll go over real well.

There was no good answer to that question. Finn’s mouth opened and closed a couple of times as he tried and failed to think of a good reply.

“Yes,” he blurted out. Oh, crap. Lie, lie! Lie, you idiot! “Of course I have.”

Something eased in the line of her shoulders, and she looked away again. “And children? Do you ever want to have children?”

Well, that’s an easy one.

“Yes,” he replied, honestly this time. He glanced out to the Plateau, and then pushed himself to his feet. His voice was soft when he continued, “If there’s one thing I want more than anything else in this world, it’s to have a family of my own. I want to be a father.” He stopped himself there, because otherwise, he would not be able to stop thinking about Brynna, and about the life they could have been having together. “You?”

Ariella shrugged and stood. “I’ve thought about it every now and then. Nothing serious, though. Honestly, children aren’t a priority, for me, at least not right now. There’s too much to do with the Corps.”

Finn nodded. They were silent a moment, and then he glanced at her again.

“Why did you ask?” More importantly, why had she asked him?

She shrugged again. “No reason.” She turned back toward the camp, and then she finally looked at him again. “I’m heading back. Will you be long?”

Baffled, Finn shook his head.

“No. No, I won’t be long.” What had gotten into her? “I’m just going to check the Gap, and then I’ll be back.”

Ariella nodded, and with one last glance at him from under her eyelashes- one last glance that did funny things to the pit of his stomach- she was gone. She whistled, and Parye broke off his tussle with Aranye and followed her. Finn gazed after her, still bewildered and wondering what her motivation was. Then he shook his head, and he and Aranye turned and paced away from the camp. His features relaxed and smoothed.

What was all that about?

Half an hour later, his nose was burning with the icy cold and the stench of carrion. Before him, the earth dropped suddenly away and was replaced with fog so dense that nobody could have seen through it even with the aid of an Arcana’s clear-sky spell. Finn licked his lips and opened himself to the Lady’s Voice. At first, he only heard the normal, discordant screech that he usually heard. Then he settled into it despite the headache building behind his eyes, and paused.

The Song was… off, today. Finn frowned and stared at the mists roiling angrily on the other side of the Gap, and tried his best at pinpointing the discordant strains in an already ugly noise. Was it the sound of nails on slate? Was it the tick-tick-tick of abacus beads sliding around on their dowels? Was it the grinding thrum of shifting earth? Was it the otherworldly howl of some dangerous beast? He could not tell for certain. All he knew was that it was a deviation from the norm, and that the source of the countermelody had not yet made itself clear.

Still frowning, Finn glanced down at Aranye. She returned the look. With a whuff and a sneeze, she turned a circle and sniffed at the icy ground. She stopped pacing after a second, and sat back on her haunches and scratched herself behind the ear.

When she noticed him watching her, she gave a snort of acknowledgment, and Finn smiled and offered her his hand. She came over immediately and butted her head into his palm. He obliged and rubbed her ears between his fingers, and then, after a moment, he bent and gave her a good scratch around her ruff. She leaned into him, tongue lolling out of the side of her mouth in a doggish grin. He echoed the expression with a small smile.

“Well, girl,” he murmured, savoring the warmth of her against the side of his leg. “Guess we’d better go back and alert the commander.”

She just leaned a little more firmly against him. It was funny, how dogs could increase their weight in accordance to how little they wanted to move. He had heard the same thing about cats. He nudged her. She did not budge. He nudged her again. That liquid brown gaze swiveled up to his, as though she were asking what he thought he was trying to accomplish by failing to move her. They stared at each other for a moment. Then at last, Finn chuckled and crouched beside her, taking to the scratch two-handed. Aranye groaned and licked his face for his efforts. In an effort to avoid her tongue, Finn ducked away from her, and straightened, laughing. She always knew how to make him feel better.

He blinked.

An impression of white imprinted itself upon the backs of his eyelids, and then it faded to pink, then to navy blue, then to purple-black. Finn grimaced and rubbed his eyes, and then he looked down at Aranye, who was shaking herself as though ridding herself of a dousing of water.


For a second, he and Aranye went completely still. Then they were both up and running, nearly flying back to the outpost as they bounded across the tundra, sandals and paws alike plowing through the snow and slapping the thin layer of dry soil and the permafrost beneath it. Finn glanced over his shoulder.


They were scuttling through the wind-driven snow, a swarm of black shapes taller than a man, each with six legs sticking out of beetle-black carapaces that were bristling with spines. They were moving faster than Finn could run.

“Aranye!” he barked. “It’s a swarm of Ichedi! Run ahead and alert the outpost! Sound the alarm!”

She yipped her reply and streaked ahead in a flash of black and white fur. Finn watched her go even as his lungs began burning, and focused on timing his breathing so that he exhaled on his left foot, as he had learned years ago. It would do him no good if he got a stitch.

Something clattered not far behind. The Icheds were catching up with him. Finn took another step. His foot sank into a snake hole, and suddenly he was falling, his ankle twisting beneath him. He swore and tumbled, but he turned his shoulder to the ground and rolled, and in a heartbeat, he was on his feet again. The accident had cost him precious time, though. He glanced back again. Beetle-black gleamed at him, almost close enough to touch. Finn turned and ran.

It took only moments before the things caught up with him. Finn planted his foot and pivoted on his heel. He grabbed his Crook from his belt. With a jerk of his arm, he whipped it out, and it extended to its full length with a click of locking latches. He thumbed the button on the side. The blade shot out of the top and the counterweight’s mace bulged out at the bottom.

Finn planted himself. He took a deep breath and blinked the sweat out of his eyes. Twirling his Crook back behind him, he held it blade-down and prepared himself.

The first creature leapt at him with a screech.

Finn grunted and swung his Crook up. The razor-sharp blade tore through chitin and guts, and the insect shrieked and reared back on its two hind legs. He followed through with the mace at the other end. With a crunch, the carapace caved completely. The Iched splattered across its fellows. Finn was already moving again. He spun to his left and took off one monstrous head; he spun to his right and caught a flash of skittering black legs and gleaming pincers, and then, with a swipe of his Crook, those shattered also.

A chittering screech was his only warning before another Iched stabbed at him from behind. Finn gasped and dove into the snow. He rolled through a thicket of snapping pincers and spearing legs, and came up again in a swarm of mandibles with Crook in hand. A big Iched rushed him. Finn got his Crook up just in time, blocking the bite with the leather-wrapped staff grip. He shoved it off him to the side. Then he was spinning, bringing the blade around in an arc that cut it cleanly into two twitching halves. He whirled again and met his next opponent.

Finn was little more than a blur as he slashed and smashed his way through the horde, ducking and dodging through a forest of pincers and legs. It was never-ending; he crushed one under his mace, and two more took its place. He cut those into pieces with a twirl of his Crook, and then four more replaced them.

There were too many. It did not matter how good he was; without reinforcements, he would never overcome the horde.

Panting, Finn slowly began giving ground. He ducked beneath a black pincer, and just as quickly jumped over the pointed end of a leg that speared toward him. He stabbed with the blade of his Crook, and then yanked backwards.

It stuck.

Finn swore vehemently and ducked the flailing claw that swiped at his head. He jerked the Crook toward himself again. No luck. It held fast.

Finn caught movement out of his peripheral vision. He cursed, dropped his Crook, and rolled backwards out of the way of another claw heading for his chest. He came up in a crouch. Finn grabbed for his Crook again, but was forced to give it up when a pair of the Icheds pounced on him.

Something sharp jabbed into his thigh, then his hip. Burning pain blossomed through his torso. Finn howled and grabbed his gladius and his long, heavy saxe knife off his belt. With his left hand, he slashed with his sword, and with his right, he chopped downward with his knife, crushing through the pincers that were buried in his body. The Iched in question hissed at him and gnashed its mandibles, but Finn paid it no heed. He brought his sword around in an arc and parted that gleaming head from the rest of its body in a heartbeat.

Panting, Finn stumbled backwards.

The Icheds followed him. He limped backwards, and kept moving, kept fighting, but the horde was endless. He was not going to survive this. He would die, and Aranye would die with him.

Brynna. He gulped back bile and ducked underneath the swipe of another pincer. Brynna, I’m so sorry.

Finn raised his sword and knife, and silently commended his soul to the Two.

What do you think?



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