Good afternoon, my lovelies!
Here we have Daryn Felipov, from my upcoming book, The Black Chasm. Started sketching during lunch at work, one day this week, and ended up drawing Daryn. He’s fast becoming one of my favorite “babies”. At 20 years old, he is Finn and Saryla’s younger brother by a good 6 years. (I just typed his age as being 7 years younger than his siblings… He kind of yelled, “I’m not that young!” at me and made me change the entire picture.)
Daryn’s tattoos: For Highlanders and those living in the City on the Edge, a tattooing ritual marks the completion of a rite of passage. In Daryn’s case, it was passing the Trial of Fire and becoming a full-fledged Forger. Forgers’ colors and designs differ from those of the Arcanae (the Magic-Users) and the Shepherds, some of whose designs I will post at a later date, but generally contain sunbursts and geometric designs and patterns. One thing in common between all of the organizations’ tattoos is that they always include patterning across the back and shoulders, somewhere on the midriff, and around the thighs and/or upper arms. (I did adopt the tattooing concept from not only Samoan tattoos, but Pictish, Celtic, Siberian, and Norse tattoos, as well. St. Isidore’s commentary on the process of the Scots [Scotti, p. 198 of the PDF] is fascinating as well.)
More specialized Forgers and Arcanae can opt to have their specializations tattooed on their foreheads, too. For example, an Arcana Battlemage can have a crescent moon and diamond inked at her hairline, and a Forger Lifesinger can have the sunburst and a triangle inked on his brow.
Now, for your reading pleasure, I have posted an excerpt featuring Daryn below. Hope you enjoy it! Again, if you like what you see and want to download the sample from my Gumroad, you can get that here!
Hope you have a great day!
It was not often that Saryla ventured out of the Domicilium, but when she did, it was usually in search of alcohol. Her favorite watering hole was about halfway between the Domicilium and the Ironworks, in the vicinity of the Barracks; it was frequented by Matriarchs and Forgers alike in addition to the Shepherds who made their home nearby.
Tonight, she was shaking snow from her cloak when she walked inside. The day-old rushes rustled beneath her feet; the entire place smelled strongly of ale, stew, and baking bread, undercut with the sour stench of old vomit. Saryla glanced around and approached the barkeep.
“A double whiskey, neat,” she ordered, and while he turned away for her drink, she leaned against the bar and took a deep breath of the stale air. A skald was playing his lap harp in the corner, deftly plucking away at the strings to a tune only he knew; in the opposite corner, a trio of men were heckling the serving wench, who flirted with them in return while they eyed her with a voracious hunger in the curves of their lips and the licking of their chops. One of the men reached out and pulled the wench into his lap. Saryla caught the blue crescent of a Shepherd’s Brand on his triceps where his tunic pulled away with his motion.
“Arcana.” The voice drew Saryla’s attention back to the bartender, who had returned with her drink. She nodded to him and dropped a coin on the counter, and then she took her drink and seated herself at a nearby table so that she could sip her whiskey in peace. She was just settling back into her chair when the door banged open and admitted a tall young man who was built like an ox.
Saryla glanced at him, and then did a double-take and glanced him over again. There was nothing particularly unique about him, but…
I know those eyes. I know that nose.
“Daryn,” she breathed, and the whiskey was forgotten in her hand as he turned in her direction. His sable gaze passed over her as he ran a hand through his tousled mop of dark hair- straight, now, like their father’s had been- and then he froze, and his eyes shot back to her just before a grin split his face in half.
“Saryla!” he crowed. Saryla’s eyebrows shot upwards as he all but bounded over to her table. A second later, her chair clattered to the floor. She was in his arms. He picked her bodily off her feet and swung her around in a circle, and despite herself, Saryla could not help but grin.
“Let me down, pazhyo!” Her exclamation rang off the walls, as did her laughter. Daryn chuckled and obeyed. For a second, he held her at arms’ length, scanning her up and down while she did the same.
After their mother’s death, Saryla and Daryn’s older brother had arranged for Daryn to be taken to the Ironworks, where he would learn to harness the Maker’s Gift with which he had been born, and since then, Saryla had glimpsed Daryn rarely. It had been a couple of years since she had seen him in more than passing; he had filled out a lot in that time. He must have weighed sixteen stone. His arms were like tree trunks.
“Good Lady, Daryn, what’ve they been feeding you over there?” Saryla finally asked. “You’re enormous!”
Daryn let go of her and made a show of examining himself, patting down his belly and thighs.
“Well, I didn’t think I’d put on that much weight.” He waggled an eyebrow at her, and hefted one arm, flexing a massive bicep. “Guess you’re talking about these, then?”
Saryla rolled her eyes and picked up her chair. “Of course. There’s not much to you, elsewhere.”
“Ouch.” His eyes danced in the dim candlelight. “So, what brings you here? I thought Novitiates didn’t really leave the Domicilium unless there was a ritual to be performed or a party to be had.”
Saryla chuckled, and gestured to the other chair at the table. Daryn flashed their mother’s roguish grin at her. A second later, he spun the chair out with a screech of wood on stone, and plunked himself gracelessly into it, straddling the back and resting his arms on its crest. The whole thing groaned faintly under his bulk. Saryla settled a little more carefully into her own chair and waved at the barkeep.
“An ale, please!” she called. He nodded, and Saryla turned back to her younger brother. “For your information, I just passed the Trial of the Pale three days ago. I’m a full-fledged Arcana, now.”
The barkeep deposited a tankard of ale on the table in front of Daryn, who then beamed at Saryla and lifted the cup in her direction.
“Congratulations!” he exclaimed, and Saryla smiled and tapped the edge of her glass against his. “Sacheiyi!”
“Sacheiyi,” she agreed, and they drank. For a second after, they were quiet, and then Saryla peered at her little brother over the rim of her glass. He was gazing around the room, sable eyes flitting from one face to the next; it was something that he had done since he was a child, and it was more comforting than Saryla wanted to admit, seeing that he had not lost that habit. “How about you? Have you passed your Trial, yet?”
Daryn sipped at his drink. “Last month. My first project as a real Forger after I passed the Trial of Fire was repairing a Crook. It was so intriguing! The intricacy of the mechanisms… It’s a beauty like nothing I’ve ever seen, before.”
Saryla’s smile slipped from her lips. The name of the item was familiar, but she could not place it. “Crook?”
Daryn was raising his tankard to his mouth again when she asked, but he blinked and lowered it, and then tilted his head to the side, gaze sweeping over Saryla’s face. She lifted her glass to her lips and took a swallow, savoring the burn of the whiskey as it slid down her throat and set her belly alight.
“You know what a Crook is, Saryla,” Daryn murmured, frowning. “The collapsible staff of office and primary weapon of the Shepherd Corps? They train with them in the Barracks’ yard every day? Every one of them carries one on his hip everywhere he goes?” He took a swig of his ale. “They have a blade that the wielder can lock out into either a scythe or a spear configuration.”
Right. Saryla remembered, now. The Shepherds carried batons that had switches on the side, which the Shepherds could push and extend the baton into a full-length staff with a mace-like counterweight on one end and a wicked-looking blade at the other. She glanced at the men at the other table. Sure enough, each of them was carrying a baton on him, whether at his hip, at his lower back, or over his shoulder.
“I remember,” she murmured, turning her gaze back to her brother. Daryn grinned.
“I even got to deliver it to the Camp.” He was almost bouncing in his seat, looking every inch the exuberant child he had once been. “Did you know, they don’t even have permanent housing, out there? They all live in large leather tents and sleep on cots. When they’re on the range, they don’t even have that much. They simply wrap themselves and their dogs in their plaids and sleep on the ground.”
Saryla glanced at the window, and shivered. The snow was three feet deep outside. Almost as though the Lady had noticed Saryla’s attention, the wind picked up into a howl that rattled the heavy wooden shutters that covered the windows. Not for the first time, she was glad she had not been given to the Shepherd Corps as a child.
“What about frostbite? Isn’t that a problem?” She paused. “Aren’t they worried about gangrene?”
Daryn shrugged and took another swig of his ale. “The Camp has braziers that they burn peat bricks in. I don’t know what they do when they’re ranging on patrol, but I’d imagine they find some way to keep warm.” He paused, and then his eyebrows shot up his forehead, and he hummed in the back of his throat. He set his tankard back on the table and leaned toward Saryla. “I met Finn’s Pack while I was there.”
Ice sloshed down Saryla’s spine. Finn’s Pack.
“You did?” She glanced at her glass. The whiskey was gone. She glanced at the barkeep and waved for another.
Daryn nodded. “Yeah. The Shepherd whose Crook I repaired is one of the more recent replacements. Name of Porynn Alinov.”
He smiled and waved to one of the Shepherds in the corner when the man glanced at them, and the Shepherd beamed and waved back. His cheeks were ruddy with drink. A sudden warmth and the faintest disturbance of the air at Saryla’s side preceded the soft thunk of glass hitting wood, and Saryla glanced up at the barkeep and nodded her gratitude. He returned the gesture and refilled her glass.
“Replacement?” she asked. Daryn nodded.
“It’s a dangerous job, what I hear,” he murmured into the head of foam on his ale. When he looked back up at her, his gaze was serious. “I asked after Finn, you know. He wasn’t there at the time.”
Saryla swallowed the sip of whiskey she had just taken. Her pleasure in the drink had vanished abruptly.
“Seems he was injured, recently.” Daryn stared at her, his expression neutral. “Four broken ribs and a cracked collarbone. Porynn said something about an Arcana’s spell going awry and nearly crushing him.”
Saryla scowled down at her drink, and said nothing. She would not react. She did not want to react. She felt Daryn’s eyes on her for a moment, and then he scoffed, and when she looked back up at him, he was shaking his head, nose wrinkled.
“Typical,” he muttered as he raised his tankard to his lips again. He glared at her when he settled his tankard back on the table. “You know he wanted nothing to do with the Lady’s Gift. Why do you continue blaming him?”
They had already had this discussion many times before. Somehow, their interactions always led back to their brother, and to his supposed lack of fault concerning their parents’ deaths. It was to the point where Saryla developed heartburn every time Daryn mentioned their brother and the Gifts in the same sentence. She was sick of it.
Saryla snarled at her younger brother. Little, tingling jolts of the Arcane shot up her arms from her fingertips, and a sudden hush fell over the tavern.
“He stole Mother’s Gift- the Gift that should’ve been mine! And that’s not even counting what he did to Father-”
“You know that’s not true, Saryla!” Daryn was openly scowling. “It’s not Finn’s fault that Father died-”
“You weren’t even born, yet! How would you know?”
“I’ve read all of the reports!” He slammed his fist down on the tabletop. “And you know as well as I do that he had no choice at all in inheriting Mother’s Gift, just as you and I had no choice at all in whether or not we heard the Lady’s Song or the Maker’s Chant. Your insistence on holding this senseless grudge is childish and pointless, especially when he’s with the Shepherds. He could be killed any day, Saryla.”
He pushed back from the table and got to his feet. Just then, with that black look on his face and his hands clenched into fists on the tabletop, Saryla was made fully aware of how big his six-foot, sixteen-stone frame truly was. “What do you think you’ll do, when you receive news of his sacrifice and you’ve done nothing but dismiss and scoff at him your entire lives?”
That uncomfortable feeling scratched at the back of her mind. She pushed it away. Saryla sneered at him and gracefully lifted herself from her chair.
“I will dance a merry jig around his bier on the day he dies,” she growled. “As you say, I’ve dismissed and scoffed at him our entire lives. What makes you think I care to change that now?”
She knocked back the last of her whiskey, turned on her heel, and left Daryn standing at the table. He could pick up the bill. The wind bit straight through her cloak as she stormed out into the night, more disturbed than she had been when she had entered the tavern. Saryla cursed Daryn and his sanctimonious defense of their elder brother. What did Daryn know? He had always liked her twin better than he liked her, anyway. Of course he would side with him.
Saryla stomped her way back up the road to the Domicilium, and ignored the unease niggling at the back of her mind.