Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Featured Author: Ken Mooney's Godhead sample

Here is a free sample from Godhead by Ken Mooney

Olympus would soon be in ruins.
The sky overheadburned, smoke and flames licking against a blue dome that arced overhead. That
same sky should have been free of clouds, save for when the rains were permitted to come and tend
the land.
   But a black fog had come to spoil its perfect clarity, a thick creature of embers and ashes that
haunted the sky, attacking eyes and lungs. Its tendrils whipped through the air, branches of smoke
reaching forward in the darkness, ready to wrap their arms around the city.
 War had come to Olympus, and it would not be quick to leave: it had worked its way through the
city’s streets, into its buildings, into the homes and hearts of the city’s inhabitants. It had spread like a
sickness, a virus that gathered momentum as it had grown in strength, consuming everything it
touched.
 Only one place had remained untouched by battle, but even here, the signs of war could not
be ignored: the Great Temple dominated Olympus’ skyline, giving a view of the city with its
mountainous walls on all sides. Smoke obscured the view, but as the thickbillows ebbed and flowed,
the Great Temple provided a singular watchtower forthe city’s destruction.
 The temple was set atop a stone plateau that rose in the centre of the city; its sides were steep, rising near-vertical from the ground, dark greys lined with gold and marble veins that reflected
always-dazzling sunlight. A single flight of steps led up these sharp sides, hewn into the rockface,
white marble marching steeply towards the temple’s doors. These steps were a symbol, a test: they
were not there to be climbed. They were a penance that visitors should undergo before the gods would entertain them, before they would be allowed access to the temple. As one climbed the steps, the temple rose ahead, filling the gaze,a vast courtyard before it that served as meeting place and statuary.
 Curved colonnades embraced this plaza,much as the mountains
embraced the city below: in each archway stood a different sculpture, heroic figures forged of gold,
hewn from marble and stone, keeping watch on this hallowed
place.
 The Great Temple itself rose behind another twelve mighty steps; the building was round, so vast
that its size and shape could only be appreciated from the city far below where its white marble
burned as a second sun in the daylight, remained an unmoving moon in the twilight. The walls were
punctuated with small balconies and windows, walkways and stairs snaking their way between them.
 But these could not be seen from the courtyard: from here, the temple’s greatest feature was its doors.
 Constructed from the same marble as the building, the doors were flush with its surface, decorated
with gold etchings and jewels. These doors were usually open, welcoming visitors inside after their
harsh climb. But at this time, the doors had been sealed, closed against the world outside.
This was the home of the gods, and war had come to their city.

 The vast room behind the Great Temple’s doors did not have a name: it was a throne room, a
council chamber, a place of festivities that occupied the entirety of this level. Twelve balconies lined
the room, giving access to just some of the pathways and chambers thatled to the other parts of the
Temple. The walls of this room rose high, forming an incomplete dome in the centre of the ceiling,
open to the usually perfect sky beyond. But now it admitted only smoke and ash: the absent sunlight
cast the edges of the room in significant shade.
 Opposite the door, a large throne dominated the room: like much about the temple, it was hewn from perfectly white marble, but this was unblemished with any veins, an oddity in itself. It had no identifying features save for its size, wide enough for several men to sit in, high enough at the back that even were a man to stand on the seat, he would not be able to reach its top.
 But this room’s most dominating aspect, its most unusual feature, was the pool in the centre of the
floor: many believed that the pool was endless, that its depths reached into the very bowels of the earth itself, deeper than any man, mortal or god, could go. Even as the gods had built their temple into the rock beneath this place, they had found the ground beneath this pool unyielding. At its centre was a tree, a bark of silver-white wood that shimmered with light, even in this dark hour. The tree grew from the water itself, its roots stretching just under the surface. It was always in bloom, regardless of the season, always shimmering with a white light that cast rainbows through the
water underneath and the marble walls of the room. Some of its blossom had fallen, white petals
floating on the smooth water below, clinging to life even as other flora would have drowned.
The Olympians had no formal name for this tree: it had been here longer than the city, would no
doubt remain even after the walls around it had crumbled. But they knew the truth of its fruit
: this was the source of their powers, the very thing that had made their ancestors gods. Many of them believed that the tree was linked to their souls, that if they died, their Essence would return to this place and passed onto another.

The war already had a high cost: if this story was true, many of the gods had already returned to
the tree.This great room, usually bustling with life, was empty save for one woman, bent low as she stared into the hidden depths of the pool. As she stood to pace, she glanced at the great doors, toying with the idea of leaving the relative safety of the temple, wondering what awaited her beyond the walls. If the gods of Olympus had a queen, this was she. Hera, keeper of the Great Temple, wife of Zeus, and one of the few gods not armed for the battle outside. The gods had no qualms about women on the battlefield, so Hera’s absence was not due to some misogyny. Hera and her capable powers were to be the last defence; if the Great Temple were to fall, Hera had been left explicit instructions, a final effort that could either save or damn the city.
 On the eve of battle, Zeus had sought her counsel, whispering to her of love, of honour, of duty. In
Hera, Zeus had sown the seeds of a plan, of a victory for the gods, a victory that necessitated her
survival; if the gods were to survive, Hera would be the instrument of their salvation. The other gods
knew of his plan: he gave them the courtesy of voicing their disagreement and their
dissent, but it remained a courtesy. All of the gods knew the dangers that they would face, knew
the toils that battle had already taken on their kind. The gods did not love Hera, not like they loved Zeus; what deference they showed her was tied to her age, to her powers and her position. Even 
as they bowed before her, they did not lower their eyes. It was her own fault: she had done little
to earn their trust, allowing herself to be consumed with challenging the purity of her husband’s bastard children, of clinging to the Olympian throne. Her pride had made her many enemies, 
most of them in her own family. But as that family had withered and fallen to war, Hera had 
realised the error of her ways for one reason alone: Hera feared for herlife.
 She bent once more, white and cream skirts gathered around her so she could kneel low, drifting one hand through the waters of the pool and sending ripples across its surface. The water sent fire
through her senses; at once warm and cool, at once permissive and resisting her touch. In its waters, her reflection was that of a much older woman than she remembered, her hair and face turned grey and blue by the waters’ depths.
 A whip-crack of sound caused her to start, rising to her full height and letting the skirts fallfrom
her lap. She dressed simply, as did most of the gods, beige robes covering her shoulders but leaving
her arms bare, a fine golden braid tied around her waist and hanging loose on her right side. In her
auburn hair she wore a simple golden diadem, two golden bars criss-crossing in waves.
  She turned to find Hermes mere feet behind her: in the vastness of the chamber, he was startlingly
close. His robe was loose around his waist, hanging above his knees, his smooth chest bare to the
elements, legs strapped into leather sandals. He wore a crimson cloak draped around his shoulders,
hanging loose down his back as he leaned on his staff for support, a spiral of wood decorated with
gold as tall as he was, the spiral doubling and twisting apart as the staff approached its tip.
 “My queen, I came as soon as I could.”
His eyes darted low, refusing to meet her gaze.
“Hermes?” Hera’s tone was brisk, pointed. She had enough of her time alone in this room; if Hermes had come with news, she would prefer that he share it. She stepped forward, her heart beating fast as he turned his face; he would not look at her, turning away as she tried to search his features. She knew that Hermes would not abandon the battle were it not necessary; she feared the worse.
 Her hand touched his chin, pulling his face to look at her own: even as she did so, his eyes
moved away. His face was red, nearly as red as his cloak; his eyes were dark, burnt by smoke and tears. A long gash broke his youthful features, torn into his face, wet with blood as it stretched from his right eye down to his lip.
“My queen.”
He looked at her, tears falling freely.
“It is Zeus. Your...Zeus has fallen.


Read the rest of the free sample here:http://kenmooneybooks.com/index.php/books/godhead/read-the-teaser


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