Once upon a time, a little girl wrote a novel, and she thought it was brilliant. Said little girl sent many a query, and received many a pass in a self-addressed, stamped envelope. (So were the days, once upon a time.)
Today this little girl reads and sells terrific novels, and maybe just a little bit, in her spare time, tinkers with a new one of her own.
The heart of Emperor Lukas has rotten black, and he moves to finish the thousandth year of imperial ethnic cleansing—secretly seeking artificial means to extend the lifespan of royal blood, beginning with his own.
Desperate to forever secure this imperial dynasty, what remains is for him to destroy the impossibly-traced diaspora of the Vanished: gypsy believers in the legend of a living flame that creates life itself. Were its power salvageable, off-the-grid gypsies could rise to thwart his persecution and imperial destiny both. He will forfeit no end to find the last of them, including manipulating the galaxy’s rain to dehydrate them into extinction.
What Lukas does not expect is that the flame is working out an end of its own, and its chosen instruments lie in a past-less rain tracker from inside the imperial kingdom—of all places—and a gypsy girl raised by the flame itself.
Soon, all will discover that imperial pride bears no match to this flame, and unless the galaxy is returned to right order, skies will turn to fire, stars will fall like ashes, and all its people, royal blood or no, will drop like swamp flies.
RAINBORNE is a 140,000-word epic science fantasy, a deep thriller element integrated, Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky meets Treasure Planet for adults.
Before men forgot, they spoke of me in whispers.
Whispered legends, which bestowed power over the earth.
Bestowed glory, for they were to be like gods.
I hear different legends now.
Mothers to daughters, fathers to sons.
They are legends of men who bear within them a kind of dying living. Of men who survive in body, their eyes empty of softness and light and destiny. Of men who pass living death from one generation to the next, as their hearts no longer live to love.
These men would be corpses were it not for the unity of their body, which keeps integrated their organs with their mind, and their will, and their heart despite its death.
These hearts have ceased to live in the fire, and so it is that—where otherwise the world inside of one truly alive brims with flames, releases the sweet perfume of union with others, and bears me inside, in full presence—these dead know none of it.
Their hearts hang within them, dying.
Skeletal hearts, for skeletal lives.
The sniper comes to the academy with the sandstorms.
Raph watches from the observatory as she emerges over the gates, small and cautious, a pack over her shoulder, and leaps to the cobblestones in silk moccasins. Swirls of bronzed gold heave behind her, alive and roaring against imperial walls, a crystal sky their very distant backdrop. Sand wipes across her cheeks, and she tucks her face into the linen of her shoulder, seeking an angle at which she can breathe.
It is Lukas III who has called her.
He will soon send her with a rifle to strike against diasporas beyond these walls: bullets through brains and hearts and muscles, guaranteed expulsions of blood, bodies skinned in statements of royal hegemony.
Stories of the martyred ones leave sulfur along the lining of Raph’s stomach. He has never seen them, but the very promise of more stories of ravaged bodies turns him to his post. His palm tests his lamp for its heat as pieces crystallize in his mind: The grander ships, docked more often. A constant flow of military gear through hall arches with long, lean rifles. Shackled prisoners shuffled in behind guards, with skin shades new, some a darker, richer hazel, others so pale that Raph muses whether sunlight ever touches them.
He moves the flame housed in the lamp to the thread that runs through the wiring of the wall, lights it, and watches it shred eastward toward the imperial tower, gentle beneath the sandy onslaught that threatens to kill it.
Awake, this flame says.
For she has come.
In a shack built into a deserted island, the Vanished track oncoming rainstorms in the height of black nights. When rainfall moves closer to the island globe hanging in mid-sky, the commune of the Vanished emerges in forbidden quiet, in hidden solitude, to hold vases open to the gift of life that falls.
Their arms loop around ceramic and gold, vases etched and marked by use. When the Vanished feel the tears of rain over the vase rims, and know them to be full, they descend to store supplements in dark, musty cellars.
Quiet, and solitary.
Cool to the touch.
In cellars the vases stand, from which the Vanished draw when the rare drought slams its impact over territories lost to imperial maps. Nighttime militia never checks these posts, but were the commune to be found stealing rain, the emperor would drive his stake home until their heads fell.
In the autumn watch a year prior, rain did not come: a drought. Droughts can be expected, in the same way certain years pass without snowfall to enchant the inhabitants of islands lost to memory.
Now: the second season passes without rain, and the skies stand empty.
Nel of the Vanished bends her head before the thought. The commune has never risked dehydration, and certainly not extinction by dehydration. But vessels in the cellars have stood dry for weeks.
Just one vase, lined with gold centuries old, holds in a fresh collection left sunsets ago by nomadic fishermen in thanksgiving, ese molecules from the isa yet to split. Another six weeks shall pass before this split, and in that time, cups of it will evaporate, victim to time.
That will be too long.
Po needs isa to brew hleb, to enflame human hearts.
Go too long without it, and the hardening of the heart begins. Nighttime screams escape as lungs and brains of the Vanished suffocate without nourishment, the integrity of heart to mind to body shattered.
Gifts weaken, then cease.
Love, with its union, crumbles—the last of the heart before it dies entirely. Then, death lurks upon the members of the commune, final.
Nel’s heart clenches.
Behind her, the Vanished stand, all heads bowed.
A mourning before firm skies impregnated with silence.
Where the Vanished once kept to the promise of re-awakening, re-appearing, returning home, this same promise now feels empty and impossible.
Po steps before all of them.
“And so it is,” he says. “We shall move.”
Move into the open, and risk, thus, life.