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
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.
men forgot, they spoke of me in whispers.
which bestowed power over the earth.
Bestowed glory, for they were to be like
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. Men who survive in
body, eyes empty of softness and light and destiny, and pass living death from
one generation to the next. Their hearts no longer live, and they would be
corpses were it not for the unity of body that keeps integrated their organs,
their mind and their will, 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 an infinitely full
presence—the dead know none of it, walking the earth as shells dark with
sniper comes to the academy with the sandstorms.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
be too long.
isa to brew hleb, to enflame human hearts.
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.
weaken, then cease.
its union, crumbles—the last of the heart before it dies entirely. Then, death lurks
upon the members of the commune, final.
her, the Vanished stand, all heads bowed.
before firm skies impregnated with silence.
Vanished once kept to the promise of re-awakening, re-appearing, returning
home, this same promise now feels empty and impossible.
before all of them.
“And so it is,” he says. “We shall move.”
Move into the open, and risk, thus, life.
his lips as Andres slams down a card with a hand-sketched dagger, its length
barely the size of the pointer finger, designed to rupture throats, and grins.
“Say it one
more time,” Raph says. “You what?”
“Saw her, yesterday. We should fine her. Cobalt eyes, this one.”
The one about whom he is not permitted to speak.
Hairs on Raph’s neck stand on edge as memory flicks backward. He saw her also, sent he was to observe, but the rule Lukas always has is that only one observes whilst the others sleep. For many to catch her would be a risk to many a heart and mind; the men would seek after her in the mornings, and busy their gazes with her figure instead of their codes, the numbers with which they play, the dances which they prepare.
How Raph wishes to know more before the sniper leaves grounds: the chance for one question, or one story of past targets shot. The librarian this morning could not explain to Raph why Lukas insists on the return of skulls to hang in the throne room, and he wonders whether, in her arrival on imperial grounds, she brings with her any answers, any context, any stories from foreign lands that have gone untold in this one.
Perhaps she might even test a snipe.
It would be bloody worth it to find her.
From the west wall, with half an hour to spare before the next test, amid an attempt to salvage his honor, there is nothing he may do to realize his wish.
A naval cap
hangs skewed over Andres’ head, an attempt to loosen the pieces of himself over
which he has some control—in the hours free prior to the next training run,
when it will be all perfect edges, ironed trousers, shoulders pitched back,
fingers together. He reshuffles his cards, quick and sure, a toss of one set
from his right to left.
“Play,” he says.
his own cards, and lays out two imperial crowns. He knows that Andres, with his
memory, has counted every card played, and has bets in his mind on each one
that remains in hand. The plays are running hard toward his loss. Again.
Andres moves his hand
halfway to the table with a card before he pulls his arm back to reconsider.
Raph snaps. “Oh, come on! Bollocks!” He slams his fist, and the
table reverberates fury. “What do you mean,
you saw a sniper?”
“Came in as the sun was setting…”
Andres, Raph thinks, needs a good
whipping. The first target the smirk on his face.
“She had the rifle and scope with her, and was carrying one of those full-length packs on her back.”
“Think Master will say something?” Raph asks.
Concerned. Andres saw her too, when he was not supposed to.
Saw more than him, maybe, but he cannot ask for the details. He has already crossed over his boundaries.
If we ask?
“Course not.” Andres gives Raph a hard stare, then sighs. “Ye always expect him to put more effort into telling the truth than ye ought, you know. The man doesn’t have it in him.”
Not that Master Tomas lies. He speaks
only when he must. Which is, Raph thinks, very much a kind of lying.
They all lie.
The Master of
Trackers, who trains him, and Emperor Lukas VI, who sends him, alongside the
imperials guardians and their tomes that acquire library dust on shelves in
They all lie, if lying includes rewriting history—or denying events that make history up. A standing by, as if it doesn’t matter that a story told without all the details means that those details won’t survive. Or cannot survive, when the emperor burns whole passages of poets in their first and sixth editions both, alongside carved statues with such perfect etches that curiosity arises in Raph about the makers of the tools even before the sculptors who carve.
trace of the limits to storytelling he discovered with a streak of bitterness
with the story of his own origins. Their status: unknown. Just an
indecipherable letter, damaged in a pool of spilled tea, left with his little
body upon an imperial doorstep eighteen years ago. Some mothers abandon.
The second trace lies in the tomes themselves, when curiosity about his own person opens a curiosity with all persons. He picks them up, shifts them from one hand to the other, and traces his hands over parchment ridged, a habit never old—then runs his imagination through facts contained within until they dance as living stories in his mind, to take shape when he awakens from slumber and follow him until he lies down again. Sometimes they blur even with his dreams, and on the days after, his heart aches to break through the structure of the academy, to step past the books and empire and see the facts beyond. To watch facts be written, so that he can better grasp the art of history-making as he has had twelve years to grasp the art of tracking.
Years into reading as a novice imperial historian he realized he wanted an answer to the one unasked question: Why an imperial history at all?
He dared to
pose the question, to speak it out loud in words sounded with desire. Mistress
Coralie, at the library front desk, with a bent in her back grown by years
behind it, neglected him with a firm purse of her lips.
Raph tried once, twice, thrice more,
and left her to records. The question persists.
Something in him inquires.
The highest of
his cards is a double-rifle, so he sets it, and takes the cards on the table
into his hands. Thirteen more to discard now.
down a sniper—oh, the games chance plays on card players—and shines his teeth
at Raph with a tip of his head.
can’t do this anymore.” Raph sets his down, and punches in with a fisted hand,
a dramatic flair. The phoenix on his neck, calligraphy of the thickest paint,
gazes out from unformed eyes.
“Ye mean it?”
Half-serious, as if Andres believes him.
The poor bastard would
not survive the academy without cards. Only reason Raph plays him.
“Not at all.” Raph muffles words against the table before he raises his head and slips the scorecard between them. “One hundred games played—and I’ve lost eighty-three.”
And wins are the ones you
He has learned that Andres is the most excellent of card players, without habit of losing, especially with a game of crowns and daggers. “So much hope for me, Andres. So much. I had best absolutely give it up now, entirely, before you butcher this reputation I ought maintain. First on track for corporal, you know.” He juts his chin.
laughs, and sounds his maturity, a small hint of pride in games won. Raph rises
up and fists Andres’ head into the crook of his elbow, his uncut blonde hair
loosing from its catch, the other hand hard against the other’s chin. “You’re
lucky to have such a memory for
cards, you rat, because otherwise there’d be no chance.”
The shaking of laughter
in Andres’ shoulders loosens Raph’s grip.
knows it, Andres has wrapped one hand up behind his back, onto his shoulder,
and dragged him to the floor.
Raph’s weight is light, and it takes just one adjustment, with Andres above
him, to push this weight into his arms and flip back to the place of judge.
His hand rests against
Andres’ throat. Tighten a little more, and he could kill him.
Bells ring from the
eastern wall, then: high noon.
They are late—these the lessons they learn, and practice.