Child of the Kaites: Chapter 33

Find previous chapters here.

“Do something!”  The sultan, minus his wheat crown, calls for our attention.  He flicks a wrist toward the fire wall.  “Speak to your divinity.  Save us from this fire.”

The royals encircle him, standing this time.  The statues of Api still stand inanimate under Yza’s flowing textiles, but the idols hold no one’s attention today.  The scent of smoke is too strong.  The amber flames sway, encapsulating the capital in heat, dividing it from the rest of the world.

It takes a moment to reclaim my voice.  “As you wish.  Aia, Father of all creation, please relent from Your anger and save us from this fire.”  I lift my eyes to the specks of ierah visible between the textiles as I speak.

Unlike my declaration of Aia’s burning wrath, this time the effects are immediately visible.  The flames fall to the ground like a snuffed candle.  In a blink, no fire remains.

The sultan sends servants to inspect the city’s edge.  “Find what has caused this terrible wonder,” he orders.

We wait in tense silence, no one moving from our places, until the servants return, running.  One clutches something wrapped in the hem of her skirt.  “There is no fire,” the servants exclaim.  “The ground is even cool to touch!  The only proof of the fire is this,” and a servant girl unwraps what she had hidden.  Sunlight glints off of it as she hands it to the sultan.

“Marvelous,” he wonders, turning the shard over.  “So clear and smooth.  Where did you find this?”

The servant girl bows her head to the ground.  “O our great Sultan, glass like this surrounds the whole city, where the heat from the fire melted the sand.”

The royals are quiet.

Savi says, “O our sultan and O our royals, you have seen the power of Aia-Thaies.  Will you release Maraiah from slavery?”

Bathatyz, the woman who prompted the sultan to hear us out two nights ago, whispers in his ear.  He frowns and gives a sharp nod at what she says, then in a loud voice orders, “Summon the court magicians.  We shall compare their power to yours.”

The servants disappear into the palace, and the magicians emerge almost immediately.  They bow before the sultan, glancing at each other nervously.

“You saw what these Maraians did,” the sultan says.  “Can you replicate their sign?”

One of the magicians speaks with a shaking voice.  “O our sultan, we will try to surpass their sign.  We will bring fire out of water.”

The servants wheel out a bath of water, and my suspicions rise.  They were planning their response before we were called out.  Is this just a pretense?

The magicians circle the water, where they mutter together.  Their voices rise, and their words become clearer.  I recognize the name of Tivan Firebringer, but I also recognize something else.  I grab Savi’s arm.

This is the first time I’ve heard the tongue of aivenkaites come from the mouths of living humans.

As they chant, the water in the bath sloshes back and forth.  Their chanting grows.  The water contorts.  Fire flares up, blue at its core.  The magicians roar aivenkaite words, raising their hands, and the flame also rises.  It dances with hideous shapes from dark nightmares.

The magicians stop chanting.  The flames linger for a horrible moment, living on their own.

Then they flicker out, and I loosen my grip on Saviayr.

The sultan crosses his arms.  “See the power of Tivan Firebringer?  Your Aia has failed to impress me.  Can He bring fire from water?”

Anger and the compulsion to speak fill me.  “Here is your second sign: You polluted the waters of this land with the bodies of Aia’s children.  Now, Aia says, ‘All life within them will cease, and they will rot and stink with the foulness of death.  Then you will know that I am greater than Havil Defender of Rivers.’

“You can prevent this,” I add in my own voice.  All life in the rivers dead–that will be a terrible thing.  In droughts or poor harvests, the river’s fish sustain us.  “Free Aia’s people, and no more harm will come to you.”

“May your Aia be content with this: I will let you stay out of prison, at least for now,” the sultan declares.  “I will never surrender my slaves.”

I open my mouth to protest, to proclaim the destruction his decision will bring, but Saviayr takes my hand.  “Thank you.”  Savi bows.  “We will be outside the city if you need us.  Come on, Drigo.”

We don’t speak until we lose sight of the palace.  With each step, I expect heavy footsteps to chase us.  I don’t believe the sultan’s word that he will let us go.

But no soldiers come to drag us back to prison.  At least for now, the sultan honors his word.

When we reach the tents on the outskirts of the capital, packed with Feast celebrators whispering about the wall of fire, Drigo pulls on Savi and my elbows.  “Okay, so explain to me what’s happening.  You’re actually Champion-ing?”  He spins to walk backward in front of us.  “That wasn’t just a story?”

I brush by a man sweeping the rubbish gathered in front of his stall.  He grunts and keeps on sweeping.  No one here glances twice at us.

“Of course we’re actually being Champions,” I say.  “Not all of us lie and betray our friends just for personal gain.”

“Ouch.”  Drigo grimaces.  “I didn’t know you had it in you, Rai.”

Savi looks sideways at me, but doesn’t say anything.

“It’s fair, though.”  Drigo twists to walk face-forward again, dropping back beside me.

“How’d you get arrested?” Savi asks.

Drigo snorts.  “Laen sold me and the treasure out for entrance into Altik’s crew.”


“Yep.  But seriously, what’s the plan?  What are you up to?”

I stop and squint at him.  “Drigo, do you honestly expect us to tell you that?  When you abandoned us without supplies?”  I need to know, before we show him to our camp.

“Hey, I’m with you now.  Can’t blame a bandit for being, well, a bandit, can you?”  Then he sobers.  “I don’t have any better options than sticking with you.  If you’re actually being suicidal and trying to get your people free…Heck, I saw what happened back in the canyon, with the crazy storm and your glowing sword.  I saw that fire with my own two eyes just now.  I’m betting you were responsible for that?”  He raises an eyebrow.

I look at Savi.  “Aia was responsible,” he corrects.

Drigo rolls his eyes.  “Yeah, but He wasn’t doing anything like that till you two came along, right?”

I shrug in answer.

“So, you’ve got a real chance, best as I figure.  I stick with you and it’ll be a ride, that’s for sure.  I’ll either end up dead or free.  Either way, I’ll see the craziest stuff I’ve ever seen,” Drigo finishes.  “Besides, if I run into Altik again, I’m a dead man.”

I sigh and start walking again.  “Fine.  I don’t trust you, but we’ll play along.  We’re demanding Maraiah’s freedom from the sultan and royals.  Since they’ve refused, Aia is…how would you explain it, Savi?”

Savi’s lips twitch up.  “Aia’s introducing Himself to the Izyphorns by discrediting their divinities.”

“No kidding?” Drigo says.  “Well, this should be interesting.  Hey wait, where are we going?”

We started descending the great ramp around the capital while talking.  Part way down, we pass beside a gigantic wooden wheel, striking in the day where we passed it by unnoticed in the night.  Buckets dangle from the outside of the wheel, which hangs by spokes on a pole driven into the mesa’s side below us.  I crane my neck and see a bucket tip as it reaches the wheel’s zenith, no doubt pouring its contents into the vat at the top of a water trough.  I edge as close to the side of the ramp as I dare and peer down, where the buckets disappear under a trench running with water from the mighty Havilim.

So that’s how they provide water for the largest city on Orrock.

“We’re going to the camp,” Savi answers Drigo.  “Hopefully everyone else is there safe.”

“Hoenna said he’d take care of Nihae,” I tell Savi.

“That’s good.  I hoped he was.”  Savi lets out a breath.

The ramp levels out at the base of the mesa, and we follow it to the south.  The hawk-like kak-kak-kak of the axex warns we’re near the camp.  “What the…” Drigo frowns.

Savi smirks.  “Just wait till you see this.”

No sooner has he said that than a large axex, Forziel’s friend, swoops toward us, screeching.  Just before it reaches us, the axex flares its wings and lands.

Drigo screams and flinches back.  Savi and I burst into laughter.

“Lightning,” Forziel calls.  “What’re you getting up to?”  He appears at a jog and breaks into a grin when he sees us.  “You’re back!”

Drigo hides behind us, pointing at the creature.  “What–what is that thing?”

Forziel plants his fists on his hips.  “That is no thing.  That’s Lightning, my axex.”

Liwin, never far behind Forziel, comes around the bend.  “Hiyya, Rai, Savi,” he says. “Drigo, you’re back?”

Drigo won’t take his eyes off the axex.  He grunts.  “Does it eat people?”

“I mean, not if they don’t make it angry,” Forziel answers.  “Or not if they aren’t dead.  Now that I think about it, they might be scavengers.”

“You wanna hear my joke?” Liwin asks.  “What do you get when a lion marries a hawk?”

Forziel intones, “Gee, I don’t know.  What do you get?”

Liwin starts laughing before he finishes saying, “I don’t know, why don’t you axex them yourself?”

Forziel laughs along with Liwin.  “It’s not true,” he explains.  “The axex don’t come from lions or hawks, but it’s funny every time.”

“Are you still telling that joke?” Hoenna calls.  “Let the Champions be.”

Liwin grins at us.  “Dad’s just teasing. He thinks it’s hilarious.  But come on, what are you waiting over here for?”  With a wave, he leads us over the short distance left to camp.

“So, how’d you get out of prison?” Forziel asks.  “And did you see that crazy fire earlier?  And where’d you find Drigo?”

Savi pats his back.  “Let’s wait until we’re all together, so we only have to tell the story once,” he suggests.

Drigo gives Forziel’s axex a wide berth.  When the camp comes into sight, the rest of the axex rove around between us and our friends.  The Kedi mumbles and sidesteps them with great care.

“Welcome back,” Hoenna says.  Then he sees Drigo.  In a blink, Hoenna covers the distance between them and slams his fist into Drigo’s face.

Drigo shouts and clutches his eye.  “What was that for?”

“That’s for stealing from us, your crew,” Hoenna scowls.  Then he smacks Drigo’s back.  “But it’s good to see you again.  Glad you weren’t killed by salamanders or Altik’s crew.”

Meanwhile, Nihae hurries to hug Savi.  “Where have you been?” she scolds.

He squeezes her back.  “We had a bit of trouble, but we’re okay now.  How are you, Mama?”

While they talk, I scan the gathered faces, relieved to see everyone safe and sound.  Then my eyes light on someone else.  Leaning in the corner, lazy grin on his face, is Nhardah.

Share your thoughts down below, and I’ll see y’all next week 🙂

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Surprise Treat: Character Interview

Remember that time when E.B. Dawson interviewed me for her blog?  As amazing as it was, it was only the beginning of our friendship.  Since then, I’ve gotten to know Beth more (yes, we’ve bonded over sharing the same name), and let me tell you: She’s incredible!

Furthermore, and probably of more interest to you, she writes amazing books.  I’ve loved reading her Out of Darkness and Into the Void (read my review of the former here).  And now, I’m eagerly anticipating the release of The Traveler. You can read the synopsis of The Traveler on Dawson’s website or at the bottom of this post, but I have something exciting for us to read first.  Here is an “interview” I conducted with Anissa Robson, the main character of The Traveler.

(Yes, I know it’s technically impossible to meet a fictional character, but please extend your disbelief long enough to fall in love with this one 🙂 )

Me: Anissa, it’s such a pleasure to meet you. I’ve heard hints about your story, and am intrigued to learn more about you. To start off, I’m not very familiar with the name “Anissa.” Can you tell us a little about the meaning behind your name? Did your parents pick it for any particular reason?

Anissa: I have no idea why they named me what they did. I guess I never thought about it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it had some sort of meaning. They would do something like that. When I was a kid I used to think that everything happened for a reason and life was one big story, because they were always framing things that way. But that was a long time ago.

Me: Your parents sound interesting!  It sounds like your life has taken a turn for the uncertain.  In this time, what are three of your favorite things?

Anissa: I love it when my house doesn’t talk back to me. I love walking. And I love the lower levels of the library where the old literature books are. But those aren’t available to the public anymore.

Me: How dreadful!  I share your love of old literature books.  I’m sorry they’ve been banned for you.  Since I’ve come from a distant region to talk to you, could you tell me a little about your homeland?

Anissa: I live in the Democratic Republic of Riyen. It’s a nation-state bordered by mountains on one side and the ocean on another. It’s not a terrible place to live. It just seems like lately everyone’s obsessed with technological advancement and efficiency. And sometimes the people in government pass these laws (like closing up the lower levels of the library) that make it seem like they are afraid of something.

Me: Interesting.  If you could choose (or invent) any career, what would you choose?

Anissa: Why is everyone so preoccupied with careers? That’s another thing my country is obsessed with: training people up for careers. Everyone works in offices all day to come up with new inventions to take care of our basic needs so that we have more time to come up with new inventions. It doesn’t make much sense to me. It almost feels like we have forgotten our purpose in living. My dad would probably say I should be a philosopher. But I don’t want to sit around talking about ideas. I guess I don’t know what I want.

Me: That…is surprisingly relatable.  Maybe our homelands aren’t so different, after all.  Well, to wrap up our interview, what do you think makes something an adventure?

Anissa: The best adventures happen with people who don’t judge you, are set in new and exciting places, involve a little bit of danger, make you cry and laugh, and they always leave you forever changed.

Me: That sounds amazing!  I hope you get to experience just such an adventure.  Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.


Anissa Robson is becoming an adult in a society she never really identified with. Forced to choose her career path, she becomes an apprentice to a young, headstrong politician who seems to stand for everything she disagrees with. The dreams she has refused to report grow more alluring to her as she becomes disillusioned with her job. But the lines between reality and her dreamland begin to blur and cross over, launching her onto a path she would never have chosen for herself. Is the government medicating dreamers to protect them? Or to hide something from them?

There you have it, folks!  If you’re as intrigued as I am, mark your calendars for September 15th, The Traveler‘s release date.  While you’re at it, follow E.B. Dawson on Twitter (and follow me, too)!

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 32

No preamble today, folks. Life’s crazy, and I hope you are well. Here’s Chapter 32:

Eight people already fill the cell that is barely twice as long and wide as I am tall.  A pot full of stinking human excrement occupies a corner.  When the guards shove us inside, they remove a bowl containing the last remnant of slop that was probably the prisoners’ meal.  The two smallest and thinnest inmates cast dark looks at the rest.  I guess the dining etiquette here is strongest eat, weakest watch.

The door clangs.  The only light comes from a small window at the top of the door.

Our new roommates stare at us with calculating expressions.  Savi’s arm wraps around my shoulder, and I try to look as intimidating as possible.

“What’s your crime?” asks a burly man, probably Carinite by his nose and cheek structure.

“We want Maraiah freed,” Savi answers.

“So does all your kin,” our interrogator says.  “What makes you different?”

“We threatened them with signs from Aia our God,” I say.

An Umwian, whose rough beard almost hides his tattoos, sneers.  “So you’re crazy.  Easy pickin’s.”  He starts toward us. Continue reading

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 31

This is the beginning of Part 3. Find previous chapter links here.

Continue reading

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 30

Thank you for your patience! Here’s this week’s belated chapter.

(Find previous chapter links here)

Our meager supplies lay scattered on the ground: Three blankets, two half-sipped water skins, and a crumbly way-cake wafer from Liwin’s pocket.

“I can’t do this.”  Laen waves at the pile.

Forziel rubs the back of his neck.  “I mean, we’re going to have to.  We have no other choice.”

Liquid gathers in the edges of Laen’s eyes.  “No, I mean I can’t.  I expected challenges following the Champions, but I didn’t expect it to be this challenging.  Aivenkaites, floods, traps, bats, salamanders–and now we’re out of supplies, thanks to Drigo.  It’s too much.” Continue reading

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This is one of those excuse posts

This is one of those posts where I tell you that I’ve been interviewing for jobs all week, and my sister got married this weekend, and I’m exhausted, and life’s insane, and so I don’t have your weekly installment of Child of the Kaites ready yet.

I shall make every effort to get the chapter to you by tomorrow or Wednesday.  In the meantime, celebrate with me–I just was hired for my first permanent teaching position!!

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Let the Boys Do That

As a little girl, I spent much of my time digging in the backyard and dreaming up stories. I’m discovering that this activity still brings me remarkable inspiration.  This poem I share with you came to me while digging weeds out of the back lawn.

let the boys do that | Beth Wangler

At the top of the list
of things I hate to be told
“Let the boys do that.”

My father taught me strength
as strong as a rose,
that pierces its predators
and, despite storms,
grows and
grows and

Do not impose your weakness
upon me.

Do not think me unfeminine
if I wear bare feet
instead of heels,
or name car parts
instead of shades of pink⎼

or rather, do not think
this dress I wear,
the flower in my hair,
the pretty paper I refused to tear,
make me weak.

I was fourteen the first time someone told me,
“Let the boys do that.”

I’ve heard this refrain
countless times since.

Yet I’ve carried scores of eight-foot Christmas trees,
been elbow-deep in engine grease,
sparked blazing bonfires all alone,
sanded wood until it shone,
rolled a mansion’s walls with paint,
climbed a mountain without complaint,
built a bed frame, built bookshelves,
carved more spears than Tolkien’s elves.

I can lift this box.

I can lift this box,
and, should I need help,
I will ask.
I fear asking for help
as little as I fear giving it.

I love my father,
my uncles,
my cousins,
my friends,
my brothers,

but do not tell me
to let the boys do that.

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 29

First order of business: I’ve been playing around with book covers for Child of the Kaites. Originally, I made this one:

Child of the Kaites | Beth Wangler

Then I thought, we can do better than that. So I procrastinated actually editing and instead made these covers:

Now I must ask you:

Tell me why in the comments 🙂 And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for (Hamilton reference intended):

My heels bang against the cliff.  I blindly scramble back onto the ground.  Bats screech, my people shout.

“Rai!” Savi yells.  “Where are you?”

I hack at the air with Luemikaroeth.  It vibrates when it hits the flying creatures, and bats thump to the ground around me.

“Aivenkaites again!” Laen shrieks.

Forziel yells, loud and long.

“Rai!” Savi shouts, panic sharpening his voice.  “Rai, are you okay?”

“I’m here,” I call back.  I shudder, but only because of the unpleasant flop of leathery wings against my bare arms.  “They’re not aivenkaites, just bats.”

I see Luemikaroeth again, white-blue blade shining between the bats.  The bats thin, just enough that I catch a glimpse of the other side of the room.  I have to get across.

Once more, I scoot back as far as the rope will reach.  Then I start screaming.  I sprint for the edge, leap, and fly back over the gaping ground. Continue reading

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 28

Find previous chapters here.

Child of the Kaites Chapter 28 | Beth Wangler

“It’s hopeless,” Laen exclaims.  “We’re trapped in here.  We’ll run out of air, and we’ll die of thirst, and I hate the dark, and what if the aivenkaites come back and kill us!”  Her voice rises as she speaks.  The last bit is more of a wail than words, accompanied by her breath, too loud, too fast.

I think of the hilltop on Ira, of debarking in Izyphor without a seal of freedom, of the way out of Yrin’s dungeon, and every other impossible thing that has happened since Saviayr showed up at Tatanda’s house.  “Laen, we’ll be okay,” I promise.  The strange thing is, I actually believe it, even with Elesekk’s death resting like a stone in my chest.  Aia has gotten us this far.  I don’t understand why He let Elesekk die, but He won’t leave us trapped in this hole.

“Ow–Drigo, watch your elbow,” Hoenna says.

“I wouldn’t have to if you’d get out of my way.”

Laen’s breathing speeds up.

Saviayr’s voice rings out and makes me jump.  “Whoever’s closest to Laen needs to help her.”

“That’s me,” Liwin squeeks.  Pebbles skitter as he goes to her.

“Be careful of the hole,” Hoenna says.

“Yes, Dad.”  Sandals shuffle over crumbled rock.  “Okay, I’m here, Laen.”

“Hold her shoulders,” Hoenna prompts.  “Laen, focus on Liwin.  Feel his breaths.  Try to match him.”

“Yeah,” Liwin says.  “Here, see?  Breathe in and out.  In, and out.  Slow like that.”

It takes a while, but Laen’s breaths start to slow.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Laen’s calming down, but isn’t she kind of right?” Drigo asks.  “We’re trapped.  We’re gonna die.  Some god your Aia is–he can’t even keep his Champions safe.”

That makes me angry.  I’m holding Savi with one hand–I’ve shrugged off the sling–and Luemikaroeth with the other.  I squeeze the sword hilt and feel something…strange.  When I first held the sword, it felt like knowledge of swordplay was flowing into me.  Now, my anger seems to call to the sword, and it answers by magnifying my anger and clearing my head.

Never before has anger made my head feel more clear.

I see it plainly.  “That’s not true,” I tell Drigo.  “Aia is Thaies–He is God, and He is perfectly capable of saving His Champions.”

Drigo’s eyes widen in surprise.

Wait–I can see his eyes? Continue reading

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 27

Let me just tell you, I’m SUPER excited about this week’s chapter!! It was very fun to write, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

If you’re just coming along or need a refresher, find links to previous chapters here.

Child of the Kaites Chapter 27 | Beth Wangler

We scatter gravel as we run.  Forziel is first, just in front of me, and Savi brings up the rear.  The sun has set, and light is starting to fade.  I barely tell what color Forziel’s hair is.

The clouds switch directions, wheeling down the canyon.  Lightning fractures the sky.  Thunder rattles loose dust that dribbles down the canyon walls.

Aia, don’t let any of us die.

Flash!–boom!–right after each other, almost on top of us.

“Remind me why we’re running toward the crazy demon storm?” Drigo shouts.

“We’re trapped in a canyon,” Forziel yells.  “Gotta get higher before it floods.”

Will we reach the ruins in time?

Will the aivenkaites leave if we do?

Will they try to drag us into the water like when they tried to drown me at my beach?

Can Savi and I protect everyone?

Lightning splinters inside the clouds.  It silhouettes undulating shapes, humanoid and animalesque mixing together.

Black dots float in my eyes.

Aia, don’t let anyone die. Continue reading

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