To celebrate the official release of my new mythological novella, REVENGE TO THE TENNTH POWER, on Friday, I am unveiling the Prologue and Chapter 1 this evening, and will release more chapters leading up to Friday, August Tennth!
REVENGE TO THE TENNTH POWER (MAMMYTH #1)
BY JACK CHAUCER
The second time Antero ever laid eyes on Tenn, she appeared far too alone, young and beautiful to sing for the rag-tag regulars of a back-country shit cave like the Tomb of the Living.
For one thing, singing in public was banned for all low-born throughout the kingdom, even in the forgotten, guano-encrusted bowels of Mount Mammyth. King Ryzthar, and the monarchs who preceded him, understood well the power of song and its potential to plant the seeds of rebellion among the rabble.
Most performers here gripped an instrument, like Antero’s friend Zakk, who could unlock any sound he desired with his pilfering fingers and sawing bow thrusts across a fiddle.
Tenn, however, had nothing in her hands, which she balled into fists against the sides of her green-and-silver tunic. Her eyelids slammed shut even tighter, but for some reason, every wayward soul in the Tomb gazed at this tall, slender girl — whose long, brown hair cascaded into glowing whorls of gold in the torch light — with open anticipation and respectful silence.
Antero nearly laughed in disbelief into the void, but then her voice smacked him. It was too low and haunting; shockingly vulgar and treasonous.
“Fux the king …
I will never be queen
Because of what you did to her
And what you did to me
On the day I flowered
I had already been devoured
Heart, body and soul
I have boiled your depraved priests,
leaving them to rot, a feast for Strix,
but my anger remains unquenched
So I will scorch your royal corpse
With my blood-red rage
Until the whole realm is my stage”
Zakk, burly, blonde and bearded, quaffed some ale and flashed Antero a toothy smile as he watched his friend fall for her like a rock into a ravine.
So restrained was her voice in the first chorus that Antero’s jaw dropped for her second — the same exact words, unleashed with the fury of a thousand flaming arrows. Every one hit its mark and burned true.
Her final echo seemed to travel through time itself — “age” after “age” after “age” — rocking the cave with its power.
And when Tenn finally opened her eyes amid the flickering flames, the sea-green flash of allure and pain made Antero realize he had met her once before, much higher up on the mountain.
Somehow she had brought him back to consciousness, only to fear him when he woke; when he had foolishly laughed at her strange response to his simple question.
“All men are evil,” she concluded, before she ran away.
ONE YEAR EARLIER
CHAPTER 1 — BLOOD BOIL
The king had named her Marinde, but her mother preferred to call her Tenn, as in higher than The Nine immortals who overlooked the rugged wilderness of Mammyth, a mountainous kingdom dominated by a 14,000-foot summit that stretched out along eight rocky ridges like the tentacles of an octopus.
She was five years old the last time her mother called her Tenn. No one had used that name for her since.
She could recall that Brinsma was beautiful and sad, but the fine features of her face and the sound of her voice were as obscured to Tenn’s memory now as the cloud-shrouded peak that loomed over the temple.
Protected from the west winds of Aurai by a massive rock wall that seemed to disappear as it rose to meet the 10,000-foot plateau upon which King Ryzthar sat his throne, the Temple of the Seers of The Nine, at about 8,000 feet, had only protected Tenn from the elements. Not from the high cleric. Not from his eight priests and their acolytes. Not even from her own blood, which last night had betrayed her from the very place where they had murdered her innocence so many times before.
Nine years with the Seers of The Nine had been her punishment for being the daughter of a discarded queen. And now that she had flowered at age 14, it was time to die — a human sacrifice to The Nine: all-powerful Mammyth; the hermaphrodite god’s sons, Freyr (life) and Arus (death); Nera, wife of Freyr; Ione, barren wife of Arus; Agan, son of Freyr and Nera; Strix, the chameleon beast begot by the scandalous union of Arus and Nera; Aurai, the four winds; and Aron, scavenger of the dead.
The king had ordered the girl’s future sacrifice on the same wretched night Tenn’s mother met her fate, and now they would finally reunite in the underworld, ruled by Arus.
Eight priests, robed in black, all of whom had taken their turns with Tenn over the years, chanted their twisted prayers as they led the girl toward the stake. Two rings of red-robed acolytes surrounded the proceedings in the foreground while the high cleric, Volz Yth, remained high — staring down from his large, circular window in the temple’s ninth and highest spire. He had never touched her; only burned her with his eyes, leering endlessly and savoring every “purifying” encounter she was forced to endure with his underlings. He usually pleasured himself as well, sickening Tenn to the point where she had yearned for this moment — every second of every day. Death seemed to be her only hope, and now it was here, at twelve bells on a cloudy summer’s day.
Tenn had requested to be left unbound because she wanted to die. She would not run. She had even volunteered to light the pyre herself.
“Please, I beg you, hand me the torch as soon as your prayers are done,” she had told Volz Ein, the lead priest. He simply nodded, almost regretfully, like he would miss her.
“No doubt you will,” she whispered to herself when he had turned to lead the procession.
The three winds of Aurai left unblocked by the cliff above them swirled as the priests covered their heads with their black hoods and encircled Tenn from a safe distance. She was actually at the center of four circles — one ring of tinder and logs, one ring of priests and two rings of acolytes. The ancient order’s green-robed novices, deemed too young and unworthy to witness a human sacrifice to The Nine, remained cloistered inside the temple.
Tenn, wearing her usual dirty gray robe for the occasion, stumbled over some sticks, spun around and then backed up against the hard, thick wooden stake. As the metallic bells began their shrill gong from the temple’s eighth spire, she took a deep breath of thin alpine air and peered around at her executioners. When she exhaled, the winds seemed to still and Volz Ein approached. The torch, already lit by one of his underlings, quickly consumed Tenn’s vision once she gazed at the licking flames. Her heart suddenly raced as the priest passed her the torch and retreated to his circle.
The chanting had long stopped.
The heat of the torch singed her face.
The dry wood surrounding her seemed to hunger for her downward thrust.
The clang of the twelfth and final bell had expired.
“Any last words?”
The unmistakably nasal, mocking voice of her very first rapist, priest Volz Zin, seemed to echo off the rocks behind her. Tenn couldn’t see him, just like that first time, but she could feel where he was.
Tenn hissed. The taste of burnt bile filled her mouth as she slammed the torch into the tinder and shouted, “Tenn is higher than The Nine, you wretched, evil swine!”
Her hysterical shriek that followed drowned out the collective gasps of the eight who encircled her. She watched them lower their hoods, and then she stood firm against the stake in awe as the flames shockingly drew away from her feet, snaking across the dirt in eight sizzling spokes toward the alarmed priests. They each retreated a few steps and the flames died out at their bare feet.
The ensuing eerie silence, quickly knifed by screams of agony in every direction, jarred Tenn to tears. She had braced for a horrible and liberating death, but now she was very much alive and shivering uncontrollably, as she felt the heat leave her body instead of consuming it.
She dropped to one knee and continued to tremble, but she kept her head up enough to see the priests desperately clawing at their necks and ripping at their robes. When they all fell to the ground and writhed like overturned beetles, the two rings of acolytes behind them backed away, but Tenn could still see the terror in their eyes, even through the rippling heat waves.
She struggled to make sense of it all. Perhaps her blood had not betrayed her after all. And perhaps she had just boiled theirs, cooking their disgusting bodies from the inside out.
Though the stench of burning flesh nearly made her wretch, Tenn forced herself to stand up and think about the unthinkable: an opportunity to escape.
She looked back one last time and, no longer sensing the sting of his stare, her eyes flicked upward, to the ninth spire. The massive window was empty. The high cleric must be scrambling down the long, spiral stairs to get to her.
Tenn thought of her mother for one beautiful second, laughed out loud for the first time in her memory and then discovered what it was like to run as fast as she could.
How she’d descend a mountain that would soon drop off rapidly from the current plateau, she didn’t have a clue, but at least it wasn’t time to die yet.
Instead, it was time for this high-born girl to get as low and out of sight as Mammyth would allow.
STAY TUNED FOR CHAPTER 2 …