I’ve selected a few excerpts from The Hands of Ruin: Book One to introduce one of the series’ prominent characters, Ah’Rhea Eneoh. Ah’Rhea is a zul master who lives in the cliffside caves that overlook the great chasm in the valley floor of Ferrenglyn.
• • •
Ah’Rhea sat high above the valley floor, amid the stillness of the land. The warm breeze moved gently against the thick black curls of hair that fell down across her chest, and it carried the sweet vanilla scent that came from the chasm in the valley floor. She set her dirty hands in her lap, closed her bright-green eyes, and enjoyed the moment of tranquility. Aside from the touch of the breeze and the warmth of the sun, she was alone.
It was evening in the valley of Ferrenglyn, and the sunset made the red-brown rock walls of the cliffs below Ah’Rhea look as bright as the embers of a dying fire. She was as still as a statue, and her skin—colored so similarly to the rock walls below—was glad for the warmth of the setting sun. An evening like this always brought memories of him, and she needed these last moments of sun to get her through the chill of a lonely night.
• • •
Ah’Rhea had trained with zulis for years to hone her skills. Countless hours of work and introspection had shaped her life until she was worthy of the title “zul master.” It was a goal she had pursued ever since early childhood. It was a singular focus, a yearning in her heart, and she had almost completely ignored the temptations of life in order to achieve that goal. Now, she lived a life of honor but also a life of seclusion. The zul masters could live with one another if they should choose. Yet most lived a life dominated by solitude.
Truly, solitude was something Ah’Rhea liked, something she had always preferred. She felt silence had its own sound, and she regarded it as sweet. Even as a small child, she would sit alone, playing quietly with no one to watch her. She could play that way for hours, to both the relief and dismay of her parents. A child that required so little attention was both a blessing and an oddity. However, there was never any reason for Ah’Rhea’s parents to be concerned. Their child was merely content to be alone. The absence of other people never made Ah’Rhea feel lonely. In fact, only the absence of one particular soul had ever made her feel loneliness, and if it were not for him, loneliness might be an alien concept to her completely.
• • •
The Melakka brothers saw Ah’Rhea coming as they swept sand from the entryway at the Temple of Origin. They stopped sweeping immediately upon seeing her; they knew why she approached, and knew there was no escaping now. Gund dropped his broom, closed his eyes, and prayed. His fat knuckles intertwined with such force they turned white. Varn fell to his knees and begged the woman for forgiveness; he tore at his yellow shirt, shouting for mercy even as Ah’Rhea was still thirty yards away. A woman leaned out of a window three floors up to dispose of wastewater, but after seeing the zul master coming, she shrieked and ducked back inside. Ah’Rhea had always wondered whether it was respect the villagers had for the zul masters of Ferrenglyn or whether they were merely poor creatures living at the foot of a volcano, in constant fear of its eruption. Ah’Rhea had her answer now as she bore down on the temple workers like ash falling from the sky.