Like all well-crafted epic fantasy novels, Journey through the Land of Shades is a story rich in mythos, history and cultural diversity. Conceptually, the novel draws its inspiration from the Arthurian cycle of tales that has so intrigued me through the years. Indeed, these novels are my way of paying homage to the legend that has inculcated the love of fantasy in my heart and helped fuel my creative passions. Having said this, I can also declare that this homage is paid obliquely and even the most fanatical of Arthurian zealots might well miss the subtle weaving of the old legends into this complex tale. My intention here was not so much to elaborate on the old legend (indeed, who could possibly think they were condign to that daunting task) as it was to absorb aspects of Arthur’s epic fable and inconspicuously sew it into the fabric of this story.
Journey through the Land of Shades is an epic tale of high fantasy that is divided into two distinct, but related tales. The first segment will be three…possibly four novels in length, while the second segment will recount events that take place some seven years after the conclusion of the first cycle and will probably be two volumes in length.
The first novel of cycle one introduces the reader to the primary antagonist…Islena Doraux. The novel’s teaser provides a rather generalized introduction to the novel’s primary theme:
Islena Doraux was an extraordinary woman living an ordinary life. Daughter of the Tempest…this memory whispered at the edges of her consciousness; echoes that were the stuff of legend in a dozen worlds. An ancient nemesis would reach across the boundaries of our reality and draw Islena into an antiquated world in search of the Proclamations of omnipotence and compel her on a Journey through the Land of Shades.
As this teaser would intimate, there is much more to Islena than her immediate world and the things that give it texture and depth. It is in the underlying theme of the novel that I pay homage to the influence that the Arthurian legend has exerted over both my creative direction and my general love of epic fantasy. Daughter of the Tempest…Champion of Light…Mother of Iniquity; these three ascendant souls stand as sides of an equilateral triangle that has spun endlessly through the eternal river of time...the physical manifestations of an conflict that has been fought at different junctures through the history of a thousand worlds…a thousands realities. With each tragic resolution these three adversaries are set adrift in time’s current until the inevitable moment of confluence when they will fight their battle again. In our world, beyond the veil of legend and myth, they were known as Arthur, Gwenyvere and Morgana. In an antiquated world, where time seems frozen and progress is measured in centuries, these three will come together yet again to resume the struggle for apotheosis…and should the Mother of Iniquity stand at the apex of the triangle when the final blow is struck, the flow of time will stop and her darkness will extinguish all hope…every flower of salvation and light.
This next section is an excerpt from the first volume of Journey through the Land of Shades and serves as an elaboration on this pivotal concept.
As she gazed down upon the sleeping form of Islena, Myrhia's senses were alight with a deluge of images and compelling emotions…some joyous, some poignant. From the depth of her peaceful slumber, could this woman even begin to suspect the vast wealth of power that her living vessel of flesh and bone contained? The enchantress thought not.
"Ah, but I do my sweet," she cooed over her unsuspecting captive, murmuring the words as if to a newborn.
Indeed the image was an apt one. Islena was about to be reborn…shattered and remoulded in the shape of the Queen's infinite ambition. On impulse, the Queen leaned forward and kissed the other woman's prominent cheek. In the embrace of the Queen's spell, Islena stirred but did not awaken. The deep brown eyes closed and the angelic face turned toward the ceiling, where the play of frolicking gargoyles had been captured on plaster and paint.
Through the long twist of years, Myrhia had never lost faith in the inevitability of her destiny. Even the horrific moment of rebirth, wet and baffling, in the gullet of stone that had been her place of exile she had not experienced the towering, twisting emotion that assailed her now. Even through the private anguish of betraying Artumas, her single-minded dedication to her quest for omnipotence had not faltered.
Now she stood on the brink of deification and Myrhia was shocked to discover the cool presence of self-doubt. She had been robbed on other occasions, in other worlds. Just when triumph had appeared certain, she had suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of her eternal enemies…the champion of the light and the daughter of the tempest...these two indomitable spirits who had always succeeded in defeating her.
She sighed and touched the flesh of her forearm. The gesture was odd as if meant to reaffirm her continued existence. Her immortal soul had never been reborn into such a powerful incarnation as this one. As if her virtually limitless magical powers were not enough, this particular world, despite its persisting ignorance, had managed to concoct the most powerful icons of power the medieval mind could conceive of. They were so close, so attainable, that the enchantress could feel their force radiating through the delicate bones and exquisite flesh of her latest body.
There, wrapped in embroidered satin, lay the means by which Myrhia would attain the fabled talismans. She stepped closer to the volatile beauty and stopped abruptly, jolted by an instant of perfect awareness; absolute comprehension of her present position in the current of destiny. Peering back along the river of time, she beheld the moment of her creation and the gaping wound of malevolence from which she had been birthed.
On the bed, Islena moaned thickly and thrashed about in anguish. A closed fist shattered a heavy clay basin which had been left on a nearby night stand. As powerful as her angst was, it lacked the power to rouse her from Myrhia's enchantment.
For her part, the enchantress stood in the center of the room, swaying like a sapling beset by a winter wind. Consumed, she closed her eyes and permitted the vision to carry her away. The void, dark and forbidding, loomed up at the center of all things. The night Queen correctly surmised that she was baring witness to the moment when the human soul had first been conceived. From the heart of the darkness came the first flicker of a spark which erupted into an argent blaze of blinding magnitude.
As the light unfurled like some glorious flag, Myrhia keened and threw her hands up in an unconscious gesture of warding.
Time continued to track and the two cornerstones of human nature drifted through time and space. Moved to awe, she watched the two forces clash like invincible juggernauts. From their violent coupling there came the offspring whose name was ambivalence, and daughter of the tempest.
Ambivalence was a fickle and inherently imperfect child, but both parents coveted its love and aggressively sought to gain control of its soul. From the incestuous relationship there came the eternal battle between good and evil with the daughter of the tempest serving as the fulcrum upon which the eternal conflict hinged.
Through the deepest reaches of time these three forces floated, each culled and courted by the other, waiting for…the beginning. For countless billions of years, the relationship between the three remained constant and would likely have not changed had it not been for the intervention of God…or perhaps the random and equally arcane workings of universal physics.
Whatever the initial catalyst, the physical universe was born, and with it, the engine for perpetual change. When the first prototype of modern man slunk out of the Darwinian slimes of the evolutionary waters, the age old conflict gained direction and purpose. Slowly, inexorably, the three abstract forces resolved themselves into physical beings.
"We are the three incarnations!" Myrhia whispered in a voice tremulous with awe. The three forms floated through the labyrinth of time and space, coming together at different junctures through the ages. On these occasions, the universe reverberated with the thunder of their meeting. The affects of these confrontations echoed through the pages of history books from a thousand different cultures...a thousand different worlds.
Though the actual bodies changed to suit their needs, these incarnations remained bound together in their quest for ultimate and unequivocal control over the soul of this new being…man. Eventually, Myrhia discerned that this relationship had a distinctly geometric shape…that of an equilateral triangle.
With mounting excitement, she watched as it twisted and wound its way through the river of time, rapidly approaching the moment in which she now found herself. Armed with this new acuity…this heightened perception, the enchantress gleaned a new understanding of her own nature, not to mention the nature of the strange creature who lay before her. As the vision came to a point of intersection with this present reality, she began to smile and then to laugh.
As the moment of impact came and went, Myrhia opened her eyes to find Islena curled into a foetal position, whimpering pitifully. The enchantress crossed over to where she slept and began to tenderly stroke her brow, stilling Islena's anxiety with a comforting touch.
The Queen correctly surmised that the unsuspecting pawn had shared the identical vision. ‘Not surprising that she might quail in terror,’ she thought, ‘just as I now soar in jubilation.’
The three forces were bound together in an infrangible triangle, and at the moment of this particular confluence of time and space, Myrhia stood at the apex.
On the broadest level, this is the intrinsic primary theme of Journey through the Land of Shades. Islena Doraux is the Daughter of the Tempest and though she is cognizant of this truth only as a glimmer of unresolved memory, she is a strong woman, driven by the lust for physical perfection and forged by dark and turbulent emotions that fuel her passion.
As the novel opens, Islena finds herself faced with the same tribulations that afflict the lives of most people…a faltering marriage and the incessant pull of her own fading ambition. However, a seemingly chance encounter with a powerful clairvoyant reveals an imminent and terrible destiny that will soon sweep away the mundane foundations of her normal life in a catastrophic tide that will pull Islena into a conflict the impact of which will reverberate through every world and every reality like a death knell. Islena finds herself torn away from her family and life and set adrift in an antiquated world where a savage war of conquest and survival has consumed every life being. Heralded by all as a creature of prophesy, Islena finds herself embroiled in archaic world’s merciless struggle where every side regards her as the fulcrum on which the outcome of the battle will pivot. Desperate only to find a means of returning to her lost life, Islena soon learns of the three Proclamations of Omnipotence…three icons of power…vessels that contain the accrued knowledge of the three most powerful civilizations the antiquated world has ever known. To her despair, she further discovers that it is believed only the one of prophesy can vivify the icons and unlock their recumbent power. Her situation becomes all the more desperate when she discovers that all sides would compel her to wield the icons in the name of their cause. Driven by a ruthless despot…an ancient adversary who evokes past memories of a legendary struggle…Islena is unwittingly forced to embark on a search for the Proclamations of Omnipotence…a search that will eventually lead her through the fabled Land of Shades.