Monday, March 27, 2017

Story: The Crystal Caves (Part 1 of 4)

In response to a question on a blog post:

Noah Hite asks on March 9, 2017: "I was actually wondering about something that's mentioned in the book a couple times.  The crystal caves where Abyssi are born, does that mean there are baby Abyssi? Or are they born fully grown or something? It was never quite clear to me how they came to be as they are."

Scholar Faolan wouldn't have a detailed answer to this, but I'm happy to share an excerpt from a work I call Mancer 0, which shows the crystal caves and how the baby Abyssi are born. 

Minor spoilers for the Mancer trilogy.  This story takes place before Mancer 1: Of the Abyss, and it does include characters we meet in Abyss.  That said, I've edited it to avoid any overt spoilers, and I do not think reading it at any point in the series (before reading any of the books, or between them) will harm a person's enjoyment of the novels.

Background for new or returning readers: As mentioned previously, this is an excerpt from a longer work.  This section of the story takes place in the Abyss, one of the two realms in which spirits might find themselves after death.  The main character, Naples, is not dead (and how he ended up here is a story for another day) but is in fact a powerful sorcerer known as an Abyssumancer.  At the moment he has a fractious relationship with the half-Abyssi woman Azo, who saved his life once before despite her better judgment, and all his focus is on finding a way to escape the Abyss and return to the mortal realm.

As our story begins, Naples has been exploring the Abyss and has just reached a walled-in compound populated by a group of shades-- the spirits of the dead-- who assume he is one of them.

Text below (like all text on this site unless otherwise stated) © Amelia Atwater-Rhodes.  If you share this work, please include clear credit and a link back to this site.

The Crystal Caves: Part 1 of 4

          Not much could have derailed Naples' attention from his flirting, but the bloodcurdling screams that began at that moment managed.  The noise sent a shudder down his spine before it was followed by a wave of... something.  Power, perhaps, like a scent on the breeze.
Naples moved toward the edge of the tent, intending to investigate, though he had to push past Parylene's now even paler form to actually get through the door.
          He glanced back at the shade’s protest. 
          "You said something about fighting?" Naples said. He wasn’t sure even he could fight whatever was outside, but it made a good reason for why he was moving toward whatever was causing the late men and women outside to scream so high their throats would bleed soon, if they weren't already.
          As far as he could tell, the ones screaming were those who had been waiting at the top of the wall on sentry duty.  Whatever they had seen, it had left them chalky white and hysterical.
          Naples, naturally, responded by mounting the stairs to the top of the wall, ignoring all protests and warnings from those below.  He could sense a familiar power now.  Modigliani was out there, nearby.
          "Naples!" he heard Parylene cry. "It isn't a matter of whether you can fight if it's something you'll go mad just looking at!"
          Too late anyway.
          From the top of the wall, Naples could see the planes of fire.  The flames bowed low like heavy stalks of grain in the rising wind, and flickered from white to indigo to deep, impossible plum-black.  In the midst of that dancing field moved a throng of Abyssi.
          The most powerful appeared as little more than smoke and shadow.  They gave off an impression of danger, of things sharp and savage.  Naples eye could discern no distinct form, but his magic knew Modigliani was part of that seething mass.
          Trailing behind the most powerful—the princes Abyssi of the fifth level—were other, weaker creatures.  Some were furred, others scaled.  Some nearly resembled men, but others were beasts unlike any found on the mortal plane.  As Naples watched, they all pressed forward, trying to get closer to the royal party at the front, scuffling and bleeding each other in the fire.
          Naples jumped down from the wall, oblivious to the jolt of impact that traveled from his feet, through his knees and hips and spine and all the way to his shoulders.  Limping a little but not damaged too badly, he moved toward the crowd.
          The fire had brought sweat to his flesh, and was near enough for him to taste its acrid flavor when something pounced at him, driving him to the ground.  The attack caught him completely by surprise, and he was pinned long before he could consider fighting back.
          "Sorcerer or not," Azo snarled, "that fire will devour you, and leave nothing but ash behind."
          "I'll be fine," he protested.  He tried to struggle to his feet, but she was stronger than he was physically, and the wash of pure heat from both the field and the Abyssi moving through it scrambled his concentration too much for him to use magic.
          "Shield yourself, you idiot," Azo ordered.
          He blinked, trying to focus, instead.  It occurred to him to ask, "What are you doing here?"
          "Saving your skin," she replied. "I heard the call after you left.  I knew you wouldn't have the sense to defend yourself against it."
          "The call?" he echoed.
          "For sacrifice," she said.  "They're slaying the Lord of the Abyss.  They'll spread his blood across the crystal caverns to seed them and feed all five planes... along with the blood of anyone weak enough to succumb to the call, but powerful enough to survive the fields."
          Maybe that should have served as a warning.
          It didn't.
          What it did do was inspire him to relax his body just long enough for Azo to relax in response, shifting her weight before he threw her to the side and tried to scramble to his feet.
          She let out a cry like a diving hawk as she twisted to grab him again.
          He stumbled, and the shock of his hand falling too close to the fire—not in it, but close enough to scald and let off a stench of burning flesh—distracted him long enough for her to grab him again and throw him back toward the stone trees.
          "I don't know why I'm bothering to help you," she snapped.  "Put. Up. Your. Shields."
          He scrambled to his feet, only to have her knock him down again.  He had to concentrate.  If only he could get his thoughts in order, he was more powerful than she was, and could beat her, and get past her—
          The next time she grabbed him, she reached across his torso and grasped the black handle of the knife he always wore.  He was too slow to stop her from twisting it just enough that the blade sliced across his arm, or to keep her from slapping a hand over the new wound and shoving power at him hard enough that he fell to his knees on his own this time, breath catching and his spine bowing.
          She forced his power inside, turning hers into a protective case around him, and at last blocking out the siren song of the greater Abyssi.
          What had he been thinking? Even if the fire hadn't killed him, and even if the Abyssi hadn't already been seeking sacrifice, the last time he had even seen Modigliani, they had fought.  Modigliani wasn't likely to be happy to see him.
          "Thank you," he said, voice hoarse—from smoke, he realized, as he started coughing.  Despite the struggle to catch his breath, he focused on forming his own shields of power to protect him when she withdrew hers.
          He looked up to find her licking his blood off the palm of her hand, as she cautiously let her power drop, replaced by his.

          "Stop doing dumb things," she said.  "I'm not saving your life again."

Story will update Monday 3/27, Wednesday 3/29, Friday 3/31 and Sunday 4/2.  Stay tuned for Part 2!

Want to discuss? Please join us on the newly-opened message board:


  1. This is so cool! I'm really looking forward to the other parts. :) Thank you for answering my question in such an awesome way; I love your work!

  2. Hello Amelia I first picked up your book years and years ago...To far to even remember and I love reading your books, however over the years I've lost track of how many you have out and the order they go in. The library has some and online is horrible to go through can I tell u the list of what I have and if u can tell me what I'm missing... Can u please email me so I can receive it very fast through my phone... It's this is the list I have in the forest of the night, demon on my view, shattered mirror, midnight predator then I have hawksong, snake charm, falcon dance, wolfcry, wyvernhall and then persistence of memory, token of darkness, all just glass, poison tree then I get a little lost and have seen of the abyss, of the divine, of the mortal realm, the prophet then bloodwitch, bloodkin, blood traitor, promises to keep, the shapeshifters, 666 the number of the beast, return to the den of shadows, the rebel and then I have 2 die vampirjagevin and Dan's Les fort da la nuit ... Those last two I think may be in another language I'm not sure... But can u please help me by listing them all and where to get the ones I'm missing... Thanks

    1. Sorry forgot to click the notify me tab... If u can email it will be great thanks