Follow the posts over the next few days and read the sample chapters (the first six) of Jake Bowers Versus the Firebird.
Immediately, the back of the bird split open and, in an odd sort of molting, it turned inside out. A beautiful woman began to emerge out of the body like a two-sided puppet that had just tucked the creature part of itself under, in favor of a more suitable form.
1. The Ziggurat
The full moon’s light magnified the Ziggurat, throwing massive shadows against the surrounding sand dunes. If any tourists had visited this remote area, they would have been transported in time. Similar temples in ruins can be found throughout the Middle East. This one, however, had been built recently to match the splendor of an age long forgotten.
In the grand assembly room, a lone figure lay sprawled on the cold marble floor. His fists throbbed and ached from the recent pounding which he had given the ground. A bird circled him, a foot of distance between them. It left a trail of strange green fire that crackled and sputtered around him. When the circle was complete, the bird let out a sound that was a mixture of a melodious harp and a dove’s call.
The creature boasted golden feathers that swirled through the orange and yellow blaze of its magnificently plumed body. Scarlet quills trailed behind the bird like a peacock with its tail in flames.
The man on the ground lay still, seemingly unaware of the opulence that surrounded him. The bird called again and then walked over to him and pecked gently at his hand. When there was still no response, the animal cocked its head to the side and shook out its wings. Immediately, the back of the bird split open and, in an odd sort of molting, it turned inside out. A beautiful woman began to emerge out of the body like a two-sided puppet that had just tucked the creature part of itself under, in favor of a more suitable form.
“Oh, come on now, you’ve always preferred me in that form, admit it. You could never be angry with the Zhar Pteetsa,” the woman’s slightly accented voice was a silk whisper. She teased her long locks of auburn hair and smoothed out the shimmering midnight blue, floor-length dress. She contorted her body into a standing yoga pose, a stretch that was like taking a long breath after a tight confinement.
Again, the man refused to move. She nudged him with her foot and said, “I did it for you.”
“For me?” The man raised his bloodshot eyes to gaze at the woman. “You turned my research into weapons. You burned my village. You destroyed my people and you say it was FOR ME?” His voice echoed off of the columns in the grand room.
“Yes, you can thank me later,” she sneered and brought her face low, to meet his gaze.
As the man continued to stare her down, he realized that something was different. Before that moment she was flawless, the way he imagined that Aphrodite, the goddess of love would look. Now, her countenance had taken on a twisted quality that marred her beauty in his eyes.
“Thank you?” He spat the words out and she drew her face even closer to his.
“Yes, thank me,” she said and rubbed her fingers through his curly black hair. “I have now made it possible for you to become the man you need to be, by cutting out the distractions that were holding you back. You’re welcome.”
Then she stood up and forcefully kicked his shoulder with her foot. “Now get some sleep, we have three villages to visit tomorrow. Now that we have Tangura, I want to find the Flyer of Destiny by the week’s end”
Pain swept over his mind as he thought again of his own village smoldering in the aftermath of an attack that he was unable to stop. He choked out, “More villages?”
The woman rolled her eyes.
“You’re pathetic,” she said and, disgusted at the sight of him, walked out of the room.
“You’ll be fine in the morning,” she called back as she reached the doors.
He continued to lie on the polished marble and listened to her footsteps echo as she left the hall. The cold ground melded together with his cheek, draining him of warmth as the day’s events had drained him of energy. He looked at the strange green fire, dancing in its original spot in the circle around him. If he just moved an inch or two closer, he would be able to feel the fire’s warmth.
No more warmth from her! The man resolved as he let the cold continue to penetrate his cheek. Then suddenly, new purpose entered his mind bringing with it a resolution, a fire and warmth of his own making. As he stood up, the hours of sorrow gave way to a new determination.
He stepped over the fire that had burned down to an inch and walked to a remote part of the palace. He would take Tangura, the item that was the reason for the attack on his village. Although he knew that no vengeance could be enough for what she had done, taking the carpet was the betrayal that would do the greatest damage to her plans and seal his destiny as her nemesis from that moment forward.
Within minutes, the man was out of the main body of the Ziggurat. He walked at a fast pace even though he carried the long and heavy rolled-up carpet. As he passed out the side gates, a young guard addressed him in Arabic.
“English!” the man commanded the guard.
The sentry, who seemed used to the order, rolled his eyes but obliged. “Are you going for a ride, Farid?”
“Yes,” the man replied, barely able to look at one of the boys that had taken part in the attack.
“But why didn’t you come the usual way?” The youth pointed to the golden stairs that circled majestically around the Ziggurat, signaling the route that the Riders traditionally took. “Why are you carrying the carpet?”
“Is it your right to question me?” Farid said sharply.
The young guard jumped to attention and quickly opened the massive iron gate. Farid walked through, trying not to seem in a hurry. He sauntered out of the external courtyard and into the desert, carrying the heavy carpet.
Behind a sand dune, he dropped the dense roll on the ground. The corner of it opened out and the moon reflected the fibers of gold and green around the outer edge.
Farid pulled his own miniature carpet out of a leather purse at his side. With a swift movement of his hands, the second carpet grew to the size of an area rug. Then he placed the gold and green roll onto his own carpet and stood in the middle. It began to rise a few inches off the ground and then lurched forward in a sudden movement.
With great effort to keep balance because of the added weight and awkwardness of the rolled-up carpet, Farid flew low to the ground over several miles, passing acres of dunes until he came close to a mountain range. After passing around the peak, his carpet began to climb higher and move with faster speed until Farid was lost in a cloudbank that gave cover to him and to the moon.
That night, on the other side of the world, the Flyer would be born.
Want to read more? Check out the samples at your favorite retailer (by clicking the picture below), or read the next chapter tomorrow!