Okay, so it’s a few days later than I planned, thanks to work taking over my life for the week, but here’s the first chapter that I promised everyone. This is the first chapter of the book I am releasing soon, Between love and Death. The purpose of this is to give all of you an idea of what the story is like, as well as get some feedback for the writing that I keep thinking is absolutely horrendous.
That said, for those of you who were nice enough to offer your help in getting this polished up a bit, this is what I was talking about. I’ve gone through and done some work with it, but I have read it so many times that it’s all blending together and it’s becoming harder to pick out problems each time I look at it.
I’m not super attached to the opening line, as I feel it could be much better than it is. I’m sticking with the story, though. I have rewritten this book too many times to count trying to narrow down my story, and I’m not changing it now that it feels right. I am merely looking for help to tighten up the writing itself, and to get some feedback as to whether it flows okay or not. It’s okay for me if it’s not absolutely perfect, but I still want it to be readable to a good enough point that readers enjoy the story and aren’t proofreading as they go.
Any advice on the writing is welcome, as long as it’s constructive and not just “this sucks”. Please keep in mind this is something I’ve been working on for years, and telling me something sucks without telling me why is basically going to get your comment deleted, and I will brush it aside completely.
Thanks in advance to anyone who does help. I really do appreciate your willingness to give me pointers. And please don’t be offended if I don’t take your advice for the final draft. Some points may click better than others, and I can’t make so many changes that I lose my voice in the story completely.
He shook her from his mind again, hoping this time she would leave him to his loneliness as he walked through a forest he didn’t recognize. His surroundings were unimportant as they had been for years. He was too lost in thought to realize he had caught up to someone on the road in front of him until he was nearly walking into him.
“My apologies, I didn’t see you standing there,” Julian said quietly to the stranger, who looked no older than eighteen years old. He pulled the hood of his cloak down over his eyes, shielding them from the boy.
“No need to apologize. I should have been paying more attention.” The stranger smiled, and Julian could see just how young he was and how innocent he looked. His long brown hair was pulled back into a loose braid at the nape of his neck.
The stranger narrowed his eyes at Julian and took a step closer, causing Julian to take a step back instinctively.
“You’re like me, aren’t you,” he said, giving Julian a warm smile.
“Like you?” Julian pulled his cloak a little tighter around himself as if it would protect him from prying eyes.
“A Guardian. I can feel your energy. It’s like mine.” A hand extended to him and waited until he finally shook it. “My name is Phoenix.”
“Julian,” he whispered, almost as though the act of saying his own name would bring death.
“I’m heading to a small town nearby if you are interested in having some company while you walk. We can walk in silence if you prefer.”
Something in the boy’s blue eyes flickered briefly, and Julian felt a stab of longing. He chose to ignore it and gave Phoenix a nod.
Although he didn’t seem to be a threat, Julian kept a fair distance between him and them, walking several paces behind his new travel companion.
“Are you on assignment?” Phoenix asked, turning to glance back at Julian as he continued walking.
“No,” he answered, still tense and now confused. Something about the boy seemed familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. He recognized something in the stranger’s eyes, something safe, but he knew that he had never seen him before.
“So are you just traveling through?”
“Yes,” Julian nodded.
Neither spoke for a while, and Julian kept his hood up and cloak drawn tight. Never having met another Guardian out in the world like this, he was careful to hide his appearance from the boy.
Phoenix wore a cloak made from a much lighter material than Julian’s, but he wore his hood down. It was like he didn’t even feel the biting cold of the northern autumn. He walked as though he waited for something to happen.
For two hours they walked in silence until they reached the inn of the small village. It was very small, and Julian immediately asked for a room at the far back of the building away from the noise of the kitchen. He hesitated before inviting Phoenix into his room. There was, after all, no point in pretending to eat at the tavern if his company already knew better.
“Why don’t you remove your hood? You’re safe with me. I have no reason to harm you,” Phoenix said as he took a seat on the floor near the crackling fire.
“I don’t like the way people react to me when they see what I look like,” Julian said before he could stop himself.
“What you look like? Why would that matter?” Phoenix narrowed his eyes.
“My circumstances were probably very different from yours.” He lowered his hood revealing his cat-like yellow eyes to the boy.
Phoenix’ own eyes widened and he stared for a moment before speaking.
“Your eyes. Why do they look like that?”
“Like I said, my circumstances were probably different from your own.”
“I don’t understand. How could your circumstances have changed how your eyes look?”
“It doesn’t matter.” Julian took a deep breath, closing his eyes to maintain his composure. The stranger was innocent enough, but still made Julian uncomfortable in his childlike curiosity.
“Did your maker do something to make you that way?” Phoenix took a step closer, his eyes remaining fixed on Julian.
“No. It was an accident, and I would rather not speak of it at the moment.” He tensed under the scrutiny, realizing Phoenix was blocking the only door to the small room.
“How long have you been a Guardian?” He stepped back and took a seat on the floor next to the bed, realizing he was making his host uncomfortable.
“I’m not sure. A couple hundred years. Maybe longer.”
“So you don’t have your wings yet? Are you still training?”
“No. I’ve had my wings for a long time, but I’ve never been trained.”
“How is that possible? Guardians don’t receive their wings until they are done training. If you haven’t received the proper training, how can you have them already?” Phoenix seemed to be growing cautious. Julian couldn’t blame him. He knew what he looked like, and when even his maker was terrified of what he had become, he knew he wouldn’t receive pity from anyone else, especially a younger Guardian who was receiving the full treatment he should have gotten.
“I’m not like you, Phoenix. I didn’t have help when I needed it. I should have been dead a long time ago,” he whispered bitterly, remembering the look of disgust on his face when Sam left him to die.
“Lucky? I’m not lucky. I’d rather be dead than be treated the way I am. My maker refuses to fully train me so he can keep me as his personal slave for as long as possible. At least you are on your own and can do what you like. My maker doesn’t even know I’m here right now.”
“How long have you been a Guardian?”
“About fifty years, I think.”
“Wait until you’ve been put through hell for another couple hundred and let me know how you feel then.” Julian pitied the boy, but was sure he was treated better than what he said. He was young, after all, and his idea of what was unbearable was likely very different from what Julian knew to be unendurable.
An intense rush of energy tore through the room suddenly, and a tall man with appeared in the center of the small space. Atop his head sat what looked like a crown of some sort. His massive black feathered wings filled much of the room, and he glared down at Phoenix who had skittered backward into the nearest corner.
“What are you doing with him?” the angel bellowed at Julian, who looked defiantly back at him.
“Talking. Nothing else.” He kept his eyes locked on the angel as the newcomer took a long stride and wrapped a large hand around Julian’s neck, lifting him from the bed.
“Talking? You do not have permission to talk to a Guardian, demon. If I ever see you within a hundred miles of him, you will be sorry you ever set eyes on him,” he growled, throwing Julian into the wall behind him, then turning to Phoenix.
Phoenix scrambled to his feet quickly as another rush of energy filled the room and two more angels arrived. Julian backed against the wall instead of standing up. As he tried to pull his hood back over his head, one of the angels pulled him to his feet roughly.
This angel had hair so blonde it was almost white, and it was long and partly tied back. He towered over Julian, scowling at him.
“What have you done to anger Michael so much?” the man asked, ruffling his grey wings slightly.
“We were just talking. I met Phoenix on the path to the village, and he offered to travel together. That’s all.” The angel’s hand quickly shot up to his neck, pinning him hard against the stone wall and bashing his head. He looked curiously at Julian.
“Who are you?” he asked, glaring into Julian’s eyes.
“I am no one.”
“Liar. No human looks the way you do. Show yourself.”
When Julian did nothing, the angel pulled him away from the wall and slammed him back into it, sending stars into his vision before it went completely dark for a moment.
“I said show yourself,” the angel growled.
Julian felt a strange ripple through his body, and he lost control of himself, his wings, tail, and horns erupting violently and painfully from inside of him. He screamed from the brief and intense pain.
A wave of cursing and yelling tore through the room as the one called Michael and the female angel charged him, securing his hands at his waist with heavy metal shackles and gagging him with a thick leather strap.
He could see Phoenix across the room, glaring at him with angry eyes. He thought sourly to himself that he should have known better than to let his guard down with the boy. Closing his eyes, he let them take him away, hoping they’d kill him and end his misery.
“He said he was a Guardian. I could feel it when I met him,” Phoenix was saying quietly to the grey-winged one when Julian opened his eyes, “I knew it before he said anything. How could he make himself show the aura of a Guardian if he’s not?”
“I don’t know, Phoenix. I don’t know what he is, but he’s no Guardian,” the man answered, then turned to the woman who was with them. “What do you think, Ariel? He’s obviously not what he says he is. Should we kill him?”
“No, I think we should take him to Gabriel. He may not be a Guardian, but he is no demon. You can sense it too. If he was demon, we would both know already.”
“What if they are breeding new demons to be undetectable to us?”
“Ramiel, they haven’t bothered us in a long time. Why would they be breeding new fighters?” The woman looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
“Fine. Gabriel it is.” He turned to look at Julian. “It’s your lucky day, demon.”