Part Two of A Phoenix in Darkness is now up at Black Gate. It contains some of my favorite scenes from the story, in particular this one, just in time for Halloween:
He couldn’t see the front of the room, where the lecturing voice continued to drone on, but he could see the children. They were young girls, perhaps a dozen of them aged somewhere between eight and ten, and dressed in identical gray dresses which only accentuated the differences between them. Aside from the differences in age, which could be quite noticeable for that range, Seth recognized the dark hair and the broad features of the working class in most of them, the honey-colored hair and tall, willowy body only found in certain noble families, and even one girl whose dark brown skin marked her ancestry as from the Daurens region of the Novar Empire. The girls were the only living people he could see — the others were dead. Corpses lay on low tables around the room, each with two or three of the girls gathered around it. They were all young men, maybe all peasants from what he could tell, but it was hard to notice their faces when their chests were peeled open to reveal their organs. What Seth couldn’t understand at first, or perhaps didn’t want to understand, was what the girls were doing with the bodies. Even seeing the organs lying on the table and the blood on the hands and dresses of the children wasn’t enough to hammer into him what was happening until he watched one girl, with dark, curly hair and a look of intense concentration on her face, use a knife to saw at a corpse’s chest. She set the knife down, wiped back a lock of her hair to leave a smear of blood at her temple, then reached into the chest cavity with both hands to pull out a heart nearly the size of her head. She gave the girl next to her a dimpled smile, which the other girl returned while making some quip that caused the first one to giggle. Swallowing hard to overcome his nausea, Seth pulled back from the door and leaned against the wall with a clink of armor which caused both Aulus and Nathan to whip their heads in his direction. The voices in the room gave no indication that they had heard anything, however, so Seth started breathing again with a soft curse for his own clumsiness. He picked up his sword as quietly as possible, almost losing his grip with his sweat-slick hands. He could still hear them chattering, joking, and laughing, but quietly, all the while giving half their attention to the speaker whose words Seth could now clearly hear: “If you examine the heart, you’ll find that it has four parts, or chambers. The heart is a large muscle, whose job it is to circulate the blood throughout the body. This vein collects the blood and brings it to the heart, while this…”
As always, comments are welcome.