“They call it a life spile, a machine that steals the blood from the veins of children. They’re using it to live forever, Faron, and they have your sister.”
In a world where the powerful live forever by feeding off the blood of children, Faron discovers that his missing sister was taken by the Archons of Vam Aranath to fuel their perverse immortality. Risking everything, Faron escapes his slavery and sets out to find their secret world and, somehow, bring it down to save her.
What he finds, though, is not a bloodthirsty cult hunting for children in the night. The same immortals who took his sister are doing everything in their power to save the world from the growing Veil. Without them, the world will come to a certain extinction. Now, he must choose a side and decide what, and who, he’s willing to sacrifice to do what’s right.
The Growing Veil Series is a story of blood, sacrifice, and inheritance, exploring dark themes of guilt, trauma, loss, and the true meaning of family.
Targeted Age Group:: Young Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The original inspiration for this book came from a rumor I overheard in a conversation not meant for me. “Did you know that blood is the reason we grow old and die? Apparently, it’s responsible for the wear and tear on our bodies and the reasons our organs start to get weak and eventually fail.”
Now, the science is still out on that statement, but that didn’t matter one bit to me. My mind exploded with ideas of a fictional world where people stole the blood from others in order to live forever. I imagined mad scientists, victorian era villains, and other baddies all vying for the blood of children until I realized, what is that if not a vampire?
Strangely, that conclusion didn’t lead me to a world of vampires, magic, and monsters, but to a more realistic world of low fantasy, giving a subtle, more mechanical retelling on the origin and nature of vampires.
Still, this quirk is hardly the crux of the book and more a happy coincidence that it pleases me to capitalize on. Men and women live forever from the blood of others in The Growing Veil Series, but that doesn’t by default make them villains.
The secondary inspiration for this series was my fascination with the gray lines of morality, the ambiguity of right and wrong, and how it isn’t always clear how to do the right thing.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Violently. Fragments of my imagination tore free from my brain with very little oversight on my part. Creations that I thought I made showed me time and again that they knew better than me, defying my carefully constructed plot lines to blaze their own way. More often than not, my characters changed the course of the series through their own action, and I was forced to tag along and see what happened.
It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that my characters are not mine. To me, they are very real. They argue with each other, they are separately motivated, and they almost never agree on anything. If I invented them, it was from a corner of my mind that I have no control over and do not understand.
I imagine this is how it feels to be crazy. The jury is still out.
Vam Aranath burned.
For the first time in a thousand years, the city of the Twinborn gods glowed red with the light of fire. Slaves, servants, and lesser priests ran through the streets bearing torches, axes, and even ploughs to carry out a bloody rebellion. Nobles were killed in the courtyards. Archons, hundreds of years aged, were slaughtered in their beds. The rebellion was swift and overwhelming, and the white streets ran red.
In the end, it had been simple. A thousand years of indolence had made the privileged fat and unconcerned. Vam Atha and Vam Olsu, the pretenders who ruled as gods for millennia, were isolated here, untouched by the taint of their crimes. In this city of white and gold, the destruction never reached them. They were free from the widows and famines they created, free from the fields made fallow with blood. They were unprepared for the bloodlust of their slaves.
Sadagon clutched a fist from atop his tower, the bitter wind stinging his half-smiling face with flakes of snow. He watched as an ancient building collapsed in on itself to his left, and a great statue of Olsu shattered as it was heaved off its pedestal. That was the signal he’d been waiting for. The gods’ armies were scattered, and his men were in position.
Satisfied that the last of the city’s defenses were failing, Sadagon turned away and descended the stone staircase. The cold was less intense inside. Outside, at the bottom of the tower, the underclasses surged past in their mad hunt to find their masters and kill them. Sadagon didn’t feel guilty for a moment. They had earned their fate centuries ago.
Clad in plates of black armor, Sadagon made for the High Temple, throne room of the sibling gods. It was almost over. Drifts of snow spun about his powerful form as he stepped up to the grand temple and the pocket of men who protected it.
Wearing the gold and white armor of their station, the Alabaster Guard, defenders of the throne, held tight formation against Sadagon’s harrying force. With pikes, spears, halberds, swords, and axes, they defended the massive entrance to the magnificent temple. They had flocked in full force to defend their gods—and their salaries, no doubt. There were over seven hundred of the defenders here, and they held well.
Good. That was all of them.
Sadagon’s force hemmed them in at all sides, except the great doors behind. Men, who had weeks before been indentured craftsmen, field workers, or slaves, fought alongside a force of Sadagon’s own men, gifted to him by the god, Olsu, himself. Despite their superior numbers, no ground was gained against the well-armed and armored defenders. The conflict lasted hours into the night, but still, they attacked. They didn’t need to win this fight, and in fact, they weren’t meant to. This force was merely a distraction.
Silently at first and then with the sound of grating metal, the monstrous doors opened inward, and Sadagon smiled, cutting down a man who stood in shock to gape at the door he’d been defending. He looked familiar.
Almost a hundred men poured from the entryway, all battle-hardened and garbed in Sadagon’s black. The Alabaster Guard fell almost immediately after that, unable to withstand his flanking force.
With only a few small pockets of men still resisting and others surrendering, Sadagon gathered his elite force and marched inside. Their boots left deep red prints on the marble floor. The few remaining Archons and favored of the Twinborn Gods huddled in the great archway colonnades at the sides of the temple. Sadagon paid them no mind, stomping directly down the center of the great structure. He didn’t need to punish them. He left that to the slaves they had oppressed for the past thousand years, who outnumbered them a hundred to one and were pouring through the open doors in a blood frenzy.
Men and women of luxury screamed as the poor and indentured ripped them apart with implements of farming. He couldn’t smile as he watched it done, but neither did he flinch. Liars and enablers all. He found it interesting that not one of the enraged surfs pried the gemstones or precious metals from the walls as they murdered their oppressors. They were here for freedom—freedom, and revenge.
As the lesser problem solved itself, Sadagon closed the gap between him and the rising plinth of stairs that elevated the two thrones. In them sat the heart of this cancer, the root of the lie that had taken mankind: his parents, the Twinborn Gods.
Surrounded by white-robed priests muttering meaningless prayers, the ashen haired gods sat upon their gilded thrones. Atha and Olsu, his mother and father, cast haughty eyes over their temple. They didn’t look a day over twenty-five, except their white hair, and Sadagon finally conceded that he looked older than his father.
The bastard child of the gods swung a broad-bladed sword through the backs of the priests surrounding the steps, cutting them down like wet reeds. Their blood ran in rivulets across the diamond-studded floor, staining the once clear gems a sanguine red. Sadagon mounted the steps.
“You damn yourself, bastard,” Olsu said, in a voice far older than his face suggested. It wasn’t feeble or wavering but cold as ice and full of cynicism.
Atha, his mother, leaned forward in her throne. “What have you done, Sadagon? Even if you succeed here, you know we control the fate of all souls. Would you condemn yourself to eternity in the Iron Halls, my child?” Her voice was less cutting but only for her cunning.
“There’s no need for lies, Mother,” he replied. “I’ve had a lifetime of them.”
Olsu sneered. “Your life is allowed only because of lies, and suddenly you’ve had enough? You might as well take the axe to your own neck.”
“Indeed,” Atha agreed. “You have been allowed life on the condition that you serve us and serve forever from the shadows. We are all that protect you, dear child.”
Sadagon leveled his sword. “Stand up. I didn’t come here to talk.”
“Do you see what you’ve done, sister?” Olsu rasped. “He thinks he is free. He thinks himself above punishment. I should have had him killed the day he was born—or sooner.”
Sadagon’s men filed behind him at the foot of the stairs, disposing of the remaining priests. “I won’t ask again.”
“And what will you do once I’m dead?” Atha asked. “Do you think you will be forgiven for your sins because you are my son? If you do this, child, you consign yourself to eternal torture. I will not forgive you. Your punishment will endure forever.”
Sadagon leaned in. “I know about the spile,” he hissed. Olsu’s stone-like face finally broke, and his eyes went wide.
“What did you say?” he said in a whisper.
“I know your secret, Father.”
Atha was too stunned to speak, but Olsu stood from his gold and diamond-encrusted throne in a rage. “Heresy!” he screamed. “Sacrilege! You will live to see the skin removed from your body. I will flay you myself and pour salt on your flesh. I-” He cut off as Sadagon struck him in the stomach with a gauntleted hand. He coughed bile.
“Sadagon! Stop this! You don’t know what you do.”
He didn’t stop, though. He grabbed the false god by a fistful of thick, white hair and threw him down his own stairs. Blood streamed in thin ribbons where he fell, tracing all the way to where he stopped at the feet of Sadagon’s men.
“Stand,” Sadagon ordered Atha, “or I’ll throw you, too.” She cast her eyes to the balconies of the upper level where the privileged members of her court died at the hands of their servants, screams echoing off the disgustingly ornate walls and ceiling. A man several hundred years past his due fell, screaming from over the railing above, pushed by his own palanquin bearers. He was silenced with a sickening crunch. Finally, she rose.
“You would kill your own mother? For power?”
He put a metal-plated hand on her back, ushering her down the bloody stairs. “I never knew my mother. I only knew a despot who wielded me as an assassin and executioner.”
“That,” Olsu said, spitting blood, “is the only reason you were not cast off at the first.” One of Sadagon’s black-garbed men kicked the god in the gut, sending him back to his side.
“I’ve waited a long time to do that,” Baranor, Sadagon’s second captain, said. Sadagon waved for him to be silent, and two other men stooped to lift the once god.
“Take them to the pyre,” Sadagon instructed. His men dragged Olsu and pushed the lady Atha, but she grabbed him by the arm before they could take her away.
“At least tell me this,” Atha whispered. “Who told you? How did you come to know?”
Sadagon hesitated a moment before replying. “No one told me. No one betrayed you, except for me.”
She pried further, but he brushed off her hand and turned away. She was forced to raise her head and allow herself to be ushered along by his men, angry rioters throwing rocks and shoes at her all down the lengthy temple, still cheering and raging in the throes of their violence.
Sadagon waited by the twin thrones for several minutes, allowing himself to bask in his victory. Years of planning had finally led to this day, and it had gone perfectly. Why, then, did he feel so hollow? The world was free from the tyranny of false gods. Hundreds of thousands of men had been saved from deaths on pointless battlefields. No more cities would be burned for defying the gods’ will. Taxes would be lifted. The world would be free to prosper and progress. Beside all of that, was he mourning the loss of parents who had never loved him?
He shook his head and ascended the stairs. He was resolved to do what was necessary, regardless of what it took.
Behind the ornate thrones, Sadagon approached a solid gold panel adorning the back wall of the temple. Hundreds of feet above him, the magnificent ironbound windows allowed moonlight to filter in, but it was lost in the myriad of phosphorous lamps that burned along the walls and arches.
He removed his gauntlets and ran rough hands over the gold paneling, searching for something out of place. He felt it, a small nub where there should be none, and pushed. A completely seamless hidden door opened with the whirring of gears, revealing a long, dark tunnel, thinly carved and unadorned. He smiled. The spile was here. Pushing on the golden door, he closed it with a click, and all signs of it ever existing disappeared. He would have to put together a team and locate the life spile later. For now, he had two gods to kill.
Outside the temple and beyond the palace grounds, Sadagon had erected a massive wooden pyre, and it was here that the false gods were bound upright and covered in oil. When he arrived, there was a massive crowd of recently liberated men and women, and they were frothing with ecstasy and rage.
With an outstretched hand, Sadagon accepted a flaming torch from one of his men and began the execution. Snow, carried on wind, whipped his hair about his shoulders and into his face, but he paid it no mind.
“Atha and Olsu,” he bellowed in his best oration. “You are judged by the citizens of this city and found guilty.” The crowd cheered, and he had to wait for a pause to be heard over them. “For the crimes of tyranny, despotism, usurpation, genocide, murder, rape, incest, and other crimes heinous, you are sentenced to death by fire.”
The crowd vied for the fire, demanding the flames that would consume their once-gods. They’d had a taste of blood now, and they wouldn’t be satisfied until they were drenched in it. If Sadagon didn’t light the pyre soon, the crowd would do it for him. He decided to be brief.
“Your city has fallen. Your rule is at an end. Atha and Olsu, liars and pretenders, you are stripped of your names, stripped of your titles, and stripped of your privilege. Let your sins be cleansed by flame.”
He threw the torch upon the pyre.
Flames instantly engulfed them, covered in oil as they were. Atha extended her neck, as if to escape the heat, but was silent. Sadagon had to look away. Olsu, however, screamed his fury until the very last.
“Patricide!” he cried. “Regicide! Traitor, heathen, and bastard!” His screams were pained but audible over the fire that consumed him. “I curse you, ice spawn, to eternity in the Iron Halls! I curse you to an eternity of pain and fire! I curse you to see all that you love die and wither before you. You will never find peace! You—” He screamed on until the fire took him completely. Sadagon made no move to stop him, made no effort to silence him. Olsu could have his insults. Sadagon would keep the dead god’s secrets—and his power.
The crowd cried in rapturous ecstasy as the tyrants died. They were free at last. Orange light spilled across hungry faces, exultant in their violence, until eventually, the pyre burned low and the sun began to rise. They didn’t disperse, though. If anything, the gathering grew larger, and what started as a whispered susurration grew in tempo and cadence until it was on the lips of every man and woman through the whole of the city.
“Praise Sadagon, lord of the pyre!” they cried, chanting his name. “Lord Pyre! Lord Pyre!”
Sadagon grimaced, unsure how to feel. They all but begged for him to lead them, but he knew what they didn’t. His father’s machine, the life spile, was now in his possession. If they chose him to rule now, he would lead as long as he lived.
And with the spile and just a little blood, he would live forever.
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