Sariel - a legendary but jaded angelic warrior - has abandoned the Eternal Realm and its unceasing war. The only meaning left for him is a woman he's never met and isn't supposed to love. Taking refuge in the Temporal Realm, Sariel assumes the form of a human to integrate himself into Sheyir's primitive and superstitious tribe. To win her heart, he must prove himself to Sheyir's father. But the task he is given takes him away from Sheyir and reveals that he is not alone. Other soldiers of his kind have already begun their inhabitation of this new frontier. As the dominance of their kingdom spreads, Sariel finds himself navigating the politics of cultures in both realms and taking up his old ways to protect the one he loves.
Incarnation is an epic fantasy set in prehistoric Earth: the first of a four-book series that explores the supernatural origin of our mythologies in a gritty, realistic way.
THE BORDERLANDS OF THE ETERNAL REALM
Shards of light were scattered like wounds across a crimson sky, converging over the western horizon. The vibrant display was all that remained of the Holy One's manifestation in this place along creation's spectrum. Somewhere beyond the jagged mountain peaks, past a multitude of worlds invisible from this perspective, the city of the Holy One marked the end of the Eternal Realm where the blazing illumination of His righteousness dwelled. But here, on the Borderlands of the Temporal Realm, the nothingness of the Evil One cloaked the land in darkness.
The desolate terrain below passed by in a blur. Ahead, the glowing forms of the winged Iryllurym moved silently through the mist which clung to the recesses of the landscape. Their ethereal bodies were nearly motionless, gliding with a gracefulness that defied the blinding speed at which they flew.
At the rear of the formation, Sariel nodded to his own soldiers, giving the silent order to ready their weapons. Through the eye holes of his sleek helmet, he inspected the indistinct structure of his gauntlets and breastplate. At other points along the spectrum, the luminescent armor would have a more substantial existence. The Borderlands, however, had long ago become a place of loosely-contained shapes and colors. Reaching to the small of his back, he unsheathed a pair ofvaepkir, the famed weapon of the angelic soldiers of the sky. Each elegantly curved blade now ran across the outside edge of his forearms, extending beyond his clenched fists at the front and his elbows at the back.
All around him, Sariel's soldiers indicated their readiness, but he could feel uncertainty hanging in the air like a suffocating fog. Their unanswered questions still rang in his ears and they were looking to him now to make sense of what they were about to do. One wing of Iryllurym, forty-nine in all, had been assigned to this joint operation. They were to fly low and fast into enemy territory and come about to approach the demons from behind. Meanwhile, the angelic ground forces of the Anduarym would meet the enemy head on. It seemed simple enough. But Sariel's seven-member team was normally assigned to smaller, strategic missions. Their quick-strike capability was better suited for removing enemy sentries and laying the foundation for advancing ground troops, not for a standard military action such as this. Like many recent orders he'd been given, he knew it wasn't an intelligent one.
The larger formation began banking to the left and Sariel followed, struggling to shove his emotions and insubordinate thoughts back into a place where no one could detect them. What his soldiers needed now was confidence and assurance. Behind the protective barrier of his helmet, Sariel opened his mouth. The air around him seemed to come alive as a single tone, crystal clear, grew in volume until it filled the spaces between him and his soldiers. One by one, each winged angel added a harmonic tone, joining the skalagid, a Song of Understanding. Immediately, their thoughts were melded together in a form of group-communication far more efficient than words.
"Stay close to me," he told them. "Do what you do best. Fly fast. Strike hard. Eliminate the enemy. Give them a taste of your vaepkir and let the Marotru regret their unfaithfulness to the Holy One!"
At once, the spirits of his friends were lifted. Their wings seemed to move with greater agility. The tension drained from their muscles, even as the grip on their weapons tightened. And now it was Sariel's turn to experience the benefit of empowerment that came with shared understanding. For ages, they had relied on one another. Fought side by side in countless battles. Through it all, the strength of their conviction and the solidarity of their purpose is what had kept them alive. Sariel now felt invincible, just as they did.
Up ahead, the mist parted into two swirling vortices in the wake of the wing leader, an instant before the remainder of the attack group entered the cover of darkness.
For a moment, all seemed silent and still.
When they exited the concealing fog, the stillness was gone. The rear lines of the demonic army could be seen across the wide valley. Their writhing mass appeared as a blotch of shadow, consuming any remnants of ambient light that struggled for existence in this harsh environment. In stark contrast, the radiant forms of the Anduarym shone through the enemy silhouettes like a sunrise in the Temporal Realm. The wingless ground soldiers were already engaging the demons.
At the center of the enemy formation were the Nin-Myndarym. Protected by lesser demons on all sides, these Unshapers were the heart of the army's power, the dark fulcrum around which every shadow pivoted. As the polar opposites of the Myndarym, Sariel reserved a special hatred for these evil creatures. He locked his eyes on his objective and brought his arms forward, clasping his vaepkir together into a rigid, bladed frame that would act as a ramming weapon.
In seconds, the warriors of the sky had closed the distance. Keeping low to the terrain, the formation of Iryllurym struck at the center of the Marotru army, banking left and right at the last moment to fracture the rear guard in two. The ranks of lesser demons parted like a cleft in a mountain, exposing the Unshapers.
Sariel braced himself.
His arms jolted violently as his vaepkir sliced through alternating spaces of air and the negative mass of the Nin-Myndarym bodies. Each density change brought a rapid succession of glaring lights that illuminated grotesque faces, crooked limbs, and gaunt torsos. With his momentum slowing and his weapons threatening to tear away from his grip, Sariel pulled up just before reaching the front lines.
His massive wings now stabbed upward, seizing large quantities of air before thrusting them downward, propelling his body into the sky. The other six members of his team followed closely as they gained altitude and readied themselves for the next attack. Below, traces of light still lingered, marking the path of the Iryllur attack. They appeared as a braided cord of pale colors, unraveling at one end, with the individual threads radiating outward along the rear of the enemy ranks. Hundreds of demons had perished in a matter of seconds. Some were still disappearing into brilliant explosions of whiteness.
Gradually, but with an exponential increase in volume, a low rumble emerged from the sounds of battle. It rose quickly to a thunderous roar, drowning out all others. The chaotic jumble of lights and shadows on the battlefield below seemed to calm as soldiers on both sides of the conflict ceased fighting.
Then the Anduarym began to fall.
The ground beneath their feet dissolved, opening into a gaping hole like the mouth of a colossal monster. It started at the back of the angelic force, rippling forward to engulf the soldiers, and finally the front lines of the demonic horde as well. When the last angelic points of light were swallowed into the belly of the earth, Sariel realized that the battle was over.
In just a few seconds, the entire Anduar army had vanished.
Only when he saw movement at the edges of the crater did Sariel realize what had happened. At first, a dozen tentacles appeared. Then it was thousands, as the Nedaret began crawling from their subterranean domain. The massive demons moved with an unnatural gait. Folded, snakelike appendages shot out, then unfurled to the extent of their reach, heaving the weight of the demons' upper bodies along the ground. It was disgusting enough to encounter these burrowing abominations in their own domain, even more so above ground.
With his eyes fixed on the swarming shadows emerging onto the battlefield, Sariel didn't see the counter attack until one of his soldiers abruptly plummeted from the formation, spiraling downward in the smothering embrace of a winged demon. Glancing up, he only had time to flinch as the descending cloud of fangs and claws engulfed all that remained of the angelic forces.