Greetings! Though Iron Butterfly has indeed concluded, I thought I'd finish with a tease of the prologue for the next Tales of El novel. Stone Illusions is now available and being updated! Enjoy!

The Intersect

Playing hooky, Gartol tried to catch his favorite scralla ball as it fell, but at the last moment, one of the flaps in the ball's outer shell dropped open, scooping the air and redirecting the descent. The scralla ball bounced off the damp planks of the temple's elevated walkway, hit the library's outer wall, then rolled down the walk's gentle decline.

As Gartol chased his wayward ball, he almost tripped: Gartol's twin, Parthol, chose that moment to unleash what had been unto then, a distant, nebulous displeasure. It grew sharp and cutting against Gartol's mind, making it difficult to see clearly. Parthol's unhappiness always did that to Gartol, and it ruined Gartol's perfectly reasonable 'duty shirking'. Unlike most rae`lirs, Gartol didn't need to be physically near his brother to sense Parthol nodding off and then to jostle him awake—advantages of twinship. Whether the lore that indicated twins shared a single soul was true or not, they did share a deep, constant connection that surpassed what most rae`lir formed with their families. Therefore, unlike most, as long as Parthol was Gartol's time-keeping counterpart for watch duty, Gartol could fulfill his function without having to climb to the top of the bell tower.

Gartol returned the mental prod, transforming it into a comforting caress that promised Gartol would provide a soothing back massage as apology and thanks. Parthol's mind settled just as Gartol caught up with his scralla ball. He heard distant voices he didn't recognize, though the tight vegetation hemming in the walkways blocked view of their owners.

"I don't want to stay here. I want to go home with you."

"That's enough." The new voice wavered about as much as the mountains' foundation against a slight breeze. "This is what's best. There's a purpose, and if you stop being stubborn, you can even enjoy it."

"But Ka-nah—"

"Wait here. I'm going to finalize arrangements with the High Master."

Gartol peeked around the corner just in time to watch an adult rae`lir pass into and then out of his line of vision where the path connected to a walk surrounding the main temple compound. He craned his neck, in attempt to see the boy who'd spoken. He remembered how nervous he'd been when he and Parthol came to serve at the High Northern Water Temple, and they'd been excited about it.

Like all rae`lir, the boy had ebony eyes and skin faintly tinted blue — like a greyish-brown river stone draped with translucent, blue silk. The boy looked a year or two younger than Gartol—maybe nine or so. He leaned against the walkway's railing with one arm crossed tight over his stomach and his other hand rubbing the side of his head. His eyes locked on the planks at his feet, and his short, slate-colored hair, very common among the rae`lirs, fell down around his face. Despite this, Gartol could see his silver lips twisting downwards, and his face appeared especially dark, suggesting the blood had drained. Even from that far away, Gartol sensed the anxiety rolling off him. Poor kid. Still, that unhappy sight was really, really cute.

Gartol ducked under the railing at his right and crossed through the foliage, leaves dripping water down his back and against his face as he moved through them soundlessly. He pulled himself up onto the walkway right beside the boy. Standing outside the railing, Gartol leaned over it as he tilted his head forward. His short, dark grey braid swung downwards over his shoulder. "You know, it's pretty nice here most of the time."

The boy's gaze jerked up, surprise flashing across his features as sense of his mind grew tight and distant, nearly invisible like most strangers'. The boy dropped his arms, and his stance shifted to one that displayed strength and confidence as he backed away from Gartol's sudden appearance. But it was too late: Gartol had already seen the truth...

That's all you get! Go to Stone Illusions for the rest!