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Fractures (Facets of Reality Book 2)

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Fractures (Facets of Reality Book 2)



  Copyright © 2017 Jeremy Bullard

  All Rights Reserved.

  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or in any means – by electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise – without prior written permission.

  This novel is a work of fiction. Names, descriptions, entities, and incidents included in the story are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, events, and entities is entirely coincidental.


  As many of you know, this book almost never got written. I was working on it in 2015 when I found out that the heart condition that I was born with had progressed to the point where I needed surgery.

  Yes, that surgery. Crack the chest, spread the ribs, split the heart in half, lay everything open. That surgery.

  Naturally, that had an effect on my writing. I couldn't think about Fractures in the weeks leading up to the surgery, and it really took a couple months for me to get my head on straight after the surgery. So I apologize for taking so long with this follow up to Gemworld.

  But maybe if I give you a sense of how long the first book was in the making, you'll forgive me for how long it took me on this second one?

  Yeah, let's give that a shot.

  Way back in 2003, I was working as a corrections officer for the Eufaula Police Department. As with my previous jurisdiction, I often found myself working the night shift. This left me taking care of a quiet jail filled with sleeping inmates, so I had a lot of time on my hands.

  Naturally, I filled that time with reading. A lot.

  At the time, I was in between books. Robert Jordan was about midway through his Wheel of Time series, and Stephen King through his Dark Tower series. As a long-time fan of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, I'd read all the Dragonlance and Darksword books that were available to me, so I was looking for something new.

  Enter, The Deathgate Cycle.

  The series was right up my alley. It was easy reading, adventurous, with exotic realms and a unique magic system. It played heavily on alternate realities, which fit perfectly with my interests in The Wheel of Time and The Dark Tower. And the series was already complete, so I could get the entire story and not be stuck waiting on the next installment, as I was with WoT and DT. It was perfect.

  This is the frame of mind I was in when I first got the idea for Gemworld.

  After completing Deathgate, I found myself wondering – if I were to create a world, as did Weis and Hickman, what would it look like? What kind of people would I find there? What would the history be like?

  One thing I discovered right off the bat was that I would want this world to be magical... but I didn't want that magic to look like everybody else's. I wanted it to be powerful, but to have limitations.

  I was playing a MMORPG at the time called Asheron's Call, and I really liked the separation between the various schools of magic – Life, War, Creature, and Item – but I also liked the similarities between them. Though it was never outrightly expressed in the game itself or even in the lore, there was an occasional blurring of the lines, the closer the spells got in function. Life mages were dedicated to healing and the like, but they had the ability to take health from something – almost the reverse image of a War mage. I loved that, the distinction between the schools but the similarities implied.

  So I started playing with the physics of magic in my world, and the Tiles were born. As with Asheron's Call and Dragonlance, the Tiles were somewhat based on schools of thought, but as with Wheel of Time, they had an elemental quality to them. I wanted them to be somewhat totemic, like with Deathgate and the runes, and so I associated the divisions of magic with precious gems, the colors of which logically appealed to the element represented by a given Tile.

  Fire, of course, suggested the color red, so Ruby was a natural choice for that. Same with Water and the blue of Sapphire, and Life with the green of Emerald. There wasn't any color that naturally screamed Energy to me, but as I researched, it seemed like the lavender of Amethyst fit the bill. And of course, Darkness was best embodied by Obsidian. That left Matter, which begged to be associated with Granite, even though you can't really consider Granite a precious gem. But, those were the logical fits, so I went with them.

  Immediately, I noticed that the Tiles started to define themselves! Given the nature of the gems that I'd picked, there were certain qualities that lent themselves to the makeup of the magic, as well as the implications for the magic users.

  Of course, I'm talking about Granite magic, among other things. I started looking at the soulgems in terms of “blurring the lines”, as I mentioned earlier, and it jumped out at me that Granite was opaque, whereas the other soulgems were translucent. How interesting! I wondered for a moment if I needed to go back and find another gem (not that I really wanted to – Granite seemed a perfect fit), but then I considered what effect Granite's opacity would have on the mage attuned to it.

  This led to me discovering that when a would-be mage attunes to a soulgem, their eyes take on the qualities of their soulgem. In most cases, the soulgem was translucent, so the mage would still be able to see naturally, but Granite is opaque, so light cannot penetrate it. That would leave the granite mage blind.

  Blind? No, that doesn't work. I mean, it'd be a neat plot device, but do I really want a sect of blind mages in the world I'm creating? Okay, so I want a mage with opaque eyes to see. How do we do that? That led to the discovery of magical sight.

  See, starting with that one worldbuilding point – the nature of magic and how it translates as gemstones – the world began to shape itself without much input on my part. Those initial determinations had implications, which themselves had implications, and so on. Before long, I had an entire array of magical attributes and abilities, which spoke to a mythos that the denizens of my world would likely refer to.

  So I wrote my very first lines in the world of Gemworld – a fictional treatise, called The Musings of Anreid Romal, with gives an account of the origins of magic. I've added Musings to the end of this book as an appendix, if for no other reason than to document the origins of the series itself. Though I would caution you – I wouldn't take it “strictly” as canon. As the Highest frowns upon anything approaching formal education, knowledge and understanding have been found and lost and rediscovered numerous times throughout the centuries (read “there's a lot of Gemworld and Fractures that has evolved since then” LOL), so while Romal gets the basics right, you're free to be skeptical about the rest of it.

  What's so interesting about Musings is that it demonstrates brilliantly – at least to me – how an idea can evolve on its own. While I've always had a good idea of where Facets of Reality would go, the rules of the world I've created sometimes dictate for me how I am to get there. A minor character that I just tossed in for effect might become a major player later on. A huge plot device that I created for earth-shattering effect might be absolutely thrown to the wayside, in favor of something else that develops on its own.

  This is a dynamic that has really shaped not only this story for me, but my whole outlook on writing. It demonstrates that the more internally consistent a world is, the more real that world is. And the more real the world is, the BIGGER it is, extending far beyond the boundaries that the author imagines for it. In the end, the story that the author writes is only a window looking in on a very narrow sliver of that world's history.

  This can sometimes present a problem for the author. With all the cool stuff in our world, we feel driven to include all of it in our writing, but for the sake of the story
have to keep to ourselves! It's quite like when you're talking with a friend about Game of Thrones (for example hehe), but they're not to the point where you are in the series, and you have to bit your lip – hard – to keep from giving them spoilers.

  But don't feel like you're the only one who experiences this dynamic. We authors do too, if the world we've created is real enough. For everything that I know that you don't, there's a whole world of people and events and details that even I will never discover myself. And yet, those things continue to have an impact on the things I do know. It's this dynamic that drives me to explore the world I've created, to discover the “effects” for every “cause” that I've put in place.

  Sigh... I'm rambling. It's 0150 right now, and I'm about halfway through a night shift at work, so that's as good an excuse as any I guess. You get the gist of it, though – the story effectively writes itself, even if it took eleven years to do it the first time, and two to cover the second. Hopefully the third book will come to me a bit faster, but I honestly can't say.

  Which brings me to... where do we go from here?

  Well, I've got one more book to go in this series, under the working title Prism. I've also got a stand-alone novel planned, also based in Te'ra, under the working title Soul Taker. And I've got an anthology of short stories planned, mainly fantasy, but at least one hard sci-fi in the same universe. About five or six of those stories are already written, each of about five thousand or so words, so I'm off to a good start. Musings was originally going to be part of that anthology, but as I said earlier, the story evolves!

  Beyond these planned works... who knows? I'd love to continue exploring Te'ra until I'm too old to see the keyboard, but real life comes before fantasy. I'm a saint of God, a husband, a Daddy, and a friend. I've got a job with long hours and lots of quiet time, so it naturally lends itself to my writing. But the unexpected happens, and life gets in the way, so the best I can offer you is this – however much of Te'ra I get to see, I'll do my best to share with you as well. It really is the coolest place, and I can't bear the thought of having it all to myself.

  Jeremy Bullard

  February 5, 2017

  To the Father, who anoints me to His purpose

  To the Son, who redeems me to His glory

  To the Holy Spirit, who empowers me to His calling

  To Mary, Livy, Caleb, and Madi, who see more in me than I see in myself, and inspire me to be more than I am

  The Island of Ysre

  Chapter 1

  Sal ruffled his covers as quietly as he could so as to not rouse the lightly sleeping Marissa, who gently snored on her cot just beyond his reach. He sighed and repositioned his arm, then tossed restlessly on his makeshift pallet, sighing again.

  He'd been chasing sleep all night, and had gained no ground. Sometimes, he'd lie still in the darkness and listen to the rest of the camp. Between the determined snores, gaseous backfires, and whispered complaints that nevertheless carried throughout the ruined fortress, it was the noisiest silence he'd ever heard. Apparently, Sal was in good company -- sleep was evading most of its pursuers. Not surprising, given the events of the previous day and how heavily they weighed on every mind -- pitched battle, improbable victories, notable deaths, frikkin dragons -- but it was frustrating all the same.

  Sal had just found a slightly more comfortable position when the shrill cry of a flax warbler cut through the night. It was an easy bird to mimic, and one not native to Ysre, so it served the purposes of the perimeter guard well. The call signaled the end of night, never mind the fact that the encampment was still cloaked in the twilight of early morning.

  Watchbreak, Sal thought ruefully. And not a wink of sleep to show for it.

  Bones crackled as he edged out from under his covers, casting a cautious eye at Marissa. He could see her plainly even in the dark -- mussed red hair, glittering line of dribble on her cheek, utterly beautiful in every imperfection. And still asleep, bless her! But she wouldn't be for long. The watch calls would only get louder as they were passed around the perimeter. Not trusting his luck to hold, he ducked out of the tent flap and into the dark of morning.

  Torches flickered along the makeshift streets of Caravan, lighting the way for those rebels who were already up and about, and casting dancing shadows on granite walls that had saved their lives less than a day before. To the south, he saw the massive breach caused by sapphire magics, with a double fist of his Unmarked standing guard against any Earthen Rank that might still remain in Bastion.

  Sal stepped to the corner of the tent where waited a wash basin and hanging mirror. Rubbing the gem encrusted silver rim, he watched as the basin filled with cool water, then splashed himself briskly -- arms, chest, face, and head, washing away the night. He rubbed the drips from his hair and locked eyes with himself in the mirror, flesh and diamond meeting their reflected opposites. His gemstone eye caught the torchlight and glinted, throwing out reds, yellows, greens, blues, and purples in ever changing arrays.

  And not a hint of brown. Not that he'd actually expect there to be -- brown isn't a prismatic color -- but he, being the Prism, was supposed to be the master of Granite as well as all the other soulgems.

  And he couldn't touch it to save his life.

  Knowing that he was tempting frustration, he drew mana into himself anyway, and wielded. The clarity of his diamond eye grew verdant as Emerald took hold, then faded to blue as he touched Sapphire. Then to Amethyst, then to Ruby, and then back to Emerald, he cycled through his known soulgems, trying to suss out any hint of what was holding him back from touching Granite.

  Keth would know, he thought with a scowl. If anybody could tell him what Granite required, it would be the man who'd had nobody else to teach him how to wield it. An innovative man. An anomaly in a world where granites were slaves as much to their bitterness as they were to their inevitable master. A gentle man, yet fierce. A man who was now dead, thanks to an immortal tyrant who would never know his name. To the Highest, he was just one more body to step over.

  Sal's gemstone eye cycled faster and faster as his frustration grew, morphing into each soulgem only long enough to skip to the next. He heard a full-throated bellow of rage, but so disconnected was he that it took him a moment to realize that the scream was his. It felt good to scream, he noted absently, to let it all out. There was so much he needed to scream at, but couldn't. His magics cycled at breakneck speed. The colors began to blur, so that even Sal had a hard time delineating between them. But they were not simultaneous. No matter how fast Sal cycled through the soulgems, he was only able to touch them one at a time... and none of them spoke to him of Granite.

  All at once, the mirror exploded -- or melted, or vaporized; it was hard to say which. Sal squeezed his eyes shut against the flying remnants of the looking glass, turning his head to shield himself from the blast.

  The relative quiet of the night came alive with the hiss of steel being unsheathed and the utterance of myriad curses. Well, he had wanted to let it all out.

  Marissa burst through the tent flap, issuing some rather indelicate oaths of her own. She held a wickedly sharp looking dagger in her hand, and her eyes struck a curious balance between foggy and alert. Blood streamed from a gash in her left eyebrow.

  "Whoa, false alarm, Killer," he said quickly, gripping her as gently as he could to keep her from leaping to battle with whatever enemy presented itself. He hastily repeated his assurances to the varied residents of Caravan as they came running to his defense, often to an annoyed retort. "You hurt?" he asked Marissa, turning his attention back to her.

  It took a moment for her to process his question, half asleep as she was. "The tent's pitch black," she said finally. "I tripped over something and hit my head. What... what were you...?"

  "Sorry." Touching Emerald, he healed her wound and rejuvenated her as best he could. Her eyes gleamed with vigor and vigilance almost immediately.

  "What did you do to my looking glass?" she demanded, pushing past him as she took
in her surroundings.

  "Yeah, sorry about that too."

  "You'll be more than sorry if you don't find me a replacement," she assured. "I've had that mirror since before I'd even joined the Cause. You've no idea how many bumps and bruises that thing had survived before you."

  "I'm sorry, okay?" he repeated lamely. "Seriously. And while I'm apologizing, I might as well throw last night into the mix."

  "Last night?" Marissa asked, the apology catching her off guard and drawing forth a confused grin. "You staying in my tent? You needed a place to stay, and I'm your declared. It's uncommon, sure, but not inappropriate."

  "No, not that," he snickered sheepishly. "I mean after you doctored me up, when we were making out and I... ummm... touched..."

  Marissa laughed, brilliantly and genuinely enough to let Sal know that any hurt he had caused her, she was over it. "Oh, please. I expected that. I would've been more offended if you hadn't tried something."

  It was Sal's turn to be confused. "So why did you stop me?"

  Her once-wounded eyebrow quirked knowingly. "Because I'm your declared. Not your wife. Crafter knows I walk the Way of el a bit straighter than that."

  "Fair enough."

  With a self-satisfied grin, Marissa changed the subject back. "So what happened to my looking glass?"

  "Ahhh... I let my temper get the best of me," he shrugged. "I was trying to touch Granite, and got to thinking about Keth, and the two thoughts didn't play well together." He cast a glance over his shoulder at the now mirrorless wash basin. "I could really use his help, now more than ever. I mean, what gives? Mastering Emerald and Sapphire were a snap. And even though I didn't have anybody to teach me Ruby and Amethyst, they weren't so different from the first two that I couldn't figure them out on my own. But Granite..."

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