Welcome to my stop on the book tour for Zack Argyle’s Voice of War. I want to thank Justine & Timy @ Storytellers on Tour for letting me be involved and a big shoutout to Mr. Argyle on his debut release!
Make sure to check out the rest of the tour by hitting up the schedule link here!
Below you will find information on the book and author, alongside Chapter 1 of the novel. Check it out!
Voice of War by Zack Argyle
Published: March 19, 2020
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Age Group: Adult
While preparing for the birth of his first child, Chrys Valerian is tasked with uncovering the group responsible for a series of missing threadweavers—those able to see and manipulate threadlight. With each failure, the dark voice in his head that began during the war grows louder, begging to be released.
Laurel lives in Zedalum, a secret city in the center of the Fairenwild. During her most recent messenger run, Laurel veered off course to explore the streets of Alchea. She never expected that her journey would end in chains.
When Chrys learns who is responsible for the missing threadweavers, they come for him and his family. He must do everything in his power to protect those he loves, even if it means trusting a strange girl or the dark voice in his mind.
A priest, dressed in ritual whites, placed a glove over each of his hands and reached out to the child on the altar. “May the will of the Father be manifest.”
Ten feet back, two couples stood staring, eyes eager with anticipation. Chrys and Iriel were not family but had been given the unusual honor of accompanying Luther and Emory for their son’s Rite of Revelation.
An honor Chrys had tried to decline.
Beneath the ritual chamber’s domed ceiling, intricate stained-glass windows graced the walls and a hint of lavender lingered in the air. The room spread out in a wide circle. At the center stood a solitary marble altar with a hand-span high lip protruding from its four corners, forming a protective barrier for the squirming infant laying on its padded surface. To the side, a large veil masked a temple worker, set to record the events.
The priest gently felt his way over the curves of the child’s face, finding and opening the lids of the child’s eyes. He lifted a vial out of his robes and forced a drop of clear liquid into the left eye. The child squirmed but did not cry as the liquid settled over his iris.
Chrys stood with his hands behind him, his back straight and his head tall. His high general uniform was well-pressed and orderly but, beneath his composed exterior, worry whittled away at his core. He’d seen the insides of men displayed on their outsides, he’d seen the life fade from limbless soldiers, but something about a child’s discomfort unsettles a man’s soul. Not to mention the enormous pressure this moment held for his friend.
He looked to his wife, Iriel, and the mountain inside her dress; their soon-to-be-born child. Her hand was tucked below the mass as if to keep it from falling. His own anxiety must be a drop of rain compared to the storm that raged inside Iriel. She wore her worry in the clench of her jaw.
On the stone floor, an intricate design swirled around a painted gold triangle, the altar centered at its tip. Luther and Emory each stood at separate ends of the triangle. Chrys appreciated the symbolism, but even more so he appreciated the order.
“What is the will of the Father?” the priest asked, his own eyes closed as he held the child’s eyes open.
Centuries ago, the Lightfather himself had given his priests a chemical that served as a catalyst to hasten the reconciling of an infant’s eye color. In a world where threadweavers defied the natural laws, eye color was everything. Today, it was even more important. Chrys watched Luther and Emory step toward the altar. Iriel squeezed his hand.
The room grew still.
Emory choked on her breath and began to cry. “Brown,” she exhaled, trying to hold back her emotions. But that single word—so colorless, so ordinary—was a herald from which she could not hide.
Chrys squeezed Iriel’s hand as they soaked in the word. Having brown eyes wasn’t the end of the world. It simply meant that you were not a threadweaver. Most people weren’t. But Luther and Emory were, their emerald eyes a sharp contrast to their dark, Felian skin. Their first two children were as well. Emory buried her thick hair into Luther’s chest. He gripped her fiercely, his eyes burning resentment. He took her hand and led her away from the altar. What came next would not be something any parent would choose to witness.
Iriel’s hand trembled against Chrys’. He glanced over to see a tear falling down her cheek. She was a warrior, not one to cry, but pregnancy had a way of amplifying her emotions, especially in familial matters. He steadied her hand with his own.
As they walked through to the waiting room, he grabbed Luther and embraced him, cursing the law under his breath. In Alchea, families were only allowed to have two children. If, however, a third child was born, it was given to the church to be raised in the priesthood—unless that child was a threadweaver. If the Rite revealed blue or green eyes, the couple could keep their third child. It was a risk Luther and Emory had known beforehand and, still, foresight dampens loss only the slightest.
Chrys held his friend tight. It felt wrong to see a soldier cry. If only he could convince the Stone Council to let them keep the child. Or perhaps he could convince the Great Lord to grant an exception. Doubtful on both accounts. They’d known the risk in having a third child.
As they left the room, the sound of the recorder’s pen scratching at parchment from behind the veil reverberated off the vaulted ceilings. It was done.
Cursed to darkness. Blessed to serve.
Was that the priest’s voice? Chrys glanced back as the door closed behind them. The priest was holding a different vial now.
A solemn echo carried through the hallway and into the waiting room as the door closed behind them.
“What were we thinking?” Luther asked. He ran his hands over the bare skin of his head as he fought back tears.
Chrys shook his head. “You knew, and still you tried. That’s damn brave if you ask me.”
“I don’t know.” Luther took a steadying breath. “Thank you…for being here. After everything we’ve been through.”
“You know I’ll always be there for you. You’ve had my back more times than I can remember. Two threads; one bond.”
“Two threads; one bond,” Luther repeated as they clasped arms. “I should go. Emory’s parents are waiting.”
Chrys looked him in the eyes. “Get some time. Spend time with your kids. Take care of Emory. She’ll need you more than you need her. I’ll make sure any of your shifts are covered.”
“I know you’re right, but the last thing I want to do right now is sit at home all day replaying these moments in my mind. Chrys,” Luther’s eyes grew serious, “promise me you’ll let me know if anything comes up. If we can catch the Bloodthieves—”
A blood-curdling scream thundered out from the ritual chamber. Every person in the waiting room turned to the door, terror-stricken. One by one, they each dropped their head. Cursed to darkness. Emory fell to her knees wailing. Luther sank down with her. He squeezed her as they embraced the truth. The child they had known was no longer theirs.
Chrys could picture it in his mind. The priest injecting a few drops of acid in each of the child’s eyes. The liquid entangling with tears as they bled down his face. A lifetime of divine blindness. It was cruel. It was horrid. It was commandment. All priests were blind in accordance with the Book of Alchaeus.
“And they shall shed off the light of the world for the light of Alchaeus, for it is greater to see truth than light.”
Chrys and Iriel stepped away as Emory’s family surrounded the couple. They walked silently, hand in hand. From the top of the temple’s stone steps, Chrys could see a broad view of the Alchean landscape. The temple was nestled up against the Everstone Mountains near the top of a large hill. A river flowed down from the mountains through the valley to the south.
Three central buildings loomed to each side, forming an elaborate tapestry of shadows where stone pillars and protrusions battled rays of sunlight. A spiraling dome capped one of the buildings. The top of the dome bloomed like a rose into two figures adorned in floral robes representing the Heralds, a remnant of the old religion.
A pity such lovely buildings were given to the blind.
Iriel winced as they descended the stairs. “We’re never having a third.”
“Stones, no,” Chrys said.
“If anything happened to ours—” she paused, glancing down at her stomach.
“If anything happened to either of you—” Chrys started.
“—It would destroy me.”
Once, when he was young, Chrys’ mother had found a leafling and let him keep it as a pet. He’d named the small creature Shelly. It had been his first charge, and he’d taken the responsibility seriously. When a neighbor boy had tried to break its shell, Chrys had broken the boy’s finger.
A manservant waved to them from atop the carriage. His big brown eyes were flanked by deep wrinkles that shone brightly when he smiled. “Lord Valerian! I always forget how short the Rite of Revelation is. Any shorter and I’d swear it was an Alirian wedding! Ha! Seems like something that determines the rest of your life ought to be dragged out a little longer. Then again, I suppose it’s the kind of thing you don’t really want to drag out. Well, come now. I’m stepping on stubble. Was the little one a Sapphire or Emerald?”
“Achromic,” Chrys said. From the corner of his eye, he could see the word sink in. The word used for those born with brown eyes. Like it was some kind of disease.
“Well. Well, well, well. Even with two threadweaver parents and two threadweaver siblings?” He shook his head, eyes wide. “I suppose that’s why most people don’t even try. Like they say, the Lightfather saves whom he will. Still, heartbreaking.”
Iriel squeezed Chrys’ arm. He knew that with a child inside her, the pain of their friends’ loss was a pain to her. They stopped, and he kissed her head. She hunched over with her hands on her knees and puckered her lips as she took in shallow breaths.
“I don’t know.” Her eyes squinted shut as she groaned in pain, both hands now clutching at her stomach. She leaned forward and simply breathed, waiting for the pain to subside. She nodded to him and stood up straight once more. She doubled over again as a storm wall of pain crashed into her. She screamed out and nearly tripped down the remaining stairs.
Chrys steadied her, eyes wide with fear. What was happening to her? It wasn’t too early for contractions, but they shouldn’t be this painful at the start. He’d read as much as he could about the birthing process, enough to know that something wasn’t right. He helped her down onto the stone steps. She grabbed his arm and squeezed with a fierce strength as she arched her back and fell back onto the steps. A soiled red patch surfaced far below her stomach.
No. Chrys scrambled around looking for something, anything that could help. He had no idea what to do. He knew how to stitch wounds and care for broken bones, he knew how to deliver a child, but this was beyond his knowledge. He checked beneath her dress and found more red spotting. “GEOFFREY!” He screamed out. “Get inside and find a doctor!”
The shocked manservant jumped off the carriage and sprinted up the steps and into the temple while Chrys continued comforting Iriel. “It’s going to be okay. We’ll find help. Breathe. Breathe.” He found himself unable to follow his own advice.
He sat waiting, his blood boiling as anger awoke inside him. His knuckles ground into the stone steps and his jaw clamped tight. There was something he could do. There had to be. He thought hard about everything he’d read, but this wasn’t birth. This was something else. He closed his eyes, the skin of his knuckles breaking open as he ground them deeper into the stone.
No. Chrys closed his eyes and shook his head. I am in control.
As he opened them again, a man with a wide-brimmed hat came running from the other side of the carriage. He rushed forward while opening a large leather bag. “Chrys Valerian? I am a doctor and, if you want Iriel to live, you must trust me.” He began poking Iriel’s torso. With each forceful prod she cried out in pain.
“What are you doing? Get away from her!” Chrys shouted.
He reached out a hand to push him aside, but the man caught his wrist. “I am the only one that can perform such a surgery. Step aside and let me save her.”
Chrys saw the man’s face for the first time. His skin looked like a man who’d soaked in a pool for too long, thick wrinkles from ear to ear. And yet, his eyes had a healthy air of youth about them. There was something off about it.
He couldn’t possibly trust this man with Iriel’s life. But what choice did he have? He had no idea what to do, and there was no one else. If he truly did know how to help her, and Chrys didn’t let him, he could never live with himself. He looked back for Geoffrey but the servant still had not returned. He hated the helplessness. He hated himself for not making her stay home. He should never have let her come. She was under his protection and, yet, there was nothing he could do. He had no choice but to trust the stranger.
The man must have seen the resolve in Chrys’ eyes. “Good. Help me lift her into the carriage. Quickly now!”
Shaking his head clear, Chrys succumbed. Together, they lifted Iriel into the carriage. The man shoved himself between the two of them and pointed back. “Give me space to work and I promise you she will live. There’s more at stake here than you know.”
Chrys jumped off the carriage and looked back inside. The last thing he saw as the door closed was the shimmer of a long, thin device being extracted from the leather bag. His chest burned with anger and threadlight.
He should be in control.
A minute later, her screams stopped and the carriage went silent. Chrys rose to his feet just as the door to the carriage swung open. The man looked down, took the few steps to the ground, and turned to Chrys, though his eyes stayed low.
“They will be okay,” he said.
Again he saw the man’s face. Unblemished, yet sickly. Old, yet young. Instinctually, Chrys reached for the knife in his boot.
“The recoil will happen any moment. Chrys, you must listen to me. Your child is the key. They will come for it. You cannot let them have it.”
A dark feeling grew in the pit of Chrys’ stomach.
“Whatever it takes, you must protect the child.”
Chrys felt his pulse quicken. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“You will need this,” he said, pulling out a gleaming black dagger from his bag. He tossed it over to Chrys. “Use it to break the threads that bind you. Relek, forgive me.”
Chrys caught the knife as it arced through the air toward him. He looked down at the gleaming obsidian and, when he looked up, the man with the wide-brimmed hat was gone. Stones, where had he gone so quickly? He never should have trusted the man. And what had he done to…Iriel.
He ran over to the carriage and looked inside. Eyes closed, her chest rose up and down. Each breath flowing like nothing had happened. Were it not for the red stains spotting her dress and thighs, he could have believed that was the case. A piece of fabric covering her stomach had been slit, revealing a small hole that had been sewn up. What had the man done? Had it worked? He felt the knife in his hand and eyed the shimmering reflection. He’d never seen an obsidian blade before.
“Lord Valerian!” The manservant had returned, sprinting down the steps two-by-two, a crowd of people following close behind. “I found the temple doctor, sir!”
Chrys looked through the open carriage door, his eyes an exhausted shade of red matching the blood on his knuckles. He spoke, more for himself than for the others. “Lightfather, let her be okay.”
Zack Argyle was raised with a wonderful family motto: don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. What better way than to write fiction? He spends his days writing code and his nights writing epic stories about family, love, loss, friendship, and pain all intermixed with a heavy dose of the fantastical.