Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth
Series: Divinity’s Twilight #1
by Christopher Russell
Genre: Epic Fantasy/Steampunk/Military Fantasy
Intended Age Group: Adult
Published: September 22, 2020
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Shown on page:
A world consumed by war . . .
An ancient evil resurrected . . .
A millennia old bargain comes due . . .
When two blades clash, the third will fall, and the fate of all will be jeopardized. To save Lozaria, the failures of the past must be atoned for by a new generation of heroes. The time has come for mortals to cast off sight and, in doing so, truly come to see . . .
Victory is never absolute.
Seven centuries ago, the forces of order won the Illyriite War on the plains of Har’muth. Darmatus and Rabban Aurelian slew their elder brother, Sarcon, the despotic architect of the conflict, then sacrificed themselves to banish the cataclysmic vortex opened with his dying breath. The first advent of the Oblivion Well was thwarted. Even without their vanished gods, the seven races of Lozaria proved themselves capable of safeguarding their world.
Or so the story goes.
The year is now 697 A.B.H (After the Battle of Har’muth). Though war itself remains much the same, the weapons with which it is waged have evolved. Airships bearing powerful cannons ply the skies, reducing the influence of mages and their spells. Long range communication has brought far flung regions of Lozaria closer than ever before. At the center of this technological revolution are the three Terran states of Darmatia, Rabban, and Sarconia, who have fought a near ceaseless campaign of 700 years in an attempt to best each other. The roots of their enmity lie buried beneath the wasteland of Har’muth, a place all three nations consider best forgotten.
However, an ancient power sealed within Har’muth has not forgotten them, and the descendants of those who fought on that field must now take a stand to rectify the mistakes of the past.
You’re So Vain (You Probably Think This Book is About You) • If I Only Had a Body • Let’s Get Down to Business, to Defeat the Sarcs
Main Cast in Action (697 A.B.H, After the Battle of Har’muth)
“And, start! Let the brawl begin!”
Tannen’s loud starting signal rang across the stadium as Vallen sprang out of the starting zone. “Take me up, Velle! Flashbang, Leon!” White glyphs, almost like snowflakes, appeared in front of Vallen in a staircase leading forward and upward. He jumped from one to another, each increasing his speed as he took off above and across the zones below. Behind him, Velle had her eyes closed, hands extended, concentrating on forming the platforms that would take him right to the enemy. A prodigious mage, even among the Sylph, she possessed a wide range of glyph-based enhancive and healing magic. In a typical mage, this focus on buffing her teammates would mean they couldn’t fend for themselves. However, the twin daggers at her waist and the innate blood magic her people were known for more than made up for any deficiencies.
Vallen raised his weapon above his head and silently bid it transform into an opaque shield as Leon began the second portion of their winning combo. Leon was a very rare mage, one of the few capable of performing light magic. An individual’s proficiency with magic was usually hereditary, but like Vallen, he had bucked that pattern. At the moment, he was firing flares of light from his staff into the sky, where they burst with dazzling light like firesh’crakera. Anyone not covering their eyes would be temporarily blinded by the magical illumination, helpless against assault unless they had a countermeasure. As the brilliance faded, Vallen reverted his shield to its original form.
His weapon was made of a unique metal and was given to him by Steward Metellus since it synergized with his abilities. Now he expanded it into a long, curved blade—a krenesh blade, modeled after the heavy weapons used by the nomad Vladisvar. He had seen one in a bazaar as a child and had thereafter dreamed of possessing one. With his form-shifting companion, he now could.
The thrill of bringing out his favorite device vanished as his next step failed to connect with a glyph. Vallen’s first thought, as he fell, was that Velle must be playing a trick on him. However, he was still high enough that he could see back to the home and first zones from whence he came. There, Velle had her daggers drawn and was engaged in combat with the Hue from Renar’s team, who had jagged-edged bucklers strapped to all four of his blue arms. Wielding a fencing sword, the female Terran with him was keeping Leon on his heels as he dodged and parried with his clunky staff. And between them, racing up the middle, was Renar, greatsword on his shoulder and only a little more than a hundred meters from their flag.
Vallen’s shock was tempered by his abrupt need to arrest his downward progress. He swung his krenesh with both hands, casting a powerful gust out from the blade that cushioned his impact onto the roof of the cruiser in zone four. He instantly activated the electric shield around his body that he had used to block Major Reev’s icicle strike earlier that day. Without any guidance, it shifted and redirected the efforts of the Elementalists attempting to blow him from his perch.
What had happened to result in the impossible scenario before him? He looked up at the telescribers as he allowed Tannen’s bleating announcement through his barrier’s coursing energy. “What an amazing move. I’ve never seen anything like it! Unter, the bulky Hue from Renar’s Renegades, applied enhancive magic to strengthen his shields and body. Then Lilith, his partner, used explosive fire magic while strapped to his back, becoming a living engine that propelled both forward. In no time flat, they’ve plowed right through the cruiser, the village, and the marsh! And their leader, Renar, followed right behind! Incredible!” Above, the telescribers showed the replay as the combination move blasted through the artificial terrain.
Major Reev concurred, “No doubt about that, Tannen. They combined their abilities to smash straight through the obstacles in their path and reach their opponent’s doorstep. Unter and Lilith took some damage using their magic in such an unorthodox manner, but the element of surprise this tactic has won them might be all they need. Velle and Leon are hard-pressed, and Vallen looks dumbfounded. Of course, that’s how he always is, so it’s hard to tell if current events are even getting through to him.”
“Shut up, wench!” Vallen yelled fruitlessly at the announcer’s box. He turned around to see a scorched gash through the cruiser that marked the insane path his opponents had forged. Think, Vallen, think. You’re better than this. He needed a plan, and he needed it quickly, or he was actually going to end up losing to Renar. Think!
“But Major, do you actually think Renar Iolus is behind this brilliant stroke? No offense to his father, General Iolus, but Renar’s team has been in the bottom third of his class this entire season. That statistic aside, they’ve never shown us any tactics beside splitting up to go one versus one. This is definitely a new one from them.”
“You’re actually on to something for once, Tannen. About a month ago, Renar’s fourth squadmate, a reptilian Moravi named Ich’oth, was recalled to the Moravi Atoll due to a shortage of males for their annual breeding rituals. I leave the particulars of such an arrangement to your imagination, but this left a slot open on his team. Only within the past week was this slot filled by a scholarship student from the Rabban Imperium: Sylette Farkos.”
“Is she the mastermind behind what we’re seeing?”
“I would have to assume so, given the upset brewing below us. Oh, look, there she is now, about to—”
Vallen barely had time to register the attack before the dagger came shooting through his shield and past his head. He whipped about, watching the silver-haired girl approaching through the wind. The image was blurred, both because of his own shield and the airflow around him. He twitched his head left, narrowly dodging another dagger that he didn’t see coming. The attacks were invisible to his sight—or at least impossible to see under current conditions. By the Veneer, am I actually at a disadvantage?
Time to change scenery. Vallen reverted his blade to a rod and ran back toward his side of the field, dropping ten meters from the top of the cruiser to the dusty ground of the village zone and releasing his electric field. He sprinted another twenty meters into the middle of the dilapidated town before turning to face his opponent.
Smart or not, she had the gumption to follow him. Now that he got a good look at her, she was actually quite striking in a noble, majestic way. Long, silver hair topped a well-proportioned, cute face and a lithe, athletic body. However, she was petite and small of stature. The nobility of her bearing came from the set of her jaw and the air with which she carried herself. When she spoke, though, the voice that emerged was soft-spoken and silky, as though to counterbalance her hard stance.
“I never thought you would run from me, Vallen Metellus. Out of all the things I thought you’d do, that was not one of them.”
“I’m full of surprises, my darling. I want to take this opportunity to apologize for any rudeness I may have shown your team earlier. Obviously, with you in charge, Renar has become infinitely more capable than he ever was before. Why don’t you throw this match and you can tell me more about your tactics over dinner and a bottle of Ithran wine?”
A dagger materialized over her left shoulder and fired with considerable force at his face. This time, Vallen was able to see it coming and dodged easily. “I’ve heard all about your insufferable charms, and to be frank, I’m not impressed, neither by them nor by you. As far as I can see, you’re a spoiled womanizer who’s done nothing more than play at soldier for the past four years. Hardly the legend everybody chalks you up to be.”
“And you’re a space manipulator, more specifically, a conjurer, who can change the properties of her conjurations on the fly. Though it seems you’re stuck making daggers at the moment.”
Her mask of calm faltered. “Wha . . . how? You’ve only seen it three times!”
“Never let your enemy see your trick more than once.” Vallen sketched a mocking bow.
“But how did you know I can change the properties? And the part about me only being able to make daggers?”
“Your first dagger got diverted by my electric field and missed. The second was on target, meaning an adjustment was made to account for the shield. And the third you formed right in front of me. I may be a philandering playboy who doesn’t give a care about academics or authority, but that doesn’t make me an idiot.” He shot her his winningest smile.
Sylette’s calm quickly returned as she summoned a dozen daggers into existence. “I see. But knowing a trick and avoiding it are two different things.” All of them were released at once, set on a crash course with various points on Vallen’s body.
Vallen urged his weapon into a long staff, which he spun to the fore while casting a gust of wind from its edges. The force of the gale blew the daggers off course and onto wild vectors through the air. Immediately, Sylette adjusted their aim, bringing them down on him from whence they’d been knocked. Another thought, and the staff was again a round shield above Vallen’s head, from which he emitted a torrent of flame that incinerated the projectiles.
But he wasn’t done. Shield shifted to warhammer, which he brought down to earth with the aid of a burst of wind. The weapon shattered into the ground, willing it to buckle and shoot forth pillars of stone beneath Sylette’s feet. As the columns rose, she somersaulted backwards, landing gracefully beside the emerging cascade.
This was the true nature and power of the Triaron. It wasn’t that Vallen was more powerful than any other mage. It was simply that he was more versatile. In short, the Triaron was an Elementalist sorcerer who was both an Invoker and an Armsmage. He could cast any element from any weapon without an Engraved or verbal catalyst. And “any weapon” also included his own body to a small degree, hence his ability to project a limited electric field. Furthermore, Vallen’s ability to manipulate the elements extended to the unique instrument Metellus had gifted him, which could shift to his liking. Not needing to speak and being able to attack in almost any manner with any type of weapon was an indescribable advantage, one that had never seen Vallen bested in combat.
His current situation had the potential to be the first.
Let’s take stock of things, Vallen decided. Matteo was useless, check. Velle and Leon could beat their individual opponents one on one, check. He was currently tied up in a fast-paced skirmish with a highly mobile opponent who couldn’t beat him but could keep him occupied, check. This left Renar free to influence the match as he saw fit, which was probably Sylette’s plan all along. Occupy him while Renar won the three versus two battle back at base. More disturbing, all they had to do was cross into their home zone, and only Matteo and Velle could fight all three—correction, only Velle could fight all three.
“Having a good ponder over there?” Sylette was sitting cross-legged on one of the smaller pillars he had summoned, another dozen daggers floating about her head.
“You do know you’re the only one between me and your flag, right?”
“That was my intent. And that means it’s three on three back at your base. Going to break your rule about going for the flag? I thought you liked the challenge of winning by TKO?”
“Exactly how much research did you do to win this?”
“If you’re frustrated, evidently enough.”
Actually, Vallen considered, this is shaping up to be fun. Maybe there’s something interesting about this noble, feisty girl. “You know, I think I will win by flag cap after all.” He summoned a glaive and propelled himself forward using the ground at his feet. Sylette launched her first wave of daggers and conjured more in their place.
“Let’s see you try . . . Triaron.”
1. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be.
Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth began with its villain. I had a multi-tiered concept for an antagonist who would be an immediate threat to the protagonists and the world while at the same time being an individual the reader would discover more and more about with each subsequent book. What their motivations are. Why they walked the path they did. What influence did they have on the past, and how did their actions result in the present-day conflict.
It’s difficult to discuss the villain without spoilers, but suffice to say they are a character many readers hate to love. They empathize with their goals and, in some cases, actively cheer for this individual to succeed. Witty, hyper-competent, and extremely powerful, Divinity’s Twilight has a truly fearsome antagonist who provides the protagonists with challenge after challenge.
2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
I thought I was a pantser—an author who starts writing and discovers their plot, characters, and world-building along the way. Turns out, I’m the opposite: an outliner.
Once I began planning out my story in an Excel spreadsheet, my plot and character arcs become so much tighter and my foreshadowing started leading to more engaging payoff at the end of my books. There are still things I think I can improve in Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth. Most authors will tell you the same about their early work. But the experience writing it allowed me to better understand my craft, and that’s the primary goal of each and every book an author works on.
3. What surprised you the most in writing it?
The role of a side-character named Renar Iolus. As the (self-proclaimed) rival character to one of the leads, he was supposed to be a one-off Malfoy who caused trouble for the main cast, then disappeared into the void of expendable cannon-fodder.
Yet like a rancid fart, Renar hung around. He wrote himself into the main adventure, clung to the coattails of the main characters, and survived the mid-book climax of Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth. From there, he earned himself a POV role in book two, immediately endearing himself to me and gaining a tragic back-story that’s sure to make him a reader favorite. Renar’s become part of the series’ heart and soul, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?
Divinity’s Twilight refers to the world’s modern era, in which the gods and goddesses haven’t been seen by mortals for over a millennia. I can neither confirm nor deny whether their lingering influence will have an effect on the story, but given that it’s in the title, that’s probably a safe bet.
Rebirth has numerous story-based meanings, and I leave it up to my keen and discerning readers to figure out what they are.
5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
Yes! And given that most of them are based on character traits yanked out of myself, I’d say the fumbling fool might have some idea of what’s going on, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.
The most obvious of these is Matteo Alhan, one of the novel’s three main leads. At the start, he’s a cowardly bookworm afraid to stand up for himself or others and all too willing to retreat into fictional worlds more pleasant than his own. Sound familiar? Well, I’m delighted to have fantastic friends and family who’ve helped me grow beyond my doubts and misgivings, but Matteo is much the same as I was in high school. Will Divinity’s Twilight give him a chance to shine? Read and find out!
Other military instructors are based on teachers I’ve had, and Matteo’s supportive parents are inspired by my own. I’ve also done volunteer work for a group of local nuns whose warm, compassionate natures gave rise to one of the religious orders in the series.
6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
I’m never certain about a book’s themes until long after I’m done writing it. Just as it’s difficult to grasp the scope of a mountain when you’re climbing it, it’s hard to understand the true meaning of a book while you’re working on it.
Divinity’s Twilight: Rebirth is a book about TRUST. In a similar vein, it’s sequel, Divinity’s Twilight: Remnant, is a book about LOVE. But let’s focus on that first one.
This book sees a group of young men and women thrust into a life-or-death situation alongside people they hate, doubt, or simply don’t care for. Some are rivals. Others view those around them as pawns or tools, to be used or discarded as necessary. Personalities clash and chaff as the group tries to decide who should lead and what their goals should be. And when strong, charismatic individuals butt heads, weaker, more introspective people tend to withdraw into themselves.
Trust requires them to break down those barriers. To come to understand themselves first, and then those around them. It is a difficult, messy process, full of miscues, frustration, and backsliding. And though they by no means achieve perfect harmony in a single book, their progress enables a frosty royal to crack open her heart, a coward to find his purpose, and a narcissist to confront the past that has long held him shackled. It is not an end to the journey of trust, but it is a beginning.
7. What is your favorite part of the book?
Chapter 18. It involves a very touching moment between a mother and her daughter, a heart-tugging lullaby, and a scene that still rips tears from my eyes every time I read it. Book two (Remnant) is the best book I’ve written, but Chapter 18 is the strongest moment in book one.
8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
Vallen, the main lead and one of two characters on the cover.
His personality is straightforward enough. Vallen is a narcissist with an infallible faith in his divinely manifested abilities and utter disdain for anyone unable to keep up with him. Underneath that thorny exterior, he’s . . . far more complicated (READ: SPOILERS).
Writing an unlikeable character is easy. Getting the reader to empathize with them—to convince them to stick around for their inevitable growth—is the tricky part. I think I managed to navigate this treacherous path by giving Vallen an attachment to his adoptive father, a snarky wit, and a foil he could trade barbs with as they dueled for least favorite character.
However, I think it was necessary to start Vallen at the bottom of a pit overflowing with his own ego and selfishness. It is feasible for a good man to become great. But a wretched man? That is a character arc worth following, and I can only hope my writing skill will make Vallen a fan favorite by the end of the series.
9. What are your immediate future plans?
Book 2 (Divinity’s Twilight: Remnant) – Available online and in-stores on Sept. 14, 2022! As I’ve heard from my editor, “Jesus Christ, this book is good.”
Book 3 (Divinity’s Twilight: Revelations) – Projected release in 2023. This is the end of the first of two arcs in Divinity’s Twilight, and boy, is it going to be a doozy.
Untitled Asian Fantasy – Another project in the same expanded universe as Divinity’s Twilight, the Constella, featuring a thermodynamics based hard magic system, a frozen post-apocalyptic landscape, and yokai (demons) aplenty.
Untitled Co-Authored Epic Fantasy – A grimdark project with Allegra Pescatore of Last Gift fame. This four POV novel will follow characters with dueling interests trapped in a deteriorating city on the verge of revolution. Utilizes an incredibly cool and unique magic system with some terrifying economic and cultural ramifications.
Untitled Co-Authored Satirical Fantasy – A comedic project with Allegra Pescatore centered on a chosen one who can’t control his powers and may end up dooming the very world he’s prophesized to save. Hysterical and irreverent, we poke fun at tropes and fantasy conventions with every sentence, paragraph, and chapter.
Gravitas Novella Sequel – At some point in the next two years I plan to return to the world of Gravitas, Lestadt, and continue the tale of the ruthless Lord Fixer Scraw. My grimdark steampunk novella left him in the middle of a crisis, and it’s high time I give him some novel-form resolution.
About the Author:
Christopher Russell (native of Williamsburg, VA) is a 29-year-old mechanical and aerospace engineer (graduate of the University of Virginia) who has loved reading since the day he picked up a book and writing since he could scrawl his first letters. After voraciously consuming titles from every genre—ranging from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings—he decided to combine the expertise from his professional education, passions, and Christian faith into a fantasy epic bridging the gap between magic and science. He currently resides in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his loyal dog, Vallen, named after the protagonist of his first work. For behind-the-scenes information on all of Christopher Russell’s works, visit christopherrussellauthor.com.
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