Today’s post is for those of you interested in how writers edits their work. The Prologue to Abyss was formerly a flabby 1,436 words. Today’s version is 1,258. You can read version fat.0 here. If you’re super motivated, give both a read and share your thoughts in the reply section.
Jerusalem, 1146 AD: The sound of a thousand charging men thundered deep beneath the city of Jerusalem, obliterating the millennium of silence held fast inside forbidden catacombs. Though the invaders were only two, the labyrinth of towering columns and archways created an illusion of sound that exponentially multiplied their number. Al Qays Aasimah came to an abrupt halt behind one of those broad columns, and after a moment, the echoing specter of thousands lifted. The Chamber of Light fell silent once again.
As he fought to master his labored breathing and fractured mind, Aasimah strained to hear any indication of threat. A magical darkness swirled around his head – in memory only – but no less menacing than when he’d stood inside the Abyss of Chaos. It was all he could do not to react. He knew there was nothing there. He knew. Yet, his bruised psyche was still sane enough to know not to neglect conventional ways one could come to harm – such as by the edge of his enemy’s blade.
Al Qays Aasimah drew his longsword slowly, the soft hiss of steel barely audible over the blood pounding in his ears. He rolled his shoulders and neck. The blade was badly tarnished but still razor-sharp, and Aasimah found the familiar feel of sword-in-hand helpful for refocusing on the hunt. The sinister memories subsided.
“Godfrey!” he roared, the name echoing through infinity.
Godfrey’s sword flashed – a steadfast beacon of light in darkness – and Aasimah barely turned the strike aside. Though his adversary was old and clumsy, his blade did carve flesh from Aasimah’s sword arm. Shock slowed his turn, and Sir Godfrey vanished.
Ignoring the pain, Aasimah held his sword high and hunted his prey. He would not lose Godfrey again. Licking cracked lips, Aasima scanned. Left and right…left and right.
There! Godfrey’s hunched form was silhouetted against a reflecting pool at the Chamber’s center, and Aasimah felt a crooked smile curl his lip. It was time for Sir Godfrey de Saint Omer to die.
Locked in the frenzy of certain victory, he pushed hard, slashing with lightning intensity. In contrast to Aasimah’s lusterless blade, Godfrey’s shone like a mirror as the old knight tried desperately to defend against the onslaught. Moonlight played in brilliant luminescent flashes off that blade as Godfrey gave ground fast, straight back, and towards the pool. Oddly, Godfrey’s sword seemed far too heavy,
and always – nearly – too slow.
Aasimah lunged forward with all his strength – as Godfrey abruptly collapsed. Aasimah had no choice but to skip up and over the decrepit knight to avoid falling on his own blade! The clumsy maneuver sent him over the knee-high ledge of the reflecting pool, and a faint sizzle supervened even before his body parted its still canvas.
The water boiled.
Aasimah plunged to the bottom in such pain as he had never experienced in his life. Rational thought was in full retreat. Red-hot chain mail
seared flesh. Boiling droplets burned like lava where they landed. Primal screams filled the chamber as he flailed and flailed, desperately making his way to the side, only to meet Godfrey’s sword again.
Though Death surely lurked, Aasimah resisted with all his strength, fighting back with the savage instinct of a berserker. Each swipe of his sword threatened to be his last, but – he – would – not – yield! Every thrust, every offensive or defensive repositioning, brought with it waves of boiling water, and Aasimah still fought on, clinging to life with vicious ferocity.
Though all of this occurred in moments, for Aasimah it was an eternity before Godfrey yielded. Aasimah rolled from the
pool to the cold stone floor. Exhausted, he held on to consciousness only by the massive concentration of hatred
coursing through his veins. His screams gradually subsided.
“Holy Water,” Godfrey’s deep, commanding voice intoned. But who was this? Gone was the ruse of the soft, old knight. Gone was the
slightly deranged fool Aasimah had come to know these past years. The man looming over him had lost the ubiquitous stoop and was anything but decrepit. Anything but unhinged.
Sir Godfrey de Saint Omer, founding member of the Templar Order was of solid frame and massive stature. His features were sand-burnished stone. When he spoke, it was the voice of a King. “I wonder, does it burn your very soul, Aasimah? Do you have a soul left to burn, traitor?”
Godfrey’s self-righteous posture towered over Aasimah as he writhed pathetically. Aasimah swatted uselessly at empty air around his head, still attempting to repel shadowy attacks he knew were not there. But as he struggled to find anything to hold on to – anything to pull his sanity back from the brink – he found only pain.
The pain. Yes…the pain.
The pain was excruciating, but it was something he could focus on besides the oily-black spectral masses haunting his mind. They beckoned
to him sweetly. He could…taste…their voices. What were they saying? The words were just on the edge of understanding.
…to die…return to dust…death’s sweet, sweet sleep…my utmost lust!
No, that was over. He was not in the Abyss. This is the Chamber of Light, he tried to reassure his splintered thoughts. This is not the Abyss! This is the Chamber of Light and the pain is only boiling water…only boiling water.
As if sensing Aasimah’s struggle for sanity, Godfrey gravely declared, “You should not have trespassed against the Holy of Holies. Your mind will never be the same.”
Aasimah rose slowly as his adversary took a step back and cloaked himself in shadows.
“Do you not know that the Righteousness of the Lord guides my arm, traitor?” Godfrey’s authoritative voice rang out from the depths. “That which you seek is not here. It is safe and far, far away.”
“The map is safe, you fool! You will never find it! Ad-Dajjal walks the earth – and he is glorious! His Lies will dust the crop of all men!” Aasimah’s eyes darted wildly from side to side as he resumed the hunt. “Together, we shall strike at Heaven itself! Heaven itself!” Spittle flew from his lips as steam billowed from scalded, flesh-soldered chain mail.
As he hunted, Aasimah twitched and flinched at shadows despite himself. And though the remnants of his experience in the Abyss continued to torment, a deepening hatred festered in the heart of Al Qays Aasimah. He would kill Godfrey, of that he was certain.
Jerusalem, Israel, last Monday: It was twilight in Jerusalem, and a creeping certainty told him that this was the end. This was the end of all things.
And there – there, where Temple Mount should have been, was instead a brilliant wash of hellish yellows and reds. As bright as the sun, the silken night sky was illuminated on the western horizon, and evoked thoughts of prophecy. The ensuing shockwave of light enveloped everything.
Rabbi Shmuel Smeklikhov sat bolt upright in his bed. Desperately sucking air, he peeled himself from the sweat-soaked sheets and stole for the window, ripping open the curtain with such force that the whole thing nearly came down, curtain, rod and all.
As he scanned the city, Smeklikhov’s heart labored in overdrive. A moment of confusion betrayed his senses and his brain raced to catch up. Despite the certainty of his slumbering premonition, Jerusalem lay before him as always, peaceful and whole. The sun’s early rays were only now gently warming the city. He could just make out Temple Mount, beautiful Temple Mount. It remained safe – for now.
The Rabbi collapsed on the floor in relief.