You’ve been seeing bits of this story under several different names for quite some time. The original first draft was my first NaNoWriMo project in 2007, then titled Night Sun Rising. Over a year went by before I got around to the first round of Revision Xibalba. I spent a lot of time expanding the book, adding subplots and tons of characters. However, I kinda went overboard, and ended up cutting those subplots out. Can you say too many characters?
Now the story is leaner, tighter, and concentrates only on Jaid and Ruin (yes, he got to keep his name!!). Ironically, exactly the story I ended up with in 2007, just revised, polished, researched, etc. Not to worry, though — those subplots I spent so much time on will become the fertile soil for the next book. *winks*
So, here’s part of the opening scene of The Bloodgate Guardian, Chapter One.
He never hated his magic until it compelled him to kill.
From the broken shadows of his temple, the priest watched the encroacher attempt to work his doomed magic. Brilliant ruby pooled in the pocked basin of the altar and overflowed, streaming across the hand-carved stone in vibrant filigree. The blood glowed like molten rock hot from the earth’s heart, releasing magic into the night.
The once all-powerful priest shuddered, his skin crawling with the caress of power. His nostrils flared to catch the tantalizing scent of sweet copper. Such temptation. He tightened his grip on the starved jaguar pacing within him. Such power.
The city once known as the Mouth of Creation had kept his secrets for a thousand years. Now he must kill this man to protect that forbidden knowledge. Keeping to the shadows, the priest called out, “As Gatekeeper of Chi’Ch’ul, I command you to leave my city or die.”
The man whirled and whipped the bloody heart behind his back. At least this one’s victim had been a goat and not human. “Nobody else should know the name of my dig. Who are you working for?”
The priest stepped into the moonlight, and the other man recoiled. With the jaguar prowling the cage of his body, he knew all too well the image he made: eyes gleaming like golden lamps, jaguar spots dotting his arms and blending with the tribal tattoos on his upper body, angular cheekbones and sharp forehead compounded by the stark topknot pulling his hair back from his face. The man had discovered the city, unburied it stone by stone. He could not help but recognize a priest of what had once been a grand and powerful nation. “My city has already been destroyed. Would you destroy the world as well?”
“I have powerful, rich friends,” the man said, backing away slowly. “Name your price.”
So be it. Small golden lights began buzzing around the priest and his bones throbbed with magic. “Nothing you can offer will stay my hand. As long as I live, these sacred waters shall lie still and silent. My curse demands your death. The Gates must remain locked until the Return.”
Ignoring his threats, the man smiled with elation. “We were right! I knew it. After all these years, I finally found the center of the world!”
The balls of light blazed brighter. A golden swirling wave obliterated his vision. Bones cracked and twisted. His scream of pain rumbled bass, a jaguar’s roar piercing the night.
Tail lashing, the jaguar crouched in a pile of torn denim. The sharp stink of his prey’s fear burned his nose. It had been a very long time since he’d hunted. The big cat knew his purpose. He was only called forth to kill.
The foolish man turned toward his modern equipment stationed on the nearby boulder, presenting his back to the jaguar. “Jaid, don’t come here! Don’t trust anybody and don’t let the codex out of your hands! Especially don’t give it to Venus Star!”
The jaguar growled a threat. If this person possessed the codex, he must die too.
Whirling, the man ran up the peninsula that extended over Lake Atitlan. He slung the goat’s heart out over the water and threw his weight off the side, angling toward the beach instead of the lake. Effortlessly, the jaguar leaped after him. The man gasped in pain and rolled away, narrowly escaping the slashing claws.
Wet with rain, a sudden gust of wind swept across the shore. Clouds boiled across the sky to hide the moon and stars. Thunder rolled through the night and the ground trembled. Lightning split the sky, winds increasing until the trees thrashed and waves whipped the surface of the lake.
A shape formed in the darkened waters. Thrashing, bulging outward, a hand rose from the depths. Water broke, cascading down the sceptered arm, which was white and blotched with spots of age and disease.
The jaguar clamped his ears and tail tight to his body and terror rippled through his fur. Oh, stupid human fool! Why had he opened Xibalba, with no wards to lock the demons beyond?
Shuddering with horror, the man whimpered. “Where are the golden plumes? The jade feathers? This isn’t Great Feathered Serpent!”
The jaguar swiped at the man’s abdomen. Jerking away, the man screamed and fell backward into the lake. He thrashed helplessly, then sank like a stone through the Gate as a Lord of Death crawled onto the beach with another demon right behind.
Snarling, the jaguar slammed into the first demon, trying to knock it back through the Gate. Even weak as a newborn babe, it refused to go back to the Place of Fright. The other Death Lord crawled out of the lake clutching a small hunk of flesh. Cradling the now-cold heart to its mouth, the demon feasted, while the other sniffed the air. His gaze turned unerringly to the goat carcass above.
Every drop of blood would give them power. Power that could destroy the world.