Spotlight The Path of the Fallen by Dan O'Brien

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Welcome to the second day of The Path of the Fallen blog tour. It will run until July 8th and will feature excerpts, new author interviews each day, character interviews, and a casting call by the author. But first, here is the obligatory blurb about the novel to settle you into this sprawling fantasy world:

Set against the backdrop of the tundra and a world desperate for hope, the journey of a young man, E'Malkai, will come to define a realm that has been broken by an evil that does not sleep. A bitter betrayal, and the inception of a war that will consume the world, forces E'Malkai to confront the past and undertake a pilgrimage that is his birthright. Follow him on his journey and be transformed. 


What else do you have coming out? 

As you can probably tell by the ridiculous list of books during the blog tour, I have a fair amount of things going down. I have started four separate serials, three of which will have their debut during this summer tour. I am also working on a sequel to Bitten, the re-release of The Ocean and the Hourglass, a novel called Dawn, a memoir/humor/satire book/novel, and perhaps finish up Water. Clearly, I need to be writing.

Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know? 

I am a big fan of having a real relationship with readers. I write downer endings and have a penchant for the philosophical. I can’t seem to stick with one genre, and I would like to have as many books out as I am years old. Oh, and I love Doctor Who.

What's the most blatant lie you've ever told? 

These are not the droids you are looking. Phantom Menace wasn’t that bad. I don’t mind driving 60 miles through a blizzard to take you to see Titanic. The list could go on and on. If Doctor Who has taught me anything at all: The Doctor always lies.


From space Culouth seemed as if it were trapped beneath the clouds. This might lead a casual observer to believe that perhaps it was a dark, dreary place where the inhabitants walked in the gloom. But if one descended upon Culouth and entered the outer dome, they would find that they had been sadly mistaken. The dome darkened as the day cycle passed into night and then produced synthetic light to simulate dawn and the accompanying day. 

The temperature within the dome was controlled to respond to the individual needs of the citizens. Their homes were regulated according to their desired temperature, despite the season or weather outside of the dome. However, the temperature in the open areas of the walkways was set to a comfortable sixty-eight degrees. A temperature at which those who wished to cover up may and those who wished otherwise could possess their desire as well. 

The House of Di’letirich, a conglomeration of several pastel buildings whose peak reached far toward the outer dome, was a prominent structure within Culouth. Each was emblazoned with the House’s crest; two jagged lines intersecting the center of three warped, overlapping circles, all of which were encased in a crimson sphere. 

The main building was a broad thirty-seven-floor structure more than seven stories larger than the rest of the compound. There was no space between each building; the pastel stones flowed into one another in an ornate pattern that eventually created a line of division with the adjoining compound and with each successive one until the residential area flowed into the centralized city. In total, the city’s base spanned approximately nineteen square miles. Millions of humanoids walked the streets each day as if there were nothing below at all: no Fallen, no tundra. 

Atop the main building, the tierea––as it was called by the Culouth Commonwealth––extended out from the side of the building. Lattice covered the three sides that overlooked the expanse of Culouth, the metallic walkways and synthetic life that erupted all over the city.

A slight wind, an artificial breeze, blew across the approaching dusk that had been created for the citizens. Alone on the tierea stood a youth; his shoulder-length hair was free from constraint, whipping around his head. 

His blue eyes watched the horizon. 

Hands gripping the railing, the muscles of his forearms were pronounced. His body was covered in a black tunic and matching black trousers; form-fitting shoes gripped his feet as he shifted his body weight from one leg to another. 

A shadow emerged from behind him. 

The damp, matted black fur covered the exposed portions of his mammoth frame. Tan armor was stretched across his chest and legs; boots as dark as his fur were strapped to his feet. Each hand was concealed beneath russet gloves; a white sphere marked the center of each glove. 

It was the emblem of Culouth.

He was called an Umordoc by those below, a feared and hated creature that promoted dread and panic. Yet as he approached the youth, he made no malevolent movements. Instead he stood waiting, massive arms folded across his chest. 

“E’Malkai sien.” 

His voice was guttural and baritone. 

E’Malkai turned slowly, regarding the creature without the hesitation or fear that those below would have shown. His blue eyes and tight lips were impassive. “You need not be formal, Elcites. I am not royalty.” 

The title sien was a formal term for the lord of a Commerce house, ilsen for the lady of the House. These formal designations were reserved only for those of influence in Culouth, and only used by those of lower rank. 

“You are lord of the House of Di’letirich. Noble warriors have descended from this very residence, and you are kin to the mion, the protector of Culouth. You are his blood nephew. You above all others warrant the title, E’Malkai sien.” Elcites hesitated as he added the formal title, staring with his listless black eyes. He met the unfavorable glare that E’Malkai brandished. 

“Would you wish me to call you servant so as to honor your position as well?” replied E’Malkai with disgust. 

“It would be an honor to be called Servant of the House of Di’letirich; to be included in the circle of the great protector, Fe’rein, the mion of Culouth.” Elcites stood at full height. The words were lost on the faithful giant, his tone that of a royal emissary addressing a fine court. 

“You miss my meaning, Elcites.” 

“Your meaning is not lost on me, E’Malkai sien.” 

Umordoc were not capable of facial expression to the degree that humans were, but it seemed to E’Malkai that Elcites attempted to smile. The broad setline of his jaw slackened, the muscles relaxing slightly. 

E’Malkai sighed. 

He pushed from the railing as the false sun set. Synthetic darkness claimed the air; though outside it could be as bright as an early morning. “Is my mother in the common room? Has she returned from the Deliberations?”

“Leane ilsen has asked you to join her in the common room. That is my purpose here,” responded Elcites, his dark features unreadable. 

“Is she well?” 

E’Malkai turned completely, facing Elcites. 

Concern crept into his tailored features. 

“All is well, my sien. She only wishes to discuss with you the events of the passing moons and your place as delegate from this House.” 

“I begin to wonder sometimes whether I am meant to be here. I look out into this created horizon, and there is a longing for me there. I know that I am not from here, not born of Culouth. I have heard the whispers, the rumors of my humanity. That I have not yet embraced the ways of Culouth: the merging with machines that marks the inhabitants of the nation.”

Elcites shook his head, an angry sigh emanating from his lips. “No one speaks ill of you, E’Malkai sien. You are blood to a god, to the protector.”

“There is no need, Elcites, I know what they say and I harbor no ill will. I am an oddity here,” replied E’Malkai. 

Elcites struggled with the boy’s words. 

“As you wish, my sien. Your mother waits for us.”

E’Malkai nodded, sweeping his hand forward. 

Elcites understood and marched, his arms falling to his sides. 

The coils of his muscles were like hydraulics. 

Elcites, guardian of E’Malkai, pushed his way through the opening back into the main building. A dark fabric was draped over the entrance, three stripes of equal thickness running the length. 

Past the fabric it opened into a large area. 

An ornate carpet stretched from corner to corner, a tapestry woven in silk covered the imitation wooden flooring. Their coupled footfalls echoed. The darkened room hung in a silence unbecoming of a city so vast and expansive. 

There was a door on the far end of the whitewashed walls, the thin metallic opening blending into the surrounding structure. The colors distorted as the panel alongside the door activated; the shimmering waves of white melted back into the silvery metalloids. 

They passed through it.

The adjoining corridor was lined with plate-glass windows, the length of which Elcites could have made in several steps had he not wished to stay only a few steps ahead of E’Malkai. The windows looked out upon Culouth, the bustling skies crammed with cargo vessels and personal transportation vehicles. The soundproof glass hindered the noise levels of the open air. 

“Why is there so much activity today, Elcites?”

The giant did not break stride, his eyes directed forward. “There is much talk of the space station. It disappeared from radars all over the collective. There is talk that the Resistance is preparing a strike.”

“A strike,” spoke E’Malkai, trying to stand alongside Elcites.

If Elcites disliked him at his side, he did not show it. 

Instead he slowed further, his stride looking strangely stunted. “Yes, your mother attended the meeting to confirm this information. It is a reasonable course of logic to believe that she wishes to see you about it; as well as the involvement of the mion, your uncle.”

“My uncle played a role in this?” E’Malkai stood in front of Elcites, blocking him from continuing forward. 

Elcites never dreamed of becoming impatient with the boy. “I cannot be certain, my sien,” replied the guardian with a simple shrug.

E’Malkai looked at Elcites, and a realization dawned on him. He had always thought of him as someone of equivalent intelligence. Although he was perhaps not of equal status, the youth regarded him as an equal in all categories imaginable. 

From the literature that E’Malkai had searched through, Umordoc were considered diminutive in intelligence. Their abilities were considered minimal at best, such that more often than not they were seen as incapable of carrying out the most basic tasks. 

“I understand. I pressured you for information that you could not have possibly known,” replied E’Malkai, feeling warmth toward Elcites that he had not before considered so carefully. 

“You are not at fault, my sien, though we must hasten to the common room. Your mother seemed rather insistent,” conceded Elcites with a nod. 

“Of course.” 

Elcites turned as if unfazed by their conversation and moved toward the end of the hall. The doorway slid aside as they approached. The adjacent corridor was darker than the open face of the intermediate walkway.

The narrow room they found themselves in had dark black walls. Elcites moved out ahead of E’Malkai, placing his hands on them. There were identical panels on each wall, the silvery reflection a contrast to the dark bristles of the Umordoc’s mane.

“Guardian Elcites of the House of Di’letirich. Proceed.” A hollow, masculine voice emanated from the centralized panel just above the arch of the closed-off metallic door. 

E’Malkai remained back as the hiss accompanied the door moving aside, revealing the inner chambers of the common room. The far wall was composed entirely of glass. The clearness surreal, as if there were no barrier whatsoever.

“Come forward, E’Malkai sien. There is much to speak about.” He nodded at Elcites as he moved aside, allowing E’Malkai to pass into the serene common room. A classical melody played throughout the room. The temperature was regulated down to less than the sixty-eight-degree norm. A flash of gooseflesh spread over the exposed skin of his forearms. 

The room was enormous.

Each pane of glass on the walls to the right and left was sectional, broken down into individual parts that were framed in cold, brass linings. A weave of runic symbols traced a path and told stories of the joining of men and the Intelligence, though it was widely whispered that much of the truth was hidden. 

At the center of the room was a circle of ornate chairs. The plush recliners were identical in shape and size, though the occupants were different in every possible way save the cybernetic enhancements that marred their exposed flesh. 

Three people were sitting in the chairs and one man stood at the far side of the room. His disheveled brown robes dusted the floor, as if they were not fitted properly. The sash hung open as he watched E’Malkai and Elcites enter; his face possessed the drunken stare that those below knew all too well.

Two men sat next to Leane. 

Her dark hair was short, cut close to the jaw. A white streak ran down both sides. Her radiant eyes had dimmed and her face aged, though only slightly. Of the two men, one had a dark, black topknot. His brown eyes stared at the approaching duo. The faded green tunic hid the warrior beneath. The other man was a portly, far more fashionable gentleman who wore tight-fitting purple robes. The tunic underneath was bleached white, accenting the vibrant color of his fabrics. 

“E’Malkai and Guardian Elcites, you have joined us at last,” spoke the lithe man, his topknot tight even as he shook his head. His face curved into a thin smile, but even this seemed like a great task. Olive skin was marred with tiny puckered scars from a violent past. He bowed his head as the words were finished and kept his head there until E’Malkai stepped forward, past his guardian. 

“You honor me with your presence, Yioren sien, Master of the House of Di’huere,” replied E’Malkai with a polite bow. 

“We have been waiting for some time, son.” Leane addressed E’Malkai with her driest scolding tone. The stark glare she fixed him with was enough to cause him to waver a bit, lowering his eyes and stepping back into the shadow of Elcites. 

“Pardon my tardiness.”

The robust man cleared his throat, drawing everyone’s attention. His brown eyes were clear, and his face was covered by a light, scraggly beard. The man’s breathing was a hoarse mockery. As he gripped the armrest of the chair, the evidence of his allegiance to Culouth was visible. Thin metallic lines of enhancements crawled along his skin, a spider web of artificial veins. 

“E’Malkai, you are a delegate to the House of Di’letirich. And yet it is your mother, the honorable Leane ilsen, who accompanies us in our talks, most important talks at that.”

E’Malkai bowed again, this time much lower than he had initially. He did so to hide from their eyes for a moment. He frowned. The necessity for such formalities was an annoyance more than anything else. “Once again, I humbly ask for forgiveness for my error. I shall endeavor to be present as I should, Councilman Augustine.”

The Councilman dismissed his reply with a wave of his metallic hand and continued. “It is of no true concern. You are yet a child.”

Leane’s eyes had not moved from Elcites since he had entered with E’Malkai. As the youth turned to look at his mother, he saw the unrelenting gaze and was shaken by the severity of it. “Mother, is something the matter?”

“What?” she mumbled. 

Elcites finally met her gaze after realizing that she had been staring at him so intently. “Do you no longer require my presence, E’Malkai sien?” queried the guardian. 

E’Malkai recognized his mother’s distaste for Umordoc and nodded at Elcites. “It would be best if you waited outside, Elcites, at least until I am done here,” he whispered, leaning in close to his friend. 

Elcites turned without another word and marched back through the way they had entered, disappearing beneath the shadowed arch without a sound. E’Malkai watched his guardian go with a degree of sadness. 

He felt a certain comfort around his friend. 

His mother’s look of disdain lingered still, erasing his moment of reflection. The scene was obvious to the others, but it seemed that only Councilman Augustine was verbose enough to comment. 

“Leane ilsen, it seems that your distrust of the Umordoc who serve us is as powerful as ever.” The councilman smirked, but it was wiped away as Leane turned to him.

Leane flashed Augustine a dark gaze and he shrunk back slightly, though not completely. “I harbor no such ill will. My thoughts were merely elsewhere.”

Yioren ignored their exchange, his attention on E’Malkai as he continued. “E’Malkai, do you know why you have been called here?”

“Matters of the Commerce are all that I can speculate,” replied E’Malkai, aware that he was the only one standing except for the drunken figure across the way: the thinning man known to him as Fredrick. A man who had been with his father and Fe’rein––his true name was very rarely used, reserved only for when Leane mentioned him with disgust––as they journeyed from the cold lands of the north.

E’Malkai’s attention was drawn to him even as Yioren continued. “It is a matter of all Houses, I am afraid. Your uncle, the mion, has dealt a pivotal blow to the Resistance and there is talk of retaliation, that an attack will be launched. You and your mother, Leane ilsen, are presumed targets because of your connection to the mighty Fe’rein.” Yioren had a formal manner about his speaking. His tone was even and never accusatory, but often informative. 

“The Harbinger?” queried E’Malkai without thought. The talk of his uncle brought back what Elcites had mentioned earlier. The startled glances of the others gave E’Malkai his answer. 

“Word travels fast it would appear,” spoke Augustine with disgust. His face mimicked his words; his chin was sweaty beneath the rolls of fatty tissue and hair––superfluous and grotesque. 

Yioren ignored the councilman’s words and nodded gravely, noticing his averted gaze. “Yes, E’Malkai sien, it would appear that the space station is no more, but we wished to contain information of its destruction; though it seems that has proven rather difficult.”

“There was much talk all over the town. The airways are packed with PTVs as well as commercial vehicles. It was a reasonable train of logic, revered Yioren, and I meant no disrespect for the haste of my question.”

“Have there been any visitors today, perhaps men you did not recognize?” pressured Leane. Her once graceful features hardened to granite stone; her voice commanded respect as well as a quick and decisive answer. 

E’Malkai shook his head. 

“That is good. This threat is a most dire one. The traitors of the Resistance wish to strike us at the heart of our defenses, to destroy our mion, our protector,” spoke Yioren. His inflection tightened as he spoke Fe’rein’s formal title. 

“Ryan is no protector, an assassin perhaps, but a hero he will never be,” called out Fredrick. He stumbled forward, pushing off the support of the glass wall that had held him up. “He will never be the man that Seth was. Tell him, Leane, tell him what a coward that boy is.”

A collective gasp passed over both the seasoned features of Yioren as well as Augustine. The much larger man brought his hand to his face in surprise, stifling a verbal response.

Leane rose from her seat with a startling quickness. She was upon the inebriated Fredrick with three long steps, her hand slapping him before he could utter another word. The sting drew a rueful look from the childish Fredrick. 

“You will never speak of Ry––Fe’rein like that,” snarled Leane; her true words almost revealed. She recovered and drew back. Her hands disappeared into the folds of her layered dress once more. The darkened shawl around her shoulders made it so only her face and hair were visible. 

“But you hate him.” 

The slap came again, this time with renewed force. Fredrick’s eyes were glassy as a flush faded over his cheeks. He looked at Leane with wide eyes.

Leane watched him with a hawk-like gaze. Her sharp eyes dared him to speak again. “You will do well to remember your words here, Fredrick. Your opinions would be best kept to yourself.” Her breathing slowed as she fought to regain her calm. 

Fredrick looked from E’Malkai to the others, and then bowed awkwardly. His arms were plastered along his sides, his voice wavering as he spoke. “Pardon my drunkenness, Leane ilsen. I knew not what I spoke. Please allow me to retire to my personal residence.”

Leane nodded as Fredrick passed. He flashed a beleaguered grimace to each individual who he passed and disappeared out the door. 

“Please ignore his comments. Councilman Augustine, Yioren sien, he speaks out of line.” Leane bowed to each in turn and then moved back slower than she had risen, sitting back into the chair with a delicate sigh. “He has taken to drinking. It affects his thoughts.”

“There are many who feel as he does, though they would never be as open as he had been. It would have been catastrophic if something like that were ever uttered at the Deliberations,” conceded Yioren with a concerned nod. 

“I am still in the dark as to why my appearance here was of such urgency,” spoke E’Malkai, breaking the uncomfortable silence that had fallen over those assembled. 

“Of course, we seem to have strayed from our original intention,” began Yioren, shifting in the chair, crossing his legs over one another. “Fe’rein has asked that you begin the trials of Tal’marath.”

The trials of Tal’marath were the sacred rites of the mion, in which a youth begins a journey to become ward to the Chosen. It was considered an incredible honor and had not been conducted for thousands of years. There had not been a mion in nearly as long, since the coming of the Intelligence and the breaking of men. 

“That is an honor that I had not expected to have bestowed upon me,” returned E’Malkai. His feet shifted from one to the other uncomfortably. His apprehension was not from being chosen, but instead from the possibility itself. 

“Do you not wish to undertake the trials?” queried the councilman with a slight arch of his eyebrow. 

He had his reservations about Fe’rein. 

The man frightened him. 

“It is not that at all. I am surprised by the suddenness of the request,” replied E’Malkai. 

“Then it is decided, E’Malkai sien. I will deliver the favorable news to the mion, and he shall be pleased to hear of your acceptance. With the growing number of Resistance fighters, Culouth needs strong warriors.”

Leane stood, moving away from the others. 

Wrapping an arm through the crook of E’Malkai’s arm, she left Yioren and Augustine to chat quietly. They stood from their chairs and moved toward the massive walls of glass that framed the room. 

“There is much confusion these days, my son,” began Leane, moving toward the adjoining hall. They passed beneath the arch, the metallic entrance still propped open.

Once in the main hall, Elcites was at his side: his arms across his chest, jaw set, his black eyes staring out into nothingness. Leane’s eyes moved to Elcites, a look of distaste spreading over her features as she looked at the giant. “Elcites.”

“Leane ilsen, have I conducted myself inappropriately?” The guardian’s tone was somber, though not from emotion, but instead from the depth of his voice. 

Leane shirked away from the guardian, moving to the other side of E’Malkai. “No, there is nothing the matter. I am just feeling a little under the weather, Guardian Elcites.”

“Are you in need of an herbalist?” There was urgency in the guardian’s voice, and he stooped in concern. Even though he did so, he was still more than a head taller than E’Malkai, and the youth was considered rather tall by Culouth standards. 

“No, Elcites, she is just uncomfortable. There is no need for any medicines,” replied E’Malkai, patting Elcites on the back. The guardian’s back straightened to his full height once more, falling in step behind mother and son. 

“Fredrick’s words were conjecture.”

“I know that, mother. He was drunk. I do not harbor anger toward him. Fe’rein is a monster in many ways. He lacks the compassion with which you imbue him when you speak about the past. It pangs me that he no longer speaks of my father.” 

There was somberness in E’Malkai’s voice. 

His mother stopped him, grabbing him by the shoulders and holding him firm. “Never speak like this openly.” Leane turned to Elcites, the giant quiet as he followed behind. “To anyone.”

“Elcites is in my confidence. I speak to him at length, for I am unable to do so with anyone else. They have marked me as different because I have not altered my body as others have.”

“These are troubled times,” she warned. 

“I have heard people say that for some time now and the meaning does not grow any clearer. What danger threatens me?” 

E’Malkai sighed. 

She gripped his shoulders tighter, drawing his eyes to hers. “Do not talk openly of these things. Culouth has a delicate social structure. The politics here can end lives, destroy dreams and joy.”

E’Malkai looked at the urgent look on his mother’s face and hesitated, biting back his acerbic wit. He held his words. “I will be careful.”

Leane nodded once more, somberly, and released her hold on E’Malkai. She moved down the hall. Disappearing through an adjacent room and then out of sight, she left Elcites and E’Malkai standing alone. The silence was a strange comfort to them both.

A psychologist, author, editor, philosopher, martial artist, and skeptic, he has published several novels and currently has many in print, including: The End of the World Playlist, Bitten, The Journey, The Ocean and the Hourglass, The Path of the Fallen, The Portent, and Cerulean Dreams. Follow him on Twitter (@AuthorDanOBrien) or visit his blog http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com. He recently started a consultation business. You can find more information about it here: http://www.amalgamconsulting.com/.

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