I'm currently on the way to 100,000 words, probably 20-50k away from finishing the first draft. Much of it, perhaps as much as the first 20,000 words, needs full rewriting, as I was still figuring out structure and plot at that point. of course the rest of it needs a lot of polishing (I am yet to add the antagonist's thread to the plot, as I was keeping that for after, to add in as interludes between the main plot).
If I get enough progress done in the next month I might enter the Createspace/Google writer competition (word count allows for up to 150,000 which I think is doable. given the story), which only needs a pitch in January, rather than a complete novel. Those whose pitch gets chosen need to submit the first 5,000 words, and so on until a full manuscript is needed. No harm in trying :)
Here's a small dialogue excerpt (as always, raw and unedited) from about the midpoint in the story:
Hadiael was walking quickly against the rain, hurrying to reach the land-ship before it grew any heavier. “I can’t stand the rain, the cycle of rebirth and life it represents. Did you know that? Water evaporates from the sea, becomes clouds and rains back down onto land, where it gathers in the rivers and aquifers, trickling slowly back into the sea. Birth, life, death, rebirth… an endless cycle. Sickening. Elyden should not be like that. She is an old realm created from nothing and into nothing she will finally decay. All this,” he said, lifting his arms to the loggias and bell-domes around him, turning round theatrically, “Is for nothing. It aids the process of decay, you know. Ripping the stone from the earth. Creates a greater surface area upon which entropy can work its magic, you see! The bricks and stones rot quicker than the raw earthy skin of this orb. Chopping down trees… well, the empire has claimed a monopoly in that department. Few now live who know what green lands look like. You might know, depending on how old you are.”
Slaven nodded. He had seen wooded realms, long ago. He doubted any of them remained now, after Korachan had lain claim to them, exploiting them, stripping them bare.
“These cities, great symbols of civilisation are but a fleeting monument to the world’s entropy. In a thousand years there buildings will be gone. The town itself might remain, but it will be a different place, like a grub feasting on the rotting body of a slain predecessor. And in turn that grub will grow and die. Another might replace it but… well, you know what I mean. You have likely seen more death than any other I know… save perhaps one.” The man grinned.
Slaven turned to him. “The Lhauaparan.”
He grinned childishly. “For over a thousand years that thing has existed, suffering. It has seen death as few others have.”
“It has a spirit?”
Hadi regarded the clone for a moment before replying. This is a man looking for something, he thought. “What if it does? What if it doesn’t?”
“I am curious.”
Hadi shook his head. “No. You might be a clone, born without nuance or social grace, but the tough years have given you a semblance of mortality, of emotion that you cannot deny. I can see the urgency in your words, your actions. It is more than curiosity that drives you. I told you once already you will not find what you’re looking for here.”
“And I must still try.”
Hadi raised his hands defensively. “Be my guest. I don’t think Lhu has spoken with a Legionnaire before. The exchange might do him well.”
“Lhu?” asked Slaven. They would degrade such a creature, born of man’s most devious and accomplished sciences to defy the gods themselves by referring to it with such a… base name. Slaven did not know what to think. Was it any worse than branding the clones with numbers and letters?
“Lhu, yes. He doesn’t do much talking and was never christened by the madmen who made him.”
“You would imply I was created by madmen?”
Hadi cocked his head, sizing up the clone. “Someone’s got some father issues… Let us not waste any time here. You, the Lhauaparan, haemonculi… all are attempts at breaking the natural order of things, of bringing life where there should not be. You are aberrations – beautiful in your way, but aberrations nonetheless – and, frankly, you should not be. You were made by men who saw the demiurges and challenged them, defying the natural order.”
“I thought you did not believe in the Demiurges.”
“That would make me crazy. Clearly, I am not crazy,” grinned Hadi. “No, we challenge their divinity. A true god would be distant, alien, unknown. The Demiurges are many, fickle and driven by emotion – often negative emotion – much as mortals. Their power is not the thing in question, anyone can see that. But they are no gods, in the sense of an omnipotent omnipresent entity. How can a god not be deathless? The legends of this world are filled with tales of slumbering gods and their children, their bodies fossilised and rotting at the same time, stuck in a limbo between life and death, their dreams creating even when they cannot. That they can create life is accepted; just look at the empire – filled with humans. How can you deny the productiveness of Avraham with all these men running around like vermin?”
“What is wrong with creating life, then?”
“Well, aside from moving us farther from the goals of the entropic cults, it is obscene. That man thinks take that which makes the Demiurges special and twist it to his own ends goes against the nature of everything. We are beholden to the Demiurges. We serve them, through our prayer and devotion. They are the gods, the givers of life. That they allow such travesties to go on is a sign of their own mortality. Then again your opinion would be biased. You only exist because of man’s arrogance. That you would inherit that arrogance is to be expected.”
“It is not arrogance to be grateful for life and to question that life.”
“What is there to question? The age of philosophers is over. This is the age of decline, the great dawn of our age. The days grow shorter, the sun weaker. The seas have been retreating for millennia. The land itself weakens, as though whatever it was that held it all together is unravelling. That this comes with the death and torpor of the Demiurges is no coincidence.”
Slaven was nodding now. “Remove Rachanael from the equation and the world’s collapse is ensured.”
“You catch on quickly clone.”
They walked in silence, the rain perforating their steps, giving life to the puddles. They were coming to the outskirts of the settlement, where there seemed to be more people. The buildings here were higher than elsewhere in the city, rising like vines along the inside of the wall, their roofs serving as battlements. They passed through a large gateway, the main entrance into the city, beyond which was the land-ship and the Carnivale of Rust. There were people scattered around, mostly in the distance around the periphery of the carnival. A few stalls were set up outside the gateway, food vendors and other opportunists taking advantage of the carnival.
Behind them, Voss and Burrgh had slowed, hesitating at the gate. They did not want to proceed. Slaven turned round, seeing them. “Wait here. I will not be long. If the weather eases up, leave without me.”
Beside him, the tout had an arm on his back, pushing him onwards. “Come, let us show you the wonders of entropy.”