Blood, Sand, and Fire Excerpts

2021.12.01 12:03 Nuclear_TeddyBear Blood, Sand, and Fire Excerpts

As another celebration of progress and chance of promotion, I am posting some excerpts from the book, no context to avoid spoilers, so sorry if not everything fully makes sense.
Excerpt one:
Henry looked back and forth between them, unsure of who to follow. In the end, he chose Kue. But that didn’t stop him from pitying the dwellers left in the sand. This couldn’t be what the life of an adventurer was actually like. He refused to believe it. They walked in silence, but inside Henry, the reflections of the unjust cruelty were festering. Eventually, he could not keep it pent up any longer.
“You didn’t have to do that Kue.”
“You didn’t have to follow me.”
“But I think I did.” Henry rushed in front of Kue, cutting him off. “You say there is no such thing as a hero in this world. You do horrible things for nothing more than money just because you were told to. But I believe there is good in you, Kue. I believe there is good in this world. I became an adventurer to see that good and do amazing things. I left home for a life of glory and righteousness.”
Kue sighed. “You left home and became just another cog in an ever-moving machine. Every year more people like you are added, little more than children with their heads in the clouds, dreaming of the stars. They yearn to become heroes and live forever in legends, but instead, they live on in the warnings that they did not heed. Those who survive come out on the other side broken. You aren’t an adventurer. You aren’t a hero. You are a mercenary.”
“No.” Henry’s voice was faint and tears threatened to slip from his eyes. He clenched his fist and held them in. “No. I will not be just another cog. I am going to stay with you, Kue, and I am going to prove you wrong. This is how my story will start, not by being mentored by the Hound of Iencrad, but by saving him from his own despair. You had to have had hope once, I will bring that hope back to you, Kue.”
Kue shoved past Henry. “Do what you want, but if you hinder me, I will kill you.”
Excerpt two:
The run to the village was wearing down on Henry and Kue. The physical exertion left them dripping with sweat that drenched through their clothes to greet the bitterly cold night air. As the moons rose above them on their break-neck journey, a gentle wind came from behind them, warding off the coldness of the night. Kue wasn’t sure, but he felt as though the wind carried them in their run, pushing them faster through the sand than their bodies should have been able to.
Soon, the sand turned to stone as they trekked up the side of the mountain. Kue saw the footprints left behind by Aki-Ral after she left them. Henry was ahead of Kue, not once slowing or stopping as he rushed to the village; that is until he came to the top of the plateau. When Kue caught up to Henry, he understood. Though the village was still miles away, Kue could see the fire and smoke.
“We were too late.” Henry’s voice cracked and he dropped to his knees.
“We were too late, Kue.”
“Get up,” Kue ordered.
“Why bother? Look! Even from here, we can see the fire. Even from here the taste of smoke is crawling down my throat. I know what we will find there, it is just like Yaelam showed me. They are all dead, Kue. Slaughtered in their beds, their homes plundered.” Henry’s despair turned into an anguished rage.
“Get up.” Kue barked once more. “There may be survivors. If you think heroes can exist, prove it. Each second you waste someone else may die. If you think you can be a hero, get up and go save them.” Kue lifted Henry by the shoulders back to his feet.
Henry looked into Kue’s eyes and saw beyond the calloused exterior. He saw that Kue was a man who had taken countless lashes and beatings from life, and his scars had turned to armor. But that did not make his heart invulnerable to pain.
Henry ran once more. His adrenaline had faded and he felt the exhaustion in each step. Never before in his life had Henry run this much, but he had to keep going. He had to help them, any of them, even if it was just comforting someone as they passed. Henry thought of the relief he felt when he felt Kue at the shrine, the comfort of not dying alone. If that was all Henry could give someone, then he would endure this run to do it. Kue was still at his side, matching him stride for stride.
The devastation was far worse than they imagined. Tents slashed open. Bodies in piles burning. Henry stumbled through the carnage, stopping at a child’s doll. He bent and picked it up. The doll was stained with blood and singed. The chest of the doll had been run-through, fluffy stuffing poking out. Henry’s arms went limp at his side, still clutching the doll in his hand. Kue joined him in looking through the dwellings. Each home was empty. The animals that remained in their pens, the same sort that Kue and Henry had seen peacefully drinking at the oasis, were brutally slaughtered. Some broken fencing and markings suggested that the ones not killed were stolen. Finally, Kue and Henry went inside the central dwelling. Less than twelve hours ago, they were having a peaceful meal here. Enjoying cuts of meat and sweet dessert fruits while children played outside and the adults worked. Kue took a long swig from his flask.
The interior was chaos. The eloquent tapestries that separated the rooms were torn down and crumpled, the furniture was shattered and in disarray. Henry and Kue searched room to room, looking for any sign of life. It was Kue who first learned who carried out this attack. A sword of the same make as Aki-Ral's was buried into the shoulder of a corpse donning scale-mail armor. The metal helmet of the corpse had the coat of arms of the Malform family. Those of the same ilk as Henry and Kue did this.
Excerpt three:
Still overcoming their mutual shock, Kue and Henry had no conversation on the way to the oasis. They walked, and they passed the water Kue had stored back and forth. The occasional shade of a cactus or particularly large dune seemed like divine intervention at this point. Odd
roars of machine would briefly ring out across the desert, but they were always in the distance. Henry could not help but wonder what would become of the Ala now that their home was destroyed. He felt no love for them, but that did not mean he had to hate them either. He had heard children’s cries in the time he spent fighting for the city. Those who tried to kill Henry and those who forced him to take lives, he did not care that they were subject to the harshness of the desert and the wrath of the Fallen, but the children, how did they deserve that? Henry could see no justice there. Why should the innocent pay penance for the sins of their elders, and be caught in their wars? Those thoughts filled Henry’s mind as they walked.
Kue, conversely, thought nothing. It was in the past, and now was the time to move forward. Once this contract was over, he could wash his hands of the desert and never return to Hel-Halha. He did worry about what returning to the ship would be like. Clearly, the others hired on by the Malform family were not going about the endeavor sportingly. Kue resolved to think about matters further once he had food in his belly and at least an hour of sleep.
The oasis was much the same as they had left it. Luscious trees bearing fruit and a clear blue body of water. Kue set to work harvesting fruits from the trees, while Henry picked them off of cacti sprouting nearby. The cacti’s fruit was the same they had eaten with Kahin.
Remembering the dead chief slowed down Henry’s greedy plucking.
“Do you think they survived, Kue?”
Kue turned, holding two bundles of dark purple fruits. “Who.”
“Aki-Ral and the others. I didn’t see them when I was in the city.”
“They did. I watched them escape.”
Henry lit up. “Really? Then we did it. We fulfilled Kahin’s wish.”
Kue faintly smiled. “We did,” he said quietly.
Henry laughed. “And you said you weren’t a hero.” Henry bit into the fruit, accidentally pricking the inside of his mouth on its spines.
Kue’s smile vanished. “I’m not.”
Henry tsked. “You saved people, Kue. For no reason besides it being the right thing to do.”
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The state's Medicaid redesign under former Gov. Andrew Cuomo included a plan to reform the program's patchwork, under-resourced mental health care system for children.
In 2011, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered an overhaul of the state's Medicaid system, including reforming coverage for the approximately 2 million kids across New York enrolled in Children's Medicaid.
Core to the Children's Medicaid Redesign Plan was expanding and streamlining youth behavioral health services-which are used by approximately 10 percent of the state's children on Medicaid each year-and which were previously provided through a patchwork of waiver programs that advocates and customers said led to fragmented and substandard care.
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