Today I am so pleased to welcome May Peterson to Joyfully Jay. May has come to share an exclusive excerpt from her latest release, The Immortal City. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Serenity was a greedy place. The lip of the mountain cropped over the city, drawing shade across the expanse like a sundial. The sunlight at its height only ever touched half the city, leaving the rest permanently in shadow. Everything was organized around that half-night, how long the sun would actually touch each region of the city. Only the outer ring, along Bare-Sky Road, caught the day’s full gaze. At the occult depths, the night-streets, the darkness was never spoiled, never touched even by moonlight. And anything that wandered into Serenity, especially its shadowy core, tended to stay there.
That was where I had first awoken here, the night of my earliest memory. I’d already had wings then, wide and sand-colored. The dove spirit had given me many gifts upon my rebirth—immortality, supernatural strength, the virtue to heal others’ wounds. Speed and acute vision, the bird-shape I could take if I shed my human form completely. But best of all were those wings, which I wore even now. Before I had known even my name, found my feet, I had found my wings. I may never have had the freedom to come up to the bright outsides without them, see hints of the world I’d forgotten.
Now they took me home, to my spire. The only place I could quite breathe. It was an old spiraling tower that must have once been part of some elaborate building, its other parts worn away by ruin or neglect. Its derelict solitude had a kind of majesty to it, a testament of what this city once had been. One of my first projects in Serenity had been poking around to learn why so many parts of the city looked like the dried bones of a cadaverous palace. Some towers reached up into the sky almost as high as the mountain crags, more storeys than I could count. The tales always varied: that this had been the domain of a witch who wove architecture out of thin air, that it had been his personal canvas before death took him, and most of the buildings served no purpose. That the high spires were designed for bird-souls, for flight rather than climbing, even though the night-streets were more popular homes now. One story that particularly enchanted me was that Serenity had been the last bastion of a time-blasted mortal empire, whose prowess of construction was so great that without its human members, the integrity of the structures couldn’t be reproduced over the centuries. What an impact that must be to make, so that no one could reimagine the shadow you left when you were gone, even as the outline of it was everywhere.
It was also just a convenient space. It stood just under the mountain’s face, deep enough that the sun wouldn’t fall much through my windows while I slept, but not so deep to be in the night-streets. I could see almost the whole city from its height.
The moon was hitting it now as I ascended, glossing the stone exterior pale silver. I swept in through the window, into the dilapidated apartments I kept tidy for myself. This probably used to be some priestly chamber; once-narrow windows were chipped wide enough for me to glide through. A small space, but clean, and mine. A door separated it from what had been the stairwell winding down the tower. Much of the stairs had crumbled away over time, and I had pushed apart many of the pieces that had remained. Couldn’t have random guests knocking on my door, and it also kept curious mortals from exploring.
I shoved the thick curtain over the opening, then sank to the floor. I slid halfway under my bed, pulled out the box I hid there. You could count on one hand the number of people I actually knew, names that went to faces that I’d seen more than once. No wonder it shook me to have another one added; I needed to relax.
But it bothered me.
“Ari. What do you remember—anything?” That voice had drawn me out of my sleep. I’d been lying on the silver-laced examining table, arms bound, wondering how the metal could be so cold and still burn like that. The gaze taking me in then had been bladelike, incisive. Smiling. Eyes red as spots of disease.
My response had been so eloquent. “Ari?”
How satisfied that smile had become.
It bothered me that a person could be so blank. It didn’t seem physically possible. Surely something else had to be tangled in the framework of my body and the years that had built it. I’d woken feeling that I existed, had already existed, only that none of the details were there. I’d died, they’d said. Died and been resurrected by the mercy of the dove spirit now sharing my soul. And I would never die again.
Surely the person who’d died had to have been someone. But this was the next thing they’d told me. I had sold that person in exchange for blankness. All of my past self had been given to the merchant of amnesia, and I couldn’t remember why I would have wished that self away.
The box was full of scraps. My theory was that some of them must have been letters. I’d simply found them under me, scattered in my room, one empty day under the new moon. There should be a logic piecing together where they’d come from, but that was also blank. Some of them could have been book pages, drawings. I couldn’t make out any sentences now, but the pages must have been mine. Only one word had any context, occurring at the edge of some of the scraps, as if written at the tops of letters. Ari.
Someone knew my name.
Sometimes you just have to jump.
The second book in The Sacred Dark series, a lush fantasy romance by acclaimed author May Peterson.
I don’t remember you…
Reborn as an immortal with miraculous healing powers, Ari remembers nothing of his past life. His entire world now consists of the cold mountainside city of Serenity. Ruled with an iron fist. Violent.
I may never remember you…
Regaining the memories of who he once was seems an impossible dream, until Ari encounters Hei, a mortal come to Serenity for his own mysterious purposes. From the moment Hei literally falls into his arms, Ari is drawn to him in ways he cannot understand. Every word, every look, every touch pulls them closer together.
But I’m with you now…
As their bond deepens, so does the need to learn the truth of their past. Together they journey to find an ancient immortal who can give them what they both want: a history more entwined than Ari could have ever imagined, but which Hei has always known.
It’s the reason they will risk the world as they know it to reclaim who they used to be—and what they could be once again.
May Peterson is rumored to be some kind of magical creature, but exactly which kind is still debated by scholars. While they sort that out, May busies herself as a romance and fantasy author and freelance editor. May has always had a deep fondness for books, animation, and comics. She’s drawn toward both writing and reading stories that are magical, hopeful, and distinctive, as well as those that explore identity, queerness, and emotional connection. She believes that bringing a daydream to life with its own tale to tell is always a small miracle.