Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Cain the Weary, sovereign of Balnora, has died. His throne has been seized by his brother, whose tyrannical regime threatens to gut the kingdom from its very bowels. The practicing of the Arts, the magick that sustains the land, is abolished in the name of the gods. The Southernlands, the long autonomous wilderness that sweeps the bottom half of the Balnorran map, faces conquest by the new northern regime. Balnora stands divided. Armies rise in the north as the southerners shrink back into their grisly woodlands.

In the midst of this grand upheaval, a new Count, clambering from the trenches of poverty, has ascended in the sector known as Polydeukes, the southernmost hold of the northern Balnorran kingdom. From magickal merchant to novice noble, Frank Augustus has wormed his way through the ranks, through the convenience of marriage, to the status of Count d'Polydeukes--but he has not done so alone. Frank has entered a drastic deal with the devils that lurk, unseen, below the known fabric of the world. In exchange for his soul, he is made rich and secure in a land that faces uncertain times.

The Door Tree is the first in a series of three novels conceived and written by K. Binning over a series of seven years. The Door Tree is perhaps the most viscerally moving of them all. Set in a world vaguely reminiscent of our own, The Door Tree is a story that attempts to chronicle the bleakness of a world the apocryphal gods have ignored, where demons from dimensions long forgotten crouch expectantly amongst the darkest corners of humanity.


From "The Door Tree", Chapter 8

He exited the estate from a back door and crossed the gardens in the moist, young night. Crickets leapt at his feet. His heart rose against his bones, invigorated. The night air was so fresh that it burned to breathe. He began to walk quicker, his pace rising, until he was cutting through the lawn at a sprint.
He passed through the darkness with such swiftness that his eyes began to water. He clambered down from the manor, leaped over the wall surrounding the grounds, and sped down the hill, his feet pounding into the dirt at a maddening pace. Air sprang at his face and clawed through his hair, illuminating his lungs and urging him onward. His coattails whipped behind him like wings, his stockings bunching at his ankles. If he spread his arms, he reckoned he would fly. His lightness allowed him to run easily, feather-like and scarecrow-like. The stiff partition of woods came suddenly, but his speed did not slow. The trees yawned and moved their branches aside as he ran.
He was expected; he was welcome here.
Frank could hear the door tree loudly now, muttering to itself. It was becoming impatient. He forced his legs onward, the tree’s voice splicing, imploding upon itself until multiple voices quarreled amongst each other, their gossiping moving in undulations, like some great, primordial wind.
When he came to the door tree’s clearing, the speaking stopped and all was silent. Each of its orifices glowed. The large chasm at the base of the trunk was open and visibly sordid with wine.
Frank did not come for wine this evening.
A growl ripped from the depths of his chest, mustering every ounce of effort left in his frail body. “DEMON!” he snarled. “Witch! Come out and show yourself, hag, for I’ve a mind to speak with ye!”
The ground rumbled beneath his feet. He stepped back, catching himself, his iron gaze unwavering. Breath whistled through his bared teeth.
“Come, you swamp-dwelling fiend! Show yourself, for I’ve inquiries to pry your little black heart! You dishonest wench!” He paused, his chest heaving so hard that his bones strained against the buttons of his silken vest. “What have you fucking done to me? You’ve taken my life into the roots of this tree. You’ve stolen my thoughts, my tongue, my blood! For the sake of the fucking gods, emerge!” His voice crackled off into silence. A sob tore from his lips. “What do you want of me?!”
The door tree’s lights flickered, and a low moan seethed through its trunk, its branches, its roots—for Frank could not tell from where the sound came. The tree had an atmosphere all its own, a lone needle between the thin sheets of dimension that drove its worming roots down and down into infinity. For only a moment more the lights remained, and then the windows crackled shut one at a time, until only the great, pregnant base of the tree was left. The tree shuddered, bark rippling, and closed, swallowing the light and wine into its endless, rotting entrails. When the bottommost portal opened again, all was dark except for the hag’s white eyes, peering from inside.
“What do you want, Frank Augustus?” the hag’s voice slithered from the void.
“I want answers, you fucking hag,” Frank shot boldly in reply. “What have you done to me?”
“You know that all too well,” the hag replied. “My tree and I—oh, the good, wise thing!—have provided you with a modest fortune. Are you not basking under the skies of luxury? Isn’t your stomach full and your pocket heavy?”
His nostrils flared. “How…dare…you,” he sputtered, pointing a finger accusingly at the brittle woman. “I am married and uncertain; I am an earl that does not belong. I know nothing of riches, of land. I do not love my wife. I am hungry; I cannot eat. The mere stench of food is maddening. I pace like a caged animal. I exist only to dash to this horrid welt of rotting wood every evening to collect wine.” He looked to the witch, tears beginning to well in his eyes. “Why must you continue to call me here? Why must that—that—thing screech so? It calls, it whispers. There is never a quiet moment. Even when I sleep—when I dream!—all I think of is the tree.” He grasped his clothes, pulling at the lacy cravat around his neck. “Do you see these clothes? I have never been so rich in my life. You imply that I ought to thank you—ought to be grateful! But what thanks should I have for the dominance of my soul?”
The hag chuckled; her clicking little laugh sent dry sobs through Frank’s chest.
“How did you manage to get my blood, to glean my soul?” he whispered forcefully, through clenched teeth. He choked down his sobs bravely. “The wound bleeds, it will not stop.” He swallowed. “I should have died long ago.”