And again. Sigh. This is what weekends are for.
Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's elite, super-powered soldiers. But the Ritual Mask, the Artifact that makes him so powerful, was never meant to last, and when it fails, Jav is a dead man. Unless, that is, he can win a new, permanent Artifact in a competition open only to the top fighters of the Empire.
To prepare for the competition, Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws, a deadly empty hand martial art. With the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav practices long past dark every day, enduring heavy gravity training and the petty abuse of other students. His only distraction is carving stone flowers for Lili Farina, still in a coma because of him. But, when Mai Pardine takes over Jav's training, her beautiful performance of their style overwhelms him, and he feels for a moment like he's known her forever.
Threats at home and away, both inside and outside the ring, test the limits of the seal on the Ritual Mask. A chance encounter with a band of alien pirates reminds Jav what can happen if the seal breaks: besides potentially exhausting its power, Jav loses himself to Mask's insatiable thirst for blood, turning everyone in range into a desiccated, leathery husk. The thought of this happening to those close to him--to Mai in particular--terrifies him and spurs him to train even harder. He's running out of time, though. He must gain control over the Mask and master the Eighteen Heavenly Claws in time for the competition still ahead.
THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is a work of science fiction, complete at 76,000 words. I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.