The Color Eater a novel by Jessica Conoley

The Color Eater – Nevile Fano

I have the phenomenal photographer, Diana King, to thank for the pictures of me scattered though out this website design. (I also have the make up artist, Janelle Wood, for helping me show the best version of myself in those pictures.)

I drove to Nashville for my photo shoot, and Diana said, “We need to go to the magic wall.” She assured me this building, and the retaining walls around it, were magic because they made everyone look good.  She’d shot photos for the NY Times and music videos there, and she assured me it would magically make me comfortable in front of the camera. 

As we walked up to the building I smiled, because its stone-work reminded me of a hugely important building in The Color Eater–Nevile Fano. (If you go back and re-read chapter one you will find a Nevile reference right there, on the second page of the book.) Diana worked her magic, the building worked its magic, and I worked through the awkwardness of letting myself be seen through a camera lens until we took the magic pictures.

Come website re-design time I sent a pile of Diana’s pics to the amazing Camille of Web4writers. She comes back to me with this phenomenal design, and there Nevile’s walls are in the background of every single picture she incorporated.

For the record I’d never seen this building before my pics were taken. Color Eater had been finished for years before the photo sessions, but this is just another funny way that my writing follows me around. Because it was such a fun surprise for me, I’m sharing an excerpt that features Nevile for you!


The Color Eater

Chapter 8 excerpt


We cross a line of shadow before I dare look up. Holloway has led me to Nevile’s front doors. Nevile Fano was here long before the Great War, and once she had been a safe-haven for all. When the Rada came to power, the fortress was transformed into the face of the Unified Front’s justice system. I’ve only ever seen her image stamped upon our coins: an expansive building with six doors hidden in the shadows of her gap-toothed smile. But now, standing at her feet I see what I thought were doors are actually gaping hollows, blackened teeth in the face of Nevile.

Thin rectangular blocks of white stone join together to form slender vertical rows of blinding ivory racing toward the sky. The flat-faced walls stretch up and up towards the sun, and when I look to the left or right, I have no idea where they may end. Above us, slits in the face, one row wide and five blocks high, leave enough room for the guards to fire upon threats before they disappear behind Nevile’s stoic countenance.

The crowd roars and pushes in on the guards. Holloway proceeds to the shadow directly in front of us. Up close, I realize Nevile’s true enormity­­––the space is six men wide and two men tall.

I tug at Holloway’s elbow, pulling him two entrances to the right.

We reach the edge of the grass, and my feet stop. Flat white stones pave the way before us. Holloway looks at me. I nod, but I can’t make myself move forward until I feel his gentle lead urging me along.

Arm in arm, we march through the stone archway, leaving our charcoal soldiers at Nevile’s feet holding back the tumultuous throng. I know it is only a building beyond these shadows. But the knowledge does nothing to ease the feeling that I’m about to be eaten alive.

Chapter 9 excerpt


Half a dozen paces past the threshold I stop, drop Holloway’s elbow, and look back. Stamped above the door are four symbols written in the scrawl of ancient Intsi texts. People say words float above the doorways on the dark side of each entrance, and you can only see the sayings after crossing through a threshold. Our mothers and fathers put us to bed with tales that end with the phrase, “Choose your door wisely, for Nevile will hold you to it.” They tell us the words are magic. Intsi say the words are transcriptions of truth from the times before.  None of that matters now though, I wasn’t in school long enough to get to my ancient languages courses and have no idea what it says.

“Can you read it?” I ask.

Holloway pushes his spectacles up on his nose and studies the runes. “In your life, your death.”

I shiver at the declaration, but console myself by thinking of what Dad would say.  There’s no such thing as magic. Those words are there to scare children into doing their chores. He got the scaring part right at least.

From the shadows of the anteroom, looking out to the courtyard the crowd seems less ominous. My guards have stationed themselves shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the threshold blocking the way for anyone who would be crazy enough to follow us. It’s such a waste of time, all these people coming out for a trial whose outcome is already decided.

“Is it true the sayings change places? That one looks like it’s been there forever,” I say.

“I don’t know. This is the first time I’ve had the honor to walk through her doors.”

“Door. Singular. ” I point to the huge oaken door centered opposite the six thresholds to the courtyard. The wood is thick and covered with uneven discoloration from smoke. It’s as if flames licked at the doors before sputtering out at the realization they could never burn their way into Nevile.

I’m a little surprised we are not actually in the building, but I guess that’s what happens when your reference point is the image stamped on your pocket change. Here, in the antechamber, the quartzite stone keeps the room cool, a welcome relief after the sweltering square.

“Nevile was designed as a stronghold. A layout like this allows for an overhead defense. By killing enemies in the courtyard they never have a chance to access the actual building.” Holloway says.

“Are you some kind of history tax specialist or something?”

“It’s a classic military technique. By bottlenecking the attackers here, you can defend your vantage point with less manpower on the other side of the door. It allows for more resources for the overhead attack.”

“If that little lesson is supposed to make me feel better it didn’t. What happens next?”

“Likely a counter attack.”

“No, in court.”

“Oh. In trials of atypical threats, three justices—one silver-justice and two provincial—hear the charges as presented by the Rada, and then we will have a chance to defend. A majority decision of the judges will decide the verdict. In a guilty verdict, the silver-justice is in charge of sentencing.”

My breath quickens. I press the Teardrop against my skin through my dress.

Holloway continues, his voice wavering, “In my research, all accused color eaters have been found guilty. The specifics of the sentencing have always been withheld from the public, not released to the press, or available in the archives as far as I could tell. That’s what I was researching when you knocked on my door. I was hoping for more time to see if we could plead your case down, but every verdict has been redacted. There’s no precedent.” His voice drops to a whisper, “I don’t know what or how we would try to plead.”

The crowd begins to chant, the words indistinguishable but impassioned.

“Do I have to talk?” I ask.

“You may be called to testify.”

“Fantastic.” A groan echoes through the anteroom as the massive door inches open. “How many people in the courtroom?”

Holloway shrugs, and with a deep breath I find the courage to follow him through the charred door. My lungs burn, as if the oxygen was sucked from the room when the door closed behind us. Maybe that’s what happened to all the color eaters—they entered Nevile Fano and suffocated in her ivory chambers.

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