Friday, July 18, 2014

A chapter from something I've been working on:

A Heated Situation

Kieran stood with his hands held up, palms out at the front gate to Gilton Harbor with the patter of rain on saturated mud at his back and the frigid edge of a sword he reckoned was twice his size poised at his neck.

His brow furrowed as he slowly glanced to Voss with her own dagger eager to cut into the inquisitor’s throat beside them.  Should either party so much as twitch a muscle, Kieran expected things wouldn’t end so well for anybody.

“I suppose then that these aren’t old friends of yours” Kieran said, gently tilting his head to the man wielding the blade in front of him. The inquisitor struggled to breathe under Voss’s forearm, her grip absolute and her dagger pressed firm to his throat.  Kieran continued, “Perhaps we got off on the wrong foot, you see –“

“Save your breath,” Voss interrupted, “Not even the sweetest of your words could dissuade them - they know the Priory has taken my mark.”

“Consider your crimes and your situation, this need not escalate to something more serious,” said the Inquisitor in a shaky voice.  “Please, you are at a disadvantage, there’s no reason we can’t be civil.”
The man holding the sword a hair’s width from Kieran’s neck didn't so much as blink.

“Well, unless you've got a third man in that tree, I’d say the odds are currently pretty even.”  Kieran grinned.
The four of them were standing in the glow of aether light not 30 feet from the main gate, Voss with her arms wrapped around her prey to Kieran’s right and the sword-wielding companion to his front. The sound of the rain splashing into the mud and off of the four combatants’ soaked cloaks didn’t do much for the tense atmosphere. At this distance, there wouldn’t be a goddamned thing Kieran could do to avoid what he imagined to be the unpleasant experience of being impaled with a blade the size of a small tree. His hand began to ache.

“It is not in our orders to kill you,” said the man in front of Kieran, his stance unflinching “only the Aberrant.”

The man’s armor was rough and well-worn, the pings of the falling water on his steel epaulets was foreboding. By Kieran’s guess, the man was in his late thirties, his scruff peppered with the salt hue of an aging mane. Beneath the dancing light of the aethertorches, Kieran could make out the distinctly pale features of numerous scars upon his face; a testament to a man whose tested mettle need not be questioned. The ache in Kieran’s hand began to swell, its intensity growing with each passing moment.

“You can trust us Kieran, we know about what happened.  We can help you,” said the inquisitor, his plea as genuine as he could muster.

Kieran hand twitched and a bolt of pain surged up his arm. He winced but remained still.

“I don’t think you do know what happened, else you’d have killed me already.” Kieran gritted his teeth, his breath becoming labored.

“Fine, die with the bitch,” said the man as he pressed the blade hard to Kieran’s skin.

Kieran hardly reacted to the cold steel pressed hard into him; the pain in his hand had grown into a searing ember, as though he’d submerged his glove in boiling oil.

“Voss… I need, I need you to… my goddamned hand...I can’t –“ Kieran forced every stuttering word through his tightly clenched jaw.

“Really? Now?” Voss darted her eyes to Kieran and then back to the man before him. She reasserted her grip on the inquisitor as she blew a strand of soaked red hair from her face.  

With Voss’s attention divided, the fidgeting inquisitor’s hand darted behind him just enough to make contact with Voss’s doublet.  The sudden blast of air threw Voss backwards, dragging her through the mud. She recovered quickly and stood defensively, silently cursing her carelessness.

The inquisitor stood upright, caressing his neck where the blade had pressed deep into his skin. His demeanor quickly changed.

“Marcus, slay that vile abomination. Don’t damage the arm.”

“Kieran!” Voss tried to shout but the word caught in her throat.

Marcus’s claymore emerged from Kieran’s back, the fresh blood dripping off the blade in the rainfall. Kieran fell limp to his knees in the wet mud. Unable to speak, he looked down to the protruding end of the massive sword piercing his chest.  Marcus placed a foot on Kieran’s sternum and gripped the blade with both hands. He kicked and pulled and swiftly extracted the blade, making cold, brief eye contact with Kieran as he fell helplessly backwards to the ground.  Kieran starred openly to the rain, coughing and choking, his body making the last shuddering breaths of a dying man.  

Voss stood still, nearly just as helpless at the site of Marcus wrenching his blade free from Kieran’s torso. Before she could compose herself, a forceful burst erupted to her left, throwing her into a tree and knocking the wind from her. The inquisitor approached, hand extended and quivering.

“I would be lying if I told you I don’t enjoy this part,” he said grinning. Voss tried to gain footing but there was a weight in the air pressing her hard against the trunk. As the inquisitor approached, the weight grew firm and crushing, making it difficult for Voss to breathe. She summoned what strength she had and raised her hand, resisting the crushing force as best she could as a tiny spurt of flame fizzled from her fingertips in the rain.

“Oh come now,” the inquisitor chuckled.  Voss could feel her bones about to snap, her chest on the verge of collapse. Through squinted eyes she could see Marcus calmly approaching, his sword lazily held in his hand. Each of his steps made a squelching sound as he approached; his large boots digging into the mud.

“I’ll spare you the usual speech Aberrant. A pity I can’t kill you with my own hand, you know how silly these rules –“ The inquisitor choked on his words, replaced by a guttural cry of anguish. The weight on Voss’s chest vanished and she staggered, gasping for air. Marcus turned towards the inquisitor, his eyes wide in surprise.

The inquisitor convulsed, his hellish scream trailing off as his eyes began to cloud a milky white. Voss shook off the disorientation to discern what was happening. On the ground beneath the inquisitor, Kieran lay prone with a crazed and determined look upon his face. His hand was luminous with pale white light as he gripped at the inquisitor’s ankle. Thin, ghostly wisps of thread whipped and siphoned from the inquisitor’s leg into Kieran’s arm.

The inquisitor’s screaming faded, the convulsions ceased, his eyes glossed to a milky white. His skin had become taught and leathery, as if he had been embalmed by a medicus and his muscles appeared stiff, as though death had taken him hours ago. The inquisitor collapsed into the mud as Kieran propped himself up on one knee, his hand still radiant up to his forearm. There was a long trench of bloody water where he had laboriously crawled through the mud. His shirt was still dark with his blood, but Kieran’s wound bore the shiny pink of a scarred gash beneath his torn tunic.

“Voss, the torches!” Kieran shouted.

Marcus was in full stride, his sword high and ready to cut Kieran down. Voss’s attention darted to either side of her, to the aethertorches that lit the path outside Gilton’s front gate. Most flames would fizzle in this downpour, but aethertorches used a bound source, their fire was magical.

Voss extended both hands and summoned every ounce of strength left to draw out the flame. The foggy glass covers burst and the unnatural green flame erupted out, coalescing into a large twisting mass. Voss unleashed the fiery chaos before her at Marcus, who stood only a few feet from killing Kieran a second time. The scorching flames rushed all around him, unimpeded by the rain. Kieran raised his hand to shield himself from the heat, turning his head and falling backwards as the fire consumed his opponent.

Voss grew frigid and felt the very light of her being flicker somewhere within her. Her whole body slumped and she fought to remain conscious. The flames dispersed into the air, leaving behind Marcus’s standing charred remains. The blackened body slumped and hit the mud, making the heated steel in his armor and what remained of his sword hiss loudly in the water. Fetid steam rose with each raindrop and lifted the terrible scent of burnt flesh into the atmosphere.

“Voss, are you alright?” Kieran rose slowly to his feet.

Voss was dizzy and weak, her head was throbbing and she was rapidly losing the fight against her fatigue.

“The fuck do you mean am I alright?” She said. “I would describe you dying as being less than convenient in that fight.”  

Voss stood on shaky legs, holding herself against the tree. With an air of uncharacteristic seriousness, she asked, “What exactly happened just then?”

Kieran starred at the fading glow in his left hand, its ache diminished into cascading warmth, radiating upward into his chest. “I…I’m not sure.”

“We need to move, we need to get as far away from this scene as possible before a patrol comes around and sees a dead inquisitor of all things on Gilton’s front porch.” Voss said as she limped towards Kieran.
“Snap out it.” she said as she nudged him.

Kieran walked to his discarded glove and slipped it back onto his hand before pulling Voss’s arm around his neck for support. “I know of a small dock along the river a few miles west of here. We can make it before mid-day.” He said.

“Great, I was in the mood for a stroll.” Voss retorted as they began to walk the trail. “Kieran, were going to figure out what is happening, I promise.”

 Kieran nodded as they began to tread the path through the rain west out of Gilton. It would be a long walk in their state, even longer before they could get some much needed rest. The pleasant warmth in Kieran’s hand was short lived and soon he and Voss were shivering through the small hours of the night.

It wasn’t long before his hand began to ache again, however this time it felt different.  The sharp pain that drove him to beg Voss for salves wasn't quite so sharp anymore. Perhaps Kieran was wrong then, perhaps it wasn’t pain; it was hunger. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

On Writing More

I got a lot of really good feedback on my post last week! It was helpful and really steered me towards the right direction. I think I was overly concerned about whether or not I could construct an immersive fantasy world, whether that be the mechanics of the magic that I employ in my writing or in the characters that I make. From what I've been told, I know the genre pretty well and the mechanics of the world aren't nearly as important as the storytelling. What I really need to focus on is how I present the information, provide the back story and push the plot along without putting so much fantasy filler in the mix. I think that developing good writing habits and syntax will come with practice and I can put in my details after the fact.

On that note, I'm going to start pushing more content, specifically on this blog. It is going to be weekly stories, poems, and other writing prompts and miscellaneous things. If you have any suggestions I'd love to hear them! Thanks again for the feedback, I hope you guys stick around for more.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Death Sentence: The Spellthief Pt. I


“A black scroll?” Kieran asked, bewildered by the peculiarity of the thought.

“That’s what I said.” Voss said, sneering.

“It’s even got a seal; a pretty fancy one at that.”

Crimson wax formed a glossy smooth circle at the center of the scroll. From the insignia-pressed symbol in the wax, a circular arrangement of characters ran around a fine open eye at the center.  

“Let me see it!” Kieran reached for the parchment but grabbed a handful of air as Voss turned, pausing briefly before she walloped him with her unoccupied hand.  Voss was nearly a head taller than Kieran and her slight advantage in years and strength was more than enough to deal with a young man of Kieran’s developing physique.

Unfazed, Kieran frenzied for the scroll. His frustration at the futility of his efforts becoming more apparent by the second as he fought against Voss’s unrelenting arm pressed firmly against his forehead.

“Shut up will you! I’m trying to make out the words on this seal!” Voss said, blowing some of the sweat-soaked brown hair from her eyes.  

“Cerlynian? Hmm, no. Maybe Arkthik or  Ancient Vandashi! No, no, the lines aren’t quite right...” She muttered as she focused on the waxy words.

With Voss almost entirely focused on the deciphering the seal’s symbols, Kieran edged his chin around her shoulder to steal a peek at the mysterious object.

“I know I’ve seen something like this before. It’s not in a language I think you’ve studied yet.” Voss said after a momentary pause.

By the Gods, there are more of them?  Kieran and Voss had spent nearly the last decade studying maths and alchemies, medicine and history under the tyrannical tutelage of Magus Arwil Sung as his only two apprentices. Kieran could recite the famous poem “For Kor, For King, For Glory” in eight languages, five of which he was fluent in. He hardly had a knack for calligraphy, but was confident with a pen in at least four of those languages as well. He knew incantations in ancient tongues and could even identify the symbols and glyphs of twenty long-dead civilizations, each with its on nuances and style.

Even with what most would call a “gifted way with languages,” Kieran wasn’t half as good as Voss - at nearly everything. She drank up the knowledge like water, always reading about the magic they would one day learn and indulging on the academic life of a mage in training. Kieran’s saving grace was in alchemy where his cavalier attitude towards mixing dangerous and highly explosive chemicals together was actually encouraged, whereas Voss excelled at mostly everything he did not.  It was a fact Voss rarely neglected to remind him of.

“We better take this to the magus; it’s probably from some secret counsel at the Consortium. Come on.” She said.

 “What? We still have to get milk, bread, oils, parchment…er..we still have the whole day of errands left!” Kieran said, gesturing with an open arm to the busy market around them. “We get a few hours a week away from that Gods dammed tower and you already want to go back?”

“Kieran, this is clearly something important for the Magus and he needs to see it immediately.” She slid the letter into the inner pocket of him jacket and tossed the rest of the mail into the sack at her side and turned back towards the tower keep at the heart of the city. “Plus, I’m sure I’ve see this before, I have to find out!”

“Fine, you can climb the three-hundred steps up the tower to take it to him. I’m going to sup my sweet air of freedom while it lasts!” Kieran called as Voss was beginning to disappear into the crowd.

I’ll never understand why she relishes in it so much. Kieran shook his head, and produced a long list from his satchel. He scratched off “Fetch the Post” with his small charcoal pencil and sighe. Kieran imagined what his mother’s face would have looked like if someone were to tell her how fond he had grown of doing his chores about the town. Although it didn’t much matter what he was doing outside the tower - he would have cleaned the stables for free if it meant I didn’t have to learn another bloody glyph of transference.

As the sun began to set a few hours later, the various markets gathered their wares and began to close shop. Kieran waded his way through the retreating market dwellers towards Arwil’s tower, one of the tallest of the city’s towers. Its unmistakable entrance glowed in blue torch fire on either side – the mage equivalent of the Consortium banner. A flag or a sigil would have served just as well, but Kieran supposed that those old bastards had a knack for the theatrical. Now burdened with the likeness of a week’s worth of errands, tools, and necessities, he severely regretted his decision to remain down in the markets. The endless steps were a brutal challenge even when two people could bear the load; taking on the steps alone would be a physical feat fit for the bards. He opened the two doors and entered the base of the tower. He gazed up the steps until the spirals curved away from him, sighed, and began the long stride to the top.

The long steps to the top of the tower was enough deterrent for most visitors; wanted or not. However, Arwil decided to add some further impediments to the journey with a series of very heavy and magically-sealed door; three to be exact. Kieran, Voss, and Magus Arwil all possessed glyphs inscribed into their palms as well as the knowledge of where to place them to open the large doors. Each time they left the tower or returned to it, the glyph keys would have to be placed in the exact same spots along the masonry, unmarked and impervious to detection to one who was unfamiliar with the mechanics of the devices. After years of this practice, any one of the three could have unlocked every door while blindfolded, deaf and drunk. It was a tedious but necessary process for a consortium tower.

As Kieran climbed to the first door there was a faint whipping howl from somewhere further up the tower; a very unusual sound. The spiral steps were enclosed their entire length to the top, each segment of the spiral closed off by the glyph doors. The only sounds that graced this dank passage were the footfalls of climber’s boots clacking against the flat stone and the fluttering flames of the blue torches lining the passage.
After a moment’s hesitation at the oddity, it became clear what was making the eerie noise; Kieran was hearing wind. It was a soft whisper of the cool summer breeze outside. That meant that the doors had to be open. In all his years at the tower with Arwil and Voss not once had any one carelessly left one unlocked, nevertheless unclosed.

Something is wrong about this.

Kieran placed the burden of his brimming satchels full of food and supplies down onto the polished granite steps against the wall. Attempting to be silent, he reached behind his back and lifted the tuft of his linen shirt exposing a short, slender scabbard around his belt and drew his dagger. Arwil had scolded Kieran several times for the “crude implement” of a dagger, doubly so on the numerous occasions that Kieran was haphazardly caught with the weapon concealed in his boot or fastened to his wrist. “An apprentice of the consortium does not wield such crude instruments, it begs the question of what unscrupulous activities a young boy might be up to,” the Magus had lectured.

Kieran had heard the speech a dozen times, though he figured any thief or brute wouldn’t give two shits whether he were a bloody apprentice of the esteemed and powerful consortium or not. The tower was well known in the city of Kor and its occupants would stick out like a sore thumb in their bright clothing and laden packs of valuable alchemical supplies and jingling coin purses. Kieran would take his chances with Arwil’s lectures rather than suffer the embarrassment of returning bloodied and robbed from a trip down the wrong alley. Perhaps it’s time he taught me some of the magic he is so desperate to protect and I wouldn’t need a sneak thief’s crude implement.

With his troublesome dagger drawn, Kieran felt the icy confidence of steel in his hand and began to walk up the steps, gingerly placing his feet to avoid the telltale footfalls from echoing through the spiral. Kieran reached the first of the doors and found it open as he had suspected. The stones where the glyph key would have been placed were unscathed and by his best guess, the door was deliberately opened and left that way.
The apparent neglect of one of the towers most strict mandates did not do well to ease Kieran’s growing anxiety. He pressed on to find the second and third doors in the same state, unmarred and fully open. At the top Kieran peered around the corner to view the first exposed precipice at the top of the tower. The sound of the wind whistling through the corridor to the stairs had subsided, though now he could hear the faint sounds of rummaging through the door to Arwil’s chambers. As he stepped onto the precipice, dagger drawn, Kieran’s footing slipped in a small pool of dark liquid.  He knelt and touched the puddle, bringing it to better light before a torch. Blood.

Dread sank into Kieran’s chest; his heart was pounding like a blacksmith’s hammer to an anvil. His gaze darted to a smaller puddle a few feet away and then to another slightly farther. A loud clang from somewhere inside Arwil’s study stole his attention and he recoiled.

Gods dammit where is Arwil? Where is Voss? Kieran crept into the tower chambers through the opened wooden door and into the hallway to Arwil’s study. There was no sign of the old man, and this type of behavior was very unlike a magus of the consortium. From here, Kieran could make out a large distorted shadow cast onto the wall of the study by one of the several lit fire globes Arwil kept near his desk. The figure’s shadow frantically rummaged through the magus’s drawers, books, and scrolls, scattering them across the floor into a disheveled mess.

Kieran edged against the wall, avoiding pieces of broken glass and furniture that had been strewn across the floor.  The ancient tapestry that had adorned the hallway wall had been ripped and torn from its anchors and lay in a heap just before the door. As Kieran approached he noticed a glimmer of firelight from something reflective on the ground; a bright red jeweled ring that the magus had always worn on his right hand. Oh no…Kieran thought as he approached the still arm that protruded from the tapestry. He knelt shaking and lifted the cloth to reveal what was underneath. Kieran’s eyes met the Magus Arwil’s, the old man’s face locked in a terrified gaze. Arwil’s mouth was agape, as if screaming in pain; his eyes opened wide.
As soon as he could see the horror of his master’s visage, Kieran gasped and stuttered backwards, abruptly stopped by the wall with tears now streaming down his quivering cheeks.  He quickly brought his hand to his mouth to stifle the outburst, briefly forgetting the unknown figure and his shadow in the room ahead. The rummaging stopped.

The shadow remained still for a moment, and then began to shrink as its owner began slowly walking toward the door. Kieran had been noticed. He was sure to suffer the same fate as Arwil, petrified to his last breath. Panic consumed Kieran, his heart beating fire into his veins. Without much consideration for further concealment he fled as quickly as he could for the spiral steps where he would go back down to the markets. Voss where are you? If only she were here they could fight, she was so good at everything there had to be something up her sleeve! But she wasn’t here and Kieran didn’t have the time to try and find where she was hiding.

Kieran could make it to the watchmen near the tower, tell them what happened and they would save him. He’d been down the stairs a thousand times, he could do it faster than Voss or Arwil; he was going to make it. Tears streaming down his face, Kieran burst out of chambers doors and back onto the precipice, splintering the wood as he barreled through. He could see the glyph door open for his escape, but there was something behind him. He leapt towards the door, but stopped abruptly as something forcefully tugged at the back of his shirt.

Kieran clamored backwards, hitting the back of his head on the hard stone, disorienting him and freeing his dagger. In seconds, a hooded man stood over him a few inches away. The figure reached down with his black leather-bound hand and savagely gripped Kieran’s throat.

Kieran kicked and thrashed but the grip was impossibly strong, suffocating him with every effort. The figure hauled Kieran off the ground with his extended arm and held him aloft as he struggled for air. Kieran was fighting with every fiber of his being but the arm was like stone. Through his swollen, tear-filled eyes he could see the shape of the hooded man. He was frighteningly muscular and his heavily ink-inscribed arms were bare. He wore a very ornate black hood with crimson and gold trim that glistened in the blue torchlight. His cuirass was layered with tattered black and crimson cloth, adorned with similar golden trim. Under his hood however, there didn’t seem to be anything at all. Kieran immediately knew the hood wasn’t just concealing the man’s face, under there was pure darkness. There was no feature, nothing that resembled a face under that hood, just an abyss.

The hooded man pulled Kieran closer and there was little the nearly unconscious boy could do to resist. Kieran’s frantic fighting began to slow, the world becoming cloudy and distant. The man drew Kieran closer, a few inches from where a face should have been and leaned in.

Please forgive me, I wasn’t a very good student…please,” Kieran thought as the he saw the man’s head approaching. He could feel the hot breath of this faceless creature as it began to whisper something into his ear.  Kieran had never heard the words that were spoken but understood every one. With every syllable that lulled like the verse in a poem in his ear, he could feel the tethers that suspended him over a great blackness were being severed one by one. Weak and dizzy, there was no fight left. Kieran’s body went limb and he could feel an ethereal force tugging at the back of his mind. It’s almost…peaceful. Wet warmth filled him and his vision began to tunnel inward.

Just as he began to fade, Kieran’s left palm felt as though it had been plunged into molten silver, and he convulsed as the sensation slowly crept up his arm into his chest and then his whole body. The sensation was like a waking limb, like fire and ice as it enveloped his body.

Suddenly the creature recoiled, releasing Kieran to the ground as it started to wail and fanatically claw at its hood. It contorted and clutched at its head; its howling like a white hot rod plunged into thick ice.
As the sensation passed over him, Kieran wasn’t cloudy or dizzy or disoriented any longer. He shook his head and moved to step up off the ground. Under his hand, he felt the familiar hilt of his dagger and instinctively grabbed it. He felt the icy confidence of steel in his hand once more and finally stood up.
Kieran gritted his teeth, and took a step towards his attacker, followed by another, and then another. As the faceless man wailed in front of him Kieran gripped the dagger with both hands and thrust it forward with all the renewed strength he could muster, plunging it into the abyss that was this man’s face. The wailing stopped abruptly and the muscular body that so forcefully meant to kill Kieran moments earlier went limp, collapsing on the floor.

The wind picked up again and started whipping up the various tapestries still attached to the walls of the tower. Kieran stood, breathing heavily and fell to his knees, unable to control his sobbing. He looked up from his hands at the hooded corpse and slowly approached to examine it. Again a large gust made him cover his eyes. The wind became stronger and stronger until Kieran was about to lose his footing and grabbed what remained of the chamber door and held on as papers, scrolls, and books twirled around him and into the sky.

As he clutched onto the door, the body before him began to slowly flurry away like ash in the chaotic wind. With each passing second the body dissolved into the air as a fine dust that scattered into the sky. And just as quickly as it had begun, the unnatural wind stopped and there was nothing left of the body. Kieran stared at where it had fallen, perplexed by the lack of blood or residue of any kind. His head was pounding and he was starting to notice what a thrashing he had just received. His hands were quivering still and he brought them to his eyes only to remember the blood on his fingers. Oh no, Voss!

He leapt up and ran back to the stone door to the spiral stairs, looking for the trail of blood. First there were several, and then several bloody footprints smeared on the stone that ran the perimeter of the precipice. The railing over the edge was dotted with bloody handprints that corresponded with the labored stride. Finally, at the opposite end of the precipice, he could see a person leaning against the inner wall beneath the stone stairs to Kieran and Voss’s quarters on the second level. It was unmistakably Voss.

Kieran sprinted to her side but when he reached her, she lay still and pale against the stones, the wind in her hair. “Oh gods please I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Kieran sobbed as he clutched at her lifeless body. If only I hadn’t stayed in the market this wouldn’t have happened, we could have done something about that… that thing. A few moments later he sat up and wiped his face to look over her body.
With one hand she clutched at a deep wound at her side with most of her clothing soaked through in blood. She had torn her sleeve to try and stop the bleeding, but it was too great a torrent for such makeshift work. Kieran opened her satchel and pulled out the black scroll she had taken with such urgency back up the tower. It had been opened and examined; the waxy seal had been delicately lifted as to not tear it. To Kieran, not a symbol on the thing made any sense. He couldn’t decipher a single letter, nevertheless a language of origin. He folded it and put it in his pocket.

To Voss’s right there was a small circle with several symbols around a central glyph, scrawled in blood onto the stone floor. Kieran had not yet even studied most of the magics and could not make out what she had made with her own blood.  He then recognized the central glyph in the inscription and quickly turned his hand to look at his left palm. Surely enough, Voss had drawn his unique glyph in her own blood with her last few moments alive. With that realization it became clear what he was looking at; it was a life ward.
She hadn’t bled out sitting here against the stones; instead she had used every ounce of life she had left to make a ward with her own life for Kieran. Voss knew he stood no chance against whatever demon or creature had come to the tower and so she made sure he wouldn’t die if he were to come back home to face the thing.

Kieran stared at Voss’s lifeless eyes and recalled how hard on him she’d been, hard and mean at times. But in those times he remembered that she was always looking out for him or trying to show him the maths and history and languages he couldn’t learn on his own.  She always knew what to do he thought.
As Kieran sat contemplating the sacrifice Voss had made, he heard the well-known trumpeting call of the city watch summons. They must have heard the noise. With the watch coming, what was he going to tell them? A mysterious hooded sonofabitch killed my master and my best friend before turning into dust after I somehow survived the ordeal? No, Kieran wasn’t even sure he believed it. Without the body, there was no evidence for what had transpired. The watch had always been superstitious around the Magus and his apprentices, they wouldn’t understand and they wouldn’t hesitate to mark Kieran a mad criminal once they put the pieces together. Kieran was running out of time.

A cell in a dank dungeon didn’t sound like much of an option, so there was but one thing he could do. I’ve got to run. With that, he picked his dagger off the ground and stood up, sheathing it behind his back. The storage room with most of the clothing and supplies was usually well stocked and Kieran would need a fresh set of cloths and some packs. He didn’t know where he would go but he couldn’t stay here, that was for certain. The black scroll was perhaps his only lead and he’d need someone to help him understand what had happened.

The spiral steps were as they always were, flickering in blue torchlight and echoing Kieran’s quickened footfalls as he hurried down the tower. There was something else this time though, something that was just beneath the surface of Kieran’s perception. It was a whisper in words he didn’t know but somehow understood as it danced in verse at the back of his mind. He could feel the tethers that suspended him one again over that great blackness, but those words that could cut them were now his to speak. Kieran could almost place what he was thinking about; it was a sentence perhaps, something he had heard in a different life or maybe in a dream. It seemed important and he was sure he’d remember it, it was on the tip of his tongue.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Last Astronomer

The fuzzy glow of terminals filled the room. Charlie sat with his mouth gaping and his head thrown back, occasionally stirring. His chair creaked and whined in protest with Charlie’s every breath; its cracked features taught and stressed seemed to fit him like a glove. From the polidynium observation dome at the corner of the room, the sun emerged from the dark crescent surface of Earth. The electric hum buzzed calm and unending.
“It is now Seven AM, Charlie. It is time to wake up.” A smooth female voice spoke as the entire room began to slowly fill with light, becoming slightly brighter with each passing moment.
Charlie snorted and grimaced, rolling over to find another position as he brought his arms to his eyes.
“It is now Seven AM, Charlie. It is time to wake up.” The voice repeated with the exact same inflection, the words like warm butter.
The room became brighter and Charlie sharply grumbled something unintelligible and began to curl into a ball while covering his head even further.
“It is now Seven…”
“I know what bloody time it is you witch!” Charlie yelped from is chair, “I heard you the first damn time!”
“..AM. It is time to…” The voice paused as Charlie spoke. “ I have prepared your tea for this morning. A Darjeeling black blend without cream or sugar.” A compartment emerged near the bed to Charlie’s left, and there was a lit white mug, steaming.
Charlie sat up slowly and through wrinkled and squinted eyes, he glared at the tea and sighed. He rose from his chair with one hand on his lower back and the other gripping the armrest; a cacophony of cracks, snaps, and pops as he rose.
He hobbled and winced his way to the steaming tea and gripped it with two hands and then limped to the observation dome, making quite the effort. He stopped at the edge, unwilling to climb into the center and placed one arm on the rim. Breathless and staring out at the orbital sunrise, he took a sip and swallowed.
“Charlie, it appears your Arthritis symptoms are growing worse since your last visit to the surface. I have increased the dosage of Trimetridone in your tea by 16%.”
Charlie looked down at the steaming cup in his hands and frowned. “I can tell.”
“You have neglected your sleep cycles, this will only increase the rate of your deterioration. I recommend that we increa-…”
Charlie waved his hand and made some incomprehensible sounds interrupting the voice.
“That’s quite enough of that, please. Did I receive any communications while I slept?”
“Yes, you have a video log from your former colleague Vasili Lomonosov. Would you like me to play it?”
Charlie had been waiting for this. This was the news Vasili was going to tell him and it hurt before he even heard a word of it. He took a deep breath.
“Yes. Play.”
The main terminal displayed an image of a grayed man at a cluttered desk. His haves crossed as he rested on his elbows. His uniform was torn in several places.
“Hello Charlie, I hope you are well. I know it has been some time since we last spoke and I do apologize, but you know how things can get. Things haven’t been…ideal here recently. The global conservation effort has been tough on most of us, especially people at our age.” Vasili looked down, breaking eye contact.
“I… I regret to inform you that my lab has been officially decommissioned in the wake of the new Terra Conservation shutdowns to conserve power and resources. Unfortunately scientific endeavor has taken a backseat to survival in this case."
"My equipment and data will no longer be available for use in the scans. I can give you some of my latest extrapolations and a few unrefined coordinates before they take me offline, but I'm afraid that is it. I'm sorry.”
Vasili chuckled softly and stifled a cough, “Ah Charlie, if only we all were so lucky to have that fully self-sustaining research station of yours. Anyway, I wish you luck my old friend. We may not have much time left, so please, go easy on yourself. Goodbye for now.”
Charlie stared at the screen in pause and softly sighed into his cup, displacing the wisps of steam.
“Computer, are there any other quantum arrays resources that we can utilize?”
“Negative. The Randal Moore Array was the last functioning resource that could contribute to your search effort and it has been taken offline as of 14:00 GMT.”
Charlie turned to the Earth and began walking to the observation dome. He didn’t grimace as he walked this time, and his chest was raised. With one hand to support him on the edge of the dome, he stared over the Earth among the abyss. There were things to be found out there and he was going to find them. After all, no one else would - he was the last astronomer.
He sipped his tea and exhaled.
“Run the array at the new set of coordinates.”
“That data is incomplete. The population of systems is too broad to extrapolate a meaningful response.”
“That’s fine. Run them.”
“Dr. Lomonosov’s customary vocal greeting is included in the standard message. Due to his absence in this scan, would you like me to record a new vocal message?”
“I suppose.” Charlie barely replied, still transfixed on the view.
“I have Dr. Lomonosov’s script, would you like me to provide it for your own message?”
“No. No, I don’t think that would be appropriate,”
“What would you like to say?”
“Is anyone out there?” He muttered almost in a whisper.
“Very well, I’ll begin the transmission.”
Charlie fell asleep in his bed that night, an event that had become increasingly rare. He turned in fits, longing for the comfort of his chair. The electric hum was unending.
“Charlie, there has been an anomalous reading.”
Charlie woke, groggy and coughed. “I thought we discussed not waking me for another god damn satellite interference discovery.”
“The telemetry does not match any known human signatures.”
There was a still pause, the electric hum faded into a hot flush on Charlie’s face; a ringing in his ears. His stomach turned - this was it.
He stood and ran to the main console.
“Can we extrapolate the data? Where is it from?”
“The data is organized; I am referencing all known forms of data interpretation. Source is unknown.”
Charlie typed faster than he had in years examining the signal.
“There was almost an instant lock on the array. How is that possible?”
“The telemetry does not match any known human signatures.”
“Damn… this is big.”
Charlie stared at the stream of data as the computer identified patterns in the stream. First one, then three, then eleven, then thirty.
“Charlie, I have extrapolated the data. It is a response to your vocal message.”
Charlie opened his mouth but there were no words, only the electric hum. His quivering hand reached towards the console to support him.
“What… what does it say?”
“Displaying on main terminal…”
On the screen, before the last astronomer, before Earth and the abyss there was one word amidst a sea of data.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Viper Pt.1

The Viper 
Part One

It had rained for what felt like weeks in the Alder forest and sunlight was a welcomed change. It had finally peeked from the clouds in the evening just as the setting sun cast beams through the hazy autumn dusk, deep in the misty woods.

Through the tops of the trees a large raven deftly danced through branches with vigorous pace. As it moved through the wooden web, it cawed and flapped its pitch-colored wings mere inches from jagged fingers.

 “Og-hur!” it croaked. The bird came to a perch on a tree and scanned the fogged forest floor erratically. “Og-hur,” it said again and took flight in a slightly different direction.

Gwyn held out his leather-wrapped arm as the bird landed; the gale briefly blowing his long white hair into a mess.

“Og-hur,” the raven cawed; its head bobbing

Gwyn took out some seeds from a pouch on his side and fed the bird some seed. It will be night soon; I need to find this beast. He stared hard at the animal and spoke softly, “Where?”

The raven turned and leapt off Gwyn’s arm and flew to a branch only a few paces away and perched. It hoped backwards and awaited Gwyn’s approach.

“Og-hur,” it cried as it fluttered its wings. “Shhh,” Gwyn motioned a single finger to his lips and silenced the bird.

The raven leap from the branch and landed at a near-by tree awaiting its master. Gwyn stalked with a stealthy precaution and slowly unsheathed his dagger and sword. The blades glistened with a milky-amber shine as the sunbeams collided with their steel.

After a few paces Gwyn picked up on the foul scent; an odor that was unlike anything else. Ogre. Rotten stink and swampy musk assailed his nostrils. I hate ogres.

He came to a large oak and peered around it’s trunk to see the beast. It was hunched over itself in the middle of a destroyed camp with embers scattered around what was a campfire. The ogre gorged itself on the remains of whoever occupied this camp, by Gwyn’s guess. Humans. With a sickening crunch, the ogre discarded a half-eaten torso, unmistakably female. It landed grotesquely at the base of a tree surrounded by the remains of the others.

Gwyn’s stare narrowed and he clenched his jaw. He gripped his blades tight and placed a foot forward to advance towards the hulking abomination. As his foot fell, a twig broke and he froze instantly. The ogre ceased its meal and jerked his head to the right, the motion rippling the skin and muscle on the monster’s neck and back. It sniffed, turned its head again, and paused for frightening moment before continuing its meal.

A bead of sweat dripped from Gwyn’s brow. That was too close, too careless. He inched forward again and picked up speed to close the distance. The ogre paused its feast, noticing a presence and began a guttural growl, but Gwyn was fast. Now! Gwyn leaped through the air onto the monster’s back, driving his dagger deep into the back of its neck until he felt bone.  

The ogre let out a roar as its hands went flailing at its back. Gwyn let go and kicked off to a safe distance. It stood as quickly as its stubby legs would permit and wrenched the dagger free, flinging it into the sea of leaves. It turned and roared as it began charging. Gwyn readied his sword and ran towards the beast poised for attack. The ogre clumsily lurched forward and raised its arms to pummel the man. At the last second Gwyn slid feet first under the beast, savagely slicing its thigh with a flash of steel. The ogre wailed and stumbled forward, unable to stop under its momentum. It crashed into the oak tree, snapping it in half with the loud pop of splintering wood. The ogre remained stunned for a moment under the fallen oak.

Gwyn stood up and began to strafe, sword raised in his hand. He was breathing heavily and drenched with sweat, his heart was racing yet his eyes were still narrowly focused on the monster. Come on you bastard. The ogre began to get up and ripped the debris off of him in a howling rage. The beast stood and began to charge again, emboldened by its fury. Gwyn stood still, awaiting the ogre’s approach.

As the ogre swung, Gwyn dodged to its side and buried his sword into the beast’s flank. The sword wedged deep into the meaty flesh and Gwyn could not pull it free. Before Gwyn had time to react, the ogre’s massive arm backhanded him with enough force to throw him through the air. He abruptly landed on his shoulder and a fiery pain shot through his arm. Fuck me, I’m getting sloppy.

Through gritted teeth, Gwyn tried to stand but he was overwhelmed by the intense pain in his arm. The ogre roared, exhaling a foul, noxious breath and charge. Gwyn kicked at the leaves and dirt furiously to gain a footing but failed. The ogre reared and raised his hand to obliterate him under its gargantuan fist.

A black flutter of feathers swooped in at the ogres face, clawing at its eyes and darting away only to turn in and press an attack once more.

“Og-hur!” The raven cried again and again as it ferociously thrashed at the ogres face, weaving about the creature’s slow arms.

Gwyn hesitated for moment as he starred at the ogre try in vain to swat at his raven. I’ll have to thank that bird. There was a sudden shimmer of steel under some leaves only a few feet from Gwyn. He awkwardly hobbled towards the glint while the ogre was preoccupied with the raven.  

He grabbed the hilt off the ground and gracefully wrapped his fingers around the grip until the leather creaked. The dagger fit so perfectly in his hand that it felt like anther limb. Gwyn felt the revitalizing confidence of his blade and stood to rush the ogre.

The ogre noticed Gwyn’s sudden movement and turned his attention away from the bird. Gwyn feinted to the left, then jumped to the right and narrowly missed the monstrously huge fists as they slammed into the ground. He leapt into the air and thrust the dagger under the beats jaw, driving the blade upward into its skull.

Like an extinguished flame, the ogre went limp and its eyes rolled backwards, inches from Gwyn’s face. The force of Gwyn jumping off the ogre’s chest sent it falling backwards, hitting the ground with a deep thud.

The raven flew up to Gwyn’s shoulder and perched. “Vi-per,” it cawed.

“The Viper,” Gwyn thought. I have always hated that name. He reached into his pocket with his good arm and pulled out some seeds for the bird. He wiped the trickle of blood from his temple and approached the corpse. He wrenched free his sword, but had to place his foot on the beasts head to free his dagger.

Gwyn wiped them clean and placed them back in their sheaths. He began pacing towards the nearest town with his arm in a makeshift sling over his shoulder.

There will always be monsters. Gwyn didn’t know why, but he had an awful feeling that something much worse was lurking around the corner. It usually was.

Friday, June 28, 2013


I haven't updated in a while but I wanted to share some things I've written recently. I haven't worked out the kinks in my novel quite yet, so instead of pulling out my hair in frustration when I get stuck, I just work on other things. 


“Be careful with that,” Tyce said with his grizzled, raspy voice as he stoked the fire. “The edge is coated with Oleander. Very poisonous.”

Elya’s brow furrowed as she turned the dagger over in her hands.

“Ah, I see. This is for the kill then. The King?” she asked.

Tyce nodded and stopped prodding the embers. He nudged a little closer and slid his hand to her bare knee.

“Why, yes it is. Very risky, but good money. Very good.”

Elya frowned, her expression twisted with concern.

“Don’t worry dear, I’m a professional.” He gave a wry smile and caressed her leg. 

Elya puffed. “You should hire me to do it!” She mockingly prodded the dagger at him.

Tyce gave a hearty laugh. “Who would be so foolish to hire such a lovely damsel as you to be an assassin?”

Elya returned a crisp, pointed smile as she eased the dagger towards his neck.

“The King.” She said.


The sword does not smile
When blade cuts and stings
The mace does not dwell
on the malice it brings

The axe cannot weep
When red stains its head
The dagger cannot profit
From alley man dead

Fear not the shiv
the arrow or sling
Fear not the claymore
fit to slay kings

Fear but the Hand
and murderous sight
For anything's a weapon
when it's held just right 

Last Words

Walking past her room I shuddered
The cold, piercing thought uncovered
The aching weakness of my shell
As I wondered what of death she’d tell

Someone called and as I feared
Her last moment was almost near
Through door I went with pounding chest
To hear sweet things from her last breath

Looking at her lying there
I lost my tongue, I found no air
Stalked by specter, scythe in hand
Her life now falling grains of sand

Longing for words to ease my mind
I came forward and hoped to find
Whispers of meaning, of soul at peace

But I only heard my own heart beat

The first piece is kind of my interpretation of a Jeffrey Whitmore piece with a fantasy spin to it. I'd really like to become more comfortable writing in this style, it's a lot of fun. 

I've already shared the two poems with a few friends and they've given me great feedback. I really need to try and venture aware form the familiar quatrain ABAB style rhyme scheme. It's really fun for me to try and convey ideas with this structure, it's almost like a word jigsaw puzzle that I have to assemble. I'd like to try and do something a bit more modern, though. 

What do you think? 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013



Bright blue and white light poured into the cockpit illuminating every panel inside. Even with the heavy filter to dim the light, a thunderstorm from orbit was truly a site to behold. It was a raging chasm from up high, churning and flashing as the clouds billowed with the storm. A constellation of  lights occasionally twinkled through the blanket of gray and white as the storm marauded across the metropolis-strewn surface.

Emery’s view screen was replete with a panorama of Earth in its full splendor, alive and stunning in front of her. She sat lax in her harness in her full V.A.C. suit, transfixed on the view; her hands still clutching both the controls as ambient jazz was playing throughout the compartment. Even through a helmet’s visor, it was a spectacular sight, a sight she frequently observed. This far off the route, away from the lanes and impulse gates and the chatter, she was always reminded of why she loved being a pilot.  

Emery hummed a sigh and closed her eyes. The fabric of her gloves made a creaking sound in protest as she released the yoke levers and moved to cross her arms behind her head. She pressed the white button near her leg and the restraining harnesses swiftly disconnected and zipped into the chair, releasing her.

“Hell of a view, that Earth.” she said out loud, leaning backwards and floating up and away from the chair, legs crossed.

Emery took a deep breath and exhaled, fogging her visor for a moment as she lay suspended in weightlessness. She took in the Jazz playing over the speakers. Sometimes it felt like there wasn’t much in the world that understood her, the people she met knew her face and occasionally her smile; those that were closer knew her more like a familiar song, but nothing quite so personal - and then there was Jazz. The music was felt, not heard.

As she lay suspended about the cabin, she drifted into a dazed stare at nothing in particular. She started blankly until the reflection of a flashing green light began to illuminate her ceiling. She leaned her head towards her dash to see the COMM hologram on her view screen glowing. Emery quickly snapped out of her daze when she read the name: PONCE, T.

She rotated forward and pressed gently on the ceiling to push her towards her dash. Still Floating, Emery reached over and pressed the glass, sliding upwards with her finger to open the channel. She was greeted by a cacophony of shouting, drilling, and metallic whines. Emery wasn't surprised.

“About God damn time Ponce, whatcha got?” Emery said with urgent concern.

“Kid, we just scanned down some heavy debris fields near the Yaris B gate,” A man shouted over the sounds, “The haul looks good by the initial analysis. I’m forwarding the coordinates on to you now.”

A series of coordinates populated the view screen, making quick course adjustments. The calculation stopped and read:


Emery smirked and reached for the projected course on her screen and slid it to the side with a fluid diagonal motion.

"We can’t confirm if it's been tagged yet, better get there quick." Ponce said sarcastically.

“Any other scavies inbound?” she asked as her hands moved deftly across the screen, entering in manual course adjustments.

Ponce responded with a throaty chuckle and spoke with some playful concern, “Someone picked up the Mantis en route near that sector about 30 seconds ago.”

Emery straddled the seat and pressed the white button; the harness restraints slithered around her, pulling her taught to the forwardly angled chair.

“Hell, that’s all you had to say Ponce!” She laughed.

“If that son of a bitch Layne thinks he can outrun the Ceryneian in his half ass ship…” Emery mocked, trailing off as she slightly shook her head.

Emery grabbed the yokes and snapped one back a few inches as she feathered the pedal at her right foot. The ship quickly rotated about its middle as the front and opposing rear vectoring thrusters fired in short corrective bursts.

“Give em’ Hell, Fawkes. Don’t get yourself killed.” Ponce said calmly.

“No Promises big guy.” Emery said as she closed the channel.

Emery made some quick motions to disable to thrust inhibitors, she diverted power from her life support to her engines and the particle deflector array and flicked a switch on her dash to begin preheating the burners. A saxophone solo came over her speakers; it’s swiftly ascending and falling melodies arcing through the cockpit. Emery reached for a panel to her left and slid a finger quickly from bottom to top and the music began to blare through the speakers as the soloist carried on. It was so loud she could hardly hear her own thoughts – just the way she liked it.

Emery tightened her grip and felt the Ceryneian humming all around her, as eager as she was. Her lips manufactured a wry smile and she felt her stomach lurch with anticipation. She curled the throttle on both yokes and felt the restraining harness begin to resist the motion.

Emery looked out at the darkness and with a fierce confidence she slammed the yoke levers forward, punching through space with speed and agility. At this speed, she was certain that nothing, no ship or person or ghost could ever catch her.