Welcome

Hello and welcome, this blog is dedicated to my work as an Independent Author.  New posts every Friday!

I have updated my site format to have easily navigable menus that will make it much easier for new followers to catch up on old chapters.  Each of my books has a menu directly beneath the title image so that you can find all the episodes I have published so far nice and easy.  Welcome new followers, I hope you enjoy my writing!

I have finished and published Hard Times Call For Hardware and you can get your digital fingers on a copy on Smashwords and on Kindle!

I just finished The Rise of Evil and published it on Smashwords!  Kindle is coming tomorrow!  I hope you enjoy my work, feel free to leave me love/hate notes and like my page on Facebook!

Book One of Starvale Adventures ‘A Prelude to Darkness’ is now up on Kindle and Smashwords!

If you are interested in reading my first book The After-Death and seeing just who this Hex person Ren has referred to in such glowing tones as she does, it’s on Amazon and  Smashwords.

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A Girl Walks Into a Bar Part 2

Sergei picked her up and carried her to one of the plush chairs in the small lounge area and set her down.  She weighed even less than it looked like she should.  Although she didn’t protest, she gave him an exasperated look.  He knew he should be asking more questions, that he should be doing something else, but the situation was so bizarre that he wasn’t sure what to do.  Where had she been hiding?

After depositing her to rest comfortably, Sergei returned to the bar to get his glass and his pipe.  It wasn’t responsible to smoke in the same room as a child, but he needed a pipe if he was going to be able to get through this.  When he returned, relit his pipe and took a drink of whisky he finally looked her in the eye.

“Corva.  Who is this man and why does he want you dead?”

“He calls himself Ethad, but I’m certain that’s not his real name.  Who he is and what his motives are do not matter.”  She saw the set of his jaw and sighed, wincing halfway through.  Reaching a hand under her layers of jackets, Corva removed a wadded handful of bloody rags and was about to throw it on the floor before he stopped her and got a waste basket for them instead.

“You’re going to let me look at that wound.”  He said firmly, “While I do you can tell me about why Ethad wants to kill you.”

She rolled her eyes and began taking off layers, dropping each jacket on the floor.  Sergei went to the bar and retrieved a first aid kit he kept there and by the time he got back, she had taken off three cashmere coats of consecutively smaller size, removed a pair of flannel shirts and unzipped a hooded sweatshirt.  When he approached Corva lifted her undershirt to show an angry looking puncture just above her waistline.

Sergei knelt to look, swabbing the wound with a cotton swab and peroxide.  As the wound fizzed and bubbled, he continued to swab it out.  After a few moments, he put the swabs aside, smeared some antibacterial ointment on it and taped a large pad of gauze over the top.  Before she pulled her shirt back down he could already see the blood seeping through.

He wrapped the soiled swabs up in a napkin, frowning at a small sliver of wood the size of a sewing needle sticking out of one of them.  Wondering what it was, he folded it into another napkin and tucked it into his apron pocket just in case it was evidence.  Chels would be proud.

Corva looked up and saw he was still waiting for an answer and twisted one of her dreadlocks around a finger.  “Long ago I stole something from someone.  That I only took some of it doesn’t matter any more than the fact that it made a large difference to my people.  The only way he can get it back is by taking it from me.”

“Why don’t you just give it back?”  He asked, blowing a plume of smoke to one side and taking a drink of whisky.  “Wouldn’t he leave you alone then?”

“Because he can’t get it back unless he TAKES it Sergei.”  She said, sounding frustrated.  He noticed that she had taken the glass from his hand without him noticing and had drained it in one long swallow.  “Can I give the whisky back?”

“No.  But I can’t take it back either.”  He countered.

“Well the one I stole it from originally couldn’t either, and he didn’t really care.  But last year Ethad won it in a bet.”  She shuddered, “Ethad differs from you both in that he does care and he can take it back.”

“Is he like you?”  Sergei asked, “You just walked out of nowhere Corva.  How am I supposed to be able to defend you against something like that?”

“You have something not many people do Sergei.”  She said with a smile that seemed to cut across her like a blade.

“What’s that?”  Sergei looked at his empty glass, thinking about getting another.

“I’ll tell you later.”  She said, smiling a mysterious smile.  “Are you going to help me?”

“I’ve helped you already.”  He said, “But I’m not killing anyone.”

“Then will you protect me?”  Corva pleaded.  He felt the intensity of her gaze and it touched something inside him.

“I will try.”  He said.

“Good.  Because he’s here.”

A Girl Walks Into a Bar Part 1

Hi all, I’m practicing writing short stories… I already failed since my goal was to tell a story in less than 1000 words, but hopefully I can keep it under 3000.  Knowing the way I write, it’ll probably end up being a novel. Hope you enjoy!

~~

Sergei wiped the bar top with a clean white rag, polishing the last bit of wax to a perfect shine.  He looked over the bar and smiled in satisfaction; everything was ready to go and he still had a half hour before it was time to open.  After all the things he’d been through and done, this pub was the only thing he was truly proud of.  The small silver bell over the door chimed and he frowned.  He didn’t think he’d forgotten to lock it.

“Serg.  Just checking in.”  A familiar voice preceded a familiar set of footsteps and Sergei grinned and pulled a pint of his own home brewed root beer for the early visitor.

“Officer Ordean, to what do I owe the pleasure?”  He asked placing a coaster on the counter and the root beer in the center.  Chelsea Ordean was a powerfully built woman who had earned her way in the force by equal parts skill, luck and brains.

“No time for drinks today Serg.  Just looking for some girl who supposedly got stabbed at the eighth street subway station.”  Her face was grim and despite her words, she slugged down half the root beer in one long gulp.  “You haven’t seen anyone in here have you?”

“Just me so far.”  He frowned, “I thought I’d locked the door though.  Maybe check the restrooms?”  The Rambler was his pub, but the layout wasn’t his design and the toilets were on either side of the entry door.

“The door was not locked.”  Chelsea said, unsnapping her pistol but not drawing it.  “Let’s go have a look.”

“If someone was stabbed wouldn’t there be blood?”  Sergei asked, following her up to the entry.  The bar itself was three wide steps below the entrance.  “Knife wounds bleed Chels.”

“She was apparently wearing a thick woolen jacket.  I’m just checking places that folks know they can get help.”  She said, giving him a sidelong glance.  They both knew he wouldn’t turn someone in need away; even though it was almost time to open.

They swiftly checked the bathrooms and found nothing.  “You need to check the rest of the place Chels?  I don’t think anyone came in while I was bringing up kegs but I thought I’d locked the door too.  You got the run of the place if you need it; you know where everything is.”

She nodded her thanks and moved through the pub, checking in the back office, the storage room and even the cold storage although that was the only place he’d have been able to miss someone coming in.  satisfied, she clapped him on the back and walked out.

Sergei dumped her root beer, cleaned the glass and straightened his apron before making his final pre-opening checks.  He hoped Chels would find the girl before she bled out.  Knife wounds were no laughing matter.

The usual ‘last call’ crowd were finally stumbling out to their taxi’s and fumbling for their subway passes.  Sergei smiled in satisfaction.  It had been a good night, his regulars had been joined by a decent crowd of businessmen attending some conference who apparently had gotten the green light to drink on the company tab.

He closed and firmly locked the door behind the last of his patrons and turned back to the bar.  There was just a bit of cleaning he needed to do before the he headed out himself.  The voice nearly startled him out of his skin.

“I heard some of them talking Sergei.  They all said that you used to do things before you came here.”  It was a girl’s voice.  Not a young woman, but a girl, likely only barely into her teens.  But he couldn’t see anyone.  “Is it true?”

“Show yourself please.”  He said calmly, walking back to the bar and taking down his bottle of Laphroig.  He always had a double shot of the smoky Islay single malt scotch after closing along with pipe of Molto Dolce tobacco.  “If I can assist you I will endeavor to do so.”

“I need you to kill someone Sergei.”  A tiny slip of a girl stepped out of the shadows.  Literally out of shadows, there was no room or place to hide.  She had the darkest skin he’d ever seen; a perfect rich dark chocolate and her hair was in twisted dreadlocks that stuck up from her head like ruffled feathers.  “I need you to kill him before he finds me and finishes the job he started.”

“I’m sorry girl, but I am not a killer for hire.”  He said, tamping the tobacco down in his pipe.  “I suggest allowing me to call my friend Chelsea Ordean.  She’s a very competent officer and can handle anything the wrong side of the law can throw at her.”

“I’m not a girl, I’m older than you are.”  She said with a glare, “As for your officer friend, I’ve taken her measure and she can’t handle this.”

Sergei barked out a laugh and snorted pipe smoke out his nose.  “You can’t be older than fourteen.”  He said, looking at her critically.  “If Chels can’t handle it I don’t want any part of it.”

“My age and appearance are irrelevant.”  She snapped, “She would follow procedure, and right now I’m going to bleed to death before procedure can be of any use to me.”

“You really have been stabbed?”  Sergei asked, setting his pipe and his glass down and moving to her side.  His years patching up wounds since he seemed to be the only one who had the knack tried to come to the surface, but he ruthlessly shoved them back down into the darkness.  That was the past.

“It’s nothing you can help with.”  She said, “He used hawthorn.”

“Is that a poison?”  He asked, pulling back her coat and finding another coat underneath it.  She had layer upon layer of clothing on.  “What is your name?  I can’t just keep calling you girl.”

“Stop that, you don’t need to look at the wound.”  She said, “You can call me Corva.”

“What good is killing this man going to be if you won’t let me stop the bleeding Corva?”  Sergei asked, “You said yourself that you don’t have time to wait.”

“If he is stopped I will be able to get proper help.  If he lives no place will be safe for me no matter what.”  She looked at him with eyes so dark gray they were almost black.  “I need your help and you’re the only one who can help me.”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 65

The ground beneath their feet shuddered as Morde stood and stretched and they ran.  Callindra had thought herself dead, but once restored she knew only terror.  Cronos was still trying to incant a spell, but she and Vilhylm took him by the arms and dragged him bodily from the chamber and Morde’s laughter followed them as they fled.

Outside the remains of the Keep, all the Abyssal spawn were gathered rank upon rank.  Overhead the great black scaled dragon they had seen over Starvale slowly circled, emerald green vapor flowing from its fanged jaws.

“Gods and demons.” Callindra breathed, “How are we going to face this?”

“Together.”  Vilhylm and Cronos said at the same time.

Callindra looked around, trying to find an escape and saw a simple Greatsword thrust into the ground.  The moment she saw the blade she knew it.

“Master!”  She said, grabbing the hilt.  As she touched it, Callindra could feel Glarian’s presence.

“Callindra.  You need to break the sword.”  Glarian said, his voice perfectly calm.

“If I break your sword won’t it set your magic loose?”  She asked, “Won’t it make you unable to control it?”

“You’re half right.”  He said, “Now break it fool girl, before it’s too late.”

Callindra grabbed his sword with both hands and slammed it into a boulder.  The sword sliced cleanly through the stone without showing a single mark on its flawless edge.  Stabbing it into the ground again, she drew her own sword.  Running her hand down Shadowsliver, she released a spell, her hand vibrating in the same way Beliach’s had.  She flicked the flat of her master’s blade and whispered “Shatter.” It exploded into a cloud of steel shards.

Glarian stepped out of the explosion of metal with a grin on his narrow face and the hilt of his sword in his hand.  “You never do anything halfway apprentice.”

The dragon roared and Glarian laughed.  “Time for me to take care of this.”  He waved the hilt of his sword and the fragments of metal reformed into a perfect blade.

“How did you do that?”  Callindra asked, her own sword trembling in her hand.

“I need your help.”  Glarian said, “I need you to get your siblings out of here while mine handle these spawn of the abyss.”

“No.”  She said through clenched teeth.  “I’m not leaving your side.  Not ever again.  If I’m not good enough to fight with you then I’ll die here.”

“You need to stay close then.”  He said tersely.  “I cannot watch out for you once the real fighting begins and I would feel your loss more keenly than the stab of a blade to the gut.”

“Cronos!  Vilhylm!  Stay with me!”  She cried, watching as her Master wrought a spell, cutting a rent in the air with his huge sword.

A beautiful woman stepped lightly through the portal, carrying a gourd and wearing a gown made from coral.  A man with hair and beard made of fire walked beside her, eyes blazing like the sun.  They surveyed the scene with implacable faces.

“Our cousin has perished at the hands of the cursed one.”  The woman said, her voice like the crash of waves on a cliff.

“He must be chastised for his impudence.”  The man said, a forest fire crackling behind his words.

“Vandis.  Ild.  Glad you could join us.”  Glarian said, wiping sweat from his brow.

“Luftin, the ilk of the cursed one seems frisky.”  Ild said with a harsh laugh, “I believe we should join the dance.”  Flames licked out from his left hand and burned the entire first rank of Abyssal creatures to ashes.

“Things are always interesting when you call us brother.”  Vandis said, waving a hand and sending a scattering of water that turned to scalding steam as it passed through Ild’s flames and scoured the flesh from the bones of the next rank of monsters.

Callindra stared in disbelief at the gods who stood before her, calling her Master their brother.  “Luftin?”  She whispered, “You’re Luftin?  You’re a bloody GOD?”

“You two think too small.”  Luftin said, ignoring Callindra’s outburst.  “These tiny ones are hardly worth the effort.”  He raised his sword above his head, spinning it in a circle and a cyclone burst from the cloud covered sky, descending down on the vast black shape of the dragon that circled above.  “I have a mind to pick a fight with an old enemy.”

~fin~

Author’s note:
Thanks for following along, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Sorry for the cliff hanger… but hopefully it’ll make you itch to read the next book!  I’m 34 pages into Book 3; tentatively titled “A Fall of Stars” and I’ll begin posting more of this series as soon as I have the damn thing done!  See ya next time Space Cowboy,

-Ben

April Horoscopes

April Horoscopes; Drinks Edition

Aries: Stout.  You need sustenance to keep you warm while you’re waiting for the snow to melt and the weather to warm.  It’s springtime but you’re still hibernating.

Taurus: Whisky.  It’s always whisky for you.  You know it; don’t fight it.  Just don’t overdo it like you always do.

Gemini: Gin, but not just any gin.  You need a Velvet Crush this month.  I know, KoolAid and Gin isn’t classy but it’s your month to slum it.

Cancer: Bloody Mary.  The more extra’s the better.  Seriously, if you can find a way to put a pizza in there do it.

Leo: Tequila.  Doesn’t matter if it’s shots or margarita’s.  It’ll remind you of spring break and vacations in sunny climes.

Virgo:  Lite beer.  I don’t know what’s wrong with you that you’re to be subjected to lite beer but there it is.  Sorry.

Libra: Chartreuse.  I know right?  You’ve probably been wondering what the hell it tasted like.  If you can’t handle it straight try a Green Dragon which is Chartreuse mixed with champage.

Scorpio: Vodka martini.  But you’re not James Bond so stir it and make it dirty.  Three olives.

Sagittarius: Boilermaker.  You must hate yourself.  Well if you don’t now, you probably will at the end of the month.  Just take it easy and you’ll probably survive.

Capricorn: Cider.  Not that fake ass ‘malt beverage’ crap either.  Something good.  Probably something from England.  Make sure it’s cold.

Aquarius: Highball.  Use decent bourbon and brewed ginger ale damn it.  Don’t drink the cheap stuff.

Pisces: White Russian. Take it down a notch, chill with The Dude.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 64

While her brothers winced at her words, they also nodded in grim determination.  They had followed her here for the same reason she had led them here.  Tryst was dead, killed helping them escape from Count Adbar’s citadel and he had been working with Dergeras.  All the pieces had fallen into place; Adbar had been collecting the Artifacts of the Original as well.  He had been bent on thwarting them from the beginning and when he lured them in they had taken the bait.  It had cost them Tryst, their mission and likely the world.

If the world was going to burn anyway, at least she would take Dergeras down in the flames.  She set out at a steady trot, her brothers flanking her, and in a few minutes they had arrived at the back of the keep wall.  Here it was still mostly sound and reached nearly thirty feet into the air.  Callindra incanted another spell and leaped into the air with the Winds gathering beneath her.  Landing on the top of the wall in a crouch, she made certain she hadn’t been spotted and then took a rope from her pack and secured it to a crenellation that was still solid before tossing the other end down for them to climb.

They brought the rope up after them and tossed it down the inside of the wall, each scrape of boot on stone muffled by the spell Callindra had wrought around them.  Cronos pointed to a broken window in the crumbling keep and they crept through it without attracting the attention of any of the monsters outside.

The building was thick with dust and decay, but the sound of unceasing chanting came faintly to their ears as they made their way into the depths of the keep.  A feeling of foreboding settled over them a feeling accentuated the Winds fled as they got closer.  The sound of their footsteps began to echo off the moldering stone walls as Callindra’s magic faded, muffled only slightly by the dust that coated everything.

“This feels wrong.  Worse than I thought it would.  Worse than I thought possible.”  Callindra said, shivering.  “The air is dead here.”

“Everything feels dead here.”  Vilhylm said, looking at the dust choked walls and floor.

They found a doorway with stairs leading down.  More importantly, there were many tracks here.  The dust had been mashed nearly into nothing from the passage of many feet.  The chanting came from below.  It stopped the second Callindra’s foot touched the top stair.

“I don’t like this.”  She and Cronos said simultaneously.  For once they didn’t glare at each other.  Clutching their weapons, the three made their way down the stairs.  Callindra idly thought that being a leader unfortunately also meant going first into certain death.  Of course, she didn’t care if she died now, as long as she got her revenge.  As long as they got their revenge.

At the bottom of the stairs the hallway widened into a single large room.  Two dozen or more corpses lay on the floor, bloody knives in their hands.  Callindra shuddered in revulsion, they had killed themselves and spilled their lifeblood on symbols roughly carved on the floor in some dreadful ritual.

Stepping around the corpses they moved into the room itself and saw a dark figure cloaked in rags standing before an altar with a figure assembled from clay pieces laying upon it.  The mold of the original mortal.

“Dergeras!”  Callindra called out, her voice ringing throughout the room, “You have taken my brother from me, you have betrayed the living and made dark contracts with the Abyss.  You will die for your crimes here and now on my blade.”

She sprang forward, Shadowsliver a living extension of her arm and sank his twin tips into the figure’s heart, pinning him to the clay figure on the altar.  Dark blood flowed from his body and dripped onto the Mold.

“You have … completed.”  He gasped, a beatific smile on his face as his life flowed out onto the altar.

A rent tore in reality and something forced its way into the world using the Mold of the Original Mortal as its vessel.  It sat up, moving smoothly and easily; flexing limbs that shed the clay of the shell that allowed it to take mortal form.

“THIS IS A STRANGE WAY TO ENTER THE PRIME.” It said in a voice with the power of a glacier.  “I, MORDE FIND MYSELF FEELING BENEVOLENT.”

Callindra hacked at it with desperate force, her sword slicing through one of its arms at the wrist as it stretched and sat up.  Vilhylm thrust his spear through its torso and Cronos unleashed a torrent of flame that nearly blinded them all with its intensity.

It pointed at Cronos with a finger that flickered with blackness.  “DIE.” It said, and he fell to the ground motionless.

Callindra swung her sword in a vicious arc, hacking deep into the Morde’s chest but he simply grabbed the chain, pulled her forward and slammed her into a wall with bone shattering force.  She tumbled to the floor in a broken bleeding mass.

“Great Goddess of life I call upon thee in my time of need!  Jorda, I invoke the boon you bestowed upon us, come now and save us from this unholy monster!”

Vines and growing plants arose from the ground at his feet, some wrapped around Callindra and Cronos but most of them grew into the figure rising from the altar, ripping into its substance and pulling it apart; the work of a hundred years of growth happening in a few moments.

Jorda rose from the mass of vines, her eyes glinting in sunlit rage as she attacked, “You are not of this world!”  Her voice was the clarion call of the charging bull and the scream of a red tailed hawk.  “Your kind is not welcome here!”

“AND YET NEICE I AM HERE AND I SHALL NOT BE DENIED” Morde responded, the terrible grating of his words unmaking her where she stood.  “I WILL LEAVE YOUR PUNY MORTALS HERE TO BEAR WITNESS TO YOUR DESTRUCTION.”

Jorda looked at Vilhylm and her face contorted in pain as blackness ran up the vines that grew through the man shaped thing that stepped from the altar.  “Run.” She whispered, and her body burst into blisters of dissolving ash.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 63

Callindra looked up at the broken black walls of Hellgate Keep.  They had been pushing hard for days and finally were within reach of their goal.  Her goal really.  Her brothers had protested at first, but when she pointed out that their mission was completely destroyed because Tryst had the Hand as well as the rest of the pieces of the Mold they had shut up.

She felt bad about their expressions of defeat, but all she could feel was the burning desire to make Dergeras pay for all his crimes.  Everything else was going to burn anyway; the High Forest, the ravaged villages she had seen with burned bodies piled high, the greed of the swamp folk, the wanton destruction of the Abyss seemed unstoppable.  The only thing she cared about was killing the one responsible.  Dergeras would feel the black steel of Shadowsliver pierce his heart or she would die trying.

“We’re here.”  She said, looking at her brothers.  “You don’t have to come in with me.  I bullied and shamed you into this and I’m not proud of that.  This fight is one I cannot back away from.”

“I’m with you sister.”  Cronos said, lifting his tired face and looking at her with determination.  “I wouldn’t have let you talk me into this if I didn’t know it was the right thing to do.  You are convincing when you’re right.”

“The only way to stop this from happening seems to be to cut the diseased plant off at the root.”  Vilhylm said, “As we have traveled these last five days I have seen the wisdom of your words, even if they were spoken with pain and passion instead of reason.”

“We can’t win.”  She said, “But we might make him lose.”

“This is our only chance.”  Vilhylm said, looking at the unmanned, broken walls.  “They can’t possibly think we would be this reckless.”

“Our sister’s inclination to rush headlong into danger is finally working out to our advantage.” Cronos said with a sardonic smile.

Normally his teasing would have made her smile or at least respond with a jibe of her own.  Callindra couldn’t bring herself to do either.  Instead she focused all of her attention on the goal, looking at the defenses and possible threats.  This keep was ancient and crumbling, the walls barely offering resistance at all now that nature had been slowly defeating them over centuries.  Beyond the walls, fires were burning, greasy black smoke reaching skyward in tall pillars undisturbed by any breeze.

“I’m going to check it out.  You wait here for my signal.”  She said, treading lightly up the slope without waiting for their assent.  Once she had reached her target; a place where a large section of the wall had fallen down, she slipped between large square blocks of basalt to peer beyond.

There were thousands of humanoid forms standing in a parody of a military camp.  None of them moved, there were no apparent guards posted and from what she could see the smoke was merely from fissures in the ground.  Out of those gaping wounds in the earth more bipedal figures emerged, each one with glittering emerald fire shining from eyes and mouth.  If they alerted these creatures to their presence it would be mere moments before they were overwhelmed, even if the abyssal creatures were as weak as newborn kittens.  Beyond the throngs stood a tumbled down structure that likely had been a keep or a cathedral; its sole remaining tower tilted drunkenly to one side.

Cursing silently under her breath, Callindra returned to where her brothers had waited.  She felt a momentary surge of pride that she was leading and they were following.  It was akin to the books she had treasured reading in Glarian’s tiny house while recovering from her shattered leg.  These were times when heroes would be made or destroyed.  She had no intention of being destroyed.

“I think I know where he will be.”  She said, experience had taught her that a whisper carried much further than simply lowering her voice.  Quickly, she described the scene she had witnessed.  “Beyond a few thousand thralls in what I believe is the ruins of Hellgate Keep itself.  In this case we can’t just charge in, but I think if we skirt around to the far side we can get access to the place while avoiding their notice.  They haven’t even posted guards.”

“I think they may be relying on senses other than their sight then.”  Vilhylm said, his voice tired.  “Who knows what kind of fiends are crawling into this world or what their abilities might be?”

“If they were that powerful, Dergeras would just use them as an army and destroy everything.”  Cronos said.  “We should be careful but not panic.  Not yet.”

“I’m going to circle around and try to get in without them seeing me.”  Callindra said, “Once we’re inside, we can bar the door if there is one.”  She stopped and looked at her brothers, taking a deep breath and letting it out.  “I don’t expect to get out alive.  This isn’t about stopping them all.  It isn’t about our mission or saving the world.  For me this is only about revenge.  Dergeras took the ones I love from me and I will not allow that to go unpunished.”

Focusing her mind, she brought a spell from the flat black blade of Shadowsliver.  Around her sound became muffled and indistinct.  “This will keep them from hearing us.”  She said, “Possibly from smelling us too; I have asked the Winds here to do my bidding.  If you are with me, keep close.”

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 62

Durrak faced his mentor across the sand floor of the formal arena, dressed in heavy plate armor with his gisarme held easily butt down in his right hand.  The dwarf was calmer and more centered than he had ever been since bandits had slaughtered his family.  This was what he had trained for, if he could not defeat the one who claimed she could teach him no more then she had lied to him and he would die for it.  If he could defeat her then he was ready for anything gods or men could put in his path.

“I ask one final time Durrak.  Lay this madness aside.”  She said, standing in rippling maile tunic with six feet of blackwood staff tipped with a foot long hook pointed blade that made his look crude held almost idly across her body.  “I will not allow your foolish vanity to bring us to dealing death if it can be avoided.”

“My mind is set Master.”  He said, bowing low to a creaking of leather straps and steel plating.  “You do say you no can teach me more.  This do be the only way I can know it for true.”

“If this is how it must be, then we shall see if my words are true.  We shall give them the test of blood.  It is ever the risk of the teacher to face a student who needs proof.”  She spun her weapon easily over the back of her hand and slammed the Mithril pommel into the floor.  “I have told you the truth of my heart.  Now you will see the truth of my blood.”

This time her attack was not one of trickery, it was straightforward deadly skill born of decades of training.  Only the skill she had taught him and the reflexes of youth saved him from losing his head within the first few seconds of the match as he threw himself into a backward roll, coming up with his own weapon in a blurring arc that slapped her following slash away.

Rather than trying to rise immediately, he swung his blade at her legs and used the momentary pause of her rush to thrust at her face while holding the polearm in one hand for the extra reach.  She simply tilted her body to one side and slapped the shaft of his weapon down, nearly trapping it under a stamping foot that would have had a good chance of breaking it or tearing it from his hand and spun the heavy counterweight towards his head.

Durrak allowed the momentum of her block to swing his blade in a wide arc that he followed with his body, diving back to the ground and spinning to strike at her knees.  His strike met with the Mithril bound blackwood shaft of her polearm as she grounded it to intercept the swing with jarring force.

He rolled backward onto his feet and charged forward, catching her by surprise as he slammed the spiked shoulder of his left pauldron into her chest, ripping rings of her maile free and drawing blood.  This close, the advantage was his and he pressed it ruthlessly, continuing to shove her back across the floor.  It was a tactic better suited to close quarters rather than the open arena, but it gave him time to plan his next move.

She jerked a short handled spiked ax from behind her belt and drove it into his side with enough force that it punctured the thick steel of his armor and lodged in a rib.  Durrak twisted away, wrenching the weapon from her hand and swinging his gisarme held halfway up the shaft.  She deftly parried, spinning her weapon with perfect timing to throw the blade off before it sliced her fingers off and would have broken his right shin with the counterweight if he hadn’t been wearing plate armor.

The follow up of her strike placed the hooked bill of her gisarme behind his left leg, severing the leather buckle and sending him sprawling onto his back.  Rolling to one side saved him from a finishing blow and instead caught him a glancing strike that slashed the spikes from his left shoulder in a shower of sparks.

A desperate thrust with the steel ball end of his weapon caught her square in the chest, although her anticipation of the blow and the awkward angle kept it from breaking ribs.  He had to keep rolling then as a stamping foot followed her strike and another blow, this time from the ball end, dented his breastplate and nearly stole the wind from his lungs.

A lance of pain reminded him of the ax still stuck in his side and Durrak wrenched it free, flinging it at her and feeling mildly surprised when it sank into her left shoulder.  He regained his feet and attacked in a series of swinging strikes that might have put her at a real disadvantage if he hadn’t been hampered by his dented armor and injured leg.

As it was, she nearly managed to sweep his legs out from under him twice even as she retreated from his advance.  He watched as the hook of her weapon reached for his leg again and allowed it to connect, dropping to one knee and trapping the razor sharp blade between the plates of his armor.  The force of her trying to pull him off his feet was arrested suddenly, throwing her forward directly onto the point of his weapon.

The assembled students were silent as she sank slowly to her knees and fell on her side, blood pouring from nose and mouth.  “Do … you … believe … me … now?”  She gasped.  “I die … I leave … a true … master behind.”

Durrak stared in horror, realizing that he had believed in some way that this would end with him bleeding out on the sand of the arena.  Thinking that this was suicide by combat.  She had taught him everything and he had not truly believed her words.

In spite of the protocol of a proclaimed death match he screamed for a healer, tears streaming down his face.  She looked at him with forgiveness in her eyes.

“You will do.”  She slurred, blood bubbling on her lips.  “Know … price of … victory…” Her hand left a bloody streak down the side of his face and her life fled.

“I do be sorry.”  Durrak said, looking at the assembled members of the Drakranda school.  “Though I do be The Caverstorm, I no do be worthy of it.  This did be a selfish act.  To be atoning for this act I do be leaving today.”

“You can’t leave, you’re the master of the school now!”  Corrine said.

“The reason I did be finding schools and killing their Masters no did be to teach them.”  Durrak said harshly, “I did be training myself.  For revenge.  It no do be honorable, but it do be true.  I no will be turning from this path.  To be doing honor to the memory your former master, I do be finding the god who did betray me.  And I do be killing him.”

Ignoring their horrified gasps, he turned and limped from the room.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 61

A group of warriors detached from the others, running at the hideous creature and shouting battle cries.  Their blades chopped into it and pieces flew off, forming their own separate creatures that swarmed over the hapless men.  The remaining men and women turned almost as one to glance at Tryst, seeming to hope the man with the gleaming shield daring to drive back the darkness would guide them.

“Do not cut it.”  Tryst cried, “Use any magics or blunt weapons but cutting it seems to have no effect!”

Callindra aborted a lunge and instead tried to find the winds.  Even in this dark, dank place she could feel them but they were sluggish, her call to them feeling weak and strained.  She focused on drawing what power she could into herself, but only a tiny spark of electricity glimmered between Shadowsliver’s twin tips.

Several of the others ran forward with hammers or flats of swords and began attacking the monster, but it focused on Tryst.  A massive hand descended on him and he stood resolute, offering the gleaming symbol of his faith in a response.  The fist crashed against his shield, black ichor spraying from the impact and driving him down to one knee.

“My GOD is my shield!”  He cried and silvery white light erupted from him, breaking the bonds that held the thing together.  Tryst rose as the creature recoiled and stepped forward, unlimbering his hammer.  “You do well to flee before me!”

Vilhylm placed a mask on his face, becoming brutish and strong, and another, growing living vines about himself and flanked his brother.  Callindra raised her sword, sweating with the effort and a crackle of lightning arced down the blade and into the chain.  Cronos leveled his twin swords at the creature and a wave of fire burst from between them to scorch its flank.

Callindra ran forward as the monster retreated, leaping off the back of an armored man in front of her and throwing Shadowsliver to one side.  The blade whistled through the air and she caught him by the hilt as she landed behind the creature, the electricity that the weave had gathered blazing into its body.

Cronos was on one side, flames lashing out between his swords and Vilhylm was on the other, mashing huge fists clad with growing vines into the thing’s gelatinous body.  She cried out in triumph, feeling the lightning coursing through her weapon ripping into her enemy and inflicting grievous wounds.

The monster stood tall, gathering the jellied corpses that made it up into a mass above them and let it fall, engulfing them in a bubble of rotting flesh and fluids from dead bodies.  Callindra struggled to keep her mouth and eyes closed against the pressure surrounding her but knew soon she would have to take a breath.  Pushing hard on the floor, she struggled to free herself and move forward, but it was impossible.  She had failed.  She was going to die here.

A white light cut through the gloom and she could see Tryst striding towards her, face tight in a grimace of concentration and pain.  Cronos and Vilhylm walked close on either side of him, looking worse for the wear even as Callindra was sure she did.

“I will hold it off and you must go.”  Tryst said, his tone resigned and firm.

“What?”  Callindra shouted, “I am NOT leaving you here to die for me!”

“You don’t have a choice.”  Tryst said sadly.  He incanted a spell, even as they all tried to reach him in time to stop it.  The ground below their feet rippled and changed, a huge pillar rising high into the air to smash through the side of the room and three more slender ones to raise them out of the creature’s fetid embrace.

The large pillar broke through the wall and the smaller ones threw them forward.  They tumbled to a stop, taking bruises and minor cuts along the way.  Behind them the Keep fell in upon itself and before them the city burned.

“Adbar was working for Dergeras.”  Callindra said, not knowing where the certainty in her voice was coming from.  “He took Tryst.  I’m going to Hellgate keep.  I’m going to kill the bastard.”

March Horoscopes

March Horoscopes.  Because why not.

Aries: Beating your head against that obsessive thing you do is leading you to dent the door.  Just open the fucking door, I know you’ve got a hard head but seriously, this opportunity has just been waiting for you.  The door hasn’t opened from your pounding yet and FFS remember that if you see hinges it opens toward you.  Protip: This one opens toward you.  Stubborn bastard.  And stop swearing at your kids, even though they think it’s funny.

Taurus: Nice poker face.  Now call them and say sorry.  Come on, you’re a lover not a fighter and life’s too short to stay mad.  You’ve got that outwardly cool thing going on but that internal turmoil is making you crave a cigarette and you quit years ago.  Trust me, it’ll be worth it.  If you don’t believe me ask your mom, she’s always been your touchstone anyway.  And she’d love to hear from you, even if it requires a seance.

Gemini: You’re laughing on the inside, but we love to see you laugh on the outside too.  It’s cool.  We won’t think you’re laughing at us.  Or at least the decent ones won’t.  You’ve been holding a lot of your shit in just because you’re worried about being judged for being too happy when things are bad or that if you’re down a little bit people will think you’re gonna snap.  You’re your own worst critic.  Nobody even noticed that one time you wore the same outfit two days in a row; they don’t have you under a microscope.  Relax.  Do you.

Cancer: Feeling extra outgoing this month, right?  That’s cool but remember not everyone wants a hug.  Ask first.  You won’t regret it, hugs are awesome and meeting new people is fun, especially when hugs are involved.  Oh, and don’t put that thing you’re planning on doing off like you always do because this time it’s important.

Leo: This month is your month off.  You’ve been trying to be compassionate and have come in like the Lion you are, but let that energy taper off.  Stay inside, read a good book and get some introvert time.  It’s been a long winter and you’ve been caring for everyone but yourself.  If you want proof just look at your book shelf and see the new books you haven’t had time to crack yet.  See?  Remember, only terrorists put the milk in the cup before the hot water when making tea.  Don’t make me come over there.

Virgo: It’s gotten to the point where nobody even knows if you’re being sarcastic or not.  Not even you.  I mean in some ways that’s a pretty funny inside joke that only the outsiders can get inside your outside, but that didn’t make sense and you gotta quit.  On a positive note, once you quit being such a dick there’s someone who will take notice of you and even though it won’t last more than a few months it’ll get you back in the swing of being personable again.  It’ll probably end well, as long as you’re open to outcomes and not attached to expectations.

Libra: Seriously.  Keep it up, even though you think you suck.  You’re right, currently you’re not doing nearly what you could be but damn it these things take practice.  Don’t just try and force it, get out there and experience it.  I mean hell, you’ve been struggling on your own for the last couple of months and that obviously hasn’t gotten you much more than frustrated.  Pick up the first thing you tried and abandoned when it didn’t go perfectly the first time and try it again.  Then get out there and connect with others trying the same thing.  Networking always inspires.

Scorpio: You might think people are distancing themselves from you because you’re too badass, but really they think you’re too shy and don’t want to scare you off.  You don’t really have resting bitch face like you think; it’s more like they can’t see your face because you keep your hood pulled too low and your face down all the time.  I’m not saying you have to smile and be the cheeriest fucker in the world.  Just be a tiny bit more accessible.  Yes, you should get that tattoo.

Sagittarius: I know you’re only trying to help but let’s be honest.  You’ve been giving shit advice lately.  Try listening instead of talking for a change, it’ll be as instructive for you as it will be for them.  I know that you’re already trying to interrupt me but since this is text you can’t.  Don’t be mad about it, quit being defensive and do a little introspection.  See?  Despite being crappy at giving advice, you’re good at listening and it will be appreciated.  I promise.

Capricorn: Almost everything is going well.  This doesn’t mean you can ignore the few things that aren’t going well.  At least one of them is going to attempt to bite you straight in the ass if you don’t pay attention to it.  If you know a Virgo, yes they were being sarcastic and no they didn’t get your even better and more twisted reply.  Don’t worry about it, you’ve got the less is more thing down and besides sarcasm is a personal pleasure, it’s no fun if you have to explain it.

Aquarius: You’re starting to thaw out, this is good… but beware the cold snaps.  It’s hard to break free of those things, we all know this.  Don’t be afraid that minor setbacks are ruining all the progress you’ve made so far.  Keep in mind that two steps forward and one step back is still forward motion.  Try doing something nice for someone.  Nothing warms the heart faster.  Also, quit posting while drunk.  Nothing good has ever come of that.

Pisces: Hey, you’ve discovered that organized religion isn’t for you!  Congratulations, we’ve been waiting for you to figure that one out.  This does NOT mean you need to fill a room with crystals though.  Just relax and let it happen.  The universe doesn’t need to come to you, it’s surrounding you all the time silly.  No nag champa.  NO.  Put that incense stick down.  Right.  Now.  Circle back to some old friends.  You might find they’re easier to get along with now.

The Callindra Chronicles Book 2: The Rise of Evil – Chapter 60

The room was full of rowdy folk, all drinking and eating with an appetite that Callindra had never seen before.  She had seen people engaging in excess before, but this was different.  They ate as though they were desperate or starving despite the jovial atmosphere.  They were offered any kind of food or drink, however for some reason she and her brothers felt disinclined to partake.

Eventually they made their way to a far corner of the room where other groups of capable looking adventurers sat at quiet tables.  They picked an empty table and sat.

“I think this is part of the test.” Tryst said in a low voice.

“Yeah, those guys must be the dead wood.”  Callindra said, packing her pipe with tac.  “We need to just wait until they all pass out and Adbar comes out.”

True to their prediction, after a few more minutes the louder side of the room subsided to a dull murmur of voices and one by one the men and women at the tables there slumped onto the tables.  A few seemed to experience a moment of panic before slumping onto the floor or into their cups of ale.

“I don’t like this.”  Cronos said, looking at them with a critical eye.  “They don’t look like they’re just sleeping.”

“Ladies, gentlemen and assorted other beings!”  A voice from the dais on the far side of the room rang out, “Congratulations on passing round one.  Now comes the time when you have the chance to prove your ability to fight!”

Attendants dressed in simple white robes came and dragged the bodies from the other tables out of the room.  They didn’t seem to be paying too much attention to keeping them from being bruised either.  The way the bodies flopped spoke of them being heavily drugged or, more likely dead.

“Take up your weapons and show me what you can do!”

Doors opened and misshapen creatures spilled in from all sides.  The few attendants who were too slow were literally torn to shreds and the bodies they had been dragging did no better.  The room erupted into chaos as they all drew steel and Weave.

Callindra spun Shadowsliver in a vicious arc, slashing one of the shambling creatures from gut to neck in a spray of ichor.  She was conscious of Tryst raising his shield to protect her from another as Vilhylm picked one up bodily and threw it into two others.  Cronos finished an incantation and blurred in her vision; making it difficult to see where he really stood.

Within a few moments, the strongest fighters had all backed to the center of the room, leaving a pile of corpses in their wake.  Callindra spun her blade and flung him, letting the fine Mithril chain fly through her fingers.  Shadowsliver slammed into the skull of another monster, felling it even as she yanked on the chain and brought her blade spinning back into her hand.

She spun and found herself back to back with Cronos, “Well, these things aren’t as bad as we thought they would be.”  Cronos said, “Hardly worth the effort.”

Several of the other warriors were down, clutching bleeding wounds but the monsters were all down and bleeding on the floor.  The other groups were eyeing one another warily but as of yet were not making any hostile movements.

“Well done!”  A man in beautiful silk robes walked down the dais and into the light applauding as he came.  “You have passed my first two tests and now it is time to change the game.”

“Game?”  A woman shouted, aiming a spear at him, “This is just a game to you?  Ledras is bleeding out on the floor because of your gods cursed game.”

A rumble of agreement came from the gathered warriors and the man held up his hands.  “Of course it’s a game.”  Adbar said with a benevolent smile, “What else is there but the game?  Why would you be here if you did not believe in the game yourselves?”

“I am here for one purpose and one purpose only!”  Tryst’s voice rang out in the room, cutting through the angry mutterings of the others.  “I have come for the pieces of the Artifact you have gathered.  I am here to beg you to give them to us that we may fulfill the mission given to us by the gods themselves!”

The room fell silent as the others all turned to look at them.  Adbar’s face grew dark and he pointed at them.  “These are ENEMIES!”  He shouted, “Kill them and the reward shall be yours!”

“Will you listen to him or to those who fought beside you?”  Callindra asked, lowering Shadowsliver to her side, the tinkling of Mithril as the chain landed on the floor a counterpoint to her words.  “We spilled our blood beside you to kill the things he sent against us.”  She leveled Brightfang’s dripping point at Adbar.

A few of the others looked between her and the Count, not certain where their loyalties would lie and Callindra took that hesitation as an advantage.  She ran forward and swung her sword in a deadly arc, releasing him at just the right moment so that the chain flew through her fingers and the razor edge reached for his flesh.  Count Adbar reached out a casual hand and caught Brightfang by the edge.

“She has made the decision for you!”  Adbar shouted, “To the Pit with all of you!”

The floor vanished and Adbar stood on air as they plummeted down into darkness.  A stench of rotting flesh and old bones assailed her nostrils and a moan of hunger and rage came from hundreds of unseen throats.

“Gods balls, what is THAT?”  One of the other fighters asked, invisible in the darkness.

“Gode, lend your light of truth that we may see!”  Tryst shouted and his shield began to shine with silver light.  It revealed a monstrosity that seemed to be composed of equal parts black ooze and pieces of dismembered bodies.

“Sometimes the things that hide in the darkness are worse than our imaginations can create.”  Callindra said, holding Brightfang in both hands.  “I almost wish you hadn’t shown this one to me.”