New character profiles added

As of today I have began updating the site with information pertaining to The New Potential.

The two small updates on the site are for the characters Eric Sturgg and LeLayhilani.  I have yet to really nail a format down for these pages so they may evolve over time to something I am more content with.  For now they serve as a brief bio and introduction with a little of what went into the process for creating/designing the character.

I’m sure this sort of thing will be looked at more carefully when and if I manage to get these books out to market.  ^_^”

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Act III

Envy will actually enter into the fray this time around...

I have not been updating much (I hate when blogs I follow say that…) but it’s not for a lack of work going into this.

My current book is nearly completed.  I am estimating about three weeks until I enter the editing phase and possibly late summer to dive back into the publishing field.  This site will be updated with characters and setting information for this book at that point.

When I was writing Master of the House, the ending was pretty much known from the outset.  A few details here and there were a mystery to me but I knew what the end would look like.  Writing Children of the New Potential has been a completely different experience.

I had no idea where this book would wind up (that’s not an admission of a lost narrative!).  Rather I knew the outcome of the events but I did not know the characters well enough until I had written the majority of the novel.  The ending of this book would really be colored by how I came to know the characters.  This book is really more of a traditional fantasy novel when compared to Master of the House but as the plot evolves and the fantastic elements are uncovered, understanding my characters really lets me unleash a really epic ending that will hopefully leave readers expecting a follow up work.

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Giving It Away

Character knowledge versus reader knowledge, what is the proper balance?

The title of this post references the idea of giving away your “catch” in a story.  How does the author do this?  When is the right time for the author to drop knowledge?  When one character is in possession of more information than others, how long can the author strike a balance between giving away the major plot points and keeping a reader interested?

Complicating the matter further, at the beginning of a complex narrative, how does the author establish a basic understanding with the reader for the book to move forward?

These were all easy questions for me to answer when writing Master of the House.  That book being heavily character based allowed me to pair up the reader with Julian from the beginning.  As the reader developed questions, so did Julian.  There was parity there.  To keep things interesting for the reader, to keep them feeling intelligent and as if they were in a superior position, Dori would reveal other information in scenes apart from the main cast.  Turnbill also served this purpose but in a contrasting way and after the crux of the conflict was revealed, Envy participates in this dialog with the reader as well.  From a writing standpoint, the questions at the beginning of this post were never an issue.

Now, my follow up work, tentatively titled Children of the New Potential, faces a far more challenging method for delivering information and foreshadowing.

In this new book, I have the challenge of informing the reader of a vast and sweeping plot/concept and at the same time, I have characters who are learning the same things as the characters.  The difficulty comes in how to deliver plot information and still have it be believable.  This applies both to the reader and characters as well.

I am working within a fantasy realm here and the crux of any issue has to be…well, fantastic.  Trying to preserve character motivation and rationality in this environment is difficult.  If one character reveals critical information but does it such that it is presented flatly as an explanation, it sounds crazy.  I don’t mean “crazy” to the reader, they are reading a fantasy novel and have already suspended their disbelief.  I mean that a character is just as likely to say, “Right, right, end of the world…dragons, wizards, threat to all mankind… Piss off you crazy kook” as they are to say, “Let me go get my sword”.

So, to move a complicated plot forward, information has to be presented in a sane manner to the characters so that the reader can understand their motivation in context of the situation.  Think about Star Wars.  Even with Luke’s desire to leave his home planet, Obi Wan’s initial offer to travel away for adventure is rejected as “impossible”.  Only when it is shown that Luke has nothing to stay around for because his family has been killed does he make the decision to leave.  That example carries through this whole discussion despite Luke’s final choice being so obvious.  (Removing ALL other choices is a somewhat blunt way to show motivation but it works)

For plot driven stories, the author must strike a balance between showing and telling.  Too much telling and you give away not only the plot but all the suspense that builds up to the conclusion.  Too much showing robs your characters of an ability to mold the events in their own perception.  Go back to the above example of Star Wars.  Obi Wan tells Luke a whole lot in the scene after rescuing Luke but he tells the events from his perspective.  There’s clearly more to what’s going on than the viewer knows and there’s more going on than Luke knows but the plot has moved more into focus.  We know that this character Darth Vader is not only bad but is tied to Luke’s history from what we have seen and now heard.

Children of the New Potential has a character named Laylani in it.  She is an Elf of Deep Shadow much the same as Rozalin and LeShaitan from Master of the House.  Her role in the story is that of messenger.  She knows far more than any of the other core characters in the book.  The adventure that Laylani will lead them on is based on this knowledge.  To advance the plot, Laylani has to act on what she knows.

Laylani becomes my voice as the author amongst the group where plot is concerned.  She understands the threats they are facing and knows enough to explain the immediate problems that they are facing.  Just like Obi Wan from earlier, the information she reveals is colored by her own perception of things.  In her case, she thinks that she knows more than she really does.

This becomes for me, what I started to question at the beginning of this post, how to strike a balance.  Laylani reveals what she knows to the other characters and to the reader.  However, the reality of the world and the threats they face become the “showing” that keeps the plot from being revealed too early or too easily.  The “showing” also reveals that Laylani may not have as tight a grip on things as she first thought.

A far reaching and plot-centered as Children of the New Potential is, my main method for delivering information to the reader and other characters is preserved from merely being a plot device by her own vulnerability of not having the story as correct as she thinks she does.  Slowly, she will come to find that the clear lines she has established in her head to go about her tasks, are not so clear.  The understanding of it all that she shares with the readers becomes a point of sympathy for her when the reality of the situation is shown to differ from the reality in her mind.

Tough subject matter to be sure and writing about it without the source material being available for review at this point is even more difficult.  I apologize for that.  Much of what appears here and what will appear in this blog is a way for me to organize thoughts as I write and look back on it to explain my thought process as it moves forward.

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The Point of No Return

The point at which it is further to go back than it is to continue forward.  ^_^

My “second” book, such as it is for the moment (dependent on whether or not Master of the House is broken into two books at some point) is now over 50% complete.

I’d be lying if I said that this was easier or even as easy as Master of the House was to draft.  Working within the confines of a planned length and moving through knowing that a full revision would be required have been very trying on my creative style.

I often have to accept the fact that my page count per day is around half of what it normally is due to this, but the grind continues.  The biggest challenge really has been the structuring of chapters.  Previously, I would write chapters under a theme that would run clearly through.  This time around, chapters are presented more in a scene format with shifting to another location or into another obstacle as the call for beginning or ending another chapter.

If I wasn’t in the middle of it all, I would think that smaller bites and more concise sections would make for easier writing.  Working towards creating something that is “market ready” has proven to be anything but.

That being said, sometime in June this work should be complete and I will be in the midst of editing (and more regular site updates).

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Villains

Most stories live and die by the worth of their villains.  They are in one way of looking, the reason for telling stories.  There are rare exceptions.  Stories of self exploration and mastery, biographies, etc can all circumvent the need for an outside actor to move the plot along.  When it comes to fantasy fiction the need for an evil, an obstacle, or person of ill intent is key to the genre.

I think it can be very easy to slip into the trope of the mustache twisting black hat villain in fantasy fiction.  To avoid this, I think that rooting your story in the antagonist motivation is critical.  When I began conceptualizing the Legacy of Shadow series, I honestly did not have a set direction for it.  The world came first and presented me with problems that really bothered me and somewhat ruined the rationale for such a place.

I knew that I wanted some omnipresent force to oppose the heroes.  I knew that I wanted this force to be something that did not have to confront them directly, but that could corrupt their very reasons for stepping into the field of conflict.  My first attempt at the character who would become my ultimate villain for this series was known only by title: “The White Witch”.  Please bear in mind that at the time, I had absolutely no knowledge of The Chronicals of Narnia.  Seriously.  I didn’t.

This character was aloof and distant and somehow responsible for the trials and tribulations of the world I created in the Legacy of Shadow series.  She was generic and…boring.

So, I began to ask myself questions about her.  What had she done to be responsible for the undead curse placed upon the land?  Stepping back, I had to ask, what is she to begin with?  ”Elf” was the answer.  More specifically, a “Light” elf when compared to the thus far heroic “Dark” elves that this world and its characters encountered.  Then came the inversion, the typically heroic by nature good-guy forest elves would somehow be responsible for…what?  Or should it even be all of them?  Why not just one?  What if one member of this otherwise pristine race of creatures did something so terrible, that…

That what?  What could one character do that would be so condemning to vilify that character for all time?  The answer was:  she is responsible for the death of her entire race.  Already there were no light elves in the story but there were uncountable undead creatures.  So, this character became responsible for the death of her entire race and that genocide resulted in a world ravaged by undead hordes of elves.

Now we were getting somewhere.  It wasn’t very far down the road but the wheels were spinning.

What would make a character commit genocide on their own race?  Would it be purposeful?  Or would it be accidental?  Well, one thing that was certain in my mind was that this villain would be something that a reader could understand however, sympathy was not something I wanted to extend to her.  Accidental was right out.  Purposeful?  This was a more difficult thing to accomplish.

I was stuck.  I needed something beyond petty vengeance, something grand something…that was eluding me.  That’s when Jimi Hendrix happened to me.  That’s when I turned up the music in my car and happened to turn my ear at the right moment to hear the lyrics that unlocked the remainder of my story.

“Anger he smiles, towering in shiny metallic purple armor. Queen jealousy, envy waits behind him. Her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground…”

It wasn’t much but the idea of sins personified struck me just the right way.  It’s been done countless times, sure.  This time though I felt I had found a unique hook.  This “White Witch” became Envy in my mind, the personification of a unique and deadly power.  (Her color happily changed in my mind as well.)

What would the personification of Envy possibly find herself jealous of?  What would a creature with immense power and a hatred of anything more powerful than it turn its attention towards?  God.  That personified sin would turn its rage towards the one thing that truly held dominion over it, in this case God.  Now the genocide of a entire race could make sense within the context of one powerful entity looking to dethrone another.

Thus my Deadly Sin Envy, the Queen of Jealousy was born.

The reasons that surround her actions and the way in which she achieves her goals are all details that play out in the book but the important thing here is that the villain’s motivations are genuine and even though a reader would not agree with her actions, they can understand those motivations never the less.

I began this by commenting that a villain’s actions are the driving force for most plots.  While this is true for Envy’s actions as the story moves forward, she is still a somewhat distant, a force that can not be engaged for most of the tale.  Her motivations and the way by which she seeks to achieve those goals create a dread and even outright fear in other characters lending credence to their own actions.  This does not even speak to the ways when Envy does reach out into the moral realm, how characters who are directly touched by her actions take on a villainy all of their own.

Creating a complex villain on an epic scale has allowed me to tie characters, places, and most importantly a plot of epic scope into a story that has its roots in a concept that everyone can identify with “Too much is never enough”.

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Short Story Friday: Motivation

As I promised yesterday, today’s story piece is a portion of the current book I’m working on.  It’s the real introduction to the character Dempsey who is based both on an old friend and a hefty bit of the character he played in the game that brought much of this about.

Here we go…

Motivation

Vavian led them to the building that Dempsey and he had lived in for the past several months. From the outside of the building Eric and Laylani could see the large flying device known as a ‘Copter that sat perched on the roof. They made their way around to the rear entrance of the building and Vavian knocked on the door in a specific way, two heavy knocks, one lighter, and then three more heavy raps on the door.

The man that met them at the door was carrying a candle in one hand and a pipe in the other. He looked at the trio, heated his pipe on the candle, and shrugged his shoulders saying, “Oh well, what the hell…” before stepping aside and welcoming the group in.

Dempsey watched as Vavian walked past and then turned a curious eye to Eric, however it was Laylani that gave him real pause. “Vav…she’s a good deal older than I was expecting…and…not human. Vavian, why isn’t she human?” Despite his aloof nature, Dempsey had a very good eye for detail and the brief glance under her cloak had revealed Laylani’s elven heritage.

“Plans have changed Dempsey…I can’t even begin to explain it all right now but what you need to know is that we need to get to Keldj and we need to be out of Britania before first light.” Vavian just came out with their predicament rather than skirt the issue.

“That is…a much colder choice than the other pleasant options you proposed to me when we discussed this matter. Also Vavian, not to put too fine a point on it, but you have brought one of Britania’s esteemed Templars into our humble little hide out where we usually eschew the presence of the authorities.” Even while Dempsey was voicing his concerns on the matter, he was absent mindedly tapping his pipe against his hand. “And you have not exactly explained your pointy eared friend here either.”

Laylani pushed her hood back, finding no need to hide her appearance. “I am an Elf of Deep Shadow and I am tasked with summoning the twelve decedents of the fallen heroes from the War of Sin.”

Dempsey’s eyes widened at the claim and he merely nodded. “Fine. Fine. War of Sin, all well and good, I can believe that. Now, a Templar helping you Vavian? Coming aboard my ‘Copter? …and not turning us in to the State Authorities? That stuff the woman says requires a leap of faith, his story?” Dempsey point at Eric. “Well…”

Vavian quickly cut him off, “This Templar helped us to leave the State Prison in one piece and put a Guild Master flat on his ass to keep us from getting burned alive.”

Dempsey raised an eyebrow and replied, “No shit?” He took a long puff of his pipe, “That bastard Richter? You put him out?” He began to laugh a little. “Keldj it is my boy, Keldj it is. Now, you all ain’t never been up north…”

Laylani interrupted him, “I have.”

Dempsey waited to see if Laylani would say anything else before continuing, “I have some cold weather gear I got in trade last season. Should do us right for the snow and slush.”

“Ok…ok, good. We don’t have much time Dempsey. Even now they’re out looking for us.” Vavian was rushing. He was still on edge from what he had seen earlier in the night.

Dempsey was never in a hurry. He could be infuriatingly slow for Vavian’s taste at times and this was one of them. “Never did get your name Templar or you Miss…Terious.” He laughed at his own joke.

“There will be time for all of this once we are on our way Dempsey! Don’t make a game of this!” Vavian was actually getting angry now.

Eric could see a certain need to play along with their pilot. “I am Eric Sturgg…former Hero of Britania.” He frowned and offered his hand.

Dempsey chuckled slightly at this and shook his hand, “Former Hero? That’s the kind of title that makes for good story telling over strong drink. I like you already Templar.”

Laylani leered at Dempsey and then resigned herself to an introduction. “Do not call me Miss Terious ever again. Eric has given me the name Laylani and you may use that name for me when in his company.”

“That’s…a strange way of putting it, but alright.” Dempsey motioned for them to follow. He led them to his storage room where a variety of various goods were kept. Opening one of the chests up he confirmed the winter coats and various armaments against the cold they would encounter. “So…why are we going to Keldj?”

His question lingered in the air until it became obvious that not one of them had a specific answer to give him. Eric and Vavian resorted to looking towards Laylani for answers. The idea of explaining herself was foreign to her.

“There…there are three warriors there. It is my duty to awaken them to their responsibilities.” she said it angrily as if the others should have understood implicitly.

Dempsey only nodded as if it all made perfect sense. “Three warriors. Understood. Well, the Keldjian people are none too friendly. Asking questions is only going to get us in a heap of trouble. If you don’t know who these people are…we may be better off dealing with the authorities here rather than angry Keldjian Marauders.

“I will know them when I see them!” Laylani insisted.

Eric and Vavian looked at one another uncomfortably.

Dempsey laughed, “I thought as much. Don’t get your pointy ears bent out of shape. We just need to get the right kind of bribes. Why, with the right bribes, you can go just about anywhere. That there is a life lesson, try not to forget it.” Dempsey looked around and started pulling various crates out from their store places on the wall. “A little bit of planning goes a long way towards a happy voyage. What we have here are the right things to open doors of opportunity.”

Once he had three crates chosen, Dempsey asked Eric and Laylani to take them up to the roof in preparation for their flight. Laylani thought nothing of it and went about doing her part to speed them along the way. Eric understood that this was an opportunity to allow Vavian and Dempsey to talk alone. It put him on edge to know that their cooperation might already be at an end but there was little he could do beyond allowing it to play out. Reluctantly, he left the two alone and went about his task.

Once they were gone, Vavian turned immediately to Dempsey, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry…I should have taken them somewhere else. I should have given up on this whole thing. It was originally going to be Sarai. You hear me Dempsey? I was supposed to have the Governor’s daughter with me. We were going to go to Seaside and find that rogue water mage to fix the water sickness in South Wall.” He was falling over his words out of guilt. Dempsey sat watching him with a slightly bemused look on his face.

“Will you shut up? Seriously now Vav…you have no poker face. Are…are they what they say they are?” Dempsey seemed oddly interested now.

“What…do you mean? I am…I’m pretty sure they are. I’ve seen things tonight that I never, ever could have imagined and the vision that elf showed to the Templar…”

Dempsey clapped his hands, “She really is an elf! Hot damn, hot damn.” He was grinning like an idiot.

“You…you’re liking this?” Vavian asked with outright shock in his voice.

“You’re damn skippy I am! Vav…I fly a dangerous contraption powered by magic I do not even understand. I run illegal shipments of goods this way and that. I agreed to allow one of the most wanted criminals in all of Britania to live in my basement so that I don’t have to pay for official fuel sources for my otherwise illegal operations…”

Vavian had not even considered for a moment that like everything else in life, Dempsey would see this as a game to be played, a risk to be taken for the sheer thrill of it all. Vavian was now sure, without a doubt in his mind that Dempsey was insane.

“So, you bring me the opportunity of a lifetime, to see the kind of stuff they only tell you about in pillow fiction and religious sermons, up close and personal? I’m all in.” He shook his pipe again trying to remove the used product to no effect, “Plus, you’re the only friend I’ve got.” He pointed his pipe at Vavian, “Remember that. Now, we’ve got a flight to take.”

Once they were on the roof, Dempsey let them into the strange looking flying machine.

‘Copters were a bit of technology with an illustrious history. While Lux is the City State widely known for its steam technology and automated advances, it was the Britanian Guild that designed the first flying vehicles. These contraptions became a necessity for travel between cities as over-land travel was an exercise in suicide and waterways through the landscape were limited.

As he prepared the machine, Dempsey explained a bit of the technology. It was all second hand information though. Dempsey himself understood vary little of the lift concepts that kept the craft aloft or how the various gear ratios controlled speed and direction. He explained to them how the very first ‘Copters used a terribly inefficient means of creating steam to power the vehicle, but when the Guild perfected their vacuum containers that all changed. The ‘Copters could be pre-loaded with ready-to-go energy that could be used to power the system.

“Of course…the Guild’s price for this service is so prohibitively expensive that flight to one place or another is only for the wealthy or by State sponsorship. Since Britania sits right about in the place every city needs to set down to refuel, they have what you might call a monopoly on inter-city travel. Unless of course, you have a friend who makes fuel with almost zero effort.” Dempsey motioned towards Vavian who was using his powers to charge the fuel canisters.

Dempsey hopped up into the small cockpit and engaged the gears. The heavy blades sitting atop the ‘Copter began to move. “Climb on in. Next stop, barren frozen wasteland!” He grinned as Vavian threw himself confidently into the cabin and prepared himself for the trying voyage by ‘Copter. Eric entered more cautiously and looked about uncomfortably. The machine looked as though it might fall apart at any minute. Laylani took her time boarding. Out of the group, the experience was certainly the most foreign to her.

“This is why…” Laylani stated quietly.

“Why what?” Eric asked pensively.

As the ‘Copter began to lift itself up from the roof and move them northward towards the frozen tundra of Keldj, Laylani was lost in amazement staring down from the ‘Copter and seeing the moonlight illuminate the passing landscape.

“This is why she hates your kind so very much. Unlimited potential. My people have existed since the beginning and we have never mastered the world in such ways.”

 

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Short Story Friday: Of Things to Come

Today’s short story is from my current work.  There’s a few concepts that are introduced prior to this that are just thrown at you here.  I’ve linked to them where I can if you’re interested in furthering your reading on the setting of this world.

Of Things to Come

He was trying to let it go. After all, it did not matter to him who he was married to. Any of the possibilities he might be faced with were pretty much the same. Spoiled girls with bad attitudes wrapped up in expensive dresses and pretentiousness…it was best not to think on it for too long.

His intended sat with him in the parlor and talked non-stop about herself. He was uncertain if she was trying very hard to convince him that she was worthy of his affections or if it was simply a matter of poor upbringing. He closed his eyes briefly and took a deep breath. “My dearest Katherine…I’m afraid I must return to my duties. The evening has gotten late before either of us took notice of it.”

That was a lie. The minutes had been dragging on for him since he entered the room.

The girl’s eyes flashed, “Oh my, of course. How embarrassing would it be for me to delay a Templar from his duties? We could not have your soon to be wife tarnishing such a promising career.” She appeared concerned that she had erred.

Eric knew the concern was only for his standing and position within the Central Government. Katherine’s family had fallen on hard times recently and her betrothal to a promising young Templar would go a long way to returning her family to prominence.

“Certainly not. It has never the less been an…enlightening evening.” He forced a smile and bowed slightly to the young woman. She replied with an exaggerated smile then blew a kiss in his direction. From the parlor door her parents appeared almost immediately. Eric was certain they were eavesdropping the entire time. As he made his way towards the exit, her parents joined him and lavished the Templar with undue praise.

Eric did his best to be courteous but the entire ordeal was trying beyond belief for him. Only once he had made his way back out into the streets of Britania did he feel alive again. The entire experience left him feeling as though a terrible weight were pressing against his chest. The thought of a lifetime with those people made him short of breath.

He felt disappointed for resorting to a lie in order to take his leave of them, but that feeling soon passed as the sounds and chaos of the streets flooded his senses. Eric was a calm, collected, and thoughtful man. He saw people, places, and events in a unique way that allowed him to quickly understand whatever he was dealing with. He did not even have to try, it was a skill that came to him effortlessly. So long as he kept his composure and sorted out the obstacles in front of him, there was almost nothing he was unequipped to deal with.

This insight into people and the world around him was the reason he had been able to achieve the rank of Templar so early in life. He was even-tempered. He was thoughtful. Eric was a natural.

Most young men who enter into the service of Britania’s Templars carry an ego with them so large that it takes years for the training to break them down and rebuild them into something respectable. Where Eric was concerned, ego was never an issue. He absorbed the training, took his failures in stride, and encouraged his peers. In return, he was hated by those peers at every step of his training.

He had come this far in life by setting his sights on the next goal. Always looking ahead allowed him to shrug off much of the ugliness and petty behavior of those around him. Recently though, it was becoming more and more difficult to see the point in anything he did. Only the lively sounds of the streets and the people going about their lives helped to shake him out of the melancholy that increasingly dogged him.

He resolved to have a cup of strong tea to get his mind off of things. It would help to settle his nerves and to get the awful taste of whatever it was Katherine’s parents had served them out of his mouth. He found his way to the small tea house that he favored and stepped inside. At least the owners were always pleasant and genuine with him…

The drunken voice of a slightly belligerent woman greeted him, “How long was I supposed to wait for you here? You finally show up and I’m already drunk!” The small woman slammed her flask onto the table and pointed at Eric defiantly. Next to her was a thin man wearing a strange pair of glasses. He smiled at the woman’s behavior and idly shuffled a deck of cards.

Eric looked around confused. He pointed to himself wondering if perhaps the woman was yelling at someone else. “Of course you! Come over here Mr. Templar. Come over here!”

He shook his head in confusion but never the less approached the pair. “They do not even serve alcohol here. What in the world is wrong with you?” Eric was curious now. Something was different about this woman.

The man next to her kicked a chair forward for Eric to sit down in. “Care to play a game of cards?” the strange man asked.

“No thank you.” Eric sat down with them, his curiosity getting the better of him. “I can’t say I have a fondness for gambling anyway.”

The man lifted an eyebrow. “He’s the one alright.”

The woman shook her head in agreement. “He’s the one. Doesn’t look like much, that’s for sure.”

“You clearly have mistaken me for someone else.” Eric was still uncertain about this unexpected meeting but he could not sense anything remotely dangerous or threatening about the pair. Instead there was something familiar about them, at least as far as the woman was concern. It was then that the woman asked him a question under her breath that cut him deeper than any wound he had ever endured during training.

“How long Eric? How long will you go on pretending?” Any hint of intoxication fled from the woman and she leaned in closer to him at the table. Something powerful and frightening was in the air.

Uncertainty filled his voice and finally Eric asked, “W…who are you? What the hell are you talking about “pretending”?  Further more, how do you know my name?”

The man answered first, “Her name is Dori. Mine is Julian. She thinks you’re something special. Some business about the stars being aligned right when you were born or some such nonsense.”

“It isn’t nonsense Julian. You know better.” Dori scolded him.

“As strange as this has been… Let me reassure you in case you didn’t happen to think this was odd, it was. But me? I am nothing special. Another one in a long line of Templars who are here to do a job and nothing more.” Whatever frustration had built up in Eric’s heart over the years was coming out in full force now.

“But you’re better than the others, are you not? I’m not asking you as a matter of pride. I want to know your professional opinion…is there a better warrior among Britania’s Templars?” The woman’s eyes were lit up with a mischievous gleam to them that told Eric that the question itself was a trap.

“I’m just an ordinary man. Templars are not measured against one anther but against the threats we face down for your protection Miss. Now if you’ll excuse me.” Eric stood up, turned his back on the pair and walked off.

Julian looked at Dori knowingly. Dori stood up from the table and shouted so that everyone in the tea house could hear her. “The time is coming when ‘ordinary’ will not be good enough! When that time comes, you will remember this day! You can not hide from fate!”

The Templar was gone.

Dori flopped back into her seat and looked to Julian, “Do you think it will help?”

“Hard to say. I’ve seen what hopelessly lost looks like…it just sat down with us.”

“He doesn’t have a choice in the matter. He’s the only one who can match her…”

 

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Short Story Friday: Delusion

I wrote this bit a few years ago as a means to kind of hold some ideas and concepts in my head for later use.  This cast of characters is to be the central group for the book I am working on now.  Much of what happens here is far, far later in the plotting of this story.

If you read last week’s story, this one will give you some insight into exactly how far Envy is able to corrupt normal people.

Delusion

The street was calm. The skies were clear that day. In the three story bordello at the end of the avenue, hidden by bland walls and rumors of the extravagant activities within its doors, a storm based in terrible rage and jealousy was building…

Layhilani, Eric, Vavian, and Dempsy stood barely a city block away from the building. They had been to this place just the other day. It did not seem nearly as ominous to them then.

Vavian was the first to speak. “Something is really, really wrong here. I…I’m not the only one sensing this, right?”

Layhilani and Eric looked apprehensively at each other

Dempsy shook his shoulders, “Ain’t nothing “right” about this whole thing since we started.”

Vavian continued, “I…know. But, this time, something is… I just feel sick even thinking about it.”

Layhilani lifted her head up as if trying to hear some far away sound “She’s been here…”

Eric nodded in consent. “We work in tandem, understand?”

The group muttered quiet agreement.

Continuing Eric directed the plan, “If we have to use force, we’re going to be in confined quarters. Vavian, Dempsy, find and create fall back points. Layli, I need you to take the fight to this guy. Retreat as needed and let the boys cover you. I will charge through and secure Lillian. Do not worry about me or my safety, only the girl counts.”

“This may all be overkill. Then again, it may simply be a boy with too much money and time on his hands…” Eric paused, “Not one of you believes that eh? I…”

Eric was cut off by the sound of a shrieking woman falling from the second story window of the brothel. The cries she made as her body hit the street and shattered, fate unkindly having spared her life, were tragic.

“GO!” Eric directed.

And they ran.

People were fleeing the bordello at an alarming rate. Most of them found their way out through the doors. Several unfortunate women found their way out of the building via the windows, much in the way that the first one had.

Seconds later the group reached the main entryway to the building. The difficult little man who sat there previously was nowhere to be found. No one was surprised. Dempsy went to work gathering the men and women who were attempting to hide or hold their ground. Their initial reactions to him were in resistance. “Things are about to get quite bad here, for your own safety you should really consider running away.” His calm almost detached voice and manner likely did not help convince anyone of his position on the matter.

The unholy screech from upstairs on the other hand, did a great deal to convince the reluctant patrons to flee.

As Eric and his allies barged their way into and up the stairs, Lillian and her unwelcome guest were beginning a wicked decent into the gaping maw of madness.

Lillian scampered away from her attacker. He seemed so huge, his arms and his eyes dangerously long like a spider. He was screaming something at her, but she could not understand him anymore. Each word was being twisted into animal-like noises.

“Lorenzo? Is that…Is that you?” she managed to ask despite her fear.

“you rememberme after all” His speech was coming forth in a strange cadence that seemed almost delayed from his mouth after he made the words with his lips. “how couldyou? who washe thatyou would choosehim overme?”

A flood of unwelcome memories returned to Lillian. She could feel her will to live entirely slip away. It was comforting. Finally giving up was comforting.

It was short lived comfort, whatever powers were twisting Lorenzo were also pressing his memories into Lillian’s mind. She saw for the first time, though his eyes.

The boy had been to her services many many times. Lillian had dismissed him as another pervert but then saw something that shocked and wounded her as she watched his memories play out in his head. The fantasy that the boy indulged in with her was one where she simply loved and was kind to him. It was not perverse, it was not selfish, it was simple and honest. Lillian long ago stopped caring about whatever fantasy her customers were looking to fulfill. They were almost always sexual romps of the most embarrassing kind. It was easier to allow them their unabashed fantasy and be done. After all, she never had to participate, only allow them to act out their desires on the stage that her powers of illusion provided.

She felt ashamed. She felt evil. Worst of all, she felt responsible for the monster now stalking her bedroom. Lorenzo had somehow gained knowledge of Cassius and that he was the only person she could possibly love. Lillian cowered in a corner, tears falling from her eyes.

“stop crying! why doyou makeme yell atyou!” Lillian covered her ears and shook her head like a child. “amI too loud forYOU!” Lillian screamed. Sheer terror escaped her and her heart exploded inside her chest over and over.

Lorenzo, took steps closer to her, “you don’t wantme…FINE! cruel man would takemy place? noNOno! these walls this roof this gold…MINE!”

His voice was piercing and other worldly. Lillian tried to run towards the door. She tripped and crashed to the floor just mere feet away from the exit of her room. Looking back she could see him stalking ever closer.

“how couldyou lovehim? allow inour bed!” His body was changing, it was warping into something twisted. “look atME!”

Lillian did look, much to her own regret. The sound of breaking bones and limbs stretching to unnatural lengths and dimensions was her reward. Lorenzo became a creature, a monster constructed of hate and fury right before her eyes. He was close to the ceiling in height when his body stopped contorting. His arms nearly dragged on the floor and his face was twisted in a permanent scream. He was unnaturally thin now as if he were stretched out on the rack for weeks, never allowed to die.

Lillian got up off the floor to flee into the hallway.

The monster that had been Lorenzo continued to pursue her, “you can not run away fromme! it’s justus!”

Lillian screamed again, her voice finally giving out and her cry sputtering into a rasp of pain. Lorenzo’s long mangled arm reached into the hallway and his twisted snake-like fingers wrapped around Lillian’s waist. He slipped out the door into the hallway. “yes yell, cry, see how no one cares foryou except me.”

The monster was caught entirely off guard by the appearance of Eric, Layhilani, and the rest as they exited the stairwell and entered the hallway. “I wouldn’t go that far.” Eric replied in the most proper and mocking tone he could muster. Lorenzo lunged at Eric with his long clawed arm. Those claws seemed to grow as they cut through the air. “Lilli….!” Eric made the command as the fight started.

In an instant the warriors coordinated a brutally effective series of maneuvers. Layhilani, taking a foot boost from Vavian jumped over the others and rebounded off the side wall. She cut only once, but her strike removed the creature’s arm that was grasping Lillian. The monster howled in pain and was about to turn towards Layhilani when it saw Eric draw his broad sword. It turned to attack Eric with a lunge which Eric deftly sidestepped.

Instead of finding Eric in his claws, Lorenzo was instead faced with the business end of Dempsy’s pistol. “Love hurts eh kid?” The gunshot pierced the monster’s claw and went straight into his chest. Dempsy then dodged around a corner while Vavian gathered up a charge of electrical current.

Layhilani had to work to un-pry the detached hand from around Lillian’s small and fragile body. By the time she had done so, Eric was with them. His sword in his right arm, he took Lillian up in the other. “I’ll get her to safety. Destroy this abomination.” Layhilani nodded.

Eric began to run from Lorenzo who was now re-growing his arms and claws back at a frightening pace. Lorenzo swiped at Eric, his claws ripping into the Templar slowing his run. A second blow from the monster was aimed at the unconscious Lillian and Eric deflected enough of the strike to protect her but suffered further injury as a result. The third strike was interrupted.

Vavian stepped out into the hallway again and warned the others, “Eyes!” They had seen this trick before and all closed their eyes. Vavian let forth a brilliant flash of electricity into the air that blinded Lorenzo.

The monster staggered about for a moment then regained his sight to see Layhilani standing as his only obstacle before him. Everyone else had scattered.

“She did this to you…” Layhilani said to him.

“indeedshe did…i will makeher suffer to the last” the monster replied.

“Lillian is not to blame. Envy found her way into your heart and that is why you suffer.”

The monster howled again and rampaged towards her. Layhilani cut and hacked his arms and claws as he moved forward in the narrow hallway all the while keeping her eyes toward his neck. She was surprised as Lorenzo was when a gun shot suddenly sounded behind them.

“Don’t mind me. I’m just in a really foul mood.” Dempsy walked forward firing his pistol repeatedly at the monster. “Didn’t think I’d let you do this by yourself did you?” Dempsy was a terrible shot. He had only managed to distract Lorenzo. That was enough of an opening for Layhilani though.

She ran straight towards the monster that had only a short time ago been Lorenzo. Ignoring the slashing hands that grasped for her, she delivered a brutal kick to the beast’s chest before spinning in place and severing one its arms near the shoulder joint.

Dempsy stepped back. The sight of the Shadow Elf fighting unrestrained was often disturbing.

The creature reflexively reached for where its arm had been and in doing so, opened its guard up. Layhilani wasted no time exploiting this. She spun with her sword and split the creature’s belly. It bore down with pain and rage for the spot she struck from. Claws slammed into the floor but missed Layhilani as she melded with the creature’s shadow on the floor and appeared behind it.

Her blade plunged through the creature’s back up to its hilt. Layhilani braced herself by kicking the creature just below where the sword had found its way and then pushed forward. The creature fell to the floor face first.

Layhilani’s sword slid out as the creature’s body fell. She jumped forward and whipped the cutting edge around, cleaving Lorenzo’s head off.

Dempsy had seen her fight like this before, even more because Layhilani often took pleasure in dangerous contests. This time however, she was merely ruthless and cold. Something about this fight was different for her.

“We have what we came for. It is time to leave.” Layhilani turned to leave without another word.

Dempsy looked at the shattered mess on the floor that used to be a person, “Tough break kid. Looks like your luck with women is worse than mine.”

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What’s in a Name Part 2

Yesterday I began explaining the origin of sever character names and the reasons how those names came to be.  Let’s continue where we left off…

  • Turnbill - I needed a gangster of shadowy power, someone distant with a name that meant trouble.  It was a tough one to figure out honestly.  When I get in that trap, I often scan old fantasy stuff and look for something small to go off of.  My MtG cards had a character from the Legends series called “Riven Turnbull”, note the last name is different.  I took the idea and swapped the ‘U’ for an ‘I’ because my initial idea was for him to be a powerful bureaucrat gone bad.  In essence, he turned bills that resulted in death and dishonor.  Dumb, but it stuck and it sounded sinister like I needed.
  • Honest – Honest may be my favorite character in the book.  She’s my instigator.  Her name was meant to be a strict matter of fact.  I think sometimes using a name as a means of explaining a character is quite effective.  It plays out well as she evolves in the book as well.  Her name may be one of the most effective because a reader must constantly wonder when or if she will break from form.
  • Skylar – I really just thought up the name of the worst person I had any dealings with in high school.  This was the name of a boy so callus and selfish that he left a friend of mine in ruin for several years.  Also, I think it sounds really douchy.
  • Abiel - Another real life name brought to fiction.  This is the full name of one of my friends who goes by the shorter version of “Abe”.  Since this character is for all intents and purposes a religious nut, expanding his name to its original use carries a nice bit of odd religious weight to it.

On another note, I resolved my issue from yesterday.  It was in the lamest way possible too.  I simply reverted to the original name I assigned to the main character in my initial draft.  I was over complicating the issue.  Several of the potential names I was looking at were too long or too…much.  In the end, this character will be named Eric Sturgg.  ”Eric” has connotations of leadership behind it.  There’s an old Swedish King named Eric the Saint who worked to bring Sweden back to the old ways, which has a small thread of connection to this character.

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