character

Feast to Follow Famine

Help yourself to whatever you want: I've prepared a smorgasbord of tasty tidbits from my reading and writing efforts this past month. Heck, have some of everything! Writing:

- I got my first official rejection letter. Considering I didn't think I would get any notification at all unless I was accepted, it was a nice surprise. I've put that submission away and am working on my synopsis before I submit to my next candidate. Onwards!

- Synopsis work is tedious, scary, and absolutely necessary. It's been eating a lot of my time, and, like most writing projects, never seems to have much to show for the amount of work until very late in the game. But at least I know where the ending is, and that makes it easier.

- In the wake of finishing FITB, I've been dabbling with quite a few other stories. Consequently, I don't have another big work in progress yet, but I am enjoying working on the handful of smaller things. They all have outlines (some very sparse still) and plans for being their own novels... but I forgot how much fun it is at the beginning of a story to just go into "random creative mode" and let the story do whatever it wants, and screw the outline. Characters tell you a lot more about themselves when you don't keep them tethered all the time.

- I am trying to incorporate more writing into my day job (I'm a software Quality Assurance tester) - primarily this means writing more wikis and the like for my team. Nothing at all like fiction storytelling. But who knew? I really like writing wikis. :)

Reading:

- I'm only slightly behind schedule to meet my 2013 goal of reading 365 books. I tried to add the tracker widget to this site, but I can't because apparently WordPress doesn't play well with java. Ah well. If you're interested, it's on my GoodReads profile.

- Want to see my reviews for the books I've been devouring lately? I post them all on GoodReads. (Yes, I am addicted to that site. Yes, you should be also.) I review every book I read, although with some of them (like the graphic novels) are more of a spoiler-free summary of that installment. I hate it when things get spoiled for me, so I do my very best to write spoiler-free reviews for everything. GoodReads also has this handy little html tag for hiding spoiler comments in a review, so if I do decide there's something spoilery worth calling out, it will be hidden until you click the "show spoiler" link. (Edit: There's been a few problems with the above link, so here's the steps to get there yourself. Go to my profile. Click on my Read shelf. Sort by Date Read so the most recent date is at the top. Any book with a Date Read in 2013 will have a review. I make no guarantees for dates prior to that.)

- Libraries are one of the greatest things in the world. I get all of my "impulse-shopping" out whenever I go to the library, because I don't actually have to spend money. The last time I went, I needed to pick up two books that were on hold for me. I walked out with a stack of books so tall I could barely see over it. I even had to put one book back because I just couldn't hold any more. My friend told me it looked like I'd robbed the place.

- A random sampling of some of the books I've been reading lately: Animorphs (my first time ever), The Walking Dead, The Devil in Silver, The Light... you know what? They're all on GoodReads too. Suffice to say that I've picked up and read some books I never would have thought about reading (like The Secret Keeper, a historical fiction novel) because of my library wanderings, and others (like Down the Rabbit Hole) at the recommendation of my friends. Genre-wise, I've been picking up a fair bit of YA- found a few really good ones (All These Things I've Done, City of Bones) and a few annoying-beyond-belief ones (Confessions of a Murder Suspect, Masquerade). I also raided the mystery section and now have some of the alphabet mysteries by Sue Grafton, as well as The Dead Zone by Stephen King (how embarrassing, I nearly spelled his name wrong!). Continuing of course to read some of my favorite authors, like Garth Nix (Confusion of Princes) and Jim Butcher (Cold Days from The Dresden Files), but I also think I have found one or two more authors to make it to the level of "favorite" - Jasper Fforde, Iris Johansen. And lastly, I even picked up some audio books, both narrated by Jim Dale. As one of my friends mentioned in her review, I would listen to Jim Dale read anything, even the phone book.

In Short:

- Writing is hard work, and still amazing.

- Reading is good for the soul.

- Libraries are the best things ever. Go there now.

- I should be paid to advertise GoodReads. (Kidding. But seriously, if you like reading at all, check them out. Send me a message!)

Screams in the Red Rain

How has it been so long since my last post? Shame... But here's some quick tidbits of cool info going on in my writing/reading world, followed by another character sketch I wrote for my time travel story. (The other sketch for the character named Millie can be found here.) - I set a reading goal for myself this year: finish 365 books before midnight, Dec. 31. Bonus points if they are all first-time-reads. So far, I'm only 1 book behind schedule. (Want to see what books I've read and check out some reviews? Look me up on Goodreads.) (Interested in other fun shenanigans my brain decided? Check out and sign up for my other blog, RealmwalkerWriting!)

- I have a list of literary agents who are looking for work by new authors or my genre and will be submitting queries and such to them very soon.

- When I go to the library on Monday to pick up a book that's being held for me, I will have to pay my first-ever fine for having a book too damaged to return. Sadly, my puppy found a way to get onto my dining table while I was out getting groceries, and slightly mangled The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay. Sad. At least I got to finish reading it, though.

- Two of my friends recently had me over for dinner and decided we would watch My Little Pony. I later went home and read Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill. Consequently, I had Applejack from My Little Pony narrating this book set in post-Civil War Texas - extra funny when the zombies showed up. :)

Enjoy the character sketch!

-----

My first thought was, it’s raining. But that didn’t make much sense – I was in my house. How could it be raining in my house? My second thought, that the roof had a leak, didn’t make sense, either. No self-respecting builder would have a leaky roof on a house he built.

But I was lying on the floor, on the soft rugs covering the hard wood, and I knew there were drips of water on my face. Had I been crying? No. Besides, if I had been crying, the drips wouldn’t have hit me from the ceiling – they wouldn’t have startled me awake.

Well, lying there wondering wasn’t going to solve the mystery. If I wanted to figure out why it was raining in the house, I’d have to open my eyes. I expected to see one of my siblings – probably my younger brother – standing over me, holding a glass of water and giggling at me.

He wasn’t there. No one was. I felt another drip and looked up at the ceiling, but with the late hour and the fireplace too far away, I couldn’t see. Sighing, I stood and grabbed one of the candles from the dining table. Mother would be annoyed that I disturbed her decorations, but I would put it back and just pray she didn’t notice. Mother always liked to have things perfect for the holidays, especially for Christmas. The tree, with its own decorations of carefully hand-carved ornaments, painted by my siblings and me as we had grown throughout the years. The garlands of evergreen boughs tied together with silk ribbon – expensive, Father said. Pretty, Mother said, and worth the money to ready our house for the coming of the Baby Jesus. It’s funny… I never saw him actually show up. With only a few days left before Christmas Day, the area beneath the tree was stuffed with presents wrapped in shiny paper, bright scraps of cloth, or tucked away inside pouches that Mother and I had sewn new for this year. Our stockings were hanging over the fireplace, just like always. I had stitched the names on them myself this time, instead of having to follow Mother’s patterns. From this far away, I couldn’t read them, but I knew they were there and I smiled nonetheless.

Even holding the candle up toward the ceiling didn’t help much. We had a big house, and the ceiling was too far away. I looked around, but since I didn’t see anyone, I decided to chance it and climbed up onto the table, my bare feet stepping carefully around the other candles and the fragile manger scene that decorated the tabletop. I held the candle up again…

…and screamed.

I was right. It was raining inside. Only it wasn’t water… it was blood.

Where was my family? My brother, my sister, my mother and father? Whose blood was this, leeching down from the roof? I looked down at myself and had to clap my hand to my mouth to keep from screaming again. I was covered in drops of sticky blood. I had been lying on the floor for a long time… had I slept through some terrible nightmare?

No… Now that I was awake, filled with adrenaline, I could feel the pounding in my head. I hadn’t fallen asleep. I’d been attacked.

I jumped down from the table, making the manger scene rattle. “Mother!” I yelled. “Where are you?” I was terrified. Where was everyone? Had they run away, thinking I was dead?

The rest blurred together in my memory, too much to take in so fast. Somewhere, out of the darkness, a hand snaked out and grabbed my arm, pulling me in. I began to scream when a second hand quickly covered my mouth. My nose caught the scent of soap and lavender and I realized these were my mother’s hands. I remember her whispering to me in a frightened voice. We had to get out, she said. They were still very near, and they would not let us leave alive. I asked about my siblings in a whisper crushed by my own emotion, and my mother’s choked-back sobs were answer enough.

Most unluckily, the flickering light of my candle lit up a sliver of the room for a moment and I saw a flash of what had happened to my siblings. They were not dead. They had been murdered, brutally and savagely killed and tossed aside like garbage. I was angry and scared… and then I was sick, all over the floor of Mother’s closet where we were hiding. I had never seen a dead body before.

Mother and I made it out of that house. We had to climb out onto the roof because we could see dark shapes blocking the stairs leading down to the first floor and to safety. I could tell Mother was scared. I had not told Mother about the blood-rain in the dining room. I hoped I was wrong, but I thought I knew whose it must be, if Mother and I were here and my siblings were still inside.

Mother did not look. She did not know to look. I think if she had known, she never would have left, and we both would have died. Instead she let down the escape ladder my father had built into the roof, in case there was ever a fire, and began to climb down. She called for me to come after, but her voice was small and far away. I was caught, stunned and terrified, by the scene on the roof.

My father was dead, that was certain. Whoever had attacked us had made it clear that he was not able to protect his house or his family. Spikes, like the big ones they used down at the railroads, gleamed red in my eyes. My stomach heaved again even as I ran over to him and grabbed the slick iron with both hands,  begging my father to get up. I don’t know why. I knew he couldn’t hear me. I knew.

My mother called again, frantically, and I heard her. I jumped to the ladder and slid down the sides, getting splinters in my hands. Mother grabbed me and dragged me along behind her, running as fast as she could away from that house. I was running, too, but my legs were too slow to keep up with her, so I mostly stumbled and slowed her down.

I don’t know how long we ran. I remember looking back and seeing the black shadows moving around that house, hearing voices that faded away as my panic overtook them and turned them into howls of demons. We finally stopped, what seemed to be miles and miles away, and collapsed, panting hard and trying to uncramp our exhausted lungs and limbs.

Mother looked at me. You look a mess, she said, attempting to smile, but instead she began to cry. I felt a mess. Blood, vomit, sweat all clung to my clothes, splinters dug into my hands. It didn’t matter. Mother wrapped her arms around me and pulled me close, crying low sobs that rattled the soul to hear them. I buried my face in her shoulder. This time it was raining inside, and leaking out through my eyes as tears that soaked my mother’s clothes. Why did it happen? I remember asking her through my hiccups, trying to control myself and failing miserably.

My mother pulled away a little so she could look at me. Cupping her hands around my face, she smiled. It was a real smile, even though her eyes were so sad. She didn’t know, she said, but she was thankful that she still, at least, had me, and I had her. We were not alone.

I cried again. My mother frowned and brushed the tears away, making them mix with the blood on my cheeks and leave sticky trails behind. She said she understood, and she knew it would be hard, but we would get through it. God always had a reason, and he was watching over us.

I looked up at my mother and asked a question that had been burning in my heart for all the years I could remember: Was this my punishment because I was different?

I had always felt responsible for everything when I realized I was different. When my brother was born, I knew he was not like me. When my sister was born, I knew she was like my brother. Like Mother and Father. Not like me.

My mother gripped my hands tightly in her own and pressed them to her heart. She looked at me and told me to listen very closely, that I must never forget what she was about to tell me. I was different, I was special. I had power inside of me. God would never give His child such a gift and then punish her for having it. I had this power, and I should remember to always, always, do good with it. Use it to honor her. Use it to honor my family. Use it to honor God.

I felt safe there, with my mother, sitting beneath the trees. She had told me that I was not the reason we were alone now. It had been a cruel act of violence, but it had been random. There was nothing we could have done.

Lies.

Although my mother did not know it, the fear I had harbored since I had been a child, the fear that my difference, this “power,” would bring pain to my family, had come true. Those shadow-men had been after me, and it cost my brother, my sister, and my father their lives, and my mother her husband and her children.

I left my mother with some family friends who promised to take care of her. We did not explain everything, only the bare facts – that we had been victims of a terrible crime and were all that was left of our family. I left. My mother begged me not to go, but I could not bear to stay. This power, whatever it was, had killed my family. I would not let it hurt her, too – not any more than it already had.

***

Memory fades with time. All these events happened so long ago, I cannot remember much. I cannot remember the sound of my mother’s voice, my father’s face, or my sibling’s laughs. I cannot remember the town in which we lived, nor even the country, anymore. I cannot remember my family’s names… I cannot even remember my own name.

I can remember my scream, when I first saw the blood-rain oozing through the ceiling. I can remember the shadow-men darting around that house.

I can remember because I still see them, I still hear them, in my dreams, sometimes… and it always ends the same way: I am running around that house, trying to catch the shadow-men and see who it is that has murdered my family. I lock eyes with one of them through the darkness, and it is as though he can see me through my own dreams, from within my own mind.

I do not wake screaming anymore. One grows used to such nightmares, when one has them for so many years. But the unsettling feeling never grows dim, and I fear that one day, soon, all that will remain of my memory are those soul-piercing eyes and a child’s scream as blood rains down.

2.5 Stars: Incandescent by M. V. Freeman

I really wanted to give this book a higher rating, but in the end it earned 2.5 stars.The plot was good - three races fighting for control, each with their own brand of magic and their own justified hatred of one another. The characters were compelling and I cared about them. But I couldn't stay immersed in the story because the writing was so rough. At first I just did a small double-take and attributed it to a sneaky typo missed during editing (I've been through enough rounds to know that there's always that one little weasel that gets through)... but by the end of the book, I was having to translate the book rather than read it. Pluses for Incandescent: - Intriguing premise of Elementals, Mages, and Darks. - Strong heroine who (except for once) was believable and real - Attractive anti-hero with the "dark and dangerous and sexy" completely owned - Mina. She is a great character and I would gladly read an entire book about her - Laurie's friends Rachel and Nicki. Though not heavily featured, they were believable too, and likeable

Minuses for Incandescent: - Really rough writing. It felt like I was back to tutoring freshmen for their papers for English 101. - New terms used with little to no introduction. I don't mind new terms in a fantasy book; I do mind when I'm two-thirds through the book and have to check the glossary in the back because I'm tired of being the only person in this world who doesn't know what a Cogent is. - The one scene that broke Laurie as believable for me for a bit. (Check out my Goodreads review if you want the spoiler version.) - Flow of time. I have honestly no idea the timespan covered in this book. I think it was a few months but it felt more like a few weeks at most.

If there are more books coming in this series (which I sincerely hope, given the rather abrupt ending), I am looking forward to reading them. Just please get another few rounds of heavy editing in beforehand to clean up the comma-splicing mess.

Read It! Eve by Iris Johansen

Quick review for the latest book I've read: Eve by Iris Johansen, originally posted on Goodreads. Holy. Whoa. I had only read one other Iris Johansen novel prior to picking up Eve, and I have never wanted to brave a blizzard so much to go get the next book in this trilogy (hello, storm Draco). Luckily for my health, the library was closed today, but I will be there tomorrow! The writing was excellent - Johansen does an excellent job of throwing you headlong into the main plot and then letting her main character reveal parts of her past as they become more important. All the characters were very well-fleshed-out and believable. There were even a few I was angry with for the way they reacted to something Eve said - but that made them good characters. If they had just accepted her story blindly, I probably would have put the book down for good. Good characters are never perfect, because real people have flaws and readers must believe that characters are real people. It was great to see that in this story! The tone of the book is fairly dark, but Johansen keeps it from falling into general horror by focusing on the hunt for hope, rather than the details of the twisted mind of the villain. I will warn you: make sure you have the second book, Quinn, (and probably the third, Bonnie, too) before you finish Eve, because the ending is one of the most intense cliffhangers I have read in a while.

 

PS. RealmwalkerWriting has a new update as well - vacation and Christmas and BOOKS! Go check it out!

Ill Omen

A look back to the coronation of King Fawlen and the beginning of the end of Kallizar's old life.  

 

“And now, we must complete the ceremony for which so many have gathered to see,” Prophet Zahn continued. “You have passed your third and final test; you have shown yourself to be a humble and compassionate man, gentle and wise beyond the boundaries of the royal line.”

Mikael approached both Fawlen and Seriah. “Kneel, my brother,” Mikael said, “that you may be given what is yours.” He drew his sword, the glinting blade catching the sunlight and throwing it across the waiting crowd in green flickers.

Trembling very slightly, Fawlen lowered himself to his knees before his brother.

The edge of Mikael’s sword came down on Fawlen’s left shoulder. “The nation of Fyan cries out for a new king!” His voice was steady but his eyes were bright with emotion. “You have proven yourself, before this country and this court, that you are ready and worthy to answer this call!”

The entire courtyard watched with unblinking eyes, tense with excitement. This was the moment – the new king was about to be crowned!

The members of the court watched wide-eyed as well, but their tension was borne of sudden panic. Instead of lifting his sword and finishing the ceremony, Mikael had pressed down on the blade. It had bitten into Fawlen’s shoulder and a small patch of dark red was blossoming onto Fawlen’s clothes.

Kallizar looked around rapidly, checking the extent of the situation. Hirom had not yet noticed anything amiss, thank the gods. Seriah had – her knuckles were white where she gripped the arms of her chair. But she seemed torn between stopping Mikael by force and staying still so as not to alert the crowd.

For a split second, Kallizar met Mahlíz’ eyes. He looked stunned.

Fawlen looked much the same. Shock was all over his face, and pain beneath that… but whether from his wounded shoulder or from his brother’s actions, Kallizar couldn’t tell.

Kallizar looked to Mikael, her heart trying to beat itself free of her ribcage. What was he doing? Why in Lillith’s name would he attack Fawlen? A sudden, terrible thought entered her mind. Mikael… have you lied all this time?

A sharp, almost electric sensation hit her a second later, and Kallizar realized what must be going on. A quick glance at Mahlíz told her he had figured it out as well. Someone had thrown a spell on Mikael’s sword, and from the look of things, the prince couldn’t do anything to stop it. The muscles in his arm bulged as he strained to lift the blade, and sweat was starting to trickle down his worried face.

Mahlíz’ magic swirled onto the scene, soft blue hues to Kallizar’s vision. It wrapped around the prince’s sword and smothered the offending spell, choking it out until nothing remained.

Mikael must have felt the pressure fading because his face relaxed and he adjusted his grip so the blade would not go flying over his head.

Kallizar scoured the crowd for the guilty Sorcerer, but she could not sense anyone with that magic. Nor did she see anyone who looked particularly guilty, or surprised, or disappointed. The magical signature dissipated as Mahlíz’ magic destroyed the last of the spell, but Kallizar wouldn’t soon forget that feeling. It was all she had to figure out who – and how. Something was off about that signature… it was too scrambled, too confused, to have been natural magic. Someone had been meddling.

That thought made Kallizar extremely uncomfortable. Tainted magic came as the result of dark experiments, indeed.

Don't Interrupt a Sorcerer

Concentration is key for Sorcerers - if they are interrupted, pray to the gods you weren't the one to do so, or you may well have blood on your hands. Here we see Kallizar attending to the severely wounded villagers in the far north of Fyan, victims of a cruel pirate raid. Kallizar wished yet again that she could use her magic to heal another, but she was limited by the same thing that allowed people’s bodies to heal themselves. Her magic was foreign to them, and they fought it off. Only the Prophets could truly heal, using the gods’ powers directly. Even with all her strength, it was not enough to keep the spell up for very long. After only a few minutes, she was forced to stop. She was beginning to sweat, and her hands shook when she removed them. So did her legs when she attempted to stand.

“Water, please,” she said, kneeling quickly. When she had downed what was brought, she moved on to the next victim, this one the woman with the missing eye.

She had barely begun when she felt heat rising against her chest. Confused, she hesitated. In that moment, the spell faltered, snapping back on her with a vengeance. Kallizar jerked her hands away as pain shot up her neck, searing hot. She reeled backwards and landed heavily on her back.

Mai rushed to her side. “What happened?” she asked urgently.

Kallizar reached for the emerald necklace, belatedly realizing what had happened. As she had suspected, it was still warm to the touch – the king had called. However, when she attempted to call the wind to respond, she found herself too weak even for that. As she held the gem, it flared again.

“Oh, gods, what happened to you?”

The shock and concern in Mai’s voice cut through the pain Kallizar was feeling in her neck. “I was interrupted,” she explained. Her voice sounded oddly distant to her ears. “I got surprised and I lost my balance.”

Mai was shaking her head. “No, not that,” she said. “Your neck.” The confusion was evident in her eyes.

Kallizar was having trouble concentrating – the pain in her neck was terrible, a much different kind of fire than the feel of magic in her blood. “I… what?”

“Mai, look!” One of the other relief workers, a man, was staring at the woman in the bed. When Mai saw her, she stared, as well.

Kallizar’s heart sped up with worry. “I… what done?” she asked. Somehow, the words didn’t seem to be making as much sense as they should have been. The pain was growing, across her shoulder, down her back, and up her jaw and cheek.

Mai looked back at Kallizar. Panic blossomed across her features. “Naloi, help me,” she ordered the man. “She’s getting worse.”

Kallizar’s vision wavered; one of her eyes seemed unwilling to open. “Died?” she asked despairingly, gesturing with weak arms toward the bedridden woman.

Mai smiled carefully. “No, Sorcerer,” she assured her. “She will be more than fine.” Her smile died as worry consumed it. “Sorcerer?”

Kallizar vaguely felt herself lifted from the ground. Her skin throbbed and burned, making her recoil from the touch. Someone laid a cool cloth across her face; Kallizar realized she was lying down again. She heard Mai’s voice, low and frightened. “Naloi, go. She’s got a horse at the edge of the city. The prince is with his men at No’om. Tell him to hurry…”

Words from the Wise

Quotes from important people from Fyan's history. As a date reference, Tijak was king when Kallizar first joined the Fyanish High Court, and not long after that the prince Mikael became Commander General. High Prophet Zahn was the Prophet living in Xuun during Tijak's, and then Fawlen's, reign. All the rest of the people lived in a time before Kallizar. Lillith and Ri'hannon, of course, live throughout history as gods watching over the mortal realm.  

 

"The power of magic and even the might of the gods pales beside the strength of love we hold for one another.” -Sorcerer Jarrod,  Prophet of Lillith

 

“Do not try to live up to my name. Instead, make yours one for all generations to remember. You are strong and your heart is great – protect and love your people and they will sing of you until the stars go out.”  -Tijak, late king of Fyan, spoken to his son and heir, Fawlen

 

"An icy thrill rippled through me, and a chilling shudder passed through my body. My heart quaked within me and I clapped my hands to my pounding head. I cried for mercy; I called out for Ri’hannon’s gentle hand.

But the voice that answered me was not Ri’hannon. ‘Guess again, mortal.' The sound of her words thundered in my ears, rattling my bones. ‘You shall have your mercy, for I will stay my wrath. And you shall be my Prophet.’”  -Sorcerer Jarrod

 

“Know your objective. Watch for your enemy. Do not let anything stop you from moving forward to the very end. We are soldiers of Fyan – we will not fail; we will not fall!” -Mikael, Commander General

 

“And so men discovered the pain that came with the fires of magic. Their healing nature kept the Sorcerer from sickness and healed even his most grievous of wounds. They protected his body. But those flames weighed heavily on the Sorcerer’s soul, forcing him to say good-bye to everyone he had once loved as they aged and fell around him.” -Wrade the Historian

 

"Some say we fear what we cannot see. I think, rather, that we fear what we can see and yet cannot change, what we cannot stop, what we cannot control. Helplessness ignites the worst fears in us all.”  -Izmund, Prophet of Ri’hannon

 

"Close your eyes and look at what you see, and your sight will be made clear.”  -excerpt from the Book of the Gods

 

"All that you were is a part of who you are, even if who you are is not who you once were. And at the end, you will have been all that you were meant to be, for only you can choose which path in life you walk and where your steps may fall.”  -Prophet Izmund

 

"You say you do not believe, but it is your faith that will be your undoing.”  -Sorcerer Jarrod, Prophet of Lillith

 

“Regard this day with honor and glory, and celebrate the birth of our country, our Fyan! Let there be no quarrel between noble and common, between House or trader or Sorcerer or Prophet or farmer. Let every citizen gather together in celebration of our heritage and our future. And every year shall the High Court hold such a celebration that only the gods be spoken of more highly.”  -Ny’mara, High Queen of Fyan

 

"By the gods do I so live. In the gods do I so die. My faith makes me fearless.”  -part of the oath sworn by the Fyanish military

 

“If I could, I would wrench my soul from my body, so that I would not have to bear the sorrows of these long years. But the tears I shed must suffice.”  -Sorcerer Zeke

 

"'Have faith,’ he cried, ‘I cannot fail! My magic is the highest power!’

But magic cannot make you immortal, Sorcerer. That crackling you hear is not your flames– it is the sound of your soul breaking.”  -High Prophet Zahn

 

“We are not in your world, but we can see your suffering. We are not all-knowing, but we can feel your pain. We do not hold ultimate power, and we marvel at your strength. Mortals, your gods do watch over you.”  -Lillith and Ri’hannon

 

"People born with magic become Sorcerers. People born with power become legends.”  -Shaana the Wise

FITB: The Beginning

Meet Riat, Aeva, and Kallizar for the first time in this clip of the first one thousand words of Fire in the Blood. “Stand up, boy, and don’t make me tell you again or you’ll have my sword at your back!”

Riat tried to straighten his sore muscles, but they rebelled and he winced involuntarily. It had been a long, hard march to get to the slave markets, and it was only the beginning of a long and miserable day. He had no misconceptions about it being otherwise. Riat was twenty-three, and after eleven years in the slave trade, he knew exactly what was coming.

The trader glowered at him and drew his shortsword. “I said stand up!” he snapped, slapping the flat of the blade hard against the base of Riat’s spine.

“Careful, Maakus,” called another man from a few feet down. “If you hit it too hard, no one will want it.”

Riat, who had been knocked to his knees by the blow, did not know whether to thank the Sorcerer who had spoken or hate him even more. Not that it mattered.

Maakus grumbled but sheathed the sword. “Fine.” He grabbed Riat by the hair and yanked him to his feet, ignoring the young man’s cry of pain. He stared into Riat’s dark blue eyes with a creepy-looking smile. “Guess you owe Sorcerer Danis, now, slave.”

The Sorcerer grabbed Maakus and pulled him to the side. “Hush now. Here comes your first customer of the day.” He stepped away, adopting a pose of feigned indifference. His presence at the slave markets was required by law throughout all of Varaetí: a Sorcerer must be present to ensure fairness of deals and prevent stealing of slaves – or attempts at escape. But Danis had become a good friend of Maakus over the years, so he rarely did anything that would result in less money for the trader.

The customers did not know, of course. They knew that Sorcerer Danis was from the king: the tattoo on his left wrist proved him to be a registered member of King Steph’non’s protective network of Sorcerers. Of course he would be doing everything in his power to ensure fairness to the citizens of Varaetí.

Riat looked around dully for the first customers, wondering what kind of slaves they were after. It was an older man, which meant Riat was probably safe for now… although he didn’t envy the girl that would likely end up with him.

The man bought a tan-skinned brunette in the end, somewhere in her late teens. From what Riat could see, she did not appear to understand a word of what was being said, which meant she was probably from Fyan, the country across the sea. Riat looked down as the man, smiling too widely, took the girl by the arm and pulled her away.

Not long after, Sorcerer Danis suddenly stiffened. “Maakus, look sharp,” he hissed quietly. “We’ve got a Sorcerer on the way. A powerful one.”

Maakus grinned. Sorcerers were his best buyers. They loved to use slaves for all kinds of magical experiments.

Riat knew this, too. Please, Ri’hannon, he begged, praying to the god of mercy, please let the Sorcerer pass me by.

However, even as scared as Riat was, he could not look away when the Sorcerer entered the market. She was eerily beautiful, with short, auburn hair and pale skin that was just colored enough to hint at foreign blood somewhere in her line. Of more interest was the glow that seemed to emanate from beneath her skin. It was faint, but still there. Her clothes, Riat could see by a glance, were well-made – fine silk and soft leather, dyed a striking mix of red and black. He had done work for a tailor once, a few years back, but nothing like this.

Beside her, Riat saw a girl – a young woman in age similar to Riat. She had the fair skin of the Vaerish and Riat knew she was no relation to the Sorcerer. Her hair was much lighter, her stature much shorter than the tall Sorcerer.

Riat watched as the Sorcerer bent and whispered into the young woman’s ear. A friend, perhaps? Or a friend’s daughter? Riat latched onto his curiosity, using it as a guard against his fear.

Unfortunately it evaporated when the young woman pointed at him. The Sorcerer nodded and began to approach him. Why, why did it have to be me? Riat mourned silently, trying to look as useless as possible.

The Sorcerer came right up to him and then did something incredible. She knelt down and looked into his lowered face. Riat tried to hunch away without looking like he was doing so, but his sore muscles prevented him from bending that far.

“Hello, young man.”

Riat looked up without meaning to. Had he heard her correctly? Her words had a lilt to them, telling Riat that Vaerish was not her native tongue, but it was not enough to make him confuse that greeting. Then he saw her face and nearly fainted.

It was not terrible, or scarred, or filled with malice. On the contrary, the Sorcerer’s oddly pale skin gave her a strange kind of beauty. Her jaw was strong and her mouth was curved into a gentle smile. But her eyes quickly captured all of Riat’s attention. They were light grey, which was odd enough. But the truly frightening thing was the flames that burned behind them. They flickered and danced quietly, having no apparent effect on her whatsoever. Was she crazed? Taken by a spirit? Or was this merely a trick she had used in order to frighten him? Magic could do anything. He had seen Sorcerer Davis do some terrifying things on more than one occasion.

The Sorcerer blinked her frightening eyes once, and Riat realized something else: these eyes were kind. They held a look of kindness.

“Can you understand me, young man?” the Sorcerer asked.

Riat swallowed. “Yes, Sorcerer,” he whispered.

“Then could you please tell me, young man: what is your name?”

Riat was completely bewildered. She had asked him a question, not issued him a command. Moreover, she had asked for his name. No one, ever, had done that.

He tried not to hyperventilate. “My name? My name is Riat, Sorcerer.”

The Sorcerer smiled again and extended her hand to him. “Hello, Riat. My name is Kallizar, and I am here to buy your freedom.”

***

Kallizar waited a moment for her words to sink in.

Beside her, Aeva tried not to look uncomfortable. She remembered the slave trade all too well, having run away from it only one year ago. Running into Kallizar had been an accident, but it had been the best thing to happen to her so far. She hoped this Riat would be able to say the same thing.

Kallizar glanced at Aeva. “Stay with him while I go take care of… business.”

“Still in one piece, Kallizar,” Aeva warned quietly.

Kallizar ignored her and walked coolly up to where both Maakus and Danis stood, trying to look as though they had not just been in a heated discussion over what they had overheard.

Maakus cleared his throat and smiled. “Welcome, Sorcerer. I take it you have found something to your liking?”

Kallizar gritted her teeth. “The boy named Riat. What is his price?”

Maakus had to look down the line to see which slave Kallizar was referencing. “Seventy gold Daari.”

Danis paid no attention whatsoever to the following bout of haggling. He was much too preoccupied with the Sorcerer herself. Her power was immense! He could see it in her eyes as well as sense it around her. The flames of her magic roared in her eyes, and they burned with a strength he had never before seen. The flames in his own eyes were barely visible. He swallowed his jealousy quickly. If this Sorcerer was so strong, she could likely do anything she wanted – including make his life very good, if this sale went well.

When she handed over a large pouch of gold, Danis could not help but stare, his heart suddenly pounding. The Sorcerer’s left wrist was bare. She had no tattoo.

She was not registered.

Kallizar returned to Aeva’s side. “Riat,” she said gently, addressing him, “I have paid your price. You are no longer bound to Maakus.”

“Am I now bound to you, Sorcerer?” Riat asked. He smiled a very little bit. Perhaps this Sorcerer would be nicer than the rest.

Kallizar shook her head. “No, Riat. You are no longer bound to anyone. You are free.”

Aeva smiled at Riat. “It sounds crazy, but it’s true. She did the same for me.”

Riat was not so sure. “Then why are you still with her? Why didn’t you leave?”

Aeva shrugged. “Where else would I go? Kallizar has given me a home. She gave me more than I could have gotten if I had tried to go somewhere else. I’m safe with her.”

“Then if you’re not looking for a slave,” asked Riat, “why did you come to the slave market, Sorcerer?”

The seriousness in Kallizar’s gaze made Riat feel almost crushed beneath its weight. “Because I know that terror.”

FITB: Lee and Z

The manuscript for EUD (Book 1) is currently out to a friend for proofing. The manuscript for FHBB (Book 2) is finished, but I'm still in the first round of revisions. It's exciting, seeing the two big binders on the shelf with print-outs of my novels. Hopefully soon they'll be in real bound-print format. For those of you who don't know anything about FHBB, here's a fun introduction (taken from the script) to one of my favorite characters. And Lee takes great pride in his pirate slang, so he better not hear you mocking him. For those who do know more of this story, here's also the first mention of Z being uptight. I suspect The Glass may make an appearance in a future post to share this wonderfulness with everyone. :)

***

Even below decks, Kallizar could hear the shouts of the Saphira’s crew mixing in with the jeers of the pirates. One particularly loud man’s shout was audible even above the din. “Run an’ hide, ye cowardly Vaerish dogs! Cap’n Freeman’s come to get ye!”

“You won’t take me without a fight!” Captain Cath screamed back.

Someone laughed, and then Kallizar lost all traces of understandable conversation to the roar of the battle.

It did not last long. The merchant men, hopelessly outnumbered, were subdued in minutes. Some of them died, screaming or cursing, but Kallizar tried to ignore it. All that mattered was that Aeva and Riat were safe.

“Search the ship. Cap’n wants to make sure everyone’s up to see their cap’n dispatched,” a female shouted, causing a round of coarse laughter from the pirate crew.

Kallizar brought her magic to her hands. If they thought to take her quietly, they were mistaken. If Kallizar had her way, they would not be taking her anywhere.

Heavy footsteps thudded down the stairs. A huge, muscled man came into view, his eyes darting expertly around. When he saw Kallizar, he grinned. “Ye gonna play nice or is Lee gonna have to make ye come up?”

Kallizar recognized his voice as the man who had shouted the insult about the Vaerish dogs.

The man, seeming to get a better view of her, suddenly furrowed his brow. “Ye look awful too pretty to be a part o’ that rubbish crew,” he said. “Ye sure ye be on the right ship?”

Kallizar was completely confused by the man’s statement. “You mean, I should be on your ship?” she asked, not letting her defenses down.

The man laughed. “My ship?” he chuckled. “I’m not the cap’n, and the Fury not be me ship. But I have me place. Cap’n Freeman seems better than this what ye got yerself here.” He arched an eyebrow at her. “Or don’ ye know that this ship here belongs to one o’ the crummiest, scummiest, evilest cap’ns still sailin’?”

Kallizar did not know how to respond, so she said nothing.

“True, true,” he said with a shrug. “Creepin’ Cath an’ his two-timin’ trades.”

“Lee! Ye get killed down there, or what? By the Gods, ye take forever!” the woman called.

Lee rolled his eyes. “Zandra, gettin’ all uptight,” he explained to the surprised Sorcerer. “But I guess she be right. Come on, then.” He gestured for Kallizar to follow him.

“No.” Kallizar was mildly entertained by Lee’s nonchalant behavior, but she was not going to simply leave Aeva and Riat and follow him up into the middle of a bunch of pirates who were, doubtless, less casual than this one.

Lee frowned. “Come on, lass. I know ye be smart or ye wouldn’ be still standin’, talkin’ to me. Ye would have screamed or fainted or some other somesuch nonsense. I know yer not afraid, an’ I know why, too.” He pointed at Kallizar’s lightning. “Ye have the magic in yer blood. But I got a secret for ye.” He winked. “I’m not afraid of yer magic.”

Kallizar tried not to let her growing surprise show. “Do you have a proposition, or are you merely going to chat me to death?” Kallizar asked him. “Either fight or leave me alone.”

Lee smiled. “Those be bad choices, Sorcerer lass. I’d love to let ye stay, but I have me orders, and the Cap’n doesn’t take well to people not obeyin’ his orders.”

“Then I guess we’ll have to fight. How does your captain take to having dead crew members?” Kallizar retorted.

Lee shook his head. “Truth be told, I would take it much worse than the Cap’n if ye killed me,” he said, “but the Cap’n would still take it pretty bad.”

Kallizar shot a bolt of lightning at Lee’s knee, aiming to stop him without killing him. Gods help her, but she liked the man.

***

Kallizar: Glimpse of the Future

No spoilers here, other than Kallizar is the main character for all three books (which you likely already knew). Since this piece is actually significantly longer and more in depth, when I decided to post it I edited out all the spoiler-y parts from Book 2 for you. :)  

Kallizar has grown drastically throughout her nearly two centuries of life. She has  reached the point where it takes a lot to make her frightened, and she has a will that is not easily broken. Instead, she is willing to do whatever it takes to survive, and to protect those who have put their trust and their lives in her hands. More than ever, Kallizar lives for the moment, since the past is filled with bitter memories and the future is frightening because she will outlive her friends. However, the past still leaves scars that Kallizar cannot ignore, and she has had to face the consequences of them on more than one occasion.

Overall, Kallizar is an aggressive person. She takes things into her own hands whenever possible and doesn’t back down from a fight. She is hot-tempered and rash but can quickly calculate the best plan of attack based on her long life’s experiences. She has no talent for swords whatsoever but is quite capable with her staff… not to mention the vast array of spells at her command. She is extremely smart and witty, and loves to tease people. She is also very opinionated but will sometimes admit when she is wrong.

In its natural state, Kallizar’s magic presents as red lightning and she has used it for a huge variety of spells, ranging from simple summoning to complex warping of space and time to travel great distances in seconds. Some things she cannot do, however, include teleportation and healing (her magic is a foreign thing to other bodies and thus they fight against it). Any spell she casts uses up some of her strength, so she cannot use many powerful spells at one time or she will become unconscious (or die, if the spell’s pressure is great enough).

Kallizar’s favorite color is red, and she loves storms and dark forests and the sea. She is very empathetic towards slaves and the mistreated because of her own past. She hates commands and manipulation, and is irritated by foolishness and weakness (especially her own).

Kallizar does not hold to religion. Although she will readily acknowledge the existence of the Moon Gods, she does not attend service, nor does she hold any kind of faith in the gods themselves – although she does admit the power of the Prophets, especially when it comes to healing.

Kallizar speaks Fyanish and Vaerish, and her motto would be, “Knowledge is not power but rather fuels power, and those with both knowledge and power will rule their world.”

At the Hands of a Hunter

Alec - Vampyra, wild cousin of the vampire. Bound by the new moon and the nightmare of nightmares, this Vampyra can still feel fear... and it has been said that Hunters know how to make even demons hide their faces. Click on the tag "Alec" in the word bubble to read more about Alec and the people in her world!

 

 

Hunt me no longer. End the terror that keeps me prisoner. Such pleas have never crossed my lips, but I have never wished for anything so hard in my life.

 

Of course the Hunter does not oblige. Even if he could hear my pleas, he would not. But I can only beg silently. My jaw is held tightly shut. Paralyzed, but not by fear. By iron. A cold, cruel iron stake through my heart. The point of it protrudes from my back, into the ground where I’ve fallen. I cannot free myself – the iron freezes my boy, rendering me completely vulnerable to whatever the Hunter has in store for me.

And the pain… the pain at the hands of a Hunter, the torture he can devise, it is worse than the Turning that so many have endured. I would rather have been Turned a thousand times than fall victim to one Hunter.

Tears born from that agony creep silently from the corners of my eyes, forbidden but still present. I cannot blink them away, and they leave a shining, cool streak down my temples to the ground.

The Hunter grabs me by the ankles. I try to fight back, but I cannot even twitch my toes. The Vampyra within me snarls at his touch, even of his soft black gloves. He gives a nasty yank, jerking me forward. The end of the iron spike drags a rough furrow along the ground, wrenching me into new agonies. Screams tear at my throat but cannot escape. I endure silently, by force, unable even to close my eyes against the pain wracking my chest. Along the furrow is a smeared, sticky trail. Although I cannot see it, I know it is there.

Even though my heart does not beat, it can still feel pain. The twisting, jolting, of that spike is such fierce pain, I long to pass out, to flee from my feelings. But such is the true cruelty of iron: we must remain awake, conscious, for every second. We must feel everything.

Is it any wonder why we hate and fear the Hunters so?

Worse fear wraps around me as I realize where we are headed, where the Hunter is dragging my immobile body. Into the last, fading rays of sunlight.

There is nothing I can do. I am going to die. My only consolation is that, because I am a Vampyra, it will be quicker than he expects. He will not be able to torture me for long.

We stop moving for a moment while he regains his breath. When he sees my stone face, he laughs viciously.

Beside me, my tears fall with a whispered splash into the seeping pool of black-red blood.

Akitis and the Poison Blade, Part 2

Part 1 introduces Akitis to the world, so if you don't know who she is, that would be the place to start. This piece directly follows Part 2, picking up the conversation where Part 2 left off. In other news, Even unto Death is getting closer to a smooth draft. I'm very happy with the scenes I've already edited - I feel like I'm actually making progress! Yes! Soon, I think, it will be time to send it out...

***

“Beating or not, it will still hurt when I tear it from your chest,” the vampire hissed, her eyes blazing with hatred.

“Enough!” The declaration came from Namryn, who had looked up from the registry book with tired frustration. “There are bounties listed for all whom you’ve brought us tonight, Shadowknives. You shall be paid for your efforts, as usual.”

“Excellent. I’d hate to think you were backing out on me,” Akitis replied smoothly.

Sheila glowered.

“And you in turn will surrender the medallions.”

This voice was new. It grated and moaned like the last gasps of the dead against one’s ears. The assassin's eyes flickered quickly around the room to catch the speaker, and when she realized who it was, she stiffened instinctively.

One of the demons looked back at her, its glittering amber eyes barely more than vertical slits. Usually, the creature kept itself shrouded in shadows, but now, as it spoke, they shivered away to reveal its true form.

Four arms rested against the tabletop. Two hands were folded calmly, held motionless, but the other two were curled atop the wood, the tips of their long claws clacking as the demon drummed his fingers in an almost casual movement. There were no facial expressions, for there was no face – only blackness in what Akitis could only think of as a feline shape. She imagined the demon standing properly, four arms and two legs to the ground, and realized it looked similar to the giant black cats that roamed the foothills of the Gothemere Mountains – aside from the extra limbs. She could even make out the tip of the demon’s long tail above the edge of the table. But those cats did not instill the fear Akitis now felt as she looked into the demon’s eyes.

“The medallions stay with me,” she said. The laughter was gone from her voice, but the power remained. Never show fear to an enemy. Never show weakness. Falter and you will die.

“What use are they to you? You have your gold,” the demon replied. Just barely, Akitis could hear masculine tones behind the words.

“What use are they to you? If you want them, you should have taken them yourself,” Akitis retorted. “What I kill, I own. These are my trophies and I am not bound by anything to hand them to another. Particularly not to you.”

“Then take your gold and go,” Namryn said, crossing the last of the names off his list. “Here.” He tossed a sack of gold to the assassin.

Akitis caught it one-handed and tucked it away without releasing the medallions. “A pleasure, as always,” she said, nodding sarcastically to Sheila in particular. “Any new jobs for me? Otherwise I’m out. Spent too long in this dank little hole already.”

Loranus slid a sheet of paper toward her. “The latest requests.”

Akitis scanned the list. “Nothing special… more werewolves? Full moon’s not for another few weeks. Let’s see… usual bunch of vampires… this one posted by a human though, that could be interesting… aha, here’s something fun.” She smiled. “So the Halps manor ghost finally pissed someone off enough to list. Excellent.” She folded the paper and pocketed it. “Done. I’ll be back when those wolves finally get around to showing themselves.”

“I hope they drag your shredded carcass in here for me to feed upon,” snarled the werewolf from the other end of the room. Even in her human form, her speech was rough and low.

Akitis snorted. “Keep a leash on your pet, Loranus,” she said, “or you might find yourself needing a replacement.”

“Get out, Shadowknives,” Loranus shot back.

Akitis laughed again and stepped toward the door.

“I’ll be waiting for you, half-blood,” Sheila snapped.

Akitis spun around, tossing a silver blade at the vampire’s shoulder. It found its mark perfectly and the room began to stink of burning blood. “Keep that,” Akitis called back to the snarling woman. “Call it a gift.”

As she turned back around, her eyes caught the glowing slits of the demon who had spoken earlier. Neither moved. No one spoke, but Akitis still heard the vile whispers crawling towards her. I can see you, little black Shadowknives. I can see the Darkness in your heart.

Akitis’ vision blurred. Her breath froze in her chest and her head pounded. And she felt the crawling within her, the stirring of the Dark Magick as it answered the call. We keep this body, Calmo-rin, it said. You will keep the silence. The Dark Magick will keep the silence and we will have this creature descended to us. And she will bathe in your blood even as we feed on her life.

Akitis shuddered. She grabbed at the Dark Magick and pulled it down, down into the depths of her silent heart and locked the door once more. It raged and fought, as always, but Akitis would not let up until every strand was once again locked away. Her vision refocused and she found herself still staring at the demon. Calmo-rin, she thought. The Dark Magick had named this demon Calmo-rin. When Akitis finished her new weapon, this Calmo-rin would be the first to die. It had been the Dark Magick binding his unnatural creation that had resonated with the Magick within herself, and had forced her to fight it again.

And the Dark Magick was getting stronger. Every time she beat it back, the task was more difficult. Every time she locked it away, the doors weakened.

Before the Poison Blade could figure out what had taken place in those seconds, Akitis vanished from the room. Sprinting down the corridor at full vampire speed, she was outside before the door to the council had fully swung shut. But even outside, with the cool night air against her skin, Akitis sweated. Fully changed creatures had no battle with the Dark Magick. It worked the change and sealed itself inside the medallion, giving the creature its strengths and weaknesses according to its race. But Akitis had not fully changed. She alone battled the Dark Magick as it swarmed inside her, trying to tear down her mind and destroy her from within.

Akitis gritted her teeth and headed for home. She would find the vampire who had marked her – the one so inept or so careless that he could not even control the change. She would make the Dark Magick tell her the reason it longed for her, why it healed fatal wounds instead of finding a different host to control. Akitis drew her orange blade and nicked the tip of one finger, reveling in the fierce pain that came with life.

She would not lose.

Envisioned, Part 3

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them originally.  

The instant my skin touched the glass, pain reared up behind my eyes. Pressure made them feel that they were about to burst out of my skull, and I squinched my eyelids closed, just to be safe. Somewhere else in my head I was sure there were knives being stabbed into me, but I couldn’t tell where. My focus dimmed and I wondered vaguely if this really was the one that was going to kill me.

Think of something else. Nothing came, the pain was too intense. There were pyres in my skull, their towering flames rearing up to devour me. Molten heat dripped inside my brain, covering my head in its sadistic torture and making me break out in a sweat. I half-expected the flower to melt beneath my hand, but the heat was all within me. I shuddered as another flash of agony ripped through me, threatening to tear my body apart from the inside. With what little focus I lad left, I concentrated on keeping my hand on the rose.

A tiny, distant sliver of myself marveled at my strength. Look at what I could go through. But then again, I had done this before. I knew what to expect, more or less. Yet it did nothing to lessen the pain.

Only a second later, the vision began. I welcomed the distraction from the pain, choosing to ignore the part where it would get worse as it went on. Random images flared in my sight: molten glass, a woman’s hand tracing the petals with a short finger, money passing over it as it rested on a wooden counter. My hopes began to die as the flashes continued without any information about my quest.

Wait, there – one second, not even a whole second, but I had seen something. Her hand on the rose. And a note beside it, clutched in her other hand, one word written on it: Duke.

More images flooded me, blurring together so quickly I had no chance to decipher them. The pain in my head throbbed. My limbs shook; my system was telling me it had had enough. One leg gave out and I tipped sideways, nearly smashing the rose.

I had to concentrate. Get my hand off this thing, before it killed me. How did my hand work? Uncurl the fingers. There we go.

It took only ten seconds to get my hand free, but it felt much, much longer than that to my tortured body. Finally, I let my hand drop, empty, down to my side.

The pain subsided. The pictures ceased. I was left in the blessed dim light, myself again. Each breath I took shuddered through me, and I sank shakily to my knees to keep from falling over. I kept my eyes closed, but the images of the rose would not dim.

There's a Lot in a Name...

A while back, when I was first starting the Immortal Flames trilogy, I asked a group of friends for ideas for names for the two gods who would be part of the world. I gave the descriptions for both, saying that there would be a female who would be the God of Wrath, and a male who would be the God of Mercy, and that they were long-time lovers. Neither one was ever meant to be considered "evil" or "good" since there are multiple ways to apply or withhold wrath and mercy. The names I liked the best were the ones I have now: Lillith, God of Wrath, and Ri'hannon, God of Mercy.

As I watch and read more and more stories, I see "Lilith" come up again and again, and she's always evil. And creepy. And demonic. And I decided it might be time for me to change the name of my God of Wrath, because I don't want people to see the name "Lillith" and instantly think "evil and demonic" because that's not the way my character operates. Trouble is, I've been using the name Lillith for a few years now and it feels like a good fit. And also, I'm not sure what I would use instead.

So here's where you all come in. When I introduced Lillith, did you automatically assume she was an evil god because of her name? Do you have any name suggestions that would be suitable for a God of Wrath that doesn't instantly imply something evil? Or maybe you thought the name Lillith was fine and don't see any reason I should change it?

I'm looking for suggestions and opinions, so if you have anything, please share it in a comment! Thanks for taking the time and interest to help make my characters the best they can be! :)

 

(P.S. - You can search for all my previous posts about Lillith and/or Ri'hannon using the tags of their names, or with the Search box at the top of the page.)

Meet Sam Kaplan

Remember Jean? Here's the scoop on her counterpart, Samuel Kaplan.  

Sam Kaplan

Age: 25

Profession: Bodyguard

Favorite Pastime: Brawling (Kicking Ass)

Notable Activities: Drinking, Gambling (moderately), Occasional Art Immersion

Languages: English (bits of French from Jean)

Sam Kaplan was born in NYC. His father is a member of the old NYC mob, a fact that only a select few know. Nothing is known about his mother – it is assumed she was a hooker. At any rate, Sam was raised to be a quiet, observant man with patience, confidence, and a large dose of kick-assery. Many people have (wrongly) assumed Sam’s quiet nature to be a sign of stupidity, and when they have attempted to attack him, they have paid in missing teeth, broken bones, and bruised egos. Sam is a small but very fit man who blends easily into the background – making him ideal as a bodyguard, hence his current employment to Jean. His previous jobs include Judo instructor, debt collector, taxi driver, and museum guard. This last job, particularly, gave him some insight into the world of arts, and explains why he was on his way to a gallery opening the night he met Jean.

He has told Jean very little about his background (for obvious reasons), but instead of putting her off, as his silence did most people, Jean became intrigued and asked if he would like to be paid to be her bodyguard. The pay was considerably better than his previous job and he accepted. He is now happily employed and is most at home when he gets to throw around people who get too close to his employer.

As far as romance goes, Sam has had two girlfriends, neither of which were very serious. One was shot and killed and the other left him for a very old, very ill, very rich man. Sam does not hate women but simply does not have time for a dedicated relationship. He knows Jean by reputation and thinks that, if anything, the talk about her does not do her justice. She is a very spirited, very beautiful woman. He has not admitted, openly or privately, whether there was anything more than professional interest when he agreed to hire on as Jean’s bodyguard. Speculations, however, are leaning toward yes.

Miss Jean Levoix

A character sketch for a gaming character that ended up not being used. Potential writing material? We'll have to wait and see...  

Jean Levoix

Age: 27

Profession: none

Favorite Pastime: Socializing

Notable Activities: Smoking, Flirting, Drinking

Languages: French, English

Jean moved to America with her parents when she was 6 years old. Her father was a very successful artist who instilled a love of the arts in Jean before both he and his wife were murdered for his pocket money shortly after the Crash (when Jean was about 12). Jean was not with them at the time. She inherited a vast sum of money (mostly jewels and gold but some money also) and attended a school for women until she graduated with a degree in English and a pretense of becoming a librarian. However, she never worked, preferring to spend her time frequenting the clubs and galleries in NYC. She is always dressed to kill and has had many suitors chase her, but so far she has not had a relationship lasting more than a few months. The most recent one, with an older gentleman named Byron Worthington, ended over a year ago when Byron proposed and Jean politely but completely declined. She is a favorite of many of the club owners and often gets in for free because of the other company she attracts. Jean loves to study human interaction, which is why she can be found frequenting the upper and lower crust clubs and bars. In the high class businesses she is welcomed as a member and a friend. In the low class businesses she is a source of intrigue and income. A welcome piece of eye-candy in the down-and-outs of the post-Crash, pre-War people. Jean has recently been seen often in the company of a young man (a shock in and of itself, as all her other male “companions” were much older than she). Speculation runs rampant about the nature of the man and his relationship with “Jeanie” or “Miss Levoix,” depending on who one were to ask, but nothing is known for sure. So long as there is no ring on her finger, the other single men remain hopeful that they have a shot with “the hottest broad in NYC.”

Jean’s companion is a young man named Samuel (Sam) Kaplan. She met him in a taxi on the way to an art gallery opening, and after a long and interesting discussion, discovered that he was available for hire as a bodyguard. He is extremely good at his job, even having ties to the NYC mob (which he keeps out of the public's eye, of course). Jean hired him out of self-preservation and out of curiosity. The nature of their relationship beyond employer-employee remains to be seen, but if Jean’s private thoughts are anything to judge by, there may be some budding romance.

Lamentations

It is autumn, and the forest around your castle is alive with color even now, in the early night. Licks of candle-flames sear through every leaf, bursting into colors as bright as the sun. The dark stone of the castle seems even more beautiful with the fiery frame of the trees surrounding it. Around your garden, the silvery ivy begins to slow its creepers, anchoring itself deep within the sleepy earth for the winter it knows is not far away. The few flowers you planted display their soft clothes in silence. Your fine horses prance around their pasture, stomping their glinting hooves and sending their mournful songs up to the heavens. They do not know where you have gone. They whinny anxiously, hoping you will answer their desperate call. I do not know what to do, how to tell them the truth, so I rub their velvety noses for a moment before returning to the garden. I can see my breath in little white wisps as I kneel down beside you, as I tell you all that has happened since you left. There is no comfort for me in this place, even in all the beauty that surrounds it. Like you, it will soon pass away into the dregs of winter’s memory.

But you know none of this, for you are locked away inside an iron box, forced there by others’ hatred. A white marble stone sits above your head, marking the spot where you lay, hidden from the world. How I wish I could have you in my arms, your head against my chest and your hand in mine, as I rest beneath this old oak tree! But, I do not have the key to unlock you from your prison of death.

I lay a single, red rose on your grave. The moonlight illuminates each droplet of dew on the rose’s petals, turning them into shimmering tears. They are not the first tears that have been shed over your grave, but I worry that, after I am gone, they will be the last.

For Her Brother's Sake

Here's a character intro for a story I'm writing about time travel. She is one of the three main characters. So far I have the main characters and the world build/rules hashed out, and I'm just filling out character sketches to get a feel for the story. Danny was awesome. Annoying as hell sometimes, but always there when it really counted. That’s what big brothers were for, right? Like the time when I was five, and we were climbing trees in the backyard. Dad told us not to but we did anyway – like we gave a damn what “Dad” said, even back then. And when I fell out of the tree and broke my arm, Danny scooped me up and took me in to the ER or wherever, but he teased me about my crying the whole way there. Or when I was fourteen and had my first boyfriend ever – although calling him a real boyfriend now seems like a real joke… honestly, no one can seriously date at fourteen. You’re so confused about too much stuff, like starting high school and being one of the “young adults” of the world, and finally getting privileges from your parents (if you’re lucky), and learning to drive, and figuring out just what the hell it means to actually be mature (and meet other people who are just as “mature” as you are).

Anyway, the point was, when we broke up, Danny listened to my sob story and then promptly told me I was just being an angsty teen and that sooner or later I’d better get a grip on myself and realize that there were better people in the world than scumbags like that who would dump me for some sleaze. Later, I saw my ex with a black eye. I laughed at him and thought about kicking him in the shin, but decided not to (not because I was too mature… because my teacher was standing about four feet away from us and I probably would have ended up with a detention).

Yeah, Danny was awesome. He was the golden child of the family. My parents loved “their Daniel”: he was all A’s in school, played center on the soccer team in high school and got a full ride to college. Strong, handsome, smart, and just great. Girls couldn’t get enough of him, but he never dated anyone, that I know of. He knew they were all just shallow, sleazy girls who wanted a piece of the stardom. Danny was better than that.

He was better than anyone I had ever known… he was the only one who ever acted like they really loved me. I was the “oops” child, and my parents always regretted not having an abortion. Danny was twelve when I was born, so he was always looking out for me. Mom and Dad never cared about what I did – they just didn’t want to hear about all my screw-ups. So when I broke my arm falling out of the tree, Danny said we had been playing at the park and he pushed me too hard and I fell. He knew he’d never get punished, no matter what… and especially not for something as trivial as breaking the oops child’s arm. And when I got into a fight (that I didn’t start) at middle school and the principle sent letters home to the parents, Danny got the mail and stole the letter so they wouldn’t find out and punish me.

He never, ever left me alone with them if he could help it. I even started staying at college with him when he moved away, because we were afraid of what Mom and Dad would do to me if I was always alone in the house with them. Danny told everyone I was his niece that he had adopted because her parents had died. Everyone there loved me… it was weird, but nice. I had a family of college guys, and they were cooler and way better of a family than my “real” parents had ever been.

And when the strange stuff started, Danny refused to look away. He said that no matter what, he was going to stick by me. He wasn’t some crummy shithead like Mom or Dad who would dump me on the street because of some weird-ass vibe I had. He was going to try and help figure out what was going on… no matter how creepy it felt.

I was so glad to know that. The strange vibe, the “feeling” that had been surrounding me had been getting more and more potent, and it was starting to creep out some of the other guys. I remember one of them, Mike, I think his name was, coming by Danny’s room and saying, “Dude, you’ve got some major psycho thing going on here. What are you doing?”

Danny’s answer was that he was just tired and cranky because of some project or other he hadn’t gotten done yet that was due soon. Mike seemed to believe him. But as soon as he left, Danny closed his door and sat down next to me. “Millie,” he said, using his nickname for me (my real name was Amelia), “do you know what’s going on? What’s with this ‘Danger’ aura you’re sending off all the time?”

I had no clue. Apparently, I was surrounded by this feeling, this aura, that I was dangerous, and everyone else was picking up on it. I was nervous – what if I got Danny in trouble? Or if I got kicked out? I’d have to go back and live with Mom and Dad – and I sure as hell didn’t want to do that.

Danny didn’t get in trouble. I didn’t get kicked out. But I still had to go back to the house, because I couldn’t live at the college anymore. Danny was out late one night, at a party for one of his friends, and there was a party crash by one of the city’s local gangs. There weren’t very many of them, but they had been drinking… and they had guns. Danny took a bullet for the girl who had been having the party. She called an ambulance, but he bled out before they could save him.

The gang got busted and arrested by the cops, but I didn’t care. Danny was dead.

The girl came to see me. She was cute – pretty, even – and had puffy red eyes. She told me what Danny had done, how he had saved her life, and that she was really sorry for me. She offered to do what she could to help me, but there wasn’t anything to be done. She wasn’t going to be able to take care of me. Danny had been a part-time student and a part-time worker so he could earn enough money to take care of me. This girl wouldn’t be able to do that. I could tell just by looking at her. Plus, it wouldn’t be long before my “dangerous” vibe kicked in and scared her off, anyway.

I thanked her and left. Looking back on it now, I wonder if she and Danny were dating, after all… the way she talked about him, she seemed like she really cared about him, and that he was important to her. And I guess she must have been important to him, too, since he took a bullet for her and died for her.

Mom and Dad were pissed. They were shocked, of course, and totally upset and grieving that their son had died, but mostly they were pissed at me. They blamed me for Danny’s death. If I hadn’t been with him, he would still be alive. Why didn’t I use my freakish power and save his life? I was useless, completely useless. What a waste of a child. They couldn’t believe that their genes had made something so grossly pathetic and worthless. I should have died instead. Why hadn’t I died and let Danny live? I couldn’t even have done the only useful thing possible and traded myself for him?

Then they started to come after me with more than just words – and the words hurt bad enough. Mom got the first slap in, right across the face. I was a little surprised that she could hit that hard. I think that’s what caught me off guard for Dad’s turn. He landed a solid punch to my nose, breaking it on impact. It bled everywhere, making them yell and scream even more about how I was ruining the carpet and my clothes, never bothering to appreciate all the things I had before I just ruined them all with my useless, worthless self. As though I purposely kept the blood flowing, just to piss them off.

Of course, as soon as that thought crossed my mind, I decided to get a little revenge. I blew my nose into my hands and wiped the blood all over the front of Mom’s sweater.

Damn, but it felt so good.

The second punch to the stomach felt significantly less good. Dad stood over me where I’d fallen, winded, looking like his eyes were about to pop from rage. Behind him, I heard a drawer rattle. We were in the kitchen. “Here, honey,” I heard Mom say. “Use this, and finish the brat. I can’t stand the look of her anymore. The murdering, worthless bitch.”

She gave Dad one of the long, sharp, carving knives that you only ever see in horror movies. Dad stepped on my foot, pinning me down. He had this crazy smile on his face, like he was about to kill a fly that had landed on the wall.

I couldn’t scream; there was too much blood and I choked, instead. I put my arms up over my face, although it was a useless move because I couldn’t shield all the soft spots at the same time. I don’t know what was going through my head… something to the effect of Oh God, I’m gonna die. I don’t want to die. I’m gonna die. If I die, will I see Danny? At least I’ll be rid of these guys… I don’t want to die!

Dad swung the knife down…

…It shattered just above my face.

To say that it scared the shit out of all of us would be an understatement.

Mom stared. Dad kept driving the broken knife down towards me like some kind of deranged robot, but his fist kept hitting the air and stopping like it had hit a brick wall. I watched, frozen, my heart beating so fast I thought for sure it was going to break my ribs and beat right out of my chest. I do remember my thoughts then.

What. The Hell. Just. Happened.

I recovered from the shock first. I think it was my survival instincts kicking in (or possibly kicking me in the face). I screamed as menacingly as I could, waving my bloody hands in Dad’s face. It had the desired effect: he stepped back quickly, and my foot was free. I rolled to my feet and sprinted out the door. Behind me, I heard my mom screaming for me to get back here, and then for Dad to follow me and finish me off.

Bitch. I hated her then, and I still hate her now. Makes my power get all hot inside just thinking about her. Of course, back then, I had no idea what was going on. I reacted out of instinct. Protect myself, or die. Now I know how to use my power. I still give off that dangerous vibe, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Frankly, I don’t care. If people don’t like me, then they won’t get close enough to me to be able to hurt me, either. And since I seem dangerous, I’m not too likely to get jumped, either. And even if I did, I know how to take care of myself now.

The reason that the knife shattered was because I had thrown up a shield, using the air around me and hardening it until nothing could get through to me. If someone attacked me now, I could use another one of those shields, or I could make the air take on any shape I wanted… a rope to tie them up, a knife to attack them, or anything else that could come to mind. I bet it would be really freaky to get tied up by an invisible rope… or to get cut up by an invisible knife.

I want to try it, just to see. But I’m not a monster. I am not Mom and Dad. I’m not about to go out of my way to attack someone just because I can, and I sure as hell am not going to start a fight just to have an excuse to beat someone up.

I was raised better than that. Thanks to Danny, I am a decent person… even though something about my power screams to the world that I’m dangerous. Well, I guess I am dangerous, but only if you go after someone I care about. Which would only be me, at this point, since Danny’s already gone.

Thanks, Danny, for raising me to be better than scum like Mom or Dad, for showing me that I’m worth something. Thanks for teaching me how to survive in this shitty world. Thanks for helping me understand that there’s more to people than first impressions and first feelings. Thanks for telling me that I was loved. You saved me from a lot of shit, Danny, taking me away from Mom and Dad. But you saved me from even worse by loving me even though I was different. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you… but I will do my best to live a life you’d be proud of, so that when I see you again, I can tell you, and you won’t be disappointed.

God, I miss you, Danny.

Envisioned, Part 2

Missed the beginning? Check out Part 1!  

“Trista, focus! You will never get this right if you don’t pay attention!” I dropped my hands, letting the blue flames I had conjured die out.

My student sighed and narrowed her brown eyes at me. “I know, Vulcarus, and I’m sorry, but I can’t help it!” She chewed her lip, and I knew she wanted to say something else.

I walked over to the stone bench that was at the edge of the small courtyard where I was trying – and, at the moment, failing – to teach the girl magic. “Come, take a rest,” I said, tapping the bench.

She strode nervously over, her youthful face turned down to the tops of her bare feet.

“I know you want to ask me something, Trista,” I prompted her. “You’ve got that look again.” I smiled at her, trying to calm her down. After so many years, we had become close. She was more of a sister than a student, and I was sure she regarded me as more than a teacher. After all, I was the only person left in her world, since her mother had died.

Trista looked up, then quickly down again. Sitting, her feet did not reach the ground and she swung her legs anxiously. “You said you would tell me about your hands,” she said finally. “About why you always wear those gloves.”

My fingers twined together as I glanced down. Black silk covered my hands, gleaming softly in the afternoon sun. Beneath the cloth, I knew, my skin would be white – as white as the dead.

I wished they were dead. Then I would not have to live in terror of what they might show me.

“Before you came to me, when I was still a student myself,” I told her, “I had a teacher who wanted to challenge me. He told me if I could make a spell that let him overhear what the other teachers were teaching their students behind closed doors I would be able to get my Master’s title that year. I would be the youngest student ever to successfully pass the tests for Mastery.

“I tried. I failed.

“The spell shattered. It didn’t just break, or die, it turned on my with a vengeance. I almost died.

“It took me a while to figure out what had happened. At first, all I knew was that I had painful, wrenching visions – images of whatever I touched – whenever I touched something. I got so terrified that I refused to touch anything. Finally, desperate, I enchanted a pair of gloves with the most powerful silencing charm I could make. I cannot tell you how relieved I was when I pulled these on and did not find myself on my knees, clutching my head and screaming from the images flaring in my eyes.”

Trista cautiously rand her fingers along a seam on my left hand. “What do you see?” Her voice was quiet.

“History.” I wasn’t sure how to explain it. “For every thing I touch, I see pieces of its history, its past, where it’s been, where it came from. I can’t control it.”

“And does it hurt?”

I shuddered. It hurt enough to make me wish I had cut off my hands. Or cut out my eyes. Or both.

I took a deep breath and tried to smile. “You shouldn’t worry. As long as you practice your lessons with me, you will be fine.” I winked. “Like what we’re supposed to be doing right now.”

Trista jumped to her feet. “Maybe, if I practice hard, I’ll get my Mastery title soon?” she asked.

“Don’t hold your breath,” I told her. “You’re only twelve, you know.”

Trista stuck out her tongue and opened her hand. There, burning softly in her open palm, was blue fire.

Judgment

An ancient text depicts judgment passed down from the gods to a group of people who convinced themselves that magic, a rare and precious gift, made them into gods. Lillith and Ri'hannon responded with this:

Stand and be judged!

You mortals are a wretched race. How often have you pleaded for the blood of another? How often have you struck down your neighbor, your friend? How often have you turned the blame for your own misdeeds upon others?

How rarely you asked for peace! How rarely for forgiveness! How rare to hear you plead for another's life to be spared, for you to take the punishment in another's place!

You consider yourselves loving, intelligent, gifted. I challenge you now: prove it! How are you loving when you strike down your fellow man? How are you intelligent when you constantly are so foolish? How are you gifted when you are so many times in error?

You claimed knowledge, but there were no wise among you. Those who truly possessed wisdom you hunted down and murdered. Those who could have saved you, you put to death.

You should have heeded their words, mortals! You should never have been so quick to dismiss the hand of the gods in everything. You should never have stolen that glory for yourselves.

Because of your arrogance, your foolishness, your stubbornness, your pride, you will suffer. You thought yourselves to be gifted, to be gods. Now, not only will we take that gift from you, but we will leave you to wallow in the remnants of your own destruction. All those with those immortal flames will perish, and never again shall one with that gift be born in your lands. We curse you, here and now, for all time, to be barren of the flames and poisoned with defiance and foolishness.

Your judgment has been passed.

Bow before the gods, you wretched mortal race!

The gods of Wrath and Mercy are in accord, and never shall this judgment be overturned! Tremble in fear like the cowards you are and pray that we, Ri'hannon and Lillith, might forgive you upon your death!