Tag Archives: Fiction

Behind the Scenes: Ancient Nebe

Please see the post on Neban Religion to better understand this post.

ImageAfter Azed’s sons taught the Unhallowed the ways of their father, they took wives and settled in different lands, hoping to spread the message amongst the various tribes. However, Nebe was still one land. The walls had yet to be built, and the sons and their followers shared amongst each other, despite the distance between them.

Hundreds of turns later, man forgot Azed, remembering only his sons and their differences. The sons had been fruitful and filled the land with generations of children who honored their forefathers. How could the farmer Amir be the same as the shipwright Aded? What could the priest Abiel have in common with the scribe Abrien?

Fighting broke out amongst the land as man forgot their connections, for how could a priest praise without written language or how could a ship sail without the builder? To better honor their own god, each land formed mighty walls to keep the others out. Thus, the Strongholds were formed.

According to Neban historians, an unbroken line of fathers and sons can trace their lineage back to the son-gods. Those men became the first lords of the Strongholds.

In Vustania, the Llyr dynasty began. The last Lord was Lord Willif Llyr, who was the first to fall in Shorack’s Revolution.

In Feldeen, the Lagier dynasty began. The last Lord was Lord Burl Lagier, who fell in the first turn of the Revolution.

In Rana, the Fazil dynasty began. The last Lord was Lord Valin Fazil, who fell in the second turn of the Revolution.

In Hrundl, the Zimmer dynasty began. The last Lord was Lord Padrik Zimmer, who fell in third turn of the Revolution.

In Agralax, the Pfaff dynasty began. The last Lord was Simonis Pfaff, who fell in the third turn of the Revolution.

In Goffany, the Taksony dynasty began. The last Lord was Lord Garret Taksony, who fell in the fourth turn of the Revolution.

While there is much more to Neban history than this simple overview, suffice it to say that the Stronghold stood for almost two millennia before Shorack’s Revolution (which happens approximately ten turns before our tale begins).

Shorack’s Revolution and the Unification will comprise the next “Behind the Scenes” post.

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Van (Chapter 5, Part 2)

I’m pretty stuck with Van at the moment, so there may be no continuation of this chapter right now. I’ve already skipped ahead to writing chapters six and seven. I keep hoping something will come to me so I can finish this chapter…some kind of conflict. Sigh. But here you go…

***

287117-36817-13The deck was buzzing with life and excitement as the soldiers made ready to put to shore. Everyone seemed to feel the same way as their commander – the sooner they got off the boat, the better. From below the decks, Van heard the telltale rattling of chains. Soon after, some of his more seasoned soldiers brought forth a haggard group of men, all chained together by at the wrists and ankles. The shirtless captives squinted and tried to block the sun from their eyes as they rose from below deck. While their unshaved faces, bare feet, and soiled clothing attested to their week in the bowels of the ship, their upright posture and muscular build hinted that they were no ordinary prisoners.

“What would you like us to do with them, Lieutenant?” asked Marshal Leuke Green, Van’s second in command.

“I’d like for you to tie weights to the chains and throw them in the ocean,” Van replied coldly. “Be done with them once and for all.”

Something akin to fear crossed one or two of the chained men’s faces, but the others gave no sign of weakness.

“However, General Walters has ordered them to be delivered in tact. He seems to think they’ll make a nice bargaining chip.”

He walked up and down the line of prisoners, eyeing each one closely. He needed to choose his next steps wisely.

Van turned his back on the prisoners, looking over the deck and the rising land in the distance. “You are now in Goffan waters and, as such, under the jurisdiction of the Stronghold’s Courts.”

The ship swelled as the beginnings of a rolling wave lifted the boat and set it down quickly. Van’s stomach turned, and he struggled to hold down his lunch. After making sure the bile was back in his stomach where it belonged, he faced the men once again. “You have been placed under the Goffan Guard, awaiting your trial.”

“On what charges?” spat a lankly man whose hair was obviously blonde under all the dirt from the brig. Van had picked him out earlier as one of the group’s leaders. His tanned and well-defined upper arms revealed his tattoos – two black diamonds, one on his right shoulder and one a little further down. The second was much darker than the first, informing Van that the man’s promotion from ensign to marshal had come recently. The shine of the kraken ink still gave the diamond the appearance of being wet when the sun hit it. Everyone else in the group displayed only one diamond or the simple cross where a diamond might one day appear.

warVan still had the vestiges of his former life emblazoned on his shoulder – a single black diamond, though it was much faded. He’d attempted to remove it using every old wives’ tale in the book – Doxal flames, a bitter tonic purchased from an unhallowed tribesman in the Spine, a thrice-daily rub with gopher root. Aside from the rash the last had produced, nothing seemed to dull the seemingly indestructible ink. However, he hid the black tattoo under an intricately woven wool tunic that displayed three maroon diamonds along the arms, denoting his status in the Goffan Guard.

Van stood toe to toe with the marshal. He had to admit that, despite the man’s chains, the Neban soldier cut quite an imposing figure.

“What is your name, Marshal?” Van asked without breaking eye contact.

“Marshal Gaven Haft of the Neban Guard.”

“And where are you from, Gaven?”

A flame briefly lit in the soldier’s eyes when Van addressed him by his familiar name, but he doused the blaze with a single blink. “Nebe,” he replied flatly.

Van smiled as the man provided the answer he’d expected. “Yes, of course,” he said, turning to the right and walking causally up the line, gesticulating flippantly. “But before that. What stronghold do you hail from?”

“I belong to no stronghold. I am Neban.”

The standard Neban soldier’s answer.

“Well, Marshal Gaven Haft of the Unified Nebe and not a stronghold, let me introduce myself.” He turned back to face the line of men. “I am Lieutenant Van Ludlow of Goffany. And the lot of you are under my protection until you are safely delivered to Captain Bryce Walters and the Goffan Court on the charges of kidnapping and slavery.”

He heard some of the prisoners suck in air when he announced the indictment, but the marshal merely chuckled haughtily.

“Something funny?” asked Van, looking down his nose at the man.

“You’re in deep shit, Lieutenant.” He spoke Van’s title as if it acid on his tongue.

“You best watch your tone, Marshal, lest I add insubordination to the list of infractions.”

“You’re local militia. The lowest piss-ant private in the Neban Guard outranks the highest captain amongst you. Hell, a callow tithe outranks your captains.”

trial_scene_1809_webVan knew Haft was technically correct. The local stronghold militias were established as a supplement to the Neban Guard. Since the Protector couldn’t keep all his hands in all the pies around the realm, he’d consented to local militias and courts – so long as they upheld the Neban laws. And that was precisely what Van and his soldiers were doing. Both slavery and kidnapping were, according to the letter of the law, illegal and tried before the local courts at the Quarter Sessions. A bit more problematic was the legal interpretation that tithing was a form of slavery and kidnapping. Haft was well aware the charges would never hold up in a Neban court, but Van was equally secure in the knowledge that his prisoners weren’t going to a Neban court.

“I’m sure the figurative shit I’m in is nothing compared to the literal shit on your pants, Marshal. Didn’t they teach you the importance of cleanliness in your courses?”

The time below deck had not been kind on the prisoners, and Van almost felt sorry for them based on his own lackluster voyage. Haft couldn’t keep the pale pink from rising in his cheeks, though he continued to stare stonily ahead. Van had him where he wanted him.

“Well, Gaven from Nebe, judging by the lilt in your accent, you’re Vustanian. Raised on pomp and circumstance, no doubt. Mommy and Daddy fed you bedtime stories about chivalry and honor. I’m sure you enlisted as soon as you turned seventeen. Probably on your nameday. Probably got a fancy horse and bag full of coin as a reward. Probably have a sweetheart waiting back home and counting the days til you make Lieutenant. I wonder what Sweet Sally would say if she could see you now, covered in your own excrement.”

Another prisoner coughed in a feeble attempt to cover obvious laughter. Van smiled to himself, now able to pinpoint his true target.

[To be continued, but I don’t know when…]

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Behind the Scenes: Neban Religion

To help me keep things organized, I have a huge notebook of information about Nebe. It might be helpful to share it with those of you following along with the WIP. 

Any culture’s foundations are set in its myths. So, I’ve chosen to start there…

ImageAccording to the Doxa (the official religion of Nebe), Azed lived in the time of chaos. He ordered the elements, creating the world and all that inhabits it.

The first men were the Unhallowed, and they had no knowledge of Azed or what he had done for them. To rectify this, Azed sent his six sons to Nebe to teach man his ways. Each son was a piece of himself and had the knowledge of a specific domain.

After sharing their knowledge with all, each of Azed’s sons took a wife and settled in a different part of Nebe. According to the Doxa, this is how the six Strongholds came into being, as each is known for a different skill.

Alban, the builder, taught the Unhallowed how to mine and lumber. The Unhallowed learned how to build homes for themselves and temples to Azed. He is associated with the Stronghold of Hrundl, in northeast Nebe.

Amir, the farmer, taught the Unhallowed how to cultivate the land and its animals. The Unhallowed learned how to grow crops and domesticate animals. He is associated with the Stronghold of Feldeen, in west-central Nebe.

Abrien, the scribe, taught the Unhallowed to write. The Unhallowed learned to put their words to stone or parchment and keep records. He is associated with Rana, in southeast Nebe.

Arlind, the metalsmith, taught the Unhallowed to identify and use precious metals. The Unhallowed learned to shape metals to their needs. He is associated with Taksony, in southwest Nebe.

Adet, the shipwright, taught the Unhallowed to craft ships that would sail the rivers and ocean. The Unhallowed learned to navigate and fish. He is associated with Vustania, in east-central Nebe.

Abiel, the priest, taught the Unhallowed how to praise Azed. The Unhallowed learned the laws that Azed wanted them to follow. He is associated with Agralax, in northwest Nebe.

Thousands of turns after Azed’s sons died, man forgot their father and the connection between the sons. Instead, each isolated Stronghold honored its specific son as the true god, and much fighting occurred between the lands. Azed spoke to the prophet Wasa, who reminded the people of Nebe that their gods were all incarnations of the almighty Azed.

Though Wasa was killed for his teachings, a small faction of believers continued to preach Azed’s message. This is how the Doxa came into being, though it took many, many turns for it to become the official religion. The servants of Azed are now known as wasals in honor of the prophet.

More on the Nebe, the Strongholds, and the realm’s history to come…

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Oren (Chapter 3, Part 3)

The end of chapter three…wherein I try my hand at poetry…

***

1

Oren felt the vague sensation of movement. He slowly opened his eyes, but could only make out a blur of greens and blues and browns. His body was a strange mix of numbness and stabbing pain at different locations. Realizing he was lying on his back, Oren attempted to sit up, but his muscles would not comply. The clop of a horse’s hooves and a merry whistling filled his pounding head. At the very last second, Oren turned his head to the right and vomited. His headache subsided a bit.

“Whoa!” came a voice from behind him. The movement came to a halt with a jolt.

Soon, a stranger was kneeling next to him, wiping the boy’s face and shirt. “So you’re awake then?” the man asked.

As his sight began to clear, Oren realized that he was strapped into a litter in the back of a shoddy two-wheeled cart. Instinctively, he began pulling against the restraints.

“Best to stay put, if you asked me,” the stranger informed him. “I’ll loosen ‘em if you want, but the apoth says that the less you move, the better. With all this bouncing around from travel, any unnecessary movement may be your death.”

“Where am I?” Oren asked groggily.

“Somewhere in the Spine, I’m sorry to inform you. But we’ll be passing through a gate to Agralax within the hour if you don’t go spewing your guts up every five minutes. I thought you’d be out of it until we could reach a surgeon. Actually, I wasn’t sure you’d ever be waking up. But, then again, I’m no surgeon myself.”

“What happened?” Oren asked as the man passed him a canteen of water. He rinsed his mouth out and spit.

“Hell, boy, I was gonna ask the same from you. We were supposed to meet your group at the Feldeen gate but were waylaid by a downed bridge spanning the Equinox. Showed up the next morning, and everyone was dead – soldiers, tithes, horses, you name it. Looks like you were hit by some pretty nasty archers. There were arrows sticking out everywhere. Had a few of ‘em poking out of yourself as well, though our apoth was able to remove them and cauterize the bleeding. Seems that horse landing on you was the luckiest thing that could’ve happened. Likely saved your life.”

Oren’s memory started to return, and he flashed back to the mayhem in the camp.

“The apoth says you’ve got some busted ribs and broken bones, but we’ll have to get you to the surgeon before we can see if there’s any permanent damage.”

Oren tried to wiggle his toes, but couldn’t see if his efforts were fruitful as his mud-covered boots were still strapped to his feet. “So you’re a Guard?”

“Sure am. Ensign Rodger Downs. I was a tithe from Feldeen, just like you. I was one of the first batch to go into service. Just one more turn before I get to go home again, but they up and promoted me. Haggled me into three more years of service. Not that there’s much left for me to go back to. My family’s lands were burned during the war, and we just didn’t have the money to start again. I decided to try my luck as a Guardsman and make my way in the world.”

Oren tried to nod, but the effort proved too much. “We’re going to Agralax?”

“Yep, Temple to be exact. We’ve already gotten two days of travel done.” Downs held up his water skin to Oren’s mouth. The boy gagged on his first two attempts, but was able to swallow a little on the third.

Oren tried to do the math in his head, which proved more difficult than he anticipated.

“We bickered back and forth for a while about where to take you – on to Vustania or to Agralax. The marshal wanted you to report directly to Llewling to fill the captain in on what in the seven hells happened out there. But the apoth seemed to think that the surgeons at Temple could do you the best service, especially if your back is damaged. I spent my first two years of patrol in Temple, so I offered to take you up there myself. When you feel up to it, we can send a hawk to the powers that be about the massacre.”

“I don’t remember much,” Oren said, trying to hold onto the snippets of memory. His pounding head and rolling stomach weren’t making it easy. The flashes contained horses and arrows and fire, but he couldn’t put them in order or make sense of them.

“Maybe that’s for the best,” the ensign offered. He sighed and urged Oren to take one more drink before strapping the skin back to his shoulder pouch. “For now, let’s focus on getting you put back together. We’ve got a rough road and a long way to go, but I sent a message to the wasals at Temple. Someone who can help should be meeting us at the gate. The apoth says you should try to stay awake on account of that nasty lump on your head. Though I don’ know what good it’ll do you, seeing as you’ve been out of it for at least three days already. I was beginning to think you’d turned into a vegetable on me, son.”

Downs smiled compassionately and returned to his mount.

As they made their way through the Spine, the guard continued to prattle on, but Oren couldn’t tell whether the words were meant for the horse or for himself. It didn’t matter. Oren slipped in and out of consciousness, finally letting a sweet dream overtake the harsh reality. He was a child back in Daley, sitting in the schoolyard, where his sister and her friends were skipping rope and chanting a simple rhyme they’d heard a thousand times from minstrels stopping though on their way to nowhere and everywhere.

Beware the wild world

Unto travelers unfurled.

Each stronghold unique,

Its own brand of mystique.

 

In Agralax rich,

Your wounds surgeons will stitch.

But wizards and priests

Wear the mark of the beast.

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On Prefaces

ImageWith sites like Amazon allowing readers to download the first few pages of a novel before purchasing it, the Preface has become even more important to writers than it has in the past. Of course, before eBooks, the reader could simply put down the book and choose to stop reading. However, there’s a sense of commitment once you have a book in your hands (at least, there is with me). The physical connection compels me to push forward, even if the Preface isn’t perfect.

Because my yet-to-be-titled novel is in the fantasy genre, I feel the need to include a preface. The chapters are about twenty pages each, and there’s a fair amount of “world building” in the first hundred or so pages (in addition to the rising action). To draw the readers in, I need a catchy, fast-paced preface – a short glimpse of the action of the text.

So, here’s my first attempt at this daunting task. I welcome your feedback and critique. Is it something you’d want to continue reading, or would you simply hit “erase from this device” and move on to the next book? Or, perhaps you could weigh in on the general topic of prefaces. What is their purpose and are they truly necessary?

***

Garrett Taksony rushed down the main corridor of the palace, furiously looking left and right amidst the sea of bodies. People rushed here and there – grabbing goods, barking orders, counting heads. Garrett was lost in the crowd, searching himself. “Wilona,” he cried spotting a slender woman with dark hair disheveled down her back. He grabbed the woman’s shoulder, and she spun around ready for a fight. She stopped short of screaming as she looked at his face.

“My Lord,” she said, “You startled me. What can I help you with?”

“Wilona,” he repeated frantically. “Have you seen Wilona?”

“Not since the situation turned dire, my Lord. I last saw her in the dining room with you and the other guests.”

Garrett shoved past the woman hastily, continuing down the hall. It had all happened so quickly. How had he lost her? He tried calming his mind in the midst of the chaos. He thought back to only an hour earlier. She was seated to his right in the grand dining room, her hand laid on his carelessly as he laughed boisterously at the players who were entertaining before the dessert course was served. There had been so little reason for laughter lately that he relished the moment. As Garrett rose from his seat to encore the troupe of actors, the castle shook. He lost his footing, but earthquakes were quite common in Goffany, tucked against foothills of the Pentheas. The shaking stopped as quickly as it had begun, and Garrett rose to calm his guests. Mere seconds later, the room began to shake again, this time with such violence that a dusting of marble fell from the ceiling and the massive chandelier sent several crystals shattering to the floor. Again, the vibration went away as quickly as it came. The party stood bewildered.

In an instant, the door flew open and General Walters came rushing into the room. Garrett and his brother-in-law, Burk Evergreen, quickly strode to meet him. “My Lord,” Walters said breathlessly, “I’m afraid they’re here.”

“How?” replied Garrett. “The scouts have reported nothing in the past two days.”

“I haven’t the slightest idea,” answered the General. “But they’re here nevertheless. I suggest evacuating the castle immediately.”

Garrett turned to his party, lost at how to explain the situation to his guests. Wilona saw the confusion in his eyes and went to meet the gentlemen. “Garrett, what is it?”

“War.”

At that, the room rocked yet again, this time more violently than the first two combined. Armor crashed off the walls, a window shattered, and the chandelier came crashing down in total. Screams rose from the crowd, many of whom had been hit by the shrapnel. Garrett ran to the now empty window casing and looked out. On the horizon, a giant army was amassed.

“How did this happen?” Garrett shouted at Walters again. “Certainly someone should have noticed an army that large marching through the Pentheas.”

“They didn’t come from the Pentheas, my Lord.”

“Then how did they get here?” Garrett demanded.

“I don’t know, my Lord,” Walters answered with downcast eyes.

After that, he had lost track of his wife, as he had been barking orders to troops who were entering the room as the guests hurried to exit. Garrett reached into his memory, scanning the room. The crowd was dispersing quickly, rushing out the main doors. Wilona must have left with them, but what would make her leave her post next to her husband?

“Makenna,” he said out loud and turned sharply, running towards the stairs.

[FYI – Chapter One picks up with Makenna, ten years later]

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The Hero of My Own Tale

As a child, I wrote. I spun pseudo-plagiarized versions of my favorite books, taking their ideas, changing them slightly, and filling spiral notebooks full of characters who lived out my childhood dramas. My friends and enemies provided fodder for the semi-autobiographical tales where I was the hero of my own plot. It was therapy for me in the days before children were given drugs to focus their energies.

As a teenager, I read. I looked over what I had written. I was appalled. I saw the inconsistencies in the storylines. I saw my pages as knock-offs of more seasoned writers who had already said what I wanted to say – and said it better. Even worse, I saw myself sprawled naked across the pages. I saw my fears, my inaptitude, my young mind grappling with childish dramas. Disgusted, I tore the pages from the once-treasured notebooks and shredded them in the hopes that destroying the pages would hide the child I once was. After all, I was sixteen and an “adult,” embarrassed by the person I had been.

As a parent, I see my own daughter scribbling away in her room in spiral notebooks, which she keeps hidden under her mattress or under a pile of clothes in her closet. Hard as it is, I respect her privacy and let the stories remain concealed. I dread the day that she, too, will toss away her childish plots and dramas. I want to run into her room and steal the precious pages – not to read, but to put in my own special hiding place where they will remain safe from the teenager she will soon become.

She is the reason I’ve started writing again. She is the reason I’ve started this blog. Once I press “submit,” there’s no going back. The information is out there. Feel free to judge or mock or delight in my writing. I’m no longer a self-conscious teenager who seeks approval from others (though, I suppose, the critiques will always hurt, no matter how much I try to convince myself they won’t).

There will always be authors who’ve said it before, told the same story. There will always be authors who articulate their ideas more clearly and poetically. I may nMartinBard1817NewHavenA%20webever make it to Mordor to destroy the ring or return home to free the universe from the evil empire, but I don’t have to. I’m content to be the unnamed bard or minstrel at the anonymous tavern where the hero stops for the night and sheds a tear as he listens to my words.

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