Monday, December 9, 2013

Hold E to Swap for Shotgun

Good evening lads and ladettes.

I feel ridiculously proud of myself today. I accomplished many things, the first of which was finally completing Halo: Combat Evolved. The original one. For PC. I honestly can list the number of video games I've finished on one hand. The main reason for this is because I generally play never-ending games like Tycoons or the Sims. The other reason is that I have very little hand-eye-finger-keyboard coordination and suck very badly at FPSs. But a few days ago, I sat down and decided I would finish Halo. It was thoroughly enjoyable! The worst/best part of the whole thing would have had to have been the final run through the Pillar of Autumn in the Warthog. The first time I tried it, I rolled the stupid jeep several times and the timer ran out with me only ten metres away from the ship I was to escape on. The clock hit zero, the Autumn's engines detonated - and my game closed. It seemed like the ship blew up so hard that my game crashed XD

Yay! Mastercheif!

Another thing that happened, was that I finally got all my grades for my final semester of university! I got three credits and a distinction, and as such, I am now qualified with a Bachelor of New Media Arts, Majoring in Media Design. I printed out the summary page and stuck it to the fridge to show it off...

Another, if lesser, accomplishment is that I cleaned up my incredibly messy downloads folder. Now all of my files are lovely and organised on my external drive, all with proper names and folder systems. It just feels so nice to sit down at a computer and know that everything is in it's right place and nothing is named 'asdfjhalfkh.jpg'.

On a bit of a down note, I didn't get the pre-press design job I was angling for this week. It was a very sudden and hectic process. I saw the ad one day, somehow got and interview the next day and then had to wait nearly two weeks to hear back from the interviewer. He kept delaying and delaying. I had a new rental place all lined up nice and close to the job too. /sigh. Ah well. I shall continue my searches.

There is nothing new on the novel front. I had a look at the website of the agency to which I've submitted my current manuscript and been a bit confused to see that they've closed submissions. I do not know whether this means they will still be considering my novel /shrug.

Does anyone else shop at second-hand shops? I absolutely LOVE them. Just the other day me and my mum were doing the rounds here in our little town and we found the most awesome toy ever for only $2. He's what's called a Signature Collection Buzz Lightyear Action Figure. he stands at 12" and looks like he's jumped straight out of the Toy Story movies. 

I'm a Space Ranger!

He talks - he even responds to your voice! His wings pop out at the push of his chest button and flash just like in the movie - so does his laser! He has fully poseable arms and legs, and fingers, and he even frikin glows in the dark! Unfortunately he's missing a few parts, but I contacted the company who made him and they are willing to send me all the missing parts for a bargain! I absolutely love my Buzz. Yes. Yes I am a 20 year old who acts like she's 6.

Anywho. That's all for now. To infinity and beyond! /flies away.

Feeling: Content.
Wearing: Stig (from Top Gear) shirt and old school shorts.
Eating: Had curry and rice for tea, but need an evening snack.
Listening to: Lots of things actually. I have a playlist of four songs; Wrecking Ball - Miley Cyrus, Applause - Lady Gaga, Counting Stars - OneRepublic and Warrior - Havana Brown. I am also listening to the old Roosterteeth podcasts, back when they were called the Drunk Tank. I am currently up to #18. They're brilliant ^_^

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Rejected! Yay!

Good day fine internetters.

So, I've been quite busy lately. I have had a surprising amount of university work to contend with. And contend I have. We aced a presentation just two days ago, and I have been highly commended for my graphic design work in another subject. Work is going very well too. I managed to find several of the posters I designed up in a tavern in town. It's ridiculously satisfying to see one's work actually being used.

But, the main purpose of this post is to let you all know that I got a rejection! Woo! The submission I sent to the Cameron Creswell agency about Soulless in July has finally gotten back to me. Here is the letter:

Dear Ms Hudson,
Thank you for your submission. We have now had a chance to consider this title and do not think we are the best agents to represent you. We already have a long list of client authors and only take on new authors if we believe very strongly in their writing and our ability to place the work.
However, another agent could well have a different and more enthusiastic response to your work and we suggest that you contact some of the other agents listed on the website of the Australian Society of Authors at
Thank you for thinking of The Cameron Creswell Agency and we wish you all the best in finding an agent and publisher.
Sophie Hamley

Now, I'm not too sure whether this is an actual letter or rather a generic reply. But anyways, it's a rejection and the first step towards being published! When I tell people that I got a rejection, they always seem ready to commiserate,  and then seem confused when I smile and tell them that it's a good thing. I mean, I totally expected it. It really is the first step to being published. And now I get to go and ask someone else. I think it's important to have such a positive attitude about it, otherwise I'll just be completely miserable every time someone says no.

And now for other news. I went to a party dressed as a lego block. The theme was 'Toys from your Childhood'. I unfortunately have no pictures, but just know that it was the most epic fifteen-second costume.
I managed to get my hands on the latest Skulduggery Pleasant book, The Last Stand of Dead Men. My goodness. The feels. Me and every other fan I know just want to strangle the author. The moments of comedy were beautiful, but the low moments were so dark and dismal... I cried a couple of times. And the worst part is that I have to wait a whole year for the series finale.
I am now a Supernatural fan. I remember I watched the first season quite a while ago and got a little bored of the 'let's find dad' storyline. But I finally decided to get back into it because I really wanted to meet a character who would appear later in the show. I was so glad I did. The show got considerably better after the first season, and when they introduced that lovable, scruffy, poker-faced angel in a trench coat, Castiel, I was in love. I am now waiting very impatiently for the start of next season. For the start of all the new seasons actually. Everything I love is coming back sometime this October or November. It will be wonderful.
I also entered a Threadless design challenge! I've always wanted to see a Herobrine themed Minecraft tee, so I thought this competition would be the perfect opportunity to try and get one printed. It's my first submission ever, but here's to hoping. To see or vote for my shirt, go here:

And now for some more Soulless art!

Rook and Evie being growly

Rook and Evie being less growly

My own strange version of a chimera

"Quintin Rthrant Xesi Esiorto at your service,"

Faaro Lovell

An old friend of Rook's named Turi.

Feeling: Like I should get back to work.
Eating: Gonna go get the last of my delicious birthday cake.
Listening to: Black and Gold by Sam Sparro.
Wearing: Short shorts and high school senior shirt.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Paradoxes, Pellets, Puzzles and Puft

Look! It's not three o'clock in the morning! I actually managed to finish this one before midnight. Go me.
Anywho, here for your entertainment, is the next installment of the Passage of the Planeswalkers.
It might also be the last for quite a while as I am starting a new fatansy character in a campaign we are going to call The Seeds of Ragnarok. My new character is a warlock by the name of Bubbles the Bloodletter. Dis gon' be gooood...

The weird sorcerer, Orin, was back. He had an elbow in the crystalline gates of Lisseth, effectively keeping them open. He was focussed however, on the two butterflies he held gently between his fingers. He appeared to be trying to make them mate. Lereahl, Rathalohse and Mulch watched in amusement as the newcomer to their group, a small gnome druid named Glo Shortcloack who had black eyes, green hair and a saucepan on her head, offered to help the man. With surprising skill, Glo was able to make the two reluctant insects get down to business quite successfully. Orin seemed delighted and sent the travellers on their way through the portal, only after gratefully kissing Glo.
The white magic sizzled around the planeswalkers, drawing them forwards them into some new, mysterious world. In unison, the four felt that they had somehow passed through a doorway. Their vision cleared to see that a huge door had indeed swung shut behind them. Rath and Lereahl glanced knowingly at each other and drew their weapons immediately. The two gnomes looked at them in confusion.
“We’ve been here before,” explained the ranger.
“This plane is called Parallelodox. I don’t know how it came to be, or why it does what it does, but every time you open another door, uh, interesting things are bound to happen,” added Lereahl.
They took in the room before them. The walls were made of smooth, black stone bricks. Out of the corners of one’s eyes, they appeared to bleed. In the middle of the room was a huge stone bowl of deep red blood, held up by a hideously carved claw. Surrounding it in seductively glinting piles, was a mountain of gold and jewels. Mulch gasped. Before anyone could stop her, she had thrown herself at the treasure. She stopped however when the room was suddenly filled with soft, menacing laughter. Wisps of darkness swirled, forming into a humanoid shape in front of Mulch. The creature was eight feet tall and had the head of a vulture. It hunched down, peering with beady eyes into Mulch’s face.
“Greetings... adventurer...” it croaked.
Mulch stared coldly back at it. The others were silent in shock.
“I have a question,” the gnome said.
The vulture demon cocked its scaly head.
“Go on?”
“If I take some of this treasure, do I have to give you anything?”
The vulture smiled. It wasn’t a pleasant smile.
“Trade anything?”
“Give up anything at all?”
Mulch eyed the demon bird warily, then bent down and picked up a single gold coin.
The vulture demon laughed.
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t take anything from you. And so I shall take your life...” it hissed. It gestured and suddenly the whole room was plunged into a complete magical darkness.
“Damned,” muttered Mulch.
Lereahl heard a sharp intake of breath on his right, then felt a small hand on his rear. Glo had reached out to find him and Rath in the darkness. Up ahead, he could hear Mulch cursing and stumbling around, causing clinking cascades of gold. The creature screeched and Lereahl raised his bow, hearing Rath do the same, and aimed for the noise.
Something swiped at Mulch in the darkness. She swore again and backpedalled quickly. She couldn’t see even her hand in front of her face in this inky blackness. She reached into her backpack for an item she’d picked up on a recent adventure. She thrust the glowing banner up into the darkness, creating a tinysmall globe of light. The demon screeched again at the light and then again as two arrows whizzed through the darkness, burying themselves in its flesh. Glo had run forwards now, slipping and sliding across the gold. She swung her hammer at the monster, connecting with a sickening thud. Mulch lashed out with a dagger, and narrowly avoided the talons that clawed at her face. She cried out as the hooked beak sank into her shoulder. She turned and dove into the gold pile, the creature’s claws raking across her back. In the darkness, Glo had lost her sense of direction and could no longer reach the demon. Mulch on the other hand, had turned again and leapt from her hiding place in the treasure, hoping to surprise the demon, but instead had leapt into its waiting arms. Another arrow found demon flesh as it gave a triumphant cry. Mulch cried and struggled free of the claws, avoiding the snap of the beak this time. She dove back into the gold pile. With a soft whisper, the darkness around the planeswalkers began to dissipate. The demon gave a displeased growl and then spun at Lereahl as he shot it again. There was sudden movement from behind the demon. Like some strange gold-dwelling shark, Mulch leapt from beneath the surface of the treasure, glee on her face, a dagger in each hand. The demon screamed as she sank them both into its spine. It collapsed in a flurry of hissing darkness.
“So, which door?” asked Glo, looking around at the four doors. They’d just finished divvying up the treasure. Lereahl shrugged and strolled towards the door straight across from the one they’d originally stepped through. He grasped the huge brass ring and pulled. The room beyond had another stone bowl of blood in the middle. The walls were black stone too. There were people standing looking through a door on the right hand side of the room. One was tall and blonde, another had a top hat, and the last two were short. The shortest wore a saucepan on her green hair.
“Uh...” said Lereahl. He turned around to see his fellow companions right beside him and staring confusedly back at him from the door on the right in the room behind them.
“That’s us...?” asked Glo, scratching her head.
“I, uh, think so,” said Lereahl, looking again through the door at the other ‘him’. “We’ve created a paradox. This door leads to, well, this room again.”
Rath, however, narrowed his eyes at the other figures. He drew back his bow and fired at the other version of himself – and received an arrow in his ribs from the Rathalohse behind him. Lereahl shut the door quickly as Rath turned and began yelling at himself. The half-elf shook his head, as if to clear it.
“Well. That was weird,” he said. Glo and Mulch nodded, still a bit dumbfounded. Rath just glowered and pulled his arrow out. As they went to open a different door, Lereahl was suddenly struck by how sexy he looked from behind.
This room was much easier to adjust to. Growing from an earthy floor was a small forest. The trees were huge and quite shady, and a clear path seemed to lead from their door to the others. Along the path however, were strange bundles. When examined closely, one could see the bones of all sorts of animals, or occasionally a humanoid skull and metal armour. Glo had knelt next to one and was poking it with a stick.
“Pellets,” she said.
“Excuse me?” asked Lereahl.
“Pellets. Owl pellets. They cough them up,” the gnome explained.
“Huh. Well, I don’t see how a little owl could cough up something as big as that. That would have had to come from an owl that’s, what, about ten feet tall?” said Rath. He began to laugh at the idea but then paused mid-chortle, realising what he’d just said. Lereahl’s brow creased.
“Eyes on the sky,” he said warily.
They walked along the forest path, weapons trained nervously on the curiously bright ceiling far above them. The pellets were many here. Lereahl didn’t want to think about how many giant owls had made them. Without warning, the half-elf felt a strange tingling shoot across his chest. He rubbed at the area, looking under his shirt to see the strange magical tattoo there squirming slightly on his skin. The silver owl’s feathers seemed to ripple. There were gasps of fear from the rest of the group and Lereahl was startled as he looked up to see an enormous black owl land silently in front of them. It was, as Rath had guessed, about ten feet tall. Its wingspan was a breath taking thirty feet wide. They all drew their weapons, waiting for the creature to attack. It didn’t however. It looked at Lereahl, head bobbing, huge silvery eyes wide and curious. Lereahl was stunned as it hopped closer. It lowered its enormous head and nuzzled at his chest, knocking him over.
“Er, hi,” he said, stroking one of the white streaks that ran from the corner of its eye up to the tip of its ear feathers. The great black owl twittered softly, seeming to enjoy the petting.
“Why’s it doing that?”  asked Glo.
“Perhaps it likes his owl tattoo,” joked Rath, who’d noticed the half-elf clutching his chest moments before.
“Lereahl has an owl tattoo?” asked Mulch. “How do you know about this, ranger?”
“I uh...” Rath mumbled, his face turning rather pink, but the group was distracted by a soft whooshing noise coming from behind them. Another huge owl, a tawny, was diving towards them, gleaming talons outstretched. The black owl leapt to intercept the giant tawny. The two enormous birds collided with and odd crunch. The tawny shrieked as the black owl’s claws raked its breastbone, spattering the companions with drops of hot blood and feathers. There was another screech behind them and they turned to see three more owls swooping overhead. There was a grey, a brown and a pure white one. Rath, who’d already drawn his bow back when the black owl had landed, turned his arrow instead on the brown one. It hit the owl and sent it plummeting into the trees. His next arrow was true too, downing the huge grey owl as it swooped low, snatching at Mulch and Glo. Glo wasn’t interested in trying to hit the enormous creatures. Instead she ran towards the black and tawny owls who were now screeching and wrestling on the ground, kicking up plumes of dust and knocking down small trees. The tawny threw off the black owl, who then backed down slightly. Glo had her hands up in a peaceful gesture and was calling softly to the tawny owl. The black owl returned to Lereahl. Glo continued cooing to the tawny owl. It stared at her, its intelligent amber eyes cold, but did not attack her. Lereahl had turned now too. He fired and arrow at the pure white owl which had just dived low to claw at him. The white owl was winged and crashed to the ground. It screeched horribly, thrashing and fluttering, its wing dragging behind it. It lashed out, clawing Rathalohse. The ranger strung another arrow and put the creature out of its misery.
Mulch handed Glo a nice fish he’d been saving for a snack. She took the fish and laid it down in front of the tawny owl. The great bird eyed her warily, but then bent down and snatched up the morsel. After a little more coaxing, it allowed itself to be petted, and eventually followed Glo, Mulch, Rath and Lereahl and his black owl towards the next door.
The door was a little stuck, seeming to have not been used for some time, despite the well worn path leading to it. They managed to push it open when Lereahl’s new friend gave it a nudge with his head. The room beyond was a dazzlingly white. In the middle of the room, a large white sphere hovered. It was covered in flowing, shifting, spinning gold lettering. The words seemed to be written in every language imaginable and occasionally they could catch one in common as it flitted past. They were words like dreams, happiness and wishes. Lereahl was immediately a bit wary of the room and the sphere. He looked closer at both, but really couldn’t sense anything bad at all. In fact, the room seemed to give off rather pleasant vibes.
“What is it?” asked Mulch, looking starry eyed at the sphere.
“I don’t know,” murmured Lereahl. He began to walk towards the sphere, his arm outstretched. Rathalohse had seen the flickering word wish and begun wondering what his most dearest wish would be. He immediately thought of cheese. He smiled as he imagined having a block of the most delicious cheese ever created. As he imagined this, he suddenly became aware of a lump in his pocket. He put his hand in the pocket, and pulled out a lump of nice yellow cheese. He stared at it in confusion, broke a tiny crumb off and tried it. He almost swooned with delight.
“Guys... It’s a wish machine,” he said groggily, his eyes half closed with happiness.
“A wish machine?” said Mulch, turning back towards the sphere, a thoughtful look on his face. Immediately, the gnome began wishing to be a male again. Somewhere in her adventures, Mulch had once been a he. Through a mysterious and unlucky series of events, he’d been turned into a woman, and cursed to never be able to wear pants again. But no matter how hard Mulch wished, she did not become a man again.
“Damned. It’s not working,” she said grumpily. “You’ve used up the wish on that stupid cheese! I could have been a man again!” she yelled at Rath. Rath looked highly offended.
“Never insult the cheese!” snapped the ranger.
“Guys, stop bickering. I think I know why your wish didn’t work,” said Lereahl. He’d approached the sphere and placed his hand on the swirling gold and white surface and his head had suddenly been filled with images of all sorts of weird and wonderful contraptions. There were incredible folding ladders, amazingly fine suits of armour, the most beautiful weapons imaginable, dazzling, delicious looking foods – but none of these things were magical.
“Your wish was a magical one. I don’t think the machine grants magical things,” Lereahl said, removing his hand from the sphere.
“Oh...” said Mulch. Instead, she began thinking of her second dearest desire. A pair of pants so good that she’d be able to finally wear them again. Suddenly, she was wearing pants. She laughed in delight. They were the softest, most well fitting pants she’d ever worn. As she investigated further, she found that the pants were covered in many zips and pockets and seemed to be infinitely customisable. The gnome beamed with happiness.
Glo was thinking hard about what she might want. She looked up at the half-elf and the human ranger, realising again how short she was as a gnome. She wished that she had some way to be as tall as them. A pair of stilts appeared on her feet. They were comfortable and instantly easy to use. They were also quickly adjustable, allowing her to be as tall or as short as she wanted in a matter of seconds.
Lereahl took a long time to decide. There was really nothing he wanted or needed currently. He had plenty of gold and treasure and his magical bow was something that probably wouldn’t be surpassed by anything the machine could give him. He stroked the black owl’s head thoughtfully as it bent towards him. Then he had an idea. Instantly, the huge black owl was wearing a fitted saddle, tack and barding armour. The armour was silver, black and white, matching the huge owl’s colouration perfectly. The owl was surprised at first, but as he swivelled his head all around, examining the new additions, he hooted in an approving sort of way. The white sphere’s swirling golden words changed to read things like thank you and farewell. The companions chose their next door feeling incredibly happy with their amazing gifts.
The next door they pushed open revealed a huge swamp. In the middle of the marsh, they could see a tall, sinister looking tree. Vines hung down from its branches. They swayed in a nonexistent breeze, occasionally coiling like snakes.
“Ooh. We probably shouldn’t go that way,” said Glo. “Those are Assassin Vines. They’ll wrap themselves around you and choke you to death. But they’re the least of your worries. See that tree? That’s an Umbral Banyan. It will grab you and then shift into the Shadow Plane – and then beat you to death there.”
“Huh. Well. Shall we walk around it then?” asked Rath. There were nods from all the others. Although difficult, they did manage to make it through the marsh, avoid the sinister tree, and open another door.
This room was dark. Sitting on a glowing throne of embers on the far wall was creature made of fire. He had the torso and head of a man, and the serpentine tail of a snake. Upon his head and glowing white-hot were a pair of antlers and a crown. He roared and sent a huge fireball towards the four, striking Rathalohse with a sound like mountains colliding. The ranger gave a cry, fell to the ground and stopped moving. The others rushed towards him. His skin and clothing was charred and smoking. He had no breath – no heartbeat. The ranger was dead. The others could only stare in shock. They were brought sharply back to reality as the salamander king bellowed, preparing to fling another fiery blast at them.
“Help me get him out of here,” Lereahl said to the gnomes, hooking his arms under Rath’s shoulders. The gnomes grabbed a leg each and they dragged the body through the nearest door, slamming it in the livid salamander’s face. The two giant owls shook soot from their feathers and looked on curiously as the three companions laid Rathalohse in the grass. They appeared to be in a quiet garden, not that the three really noticed. Mulch reached into her pack with a shaking hand and pulled out a health potion.
“It won’t work,” murmured the half-elf. “He’s already gone.”
Mulch put the potion back. There was silence in the garden. Even the owls had become still, sensing the sadness in the group. Glo had not known the ranger very well, but she was still shocked at how suddenly his life had been extinguished. Mulch had known him for longer. She couldn’t believe that the skinny human was gone. She sat in the grass just staring uncomprehendingly at the body.  Lereahl’s face was screwed up in anguish. He’d known the dairy-loving lunatic longer than any of the others. Sure, he was an adventurer; a warrior; a planeswalker. This sort of thing was expected. Just the other day, they’d mourned Jet and Mange, the seemingly unstoppable shield wielding dwarf, and cannonball-like barbarian halfling. The pair had gone up against demi-gods together. They’d fought valiantly, but had perished. But never had Lereahl seen a companion die right in front of him. He cringed at the thought of burying his friend.
“Uh, guys... I think I might have a way to save your friend,” said Glo. Mulch and Lereahl looked up at her.
“Well, I am a druid. Technically we can, uh, reincarnate people,” she said, wringing her hands.
Lereahl just stared at her.
“Why didn’t you tell us earlier?” asked Mulch, getting up and wiping at her eyes.
“Well, because I haven’t, you know, actually done it before,” muttered Glo.
Lereahl  got up too.
“Don’t worry. We have faith in you,” he said, taking the small gnome by the shoulders and smiling encouragingly at her.
Glo had warned them that the reincarnation process would take a while. When the blinding white dome of light had finally fallen away, Rathalohse struggled to sit up.
“Whoa, calm down, calm down,” said Glo, running forwards to catch him.
“Wha... What happened?” Rathalohse mumbled, looking incredibly dizzy. The other gathered too, expressions ranging from curious to downright alarmed.
“You were hit with the fireball. You, uh, died. But don’t worry! I’ve just finished reincarnating you!” explained Glo. She sounded quite exhausted.
“You didn’t say he’d have a different body!” exclaimed Lereahl. Glo had indeed neglected to mention to them that Rathalohse wouldn’t be the same person, let alone the same species.
“Different body?” asked the groggy Rath.  He looked down to find that his lower legs were slim and covered in brown fur. Curling from his new long, brown hair was a pair of spiralled horns.
“I’m a faun?” he asked in shock.
“Er... A little more than that...” said Glo, pointing behind Rath. He twisted slightly to see that he had hind legs as well as fore.
“You’re a Bariaur,” said Mulch, now trying to suppress a giggle. “A goat centaur!”
“Also, you’re quite busty...” said Lereahl, picking up Rath’s now tattered and burnt swallow-tailed jacket and top hat and handing them to him. Rath looked down.
“I’M A GIRL!?” Her new, angular face was filled with horror.
The four decided to rest for a while longer. Rath had collapsed in the grass in shock, her four legs splayed. Mulch sat with her, trying to console her.
“It’s not that bad,” said the gnome. “You’ll get over it after a while. And besides: boobies.”
Lereahl and Glo had left them alone to recover and were now scouting the garden. It seemed very calm here. The owls seemed quite happy to trot along behind their new keepers. The pair eventually came upon the centre of the garden. Here, carved upon a great wooden table, was a riddle.
I start as a box, with no lock or key.
Nothing but time and space can open me,
All my life I push towards heaven’s front door,
But I push towards hell just as much, if not more.
I drink of the waters, I breathe from the sky,
But I don’t move an inch till the day that I die.
What am I?
Beneath the riddle was a small thorny pencil. Glo scratched her head.
“I’ve always like riddles,” she said. “But they can sometimes stump me really good.” She laughed. Lereahl put a finger to his chin.
“Hm. Stump...”
Then he picked up the pencil and wrote beneath the poem: I am a tree. The riddle vanished. The tabletop then clicked and slid backwards, opening to reveal a hidden compartment. Glo reached in and pulled out their prize. It was a flail. There were four heads and each glowed with a different colour. It felt very magical.
“Here, you should have it. You solved the riddle,” said Glo, trying to hand the flail to Lereahl. The half-elf shook his head however.
“Nah. You keep it. You gave me the answer anyways when you said ‘stump’. It made me begin to think of trees,” he said.
Glo laughed and nodded.
“Fair enough,” she said.
They made their way back to Mulch and Rath. Rath had finally been able to stand up again on her four new legs. She looked grumpy, but definitely less stunned than before. She led the group towards the next door.
“Feel so weird not wearing pants...” she grumbled.
“Tell me about it,” said Mulch, who then surreptitiously patted her incredible new pants as if to check that they were still there.
The sweet scent was enough to knock over a fully grown man and send children into sugar comas. Lereahl pushed to door open wide to reveal the incredible landscape beyond. The earth was made of chocolate, the trees of striped candy. The rocks were enormous sugared lollies, the river of liquid chocolate. The four companions walked inside, looking around in wonder. Glo snapped a sugared flower off a tree and put it in her mouth.
“’s real!” she said around the candy.
“Sweet,” said Mulch, grinning and reaching for a chocolate pebble. The rest of the group were about to dive into the sugary magic too when they heard a strange sound behind them. It was a crunchy marching sound. The four turned to see a large army of five foot tall gingerbread men marching towards them. The ones in the front were smiling and giggling. The ones in the back however, had angry faces iced onto their heads. They were faster and more agile, leaping and flipping through the others.
“Hah! Ninja bread men!” said Rath, pointing. Beneath the rumbling of the gingerbread footsteps, the group could hear the bass thud of something much larger moving through the candy trees. The four gasped as a huge man, made completely of puffy white marshmallow stomped into view. He roared at the sight of the four Planeswalkers. Lereahl drew and arrow from his quiver and grinned at the others.
“Anyone hungry?” he asked slyly.
The four sat around the crackling fire as the sunlight dimmed in this strange candy world. They’d made a bonfire of the candy trees, which burned surprisingly well with blue and pink flames.  They were now roasting bits of the marshmallow man over the fire on long candy sticks.
“Well,” said Rathalohse, “that was the most delicious victory I’ve ever had.”
The others laughed. Lereahl turned to his new avian friend and held up a large piece of a ninja-bread man’s head. The black owl leant down and snatched up the treat, seeming to quite enjoy the taste of the ginger bread.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Clicking Refresh

Welp. I think I just submitted my novel to a literary agent.

Starting a few days ago, after I finished the last of my overdue Dungeons and Dragons shorts, I got to work on Soulless. I've had quite a few edits to go over courtesy of my beta-readers. They'd reported back to me among many things that one of the relationships moved too fast and that the final confrontation was over much too quickly. I have since edited the manuscript and it is now, er, at approximately 104,000 words. Which is kind of a lot for a Young Adult fantasy novel.
The past few two days, I have been researching literary agents with which to submit. I have read all about the self-publishing path on the internet, but my dream is to be traditionally published. I found an agency called Cameron Creswell that allowed me to send them my submission online. Then came the tricky part.

The cover letter.

Man. I think I must have spent several hours writing up that thing. It's quite hard to condense a 100K+ novel down to just a few paragraphs. Even harder to make it sound intriguing. The hardest part of all was the first sentence, or the 'hook'. To catch an agent's attention, you've gotta be able to draw them in with that first sentence.
Here's what I sent them:

Dear (insert agent's name),
I’m seeking representation for my Young Adult fantasy novel, Soulless complete at 104,000 words. It could be the first in a potential series, or a standalone novel.
Rook Llewellyn never imagined he’d pass his curse on again, but the moment he stepped into that old burning farmhouse to save her, young Evie Wray’s life changed forever.
Although safe from the flames, Evie is now burdened with an ancient curse that turns her into a creature known in legends and horror stories as a Soul-Wraith. To survive, a wraith must steal the energy or the soul from other living creatures.
Evie discovers that the fire that has taken her parents’ lives and which nearly took hers was no accident. Those responsible are actually the Watch, the men who police the country of Geath, and this is not the first time they’ve shown their corrupt side. Evie journeys with Rook and a bumbling and quite useless wizard by the name of Quintin, to the capital city of Tsarus to demand answers and justice for the crimes of the Watch.
The three companions face many trials on their travels, but the worst awaits them in Tsarus. A figure from Rook’s shadowy past fixes hungry eyes on Evie’s strange new healing powers.
I am writing to you because I believe that we could work well together. I absolutely love writing and telling stories and I have a lot of practice with working to deadlines from my training and experience as a graphic designer. I have had several short stories published in anthologies and was shortlisted for the 2009 Somerset National Novella Writing Competition. I may be submitting this manuscript simultaneously.
Thank you for your time.

I hope I've done it right.

The next hardest thing was the synopsis they requested. Which means even more condensing. I had to break Soulless down into its bare bones components, detailign all the main story arcs and developments. It took longer than I thought.

But finally, I got it all done, checked it twice, and then hit submit.
I'm finding it hard not to keep checking my emails every five minutes, even though I know it will take them much longer to respond.

Feeling: Excited but cool.
Wearing: Ugh. Old school pants and a black shirt with african animals printed in white, gold and brown on the front.
Listening to: Beyond by Daft Punk. Sooo good.
Eating: Had a massive slice of birthday cake. Birthday was two days ago. Still hasn't sunk in that I'm 20 now. *cringes at the thought*

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Soaring Unicorn

As promised, here is the next Dungeons and Dragons short! We decided to mix this game up a little. We're playing D&D 3.5, but we've just replaced all of the magic and spells with futuristic technology, spaceships and aliens. It is so much fun to play, and not surprisingly, to write.
My character in this version is the lovable little assasin Zer0. Yes, I did steal him a bit from Borderlands 2, but who can blame me? The guy is amazing.

And so I present to you, the first installment of ... an as yet unnamed futuristic D&D series!

Rasha Karn growled and opened his gold-yellow eyes. The slitted pupils grew wide in the darkness. He blinked several times as they adjusted. He was having trouble remembering where he was. All he seemed to recall was hefting a huge bucket of something shiny and blue into the cargo bay. They had been exploring the arid moon of some unnamed planet. The air was breathable, but the wildlife incredibly hostile. The creatures were huge and insect-like with segmented bodies and compound eyes. After the crew had slain most of them, the rest had retreated to the entrance of a huge cave. In the cavern, they had found the beginnings of the creatures nest, constructed from a strange blue material they produced. Karn remembering being very excited with this find. He recognized the hard, translucent blue product as a key ingredient in cold welding. He and the crew had been in the process of stuffing as much of it as they could into the ship when there’d been an explosion of angry chittering and scuttling from one of the recesses of the cave. The insects had swarmed around him, crawled onto him and dragged him thrashing to the ground. He could hear Wolfenette screaming nearby. Wolfenette. Where was she? Where was his crew?

Karn struggled to get up. It took his befuddled brain a few seconds to realize that he was stuck in something. He looked down as far as he was able to see that he was stuck vertically to a wall with the same, hard blue amber they’d been collecting. He couldn’t even flex his claws. There was a small moan to his right. He craned his neck around to see Wolfenette stuck similarly to the wall of the dark cave. She groaned again and opened her eyes.
“Wolf? You okay?”
Wolfenette blinked once or twice and tried to move too.
“Not sure, cap’. All I remember is those bugs swarming us…”
“Oh look! They’re alive!”
Karn turned towards the voice. It came from the wall opposite. Also encased in the amber was a willowy figure with blue skin and a large forehead. An Eolith.
“Who are you?” asked Karn.
“Name’s Nieve. Didn’t know there was anyone else sentient on this godsdamned moon. Thank the stars you’re alive. Do you have a ship? Can you get us out of here?”
Karn grunted and struggled against the amber again.
“Yes, I have a ship. My name’s Captain Rasha Karn and this is Wolfenette.” Karn jerked his head at the beguiler.  “But that doesn’t mean we’ll just let you hop on board. What are you doing here?”
“Well, we were on our way to Phsyracuse. It’s said there’s good money in hunting there. But then we ran into an asteroid storm. Our ship crash landed here. We wandered about in the desert for about an Earth-standard week till those bugs pounced on us. Been down here for who knows how long. And for some reason I just can’t get out of or through this stupid blue stuff…” The Eolith trailed off.
“What do you mean we?” asked Karn.
“Oh. This is my associate, Zer0,” said Nieve, indicating the glob of amber to her left with the only finger she had free. A face Karn had not previously noticed popped up. The reason he’d not noticed was that the man wore a helmet. It was a curved piece of black glass, a bit like a fencing mask, and blended well in the darkness.
“He doesn’t talk much,” said Nieve airily.
Zer0 nodded enthusiastically and a bright red holographic symbol lit up in the air in front of his visor.
He then waved excitedly and the symbol changed.
Karn raised an eyebrow.
“Captain, I really can’t move at all. Also, I can’t see 801 down here. If he was, he’d probably be able to bust us out,” Wolfenette said.
Karn nodded. The android had a knack for breaking things. But, as Wolf had just pointed out, he was not here. Karn flexed all of his muscles, searching for any weaknesses in the blue amber shell.

Karn glared at the tiny globs of blue still stuck to his glossy black fur. He’d managed to kick his way out of the goo and then free the others. But getting rid of the bits in his fur would have to wait. They had to get out of here. Zer0 was hopping about on one foot. One of his legs was still encased in the translucent material.
“Here, hold still you idiot,” snapped Nieve. She let the tall man steady himself with a hand on her shoulder. She’d found all their weapons in one corner of the room and thus used the butt of her enormous sniper rifle to crack the coating. Zer0 shook the last of the fragments free and gave her thumbs up and a smile.
Karn suddenly noticed that the helmeted man only had four fingers on each hand. He shrugged and went to collect his weapons. His laser swords were unharmed and still in their sheaths. Zer0 retrieved his own laser sword. It was longer and thinner than Karn’s; more of a sabre than a sword. Wolf picked up her SMG, checked the magazine and nodded to Karn.
“Okay. Let’s go. Quietly now,” said Karn softly, moving to the large, oddly circular doorway.
There was another storeroom to their left. Through it they could see the gut churning images of old white bones trapped in blue amber. To their right, was a corridor lined with tall rock pillars and rough stone walls. There was a skittering sound from behind one of the pillars and a trio of waist-height insects scuttled into view. Their segmented shells were blue and green and spiked with purple ridges. Nieve gave a little squeak and ran to hide behind a pillar. She was too slow however; the guards had spotted them.
“Wolf!” called Karn.
Wolfenette leapt forwards and threw out a hand. A cone of blazing light and colour shot from a small device there, directly at the creatures. They didn’t even pause.
“It didn’t work!” cried Wolfenette, looking worriedly back at Karn.
“Was that a neural-spray cartridge?” asked Nieve, hoisting her rifle and aiming around the pillar.
“Yeah. Like an old flash bang. Scrambles the brain for a few seconds,” replied Wolfenette, backing into the group again.
“Won’t really work on these beasts. They’re hive creatures. A hive mind. They don’t have too many brains to scramble,” said the Eolith.
“Very well then,” said Rasha Karn. He strolled to the fore of the group, brandishing his crackling swords and baring his long, sharp canines. One of the insects chattered menacingly and leapt at him. Karn roared as he slashed at the bug, spraying hissing green blood everywhere. With his second stroke, he sliced the creature in half. Zer0 darted forwards, heading for the great insect on Karn’s right. Zer0’s sabre glowed electric blue in contrast to the rusty orange of Karn’s. Unfortunately, the insect he swung at leapt back, chittering angrily. Karn coiled and sprang at the last guard, bringing both blades down hard onto its shiny carapace, and then dodging out of the way as more acidic green blood spilled forth. The creature skittered and chirped in pain. Karn finished it off with a few quick blows and then turned to help Zer0. The bug was still dancing around him, darting forwards now and then, trying to bite the tall man. Karn came at it from the side, swiping two of its legs off. Wolfenette managed to hit it a few times, the hot bullets tearing through the blue carapace. The now lame creature shrieked as Zer0 leapt on top of it and thrust his sword through its middle. The insect collapsed; dead. Zero stabbed it a few more times, a happy emoticon on his visor. Karn could only stare at him in incredulity.
After a short rest, the group headed towards the end of the corridor. To their left now was a large room with a high ceiling, There were rows upon rows of crystal blue honeycomb structures stacked in it. To the right, a tunnel wound off into pitch darkness. They took the dark tunnel. It curved a lot and soon they were at a junction where the walls began to glow. The light was a strange, pale blue. Up ahead and to the right they heard the chittering of more guards. The sounds advanced rapidly towards them. Karn held up a hand, motioning to everyone to move back. Zer0 twitched a few times, displaying a weird glitched symbol on his visor before shaking his head and complying. Karn pointed to Nieve and gestured for her to shoot the first creature to come down the tunnel. She responded quickly, falling to one knee and sighting down the corridor. The first insect warrior to round the corner exploded in a gooey green mess. Zero twitched again and then seemed to recover, leaping to his feet and racing down the corridor. The first creature he came into contact with was severed from feelered head to spiny abdomen. Wolfenette had a different cartridge loaded this time. She aimed it at the last guard and fired. The bug staggered suddenly, bumping into a wall. It sank slowly to its knees and then lay on the ground fast asleep.  Zer0 leapt cheerfully onto it and stabbed it a few times too.
Karn headed off to the right, carefully avoiding the pools of acidic green blood. The room at the end of the corridor however, was not a pleasant one.  It was like the other storeroom they had passed, the walls covered skeletons of every size and shape imaginable, all trapped in blue amber. They turned back and chose the other fork. This corridor was a long one, and apparently well used. The walls and floor were worn to the point of being polished. There grew a strange sound. At first it sounded like running water, but as one grew closer, they realized that it was more of a humming or a buzzing. The companions’ jaws dropped when they saw what it really was. Their tunnel was one of thousands that emptied out into an immense cavern. The walls crawled with the large blue-green insects, all busy fetching, building or scurrying about. In the middle of the sea of insects sat the biggest bug imaginable. The upper segments of its body and its head were the size of small cars, and its abdomen the length of an Olympic swimming pool. It was very obviously the queen of this enormous hive. Beside the queen sat two insects, much larger than the drones, but not as big as the queen.
After a few moments of staring and just trying to absorb the scene, Karn felt a soft tap on his shoulder. The Jacorith turned to see Zer0 backing away slowly and gesturing for him to come too, a new symbol shining on his visor.
Wolfenette and Nieve however, had begun discussing a plan of attack.
“We should probably get out of here,” Karn told them softly. “There’s no way we’re going to be able to fight that many. We were overcome by only two dozen before, remember? It’s how we ended up stuck in this maze in the first place.”
“Oh. Right,” said Nieve. She began tiptoeing quietly after Zer0 who was still beckoning them anxiously.
“Come one Wolf, let’s just go,” said Karn, turning to follow them.
Wolfenette however, was not convinced.
“Huh. You’re all sissies!” she snapped.
The buzzing stopped abruptly. There was utter silence in the enormous chamber. Wolf’s eyes widened in fear.
“Run!” bellowed Karn.
The noise in the tunnel was like a clap of thunder that just kept rolling. The companions sprinted down the corridor and burst into a room filled with blue honeycomb. To the right, they could see more angry bugs bearing down on them. To the left was a row of honeycomb.
Zer0’s symbol flashed rapidly and he pointed urgently. He’d found a gap in the honeycomb; another tunnel. Everyone piled into the crevice and kept running. Left fork, middle fork, left again and then right. They skidded to a halt in a large room. Poking from the far wall was a pair of large, broken concrete pipes. They chose the right one, scrambling and pulling each other up. At the end of the pipe, there was a rusted valve door. They struggled to close it, trying to shut it on the bugs, but the insects were too fast, squeezing past in a steady flow. The crew fled again. Suddenly they were in a cavern full of red sunlight. Parked not ten yards away was a mid-sized red and silver ship. The hull was emblazoned with the name The Soaring Unicorn. The cargo bay was open and a bulky android hung out, trying to figure out what the incredible noise was.
“MI-801! You’re alive!” shouted Karn.
“Yes captain! I managed to fight the bugs off! However, when I’d killed the last of them, you two were gone!”  801 replied.
“Doesn’t matter now! Get in the ship!” Karn roared.
“Uh, yes captain,” muttered the android, staring in astonishment at the hoard of insects chasing the Jacorith, Zer0 and Wolfenette. The four of them scrambled into the ship. 801 hit the bay door button and then leapt into a gunner’s seat. The laser cannons took a few seconds to warm up, but he was soon blasting away at the swarm of bugs threatening to envelop the ship. Karn strapped himself into the captain’s chair, flipped a few switches, started the engines and punched the throttle. The Soaring Unicorn leapt into the air, throwing Zer0 into Wolfenette.
“Buckle down you lot!” roared the captain as he wrestled the ship through the tiny cave mouth. Zer0 and Wolfenette struggled into the nearest chairs. Then they were out in the open air. Red sunlight streamed through the windows. Wolfenette began cheering. Zer0 clapped gleefully.
“Don’t celebrate just yet,” grumbled Karn.
Through the windows, they could see the swirling red sand below. Something was happening down there. It could have been the vibrations of the ship’s engines, but it appeared that the ground was shaking. Suddenly, a great crack opened in the sand. A waterfall of red cascaded in and then out of the growing hole, came the enormous queen bug. Karn was sure he wasn’t imagining it; she looked totally pissed. Following her, were the two huge soldier drones.
Zer0 waved urgently at Wolfenette.
“Huh?” asked Wolfenette. Zer0 pointed at the empty seat beside him and then mimed shooting and reloading a large rifle.
“Wait. Nieve? Where is she?”
Zer0 shook his head violently.
“Karn!” shouted Wolfenette. “We have to go back! Nieve’s been left behin…” Wolfenette’s words trailed off as she looked again out the window at the giant insect queen. Unfurling from her back was an enormous set of wings. She flapped them slowly and then faster, lifting into the air, her drones behind her, rising on wings of their own. But most alarming of all, was the short blue-skinned figure clinging desperately to the queen’s back. Zer0 pointed happily.
A few minutes ago…
“Run!” bellowed Karn.
Nieve however, froze. She glanced around quickly and then darted into a tiny crevice in the rock wall. The roaring started up almost instantaneously. The insects flooded past her, angry eyes fixed on the others. None of them even noticed her. She was invisible.
When the hoard had passed, the Eolith poked her head out cautiously. The royal chamber was almost entirely empty now. All that was left was the gigantic queen and her hench-drones. Nieve could see the queen insect chittering angrily. After a few minutes, the anger grew and suddenly she reared up and began attacking the ceiling. Red dirt and blue amber began crashing to the ground. The queen continued to claw at the ceiling, digging further and further until a shaft of red sunlight spilled onto the floor. The light grew as the ceiling began to collapse. The queen shrieked and began to unfurl her wings. Nieve could hear another noise above the sound of the collapsing cave. The whining of ship engines. She glimpsed a red and silver hull through the crack in the ceiling. Nieve looked again at the Queen who had slowly begun to flap her wings. An idea began to form in her head. A very stupid idea.
“Oh hell…” she muttered. She slung her rifle strap around her shoulders, took a deep breath and then sprinted towards the queen.
The crew aboard the Soaring Unicorn looked on in amazement as Nieve struggled to stand upright astride the queen. They were distracted only when the soldier drone closest to the ship shivered and spat a long stream of green acid at them.
“Oh no you don’t!” Rasha Karn wrenched the ship around and fired back with the main guns. The soldier drone shrieked and dropped down several yards.
“Get on those canons and take the others out!” shouted Karn. Zer0 and Wolfenette undid their buckles and lurched towards the mounted gunner seats.
Back out on the queen, Nieve had finally managed to find her feet. She swung her rifle into her hands and loaded it. She pointed it straight down at the queen’s back and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. The gun had jammed.
The queen now spat a huge line of acid. The Unicorn, under Karn’s deft hand, was able to dodge the sizzling stream. Karn turned again and fired at the first soldier drone. The rail gun pierced both of its wings and it was sent plummeting to the red sand far below. Zer0 and Wolfenette were now taking potshots too. It was difficult to manage, what with the ship darting this way and that to avoid the acid. They were also very concerned that one of them might hit Nieve by accident.
“Sure could use some missiles right about now-” Karn was cut off by a horrid screeching sound. The remaining soldier drone had launched itself at the ship and latched on somehow, claws squealing over the metal.
“Dammit,” growled Karn. “Hold on everyone. I’ve gotta’ shake this monster.”
The Unicorn rocketed upwards. Zer0 found himself clutching his headrest in panic as the g-force pulled him backwards into his seat. They were thrown willy-nilly as Karn rolled and spun, trying to throw the creature off.
Nieve had managed to un-jam her rifle. She re-loaded it, cocked it and checked her balance. She shoved the barrel into a crack in the queen’s shiny carapace and pulled the trigger. The shot was oddly muffled, but was followed by an unearthly shriek. The queen faltered and fell a little, flailing and squealing in pain. There was now an exit chasm on the underside of her belly.
Back on the ship, the soldier drone was still holding tightly to the hull. The ship righted just in time for the crew to see Nieve’s bullet explode out the other side of the queen’s belly. Zer0 clapped gleefully and then gave a thumbs up in approval.
Rasha Karn dived. The crew was suddenly weightless. Zer0’s helmet flashed through a series of shocked and alarmed emoticons before settling on one.
Karn pulled up suddenly and jagged to the right. The soldier drone howled as the sudden turn wrenched its grip free and catapulted it straight towards the queen. The two collided with a sickening crunch, nearly sending Nieve flying. Now the lasers were blazing again. The muzzles of the guns began to glow red hot as the crew peppered the soldier and queen with dozens of shots. The insects tried to spit their acid again, but couldn’t even get close. Zer0 punched the air as one of his shots found a soft spot on the soldier drone’s belly. It was dead before it even crashed in a sticky, horrible mess on the red desert.
“Wolf! Get one of those mining drones out there! If we do manage to shoot this queen down, Nieve will not survive the fall!” shouted Karn, furiously wrestling with the ship’s controls.
“Yes captain!” Wolfenette ran towards a bank of controls in the center of the ship. She hit a few buttons and there was the hiss of pneumatics. A door had opened on the bottom of the ship, releasing a small mining bot. The Soaring Unicorn had once been a mining rig and most of the equipment was still on board – including several pairs of rancid orange overalls stained with all manner of dirt and alien dust. The drilling bot dropped away from the ship, falling fast towards the red sand. Wolfenette stared anxiously at the controls.
“Fly dammit!” she hissed, punching buttons randomly.
Zer0 had nailed the queen several times now, the lasers blasting holes in the queen’s blue carapace. Nieve too had managed another shot after she’d regained her balance. The Unicorn dived again, firing round after round at the giant insect. They were too close though, and the queen shrieked and lashed out with her front claws, grazing the ship with a sound like fingernails on a chalkboard.
Wolfenette’s drone was now rocketing upwards. She’d figured out the controls just before the little bot had crashed in the red dunes. Karn dodged another blow from the queen’s claws and spun the ship so it was pointing right into her mandibles.
“Eat lead, your highness,” snarled the Jacorith and squeezed the trigger. The railgun spat, shredding the queen’s head. Her wings faltered and then stopped altogether. She began to fall.
“Where’s that bot?” roared Karn.

“I’m not going to make it!” replied Wolfenette still rapidly pressing buttons on the console. Karn growled and sent the Unicorn into yet another gravity-warping dive after the enormous insect. Zer0 threw off his harness and for a second, he was floating in midair. He pushed off the back of the gunner’s chair, sailing through space towards one of the other consoles. There was a second pneumatic hiss as another bot was released. Zer0 was much quicker in figuring out the controls and soon had the little bot racing down after the queen. The robot drew alongside the falling corpse, desperately seeking out Nieve with its onboard camera. Suddenly, she was there, face against the queen’s flesh, hanging on for dear life. Zer0 hit the controls and the bot flew towards Nieve, smacking into her and getting her attention. It bounced away again. The Eolith craned her neck around and her eyes widened as she realized what she had to do. There was no time left. She judged the distance quickly and pushed off. Everything seemed to slow as she back flipped gracefully through the air – landing solidly on the mining bot. The robot pulled away as the ship did too. 801 and Wolfenette cheered and rained hands upon Zer0’s back as he piloted the little robot expertly back into the loading bay. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Good evening/morning! I present to you the next installment of the weird and wonderful and slightly wanton Passage of the Planeswalkers. Also, stay turned for next week's episode - it's going to be a little different. You'll meet some new characters in a completely new futuristic setting. It has lasers and guns and giant, angry bee-aliens! *Pew-pew! Pew!* *Other assorted laser noises*

There was an unusual crunching underfoot as the travelers stepped through the crystal gates of Lisseth. They found themselves squinting against a sudden glare. One could equate it to a sudden snow blindness; the harsh light seemed to refract off everything. Once their eyes had adjusted, the planeswalkers saw that it was not snow that reflected the light, but every blade of grass on the ground. Each leaf was a tiny shard of glittering green glass. The trees were the same - tall, glittering structures of brown and green and rusted red glass. A slight breeze filtered through the leaves, bringing with it the sinister chiming of millions of razor leaves.
Through the trees, they could see a stone dais. The group headed towards it, threading their way gingerly through the glittering trees. In the lead, was Targar Ironsoul, the stocky, warhammer-wielding dwarf. Behind him was a newcomer by the name of Leander Farstrider. He was an elf with scrubby, auburn hair and blazing green eyes. Slung across his broad shoulders was a longbow. The half-elf Lereahl was for once, not bringing up the rear because Wolfenight winced along behind him. The wizard was not one to wear shoes and the glass-like grass was indeed very sharp.
As the adventurers approached the stone dais, there was a hiss and a tall, intimidating looking man in sweeping green robes appeared amidst a puff of purple smoke.  He looked down his crooked nose at them. His eyes were as sharp as the glass leaves around them.
“What are you doing here?” he asked in a commanding voice. The travelers stopped as if pinned by the man’s gaze. His voice seemed to resonate with untold power. He was obviously a great wizard.
“We are Planeswalkers – travelers, come to seek adventure and treasures,” said Targar, stepping forwards. He stared back into the wizard’s burning gaze. It was not like a dwarf to be looked down on so. The wizard rocked back on his heels and crossed his arms with an unimpressed noise.
“Well, if you’re here, then I may a well ask you to help me. I am searching for herbs of unusual power, said to grow around these parts. Bring several samples back to me and I may consider rewarding you,” he said.
Targar opened his mouth to retort, but the wizard waved a lazy hand at the group. They felt themselves be spun around and rapidly marched away by some strange magic. Targar grunted furiously as he fought against his limbs. Once they had been walked a sufficient distance, they felt the magic begin to lessen and were able to take control again. Targar seemed all for storming back to the wizard and introducing him to the business end of a warhammer, but Wolfenight was able to convince him that they’d best just do what the wizard had asked of them. He achieved this by looking worriedly back at the way they’d come, and then sprinting further into the forest in the opposite direction.
After an hour or so of winding their way through the glass forest, they came upon a huge wall constructed of the same glassy wood. Wolfenight, who now wore a brick on one foot, and a sack on the other, began to suggest ways that they could get over the wall.
“I could levitate myself up,” he said, gazing at the spiked top.
“But then how are you going to get over the wall? Your levitation spell only lets you go up and down,” said Targar, smoothing his beard.
“You know, we could always walk around and find a gate?” said Lereahl. The others ignored him.
“I could throw another brick at you?” suggested Farstrider.
“That would be wonderful!” said Wolfenight.
“Guys? Gate?”
“Okay, get that brick ready. Here I go!” Wolfenight cleared his throat and muttered the magical words of the levitation spell, sending himself shooting straight up to the top of the wall. Lereahl sighed, turned on his heel and began walking away.
“Okay! Now the brick!” called Wolfenight. Farstrider hefted the brick and lobbed it at the Wizard. There was a sharp ‘Ow!’ and Wolfenight was sent spinning over the top of the fence. There, he was able to let himself down and landed rather clumsily on the ground.
“It worked!” came the wizard’s voice from behind the fence.
“Yeah, okay, but now how are we going to get over?” asked Farstrider, indicating himself and Targar.
“Uh…” came Wolfenight’s reply.
You do realize there’s a gate over here?” bellowed Lereahl.
An incredibly tall man had come to greet them just inside the town’s glass gates. He was a cleric and wore robes of white patterned with light grey swirls and stripes. Lereahl, somehow, was the only one not to realize that the man was actually a huge bear. A sheen of magic only made him appear human.
“Greetings travelers! Have you come to pay your respects to the Great Bear God?” The cleric gave them a wicked, fanged grin. Farstrider, Targar and Wolfenight all took a small step back in alarm and began nodding furiously. Lereahl looked at them, rather confused.
“Good, good! Now, tell me, how much do you know about our wonderful lord and host?” the cleric asked.
“Uh, not much,” squeaked Farstrider.
“Excuse me a moment,” said Wolfenight in a small voice. He dashed off. Lereahl watched him dart around the corner and into a small shoe shop they had passed on their way in.
“Well, for one, he is all around us,” said the bear-cleric, throwing his hands out wide.
“Yeah?” asked Targar, who was slowly getting over his shock.
“Indeed, young believer. He is our world, our life source, our very heart. He provides all. The glass tree is the fur upon his back, the earth - his holy flesh, the cold wind – his life-giving breath.”
“Wait. Basically you believe that you live upon the back of a giant bear?”
“A polar-bear to be exact,” said the cleric, nodding sagely.
“Okay, I’m back,” puffed Wolfenight. Lereahl looked down. The wizard had traded the brick and the sack for a pair of fluffy slippers with fake claws on the toes.
“Loving the bear-feet,” the half-elf sniggered.
“What are you talking about? My feet are no longer bare. That was the point of these,” said Wolfenight, waving a slippered foot at Lereahl.
The villager’s name was Shawn. He was all knees and elbows and shook like a leaf, but was happy enough to take the group wherever they wanted to go at the sight of the small bag of gold that Targar offered him. He led the travelers to the south, to where there had been reports of strange and violent beasts. The creatures here were like this because of one of the dangerous plants that grew in the forest, or so they’d been told by the bear-cleric. The Planeswalkers could only assume that these were the herbs that the great wizard had sent them to find.
The path was narrow and meandered vaguely through the forest. It widened at one point and Farstrider paused. He’d heard something rustling in the undergrowth. Past the first line of trees, lay the mouth of a dark cave. The rest of the group turned to see a puppy the size of a goat scramble out of the glass leaves and sit, panting, on the dirt. It looked at them curiously and cocked its head. Farstrider smirked at the pup and aimed an arrow at it. Lereahl darted forwards, putting a restraining hand on the elf’s shoulder.
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” he said.
Farstrider glared at Lereahl.
“And why might that be?” he snapped.
“Well. It’s quite obvious that this creature is only a youngster. My knowledge is that puppies are generally closely guarded by a mother. And judging by the size of this pup, its mother would be… well, I’ll let you figure it out,” replied Lereahl.
Farstrider looked again at the huge puppy and thought for a minute. He lowered his bow. The party moved on.

Targar giggled. Lereahl looked worriedly at him.
“Are you sure it’s safe for him to keep holding that?” he asked Wolfenight.
“Sure!” the Wizard waved a dismissive hand. Lereahl looked back at the grinning dwarf, still not convinced. They had come across one of the odd plants that the bear-cleric had warned them about, and that the great wizard had sent them to pick. There had been a small grove where two specimens grew, glowing white and blue amongst the glittering green ferns and jagged glass vines. When approached, they had given one a lightheaded, giddy, almost blissful feeling. Targar had volunteered to carry the samples. Lereahl had never seen the dwarf smile so much.
“There’s a couple’s picnic area up ahead!” called Shawn, beckoning them. “I think some of those plants might grow there too.  It makes sense; couples go there because the place has a special, blissful feeling about it,” he added. He ran on ahead, bumping into glass trees occasionally and causing a racket. The planeswalkers trudged up the hill to meet him. They found him standing stock still on the edge of a clearing. Sure, it might have been beautiful once, with pretty glass flowers and shady trees, but lying in the middle of the glade, in a pool of dark red blood, was a dismembered hand. Shawn gave a strangled shriek and took off running back towards the village.
“Well. There goes my gold,” grumbled Targar. The blood trail led to the north. They decided to follow it. Wolfenight picked up the severed hand curiously.
“Hm… Human, female, young…” he mumbled, examining the slender fingers. He pocketed it and then ran to catch up with the others.
Farstrider smacked his head on a low hanging branch. He muttered a few elven curse words as he pulled a splinter of glass from his forehead. The sound of his voice was enough to alert the person in the clearing ahead.
“I hear you, cursed poachers. Come out so I may tear your veins from your flesh and feed the trees with your blood,” boomed a deep voice.
The adventurers shrank back in alarm, but the branches of the trees around them curled and whipped, pushing them onwards. They tried to fight the razor glass, but would have shredded themselves upon it, and so resigned themselves to being herded into the clearing. The four looked upon the owner of the deep voice and their mouths fell open in awe. They had expected a man, but towering above them was a huge, snow white bear. Its eyes glinted like obsidian and its hot breath clouded in the cold air.
“Now, poachers, The Lord of the Forest will make you pay for what you have done,” snarled the bear, raising an enormous paw.
“But we are not poachers!” cried Lereahl, cowering against the edge of the clearing.
“Lies! I know your kind. Setting wicked traps. Stealing my children. Just look at what you have done to this one!” roared the great white bear. Out from behind his tree trunk-like legs stepped a slender wolf-man. It was cringing in pain, holding the stump of an arm to its chest. The four companions looked at it in surprise.
“We did not do that,” said Lereahl.
“No, really, we didn’t!” squeaked Wolfenight. He ran forwards, pulling the severed hand from his bag and holding it out. The wolf whimpered. The Lord of the Forest stared coldly down at Wolfenight.
“Mr, uh, Lord of the Forest, sir, would we really bring this back to a creature we’d tried to kill if we were poachers?” asked Wolfenight.
The great bear considered the trembling wizard.
“No, I suppose not,” he growled.
Wolfenight bowed, placed the hand on the ground and backed away, still bent over. The Lord of the Forest looked towards the injured werewolf and nodded to it. The werewolf shuffled forwards. The great bear closed its eyes and breathed out slowly. There was a sudden flash of blinding white light. When it dissipated, the werewolf stood in the middle of the clearing, tall, proud and whole once more.
“If your lordship does not object, we would like to help find these poachers for you,” Wolfenight said, bowing again. The great bear considered the offer for a moment and then dipped its head. The wizard turned to the werewolf.
“Do you know which way they went?” he asked.
The werewolf nodded and pointed a claw to the west.
“Thank you.”
“Be gone now,” boomed the Lord of the Forest, “before I change my mind about whether your veins should remain inside your body…”
Targar, Lereahl and Farstrider hurried into the forest. Wolfenight lagged behind.
“Maybe I’ll see you again sometime?” he said to the werewolf with a clumsy wink.
She just stared and cocked her head in confusion.
On their way through the forest, they came across a dozen or so traps that had obviously been set by the poachers. Lereahl made sure he dismantled them all in a way that they could not be repaired. Read: made them safe to touch and then got Targar to beat them into unrecognizable shapes with his hammer. Soon they could hear the rushing, gurgling sounds of a river and over that, the distant roar of a waterfall.
The river was wide and deep. It didn’t appear to be very fast flowing, but the waterfall was quite intimidating. The river poured off a sheer red cliff face and fell down into a huge gorge. Very little avoided turning to mist before reaching the floor of the canyon.
On the bank of the river, the companions found more strange herbs. These plants were very different to the ones they’d picked earlier. They were tinted purple all around the leaves and spines and seemed to glow black, even under the shadowy ledge where the travelers found them growing. Farstrider reached under the large granite boulder to pick them. When his hands closed around their tough stems, a queer feeling came over him. His hands felt numb and his head a little light. He stood up and looked around at his friends. He suddenly began to think about how much he would like to fit an arrow to his bow and shoot Targar right in the forehead. Or perhaps grab Lereahl from behind and slit his skinny neck with his own dagger. Or maybe… Farstrider shivered. Lereahl looked at him, puzzled.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Uh… I’m hearing voices. They’re telling me to kill everyone,” said Farstrider in a monotone voice. His eyes were unfocussed.
“Oh dear. You’d better put those plants down.”
“Maybe…” replied Farstrider softly. He was looking at Wolfenight now, the beginnings of a scowl on his face.
“Farstrider? Did you hear me?” asked Lereahl, moving towards him.
Farstrider didn’t reply. He was reaching slowly for his bow.
“Leander!” shouted Lereahl.
The elf started, dropping the plants.
“Uh, yeah, what?” he said, looking around blearily.
“You okay now?” asked Lereahl.
“Yeah. I think so. That was weird…”
“Hm…” Wolfenight had bent down to examine the plants.
“Don’t you touch them now,” warned Lereahl.
“Wasn’t going to,” he said. He mused for a second more and then straightened up. “Mage hands!” he called, snapping his fingers. Some unseen force scooped up the bunch of herbs and held them in front of Wolfenight in a parody of a bouquet.
“Now we can carry them safely,” he said.
Farstrider shook his head again, frowning at the ground. The herbs’ power was strong.
“Okay. I think that’s all the flower picking we’re going to be doing for this wizard,” he said gruffly. “Shall we return them to him and then get the hell out of this place?”
There were nods and murmurs from Targar and Wolfenight, but Lereahl had other ideas. As most rogues do when they’re standing idle, he had been looking for things to steal.
“What’s that over there? In the water I mean,” he said, pointing. The other shaded their eyes, looking out into the deep, clear river. There was indeed something just below the surface.
“I’ll get it!” said Wolfenight. He was definitely having fun with his levitating skills today. The object rose out of the lake slowly. It was a huge old chest, dripping with water and rust. Wolfenight hopped into the air with a flying spell, whizzed out over the lake and then pushed the chest to shore. He hovered overhead, literally, as the others tried to figure out how to open it. Targar was the first to reach for the complicated looking lock at the front. He got a rusted spring-blade to the hand for his troubles. He stepped back, sucking the cut, and let the master lock-picker come forwards. Lereahl knelt in front of the chest, and after only a few prods of his skillful fingers and a stern look, the old box sprang open. They all grinned at the pile of gold inside.
“Save some for me. Flying spell is wearing out. I’ll go and give these herbs to the wizard. We really shouldn’t keep him waiting. Who knows what he might do if he gets impatient…” Wolfenight paled at the thought and sped off, his dressing gown flapping in his wake.
Wolfenight arrived at the dais just as the spell petered out. He landed on his rump in the sharp grass with a yelp.
“Your herbs,” he said, holding them out to the bored looking man on the stone platform. The wizard harrumphed.
“Well, if this was all you could collect, then I suppose I shall give you six-hundred gold in return,” he said. He scooped up the plants and slid them into one voluminous sleeve.
Wolfenight looked up in protest, momentarily forgetting who he was talking to.
“Only six-hundred? But we risked a lot for those! They’re worth much more. Just wait till my rogue gets here! He’ll charm your trousers off!”
“I’ll do what?” asked Lereahl, stepping into the clearing. Targar and Farstrider followed him. Wolfenight looked wildly around. He seemed to realize what he’d just said and paled even more.
“Trousers!” he squeaked in a panic.
The great wizard looked strangely at Wolfenight
“If you say so,” he replied, shrugging. He reached down, tapped Wolfenight’s shadow with a long finger and pulled out a pair of fine, brown trousers. He handed them to Wolfenight, who took them without a word – and wrapped them around his shoulders like a scarf.