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.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bang Sticks

A good ridiculously-early-morning to you fine sirs and ladies. This here Dungeons and Dragons short took way longer to write than I expected. So you'd better enjoy it *narrows tired, bloodshot eyes at you*

Lereahl woke up with an unusually powerful headache. Weird lights popped in front of his eyes. The second sense to come back to him was smell. He wrinkled his nose immediately. All he could smell was the horrible, sickly scent of rotting meat and garbage. He forced himself to remember what had happened. He remembered Planeswalker City. He remembered being very annoyed that Lady Celerean would be joining them on this trip through the crystal gate. Who else had come with him? Wolfenight of course. The blundering wizard had stuck close by the blonde half-elf ever since his, uh, “donation” to Wolfenight’s limited funds. Then there was the weird, sissy elf Eolderin and a new companion, a dwarf by the name of Targar Ironsoul. He was red-haired and stocky, a warhammer not far from his right hand, and a halberd not far from his left.
Hearing came back next. Lereahl could hear the others moving around him. Soft footsteps approached and the puzzled face of Wolfenight came into view.
“Hm. Not dead after all,” he said.
“You sound disappointed,” muttered Lereahl, getting up with a hand to his still fuzzy head. He drew the hand away in shock. There was filth in his hair. In his hair.
“Well, you know – brains and things are always handy to have fresh,” Wolfenight said airily and wandered away. Lereahl’s look of shock only increased.
The rest of his memory came back shortly thereafter. There wasn’t much to remember though. They had fluffed about in the city getting ready for the expedition, but as soon as they had stepped through the portal, something had gone terribly wrong. They had walked through the swirling white magic and straight into a smooth, dark room. Something must have sensed that they were there immediately and the room had begun to fill with choking gas. If that wasn’t enough, they had all been shot with some kind of poison dart. Now that Lereahl was able to look around, he realised that they had merely been tipped with some sort of sleeping potion. They had been taken and dumped in a kind of underground sewer. The horrid rotting smell was coming from a huge mound of dead bodies piled in the dimly lit cavern. Lereahl had to look away when he saw it. Before he did though, he noticed that the beings were unlike any he’d seen before. They were bipedal, with ochre skin and twisted, angry looking faces.
“There’s something weird going on here. I hope it’s not just me that senses it,” Lereahl said, looking anywhere but the corpses. The others nodded slowly. The angry red creatures looked very out of place in this smooth, artificial grey stone room.
“Oh, quite right. The magic is bent here,” said Wolfenight and walked off. Eol turned and looked quizzically at Lereahl. The half-elf shrugged, just as befuddled, and then followed Wolfenight down the corridor.

Celerean had just complained for the sixth time that she had muck on her new shoes when they rounded a corner in the sewer and came face to face with two very strangely dressed people. There was a man and a woman who were clad in very similar black outfits. The planeswalkers and the strangers stopped and stared at each other in alarm for a few seconds. The strange woman was the first to recover, whipping out a small, grey and black object and pointing it at the planeswalkers. They knew not what the device was, but as warriors, they recognised it as some form of weapon and drew their own. Faced with a dazzling display of glinting arrows, tight bowstrings, a huge warhammer and a dithering man in a bathrobe and a pointed hat, the man’s hands were shaking as he drew his own silver-black weapon.
The fight was incredibly confusing and extremely loud. The stranger’s weapons emitted cracks like lightning bolts, and tiny, impossibly fast darts ricocheted off the walls around the Planeswalkers. The two enemies were blasted back with a wave from Wolfenight. More deafening cracks resounded in the closed space as Targar leapt forwards to finish off the man. An arrow through the heart from Lereahl dispatched the woman. Targar was a little too enthusiastic and continued to hit the bodies after they were dead. The others approached, but before they could get a good look at the strange weapons the man and woman had been using, Eol had picked them up and thrown them into the murky sewer channel. Celerean glared at the elf. What they were sure of though, was the fact that none of them had ever seen weapons like them before.
They found more oddly dressed men in a room behind a heavy metal door. These men were equally surprised to see them, although they were dressed in white coats. Their weapons were elongated and sprayed chattering rounds of shrapnel. Wolfenight shrieked as the hail of metal fell on the Planeswalkers and he seemed to react instinctively.
“Friend!” he squeaked covering his head with his arms.
A blue ball of light rocketed wildly around the room and then hit one of the white coated men in the chest, knocking him on his ass. He sat up, looked around a little stunned and put down his weapon. Wolfenight peeked out from between his elbows.
“Friend!” he said happily, seeing the now pacified man.
“Get his – uh – the banging stick-thing!” yelled Eol. Celerean skipped happily forwards to collect the man’s weapon. Targar rushed in next as the second man was struggling with his weapon, appearing to swap out some sort of box. Targar grabbed the man by the shoulders and tried to wrestle him to the ground. Unfortunately, the dwarf tripped and crashed to the ground himself. This sudden attack on his comrade seemed to wake the charmed man up. He got to his feet, angry, and lunged for the weapon in Celerean’s hands.
“No! Bad friend!” said Wolfenight, frowning, and a blast of white magic knocked the man over again. He lay on the ground, shocked and dead.
“Oh no! Friend! I’m sorry!” shouted Wolfenight. The remaining man had managed to get the black box into his weapon and turned it on Targar, who was still cursing on the ground. Celerean had to think fast. She’d seen the men using these weapons and they seemed eerily familiar to her flintlock pistol. She grasped the gun properly, and pulled the smooth, matte black trigger. The gun spat bullets and recoiled wildly, but the remaining man was sufficiently distracted. Lereahl darted into the fray with a misjudged tumble, leaping up right into the man’s line of fire. Two bullets flew through the tall half-elf’s shoulder before he loosed an arrow into the man’s neck, silencing the gunfire.
The room beyond appeared to be a barracks of some kind. There was a military feel to the neat cots and uniform colours, although an alien one. There were more of the artificial grey stone walls here and the feeling that the travellers were very out of place. Targar’s eyes were sharp enough to spot the only other thing out of place. Behind one of the cots was a brick that was slightly askew. When removed, a little drawstring bag of jewels fell out, followed by a small, incredibly lifelike painting. The painting was of a young girl and man. The girl was sitting on the man’s shoulders and they were both smiling happily. Lereahl grew sad when he recognised the man in the picture as the one he had just shot through the neck. Targar pocketed the picture and the bag of jewels with an unhappy look.
The companions stopped before the end of the next corridor, not sure what kind of enemies might lie beyond. Wolfenight was talking to himself. Or was he talking to thin air? Lereahl leaned forwards, his keen ears catching the whisperings of what sounded like another voice.
“Just tell us how many are in there,” murmured Wolfenight, his gaze fixed on something no one else could see. There was a faint hiss and Wolfenight flinched a little.
“Sorry! Sorry! I meant, could you please tell us how many are in there?” he said hurriedly. Lereahl looked on in puzzlement as Wolfenight stood quietly for a moment, and then turned back to the group.
“Three large men up ahead armed with big, uh...” he waved vaguely at Cerelean’s new weapon, “Bang sticks. Now, I’ll create a diversion with my Ghost Sounds spell.”
They crept towards the end of the hall. The room beyond was filled with tables and strange chairs with one leg that ended in six spokes. On the tables were boxes and flat squares that glowed with strange lights. Wolfenight peeked out, muttered a few more words and then ducked back behind cover. They heard some strange shuffling and banging noises from the door across the room. The three men looked quizzically towards the sounds.
“Go check it out. I’ll stay here,” said the biggest of the three. The others nodded and went to investigate. Once they were in the room and the last man’s back was turned, Wolfenight gestured furiously to Lereahl. Lereahl eventually got the hint and crept silently into the room. He nocked an arrow, drew a bead on the man and fired. The large guard slumped quietly to the ground. The rest of the Planeswalkers hurried quietly into the room. With a quick levitation spell, Wolfenight moved a table in front of the door. The men on the other side tried to open the door, but found themselves stuck because of the table. There was muffled shouting and thumping on the door. Then there was a tiny moment of silence. Realising that the men were about to try to ram the door open, Wolfenight whisked the table out of the way. The men came crashing through the door, tumbled and fell over one other. Wolfenight waved his hands again and sent several blast of white magic at the man who had made it through the door first. He spun, twisting and flailing as something else electrocuted him as well. The second man got Lereahl’s arrow through his arm, and Celerean’s through his shin. He fell, screaming to the ground. Targar walked up to him, warhammer raised.
“Drop your weapon,” the dwarf growled. The man whimpered and his gun clattered to the floor. Targar reached into his pack for a rope and tied the man up. Lereahl knelt down next to the dwarf and helped with the knots.
“Now,” said Targar turning back to the man.
“TELL US EVERYTHING!” shouted Eol leaping forwards and shoving the decapitated head of one of the other men into the trussed guard’s face. The bound man cried out in shock and screwed up his eyes.
“Get out of here you idiot!” snapped Lereahl, shoving the elf away. Eol stumbled backwards, only to be smacked on the head with a staff by a disapproving Wolfenight.
“Sorry about him,” said Lereahl to the guard. He slowly opened his eyes again.
“What’s your name?” asked Targar.
“S-Stuart,” mumbled the guard.
“Nice to meet you Stuart. Now, what exactly is going on here?” asked Targar.
“I don’t know anything! I’m just a guard!” the man whimpered.
“Okay then. Who does know what’s going on?”
“The scientists? Maybe?”
“Science-ists?” asked Wolfenight.
“Yeah. The scientists. Guys in white coats. Doing experiments and tests and other freaky crap.”
“There are people here dedicated to doing science?” Wolfenight seemed baffled. It was unheard of for anyone in Planeswalker City or any other plane he’d visited to study science. Everybody was quite happy with thaumatology and magic.
“Okay. Now, do you know this girl?” Targar asked Stuart, pulling out the tiny painting they had found.
“T-that’s Sierra Rose. And that’s her father, Joel. I knew him. Why do you want to know?”
“Never mind that. Just tell us where we can find her,” said Targar looking grim.
“Not far from here. You can look up their address on the computer over there,” Stuart said, nodding towards one of the tables.
“A compa-what?” asked Targar, looking confused.
“The computer. You know. Google,” the man said. He was met with more blank looks.
“Shall I, uh, do it for you?” asked Stuart.
Targar looked at the others who only shrugged in confusion.
“Sure. Why not?” said Targar. He let the man up. His hands were still bound tightly, but Targar kept a hold of the rope just in case he tried anything. Stuart led them over to one of the strange glowing boxes atop a table. Everyone was quite alarmed when Stuart began tapping on buttons and the flat square lit up with pictures and light.
“Yes, here it is. That’s their address. I knew it wasn’t too far from here,” said Stuart, pointing to some odd runes that had just magically appeared on the lit square.
“Well, lead the way then,” said Targar, tugging on the lead rope. The group followed as Stuart led them out of the room. Lereahl paused one last time to admire the strange picture machine. Wolfenight paused to lick it.
Little did they know, but the group now looked even stranger. Stuart had suggested that the Planeswalkers might want to trade some of their otherworldly armour for clothes of this civilian realm.  Eol was now wearing long pants of some rough blue material, a strange cap thing with a stiff brim at the front and a short, white tunic with odd colourings on the front. Targar was wearing the only thing that fit him, a medium length tunic coloured pink with flowers printed on it. Stuart had advised him against it, but the Dwarf had ignored him. Wolfenight seemed appalled at the thought of giving up his robe and hat.
“How will people know I’m a wizard without my wizard’s hat and robe?” he’d said.
Lereahl had also declined to change his attire, turning up his nose at the odd garments he’d been offered. None of them matched his style. Celerean was of a similar mindset.
So like this they walked through the streets, Stuart still tied up, the end of his rope held by Targar like a dog. The buildings were grey and in bad repair. They looked war-torn. The people looked the same; dull, battered and weary.
Before they reached the address they were looking for, they came across a small grassy park full of children and metal equipment upon which they climbed and played. Among them was the small girl from the picture.
“Sierra!” called Stuart. The little girl looked up and walked cautiously over to them. She looked from one Planeswalker to the next, her young face slowly growing more puzzled.
“You’re Daddy’s friend,” she said, pointing to Stuart. Stuart nodded.
“But you’re strangers,” she said, pointing at Targar.
“Sierra, we have something for you from your father,” said Targar softly. He didn’t have to kneel – he was already at eye level with the child, but he did so anyway. He held out the small bag of gems and the photograph of Sierra and her father. The girl took the items. She looked at the picture, then back to Targar’s sad face.
“Where’s my Daddy?” she asked, her eyes wide.
“I’m sorry,” said Targar.
Sierra’s small chin began to quiver. Suddenly, there was an arrow protruding from her forehead. She keeled over backwards with a soft thump. Everyone turned in shock. Eol was looking disgustedly at the dead girl. He suddenly felt everyone’s gazes.
“What?” His tone was indignant. “She was gonna cry. I hate crying children. Especially human infants. Ugh.” He shuddered and crinkled his nose.
Targar’s face slowly turned redder than his hair. His knuckles cracked as his fingers tightened on his warhammer. Lady Celerean’s new gun clicked as she loaded it and aimed at the elf in anger. She got off several shots; two to Eol’s chest and one, ironically, to his head before Targar stormed up and caved his skull in, finishing him off. Angry that she didn’t get the last shot in, Celerean turned on Targar and cocked her gun again. Before the dwarf could react, Wolfenight stepped in. He fluttered his fingers at the bard. For a second, nothing happened. Then Celerean paused, confused as a small piece of parchment fluttered down in front of her. She bent to pick it up. One side was blank. She turned it over to read aloud a single word: Pity. As soon as the syllables had passed her lips, the runes on the paper ignited and blew with the force of a small bomb.
When the smoke cleared, Celerean lay dead and charred in the pool of dark blood seeping from the holes in Eol’s body. Lereahl could only stand and stare in shock. Targar snorted with satisfaction at the sight, but then turned sadly back to Sierra’s body. Gently, he closed her eyes, removed the arrow from her head and wiped away the blood. Then he began to dig.
Targar patted down the soft earth. The playground was silent now. The children had all run away in terror. They had buried Sierra with the photo of her father and the tiny bag of gems in her hands. Targar stood and dusted the earth from his knees. He looked sadly at the plain mound, obviously wanting something more. Wolfenight stepped forwards and cleared his throat softly. He cupped his hands and a look of concentration came over his face. Coloured lights spilled from his hands and flowed onto the fresh dirt. They took shape, forming into the ghostly figure of Targar kneeling before Sierra. Targar turned away gruffly, wiping furiously at his wet face.
Stuart had unfortunately been hit in the scuffle and as such, the three remaining Planeswalkers had to find their own way back to the compound they had arrived in. Upon reaching the door, they realised that none of them had a key to get back in. There appeared to be no lock to pick either.
“I have an idea!” said Wolfenight. “Hold onto me tight.”
Lereahl looked at Targar, puzzled for the umpteenth time that day. Targar shrugged and grasped the Wizard’s skinny shoulders. Lereahl hugged Wolfenight around the middle with a concealed grin. Wolfenight squeezed his eyes shut.
“Let’s just hope we don’t end up in a wall,” he said, much to the alarm of the other two.
Suddenly, they were inside. Targar and Lereahl let go, feeling a little nauseous.
“Any dizziness or nausea is to be expected,” Wofenight said casually. “Dimensional doors are hard to get used to.”
Lereahl was bent nearly double trying to get his breath back.
“You don’t say,” he wheezed.
They found their way back to the room with the ‘computers’. Wolfenight was tempted to stay and investigate them a little more, but Targar was able to drag him away. They found themselves in a corridor with a dead end, a very heavy-duty, locked metal door and a metal cupboard. Lereahl couldn’t figure out how to unlock this door either, but the cupboard was quite easy. Inside they found lots of short, brass coloured metal tubes, the likes of which they had seen Celerean fitting into her new weapon. There were also stacks of small papers with strange green marks all over them and a palm sized rectangle of some strange flexible material. Wolfenight took it, interested in its hard but pliable properties.
They then turned to the door. There appeared to be a similar locking mechanism to the outside door here, and again they could not figure it out. Targar was quick to offer to try and break the door down with brute strength, but Wolfenight shook his head with a wild grin. He began collecting the brass tubes from the cupboard, popping them open and pouring the powder inside onto a pile on the floor at the door. Lereahl sniffed. The acrid smell of gunpowder filled the narrow corridor. He understood now what the Wizard was up to.
When Wolfenight had created a sufficiently large pile of black powder, he looked around for some sort of fuse. There was none to be found.
“How about this paper?” asked Targar, holding up one of the neat sheafs of green.
“Sure, that’ll light it on fire, but you’ll be much too close. You’ll go up with it,” said Wolfenight. He put a finger to his chin, thinking. His eyes strayed to Lereahl. The half-elf was inspecting the nick in one of his arrowheads with a frown on his pointed face. Wolfenight grinned.
The wad of green paper took the flame merrily on the end of Lereahl’s arrow. The others stood behind him as he aimed from around the corner of the far end of the corridor. He fired. The explosion was deafening and blew the metal door completely off its frame. The companions hurried towards the room beyond. In it, a man in a fine, but now powder coated, military uniform was coughing and spluttering and looking enraged. Wolfenight squeaked in alarm, pointed at the man and shouted,
The man went cross-eyed for a moment, froze, and then crumpled to the ground, snoring.
The charm spell Wolfenight used this time was much stronger, so when the man woke up, he was quite amicable about the blast patterns on the floor and the bent metal door.
“Commander Gerald,” he said in a hoarse, well-used voice, shaking each of the Planeswalkers’ hands as they introduced themselves too. He explained to them that he didn’t usually take well to strangers like them. Wolfenight carefully avoided the commander’s eye at these words. But Gerald went on to explain why. There was something wrong with their world. One day, hundreds upon thousands of demon-like creatures had come pouring through some kind of invisible door. These creatures pillaged and burned and destroyed whatever they came into contact. Commander Gerald was the leader of the force organised to stop this slaughter and turn back the tide of rampaging monsters. The mountain of rotting, ochre skinned creatures in the sewers now made sense.
“So, this door, where is it?” asked Wolfenight.
“What does it matter to you?” asked the commander, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
“Well, I sensed a disturbance in the thaumatical flow of this plane the moment we stepped into it. I was just wondering if we might be able to help with your problem,” he said.
Commander Gerald looked at him, confused.
“I don’t know how you’re going to help. My best scientists can’t even tell me exactly what the damned thing is,” he said.
“Just try us,” said Lereahl, putting a hand on the man’s shoulder. Gerald sighed.
“It’s right there,” he said, pointing to the far end of the room. They all looked.
At the end of the room, there was a small, raised platform of more of the cold, grey, artificial stone. There were yellow and black markings all around the edges. The area on the platform looked normal enough at first glance, but when one looked harder, the air seemed to warp slightly, like a heat haze. Wolfenight approached the platform, looking curiously at the phenomenon.
“Hm...” he said ponderously and reached out a hand. The bent air seemed to move out of the way of his hand.
“It appears to be only one way,” he mumbled.
“Yeah. That we know,” growled Gerald. “We’ve tried throwing the creatures back through it, but it just moves around them.”
Wolfenight reached into a pocket and pulled out what appeared to be an old crab leg. Lereahl looked on in disgust as the Wizard tossed the leg through the heat haze. The warped air moved around the crustacean limb and it clattered to the floor, confirming the commander’s words. Wolfenight walked around the platform and retrieved the leg. He tapped it thoughtfully on his nose. The next second, the wizard had vanished. Lereahl started forwards, alarmed. Wolfenight suddenly appeared on the top of the platform. The rippling air around him seemed to quiver, shrink and disappear. Wolfenight smiled.
“All fixed,” he said. Commander Gerald stared at him, gobsmacked.
“Wh-what? H-how? How did you do that?” he stammered, rubbing his eyes again.
“Oh. Simple really. What you had there was a spatial-temporal rift in the planar fabric, caused by wayward magical emissions,” replied Wolfenight, stepping off the platform.
“A-a what?”
“A door. A door between dimensions. I have a spell that lets me open such doors. I opened one, walked through it, and closed both behind me.” Wolfenight shrugged.
Gerald looked as if he could kiss Wolfenight. He settled instead on furiously pumping his hand and then offering them stacks and stacks of the green paper they had seen earlier.
“Paper? Why would we want this?” asked Wolfenight, staggering as Gerald shoved it into his arms.
“Paper? This is money!”

Monday, July 1, 2013

So Many Vectors

So, internet, this is my second post for this evening. My last one was the latest story in my Passage of the Planeswalker series. For quite a while all of my blog posts have been those; I haven't done a lot of updates on Soulless because of them. 
So, this, is an update. I'm updating you. Still updating. More updating!


Soulless is still at about 99,600 words. I've been occasionally going through and doing tiny, itsy-bitsy edits with the prompts of some of my beta-readers. I managed to recruit three of them sometime during the year. There was one main, annoying thing one of my reader minions picked up on. Every time I wrote or used the phrase 'soul-wraiths' I wrote it with different capitalizations - Soul-wraiths, Soul-Wraiths, soul-wraiths, etc. This was  because when I was doing the bulk of my writing, I was never really sure how or if I wanted to capitalize the name, and so they ended up being quite random. It's actually quite a good tips for any other writers out there; make sure you have consistency. So get right on that. Make sure all your cities and terms have the same formatting. The 'Find' tool is your best friend here.

Editing on Soulless and even the writing of my D&D shorts have been on hold for a while due to my moving from Uni back home again. Living on college has the one downside that you must vacate the premises mid- and end of year. They hire out the rooms to people coming to conferences and students going on experience trips. So, me and my brother (who is attending his first year of uni this year) had to shove all of his stuff into his car and haul it all the way back home. The car was so loaded we had trouble keeping up with highway speeds. The five-hour (plus time waiting at about a dozen roadworks stops) ride was made very enjoyable though by the Skulduggery Pleasant audiobooks on my brother's iPod. The guy who reads them even has an Irish accent. Extremely delicious...

Since I've been home, I've been very sick. I actually missed out on my last day of work for the semester because I was so dead. Some weird flu thing that started with a sore throat. But that's also another thing that's happened to me lately. I got a job! My Bachelor of New Media Arts has already landed me a job as a graphic designer! I got the news that Digimen, a very cool graphic design and sign writing company, were hiring an undergraduate from one of my university lecturers. Three hours after the email landed in my inbox, I whipped one back to them, my portfolio attached, practically screaming "Pick me! Pick me!" So, I had an interview, and then another. I showed the boss my portfolio again, smiled and chatted - and suddenly I was sitting behind an enormous Mac, creating posters for a tavern, brochures for a hotel and a new logo for a garage! I am so thrilled to be working there! Hopefully they'll let me stay on at the end of the year when I graduate. If they do, I'll be set for life. *Insane happy dance*
If you want to check out the Digimen and all the awesome things they do, go here: The Digimen

And here are some of the cool things I have been working on.

I derped, but it was the best photo of the poster

Mirror printed sign - SO MANY VECTORS

Feeling: Bit tired and headachey.
Eating: Had Violet Crumble Chocolate for desert. A chocolate block with candy-honeycomb crunch bits.
Listening to: Get Lucky by the delicious French Duo, Daft Punk. I seriously cannot get enough of those robot helmets. Also, I got myself a new pair of headphones. I've just been using some old, cheapo ones, but two days ago I found a pair of Phillips Specked headphones. They are SO good. High quality heads, silicone ear sleeves, a woven cord for maximum un-tangleability. They are also a gorgeous shade of purple, blue and orange. And the bass. Oh man, THE BASS. *swoons*
Wearing: Too much pink. Also a fluffy robe and new fluffy boots. My old boots somehow grew mouths and drafts.