The Tower of Storms: Part 4

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Tamin had descended the stairs a half an hour prior. Baird waited, back pressed against the wall adjacent to the entrance. The only entrance. They were at the top of the tower here, with nowhere to go should things go wrong. A good few things could – Tamin betraying him being at the top of the list. He hoped against that for several wildly varying reasons.

Something stirred below. A voice. Baird held his breath and tightened his grip, sword in one hand and the mark of Oblear in the other. In Baird’s former cage was a makeshift dummy constructed from straw and armour taken from the dead. It was a poor likeness but the plan wouldn’t allow the sorcerer to stare for long. Echoing footsteps rose from the stairs.

“Idiot boy,” the elder grumbled, voice carrying up the stairwell. “There’s no way that fool could damage my bars, I don’t care what chemicals you thought you smelled.”

He reached the top step, striding past Baird into the room. A thrill went through him – this might actually work. The sorcerer halted.

“What the-“

Baird lunged, bringing his sword down in a sweeping arc towards the fiend’s back. With unnatural speed the sorcerer half turned and looked at Baird with wide, manic eyes. In the time it took for Baird’s sword to move an inch the sorcerer thrust out his hand. It felt like he had just been slammed in the chest by a bear. He took off from the ground and was thrown down the stairs. The impact knocked what little air he had left completely from him. His armour protected his bones from the solid steps but momentum and gravity sent him tumbling down the rest of them, landing in a dizzy and aching heap, wheezing for breath.

By the time he had his senses the sorcerer was already stood over him with a satisfied smile. Shouldn’t have taken the pendant off, Baird thought as a hacking cough racked his body. I hate magic. His sword could have been anywhere but the chain of Oblear’s mark was still wrapped around his fingers. At least he still had that – and the elder sorcerer hadn’t noticed it yet, instead calling for Tamin. He appeared from behind one of the painted wood partitions on the other side of Baird, looking timid.

“Come here, boy,” the father said and Tamin reluctantly approached. “Now is your chance to repent for this morning.”

“Yes, father.”

Uh oh, Baird thought.

The elder sorcerer turned his attention to the still struggling adventurer. “You’re going to tell me how you got out of that cage.”

Ratting out Tamin would just get them both killed. Plus Baird wasn’t exactly the type to bend to his enemies’ will. He was much too stubborn for that.

“Rot in the Pit,” he spat.

“As you wish,” the elder said before nodding to Tamin.

The young sorcerer paled. He lifted a trembling palm toward Baird. Baird froze, his hope extinguished under a volley of ice water. Tamin’s mouth twitched, eyes watered.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

Baird didn’t know what to say. The young man was terrified of his father. This life was all he knew. All Baird could do was brace himself for pain. Tamin thrust his hand forward and he winced.

A gust of wind blew through the room. It tingled Baird’s skin but assailed him no other way. The elder sorcerer exclaimed in surprise as his clothes passed through his flesh as though through water, billowing out and falling onto the steps behind him. It took both Baird and the sorcerer himself a moment to adjust to the fact that he was suddenly stood there in nought but his boots.

Baird was the first to react, pushing himself up with one hand and throwing the mark of Oblear hard at the wretch’s chest. The sorcerer thrust out his hand and a look of panic struck his face as the sigil sailed past his fingers. Baird grinned. The sigil hit the sorcerer square in the middle of his saggy, sallow chest.

He opened his mouth but no sound came, face twisting in agony. The sigil stuck to him and the flesh around it turned grey, blossoming in a grotesque wave across his body and turning to dust. He crumbled away until there was the clattering of bones into a dusty pile. Baird held his breath, watching the remains, but no retribution came. A small, pained sound came from behind him.

Tamin was on his knees, face in his hands. The weather raged on outside. Baird pulled himself up and crouched next to Tamin, wrapping his arms around him. Tamin’s whole life, everything he had ever known, just disintegrated before his eyes. It was seconds before the young sorcerer’s arms were around Baird’s neck, face sobbing into the metal plated crook of his shoulder. It could have been relief or despair. Probably both.

Baird resisted a long moment but could no longer wait, hating himself a little for his lack of restraint.

“How can I stop the storms?” Baird whispered into his ear as he held him.

Tamin pulled back from him and wiped his eyes, keeping his head down and avoiding Baird’s gaze. He rose to his feet and headed for the other partition, giving his father’s ashes and bones a wide berth. His movements bordered on mechanical. Baird felt a pang of guilt as he followed.

“What happened to him?”

“The mark turns the user’s magic against them,” Tamin said, voice small. “The magic that kept him alive past his years reversed.”

Baird placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

They rounded a partition and came to a grand bedroom, lavishly plastered in rich fabrics and gold adornments. At the end of the master bed was a mahogany pedestal, a glowing blue orb upon it. Turbulent mist twisted and warped beneath the surface. Baird was drawn to it, soothed by it. Warming, unseen tendrils snaked into his being, calming his bruises and setting his mind at rest. He was unaware of his hand moving slowly toward it until Tamin grabbed his wrist.

“Don’t,” he said. “It makes people strange. Like father. Like mother.”

Baird’s skin crawled and he withdrew his hand. “What do I do?”

“Shatter it,” Tamin said, voice cracking slightly. “Set her free.”

Baird shook his head clear as the orb’s influence took another stab at him. He glanced behind himself and saw a small foot stool. Not wanting to risk the thing’s spell a moment longer, Baird grabbed the stool in both hands. He spun, bringing the makeshift bludgeon down on the orb with all his strength.

This was it, his moment, his self-appointed destiny. It all hinged upon the word on a man he just met.

The orb did not shatter. The stool sunk into it and it burst like a soap bubble. Mist from within swept into the air like a puff of pollen. Baird stumbled away but Tamin stayed put, releasing a giddy laugh. Baird panicked. Had he been played? The mist engulfed Tamin and he collapsed in a haze of blue, falling to the floor. Baird backed against the partition wall as the blue spread but it did not approach him. A warm, pleasant voice filled his mind, forcing upon him a brief wave of euphoria.

The ancients will not forget this heroism.

The mist was gone. It didn’t so much vanish as it just wasn’t there anymore. Worry struck him as he realised the voice was the last thing he heard. He smacked his ears with his hands but became confused as his armour rattled. His jaw dropped. He clambered to his feet, dashing past an unconscious Tamin, and approached the window.

No rain lashed against the glass. No wind howled, rocking the building. In that moment, Baird experienced silence for the first time in his life. It frightened him, the vast emptiness of it, the sheer depth of nothingness. Before that fear could grow too deep, the sprawling black clouds split like curtains and a beam of golden light fell upon his face. He began to tremble as he lifted his hands to his cheeks. It was warm.

Baird dropped to his knees and laughed. He’d done it. He’d actually done it. He laughed some more. Of course he had. He’d always known he could. Definitely. He pushed thoughts of the cage away and pulled off his gauntlets, wiping the joyful tears from his face. He loosed a deep exhale and buried his triumph. He needed to check on Tamin.

The young sorcerer hadn’t moved since he collapsed, breathing softly. Baird knelt next to him, carefully brushing the hair back from his bruised face. He looked so peaceful it was almost a shame to wake him. With his other hand, Baird softly tapped his shoulder.

“Tamin?”

It took a couple of attempts before Tamin’s eyes fluttered open. Baird frowned when they did – they were a rich, swirling blue. This faded so rapidly, returning to the proper soft grey, that Baird was certain he’d imagined it.

“Are you alright?” Tamin said as he tried to focus his weary eyes.

Baird blinked. “Me?” he asked, incredulous. “Of course I am! I’m a famous adventurer! You’re the one who collapsed.”

“Oh…” He closed and opened his eyes a few times. “Yes, I am well,” he replied. Physically at least, Baird thought. A sadness hung about him.

Baird smiled. “Good. I have something to show you.”

He helped Tamin to his feet. He was unsteady and shaken so Baird took the liberty of wrapping an arm around his waist. Purely for support. Tamin didn’t complain, leaning his weight against Baird as he was guided to the window. He gasped as they stepped into the warm beam of light, face filling with wonder at the landscape before them, laid out clearly for the first time in both their lives.

“It’s… incredible.”

Pride swelled in Baird’s chest. He had done this. Of all the heroes who had come and tried, it was Baird who had succeeded. Released the Glen. Avenged his father. Without Tamin though, he never would have. He grinned as he looked out of the window. He couldn’t quite see Glen Feen but the view was more than a victory for him. Flat, barren and laden with water, to Baird it was beautiful. He pointed to the horizon.

“You see where the sky touches the land?” he asked. Tamin nodded. Baird looked down at the slight man and their eyes met. “Just beyond lies your new home.”

They smiled at each other and looked back to the landscape, damp and bedraggled as it was. At his side, Baird’s fingers lightly grazed against Tamin’s. Slowly, their digits twined together as they both watched the clear blue sky before them.

And Baird would even have been telling the truth, if they had been looking out of the other window.

Fin!

Bounty – Writing Excerpt

A short excerpt from The Fishperer.

 


Some of the other bounty hunters liked to mock Xin’she Hydrocall for her ‘advanced age.’ Those bounty hunters had never been chased by her. Or in a fight with her. When Edar’he Eelspeak heard she was coming for him, he’d been apprehensive. Then when he heard a description of her, he’d laughed. Edar wouldn’t run from a fifty-five year old.
He was running now.
He was running harder and faster than he had ever run in his life. Pain tore through his chest with every breath as he dodged and ducked through the jungle, leaping over thick vines and swinging across branches. Every time he glanced back, she was closer. Perhaps just a fraction but she was closer. His face was livid and desperate. She didn’t even look to be sweating. He wasted air swearing and ran on. He didn’t need to get far but he had to get there first.
Xin kept a steady pace behind him. She didn’t want to burn out before the ensuing fight. It wasn’t difficult – Edar was clearly a city kid. His movements through the jungle were clumsy and obvious. He wouldn’t lose her at this rate. It was only a matter of time until he was in reach.
A thick fallen trunk blocked his way and he clambered over it at speed, despite his waning strength and lack of grace. Xin took a short cut, using a nook on the trunk of one tree to launch herself up and grab a high branch, swinging her lithe body with ease over the obstruction and hitting the ground with momentum. Edar was almost close enough to grab.
There was a sudden break in the jungle onto a river and Edar released a giddy laugh as he launched himself at it, disappearing beneath the surface as Xin made it to the edge. Without breaking stride she grabbed a knife from her belt and stretched her hands above her head in a point and leapt in a shallow dive beneath the surface. Her eyes easily saw through the warm, clear water. Edar was frantically mouthing something with the rapid expulsion of air bubbles.
That’s a mistake, sunbeam, she thought, stretching one hand out in front of herself.
Three eels, long and thick, powered up from the depths making a frantic beeline for her. Edar actually took the time to throw her a grin before he began to kick back to the surface. The first of the eels reached her and twisted around her legs. Xin ignored it, sweeping her hand around sharply and snapping it shut. The river stopped flowing downstream. Panic spread across Edar’s face as his rise to the surface stopped abruptly. The current had changed, dragging him downward. Yet more air escaped him as he was pulled toward the riverbed.
The second eel made quick work of snaking its body around Xin’s torso, constricting her chest. She brought the knife down into its back and the thing opened its toothy maw in fury. A puff of red billowed into the water around her and the eel’s grip loosened. The blade had gone right through, nicking Xin’s clothing but nothing more. She pulled the knife free as the third approached, and the wounded creature lamely twitched as it retreated. With one hand she struck at the newcomer with the knife, while with the other she gestured toward the surface.
Like a soap bubble blown between a child’s fingers, a pocket of air pulled down into the water and wobbled into its own entity as the surface tension snapped. The bubble dropped like a rock through the water, settling around Xin’s head. She took a deep breath from the pocket of fresh air.
The third eel sharply changed direction at the last moment and powered away from her. Her eyes flicked down to her calves and the eel holding them together let go and shot off after its friend. They were both clearly far brighter than Edar was. That was the great thing about ‘mancers that most people didn’t seem to understand – yes, they had the ability to talk with their certain animal but that didn’t mean the animal had to listen.
She turned her attention to her bounty, flailing his limbs as he swirled around and around in a little vortex. She waited, wafting her limbs gently to keep her steady in the water, comfortably breathing from her personal air pocket, until Edar went limp.
She flicked her hand and the vortex changed direction, carrying both her and the unconscious Edar back to the surface. With lazy ease she pulled herself onto the riverbank and dragged Edar up with her. He was heavy, especially wet, but not so much so that she struggled. It didn’t take a lot to get him breathing again, and he didn’t cough anything up, so she didn’t much worry about secondary drowning. Either way he’d make it back to the Law Office fine.
“How?” he sputtered as she roughly tied his hands behind his back, one knee burrowed hard into his spine.
She let a grin slip. “Thought the currents were too strong? Kid, you have a lot to learn about hydromancers.” She yanked him to his feet. “You’ll have plenty of time to think about it inside that gibbet.”

Suddenly September

Suddenly it’s September. How on Earth did that happen? I have no idea but it’s terrifying. We only have two months before the madness of NaNoWriMo starts again and I still haven’t decided what I’m going to work on. I have so many open projects that I don’t want to start a new one and make the pile even bigger. What I’d like to do this year is work on a draft of something I’ve already started and, as I generally use NaNo events as a break from my main projects, I won’t be looking at Twyned Earth.

The three projects currently fighting for my attention are The Fishperer, One Dead Prince and War of the Heavens. Each has their pros and their cons.

The Fishperer is the shortest of the projects and I have a pretty much complete rough draft. Choosing this one is the quickest path to getting another MS that I wouldn’t be horrified to show anyone. I’m worried the story is a bit naff but I love the world and the characters are, in my opinion at least, hilarious.

One Dead Prince has the benefit that I’ve been working on it most recently so a lot of its issues are fresh in my mind. It’s neatly spilt into four sections, each of which is roughly 50k words so I could aim to edit one of them. The only issue is I’d have a lot of work on the build up to November as I’d need to re-read and make extensive notes on 215,000 words to know what I needed to do to it. It’s a big and very messy draft in need of a lot of attention.

Finally there’s a project I’ve not spoken about very much recently but that’s not for a lack of passion for it. Somehow it just always seems to get nudged out by something else. War of the Heavens is the project that first got me back into writing as I was in my last year of university and as with ODP it’s a big one. However unlike the other two this one still doesn’t have a complete rough draft, which means I’d get to do some actual writing done instead of just editing. Given how most of the year has been spent working on edits, it’s a very tempting thought. It also wouldn’t take as much prep work as either of the other two as I already have chapter plans typed out.

Right now, I’m leaning towards War of the Heavens because that poor project has been pretty neglected over the last couple of years. Plus, as I was half way through transferring it to Scrivener last time I looked at it, it’s in a bit of a state so it’s really about time I fixed that. I’ve still got a few weeks before I need to start prep anyway. Let’s just hope I don’t get stuck by a dreaded Shiny New Idea like I did last year.

Are you starting to think about NaNoWriMo this year? What plans, if any, have you cooked up?

Character Profile: Sharneth

 

Sharneth With Background 2

Portrait of Sharneth Vix’sear

Story: Twyned Earth series, first appearance in Through the Black.

Protagonist or Antagonist?: Protagonist

Name: Sharneth Vix’sear

Age: 48

County of Origin: Thikrek

Occupation: First Voice of the Vix’sears

Loyalties: Those who have proven their worth

Goal: To preserve peace

Morals: The needs of the many matter most. Often dark things must be done in the name of what is right.

While exploring a suspicious rock formation, Sharneth and her mate discover that someone is trying to shatter the thousand-year long treaty that has protected her people from the horrors of the past. Thrust into an alien world unlike anything she ever imagined, her mate wounded and the shadows of war gathering, she must unlearn all her prejudices and side with some of the very creatures she fears in order to stop the worst period in her people’s history from repeating itself.

And strange, strange creatures they are.

 

 

 

World Building Notes, or Lack Thereof

World building is a hugely important part of any story. Whether you’re writing in the real world or creating somewhere completely new and fantastical, a writer needs to be able to paint a picture of the setting they are writing in. The places need to be deep, vibrant and—perhaps most importantly—consistent. Even subtle discrepancies can pull a reader out of the moment and detract their enjoyment from the world you have created and the story you are weaving.

When it comes to creating a new world some people like to create whole worlds and detail things that may not ever make it into a story, where as others create the world as they go, only constructing the pieces of the world necessary for the story being told. Personally, I use a combination of both. Certain parts of my worlds are fleshed out beyond all necessary detail where as other entire continents are just a single word scrawled in a notebook somewhere. Which brings me to my point.

Notes are important for continuity. Especially when writing several different stories all in the same world, as I plan to do with Twyned Earth. Up until I started packing to move, I thought I’d been pretty good at making my notes on the Twyned Earth. I. Was. Wrong.

I had notes. Quite a lot of them. All scattered throughout a multitude of different notebooks and in different states of completion. I had notes on elves on no less than seven books, in photographs of my whiteboard that had been mixed in with cat pictures and in piles of loose leaves of paper, all of varying sizes. There was unique information about them on pages that were scene plans. And that was just elves. The system was… less than ideal. I decided that this would be a good time to start collating everything properly and bringing all my information together. It was while doing this that I made an even more worrying discovery.

A lot of my meticulous world building had never even been written down. Ever.

That’s right. I’d apparently been trusting my years of crafting this world with nothing but my brain. The same brain that makes me walk into a room three times before I remember why I went in there. Needless to say, I was a little spooked. All those ideas that I’d thought about on those long, slow days at work, those great little details I’d come up with in the shower, all those things that I was certain that I’d written down somewhere, I hadn’t. Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite so inspirational as discovering you’re an absolute muppet.

Operation: Write Fricken Everything Down And Put It In This One Folder commenced immediately and shall be continuing for quite some time. My writing time now includes updating these notes as I go. So I guess this post is a bit of a reminder or a suggestion. Maybe go and check on your important notes. Some of them might not be as great as you remember them.

For the sake of continuity I’m going to be forcing myself to keep this folder up to date. I love fancy notebooks but it’s time I get all of this information organised and together. Also written down. At lot of the things about Twyned Earth I just know. Let’s face it, I probably spend more time thinking about TE than just E. However, my memory is far from perfect. Far, far from it. Which is why I seriously need a complete set of hard copy notes of my world building. From now on, nothing will be going into an MS without it going into the folder at the same time – or preferably before.

Have you experienced a similar scare? How do you organise your writing notes?

Character Profile: Tony

Portrait of Tony by OlieBoldador - commissioned by a close friend

Portrait of Tony by OlieBoldador – commissioned by a close friend

Story: Twyned Earth Series, first appearance in Through the Black.

Protagonist or Antagonist?: Protagonist

Name: Tony

Age: 45

County of Origin: Aigorshuck, Sarn

Occupation: Unemployed. Nothing shady going on here. Nooooope.

Loyalties: Family, and one or two close friends

Goal: Save the world.

Morals: Strict, if skewed. There are some things you just don’t do. Try to keep the civilians out of it. Don’t hurt kids and kill anyone who does. And if there’s the risk of a world war starting, ugh, guess you try and help.

When Tony’s best friend decides he wants to stop a war, he supposes he should probably tag along. After all, Michael’s an idiot and Tony’s got connections. Totally legit connections, you understand, but they could come in handy – especially when things get heavy.

It’s easy to underestimate a man who’s four inches tall. Someone’s in for a big surprise.

Character Profile: Ashlyn

Portrait of Ashlyn Hearn

Portrait of Ashlyn Hearn

Story: One Dead Prince

Protagonist or Antagonist?: Um, yes

Name: Ashlyn Hearn

Age: 26

County of Origin: Northern Eirach

Occupation: Herbalist and phony fortune teller

Loyalties: None

Goal: Power

Morals: Possibly

Incarceration for witchcraft and the sentence of death briefly set Ashlyn back in her hunt for a creature of great power. When the kingdom of Eirach is invaded by the Avinbourgers though, she sees the opportunity for escape and jumps at it. Enlisting the help of a bounty hunter to travel far away from the city, she briefly abandons the goal she has been working so hard towards. That is, until they come across a man who knows the true fate of the late Prince Tiernan and suddenly the pieces of a new plan all fall together with even less risk than she could have hoped for.

After all, it’s hardly a sacrifice if you won’t miss them, is it?

Goodbye Sir Terry

I’m not one for public mourning. Relatively recently, a lot of celebrities who have been close to my heart have passed away and I have, for the most part, remained silent about it. This is not because they were not special to me and certainly not because I did not think they were beautiful, wonderful people in need of praise. I just tend to be more private with this type of thing.

Today however, is the exception to the rule. There are dozens, even hundreds of people who inspire my writing in one way or another. Writers, actors, artists, loads of them. They all inspire my words and my worlds, my characters, my plots. They inspire it all.

But Sir Terry Pratchett is the reason I write.

I cannot remember how old I was when my older brother forced Guards! Guards! into my hands, but I was barely scraping double digits. It blew my mind and, without wanting to sound too dramatic, changed my life. I didn’t know books could be like this. I didn’t know stories could be so utterly ridiculous yet so magically real. I’d written before, frequently, and I loved it. Stupid little short stories, creative writing in school. Then I read this amazing book and I wanted to write one like it. The rest is history.

The news of Sir Terry’s passing has made me very emotional. I’m sad, yes, so sad that this world will see no more of his wonderful stories. Sad that I never had the chance to meet him. Sad for his family and his friends who will all be mourning the loss. It’s more than that though. I’m so incredibly grateful. Without him and his novels, I don’t know if I would be the person I am today. I feel like he is the person who gave writing to me.

So thank you, Terry Pratchett. Thank you, and I hope you are now somewhere as wonderful and wacky as you are.

Michael, You’re Screwed

So, do you remember me mentioning Melanie’s Writing Games? Well, here is the result. The first game consisted of this: a character of yours being abducted by the guys from survival program “Dude, You’re Screwed.” Unfortunately I’ve never seen the program and had no way of seeing it, so I’ve pretty much guessed. I can probably safely say that Michael, from my Twyned Earth novels, has GOT to be the fastest to lose the game.

I present to you:


Michael, You’re Screwed!

When the hood was pulled from his head, Michael wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. ‘Lighten up,’ they said. ‘It’ll be a laugh,’ they said. As the light filled his eyes and the landscape before him was revealed, he wasn’t so sure. The air that filled his lungs was so hot and thick it was chewy, and it tasted like compost.

When he was abducted by these over excitable survivalists, he’d expected they would dump him in the middle of a forest somewhere. Which, to be fair, they had done. He just wasn’t expecting this forest. The trees in front of him were enormous, hulking things with bark black as night and heavy drooping branches that reached to the uneven, marshy ground. Through them could be seen the thick gnarled trunks. He stared at them and they stared back. One of them blinked, looked mildly puzzled, rolled its eyes and then took to ignoring him. The rest of the trees followed suit very quickly.

To his side, Michael spotted a rather bulky man with a crew cut and a camera who gave him a rather sheepish smile. “Did that tree just wink at me?”

“Just how much research did you guys do on this place?” Michael asked.

“Well, I’m not supposed to help you,” the guy answered.

Michael’s shoulders dropped. “We’re going to die.”

The man with the camera glanced at his watch, a thick chunky thing that looked as though it had about a thousand functions. “Only ninety nine hours and fifty five minutes to go. Better get shifting.”

A little whine escaped Michael’s throat and he started to take a step forward. As he put his foot down though, the tree directly in front of him began to growl. He lifted his foot again and the low rumble fell silent. He sighed.

“How am I supposed to get out of here?” he asked to the cameraman.

“I really can’t help you,” he replied. “It’s against the rules.”

Michael’s eyes narrowed. “Is killing you against the rules?”

The large man looked at Michael’s dumpy shape, then at his own barrel chest. “Can give it a go if you like.” He grinned.

Michael exhaled, looking back to the trees, trying to decide who he had less of a chance with. Eventually, he decided to give the trees another shot. The threatening growl sounded again as Michael’s foot came close to the ground, but he took a deep breath and placed it firmly in front of him.

The tree’s trunk split into a horizontal slit, a horrifying and ragged maw filled with uneven barky teeth. It swung its heavy branches at Michael, smacking him off his feet like a he’d been hit by a lorry. As he travelled through the air and darkness enclosed him, his last fleeting thought was:

Can I go home yet?