Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Unfair Reveal

Shan pondered where her talents would best serve in the coming fight. As a mage, she was unparalleled, but as a goddess, there would be others better suited to front line combat. She decided to assume a place with those who had to remain on the sidelines, and if there was a need for a sneak attack, she would oblige.
Just as Shan gathered up her supplies into her sleeve storage, a sudden call came from her message mirror. The elf woman went quickly to answer it, thinking Nentanuk or Sul must be getting in touch with her.
She couldn’t have been more wrong.
A touch of cold, harsh energy reached her senses a split second before the mirror shattered, spilling out a roiling cloud of black smoke. Shan fell back, all of her connections to the forces of magic screaming at this intrusion. A figure rose out of the smoke: cloaked and hooded, but with cruelly barbed armor underneath. The only feature she could make of the face was a dull gleam, from bared teeth.
Even without the image amongst the smoke, Shan would have known the touch of that energy anywhere, anytime.
“Crul.” The name caught in her throat like a spiny fishbone. “How are you here?”
“I wanted to pay you a visit, Mother. Isn’t this the way you normally speak to lower beings from your special workplace?” He raised an outstretched hand to her, as if hoping the woman would reach out and connect with his foul smoke.
“Get out.” Shan growled, supporting herself with the table.
“Aw, and here I’d hoped for a better reaction. It has been so long since we’ve spoken.”
“And I hope there is another Turn before the next time!”
He made a tutting sound and dropped the hand. “Is that anyway to speak to your youngest child?”
“After the atrocities you and your ilk have done, consider it lucky I’m speaking to you at all!” She yelled. Behind her back, Shan’s fingers groped for anything she could use to break the message spell and get Crul out of her workplace. Every second his essence lingered here was dangerous.
“Bear in mind, Mother, they are your ilk too. Well, perhaps my wife isn’t, but she was one of your most prized students, once. I think that’s close enough.” A faint shrug briefly concealed the smile, but then it returned, and Crul leaned forward to emphasize the effect. “But on to more important matters. In truth, I came to thank you, Mother dearest. Without your predicted meddling, I doubt matters would ever have gotten this far on their own. Uniting Animkind with humanoid, well done! I truly appreciate all the lives you sacrificed for me - it almost makes up for abandoning us to my brothers’ tender mercies.”
“What are you talking about?” Shan asked, grasping an iron rod that lay on the table.
“Why, this battle! Such a gift from you, after all these centuries.” A sinking feeling began making itself felt alongside her anger, and Shan tried to piece together what her son meant.
“But- the armies- they’re going to stop you. They’re going to stop your followers, and bury you all over again!”
“That’s what they think.” Crul said smugly. “Which is why I commend your efforts, although you had no idea at the time. Thanks to your refusal to participate in the imprisonment of me and my family so many millennia ago, you don’t actually know how we were locked up. Allow me to explain it to you.
“See, we aren’t just buried underneath Koln. The vortice to Drakf is, which is why I decided to set up a fortress here, back in the Third Era. It was my travels to the plane of darkness that allowed me to truly understand what needed to be done with Sarant, after all. But when Sul and Lul came with their forces, they wanted to put us in a prison that wouldn’t need to be maintained. So, that little git Arnaten came up with a spell that put the five of us into the vortice, but then closed the doors on both ends. We’ve lingered here ever since, in limbo, but now...”
That sinking feeling had overwhelmed Shan’s entire body, and it was all she could do to remain on her feet.
“... Now there is a massive force gathered on our front doorstep, ready to do battle and spill blood. All that carnage, all that bloodlust, all that beautifully destruction only serves to make us stronger. When the fight reaches its climax, we will have all the power we need to free ourselves from this prison - and I wanted to thank you for falling into my plan so perfectly.” He bowed to her, and then the image in the smoke began to dim.
“No!” Shan cried, and unthinkingly she lurched forward, swinging the rod about, trying to do something to stop Crul, to stop this-!
A single tendril of smoke shot out from the mass, and dove through the center of Shan’s chest. Her yell broke down to a gasp of pain, and the elf woman collapsed on the floor of her workshop. The image of Crul looked at her passively.
“A pity.” He spoke, rage and hurt finally coming out with his speech. “We could have gone so far, you and I, Mother.” With that, the Dark Immortal ended his spell, and the smoke retreated back into the shattered remains of the mirror.
Shan curled into a ball, all heat fleeing from her body, the numbness invading every muscle and limb. In a tiny corner of her rapidly succumbing mind, the goddess howled at the unfairness of it, screamed in frustration at everything that had gone wrong.

From Gathering Forces, the final installment of my Turning Point Trilogy. Shan is not having a good day, and the battle that has been the focus of every other character in the series is about to have a very unfair twist. /Evil grin
Still gotta get 'em published, though.

Friday, July 25, 2014


"Quick! Grab him!" I lunged forward, but the quacking mess of feathers made a dash for freedom just past my outstretched fingertips. Lydia backtracked from her hasty walk, barely managing to turn our quarry away from the direction of the open pasture.
"He's making a beeline for divider gate!" She yelled to me.
"Good! If Matt can turn him around on the other side, we can trap that stinker between the gate panel and the fence." I called back.
"Won't he remember that tactic?"
"Oh, sure, but this is Steve we're talking about. He's only running for the principle of it. Soon as we get him properly trapped, that duck will leap right into our arms." We hurried towards the divide line, where Lyd's older brother Matt was bent over, arms out the the sides, carefully herding Steve the duck into our usual trap for him. On any typical day, as soon as the bird realized where he was, his quacks would drop in volume and he'd just wait and glare at whoever came to pick him up. Today, though, I noticed he wasn't slowing down. Lydia and I both stopped and stared, dumbfounded, as that stupid duck wriggled through the gap made by the hinges holding the gate panel to its post. Fully satisfied with himself, Steve started to waddle away... Until he heard Lydia's boots thudding into the ground behind him. Then he quacked again and took off once more.
I stayed where I was, trying to figure out what had the duck so worked up. Mom and I were working a petting zoo later in the morning, and Lydia and Matt had agreed to come down and help us gather up critters. We'd already gotten everyone else, and ahead of schedule too, which is very rare. If things had kept going like that, it would be the herald of a very good day.
Steve was not cooperating.
The three of us had been set to trying to catch him, while my Mom hooked up the trailer to her pick-up truck. I took a glance over my shoulder to see that she was just about done, and my eyes landed on one particular pet carrier in the back of the truck. Suddenly, I new why Steve was so worked up.
"Oof!" Matt did a belly flop in the dirt, earning a disdainful gust of air propelled by Steve's flapping wings. The duck did a 180 to avoid running straight into Lydia's legs, scooted under some loops of scrap wire, and ended up in the one place no one would catch him: right under the metal feed shed.
"Well, there goes the rodeo." I heard Lyd say as she bent to look down at the duck. Smiling, I walked past her with my secret weapon in the crook of my arm. Kneeling just a few feet away from the shed, I lowered the critter I had retrieved from her cage in the truck. She hadn't even gotten to cluck twice before Steve exploded from his hiding place and came waddling at his top speed. As soon as the love-struck duck got within arm's length, I scooped him up with my free hand and headed for the vehicle. Lydia and Matt both chuckled when they saw who I had gotten: Ruby, the chicken who was Steve's girlfriend, and constant companion on the farm.
Mom was waiting for me with the open cage. "Well, I'll admit, I was a little worried you didn't think of Ruby a bit sooner." She told me as I walked up.
"Why didn't you say anything, then?" I asked, slipping both birds into the carrier.
"I was having too much fun watching you guys run around on your wild duck chase!"
Parents. Pfff.