Currently on hiatus. Will resume in July, or sooner.

Current story updates:

Current story interludes/Side stories:
Every other Saturday

Other pieces:
Every other Saturday (Saturdays I don't run the Interludes/Side Stories)

During certain periods updates may come more often; at other times updates may come less often. This schedule is my hoped-for goal.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Portfolio work #1

This is some of the work from my Creative Writing application portfolio.
I may have already posted some of it. These are from all different times and moods.

You see something, don’t you?
What is it that you see though?
Do you see a dark splotch? A spreading stain of corruption
bleeding slowly outwards
from the heart?
Or do you see the purity that still remains, the limbs still with life in them, struggling against that slow spread of blood, that slow spread of corruption and death? Do you see how each moment is another drawn breath, is another thought racing along nerves, and another chance at survival?
Or do you see the futile beating of the heart, trying so hard to keep the body alive, but in its beating, like drums of war, only speeding the process of death as it pumps, second by second, the lifeblood of the people from their veins?
Or do you see reality at all?
Are you too self-absorbed, too blinded by your own needs to see what this world is?
I hope that someday I might see what this world is.

Books are the most important thing to me,
But I don’t care about a library because it is a candle next to the sun,
And even dimmer next to you.

How to be an (Aspiring) Writer
A sonnet by Kees Schuller
Once you’ve got the music set
Drink in hand, and laptop prepped
Start at once, do not delay
Words are the game, it’s time to play

Stop! And wait, there’s more to do!
All the world has claims on you
Down and Up, there is no end
Calls and texts, and shows with friends!

But find yourself some time to write,
Put the words down, all black on white
Remember though, that golden truth
Give up halfway, the rule of youth

Half of me is a lie.
And half of me is not.
Sometimes I forgot which half is which. is not easy to remember who I am anymore. I was once an innocent child, a good person. Now I am someone else, and I don’t know who that is.
Half of me is a truth, and I cannot remember which half that is.

From a distance, a blur, in winter white with snow-laden branches
  in spring brown, leaves not yet grown
  in summer green, in many shades
  in fall a collage, reds, yellows, and browns.
Little branches shoot above the blur. Without good vision they can’t be seen.
These branches make the blur distinct, separate it down,
piece by piece, into its components;
spreading, branching, weaving wood, above just like below.
They don’t collide, rarely touch, yet grow so close together that it seems they must.
They know the others are there, giving, providing for the creatures within the
spreading, branching, weaving wood.
I see buds of new leaves, not sprung, like the eggs of spring, in their nests of woven things.
These eggs will soon hatch into new life.
From a distance they’re a blur. Up close they are lofty, distinct, interwoven life.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Sigilian 32

Laerian opened his eyes and looked down at the scurrying crew below.
The wind on his face had been a nice sensation, soothing.
But with the pirates approaching, it was more important to be ready.
Stretching his legs for a moment, he searched the ship with his eyes. Tomas was standing at the rail, presumably glaring out at the other ships. The crew darted around him, doing their best to get the ship to port or to shore before the pirates could catch them.
Has Laerian been less patient he would have slashed the lines and doomed the entire ship.
But, that would have meant the deaths of all those on the crew. A better solution was to take a small rowboat. He knew that the ship had three launches. He was sure that the captain would be willing to part with one in exchange for a chance to escape.
Rolling to his feet, Laerian made his way back along the crossbeam, and scrambled down the rigging.
As he dropped the last few feet to the deck, Tomas turned towards him, his face set in the scowl that seemed permanent now.
“What’s the plan? Can we fight off pirates?”
“We don’t. Get our things. That’s our final ship”
The revelation did little to improve Tomas’ mood.
“We’re going to go with the pirates, and hope that they don’t kill us but take us where we want to go instead?”
“Yep! So go grab our stuff while I talk to the captain about borrowing a launch”
“What about just taking this ship to the port?”
“It won’t work. How are we going to find a ship that just happens to be going to Faron Rek? The plan was to keep taking ships back and forth until one was attacked by pirates. Then we jump ship, cast our fate with the pirates, and go from there”
“You’re insane”
It was tempting to grin, tempting to make some infuriating response, but that would do nothing to get Tomas to cooperate. Instead Laerian just shrugged.
“If this doesn’t work then we’ll do things your way next time. I’m going to go talk to the captain”
“Fine. If the captain agrees to give you a launch”
“He will”
Laerian turned and darted between the crew as he made his way to the stairs.
“Captain?” He stepped onto the aftcastle and looked around. The Helmsman was there, but the captain was not. “Helmsman, have you seen the captain?”
“He went belowdecks”
“Right, thanks”
Laerian turned and hurried back down, wrapping his scarf around his right hand as he did so.
It was probably nothing, but a missing captain at a time like this…Oftentimes the captains of these ships had…deals with the pirates. If the captain had an arrangement and was going to fulfill the details of it, he might not appreciate being interrupted.
Looking both ways down the hall, he went left, towards his own quarters first. The door stood open, and Tomas was throwing everything into Laerian’s pack.
“Tomas, things may have changed. The captain may have an agreement with the pirates. I’m going to check it out. Want to ready a launch when you’re done packing?”
A thin growl met his request, but Tomas nodded after a moment.
“Thanks. I’ll be right back”
Laerian turned the other direction, and started for the stairs into the hold. He slid down the first ladder, and ducked behind some crates; it would only take a moment to set his scarves to dancing, and then he would be ready for anything that he would be up against.
He had just started Sketching when he heard the clinking of coins from further down the hold. Peering out he saw the captain walking along, a small chest in his arms.
“This should be enough for this trip…especially if I hand over the passengers and their supplies. Now then, let me see, what is a good ex-”
He was cut short as Laerian stepped out and pointed a dagger at him.
“Captain. I can’t help but wonder why you have a small chest full of coins. You couldn’t possibly be planning on paying off the pirates could you? Especially not with my travelling companion and I”
“Ah. No, you see, it is not that at all it is-”
Other men would have stammered. They would have been nervous in a situation like this. Laerian dove forwards and the club that would have knocked him out missed by a hair.
As the captain stepped back Laerian rolled to his feet to face the surly looking rower who stood in front of him, club in hand.
“Cap’n, you want I should know this one out?”
“Ah, but my dear sailor, and captain, that would be a bit rash”
Laerian turned sideways to the rower so that he could keep an eye on both men more easily. The captain didn’t seem like the type to fight…but you could never be too careful.
“You see, I was looking for you to offer a solution captain. To your pirate problem. I was going to offer that my companion and I put out in a small launch and go negotiate for your ships release. After all, you have gotten us to our destination fairly quickly. We were looking for the pirates”
Laerian shrugged sheepishly, the nonchalant and easy gesture completely at odds with his internal conflict. If this went poorly…
“You were looking for the pirates?”
The captain was even less nervous than before; obviously things were going his way.
“Yes. We’re bandit kings, looking to get to Faron Rek”
That seemed to take him back a bit. The fop and the moody youth were bandit kings? Who wanted to go to Faron Rek?
That meant one of two things: They were tougher than they looked, or they were crazy.
Apparently the captain wanted nothing to do with them either way.
“Ah. Well. Dan, you can put the club away. We’ll send our passengers on their merry way to the pirates. No need for a launch master…bandit king. Engro isn’t your name is it?”
“Nah. Engro? Play on engross. I sometimes do stage shows. Thought it’d be funny to name myself after what I do to people. Have to say, I’ve pulled you boys in quite well”
“Mm. Yes. Well. Go ready yourself and your companion. I’ll let the crew know that we’ve been commandeered by the two of you and that you’re not to be interfered with; we’ll sail to the pirates and trade you two and the payment for our freedom”
“Aye-aye captain”
Laerian smirked as he snapped a mocking salute, then scrambled back up the ladder to go find Tomas.

Hiros stood before the Blood Red King.
The woman was hard, tough skin worn and weathered. Her arms were thick with muscles, and she wore her saber like she knew how to use it.
Normally Hiros would be flustered. Today, he smiled.
“Hello King. How’re you? I’m here to kill you dead and take your throne”
The woman stared at him for a while and shrugged.
“I’ve seen how you fought my bodyguards. I’m good. Better than they were. But I can’t beat you”
There were gasps from the assembled crowd behind him. People didn’t like to see a Blood Red King step down without a fight.
It went against their bloodlust.
Hiros didn’t like the King’s play either. It was worrying that she was so willing to give up what she had fought so hard to earn. This was either a ploy to get him to lower his guard so she could kill him later, or it was an attempt to make him look weak, and like a target for others.
His decision made, he stood straighter, readied himself to Sketch, and glared up at her.
“I won’t let you leave”
“Why not? You’ll beat me if I stay. You have nothing to lose by letting me leave. And it isn’t like I will return. I’ll lose, either to you or two your bodyguards.
“Besides, if you let me live, you stand to gain. I have contacts, friends who will be glad to see me walk out of here alive. You’ll be losing enemies, not gaining them, if you let me live”
Hiros looked at the woman for another moment, then shrugged.
“Sure. But, not to insult you, I’ll go settle into my rooms before you leave, then have someone look over the throne. I’d rather not have you walking close to me, or leaving a parting gift on the throne for me”
The woman nodded, and waved towards the exit.
“By all means, Blood Red King. Take your time. Usually the coronation is the next day. I’d suggest staying away from enterprising would-be-monarchs until then. Best way to become King is to kill your predecessor before they’re even crowned”
Hiros nodded at the advice, and turned to leave. As soon as he was away from the group, both brothers joined him.
“You’ll need to announce that we are your first two bodyguards. Then we’ll look for the third”
“Sure. Meanwhile I’m going to kick back, relax, maybe have some gourmet food ordered u-”
“No. You’ll get started on the work that Natasi left for you”
Hiros’ jaunty strut faltered for a moment, and he had to lengthen his stride to try and catch up to the two brothers.
“Work? She left me work? But I thought that I was just going to be king!”
“Of course she left you work”, The shorter brother sounded almost…pleased to see Hiros’ distress, “Why else do you think she had you crowned Blood Red King? You can order around the gangs and bandits as you please, get them all ordered and ready to fight a war”
“Fight a war?” Hiros paled as he stumbled on the uneven ground; his full attention was on the brothers, and none was left for paying attention to where he was going “We’re going to fight a war?”
“No, King. You’re going to start one”

Tomas stood beside Laerian and the captain as the pirate ships drew up, one on each side of their smaller ship. The anchor had been dropped five minutes ago. The pirates had taken their time lining things up and satisfying themselves that it wasn’t some kind of diabolical trap.
Tomas flexed his fingers and checked that his dagger was at hand. He’d taken the time to complete his Sigilian before; if this came to a fight he wanted to be ready.
“Oy! Stand down, and prepare to be boarded!”
The voice was loud and booming, echoing off the flat decks and ocean.
“We’re standing down you fools!”
The captain and Laerian swung to look at Tomas in surprise. It was not wise to antagonise pirates. Especially when you wanted them to help you get somewhere.
The pirates who had been throwing lines and boarding planks across the gap between the ships paused in their work, and turned to stare at Tomas.
Then, as one, they parted to let a well dressed man with a rapier step up to the pirate ship’s bulwark.
“You call us fools?”
It was the owner of that commanding voice. He did not look a man to mess with.
“Well then. You were going to be set free after only surrendering your cargo, perhaps not even all of it, but now we’ll take more than that. How does your lives sounds?”
The pirates around him laughed nervously as Tomas’ captain began to quiver. Turning to Tomas, his eyes drew down in anger and his voice was a hiss when he spoke.
“What have you done, you idiot?”
“Grabbed their attention”
“We had their attention already! What you did has just put my ship in danger!”
“You misunderstand. We had their attention. I did not. And I needed it all focused on me for this to work”
A rare grin dancing across his face, Tomas pushed the captain aside so that he could talk to Laerian directly.
“Laerian, we’re getting ourselves a ship, today”
Laerian stared back at him for a moment, then burst out laughing.
“You do this your way then. I’ll back you up if need be”
The man with the booming voice, likely the pirate captain, rolled his eyes, and stepped onto the plank that another pirate had thrown between the ships.
“Are you three done with your chat? Can I deliver your punishment now?”
“Of course”
Tomas smirked at the man, and drew his dagger. Then, after considering for a moment, he slid it back into its sheath.
“Captain, I’ll need a dagger. I don’t want to waste mine”
As their captain stammered in surprise Laerian pulled a dagger from somewhere in his coat and tossed it to Tomas.
“I doubt I’ll be getting it back?”
“Whatever, I can get more”
The pirate captain had made it across the plank, and had drawn his rapier during their banter.
“I’ll start with you, since you’re the one who called me fool. First, I shall divest you of that pitiful armament you call a weapon, then I shall-”
Nobody would ever know what it was he was going to do to Tomas next, as his speech was suddenly cut short when Laerian’s dagger punched through his forehead. The force of the dagger sent the man flipping backwards, over the edge of the boat.
He, and Laerian’s dagger, disappeared with a splash.
Everyone turned to stare, once more, at Tomas, who was still had his arm outstretched from the follow through of his throw.
“Right. So, you were calling us fools, but now your captain is dead. Can we discuss this with someone more reasonable? Maybe the first mate?”

Laerian just laughed again.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Sigilian 31


Hiros paused, catching his breath. Fighting was hard work, even when he wasn’t doing anything himself.
The second bodyguard had been put down as easily as the first. This third one though…
“Are you ready to die yet?”
The woman stared at him and took a step forwards, her twin rapiers ready to skewer Hiros if the assassin made one false move.
“Not exactly, no. I haven’t had a chance to run an island yet, so if you could just delay a-gah!”
He darted aside as her trailing rapier flew forwards, aiming for his heart. It skidded across his armour, scraping a gouge in the leather.
“Have you never heard of banter?”
He was more angry at the assassin for not getting him out of the way faster than he was at the woman. After all, she was just doing her job.
As the other rapier darted forwards, he fell into a rapid retreat around the room. The rapiers darted in, one after another in a constant swarm of deadly metal darts. A single lapse in concentration on his part, or the assassin’s, and he’d be dead.
Funny how his thoughts kept coming back to his impending death. The thoughts weren’t exactly helpful to maintaining the State either.
And until the assassin found a way to take back the advantage, then he would be out of luck.

The assassin continued his measured retreat always staying just one step ahead of the prisoner’s darting rapiers. His brother watched from the side of the room where he was perched atop a stack of crates.
“Brother, slow down a bit! Or speed up! If you keep retreating at just the right speed then she’ll catch on to the ruse. Or worse, the King will. He is a sharp one”
His brother’s constant comments throughout the three fights had not been helpful. They had been more annoyance than aid.
Still, he grudgingly sped up his retreat, even throwing in a stumble or two to further the act of desperation.
His brother was right, after all. His brother was always right.
The assassin frowned as he dropped into a backwards roll, just enough to put some space between himself and the onslaught of the prisoner’s thrusts.
His name was Egon Adler. His brother was Gerulf Adler. And they were the two best fighters in all the world.
Which was why he found the lack of a victory over this woman all the more galling.
She was but some lowland whore from the backwoods of Destria, or some worse place. She was in the service to a thrice damned pirate, and fought with twin rapiers. She was the most foolish looking fighter he had ever seen, her fighting style was laughably outrageous, and she should not have been able to hold him off this long.
But her speed was truly prodigious.
Egon dropped to his knees as the first rapier came in, and knocked the second aside with his short sword. His longsword came around to take her hand at the wrist, but she was gone again, the prisoner rolling over his body even as he threw himself forwards, away from the blades.
He was in no danger himself. Gerulf would kill the prisoner before it could strike the killing blow. While it would end the link and ensure Hiros’ death, such was a necessary risk.
However, neither brother could afford to let that happen. Not when Natasi’s plans were on the line.
He would rather die than fail her.
He paused as that thought echoed oddly in his mind. It was…Wrong. Slightly off, but he could not tell why. And then he could no longer think about it as his pause earned him a narrow gash across his cheek.

Hiros gasped at the pain as his focus wavered.
The assassin started his retreat again, but Hiros could not help but wonder why he had stopped in the first place. Unless they were trying to kill him after all…
But no. No, they would have done that sooner.
He continued to reassure himself, continued to focus solely on concentrating, focus on focusing itself. The pain was not that bad, not that bad at all.
And then he felt the burn of poison begin to spread from the wound.

Egon sidestepped a thrust and brought his short sword arcing down towards the woman’s wrist.
Finally, her thrust had left her over-extended. With her other arm out to the side she would not be able to bring it around in time to force him to abandon the chop. Which meant she would need to dodge.
A cruel grin split the assassin’s face as his longword swung in from the other side. If she dodged that way, she would get a nasty cut. Which meant that her only choice was to pull back, disengage that way.
And disengaging that way would mean-

As the shortsword crashed into the rapier, pressing then snapping it, Hiros felt the shock travel up his arm as if through a fog. Whatever she had poisoned him with, it was not good. It was leaving his mind fine, but his body was not his to control.
He grinned at that, or tried to. His eyes were even not under his control, the lids stuck open, only the orbs themselves free to move.
Still, she had just sealed her own doom. As sensation fled from his mind, there was less and less to distract him. Soon he would be able to take any hit at all and not lose the State. While the thought of taking “any hit at all” was not reassuring, the second part was.
And, he thought as the end of her rapier clattered on the ground, I may not even need to take any more hits at all.

Egon’s grin of victory did not last long. The prisoner had stepped away, and was standing there, simply watching him, head cocked.
Had the link been broken? Had the fight been too much for Hiros? Was he going to fail Natasi?
Or was this simply some new ploy on the part of his foe?
And then he remembered the cut on his cheek. It didn’t bother him at all, even though she’d had a chance to possibly make it far worse.
“I’ve got it brother!” Gerulf sneered at the prisoner as he toyed with his throwing dagger.
“As do I. Hiros has been poisoned”
“Thoughts on what kind?”
“I’d say paralysis. They’ll want to keep him alive and toy with him later”
“And something to just make him fall asleep is not as fun as the slowing of movements until he stiffens entirely”
“My thoughts exactly”
Gerulf and Egon seemed taciturn and withdrawn to all others. The reality was, the brothers had no need to talk overmuch to anyone else. Each was the other’s best friend. They guarded each other’s backs, fought side by side more times than they could count, and had been there for each other since the beginning. Egon had been watching out for his little brother since Gerulf had killed their father. Their mother had been missing since long before that.
So when they were alone together, as they were now, they talked, almost non-stop. There was truly no need for another friend.
Except Natasi.
Egon didn’t know how Gerulf felt about Natasi. He didn’t want to have to share her. But, he wasn’t going to bring up the problem unless it became one. He would rather lose Natasi than his brother. And he knew his brother felt the same way.
“Well brother, what are you waiting for? Give the woman the show she wants”
Egon grinned again, and fell into a ready stance. He took a moment to rub the blood from his cheek, then began to advance on the woman, but a bit more stiffly than before.
His grin grew wider as the prisoner began to dance to her puppetmasters strings, darting away from him.

Hiros almost laughed when the woman danced away from him. She didn’t want to kill him. She just wanted him to tire and fall flat on his face from the poison.
Apparently the assassin wasn’t going to give her the chance to make it a game of attrition.
Hiros’ face was stuck in the last expression he’d had on it, a grimace of pain. He assumed that to the crowd it looked like rage when coupled with his now ferocious attack.
The assassin sent him leaping after the woman, longsword leading, shortsword ready to stab at her. He hit the ground running as she darted away, and finally caught up enough to swing with the longsword. She deflected it easily enough, but that left her open to the shortsword.

But it wasn’t a killing thrust.
Egon slowed himself even more, his legs quaking a bit as if he was unsteady. A cut that should have landed missed as she danced aside.
A few more passes like this, and he would have her.

The Shadow Prince stared at the docks ahead of him. They were a mess of caravels, schooners, barges, longboats, ships and boats of every kind. The docks themselves were crowded with those there either to rob, to steal, to hawk their wares, to or to go to or from the vessels.
And, oddly enough, there was a single floating tower hovering at the end of one of the docks.
That’s it. That is where you were going.
He had been going to the tower? But why?
His voice rung out across the ship. It was no longer hoarse and low like it had been when he’d first awoken.
It was loud, it was clear, and he recognized the same notes of command in it that the captain had in his own.
The foppish man wandered over to stand beside the Shadow Prince.
“What is that tower?”
“A Destrian defense tower my lord. They float over the land and help the bastards to enforce their draconian rule”
The Shadow Prince had noticed a subtle shift in the way the captain spoke of Destria over the course of the voyage. From just another country, to a hell for criminals, and then to a hell for its citizens. It seemed that the captain had trouble keeping his story straight.
The Shadow Prince had not challenged him on it yet. He wanted to see how far the lies would go.
“Why would I have been going there?”
The captain scowled. The Prince was just about to give up on an answer when he spoke again.
“Another…memory?” Dashiel sounded unhappy about the fact. But that made sense. He and Weeros had been trying to convince the Prince since day one that the voice in his head nothing but lies.
How exactly he had gotten a liar locked into his skull with him they never could explain.
“Yes Captain, another memory. Would you be so kind as to explain why it would want me to go there?”
“Well, to capture you of course. If you were to approach one of those, they’d arrest you for sure”
“Except I was wearing the uniform. And there were closer garrisons than a floating tower I’m sure”
“Yes, but the towers are best equipped to ferret out spies and liars. The soldiers inside are trained for that kind of thing”
“Very well then” It was still all lies, but another question had occurred to the Prince instead “If that is true, then what is it doing here?”
Dashiel grimaced and shook his head.
“I’m afraid my lord, that I do not know”

Egon fell to the ground as the rapier darted overhead, then dropped his longsword, scrabbling after it with barely moving fingers.
“You think she is buying this?”
Egon didn’t bother to answer his brother. It took a lot of effort to curtail his natural instinct to beat at her with everything he had, and while still staying alive and also being slow, he didn’t want any other distractions.
He managed to lever himself into a kneeling position with his right arm without bending it. He’d been feigning its paralysis for some time now. By the lack of suspicious actions on the prisoner’s part he assumed that he’d guessed right about the poison.
Swinging his short sword numbly for a moment he finally let his arm fall to his side. He made one mighty surge of effort to stand, and then let himself fall before his legs moved too much.
“Brother, you should have been an actor. Your performance is masterful”
Gerulf began to clap slowly.

Hiros slumped on the ground. He could still move his eyes enough to look up at the woman as she moved to stand in front of him.
“I like banter when I’m the only one who can do it. Or, how about we save it for the torture rooms eh?”
She laughed and turned to face the crowd.
There was still a lot of cheering, but much of it sounded forced. Hiros had been the new favourite, and his defeat was unpopular.
Especially since so many people were losing money because of it too.
Then he felt his legs tensing beneath him. Perhaps the gamblers had been too quick to pay what they owed.
His left arm arced up as he rocked onto his heels. The blade cut a furrow along the woman’s back, and then went sailing further up into the air. As he rolled backwards and came to rest in a crouch the hilt came down squarely in his raised right hand.
As his arm was swung down, his sword and arm acting as a spear, his legs propelled him forwards once more.
The woman had only barely managed to react to the first cut when Hiros buried the blade to the hilt. It burst out through her chest with a spray of blood as she gasped in astonishment.
Now would have been the perfect time to say something incredible, but he still couldn’t move his body.
Instead he cut the link, and continued to fall forwards with her.
He finally relaxed as fights broke out in the crowd over who owed who how much. The gamblers were definitely going to regret being too quick to pay.