I’m sitting on the second floor of the coffee shop/internet café, Peace & A Cup of Joe (713 W. Pratt St. here in Baltimore City, MD), when a sudden movement catches my attention. I look up, and my breath catches. A gorgeous woman approaches. Her face is ageless, neither old nor young, though in it is written the memory of many things both glad and sorrowful. Her hair, at first seeming sable, is revealed to be auburn as a maple leaf in the fall in direct light; her eyes are emerald and in them a light like that of the stars. Thought and knowledge are in her glance which seems to pierce me to my innermost secrets. The lady’s grace is such that she seems to glide across the floor. Her bearing causes me to rise when she approaches. “Carter says ye wished to speak tae me?” she says. Her mellifluous voice has a Scottish, or Irish, burr to it.
I nearly swallow my tongue. “Yes’m. I would like to ask you a few questions, if that is okay.”
“Aye. Ye may.” She has a small smile on her rosy lips.
I offer her a seat, and take my own once more. I take up my pen and notebook so I can jot notes. I look into her emerald eyes and can see why the Walker of Worlds had fallen in love with her.
R.w: Let’s start with the pronunciation of your name, if that’s alright.
R.w: You’re welcome. You don’t look like other women I’ve seen before. There is an otherworldly air about you, as if you’ve seen everything before, yet you look to be no more than 24. How is this?
KD: Yer a smooth taker, sir. (she chuckles) I be a half-Elven. I’ve seen my third century already.
R.w: Wow. Carter calls you “Keeper Dearbhaile”. Is that a title? (She nods) What is a “Keeper”?
KD: A Keeper be one who learns magic from a Vaush-tauric. They be apprenticed for two centuries, then they return to their clan. Eventually, they lead their clan.
R.w: A Vawsh-taw-ric?
KD: Vaush-tauric, yes. They are Dragon Speakers, a direct conduit to the draconic gods. They be vera powerful magic users.
R.w: And you are a student of one?
KD: I was. I’m now th’ Walker’s companion.
R.w: Your eyes shine when you speak of him. Would you share more?
(She turns pink, and bites her lip) KD: I love him. He makes me feel alive, as if I can do anythin’ in th’ world.
(I grin. I can hear the regard she holds for the Walker of Worlds in her voice.)
R.w: When I last spoke with Carter (look), he mentioned something about a Sourcewell. What is that?
KD: That be where th’ gods be from. It be th’ beginning of ever’thin’.
(I choose to say nothing of how her brogue has thickened. I hope I haven’t upset her too much.)
R.w: That seems to be a touchy subject.
R.w: Would you tell us why?
KD: A vile man be tryi’ tae get thair. If ye will excuse me.
Before I can say anything, she vanishes in a flash of silver light. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m intrigued. I’m thinking of trying to interview Belial, or Drago the Clanless next. Who would you like to hear from? Let me know below.
I’ve gotten together with a few of my friends to introduce y’all to them and them to you. These folks have entertaining & educational blogs. Here they are:
Kevin is a writer of superhero novels. I enjoy reading his stuff, and his site is a lot of fun to explore. You can find him here. He’s running a contest where you can win a copy of his second novel, H.E.R.O. – New markets (his first one is free).
Rebecca is a great lady, and an excellent comedian. Her blog gets me to laugh and brightens my day whenever I read it. You can find her here. And did I mention I get to call her a friend? Feck yeah!
Vy has a hilarious blog that features recipes commentaries on things that matter to her. Warning, don’t go to Vy’s blog if you’re hungry: you want to go devour cupcakes after reading. Here’s where to find her awesomeness.
Lanise is a great author with a herculean task in front of her: writing four books simultaneously. Sheesh. I’m having a hard time with one. Here’s her site. She has some posts about her novels and some other interesting stuff. Go look.
Fab is another beginning writer with some funny posts. Her’s is the newest blog of all that is here. Go check her out and give some love, eh?
These folks are all taking part in the blog hop. Click around, get to know them, maybe win some prizes. Speaking of which, I’m offering a critique of a 1,500 word entry. Here’s how it works: Click on the links to go to everyone’s blog. Read an entry other than their hop and comment. Return here, tell me that you did so in the comments below and add a blurb about your work and your e-mail address. I’ll announce the winner on the 28th of this month.
Modern natural science relies on laws uninfluenced by human desire or motivation. We use the same physical laws to explain why planes fly & crash, the same chemical laws to explain the therapeutic & toxic effects of drugs, and the same biological laws to explain how healthy cells maintain the integrity of the organism & how the cells can become cancerous and kill the host. We don’t have one set of medical theories to explain normal bodily functions and another to explain abnormal ones.
Except where that relates to psychiatry, that is. We have one set of principles to explain the functioning of a mentally healthy person and another to explain that of the unhealthy, or Mentally ill person. We attribute acceptable “rational” behaviors to reasons, but unacceptable “irrational” ones to causes. The mentally healthy person is viewed as an active agent; he chooses such as to marry his childhood sweetheart. In contrast, the “mentally ill” person is viewed as a passive body: As a patient, he is the victim of injurious biological, chemical, or physical processes acting upon his body, eg., diseases (of his brain), for example, of an “irresistable” urge to kill.
According to psychiatric theory, certain actions by certain people ought to be attributed to causes rather than reasons. When and why do we seek a causal explanation for personal conduct? When we consider an actor’s behavior unreasonable and don’t want to blame him for it. We look for excuses masquerading as explanation instead of simply an explanation that neither exonerated or incriminates.
Holding a person responsible for his act is not the same as blaming or praising him for it – it only means that we regard him as an actor, or moral agent.
The “mental patient” who attributes his misdeeds to “voices” – that is to an agent, other than himself, whose authority is irresistable – is not the victim of an irresistable impulse; he is an agent, a victimizer rationalizing his action by attributing it to an irresistable authority.
It is not by accident that, in all the of psychiatric literature, the is not a single account of a schizophrenic to be especially kind to his wife.
Today I’m going an interview with the great author Kevin Rau. He’s the author of the phenomenal H.E.R.O: Metamorphoses, and H.E.R.O: New Markets. He’s also written others in the series, but I’ve not read them, so I can’t judge them. However, I look forward to reading the others.
1. Would you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a software developer/manager at a small company by day, by night I put on my mask and write novels. (It only seems silly if I see myself in the mirror.) I’ve been a superhero, fantasy and sci-fi fan since I was a child, and I’m also a long-time gamer (both computer games and role-playing games). I collected comics for many years, although I stopped nearly a decade ago when I was married.
2. Would you be willing to give us a brief rundown about your fantastic H.E.R.O. novels?
In a nutshell, I wanted comic-book action in book form, with all the extras that novels can bring over comics, such as dialog, minor plots, and depth given by many thousands of words. I chose a low-to-mid power level for my supers to “keep it real,” and to avoid dealing with ultra-powerful supers that deal with worldly events, as the series is focused on one (huge) city in my super world. I started the series off with a very in-depth walkthrough from three new heroes’ viewpoints, and then after a few books expanded into a larger set of heroes active in Metrocity. Each novel has a self-contained story, so the core plotlines will be wrapped up in that story. However, there are also plots that continue through the books, much like a television series. It’s grown quite a bit so far, to 12 books (9 novels, 2 short stories and 1 illustrated guide), and over a million words. (For general information, an average published book tends to be about 100,000 words, and most comic books have 1,500 to 2,500 words.)
3. How do you prepare to write? Are you an outliner, or a seat-of-your-pants style writer?
I select the core batch of plotlines that will be handled in that book, and then write up a large list of ongoing “issues” that need to be addressed for different characters, often due to plotlines that have crossed books. I very roughly outline the first 6-12 chapters, and then go by the pants. I often have no clue where the twists of a story will take it when I begin, as the personalities of the characters dictate what they’ll do when I happen to write a scene, and strange things sometimes occur.
4. Your H.E.R.O.s are grouped into three categories (that I’ve seen so far): Blaster, Mutant and Brick. Are there any combinations, or will there be?
The categories are (officially) Blaster, Brick, Mutant, Psychic, and Elemental, with both Mutants and Blasters serving as somewhat broad categories for those with unusual physical abilities, or energy-based abilities, respectively. There are indeed combinations. Example characters include Spartan (Brick with some blaster abilities to absorb fire), Zonk (Brick with rubber body and fireworks blast), and Lady Celeste (Mutant with psychic powers).
5. If you were to change, and could choose, would you be a Blaster, Brick, or Mutant?
That’s a tough decision, and would depend upon if I was the only hero around. In our real world, I’d probably choose a Brick, for very little could hurt one here. I wouldn’t mind being a mutant, so long as I didn’t look extremely non-human. I doubt I’d want to be a blaster, unless I could choose the energy type. Disintegration would be extremely useful, but there aren’t a lot of good uses for fire blasters…
6. What’s the hardest part about writing your novels?
These days, it’s focus. I have a tough time working a full day, going home, and then sitting at a desk and writing all night. Writing is a very intense mental activity, so it can wear a person out after enough time, day after day, and week after week.
7. Your cover art is pretty amazing. Do you do it yourself, or did you hire it out?
I make my own cover art. Having said that, I buy the 3D art assets (such as the base male and female figures), change them, and tweak or create my own materials (the colors on skin/clothes/etc.). So I guess it’s fair to say that it’s a mix of my art, based on separate art items made by other people.
8. What tools did you use for the cover art?
I use Poser to create the 3D characters, put in lights, change the camera angle, and render it. Paint.NET is my tool for materials, background, etc. I’ve got a few more, such as for 3D object manipulation, but those two handle 95% of my art time.
9. Do you write full-time, or part-time?
I write full-time in the evenings and weekends, and work as an I.T. Manager full-time during “regular business hours.”
10. I’m sure you get this a lot, but: Why superheroes?
I love superheroes. As I mentioned above, I was a collector of comic books for a long time, but wanted more story and dialog. I watch just about every (somewhat) major superhero movie that comes out. There’s something about being able to do more than a normal human, and being able to save the day would be great.
11. You are the only writer I’ve read that uses the story-telling method of getting each of your MC’s perspectives with a dash of third person perspective. What do you call it?
I’m not sure there is an official term. I suppose I would call it “shifting first-person,” although a friend of mine calls it “multi-personality writing mode.”
12. What made you decide to use that style?
I wanted readers to see what the character saw, to feel the experience through them. I shift the viewpoints to let the reader see each of the primary heroes in the story (or villain, in some cases). Sticking with a single first-person mode wouldn’t allow for that, and third-person felt too distant. (Not that I don’t write in that mode, the novel I’m just finishing up is a fantasy novel, and uses third-person.)
13. Where can we find your novels?
The e-Books of them can be found on all major e-retailers, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Smashwords. I’ll include links to the first book for those below (the first full novel is free, by the way), since that’s the normal place to start. You can also find all the links on my website, on the book’s page at: http://www.kevinrau.com/books.asp
Paperback copies can be found through Amazon or Createspace, and links to them are also at http://www.kevinrau.com/books.asp
H.E.R.O. – Metamorphosis can be found free at (also on international sites of them, search for the book name, or by Kevin Rau):
So, I’m skipping though Carroll Park – What? Yes.Skipping. Feck off – and as I round a pretty impressive oak, I see this oddly familiar little kid. I glance around, but don’t see anyone parent-like around. Before I can say anything –
No, Fecker, you don’t look creepy at all. No worries though: I’m the 10-year-old you. I’m Robby.
No, fecking way! How is this possible? And how do you know what I’m thinking?
Oh, for feck’s sake! How did I survive to 32 being this dumb?
Snarky little fecker, aren’t you? He nods. What do you want?
Duh. I want to know about the future. I know you can’t tell me the big stuff like lottery numbers, so don’t worry about that.
Fair enough. Alright: After about the mid-90s, when you’re about to turn 16, all the good cartoons’ll be off the air.
Indeed. Oh! Good news: VHS tapes will be phased out in favor of DVD’s. They’re kind of like CDs, but for movies and tv shows.
Cool. What else?
Floppy disks are replaced by something a lot smaller called a micro SD card. And, it can hold a butt load more than the floppys.
Yes way. CDs and DVDs have all but gone the way of the Dodo. Almost everything is digital.
What does that mean?
Well, for example, nowadays, you can carry the equivilent of a million CD’s in your pocket. Hell, you can do that with a fecking computer.
Oh, yeah. They’ve figured out a way to combine a computer, a phone, a movie player and a music player. The whole bloody thing fits in your pocket too.
Holy crap! What else is there?
There’s this cool thing called the internet. I think in your time it’s still called ARPANET, but I could be wrong. Anyway, the internet is a collection of computers linked up all over the world. You have access to almost all the info in the world, and all the access to all the bullshit in the world. And, it seems the bs out numbers the knowledge.
Isn’t that always the way? We both laugh. What’s going on with our life?
I’m about to be a published author. I also have four other novels in various stages of completion.
Gleeful grin on the little guy’s face. Yes! that is so cool!
Indeed. We’re also friends with a very funny lady named Rebecca Donohue, a talented writer full of doubts named Fabiola, and another talented writer named Jennifer. She also is full of doubts.
You still haven’t told them you doubt yourself more than they do?
They don’t buy it.
Hey, are we still alone, or do we have someone to love us?
Unfortunately, it did not happen today. I waited at the appointed place for many hours, but she never showed. I’m surprised. I’d have thought that Carter’s love would be punctual, or at the very least, kind enough to let me know she was too busy to show.
Don’t be too upset with Keeper Dearbhaile, though. I was distracted, truth be told. I spent most of the day chatting with the most spectacular woman I know. I’m sorry fans, I let you down. I’ll contact Carter & Dearbhaile later.
In the meantime, please enjoy this little outline of another novel I’ll be beginning soon. This one is the one I’m going to win my contest with another writer.
Noah’s Nightmare Notes
Wakes up next to his wife. Attempts to make love to his wife. She waves him off. Thinking she was working late, and is tired, decides to go make breakfast. When the smells don’t bring her into the kitchen with their daughters, he makes her a tray and takes it in to her. There, he finds her dead. He tries to revive her, screaming her name. Section ends.
Two weeks after the funeral, their eldest daughter is taking care of the family. Noah has become zombie-like in his grief. He only eats or drinks when told to. Eventually, his sister-in-law comes and takes the girls for a while. She tells Noah the best way to move on from his grief and live for his daughters is to pack up Elise’s stuff. He stares blindly at her closet door. Section ends.
Josephine’s husband comes over and helps dismantle and remove Elise’s furniture. He stores it without informing Noah. Josephine arrives and helps Noah begin to pack Elise’s knickknacks and clothes. She pauses when she sees him staring at the closet door. He says he can’t face it yet. Section ends.
Everything Elise only has used is finally packed away and put into storage, except for the contents of the closet. Noah picks up his daughters from Josephine’s and apologizes to them for his behavior. Later that night, he tucks them into bed and kisses their foreheads. He climbs into his own bed and stares at the closet door. Section ends.
Eldest daughter comes home, irritable and crying. After she snaps at Noah, and runs off, slamming her door, he goes to her and gets her to tell him what’s going on. She tells him that she thinks she’s started her period, but isn’t sure and she’s scared. Flashback to Noah and Elise shopping at Rite-Aid. Her period has started unexpectedly, and she dragged him in to “test his manliness”. She talks about the merits of tampons versus pads, and o.b. versus Tampax. They discuss having a girl and Aunt Flo. The flashback ends and Noah explains to the eldest what she has to do. She says she misses her mom. Noah does too. Section ends with Noah in bed, staring at the closet.
Two months later, Noah finally opens the closet door. It’s a huge walk-in number. He is hit with her scent, and tears begin to flow. Her every day wear is near the front. When he goes further in, his gets the first gut punch: the t-shirt she wore during each of her pregnancies. It’s white with red letters that say, “It Started With A Kiss, And Ended Like This” and a blue arrow pointing to her belly.
Flashback to a baby shower. Elise opens a package and see the shirt. She holds it up so she can read it, then shows it to everyone as she laughs her ass off. To Noah’s, and the guest’s delight, she stands and takes off her other shirt with “Baby On Board” and puts on the new one. She then thanks Noah and kisses him passionately. Flashback ends.
‘She wore that shirt to tell me she was pregnant with each of the others,’ he muses. His next gut punch is her wedding dress on a dressmaker’s dummy. He collapses to his knees, tears flowing down his face. A trembling hand reaches out to caress the fabric. Noah begins to sob. Section ends.
Flash back to Noah and Elise’s wedding. The two recite their own vows to each other. We learn that Noah is her second husband, and the oldest two daughters are from that first marriage. We also learn that Elise had spent years in an abusive relationship and Noah rescued her from it. She thanks him for showing her what love really is, and vows to be by his side, loving him, no matter what.
Noah takes a few lines to tell Elise why he loves her, then vows to spend the rest of his life making her happy. They are pronounced man and wife, then kiss. Section ends.
He finds another dummy with the outfit she wore when he proposed. We flash back to that scene. Show that a lot of effort went into making this a magical night for Elise. She cries tears of joy when she enters, and doesn’t stop smiling the whole night. Near midnight, he goes down on bent knee and reveals the engagement ring he made by hand with her birthstone, then proposes. Flashback ends. Section ends.
He sees his favorite workout shirt from college hung on a wall. Underneath is tape with, “Can’t let him wear it out. It smells like him. He makes me so happy!” He swallows hard, then moves on. He finds a dress on another dummy, and smiles sadly. It’s tagged with “I wore this on our first in-person date.” Flashback to the first date. Section ends.
A little bit back, I got us an interview with Carter Blake, the Walker of Worlds ( see it here), but he had to leave abruptly. I was able to secure an interview with his lovely mate, Keeper Dearbhaile. She has graciously agreed to sit down with me at Peace & A Cup of Joe, the cafe where I usually write.
I’ll post it tomorrow, as soon as we’re finished chatting.
This part of the story comes from further along into the story than the last part. If you haven’t read any of the prior, part one is here. I’d be delighted if you read and told me in the comments what you think of it.
A golden skinned, bald man knelt before a gigantic loom. The threads on the loom were thousands of different colors, almost all glowed in the dim light of the room. Every so often, one of the threads would stop glowing, and turn transparent. The bald man’s strong, sure fingers would move to the no longer glowing thread, follow it down to where the color stopped and tied it off. Almost immediately, a pair of shears would appear in his hand, the transparent thread would be cut and moved to another section where it would begin to glow once more. Sometimes, a thread would be cut before it became transparent, and it would be spliced to another. Almost always, when this happened, more threads would sprout from the joined ones. Other times, nothing would happen.
At his knees was a very long, very black thread. It seemed to suck the light into it, it was so dark. Though this dark thread was at the bald man’s knees, he would frequently dip his hand down and tie it to some thread or another. The thread he tied it to would lose its glow and turn transparent. Sometimes, when the golden man would attempt to tie the black thread, a greenish purple one would weave itself in place. He would consider for a moment, nod and then tie the back on another place.
The bald man glanced over the tapestry, wondering where the next thread would go, when his eyes suddenly opened wide. A strange thread wove its way through the tapestry. This thread was electric blue; neither transparent, nor opaque, but somehow both at the same time; and no matter what, it would not be controlled by the old man. He sighed. It was going to happen again.
But, it didn’t happen the way he was expecting. To his horror, the thread doubled back on itself. “No, no, no, no, no, no,” he moaned. Helpless not to, yet knowing it was pointless, the old man reached for the loom, trying to stop the thread. As soon at the thread touched itself, the tapestry burst apart: threads flying everywhere. “Fuck!” the old man shouted, punching the floor. As the room shook, the old man spread his hands apart and the loom reorganized itself. He sighed again. “WALKER!!” he bellowed.
Moments later, the air shimmered. A tear on the fabric of reality appeared and Carter stepped through. He breathed in the scent of jasmine and rose petals. He turned and looked up at the Titan who had summoned him.
“What is it, Kronos?” he said.
The Titan spun and bent over him. “Your friend has done it again,” he rasped.
“Um, would you be a bit more specific? I have a lot of friends and they do a lot of things repeatedly.”
“You have only one friend that I would be interested in,” Kronos growled.
“Good point,” Carter said. “What has he done this time? How extensively, I mean.”
“Six months.” ‘Shit. Another wish, Robilar?’ “I hate when he does that.”
“You hate it?” The Titan gestured at the loom. “Look at what he’s done to my work.”
Carter gazed at the destruction. Hundreds, if not thousands, of threads lay scattered around the room. Not many still glowed. Each thread represented a life. The glowing ones were those who lived, the transparent ones were those who would be born. ‘Does Robilar know, or care how many lives he interrupts, or changes, with his wishes?’ He looked back at the Titan. “I will make sure he doesn’t grant any more wishes, Kronos.”
“Thank you, Walker.” The Titan sat cross-legged on the floor and reached behind him. He came up with an immense platter of figs, dates, wine, grapes and goat, ox, bull and sheep meats. These were surrounded by an assortment of cheeses.
Later in the evening, I sat before the fire, reading a book I’d found on the shelves behind the door. The chair was even more comfortable than it looked. The seat and back were thick and soft. When I sat down, I sank nearly a foot into the seat. The back enveloped me like a warm hug from my mom. ‘Damn this room is fucking cold,’ I thought. The book I chose to read was a history of the Orwen family. From what I gathered, they had ruled this land for nearly four thousand years. Their sovereignty was literally a divine right: the chief god Chokkan had crowned Kandel Orwen king after he alone had answered the deity’s call for aid, during a particularly gruesome battle. I thought it was interesting that a character created by Anderson was real. Then again, so were Mordecai and Drago.
I was reading about King Ohrel Orwen’s negotiation of peace between the High Elves and the Golden Dwarves fifteen hundred years later, when I heard a knock at the door. I opened it to see a boy, maybe six, or 8 years old. He was dressed in a silver robe trimmed in light blue. His shaggy blond hair looked as if it had been styled by someone with a bowl and dull shears.
“Lord Blake, His Grand Majesty Redigar has granted you an audience,” he said gravely. “I, Tolar, have the honor of conducting you thence.”
Responding in the same manner, I answered, “Please lead on, then, Master Tolar.”
He gave a slight bow of his head, turned and led me down the stairs and through the castle.
Hoping to learn more (that haircut was really bugging me, no one I knew would allow that to happen to their hair), I spoke my question.
“Say, Master Tolar, what happened to your hair?”
He reached up and touched it. “What do you mean?” he asked, defensively.
“It looks,” I paused.
“Well?” he demanded impatiently.
“How do I put this delicately? Um, it looks, well, barbarous.”
“I did it, thank you, very much!” he said heatedly.
‘Yikes.’ “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend, I’ve just been to a place where the length of someone’s hair meant something,” I said, hastily.
“Really?” In his curiosity, he forgot his anger.
“Indeed. Hair cut like yours would have been a mark of his being someone’s property.”
“I apologize for taking umbrage,” he said.
“It’s my fault for not thinking.”
He grinned at that.
Okay, so I lied, and that whole hair thing took place in a book series and related to women. He didn’t need to know that, did he? Especially with what happened? We walked for what must have been forty-five minutes, going down some stairs, up others, in through some doors and out through others. As we wandered, I found myself wondering just how big this castle was. At the same time, I had a growing suspicion that we had doubled back on ourselves. ‘This is really weird,’ I thought. We passed a green marble sculpture of a knight standing with the tip of his sword in the base, his hands folded over the hilt. When we passed it again, five minutes later, I stopped. Tolar glanced back at me and waited.
“Tolar, why are we going in circles? We’ve passed this statue already,” I stated.
“That is impossible,” he replied sharply. “None could interfere with the castle’s Spell of Travel. It was cast by wizards of epic might.”
“I’m telling you, we passed this statue once already,” I argued.
“And, I am telling you: That. Is. Impossible!” he said stridently, slowly walking back towards me.
I suddenly noticed his right hand was clenched in a fist and was glowing with an eldritch yellow light. ‘By all the hells,’ I thought. ‘Is it just me, or does this kid have anger issues?’ Having no wish to further antagonize the young mage, and become recipient of some nasty spell, I constructed a plan I hoped would placate him.
“I have an idea: let’s place a mark on this statue, and then resume walking. If we see an identical statue, and there is no mark, I’ll humbly beg your forgiveness on bended knee. However, if there is a mark, I suggest we investigate. Fair enough?”
As he considered my plan, the light faded from his relaxing hand.
“Agreed,” he said finally.
Producing a piece of charcoal, he placed a sigil at the knight’s sword hilt. Without another word, Tolar stalked off. ‘I guess he is still upset about the hair remarks. How do I fix this?’ I thought as I hurried to follow. Exactly five minutes later, we again reached a green marble statue of a knight standing with the tip of his sword in the base, his hands folded over the hilt. We looked at it. When he saw there was no mark, Tolar pointed triumphantly.
“You see?” he exclaimed. “I told you: there is no way for anything to interfere with this castle’s magic.”
I examined the sculpture where he’d drawn the sigil more closely. I still had a nagging feeling about this statue. (Oh, alright. I admit it: I really didn’t want to kneel before this kid.) I soon found it: a smudge of carbon at the point of the sword.
“Hey, Tolar, look at this: it seems your mark was rubbed away.”
He bent and spotted the smear. A silvery glow limned his hands as he ran them over the base. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. Tolar stumbled back, his face pale and filled with horror. The green statue suddenly cracked and crumbled, belching a thick cloud of fragments and dust. I pressed myself against the stone wall, whipping my arm to my face to protect against the enveloping gloom. As the dust slowly cleared, we saw that where a green statue once stood, there arose a scarlet armored behemoth. It strode from the pedestal, and with a casual backhand swing of its sword, cleaved Tolar in two. Crimson blood sprayed up the wall. Without hesitation, I turned and ran, heedless of where I went, eager to escape the monster that had easily killed a boy.
I ran for what seemed to be hours, throwing things to the ground as I ripped past them. Nothing worked. The implacable footsteps of the scarlet knight remained close behind me. Spying twin oak doors, I crashed through, slamming them behind me. I wheeled around intending to run further, when I realized I was in the throne room.
The king, a balding older man, sat imperiously on the ornate chair. On his right, and slightly behind him was Lady Orwen. Standing before him was Mordecai and Angriz.
“What is the meaning of this?” the king thundered.
Before I could answer, the doors blew open in an explosion of splinters. Striding through the cloud of debris, dislodging a chunk of the doorway with its helmeted head, was the scarlet knight. I dove to one side, trying to keep out of the monster’s way.
“By the gods!” exclaimed Mordecai. “A Crimson Walker!”
“Your majesty—!” Angriz began.
Before he could complete his words, the Crimson Walker spun its sword arm in a circle, launching the weapon faster than the eye could follow. There was a red streak in the air, and the scarlet sword was buried to the guard in the king’s chest. An instant later, the blade faded to a mist, and reappeared in the Walker’s fist.
“Father!” screamed Lady Orwen, with a wail of immeasurable grief that would haunt me to my dying day.
Mordecai threw his fist at the knight. There was an instant of absolute blackness, followed by a blinding flash of light. The entire left side of the Crimson Walker’s torso disintegrated. Royal guards flooded the room as Angriz roared and charged the Walker. His enormous sword slashed through the Walker’s middle. A split second later, threescore arrows thudded into it.
A scarlet boot crashed into Angriz’ head, sending him tumbling into the polished black granite wall. Green blood poured from the half-dragon’s mouth as he struggled to rise. A sudden slash of a crimson blade decapitated a dozen men. To my shock, the Crimson Walker slowly shimmered back into existence. The world turned ebony once more; but this time, when the light returned, there was no damage to our foe.
“Get down!” bellowed Angriz.
Everyone dropped flat. The mighty warrior gave forth a roar reminiscent of his mighty dragon ancestors and a terrible conflagration issued from his open maw. Flames eagerly roiled over the huge red knight, slowing and beginning to melt it. Not yet defeated, the Walker abruptly bent, plucking up a severed head, and flung it at the half-dragon. The head rocketed through the flames and lodged in Angriz’ open mouth, abruptly extinguishing the flames. Dimly, I was aware of Lady Orwen chanting… something. I had no idea what. My attention was taken up by what was happening to Angriz at the moment.
His mouth was lengthening, becoming a muzzle. His teeth were growing longer and sharper-looking. His fingers lengthened and fused until he had three digits and an opposable thumb. Each was tipped with a thick, black talon. His body began to elongate, his muscles stretching and growing bigger. His feet grew longer, and narrower, the toes, tipped with long black claws, ripped through his boots. His scales, once a lustrous gold, were now a mottled yellow and were banded by a greenish bronze.
The Walker soon grabbed my attention again, wading through the amassed guards, slaughtering them by the dozens with every swing of its immense blade. Blood ran in rivers across the floor. Men and women fought valiantly, but futilely. Their blades simply shattered upon the scarlet armor. Mordecai flung his arms skyward and bellowed out strange words. “Dragostea Hoarl!”
Seconds later, colossal skeletal hands, surrounded by hellfire, arose from the floor and latched onto the Crimson Walker.
“Tulak Harool!” cried Mordecai.
The bone hands began to squeeze. The Walker appeared to crumple, then flexed horrifically, shattering the hands. It whirled its sword arm again. Over the tumult of battle, and screams of the wounded, came Lady Orwen’s voice.
“Shut your eyes!” she cried out. Her voice was a strange mix of terror and exhalation. “It’s coming! Shut your eyes! Shut your—” her voice spiraled up and out of range.
Upon Lady Orwen’s first command, almost everyone closed their eyes and turned away. I, however, did not. I was too entranced by what I was seeing: a brilliant white light engulfed her body. I barely recognized her form through it. Her clothes burst into flames as the light grew even brighter. I perceived a ringing at the edge of my hearing. The ringing and light increased in intensity. I suddenly felt every hair on my body stand. There was a final, brilliant flash, as if I was next to a detonating nuclear device, then, eerily and quickly the light vanished.
I ran to Lady Orwen, stripping off my shirt as I went. She determinedly held herself up by grasping the back of her now deceased father’s throne. I tugged it down over her head, covering her nude form. Even at this moment, I had to admit: her body was fantastic. Especially as hers was the first nude female form I’d seen. Oddly, there was nothing, not a scrap of fabric, not a loose thread, nor any ash to indicate she’d ever been clothed before. I wondered what caused her clothes to burst into flames.
Shaking away the useless thoughts, I turned to what was happening behind me. What I saw, took my breath away as if I’d been punched in my solar plexus.
The being standing before me, head brushing the ceiling, was approximately three point sixty-five meters tall, and one point fifty-two meters across his shoulders. Two enormous white wings spread out from each shoulder, nearly touching the opposite walls, and then swept back to rest against his body. Bulging muscles rippled under his golden skin. He was bald, yet the most beautiful, perfect being I’d ever seen. I knew then, without a doubt, this was an angel. He drew a large great sword that shone like mercury. As he did so, the Crimson Walker swung its blade. The celestial warrior blocked it with his. There was a swift flash of light, and they were gone. This proved too much for me, and I slumped into darkness.