Category Archives: Books

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. (Chapter 2)

Heartbeat thrashing in her ears, Jennifer waited to be torn to shreds by the large wolf. She soon became aware of her breath rasping in and out of her sore ribs, and crickets singing in the woods. Further away, a lonesome owl hooted. She slowly lowered her arms, eyes darting around.
Truck.
Road.
Trees.
Shadows.
Rusty gate.
Truck again.
No sign of the wolf. Jennifer sank to the pavement, her weak knees no longer able to support her. She placed her trembling hands over her eyes, uttering a shaky laugh as she did so. ‘Oh, thank God. I thought I was dead.’ She looked around again. There was no evidence a wolf had ever been around. ‘Okay, what the hell is going on?’
She rose to her feet, a little wobbly, but made it to her truck. She opened the door, and slid in, dropping the flashlight on the seat. ‘Whatever the hell Danni wanted to show me will have to fucking wait. I’m getting the hell out of -’
A piercing scream rent the night air. “JEN! Help!”
“Danni! Hold on! I’m coming!” She ripped open the glove compartment, not noticing her nail breaking as she yanked the gun out. She pulled the slide back, and saw a round was in the chamber. She snatched the light up and bolted out of the truck. She ran to the gate. The USP was in her right hand which was crossed at the wrist of her left. This hand-held the flash in a reverse grip, illuminating the path to the gate. It gapped open. She darted through, heading in the direction the scream had come from. ‘I wish Rob were here. He’d be great bait for the monsters which might be out here.’ She laughed uneasily at herself. ‘Monsters aren’t real, girl.’

***

A hunched form watched the lithe young woman head into a building. A couple of minutes later, it followed. 

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Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. (Chapter 1)

Jennifer pulled up to the rusty gates of the abandoned amusement park and shut off the engine of her tan Isuzu Rodeo. She gazed through her windshield at the dark land. A derelict rollercoaster, with a couple of cars frozen at the peak of a drop, was silhouetted against the moon. Her eyes trailed the forlorn ruin, noting the sections of missing track. She shook herself and glanced around outside her truck once more. There was no sign of her friend. ‘That’s odd. Danni is more punctual than this. I’m the late one to our meeting places.’
She pulled her phone out to check the text requesting the meeting here again.

‘Jen, meet me at the old FunZone Amusement park at 8pm. I have something you’ll want to see.’

The cell chirped, and the screen when dark. “Damn it. I forgot to charge. Grrr,” she said. She leaned over to the glove box and felt around. Her fingers slid over crumpled parking tickets, napkins, a dried out doughnut, and the cool metal of the handgun her friend Rob had given her. He’d called it a USP Tactical and said it was easy to hide. She leaned over and attempted to look into the glove compartment, but it was too dark to see inside. She reached out and opened the passenger side door. The dome light came on as the sound of crickets entered. The gun blocked her view of the inside, so she pushed it aside. No charger. ‘Shit. I must have forgotten to grab it on my way out the door this morning.’
Jennifer sighed, and pulled the door shut. At the same time, she slammed the glove box shut. She got out and glanced around. The wind moved through the woods, shaking tree branches, and making shadows dance in the moonlight. Still no sign of her best friend. An owl hooted, making her jump. She leaned against the truck, her hand over her racing heart. A rhythmic squeaking caught her attention. When she glanced back to the interior of the amusement park, something darted by. The sudden movement in her peripheral vision caused her to turn to look, as her breath caught in her chest. Her gasp turned into a brief coughing fit.
She regained control of her breathing, and opened her truck once more. She reached under the seat and grabbed the flashlight. As she turned it on, she registered what she’d done, and smacked herself on the forehead. ‘I could have used this when looking for my charger. Dummy.’ She shone the light in the direction of the movement, and became aware the crickets no longer made a sound. The flashlight swung in short, quick arcs, following the motion of her eyes. She took a slow step back. The crunch of gravel underfoot seemed like miniature explosions to her sharpened senses. A wolf howled, startling her. She screamed and dropped her light which broke on the ground.
‘Shit.’ She squatted, gathering the pieces in the moonlight. ‘Get a hold of yourself. If you can handle being attacked by a couple of hood rats, you can handle a wolf howling in the distance.’ The hood rats in question had intended her to be their initiation into the local order of the Four-Nines, a ruthless gang of drug runners. She’d surprised the young girls by being more vicious than they, and as they put it, “Not fighting fair.” Two on one was fair game, though, it seemed. As Rob had taught, a quick knee to the groin of the closer girl had persuaded her to lose interest in continuing. A short jab to the voice box had made the other one lose interest as well, also as he’d instructed.
Jennifer reassembled the flash, and flicked the switch. Nothing. ‘Did I put the batteries in right?’ She removed the top and reversed them. This time the flashlight came on. At the same time, something heavy thumped onto the roof of the truck. She whipped the light up to see what made the noise. The air left her lungs in a rush as an enormous black wolf was revealed. The animal’s eyes glowed yellow in the beam. The wolf’s upper lip curled up, showing gleaming fangs as it snarled at her. Woman and wolf stared at each other for an unknown amount of time. Their standoff ended when she took a slow step back. The sound of gravel being compacted under her foot caused the wolf to spring at her.
She screamed, and threw her arms over her face, certain she was going to die.

Where’s My Into the Realm Updates?

Funny you should ask that. Since I published it on Amazon.com, I also enrolled it in KDP Select. It’s a way for Amazon Prime members to borrow my book for free, and I get royalties based on how many people borrow it. As part of being able to do this, I’m not allowed to sell my book on any other website (or blog), nor am I allowed to post it anywhere, even for free. But, that’s okay. After I pull it from there, I’ll resume posting it here.

In the meantime, taking its place will be Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. You may remember me posting some excerpts from that a while ago, but I’ve been rewriting, and revamping, it. I hope you guys like it.

It’s Finally Available

My novel, Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake is now live on Amazon. For now, it’s only available as an e-book. As soon as I get enough money to get the cover expanded, I’ll be offering print versions, too. Here is where you can order it. When my next post goes live, you’ll be able to order it from one of my side bars. 😀 I hope you guys like it.

cover

Falling Into You Cover Reveal!

My friend, L.T.Kelly, has decided to allow me to assist in revealing the cover for her sequel to Falling to Pieces, her smashing debut novel.

 

Are you ready?

 

Here it is:

 

 

ebook

 

Blurb:

Marc Romano disappeared without a trace into the darkness. His lover became overwhelmed with grief in her loss. But her grief takes on a much more murderous form than most, for Teagan Lewis is a vampire.

Now her heartache is driving her further from the woman she once was, and she realises she must snap out of her monstrous habits and discover the way back to her old self. But how?

Ending their trip around Europe, Teagan and her friend Alex head back to New York. Teagan has the full intention of carrying out a dangerous plan here; not just physically dangerous, but emotionally as well.

How will she be able to resist the irresistible? And what of the new rival, Ivan Lenin? He threatens her life and the lives of everyone she loves. The only people who can help her are her sworn enemy and an ancient stranger. Will they assist her?

How will Teagan Lewis face the demons of her past and try to find happiness? Will she stay and fight or will she run from the things she must face in order to finally be at peace? Mistakes will be made. People will die. The time has come…

Look for it May 2014

 

Go stalk follow L.T. here:

 

Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book I (C4,S1)

This was supposed to go live yesterday. I forgot to schedule it. I’m sorry, folks.

Previous subchapter here.

 

 

Chapter 4

Subchapter 1

A few days later, Angriz and I arrived at the Weirdling’s glen. My guide placed my hand upon a tree. “Wait here, until I’m able to introduce you. She doesn’t like strangers to be brought unannounced. I’ll bring her to you, first.”
“Alright,” I said.
“One more thing: she’s not like anyone you’ve met before.”
“Alright,” I said again.
I waited until Angriz tromped off before I laughed to myself. It seemed heartless to remind him everyone here was unlike anyone I’d ever met. Still, I found myself wondering what he meant. I soon found out. About ten minutes later, Angriz returned with someone who had a much lighter tread.
I noted an unfamiliar odor. I recognized Angriz’s scent. He smelled like hot steel, with a faint tang of pine. This came from his preference for sleeping on pine boughs. This new scent, while not unpleasant, unfamiliar; flowery, but with a faint acrid undercurrent. They stopped a few feet from me.
“Carter, this is Soo-jau. She is the Weirdling I told you of.”
“Angriz,” a soft voice said. “I wish you would stop using that common term. Please identify me the proper way.”
Leather creaked as Angriz bowed. “I’m sorry, Lady Soo-jau.”  He directed his next words to me, “She is Vaush-Tauric.”
“What’s in a name?” I said.
“Well said,” said Soo-jau. “A flower by any other name smells the same.”
‘She misquoted William Shakespeare to me, and has no idea who he is. I find that funny as hell for some reason.’
“Thank you, my lady.” I held my left elbow in my right hand, and tapped my lips with my left index finger. “Speaking of scents, yours is interesting. What is it, pray?”
“Carter!” Angriz sounded shocked I would ask such a question.
Soo-jau chuckled. “You are smelling my relaxation salts.”
“Another scent is beneath. Something acrid,” I said.
“Indeed,” she replied. “Tell me, how does Angriz smell to you?”
“Huh?” Angriz sounded confused.
I ignored him for the moment. “Like hot metal and pine. He likes sleeping on pine needles.”
“Can you guess why hot metal?”
“Maybe because he breathes fire.”
“You are correct. What breath weapon do you think I possess?”
“I would say one of acid.”
“Yes.”
“Are you a full dragon, Soo-jau?” I asked.
“I am. Only full dragons can ever be Vaush-Tauric.”
“Angriz tells me you will be able to restore my sight.”
“We’ll get to that, but first, I wish to perform a test. Come here.”
She took me by my hand and led me further into her glen. Water gurgled into a fountain. She released my hand and moved away. I marked her movements by listening to her footsteps through the grass. I turned my head so I would be able to follow her light step easier. The sward sprung up as her feet left the ground. She levitated.
“Why are you flying?” I asked.
“You heard me rise?” she asked, head titled to the side.
“I did.”
She nodded as if my answer was what she was expecting. “This is part of the test. I suspected you might be able to track my movements by sound. Your head movements confirmed my suspicions.”
“Hunh,” I grunted.
“Carter, does magic exist in your world?”
“Not real magic,” I answered. “We possess tricks we call magic, or illusions, but they are really slight-of-hand and misdirection.”
“Were you always blind?”
“No.”
I told her about what happened. I got chills reliving the experience. As an atheist, to have witnessed the appearance of a real angel was…startling to say the least.
“You seem to take the existence of magic rather well,” she said.
“In my world, I deal with things which to others would seem to be magic more often than not. Something we named nuclear physics deals with splitting atoms. We call this process fission. This generates an enormous amount of heat. My friend and I once experimented with creating the opposite, called cold fission which generates a tremendous amount of cold. I am used to the unusual.”
“What are atoms?” she asked with interest.
“In simple terms, they are the building blocks of everything.”
“What about not simple terms?”
“Well, as I learned, an atom is the smallest component of an element having the chemical properties of the element, consisting of a nucleus containing combinations of neutrons and protons and one or more electrons bound to the nucleus by electrical attraction; the number of protons determines the identity of the element.”
“Hmm. I think I prefer the simpler way of saying it. I can learn a lot from you.”
“And I from you,” I said. “Now, what about the remainder of this test?”
She laughed. “Alright. This part is simple in concept: Catch me.”
“That’s all?” I asked, suspicious.
“Yes.”
I sighed and agreed. ‘This is silly.’ I lunged to where I had heard her voice from last, hoping to catch her off guard. This time, the laughter came from my right and a little behind me. I whirled and leaped. I landed hard on my stomach, my hands clutching the empty air. The air left my lungs in a rush as I slammed into the ground. Belly flops on the ground are painful, let me tell you. I groaned and rolled to my feet with care, cussing as I did. Further laughter came from my left, close by, so I swung my arm outward, intending to grasp her at the last moment. Soo-jau laughed again as my hand closed on empty air. Though I sensed no mockery in her constant laughter, only fun and enjoyment of the game, I found myself growing angry. I whirled left, then right, becoming angrier and more disoriented as I flailed about. I ceased talking, my only sounds grunts and gasps. I think she sensed my anger because her laughter also halted.
I found a scaled face with a flailing hand, and clamped down. A grunt and faint “Ow.” To my shame, I realized I had Angriz and caused him some pain. My anger melted away to be replaced with concern.
“I’m sorry,” I said, releasing my grip. “Are you okay?”
He pulled away. “No worries.”
With a clearer mind, I had a flash of inspiration. I stretched my hand out until I touched his leather clad chest. I moved to my right, stretching my arm out. I took two steps further away.
“Angriz,” I whispered. “Do me a favor?”
“What?”
“Hold your breath for thirty seconds.”
He took a deep breath, and did as I requested. I shouted, startling Soo-jau. A brief gasp of surprise revealed her presence to my left. I waited, counting to three in my head. She moved to my right as I anticipated. I leaped at her without turning my head. I manage to wrap my arms around her waist. Our combined weight overcame her levitation spell, bringing us both crashing to the ground. I released Soo-jau, and rolled to my back so I lay beside her. She lay panting in unison with me for a bit. Angriz resumed his normal pattern of breathing. A moment later, she sat up.
“Congratulations,” she said. “None ever caught me. How did you?”
I smiled, happy with my own cleverness and another chance to teach.
“After I hurt Angriz…-”
“You did not,” he said.
“My shame caused my temper to evaporate,” I continued as if he hadn’t interrupted. “When able to think again, I had a flash of inspiration: my hearing improved tenfold after I’d lost my sight, so I wondered if I might be able to hear you moving through the air. I had him hold his breath, and shouted. I guessed the suddenness of my shout would surprise you. You gasped and I knew where you hovered. I figured that you wouldn’t stay in place after giving your position away, so I listened as hard as I could for you to move. When you did, your mass caused a breeze. The day was otherwise calm so I knew where you ended up. The rest, you know.”
“Ah. Excellent,” she said with some pride in her voice.
I tingled with the sincere praise. I rose to my feet and held out my hand to her. When she accepted, I pulled her up from the grass.
“So, did I pass your test?”
“You did, Carter Blake. All of them.”
“All?” I asked,  surprised.
“Yes. I wished to test your character, you adaptability, and your hearing. I figured you might get angry, though the speed with which you regained your composure surprised me. I admit, though, I did not expect you to catch me. I planned to call an end to the test when you tackled me.”
“So, what happens now?” I asked.
“Now, I begin my preparations. We will learn if I am able to aid you. Return tomorrow.”

Continues here.

Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book I (C3,S5)

Previous subchapter here.

 

Subchapter 5

 

“Mother was unconscious, cradled in Father’s arms. Her dress was flung up above her waist, torn and caked in drying blood. Rage and grief churned within me, erupting in an anguished howl that I later learned echoed throughout the countryside and brought the villagers at a run.

“The roar startled my father back to reality. ‘Go for the healers!’ he cried. I turned without question and raced back out. I had never sprinted so fast before. Before I even got to the main road into the village, I beheld the Elder running beside Healer Smythwick, followed by the rest of the villagers. For the first time, I ignored our Elder and spoke only to Smythwick. ‘Come fast,’ I shouted. ‘My mother is hurt!’ Without hesitation, I whirled back to the house. I stopped running as I reentered. Father had by this time covered my mother’s nakedness, restoring some semblance of her dignity. I heard footsteps behind me and knew by his scent the Healer had arrived. I was ushered outside with my father while he began examining Mother.

“After what seemed like hours, he emerged from our cottage and reported that my magnificent, beautiful mother had been raped and clawed with viciousness. Bites ran down her neck and arms. My father stiffened and bade me wait. He then went in to her. I began to search the areas near the door for clues. Most would not have used ‘methodical’ to describe me any other time, but I was then. I found a red scale as father came outside once more. I showed it to him and received a curt nod. He looked at the Elder with glowing golden eyes and spoke. ‘Watch over Aurora for me until we return,’ he ordered.

 ‘Of course, Rhynskald.’

“Father beckoned for me to follow him, and set a brisk pace headed east. He set an incredible pace. About three hundred yards into the woods, he began to transform. First, scales spread over his skin in a spiral pattern. His body lengthened; his limbs bulged as his back grew broader. He dropped so his hands touched the ground. His clothing was ripped to shreds and fell to the earth. Father’s fingers and toes sprouted long, sharp claws. His face stretched and broadened, growing a magnificent ridge of horn as his nose and mouth lengthened becoming a maw with huge fangs. The whiskers on his face also grew longer. Tremendous wings burst from his backbone as his neck stretched until it was as long as his body. A tail swept out behind him, thick and sinuous. This wonderful transformation happened in a matter of seconds. I was astonished to behold him as a splendid gold dragon.

“I stared, mouth agape. Father swiveled his huge head around and peered down at me. One melon-size eye blinked closed. He gestured for me to come to him. ‘Come, we have a red dragon to hunt.’

“I stepped forward, filled with trepidation. A colossal paw, tipped with massive claws, grasped me. With a swift few steps, my father launched himself into the air.”

When Angriz paused, I took a moment to divert him from the anguish he must have relived, “Why did your father call you Swenlyn?”

“That was my name at the time,” he answered. “We dragons go through different naming processes than others do. We are given one name after hatching, or birth. We receive another at puberty, and one more upon reaching adulthood. Some are named for their deeds, and some by their enemies. Mine was the latter.”

***

I cocked a surprised eyebrow at him. “Why would you carry a name given by an enemy?”

“Because it turned out to be my True Name.”

I thought for a second: I’d heard of the significance of them before. I just couldn’t remember where. Mental forehead slap: BattleHammer.

“I may be wrong,” I began, “But if someone knows your True Name, they have power over you, right?”

“Yes, but only if secret. However, in the open, as mine is, then any True Name spells would backfire against the caster.” His smile was clear in his voice.

“Ah, right. Sorry for my interruption. Please continue.”

***

“My father flew through the night. His massive paw shielded me from the cold air. As we traveled, I asked about our family. ‘Father, does you being a dragon mean that I am one as well?’

“‘No, Swenlyn, you are half-dragon. Your mother is human,’ he said.

“This provided my next question, ‘Why do I look like the other children?’

“‘Half-dragons resemble the offspring of their non-draconic parent until adolescence,’ he answered. ‘That is when your body begins to change. Nothing looks different at first. Then, your scales begin to develop with what appears like a full-body rash which itches like hell.’

“‘I won’t be able to continue playing with the others, will I?’ I asked.

“He sighed,  ‘As long as they allow it. I’m afraid they will be much like other children I have seen in my travels, and ostracize you. Odds are you will be very lonely, son. However, as you grow, your strength, agility and intelligence will, too. They grow at a much faster rate than anyone’s except a pure dragon.’ With that he fell silent.

“At last, close to dawn, we came to the Saffron Mountains. We landed on a broad ledge near the summit of Mount Killimin, the highest peak in the range. He released me from his grip and transformed back to the man I knew. Several feet away, a black cave led into the mountain. Father held my eyes for a moment, seeming to find something. He nodded, more to himself than to me.

“‘Wait here,’ he commanded as he strode into the cave. Hours passed as the sun rose higher into the sky. Too long, he had been gone. The silence, the not-knowing was toying with my imagination and I was considering following him. He would not have tolerated my disobeying him. And yet, if he were in need of me…how could I just stay?

Much to my relief and horror, the silence was destroyed by a terrific roaring. Inside the mountain, a titanic battle was being waged. Pebbles bounced and tumbled down from above the cavern entrance. Dust thickened the air as the ground shook.

“I dove to one side as a searing wall of flame shot from the opening. My right shoulder took a beating from a sharp rock half buried in the rubble. I rubbed the bruised and singed muscle as I rose. Moments later, Father strode out. He was tired, dirty, sweaty and covered in blood. I wondered how much of was his and what amount belonged to the red dragon still inside. His battle-weary eyes locked on mine. For a moment I thought I discerned more than just the father, the warrior I knew him to be: all strength, integrity and discipline. Something else stood looking at me which I did not recognize. He seemed as if he were a king. No, a king of kings. His appearance was at once majestic, yet menacing.

“He beckoned for me and forgetting all else, I ran to congratulate him. He was safe! He’d won. But before I could celebrate, he spoke, wary and tired, ‘It’s not yet over.’ I slid to a stop a foot or two from him. In his hand was an enormous silver greatsword with an intricate filigreed pommel. He offered the hilt to me. Not yet understanding his purpose, I grasped the sword and followed.

“We returned to the cave and walked for a long distance. This was not a single grotto, but a series of immense caverns. The last hollow we entered was breath-taking. The ceiling soared far above our heads. Tiny eyes measured our progress. At any other time, this would have been beautiful; flowstones, rising stalagmites, beautiful curves, nooks, a small stream that was no doubt a tributary to some deep underground lake.

As my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I espied the red dragon lying not far from us. He was huge, but not  as big as Father in his draconic form. He laid in a pool of his own green lifeblood. Gore also sprayed over the nearest rocks. Chunks of flesh and scales littered the floor. The red’s breathing was quick, shallow and ragged. Father and I drew closer. I detected the crimson dragon’s lava-like eye roll to watch us. He tried to get to his feet, but was unable. His tongue rolled out of his mouth and dragged on the cavern floor. Dust clung to it.

‘His fate lies in your hands, my son. If you do not choose to finish him, there is a good chance he will survive.’ With that, my father turned, and headed outside. I lowered the sword point to the ground at my left side, and I gazed at the red for some time.

‘What is your name?’ I asked.

‘S-Skor-Skoroth,’ he panted.

‘Did you rape and torture my mother?’

He nodded in affirmation.

‘Why?’

‘For pleasure,’ he gasped. ‘And because I was paid a sizable sum to torment your family.’

Furious, I shouted, ‘Who? Who funded you?’

Skoroth wheezed out laughter. I did not flinch as a fine spray of blood flew from his mouth, coating my face and chest. “I’ll never tell you, Whelp.”

‘What’ll you do if I allow you to live?’ I demanded through clenched teeth.

Something he descried in my eyes made him answer thus, ‘I will hunt your kinfolk and kill them, my dear… Angriz.’

‘Fair enough.’

He struggled to raise his head and stare at me with surprise and curiosity written on his face. The angle was perfect. I swung the greatsword up and around, decapitating him. I slashed so hard, I spun around several times before I fell over, dropping the sword as I did. The cavern continued to spin and tilt, as I raised my eyes to focus on Skoroth. His head lay under the stump of his neck. A river of blood coated the floor and me. Unable to stop myself, I brought my hand and placed blood-covered fingers into my mouth one at a time until I licked them clean. Spent and weary, I rose to my feet and left Skoroth’s lair.

Father was watching a flock of geese overhead when I exited the cave. I stood beside him, trying to find  way to tell him what I had done. Not about killing Skoroth, but tasting and licking his blood from my fingers. Before I opened my mouth, my father said, ‘You did the right thing, my son. I am proud of you.’

His voice seemed to unlock the words I’d been searching for. ‘Father, I have tasted his lifeblood. Something inside me, something irresistible caused me to do it.’

‘You need not worry about that, Swenlyn,’ he reassured me.

‘I am Angriz.’

He turned to look at me with an eyebrow raised. He searched my face, and then nodded in understanding. ‘Ah. The red?’

‘Yes.’

He said nothing else. In silence, we stared without seeing. Our eyes focused somewhere other than the surrounding mountains. I imagine that deep within himself my father wrestled with the injuries of Mother, and possibly the wisdom of me embracing the name of Angriz. I was numb. I don’t remember thinking of much at all. My outer surroundings and inner thoughts blurred, leaving me unable to focus on anything.

A little before sunset in the warmth of dusk, Father transformed once again into a gigantic golden dragon. I straddled his back and we flew home. I never did press him for an explanation about tasting Skoroth’s blood, thinking we’d discuss it soon enough. But weeks passed into years and my father died before I thought to ask him again.”

Angriz fell silent, his tale finished.

“Why did Skoroth call you Angriz?” I asked. I struggled to hide my consternation that the one who raped his mother, the one who had torn his family asunder, the one Angriz had killed had been the one to reveal his True Name.

He shifted and replied in measured tones, “My appellation means both ‘Avenger’, and ‘Holder of My Fate’, in Draconic.”

“How?”

“In the language of dragons, words can have different meanings depending on the way they are used.”

“Oh.” Then, it occurred to me. “Why didn’t you suffer from the Bloodtaste when you tasted Skoroth’s blood?”

“I do not know. Many times I have wondered that. Even more so today.”

 

Continues here.

Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book I (C3, S3)

Previous subchapter is here.

Subchapter 3

Two weeks had passed before I received any news about the princess. She had been abducted.

I was startled to discover how much people rely on sight to act. We look at so many things in our lives, and yet, we don’t observe them. I’d come to realize what we didn’t see tripped us up, in the literal sense, as well as the figurative one. Hell, before I lost my eyes, I traveled everywhere without even thinking. Now, I discovered myself always considering each step: the end of the bed I used sat sixteen and a half steps from the doorway, the armoire thirty-three paces. To arrive from the bedstead, I only had to travel nineteen. The first time I tried to find the desk, I’d banged my knee on the seat of its chair which was the same distance. The fireplace and chairs, I found with ease: I hit the mantle above the hearth chest first. I wound up stumbling back into one of the two seats. They were fifty-one steps from the four-poster. I did not know the precise place of the bookcase. To tell the truth, I could go without knowing. I wasn’t about to walk into the bloody thing, nor would I be reading anytime soon. I still decided to find the shelf. The location was an unknown. I don’t care for unknowns.

A throat cleared behind me. I turned to face the sound, empty eye sockets covered by a thin strip of cloth. I didn’t want to make anyone sick. “Yes?”

“My friend,” Mordecai began. “I am so sorry for—”

“Enough! Where have you been?” I felt feverish, breathing short and shallow, skin tingled as sweat formed, then rolled. ‘Calm down,’ I ordered myself. That ever work for you? Me either.

“Attempting to find some trace of Lady Orwen.” He exhaled. “I have not been successful.”

I grunted. “Alright. How do I get my eyes back? Is that possible?”

He sighed again. “I’m afraid I don’t possess the knowledge.”

“What the hell, Mordecai?!” Arms crossed, I scowled in his general direction.

“I’m sor—”, he began.

“How can you not?” I interrupted through gritted teeth.

“I’m not all-know—” he said.

“Aren’t you a wizard?” I continued to interrupt, muscles jumping and tingling.

“My friend—” he tried again.

“Don’t even start, you fraud! You rip me from my home, asking for my help, I might add. I’m attacked by some monster and get blinded!” I ripped away the cloth, revealing empty eye sockets. “You tell me that you don’t know if I’ll ever see again!” I shouted, jamming my finger in his general direction, feet planted wide. My pulse roared. I wanted to punch the most powerful wizard in the Realm. “How dare you call me your friend?”

He growled as I fell silent. He took a deep breath.

“Are you finished?” His voice was soft.

Anger still boiled, but the rumble spooked me enough I decided to bite my tongue. “For now.”

He waited for a bit. “I tried to help you,” he said. I gave a snort of derision. “I have. Disbelieve all you must, but that is a fact. I made an unsettling discovery.”

That piqued my interest enough to ask. “What?”

His robes rustled as he crossed the room. Mordecai pushed me back on the bed, and sat next to me. The bedstead sank deep beneath his weight. He gripped my shoulders. I guessed he was looking into my eyes, or at least, where they used to be.

“My friend, you are immune to the magic of this world.”

I sat in stunned silence. I was blind forever.

Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book 1 (C3,S2)

Previous subchapter here.

Subchapter 2

I awoke some time later when I sensed someone sit on the edge of the bed, and a familiar voice spoke.

“At last, you are awake. I am glad, Carter,” said Lady Orwen.

“Thank you, Milady.”

“Open your mouth. Time for you to eat.”

I obeyed, and after three swallows of a rich broth, asked, “Milady, what happened to my eyeballs?”

She sat in silence.

“Milady?”

Her gown rustled as she shifted to answer, “Carter, your eyes were burned out by the power released by the Angel and Walker as they battled. By a miracle you still live. Anyone else who looked at Azriel’s true form would be dead.”

I struggled to keep from freaking out about not being able to see. I did not want to cry in front of this woman. I didn’t want her to think of me as a child. Yes, I had a huge crush on her, shut up and stop laughing at me.

“Milady, what happened?”

“Azriel took the eldritch monstrosity to a place where no one else would be injured during their battle. After many days, he managed to lock it away once more.”

“He didn’t destroy the thing?” I asked incredulous, and then added, “Wait. Many days?”

The Lady laughed hard.  When her merriment faded, she said, “Walkers cannot be annihilated. Even by one as powerful as Azriel. You’ve been unconscious for over a week.”

My jaw dropped. I don’t know which startled me more. The fact a Crimson Walker couldn’t be eliminated or I’d been out for so long. Taking advantage of my open mouth, Lady Orwen spooned in broth. I swallowed, and spoke again.

“What are Crimson Walkers if an angel isn’t able to destroy them?”

“They are an ‘Engine of the End.’ A powerful wizard can sometimes raise one to be an assassin.”

I pondered that for a bit.  I changed the subject. “Milady, what is Azriel?”

I heard the smile in her voice as she answered. “My greatest champion and the right hand of Azerith.”

‘Wow.’ Azerith is one of the most powerful deities of BattleHammer, and did not interfere often. I didn’t know he had any active angels.

“I wish to thank you for covering me. That was a kindness, as well as an act of uncommon valor.”

My face stretched into a smile. “No need for thanks, Milady,” I said. “I deem it an honor to do so.”

‘Ugh.’ I gave myself a mental forehead slap. ‘The fuck? Deem it an honor to do so? Am I a 15th century samurai? Not smooth.’ She laughed.

Eager to change the subject, I asked, “What happened to your clothes earlier?”

“Due to the sortilege I used, and the power and purity of channeling Azriel, they disintegrated.”

“Wow,” I breathed. “Strong magic.” I paused as another thought occurred to me. “Wait a minute, Aren’t you a Warpriest of Kellün? Why is an angel of Azerith your greatest champion?”

“I don’t understand Azriel’s guardianship. It is said he appeared to Father when I was born. Sages have been consulted for years to discover answers, but they have found none.”

“Hunh,” I grunted. “Any idea about why I’m here?”

“All I know is you are our only hope. Mordecai accessed oracles and they confirm it.”

That was a scary thought. I had no clue how to help these people. I couldn’t even fight!

“How are Lord Mordecai and Master Angriz?” I asked to change the subject again.

“Angriz is now caged.”

“What?!” I cried with disbelief. “Why?”

“The taste of an intelligent being’s blood affects his mind. He is,” she paused and sighed, “Crazed. Mordecai restrained him before anyone was injured, or worse, killed. Angriz prisoned until he can be purified.”

“What do you mean?” I leaned forward with caution. I didn’t wish to fall again.

“Prayer is to be said over him throughout the night. When the dawn’s first rays touch him, the light will burn through him, purging the taint from his body. It is unfortunate, but all memories of who he was won’t exist anymore.”

“What shall become of him?”

“He’ll be released outside the city to make his way however he is able,” she said.

“And his chances of survival?”

“Without any knowledge of his past?” She paused to think. “Likely, none at all.”

“How could you do that to him?” I demanded. “He saved a lot of people!”

She hesitated. “Carter…he ate Father’s body!” Her voice cracked.

As she cried, my heart broke a little. I pulled her close and gave her a shoulder to cry on. She clung hard as she sobbed.

Someone entered the room.

“Peels,” they said.

The last thing I was aware of was soup soaking into my crotch, and Lady Orwen collapsing on me.

Continued here.

Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book 1 (C3,S1)

Previous subchapter here.

Chapter 3

Subchapter 1

I sat up, feeling stiff. I had no idea what happened. Then I remembered: the battle with the Crimson walker! I tried to open my eyes. Nothing changed. Heart beating faster, I attempted to peel them apart. ‘Are the lids covered by mucus?’ Horrified, I found they were not. I was blind. I knelt and rose. I took a single step, and fell to the hard stone floor. Dazed, I cried out in pain and shock, bringing running feet. Strong, soft hands lifted me up off the ground and back into the bed.
“Try to be more careful, Master Blake,” a deep, masculine voice said.
I sat up and demanded, “Who are you?”
“Healer Tonlin. I have only arrived today from out in the farm lands. A mysterious illness is blazing though those in the outlying farmsteads.”
I frowned, having forgotten my distress for a moment due to this intriguing puzzle, “What are the symptoms?”
“Abdominal pain, cramps, and frequent passage of watery diarrhea containing blood and mucus.”
Surprised, I said, “That sounds like dysentery, a disease which also exists on my world.”
“Can you name any cures?” Hope filled his voice.
“No. However, I am aware of a treatment.” I shifted on the bed. “Make sure your patients drink a lot of clean water, mixed with small amounts of sugar and salt, and eat rice and dry bread. The mixture is to replace what they lose. The grain will help clear things up, and the provender enables them to rebuild their strength.”
A long pause. I could almost hear Tonlin thinking whether to trust me. “Those are new to me. I’m willing to try anything that aids my patients.”
I nodded and leaned back against the headboard. I closed my useless orbs. After several moments, he rose and prepared to leave. “Healer. Would you tell me what might be wrong with my eyes?”
“Yes.”
I waited.
“They are gone.”
‘Well… fuck.’

Continues here.