Archive for the “PBeM” Category

It’s been pretty quiet around here, I know. For that, I apologise.

I have been unusually quiet lately because I have not wanted to write posts about the writing I’m doing elsewhere. Seems like a big waste of your time.

I am writing elsewhere, but not on another blog or website, anything like that. I have been working on Converging Forces.

The story as it exists has been arranged and edited, and I have been adding new material that I couldn’t release while it was an ongoing turn-based RPG.

Since the story was an ongoing RPG, I didn’t want to show the reader anything other than their part of the story, as it would have been too revealing.

I’m hopeful that I’ll have things added and finished polishing within the next few weeks. It’s been a lot of fun.

When it is complete, my plan is to take down all of the old chapters and links, and replace them with links to the new, finished sections.

If you’re still around, I’ll be looking forward to any feedback you’ll be willing to provide.

In the meantime, have a great day!

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“Yes. No! I’m not interested in your bloody damned gift, I want to know more about…” The golden glow from Redwulf flared brightly once more, cutting Terin off mid-sentence. Terin felt the familiar pain in his head return with stunning force, like being struck by a sharp spike directly to the forehead. The pain had fled when he heard that the Bleeding Bear had been found, and he’d dared hope it was gone for good.

Against his will, he slumped forward slightly, and clutched at his head as if he could grab the imagined spike and claw it out.

He raised the other hand frantically to Bala’duin, trying to wave him to silence for a moment as he came to grips with the sudden pain. For a few moments, he was lost to the pain, unaware of what happened around him. The only thing Terin could focus on was the pain in his skull that came close to unmanning him.

No! There’s no time to be weak, not when it’s all in my head. Damn it, it’s only pain, it’s not real, and I will not give in to it. I cannot waste this chance!

Terin forced his head up again, pushing past the pain to focus on the eyes of Bala’duin. The intense golden glare hurt to look into, but he stayed locked on the eyes of the loremaster. He wanted to grab Redwulf by the arms and shake him to get the answers he desperately needed, but he forced his body to stillness.

“That’s the second time you’ve hinted about passing on, as if you know, not just think but know what will happen once you’re dead. I’ll not move one step further until I get a straight answer. Do you know where the soul goes when we die? What really happens? I wasn’t there when they needed me. I’ve had to deal with that, but it’s the not knowing that’s tearing me apart. Will I ever see Milia and Alise again? If you really know, then for the love of Tyr, tell me!” 

The spirit of Bala’duin still shone through Redwulfs eyes, but they seemed suddenly sad, hesitant. Terin’s hopes instantly died half-born within him. I knew it. I knew it was too easy to expect a simple answer, damn him!

“Baron, if I could tell you what you wanted to know, I would, I promise you. I know why you need to know. I know. The truth is, nobody that I have read of, nobody that I have spoken with or watched has ever revealed any sign of truly knowing what happens to a mortal soul after the body has died. Nobody, Terin, not god or spirit or man. Do you understand me?”

“The soul is real, it exists, you know that much, you can touch your own in the centering so you believe in it. Now listen when I tell you that everything that has ever been done with the soul was accomplished while the soul was still bound to the living. Everything. Once a person dies, unless the soul was bound or severed before the body’s death, the soul is freed and gone. Just gone, beyond any means of finding or touching, ever again. Past that point no power that I know of can bring a soul back, hold it or chain it.”

“I don’t know if you will ever see your family again, Terin. I’m sorry, but I don’t have that answer. I don’t even know if a soul travels to some other realm and continues on as a new form of life or awareness, or if it is immediately reborn in flesh again elsewhere in this world. I don’t know if there is a place of judgment for the souls of the dead, or who would be that final judge if there is one”

“All I can offer you is hope, Baron. I can tell you as truth that the people you loved lived on after they died, and they went somewhere else, somewhere beyond the reach of any pain of this world. At least you know that they did not suffer a final death. All you can do is hold on to that, and take comfort in knowing that they do live on.”

None of this was what Terin wanted to hear, but somehow, it did help. It helped to think of Milia in some other place, holding close to Alise and teaching her of the things that she did not have the time or chance to learn while she lived. I hope you both are somewhere full of light, and love. Somewhere that you can’t see the things I’ve done to avenge you since you’ve gone.

In his heart, Terin knew that Bala’duin had been right before when he said that Terin had lost his faith in Tyr. He didn’t believe anymore, not in his heart. He hoped, but he did not believe. When he was being honest with himself, he thought that Tyr might have been real once in ages long past, and he may have done great things, but if so he was dead or gone now. Terin no longer believed that Tyr watched over the souls of the living and the dead, but it didn’t change how he lived his life. He still believed in the central message of the teachings of Tyr; to defend those that could not defend themselves, to train the defenseless to stand for themselves, and to step aside when the strong were determined to follow their own path. That was enough for him.

As much as he believed in the mission of the Order, his lack of trust in any afterlife involving Tyr had left a massive hollow pit in his heart whenever his thoughts turned to his family. Just thinking of them caused his stomach to drop, forced him to think of something, anything else just to get a grip and find his center again.

Terin stood, lost in thought. The pain was still there, but maybe just knowing that they lived on in some way could be enough. He felt a little lighter in some way he couldn’t yet explain to himself. The pain was still in his skull, stronger than it had ever been, but something within him had changed.

Is this what hope feels like?

Redwulf cleared his throat, breaking through Terin’s reverie. “I have heard the words, but I still do not understand, Baron. I’ve seen stronger, faster, deadlier men than you in the court of the Duke of the Sun, all vying for favor. Why would the loremaster choose you for such a desperate task?”

Terin looked up blankly at this, before he grasped the fact that it wasn’t the rich, rolling voice of Bala’duin, but the weaker breathy voice of Redwulf himself that spoke. The golden glow was all but gone, with only a small glimmer showing from the palm of his upraised paw.

Bala’duin is gone? What have I done? What blessed chances have I squandered in my selfishness?

It took a few moments for the question to penetrate his distress, his life since learning of the loss of his family still fresh in his thoughts.

“He didn’t want the best or the brightest, Redwulf. He didn’t seek the fastest or the strongest. He wanted a man that he knew would do what had to be done to see things through to the end.”

Terin turned and walked the few paces to the door before stopping to look back. “I have a question for you, Redwulf. What was it like, when your mind was touched by Malvoris? What did you learn of the man’s heart?”

Redwulf dropped his gaze, but not before Terin could see his eyes had returned to their natural hazel shades. “Want, Baron. Malvoris is an empty hole, and nothing can fill him up. He wants everything. Respect. Power. Control. Love. Those things, and the chattel that come with them, wealth, and servants, titles and land. He craves all the outward signs of power. He’s filled with a hunger for these things he cannot satisfy. He is filled with want… and hate, as well. When he looks on another, he sees a thief, holding the things he wants, things that should belong to him. He hates them for it, for having what he does not. Touching his mind was like bathing in a nest of vipers, Baron, cold and cruel and deadly at a whim. Why? What do you plan to do?”

Terin stared at Redwulf until the great furry beast raised his eyes to Terin once more. “I’m not going to do anything to him, for now. Not yet. He is sworn to serve the Duke, not to me. I’ll not be the one to speak poison of another, and I trust Arneghast’s judgment.”

He turned aside to face the door, gathering his strength. Having the pain to deal with once again was somehow worse after thinking it had gone.

“Just the same, this would be a bad night for Malvoris to turn snake on me. I’m not feeling in a forgiving mood.” He pushed the door open, stepping through and out into the hall.

Terin waited there with the door open as the last of the golden glow finally faded and died behind him. He expected… he didn’t know what to expect.

Will Malvoris leap out of his room and demand to know what just happened? Did he find a way to listen to any of that after all? Or does he sit there in the dark, cowering, having reached out for knowledge and felt a power greater than his? Does he sit there afraid for his life? He is wise if he does. Very wise.

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As work progresses on cleaning and editing Converging Forces, I’ve been in a very unfamiliar position.

I’m not the one that has done any of the real work so far. Cassie has.

She’s using the track changes function, of course, and inserting notes, so I see and evaluate all her changes. Which, when it comes to grammar and spelling, are always dead on. The notes are more to point out to me things that seem long, wierdly placed, could use more information, that kind of thing.

She’s been working very hard on it, and it’s been great for me in one key respect; Cassie does NOT read fantasy or sci-fi fiction.

So, all the time I’ve been writing these, she’s never read them before.

She’s reading them now. And for the most part, she likes it. I’m not going to speak for her, but she seems to have really been engaged by and enjoyed Jessies story, and Terins story has been… well, I knew there were issues with it at the beginning. I had played with Manny plenty of times before, I knew I could throw him in the deep end and know he’d swim. I hadn’t really had James as a player before, so I really started out slow and established the groundwork, something that’s fine for a PBeM role playing game, and not so entertaining for a story to read.

I’m so happy with the progress, I can’t really tell you. They were just SO rough, so ‘not ready to read’, but I’ve been very happy with them as turns in a PBeM story.

Now, as the balance I always envisioned is being introduced, I’m getting to be very happy with how this is all working out. 

None of this is probably of any interest to you, but it’s what we’ve been doing lately. It’s why there isn’t blog postage. Who has time to think about WoW when I’m thinking of the Converging Forces story? I’ve been writing the next chapters in my head so I can get cranking.

The drawback to having your wife hooked on your writing? She wants you to KEEP WRITING. Specifically, to get it back to Jessie.

The conversations we’re having over the writing mistakes she’s corrected so far really make me feel bad. She’s the one finding and correcting them, and if I was a skilled writer, they wouldn’t have been there in the first place.

The single biggest thing that has come out, however, is truly, I do not use apostrophes right. I need to go back in time and slap the shit out of my english teacher, because she taught specific rules on the use of the apostrophe that turn out to be, well, bullshit. Flat out lies. I didn’t make those damn rules up, either. I was in class that day!

I truly need to make a shirt that says,

“What I do to the apostrophe is an offence against God and nature.”

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Terin’s mind raced as he tried to recall all the questions that had come to him while the spirit was speaking through Redwulf. This could be an unforeseen opportunity to learn whether or not an elf really was living amidst the mountain clans, and if so, what it’s motives might be. If the loremaster could see and learn so much of Terin from afar, what else might he know of?

Terin took the time to organize his thoughts with care. He knew this chance was too special to waste, that he had to cut to what was important and leave the rest behind.  

Just like a battle. Don’t let yourself get bogged down, use what you have the best you know how, seize any opportunities chance puts in your path and be properly grateful for the gift.  

Just that fast, Terin balanced duty to Duke Arneghast against what the spirit was asking of him, and decided on what was most crucial to ask first.

He held the spirit’s green eyes with his own, and asked, “Once I face them, how do I fight the wizards? What are their weaknesses? Will I have time to get within reach, or do I have to engage them at range as soon as they see me?” 

Redwulf’s jaw dropped in a very canine grin as the spirit of the loremaster spoke through him. “Baron, you cut to the heart, as I expected. There is no time for vagueness, no time for games. Have patience with me, and I will arm you with the knowledge you will need to be the wielder of the weapon, and not the tool in others hands.”

“My name was, is, Bala’duin. In the histories you’ve studied, I am indeed what the legends call a loremaster. I won’t waste time with stories, you’ve read what the legends ascribe to us.”

“Those you call wizards have read the legends as well, read them with envy and lust. They care nothing for why we did what we did, only the how, seeking to duplicate what they think were our great works. They strive always for greater control, a clearer focus, any means that will allow them to seize more power from the world around us and shape it to their desires. Even so, the strongest willed amongst them cannot come close to matching our efforts in legend or song.”

“We of the Called serve Gaia directly. We do not seek to rip power from the fabric of the world, or impose our will on others. We were chosen by Gaia for her own reasons to serve as her protectors against threats from outside the celestial sphere and from unnatural influences that may grow from the world within. We often wondered what single trait was the strongest reason for being Called, and over the years, I have come to believe that it was empathy. We who were chosen were in general more sensitive to the lives around us, and able to feel them as if they were a part of ourselves. We did not seek power or crave it; it was forced on us, in some cases literally. Power so great that without a conscious act of will, the risk we faced was not that we would lack power for whatever task we undertook, but instead that we would burn ourselves to ash and dust by using too much, too swiftly.”

“The wizards share with us an ability to feel the presence of power, power within us and all around us, power in all it’s shapes and forms. They have discovered how to touch the power that they find in abundance all around them, to shape it and focus it into a tool to bend to their wills.”

“What they do not grasp is that the power they can sense, and touch, and that they take and bend to their will is fabric taken from the living soul of the feeling world. When the wizards are reaching out and taking power, they are ripping it from Gaia’s soul.”

“In the days before the last battle, there were many loremasters traveling the world, sensitive to exactly such violations, and quick to hunt down those who injure Gaia in that way and destroy them. To protect themselves from our sensing their actions, those who craved power would instead take the soul of another living person, or even of themselves, and use that as raw power to fuel their desires. It’s nothing new, it’s one of the oldest evils that keeps being rediscovered, and grows and spreads until rooted out and those who use it are destroyed. You would find mention of it in your oldest legends as necromancy.”

“With all of the other loremasters dead or outside the boundaries of our world since the last battle and the Empire’s fall, there have been none to sense the first fledgling steps the wizards took in turning the arts of necromancy towards raping the soul of the earth. With the vast soul of Gaia to draw upon, they are limited now only by how strong their will is to grasp and tear loose what they can hold.”

“Even still, it is not enough for them. The wizards have the legends of the loremasters to compare their own works against, and to goad them on to greater effort. They can see the craftings we made that still ensure, know the limits of what they can manage, and seek feverishly to learn what secret we must have had to draw the power we used. They cannot conceive of a mutual pact, of power given freely and used only sparingly, and at great need.”

“For the duration of the diaspora the wizards sought in study for the key to our power. They are the ones that pushed hardest behind the scenes for the retaking of Felwaithe, and it is they and their agents that have often been in the forefront of the expansion, searching all ruins and structures for signs of our work.”

“The wizards that serve the bloodline of your Duke Hope knew that the Fastness of Mountainfall was once the home of a loremaster, though they knew not my name. They are the ones that supported the Hope bloodline in the passion for conquest, and encouraged the founding of Mordant Keep right at the very base of my home to begin their explorations. They have used the power they take from Gaia to extend their own lives, but as the years go by they are finding it harder to resist the natural order, to purge themselves of the toxins and corruption, the breaking down that is a normal part of things. They are growing desperate.”

“They have spent years encouraging the continual excavation of the lower chambers of Mordant Keep, digging ever deeper into the mountain’s heart. When workers broke into a passage that finally led to the wellspring, they sealed off the passage and have claimed it for themselves, telling not even Duke Hope of their findings. They believe they have found our secret at long last, a secret that will give them the key to true power over the land and eternal life. And they might be right.”

“The wellspring is, essentially, a place where the soul of Gaia has been focused, concentrated and refined. To be within it’s presence is to be immersed in the distilled essence that are all the natural gifts that being at one with Gaia can bring.”

“The wellspring was intended to strengthen the few remnants of the Imperial armies as they journeyed on their way to the final battle with Korontec’s Avatar, Lord Steffan. The armies were of course nowhere near my fastness, but I created a stepping stone that could bring them quickly across the miles directly to a chamber I hollowed out especial for the purpose, and from thence back to their line of march.”

“When the exhausted survivors of the war, the few men and women who remained of the Army of Light and the household guards of the five kings passed through the wellspring, the actual effects were… more than I anticipated. Much more.”

“Worse yet, the effects bred true. Most of the Army of Light perished at the last battle, as you know, but some of the household guards survived to serve as guard and escort to those refugees that fled to the north. Those of you that are descended from those survivors still sometimes are born with gifts that come from the Wellspring of Gaia. The Scout bloodline is what you thought of first, I know, but there are other gifts. The keen eyesight you possess comes from the gift of Gaia. One of your own ancestors once stood within the Wellspring of Gaia before marching off to face Lord Steffan and his Nine Steel Generals.”

“When I crafted the wellspring, I never dreamed… I never thought that such changes would breed true. It was my last desperate attempt to give your people a chance to survive, when I and the other loremasters could not be there to stand beside you. We had our own war to fight, as we struggled to defend the world from Dearclanus, he and the horde of demons he unleashed upon the world at Lord Steffan’s bidding.”

“Here is the final part. The wizards have found the wellspring, yes. They believe it to be the true source of magic in the world, perhaps coming through a portal fro another celestial sphere. They are certain that, if they can but find a way to touch and use the wellspring, they would have all of the power of a loremaster, and perhaps more, for in our age there were many of us to share it and few of them. So they believe.”

“For months they have been engaging in experiments, using the arts of necromancy to find the secret that will let them touch the power directly, to bond to it, and to shape and use it. They still do not understand that it is designed to transform others, it is not the raw power itself. They still do not grasp that what they touch is not some raw power from another world spilling into ours, but the living soul of the entire world, all that is born that has no individual soul of it’s own. The lifeblood of the grass, the trees, stone and sky, wind and rain.”

“No matter what happens next, whatever they do it won’t be of benefit to the world. At best, they will learn how to harness the results of the transformation, and be able to shape the living creatures of earth into whatever form they wish. How long after that would it take such men to create their own monsters to fuel Duke Hopes’ war machine?”

“What I dread is how far they might go in their ignorance to bind the power of the wellspring to them. My greatest fear is that one of them will find a way to bind their own soul to the wellspring, linking each to the other in a permanent bond.”

“If even one of the wizards were to attempt such a thing and succeed, I cannot imagine what consequences there would be. The soul of Gaia is vast beyond imagining, and she has no true memory or consciousness, but she feels, she feels very deeply, and we all of us are a part of her and dwell within her presence at all times. If a wizard were to bind his soul, possessed of all of his malign intent, envy and greed directly to Gaia, and to still possess a living body with a conscious mind to focus and direct his will, it could very well poison the soul of the planet. I just… I cannot imagine what would happen then. I’ve faced a fallen loremaster driven by a mad god to destruction and ruin, but even then what happened was limited to what power mortal flesh could withstand. The greater destruction by far was caused by the demons he unleashed without constraint upon the world. What it would be like to live in a world where every living thing was possessed of evil intent…  my imagination cannot grasp the scope of such horror. It’s too big for me to see.”

Terin leaned back for a moment as he tried to memorize all that had been said, and was surprised to discover that all the while the spirit had been talking, he’d been retreating all unknowing until his back was almost pressing against the door.

“I can see that this is good to know, but I still need something I can use to fight the wizards. Who leads them? You said Duke Hope was unaware of what they do, are you sure of that?”

The golden glow emanating from Redwulf seemed to brighten again, nearly as strong as its first appearance. “I tell you true, Baron Trendel, Duke Hope has no knowledge of what his wizards do. He is the true power in Mordant, stronger than all of them, and that is one of the goads that drives them on. They none of them have a single leader. There are five of them, and they call themselves the Circle of the Ebon Flame, a name taken from the legends of, irritatingly enough, one of the working circles I had once been a part of. The five of them each work together, none trusting the others, and none will bow to one of the others as a leader. They are not the only wizards in Felwaithe by far, Malvoris in the next room is as foul as any of them, but these five have been more successful than any others in empowering themselves.”

“I have watched you for a long time, Baron. I know you as well as anyone could. I cannot touch anyone with my power directly unless I act through one with a pure soul that has been blessed with Gaia’s touch, such as Redwulf, but I can see from my crystal chamber. I know you well indeed. From what I have told you of the wizards, what are your thoughts on how to approach them in battle?”

Terin had already been turning things over in his mind, and answered absently as he continued to work it out. “If they don’t have the power unless they use force of will, then they must concentrate. They have to focus, as well, and have a clear vision of exactly what they intend to do. And if the power itself fights them, then they must not be able to improvise all that well. So, they don’t move much, do they? And I’ll wager that anything that might break their concentration will interrupt whatever they’d been starting, force them to begin again.”

The dog nodded it’s head, a strangely human gesture. “Very good. That’s true. They also can only bind into objects what power they can hold themselves, and if they do the binding themselves at the same time that weakens what they can do even more. It’s one of the reasons the five began working in a circle together in the beginning at Argent’s Landing. Still, the power they can seize and bind is enough to burn a man to a crisp if he were to touch it unawares, and breaking a prepared reliquary could unleash enough power to shatter stone. Given enough time, they can make of any place a fortified deathtrap.”

Terin blinked, and said, ‘They can’t improvise at all, can they? They have to rely on previously prepared, painstakingly practiced craftings. That, or bind power into an object to be used at need. Don’t they?”

Redwulf’s jaw dropped open again in an unmistakable grin. “Exactly right, Baron. They cannot improvise. When startled, their first instinct is to reach for an object that has been prepared… and who can prepare for every eventuality?”

“Baron, time is truly short. I have given you my best understanding of what is happening, and what is truly at stake. Redwulf can guide you to the place where his escape took him. Once I am no longer with him, he will gain in health and strength. The earth mother’s gifts will aid him in a swift recovery; he will not delay your journey. Your destination is the ancient stepping stone that I crafted to bring the Army of Light directly to the Wellspring, one small strike force at a time. It is still there, and though overgrown and long forgotten by everyone else, it still works as it did the day I crafted it. All it takes is one who is held close within Gaia’s blessing to open the way, and Redwulf can do so easily.”

“There is one last thing that I can offer you, but it may give you more trouble than aid. I offer this as my last gift to you, to take or not as you choose.”

“When I pass on, I will never again be able to walk upon this world I love, not even as pure spirit. I will be barred from ever again returning. What I can do, however, is share with you some of the images of my life, visions of events I have been present for, trials and changes that I have witnessed.”

“I know your deep thirst for knowledge of the history of your world, and your many reasons for it, but I hesitate in offering this to you. If you accept, what I share with you will rise up during your dreams, but there will be no context to aid in understanding. What you see and hear will be what I saw and heard, but I will not be there to tell you when such events happened, or how they might fit in or even contradict anything that you already think you know.”

“But it is your decision to make. For what is to come, I know that I have given you enough background on what is happening that you will have the chance to work your tactics out to your own satisfaction well before the time comes that you will need to use them.”

“Make your decision swiftly, Baron of Mosley Vale. My grip on this world is loosening rapidly, and when I am gone, the shields I am holding that are preventing Malvoris from listening to us will fall.”

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I have completed the collecting and reorganizing of the Converging Forces chapters into one Word document.

My plan is to go over the whole thing once, correcting spelling errors and egregious grammatical mistakes, the stuff that leaps out at me, and then save it as a PDF locked against changes, with a disclaimer at the beginning that it’s a rough unfinished draft of my work, yadda yadda.

I have mixed thoughts about it. If it’s not in a finished state, why ask you to read it? If it’s not the final polished writing, then I shouldn’t let it out there.

On the other hand, the whole idea was to run a play by email game as if it were an ongoing story, and it turned into an interactive story almost in novel form. So, the condition it’s in is sort of the point, in a way. If looked at sideways in poor lighting.

I collected it all, as I said, and saved it as a word file.

I happened to glance down to see how many pages I had to proofread, just to get an idea of the size of it, estimate how long it’ll take.

Next to the page count, was a Word Count total.

Upon seeing the word count, my first reaction was “bullshit”.

My second was to wonder how it is that I thought I was being agile in writing these, and yet still managed to turn the novel into a massive bearwall.

My word count on Converging Forces so far is over 106,000 words.

I needed to double check my frame of reference, so I visited wikipedia to see if they had anything to say about word counts.

According to wikipedia, a novel is anything over 40,000 words. Mysteries may be around 60,000 words, while a thriller may be around 100,000 words.

You’ll note that they don’t say, “100,000 words is a good place to be when you’re about 2/3rds of the way through.”

Now, I’ll grant you I’m probably closer to 4/5ths of the way through, but that’s still a LOT more than I dreamed of. It doesn’t feel that damn long to me. It feels like nothings HAPPENED in the story yet! We haven’t gotten to any of the BIG stuff we’re building up to! It’s been all intro to characters and build up!

Omigod, I’m on the failboat.

Of course, me being who I am, in my heart I’m saying, “Ah, screw it, I’ve been happy with it so far… so what if it’s one of those manuscripts that would be thrown out of any sensible publishers office, we’ve been having a lot of fun along the way, right guys?”

106,000 words. Well, damn. With a build up like that, I’m going to make damn certain that there is a payoff of epic proportions.

So much for quality, not quantity.

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