All is quiet on the Blogging front

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!

PBeM: Terin Section 7 Chapter 8

“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.

Editors… the unsung heroes

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.”

PBeM: Terin Section 7 Chapter 7

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.”

Bearwall has acquired a new meaning

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.

I know it’s a lot to ask, but…

Hello!

I’m taking a moment of your time today to ask if someone out there with the skills and the desire could help me out on a project related to the Converging Forces story I’m writing.

If not, I’ll tackle it myself of course, I’m simply hoping someone that already has skill and practise at this would be able to do it far faster and with less effort. Someone that wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel, or some other tired cliché.

What I’d like to do is have the Converging Forces story, as it stands so far, placed into a single combined form that I could post for download, suitable for reading on Kindle or another similar platform.

I’ve had a a few folks mention that they’d love to read it and get up to date, but even with a chapter page, it’s a bit… big. And hard to come back to. A portable version would certainly help.

Obviously, this isn’t a project looking for a finished ‘for sale’ kind of anything. I’ve been focused on speed writing when I’ve been doing the turns, not on anything remotely resembling a final polish. When what I consider the first ‘book’ of the storyline has been reached, that’s when I’ll go back and being, well, fixing the bloody thing so it’s actually readable without a billion jarring spelling and grammar mistakes, and terribly disoriented tense transitions.

I have NOT researched how to do it myself, not have I researched what it takes to format something so it can go on portable devices. Should you not have the time to do it for me, but DO know HOW to do it or where I can find a detailed guide, that would be awesome as well. 

Thank you very much again for your time, and have a great weekend.

Would you like to appear in my story?

Hello, my friends.

This is for those of you that have been enjoying the ongoing adventures of Baron Terin Trendel and Jessie MacQuarrie in Converging Forces.

Things are moving ahead pretty rapidly now, and it recently occured to me that as a blog writer, I’m not really doing all I could to have the Converging Forces part of the blog be as interactive as the rest of it.

I view the blog as an ongoing chat with my friends, which all of you are if you’re a returning reader, and each new blog post is my seeding the conversation. I toss something out there and then we chat about it. I share my thoughts with you, you share yours with me… it’s all interactive fun.

Plus, it keeps me sane during long days at work, reminding me that the world isn’t actually 100% bloody idiots. Sometimes I need that, don’t you?

But the Converging Forces is so passive. I have two friends with characters in it, and they interact with me as I write the turns, and then the finished chapter is presented as something to read. There’s not interaction with YOUR ideas, there’s no place for you to get into the story yourself. 

Sure you can comment, but it’s not affecting anything in the story. It’s not the same.

Well, I’m gonna start thinking of ways to change that. 🙂

Manny, who plays Jessie MacQuarrie in Converging Forces, likes to tell the story of when his long distance friend was running a sci-fi role playing campaign, and had Manny role play the part of the big bad guy overlord boss the player character were working against, for well… years, I think, without them ever knowing that they were trying to outthink anyone other than the GM.

I’m not talking about going that far, at least not just yet. I’m gonna start a bit smaller first.

My first idea to implement is to see if any of my readers would be interested in seeing themselves as a non-player character somewhere in the story.

If you are interested, it’s not a contest or a competition, but here is what you can do;

Compose an email to me at thebigbearbutt@gmail.com with the following;

  • Title of the post should say “My idea for a character in Converging Forces”
  • The name you would like your non-player character to have in the story.
  • Whether you would like to be good, evil, or have some particular quirk of personality or motivation.
  • Describe in a short paragraph key points of personality and appearance that would help you feel as if the NPC shared something more with your imagination than name alone. 

You can add in anything you’d like AFTER that, but it’ll help me to get a quick idea of where you’re going with your idea, and how I might be able to fit it into my world.

An elven lass from distant shores, traveling the land and healing it of it’s wounds from the ancient devastation a thousand years gone by? A grizzled human veteran, now serving in some force somewhere, that had once ridden with Baron Terin during the wild days of the fall of Madrigal? A named critter that serves as mentor for a brief time, a barmaid making a brief appearance, a noble of a neighboring Duchy, or bad guy minions or even mid-level tough guys (and ladies) are not out of the question, just so you know.

Let’s have some fun here.

Email that in to me starting now, and if it’s something I can work with in the near future, I will email you back and let you know so you can watch for it in the weeks and months ahead. For this round, I will stop looking for submissions this next Friday, March 25th.

I have absolutely no idea if anyone is going to like the idea, but I think it sounds fun. I hope it does to you as well.

Disclaimer:

I do not promise that your named NPC will have a recurring role, or indeed anything other than a walk-on part as someone that appears briefly only to die in a horrible, gruesome death like any of hundreds of Red Shirted security officers in Star Trek. However, if I do use your proposed NPC idea, you understand up front that if I publish the final, much revised version of Converging Forces someday, that all characters appearing in the story are used by your implicit permission. So please, do not offer me your favorite character that is a key component of your own work, you may regret it someday when you go to publish.

PBeM: Terin Section 7 Chapter 6

Terin climbed the stairs to the hunting lodge’s upper rooms while he listened to the muffled sounds of the argument raging down below.

When Terin had returned to the hunting lodge, the boys that had been sitting in wait earlier were long gone, and the only light came from the partially open doors to the planning room. The thin curtains that had previously concealed the doors were pulled tightly closed, but the thick smell of tobacco smoke permeated the entryroom fit to choke a man down. Whoever the Duke had in there, the Duke certainly wasn’t very pleased. 

Terin expected Duke Arneghast was going over the state of the supply lines from the flat lands. Nothing got the Duke quite as riled up as having to find sources for all the supplies his forces needed, and then getting them to where they were wanted in an orderly fashion. Many was the time when Terin was first tasked to attend the Duke at his residence that the subject of supplies came up; it seemed to be one of the few things the Duke would get irrational about, irritated all out of proportion to whatever concern there may have been. 

Whatever the current cause of the Duke’s anger, Terin hoped that his Grace Duke Arneghast would finish the meeting soon. Glancing back down, as if able to see through walls, Terin recalled the layout of the sandtable. He really wanted one last look at the sandtable, preferrably in the company of Redwulf while they went over the route he considered best.

As he reached the dark passageway at the top of the steps, he felt a sudden queasiness in the pit of his stomach, as if something turned within. For just the briefest of moments, as his thoughts touched on Redwulf, his bowels had felt as if they were filled with water from a mountain lake. Just as sudden the feeling passed, but he knew that feeling well; it was the same that he felt every time he allowed his thoughts to touch briefly on his daughter, Alise, the daughter he had never even seen with his own eyes, until he found her burned and broken body in the arms of his wife, Milia. Dead, dead the both of them and buried under other bodies, the end result of a raid by the Bleeding Bear deep behind the Madrigal forces of the high pass. Dead at the crushed command post of his father, Baron Martin, in the battle that heralded the beginning of the end for the duchy of Madrigal.

He paused for a moment, standing still and silent before the Sword Room door, as he took the few extra moments necessary to settle his breathing and bring himself back to a state of calm. Terin knew that animals could smell fear, they react to it, respond to it. Terin believed that an animal responded more to scents than to sight, and he wanted this first private meeting to set the tone for the rest of the time they would be together. Terin had to begin by ensuring that when Redwulf saw him, he saw the leader of the group that would set out in the morning. It would be a foolish mistake to treat Redwulf as a man that just looked like a dog, and try reason or persuasion on him. Terin was the leader of whatever group set out on the morrow, and one way or the other, Redwulf would have to accept that. Once they got into the mountains, if any of them were to survive what they were likely to find, then Terin had to be confident that there would be only one voice Redwulf would listen to; his own.

Terin forced himself to relax, and then broke through the instincts of his body to relax in truth, at rest but ready to flow in response to anything or nothing at all. The control that is not control, shifting mind, body and soul to an alert but relaxed posture, no fear to open the pores, no rush of blood to bring the shakes, no sweat to raise a stink. The heart of the Path of Mastery; to be clear, calm, and smooth as the flow of a mountain stream.

Riding within his circle of breathing, centered and poised to adapt to whatever lay ahead, Terin felt the underlying excitement of the moment. The unknown lay just on the other side of the door, lying there waiting to be discovered. Just there, on the other side of the door.

This was a trace of the same excitement, the same deep desire to learn that had brought him to leave his family and his certain future in order to take up training and study with the Order of Radiance. To be called a Knight, to stand in judgment over others or act as the law in rough places, to defend those that could not defend themselves and train them until they could stand alone, the romantic life he thought to live and the adventures he would have, all a small part of what had drawn young Terin to his calling with the Order.

But the greatest part of his calling had been the simple need to know. To get out into the world, where the libraries were, and the hidden stores of knowledge. To find the ancient journal a family kept in remembrance of their ancestor, or the ruins that yet held secrets to be discovered and restored. To seek out knowledge of what had gone before, of what men had known of the world, of what they could once do, and bring it back to the light.

Nowadays, Terin felt little of that old excitement. Excitement and enthusiasm had been burned out of him, and all he was left with his duty, and his determination to spare others from what the war had cost him if at all possible. Now, when he studied, it was to search out the ancient ways of war from before the Diaspora. It was to seek out the background and nature of any dangers that might threaten the lives of the common people of the Borderlands, and to see to it that as many as possible were prepared to handle those threats. 

Knight-Commander Geoff of the Caer Mordant chapter house had set him to attend to Duke Arneghal and obey his commands for the time being, but it suited Terin well. The Duke listened to the worn Knight that had, uniquely among the Borderlands, fought the Orcs for years in the highlands, and mastered the ways of the mountains. When Terin brought forth other concerns, such as the history of the Empire and the threat hanging over them from the Elves, Duke Arneghast listened, and took him seriously. Few other leaders among the various duchies would have been so patient with him, or have spent the resources Duke Arneghast did to watch for signs of those threats.

And yet, Terin felt this tremor of what could only be fear in his heart, a fear he thought he was far past. He knew he wasn’t braver by nature than other men, he simply felt no fear for himself because he no longer cared whether he lived or died. But he did care what happened to the people he was sworn to protect and support, and Redwulf represented something wholly new to him. Something utterly without mention in any record or artifact Terin had ever studied or read of, and that covered a great deal of ground indeed, from some of the most respected military collections in the Borderlands.

Terin pushed the door open without knocking or clapping. He was completely in the moment, feeling everything around him, and he knew that Redwulf was waiting patiently for him to open the door and enter in the same way that he knew that in the room just one space down the hall, the Duke’s pet wizard waited in secret, hoping to overhear something useful to him.

Terin stepped into the mean space under the eaves of the roof, and stepping to the side instead of deeper into the room, he pushed the door closed. The room appeared the same as earlier, but without a source for light; Terin’s vision was preternaturally keen in the absence of light, a gift passed down from father to son of his bloodline, one of the more useful gifts that could grace those of Borderlander blood that survived from the diaspora. Even in the near total absence of light, he could clearly discern the drawn curtain, the chair, and the pallet on the far side of room; and the body that sat up upon it, waiting for him.

Terin walked forward softly, and sat in the waiting chair. He was acting purely on instinct guided by his experiences of how to calm skittish animals and people both. He wanted to start by setting Redwulf at ease, to seem to be no threat, but to clearly be dominant and set the pace for the discussion, just short of being an interrogation.

Remaining loose, almost casual in his body posture, Terin asked, “Redwulf, do you feel strong enough to speak with me for a little while? I want to discuss the trip we begin tomorrow.”

There was a pause in the room as Terin waited for a reply, but it was a comfortable moment, not a tense one. Somehow, Terin felt that things were going to be as peaceful as he could wish, although he had no feeling for what he might be about to learn.

There was a low cough from the pallet, and the figure upon it sat up a bit straighter, stiffening it’s back where it sat against the far wall. The voice that came floating across the darkness had a breathy quality, and while Terin wanted to call it akin to panting, it was more like a labored effort to draw enough breath to bring out a complete sentence. “Yes, Baron Trendel, I am here. I have been waiting. I knew you would come.”

Yes, Terin thought, Redwulf spoke in short sentences that had each of them a definite rise and fall, starting out strong but drifting fainter, losing force towards the end.

Terin cleared his throat, and said, “Redwulf, if you would, I would like to know how it is that you speak so well. I had thought from earlier that you were but a short time ago a normal hound, and yet you speak perfectly clearly to my ears.”

The figure on the pallet made a sound that could only be a chuckle, although it seemed by half to be a low chuffing sound, likely to do with Redwulf’s muzzle. The sound felt friendly to Terin, welcoming and inviting him to share a private joke. “I can speak your language well. I offer my thanks to your Duke’s pet snake. It was the efforts of Malvoris that grants me these words.”

There was another of the low, chuffing laughs. “It is not what he intended. When I first came here, he attended me. He promised the Duke he would have my secrets revealed. He worked his arts, and touched his mind to mine.”

The figure on the cot leaned further into the room, and Terin could finally make out the remembered features, the muzzle, a shine off sleek fur, a gleam of the eye from a stray bit of light through loose fitting boards. “Malvoris expected his mind to be stronger than a dumb beast.” 

Redwulf leaned back again, still making his chuffing laugh, and despite the seriousness of the moment, Terin had to join him. Of all the things he had considered, the furthest from his thoughts had been that Malvoris would try to pull the dog’s secrets from him by magic, and have his own secrets taken instead.

Redwulf continued to speak, his words silencing Terin’s laughter of the moment before. “I expected to see you here, but I also wished you would not come. I wished I would be wrong in expecting you. I am sorry.”

Terin eased back in the seat, trying to use body language and scent to convey a reassuring gentleness. How do you smell reassuring? Is that the same as confident, or is confident more intensely physical and threatening? “Redwulf, I made the best time I could, once I received the Duke’s summons. I promise you, there was little chance that I would not come. The Duke has his mission for us, and I will be there beside you every step of the way. I will be there to defend you, should the need arise. You have my word on it, and I do not give my word lightly.”

Redwulf eased back, but his posture seemed touched with sadness, although it was hard for Terin to tell if he was imagining it. Master though he was at reading the thoughts and feelings of any person by how they moved and held themselves, Redwulf was just enough like a human to have him thinking one thing and having to remind himself he had no way of knowing if he was right. Dogs in general, and especially the breed by which Redwulf was descended, the golden retriever, had always seemed to Terin to be possessed of equal parts irrepressible joy and introspective sadness.

“Baron, I was hopeful you would not come, because I saw you here. The visions, the images dancing in my eyes in golden fire. I saw this, I saw your journey. I see you now, not as you are but how you will be, the scales rippling as your skin, the claws over your hands. I see the sword, and the hammer, the black and the silver. I see the flames within you and you are not burned. I am beside you, but I am consumed like a torch. I see these things and so much more, all the time. I have seen them since I was pulled through the fire, and I cannot stop them. Whether I am asleep or awake, the things I see dance before my eyes. I smell them, I hear their voices, they never entirely stop. Sometimes the things I see scare me, but they are true things, and scared or not, willing or not, I cannot turn from watching. Other times are the worst, though. The times when it is not the true images, the pure dreams, but the voice of the other, the one that has guided me here, the one that wants something from us both. The voice that talks to me, knows me, knows my heart. It seeks me out, it tells me what to do, shows me where to go.”

The figure on the bed sat up straight once more, and in the darkness Terin could sense it’s left arm and hand being lifted up from the covers. Of a startling suddeness, a gentle golden glow began to rise from the depths of Redwulf’s left hand, palm first. The glow seemed to start as a small dot deep within the flesh, the outline of bones visible in front of it. The light grew, from a dot to a spot, and on growing to encompass the entire hand much like a golden fungus or moss, the fur glowing from within, lighting the room like a warm summers day, and bringing Redwulf’s eyes into fiery prominence.

While the source of the glow grew larger, the intensity did not. Terins’ eyes were not hurt by the sudden illumination, and he realised that he felt actual warmth on his face and hands. He noticed immediately that Redwulf did indeed have opposable thumbs on his pawlike hands, but rough black pads covered the fingertips, surrounded by the thin fur.

“I am here because I was forced into the fire, Terin. They through me in, and it burned, it burned. They had a harness, ropes, and they pulled me to them through the fire. I had no choice, I was pulled where they forced me to be. I howled, I remember I howled, I was so afraid. I burned, I could feel it, I knew what it was. But as I burned, I felt… welcomed. Loved. I was loved, and it broke the bonds of my spirit. I was free. That is when I changed… and when the images began.”

In the golden glow, Terin’s eyes met the shining eyes of Redwulf, and he found he could not look away. Tears of his own sprang unbidden to his eyes, and he couldn’t for the life of himself have said why.

“When dragged towards the fire, I had feared, and I had howled, but I had still been my master’s hound. I knew it. I could never disobey. He was my master, he was my all. But the love in the fire, the heart of the gold – it broke my bonds. I was free of one master, and found another. A master within myself.”

Terin hated to break whatever spell had started Redwulf talking, but he was gathering up too many questions to hold back any more. “Redwulf, where was it that all of this happened to you? Can you describe what this fire looked like? Who was it that put you in the flames?”

Redwulf looked deep into Terin’s eyes, and said, “We were deep in a room of stone. Stone below, stone above, and secrets all around us. We had come from the master’s greatest hall, deep into his lowest rooms. There was a wall that had been cut into, an opening to grow the keep deeper into the stone. The workers had cut into solid stone, and found an opening that was worked in the rock. An old opening. Worked stone in the heart of the masters home.”

“Oh, sweet Tyr,” Terin murmured aloud, “You’re talking about Torr Baldwin, aren’t you? They broke into some kind of underground tunnels while expanding Mordant Keep, and found something down there. Some of the oldest writings I’ve seen, journals of soldiers that lived in that time, mention something big happening around a single great stone mountain like a fist to the skies. There are at least four great mountains I’ve studied that could have matched the descriptions, but it was Torr Baldwin, the heart of Duke Hope’s power all along.”

Redwulf’s muzzle opened, and he seemed to smile. A shadow passed over the hounds’ eyes for a moment, and then the colors within changed, instantly, flashing from the warm hazel of a moment before to a brilliant emerald green. Terin recoiled back in his chair, startled enough to nearly shout aloud.

The golden glow emanating from Redwulfs’ left hand changed just as suddenly, spreading in an eyeblink to a powerful golden aura that encompassed his entire body. Terin felt as though he were sitting on a chair outside on the brightest and warmest of summer days; he felt the skin on his face and neck, the backs of his hands begin to tingle, as he might if he were starting to get sunburned, back before his skin had weathered to leather.

Redwulfs mouth opened, but the voice that issued forth was in all ways unlike what Terin had heard until now. Redwulf had been speaking in short sentences, starting strong, forceful, but losing breath towards the end of each one. His voice had been rough, and breathy.

This new voice was warm, rich, and powerful in all ways. Terin had heard speeches and attended councils where some of the most powerful and influential leaders of the day spoke their mind, Duke Arneghast, Duke Hope, and Knight-Commander Geoff among them. He had heard men with great charisma speak, men used to command and to lead, men who had trained themselve to use their voice in negotiation as if it were just another weapon to be sharpened and used with cunning skill in battle, with all to win or lose.

This voice that he now heard come from Redwulf was somehow similar to all of those, but greater still, as the sun is greater in brilliance than the campfire in the darkness.

The voice said, “Terin Trendel, listen carefully. I have neared the end of my time with Redwulf, but you are here at last.”

“I am speaking to you through Redwulf. I am the last of the Loremasters, and I am imprisoned within what you call Torr Baldwin, as you surmise.”

“I guided Redwulf to you with very nearly the last of my focused will. He was thrust, an innocent, through the earth mother’s fires. He has been touched by Gaia, and she has chosen to stay with him. Her presence within him, her choosing him as a vessal has let me speak to him at times, guide him when I could, and so I have brought him here where he could meet with you.”

“I beg of you, let Redwulf guide you back to Torr Baldwin. Return to the place where the earth mother’s fire flows as if from a great fountain that never ends. Go there, and STOP THEM. Those who call themselves wizards, in service to your Duke Hope. They are twisting the lifeblood of the mother to become something they think they can use as a weapon, but they have no comprehension of how vast the power is they touch, how terrible the consequences should they meet with any success in changing her nature.”

“I am losing my hold on this world, Terin Trendel. I have held on this long by strength of will alone, but I have been without rest for too long. When I let go this time, I will pass beyond, and there is nothing that can stop that now. But even so, I cannot touch them or anyone else that passes through the fire so long as the darkness and hate is woven around it like a veil.”

“Please. Move as fast as you can, and do whatever it takes, whatever it takes, but strike hard, and stop those fools from succeeding in corrupting the earth mother. I should never have raised it, but in my youth I was proud of being chosen, and foolish in my pride, and I thought that the power I had was meant to be used. Please, don’t let my foolishness be the cause of something that would end in so terrible a fate for the land.” 

Terin sat up straight on the chair, and sought out any hint of deceit in Redwulfs’ eye. It was impossible; how to read the true intentions of a master orator speaking through a golden retreiver? Terin was loathe to accept everything he heard at face value, however.

“If you brought me to this place on purpose to meet with Redwulf and do this task for you, then you have had plenty of time to plan your moves. Why me, exactly? What is it that I can do, what skill do I provide that Duke Arneghast could not have had someone else do earlier?”

The golden glow around Redwulf’s body was fading slowly, but the voice was as strong as before. “You are Terin Trendel, and if you look at yourself as clearly as you see the people around you, you would be able to answer taht yourself. You are a leader respected by the men who serve him for doing whatever it takes to accomplish your mission, no matter the cost to yourself. You are a knight sworn to serve the commandments of the god of Justice, even though you no longer believe the God yet lives. You are one of the deadliest warriors in single combat currently alive. You are a scholar intimately familiar with what little your people know about the history of this land. Finally, you alone among the men of your land have spent years learning to move amongst the stone of the mountains as well as the Orcs and Dwarves can, if not better.”

“Why did I work to bring you together with Redwulf? Ask anyone that knows you for any length of time. You have the skills I need and you will let nothing stop you short of death. And you will open your ears and listen, which is in damn short supply no matter where you are.” 

The golden glow was noticeably dimmer now, and Terin was far from stupid. If the glow indicated how much longer he could expect this Loremaster to remain here, then he estimated he had less than five minutes remaining to get questions answered. But there was so much he wanted to know! Should he ask about the route? How to get in? Redwulf probably already knew that. But what?

Time was fast running out, but somehow he knew this was his one chance to get the answers he wanted  so very badly. Whatever was to happen next, Terin had to seize the chance, and make the most of the time he had left.

Dude, where’s my PBeM?

Okay, here’s the straight scoop on my PBeM writing.

I’m trying to turn the PBeM into a once a week posted on Monday can just check in once and get it kinda thing.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it more often than that once things got rolling, but I would like to emulate the writers and creators I love by getting on a reliable schedule.

I was well on my way for this last Monday… but I play the game straight, and Jame’s character Terin had as his next goal to question Redwulf for insight and background.

I roll for the characters, and Terin rolled a crit. I do things a little wierd, a holdover from my gaming days that Manny could tell you… I do believe in freak luck, in real life as well as in the game. Good luck, bad luck, and FREAK luck.

So, when someone rolls a crit, I have this sliding scale on how significant the crit ends up in terms of affecting the game.

See, If it’s a crit, say the system uses a d20 and it’s a natural 20, I have ’em roll it again.

Let’s use as an example of what I’m talking about, damage.

For a straight natural 20, that’s max damage no matter what. But I have them roll it again.

A low number, say below 8, and the max damage stands. An average roll, say 9 to 12, and it’s possibly double damage.

13 or above, and you start getting into specifics. The woulnd injures or destroys an arm, or blinds the target, or something. Or possibly it hits a vital spot and penetrates into the vitals, or bypasses armor.

And then there’s that rarest of rares, but it DOES happen, the second natural 20.

I let ’em roll again, same deal.

Damage is just an example. It also affects things like… fate. Impressing someone. Intimidating someone. Trying to find secret doors. Looking for the pearl of great value hidden amongst the swine of crap the quartermaster has in his storeroom.

I rolled for Terin, to determine how favorable his encounter with Redwulf would be, a reaction roll coupled with how much Redwulf would trust him, and how forthcoming redwulf might be inclined to be.

Terin got a natural 20.

Followed by two more natural 20s.

So, I have been working pretty had at being honest with the results. That kind of rolling deserves a reward, you ALWAYS want to feel like luck can strike like lightning when you’re playing, and that’s a legitimate part of the game.

On the other hand, I ain’t Monty Haul, and I ain’t prepared to hand over the script and say “Here’s the entire story on a silver platter.”

So, I’ve been doing what has always worked well for me on a tricky creative problem. I’ve been doing other stuff and letting it all just sit in the back of my head, and stuff rises up, I examine it, and then it sinks back again. It’s all bubbling away while I turn everything in the game around, looking for that perfect middle ground between honoring the triple 20s, and keeping the suspense and flow of the story at the right level (by my standards).

Tonight, while drinking Red Dog beer and watching Death Race with Jason Statham, I think I’ve got the right middle ground. So I’ll be resuming writing tomorrow.

Apparently, I can’t just write this kind of stuff to my satisfaction at the drop of a hat. Funny, I never thought I’d get any form of writer’s block, but when it hit, it wasn’t that I couldn’t write, it was that nothing I could write felt… well, felt right. It didn’t feel like the right direction to take, the right thing to say, the right way to say it.

I finally understand that impulse to crumple up wads of paper filled with half written sentences because they’re crap. Granted, I didn’t use paper, but I came back a few times this week, started writing and just stopped, and walked away because it wasn’t right.

Anyway… I’m feeling that sweet spot that i’ve got the tone and the intent right now, and I can move on.

And it’s gonna be EPIC.

Terin: Section 7 Chapter 5

Terin continued to smile as he leaned in closer to the young captain.

With a voice pitched to carry no further than the small room around them, Terin said, “Stop wasting my time and do something, Morgen.”

Something in Terin’s eyes shocked the captain, and he backed away quickly, stopped only when the back of his shoulders hit the wall. He looked more frightened than surprised. Clearly, this wasn’t going according to plan.

Terin gave him a few moments to take some kind of action, but it was clear the young man didn’t have a backup plan if his first one fell through, and was frozen in indecision.

“Morgen, I can’t help it if you’re stupid enough to act on what your friends tell you without checking the facts first, or foolish enough to follow the example of the hot heads out in the eastern kingdoms when it comes to your sense of honor.”

“You’re not capable of angering me enough to challenge you to an official duel, and I don’t have the time to waste killing you in a properly sanctioned fight anyway.  I have a journey I have to begin first thing in the morning.”

“So this is how it’s going to be.”

“You either prove you’re not all talk by taking a swing at me or pulling steel, or you get your sorry ass out of my way. Make a decision, right now. You are capable of making a decision, aren’t you, captain?”

A sudden rush of anger brought a crimson flush to the captains’ fair features, the red climbing high enough to show through the thin blond hair of his scalp.

With a scowl of rage transforming his face into an ugly mask, Morgen fumbled for the dagger at his belt.

Terin watched calmly as Morgens’ shaking fingers finally wrenched the blade from its tight leather sheath, a slight smile playing at the edges of his mouth.

Morgen shifted into what he must have thought was a knife fighter’s stance, then he launched himself at Terin, pushing himself off the back wall to get extra force for the lunge.

Without changing his stance, Terin reached out with his left hand, firmly grabbed Morgen’s outstretched knife hand just as it came within reach, twisted his upper body slightly to the left to twist Morgen off balance, and then used his shoulders to pull hard, keeping his left arm out to push the knife hand out of line and away.

Morgen, already moving forward as fast as he thought he could, found his wrist snatched out of the air with a movement too fast for his eyes to follow, and felt himself yanked forward, his body all twisted up, back arching painfully, flailing out of control, his knife hand pinned in a grip like steel.

As he tried to understand what was happening, flailing away at the air with his left arm, trying to regain his balance, he felt fingers grab a handful of his hair at the back of his head, and the last thought he had was a sudden awareness that what was about to happen was going to really hurt a whole hell of a lot.

There was a sullen wet sound followed by a crunch as Morgen’s face was driven hard into the rough wooden planking of the wall beside Terin.

Terin released his grip of Morgen’s head and hand, and watched with concern as the young man dropped bonelessly to the floor. Using his foot, he nudged the captain’s body around so he sat mostly upright, his unconcious body propped back up against the wall.

Terin leaned down and checked the mans face carefully, and listened for the wet blubbering of his breathing.

“Good, he won’t choke on his own blood. A few teeth lost, a crushed nose, mashed lips. Nothing too serious.”

Terin stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him. He glanced up and down the hall, but of course nobody happened to be there at the moment, as Terin knew from listening for the sounds the boards made when walked upon.

Terin strode briskly down the hall to the doorway leading to the main mission room, still bustling with activity. Corporal Garthan, the same energetic young man that had led him to the briefing room, was back at the desk along with his two comrades, busily working through the returned scouts.

Terin took a moment to watch the activity in the mission room.

From what Terin could see of the situation, someone here in a position of authority was either a graduate of Terin’s training, or had taken the advice of someone who was.

Captain Morgen was unfamiliar to Terin, so he hadn’t been directly trained in Terin’s methods. It was normal for each base or station to have people on duty at all hours to assign or receive missions, but they would all be of enlisted rank except for the one officer placed in overall command.

Any changes as drastic as what Terin had set in place would never have taken root this deep here without the willing and eager encouragement of the man in charge. Even if the Duke himself had lain down the order to adopt Terin’s policies, there were half a hundred ways a man set on blocking them could delay things if he really felt stubborn about it.  

So, what we had here was a man poisoned by ideas of honor from the coastal kingdoms, a man who believed he should hate me for what he’d been told by his peers concerning my personal actions during the withdrawal from Madrigal, but also someone who’s smart enough and open-minded enough to listen to new ideas and training, and use those ideas even if they come from someone he hates as long as the reason for them was something he believed in.

Regardless of what other problems the young fool had, that speaks of someone whose priorities were in line with Terin’s: to accomplish the scout mission of gathering information from remote and dangerous locations, and see those scouts return from their missions alive.

Terin thought over his own actions of a moment before, and nodded in satisfaction.

“A man who puts the welfare of his scouts over his own prejudice is too good to waste by killing out of hand. Much better to give him a lesson and let him decide what he’ll take from it. Next time, maybe he’ll think before he acts.”

“Then again, maybe next time he’ll leave off wasting time on words, and try me with a dagger in the back. Whatever he does, I administered the lesson, what he learns from it is on his head now.”

“And damn it all anyway, I don’t have time for this kind of foolishness right now.”

Terin moved smoothly forward and leaned down to speak closer to Corporal Garthan’s ear.

“Corporal, I’m done with the journals.”

Corporal Garthan jumped a bit as if startled, and whipped his head around to see who was speaking. “Oh! Sorry, your lordship, I’d forgotten that you were still at it. It’s gotten quite late getting this mob sorted out. If you’re all finished, I’ll get things straightened up then?”

The corporal’s voice ended in a question, and Terin nodded affirmative. “Oh yes, I’m quite finished. I think I’ve learned all I could hope to about the area I’m headed for. While you’re clearing the room, I’d also appreciate it if you’d look in on your captain for me. I left him with some serious issues to consider, and I warrant he’ll need some help working them out.”

Terin straightened up, and gave the young man a tired smile. “Please be sure and tell him that if he ever wants to discuss any issues with me again, I’d be more than happy to make time for him just as soon as I’ve returned from my current task. You’ll do that for me, won’t you?”

Corporal Garthan snapped off a sharp salute, and said, “Of course, sir, you can count on me!”

Terin smiled again, and headed for the door.

“I’m sure I can, son. I’m sure I can. Carry on.”