Category Archives: Fantasy

#RiteToReign #iBooks Bundle

Hey readers, I wanted to share a new bundle of amazing stories from fellow authors I’ve known for a while. Read on for more info…


Something wicked this way comes…

Willful witches, supernatural sorcerers, cruel queens, and powerful priestesses fall out of favor and rise to rule in this highly sought-after collection of spellbinding stories!

More than 20 award-winning and bestselling authors have come together to curate this bewitching boxed set collection of the best PARANORMAL ROMANCE and URBAN FANTASY books in the genre, each brimming with stories of royal magic.

Journey through worlds of danger and mayhem, where witches and warlocks battle for influence and wizards fight for unrestricted power.

But reader beware: the highly addictive stories in RITE TO REIGN will put you under their spell. One click to secure your limited edition copy today!

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Jason’s Authors You Should Know – RJ Batla

Today’s author you should know is RJ Batla.RJBatla

RJ is an excellent author of fast paced, action-filled scifi and fantasy adventure. I know, it sound like a lot but RJ writes some fantastic books!

I met him through a Facebook group I belong to over a year ago and since then, we’ve Beta read each others works and he’s been supportive of me especially when I doubt what I’m doing. He’s a genuinely good guy on top of being an excellent writer.

From his Amazon page:

R.J. Batla is a fantasy author and fan of the genre. He’s working on series in both epic and urban fantasy, and likes to write fast paced books that take the reader on an adventure that they can see in their mind. His books reflect influences from novels, comic books, manga, and other cartoons/media, and he joys in blending in these elements in his books.

Author, Christian, Husband, and Father, R.J. Batla enjoys everything outdoors and takes as much time as he can with his family. When he’s not writing, you’ll find him outside (thinking about writing), working out (and thinking about writing) or various other places (all while thinking about writing).

FireEyesI’ve read several of his books including Fire Eyes Awakened and enjoyed the thrilling pace (See my review here). If you like fantasy or scifi with a bit of wit and wise-cracks, you gotta try his books!

Find out more and get a free sample of his writing at rjbatla.com.


Come back tomorrow for another author you should know!

Jason’s Authors You Should Know – Mirren Hogan

mirren-hogan-logo-e1502158817934Today’s author you should know is Mirren Hogan. Mirren lives in Australia with her family and writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and science fiction. She’s a talented writer with grand visions for the direction of her writing career.

I think I first met Mirren maybe about a year ago through a Science Fiction writers Facebook group. Soon after, we both found ourselves as part of the On the Horizon boxed set of Science Fiction and Fantasy novels (which is still available as of this blog post). She’s also the creative mind behind an upcoming shared world fantasy project which I was invited to participate in. She’s an amazing author with close to ten novels and several anthology collections to her credit.

One of her latest series of books is her Reasoner Trilogy books, starting with book 1: DragonhazeDragonhaze. I know she likes to include as many dragons as possible in her work (the shared world project I mentioned earlier is centered around them!) so if those flying beasts of legend are your thing, go check out her work.

To find out more about Mirren and her books, check out her website or visit her Amazon page to read more about her novels and anthologies.


Come back tomorrow for another Author You Should know!

“On the Horizon”

On the Horizon is the 22 author scifi/fantasy boxed-set I’m super excited to be part of. It releases on May 1, 2018. My novel The Selection will be one of the 22 novels featured in this collection.

Even if you’ve read my book, you can still pre-order this amazing collection of stories from a cast of international authors. With a price of .99 you can’t go wrong!

OnTheHorizon

Right now we are able to offer pre-orders on the Nook (or Nook app if you’re like me and read on an iPad using all the different reading apps). By pre-ordering the collection on the Nook, you are helping us to achieve our goal and supporting talented authors from around the world.

Go ahead, click “pre-order” at the Nook store below! I’ll be extremely grateful if you did!

Nook Pre-Order

Amazon pre-orders will be coming soon in a few months. They only allow a 90 day pre-order. If you wanna be alerted to when those are live, sign up to our email alert here and we’ll keep you updated!

PS: Feel free to share this with all your friends!

 

Author Spotlight: RJ Batla

Today I’m fortunate to present RJ Batla author of AGAINST THE BEAST and FIRE EYES AWAKENED.

Hi RJ, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Hi! Thanks for the interview Jason! I’m a Texan, born and raised, a Christian who loves my family and a fan of good old fashioned fantasy, sci-fi, and superhero books. I’m a country boy who has always loved to read and be outdoors in any form or fashion. I consider myself to be one of the ‘nice guys,’ and try to help anyone I can when I can.

 

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for around seven years now, but I’ve gotten serious about it in the last two and have written over two hundred thousand words since then. Most of it probably wasn’t that good (or will ever see a published book in its current form), but it has helped hone my writing craft. It’s been a journey, but now that I (kinda) know what I’m doing, it’s a lot of fun!

 

What inspired you to start writing?

To get the voices out of my head!

Just kidding. But I’ve always wanted to write a book and I’ve been telling stories to myself in my head for a long time. I wrote a little in college, and some family had said it was pretty good. So I continued on, enjoying the learning of a new skill and telling a story.

 

Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?

So I’ve got several projects going at the moment. FIRE EYES AWAKENED is my first full-blown novel, and it’s at the editor right now. I expect to release it around May or June.

The RANGER’S FIELD MANUAL is the companion guide to the world of Terraunum. I’ve gotten it written and edited, and might be available now for free for signing up for my email list! There is a smaller version available now for an email signup, but anyone on my list will get the expanded edition as soon as I can.

 

What genre do you prefer to write in, if any?

I don’t know that I prefer any, but I’d have to say fantasy comes the easiest for me. I like the creation of worlds, the magic (both the system and in general), and the old school sword & sorcery battles.

All of my current works are based in Terraunum, a future earth where Marvels have amazing powers over the elements and much more. It’s Epic Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery with a good bit of Superheroism and some technological elements of Steampunk. So a blend of genres.

 

What authors influenced you?

Oh wow, several. Terry Brooks, who was the first author I really latched onto in the fantasy genre, is a clear influence. Also Jim Butcher, who writes the Dresden Files, my favorite series – I love the main character Harry Dresden, a smart-aleck wizard with a strong sense of justice. Those would be the two biggest influences, though everything I read tends to influence me in some way.

 

What are you currently reading?

So I’ve got several books on my reading list right now. I tend to read several books at once (I know, a little crazy). Right now, here is what I’m reading:

Outbreak by Joshua C. Chadd; Mistress of Masks by C. Greenwood, and Thinblade by David A. Wells

 

Do you write every day? A few days per week?

I try to write every day, but it usually turns into around 4-5 days per week, depending on when the kids go to bed and how much time I have at night. The day job gets in the way (as per the usual), so I do all my writing at night. Usually I can knock out between 500-1000 words per hour after I have my outline done, so I am able to make good use of my time.

 

Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?

Absolutely not! I love music and tv, but I can’t do either and write at the same time – I get too involved in one thing and get sidetracked.

 

How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?

I’d like to think it has gotten better – better at telling the story, better at getting my point across, more succinct, clearer, more descriptive without wasting words. I also think I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, and how to make sure and only include what is good/important but to make sure I do include those same things.

 

How do you create the covers for your books?

RJBatlaI come up with the general idea for what I’m looking for, then I work with the professionals to get it done right. I am by no means an artist (drawing wise), so I hire out freelancers who are pros. I have two different cover artists that I use, and they are both amazing.

 

Are there any non-literary influences for your writing (movies, actors, music, etc)?

Absolutely! Movies – anything superhero-related, action/adventure, and even some of the drama. I’ve also been heavily influenced by a couple of animated shows, particlularly Avatar: The Last Airbender (the series, not the movie), and Naruto, a manga adaption.

 

Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?

I’m exclusive with Amazon right now, so that’s the only place to get any of my books. I’ve only got one out, but several are in the works and will be out as soon as I can get them out there.

 

What is your favorite book and why?

Now that is a tough question. Because you’re making me pick ONE, I’m assuming a work of fiction, I would have to pick Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, Book 4) by Jim Butcher because it introduced me to the Dresden Files series that I love.

 

How do you market your books?

I use Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Ads, and my email list. But mostly it’s word of mouth from other authors and friends.

 

Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

Sure, here is an excerpt from AGAINST THE BEAST.

Royn parried the sword from the left Skeptor and threw up an air shield on his right. Steel clanged against bone as the two traded blows. The second one broke through the air shield quickly and thrust at Royn’s midsection.

Royn teleported at the last second, the creature’s sword hitting nothing but blue light. Growling, they advanced on his new position, circling around again. Clearly they meant to keep his attention divided. The left one started in again, and Royn counterattacked, matching the strikes with his own as the second one circled and jumped in again. Thank God for his Ranger training, or he wouldn’t have lasted ten seconds against these things.

“Flying Knives!” Royn called, arcing his arm and sending dozens of daggers of sharpened air at the Skeptor. They imbedded themselves in the bone, but didn’t penetrate, didn’t even slow the thing down. Again Royn teleported away at the last second.

They continued to circle, and this time Royn put everything he had into his sword work, until he found an opening. “Aha!” he said, driving his blade right into a Skeptor’s chest.

It clanged and bounced harmlessly off the bone armor, the force prying the sword from his hands. “No!” he said, teleporting away, then right back to get his sword and away again too fast for them to react. Damn that was close.

Five more times they circled and advanced, each time Royn throwing a different attack at the second Skeptor, and five more times Royn teleported away. But there was a problem. Royn’s energy was draining quickly—the second bean was wearing off, his reserves already depleted. He was weaker than he thought. He hadn’t fully recovered. He shouldn’t have come. The Skeptors circled again. Like vultures. Might as well be. One of these times they were going to get him. Just a matter of time. How could he win this battle? His attacks fell right off of them, nothing stuck. He was severely out matched.

What is that blasted buzzing? Royn dodged a sword attack and deflected a fireball with an air blast.

“Now.”

From behind him the second Skeptor launched another fireball. Diving away, the heat singed his clothes as he tucked and rolled on the landing, immediately jumping up before he was blasted again.

 

If you’re an indie author, what made you choose that route?

Definitely Indie, though if someone wanted to pay me an insane amount of money I could be convinced!

The main reasons I chose Indie is the ability to actually get your work out in the world and let the people/readers/fans decide if it is good enough, vs someone in a corporate office. So in a word control – I have ultimate say on anything involving my works.

Plus it’s on my timeline – if I need to push something back because I have time with my family scheduled, it doesn’t hurt anyone or myself.

 

Where can we find you online?

Here they are:

WEBSITE: rjbatla.com

TWITTER: @RJBatlaAuthor

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/rjbatla

EMAIL: rjbatla@rjbatla.com

 

Any parting words for writers?

Keep working hard. Take it one day at a time. Grab any time you can to write, market your current works, or read – either for fun or for honing your craft. You eat an elephant one bite at a time, and you write a book one word at a time over a sustained period. You can do it!

 

King of the Hill: Morgan Smith

I mentioned a few posts back that there would be more “King of the Hill” promos and here’s the latest. Morgan Smith’s book A Spell in the Country: A Novel of the Averraine Cycle is our current King of the Hill.

 

Description:
What if you weren’t what heroes are made of? What if your life was an open book? What if you were just an ordinary soldier, with ordinary skills and ordinary goals? What if you weren’t “The Chosen One” but still had to try to save the world?

“A Spell in the Country” is the story of that soldier – a young woman driven not by prophesy, but by circumstances and coincidence, and by the strengths and weaknesses that anyone might possess.

Lured into treason and only narrowly escaping the gallows, Keridwen was desperate to build some kind of life for herself. But between demons bent on death and mayhem, treachery at the very heart of the kingdom, and a prince who had every right to nurse a grudge against her, what were the odds that she could stay out of trouble for long?


You can find the book on Amazon: A Spell in the Country: A Novel of the Averraine Cycle

A Dragon’s Bargain

It’s the 15th and time for another tale. This month I’ve got a fantasy story for you with a knight and dragon. I’ve been fascinated by medieval lore for most of my life. Stories of Arthur and dragons have held a special place for me. This is not an Arthurian tale but I hope you find it entertaining. Let me know what you think in the comments below and feel free to share it with others that might like it. Thanks!


A Dragon’s Bargain

“Keep moving!” the knight shouted. Dragus listened and watched carefully. The knight in rough silver armor led a man in chains through the forest. Dragus was almost caught bathing but at the last minute he heard the chained man scream and that gave him the heads up he needed to hide. Now watching the pair trudge through the forest, he thought he recognized the chained man. His eyes narrowed as he stared, his nostrils grew large as he searched his scent.

Then the sensation overwhelmed him. Anger, fear, disgust all washed over him like a bath of evil. His eyes shot open. He knew the man. All dragons did. He was the Dragon-Slayer,  friend of man and bane of dragons. He was feared and hunted by dragons and now Dragus had him in his sights. Smoke swirled out of his nostrils, his anger stoking the flames within. Flexing his wings, he shot high in the air and with a great roar, Dragus swooped down ready to exact the furious vengeance of his race.

dragon-955348_960_720The dragon’s roar made both men look to the sky. Dragus bellowed loud. Fire belched forth from his mouth, trailing behind him. His giant leathery wings beat a rhythm of death in the air.

“By the gods! A dragon!” the knight holding the chains cried. The Dragon-Slayer tried to run but the chains held him back.

“Come on man, let me out of these bindings! He’ll kill us both!” the Dragon-Slayer said.

Dragus made a pass at them, breathing a line of fire in the forest alongside the men. The bright orange and red flames ignited the dried timber and soon a wall of flame trapped the men.

“Can you kill it Dragon-Slayer?” the knight said. He roar of the flames grew louder around them.

“Release me from these chains and I have a chance. Quickly! He’ll be coming back!”

Dragus circled above them, roaring and shooting long bursts of flame from his mouth. His chance at vengeance sent him in a frenzy.

“By the gods, kill it Dragon-Slayer. I release you!” the knight said. He unlocked the chains and thrust a sword in the hands of the Dragon-Slayer. Before he could turn away, the blade sliced through the air separating his head from his body.

“No man takes Aydan and lives,” the Dragon-Slayer said. The knight’s head rolled away from the force of the blow.

Dragus observed the men fighting and watched as the Dragon-Slayer betrayed the other man. The time was right. Alone with the Dragon-Slayer, he dropped from the sky intent on killing the bane of his kind.

A roar above made Aydan look up. Dragus breathed mighty flames towards the man. With his claws outstretched he exhaled a deep red flame but not far enough to injure the Dragon-Slayer. It was meant as cover so he could catch him in his long yellow talons.

His plan worked.

The Dragon-Slayer cowered from the flames and Dragus plucked him off the ground. The man screamed obscenities at the dragon. Dragus roared and spit flames in front of him. Aydan struggled but the talons kept him from moving.

Silver arrows pierced the dragon’s wings. Dragus cried out in pain. His wings smoked where the arrows struck. Volley after volley of the deadly silver arrows fly towards him from the forest below.

“Ha, that’s it dragon! That knight’s guard knows your weakness! Die dragon! Your head will look spectacular mounted on my wall.”

Dragus spun in the air. Arrows stung his large wings. When Aydan taunted him, Dragus clung tighter to his prey.

“That’s it dragon! Try and kill me! Use your energy on me while the arrows pierce your flesh!”

The arrows forced Dragus to the ground in a great crash. His claws were like a harness protecting Aydan who was freed from the talons when he struck the ground. Dragus roared as he tumbled across the forest floor striking trees with his tattered wings. He collapsed against a tall oak. Smoke rose from his nostrils. After a few moments, Aydan approached the wounded dragon with his sword at the ready. Dragus opened his eyes and pushed himself off the ground.

“I need you Dragon-Slayer,” Dragus said in a weak voice.

“Why would I help you?” Aydan said, “you do nothing but destroy our lands. You’re a menace that must be eliminated.”

Dragus collapsed on the ground unable to fly. Dark thick blood oozed from his pierced skin, smoking as it struck the ground around him. He tried raising his head to look at the Dragon-Slayer but was too weak to move.

“I need your help Slayer. I will die if you do nothing.”

“Precisely! That’s the point dragon. You will die. I am the last true Dragon-Slayer. My name is Aydan. You’ll go to the hell that spawned you knowing the great Aydan slew you.”

Dragus turned his head. “Aydan, you must save me. You cannot kill me.” The dragon coughed, small balls of flame shooting forth from his mouth and dissipating just as quickly.

“You’re mad dragon! I kill beasts like you, not save them. I have an entire hall of trophy heads of your kind. There’s a spot left for you.”

The dragon struggled pushing himself up and fell back to the ground. Smoke puffed from his nostrils

“Aydan!” he said, his voice booming despite his weakened condition. “You must save me! It is in your best interest to do so. When I die,” Dragus said. He coughed and wheezed, life clinging like a stubborn tick.

“My best interest?” Aydan laughed. “Dragon, that’s not the craftiest line I’ve ever heard from your kind. Go and die. Our lands need a reprieve from your destruction.”

“My life spares you from damnation Aydan. As long as I live, you will not taste the sting of a sinners death.” His eyes closed and his chest heaved. The energy of speaking exhausting him.

“Die already dragon! I tire of your chatter,” Aydan said.

Dragus opened his eyes and turned his head, the effort straining him. “Insolent fool. You know it’s true. Your dreams of death. The wailing and torture. That’s no dream, it’s your future if I die.” The dragon closed his eyes inhaling deeply. “The black pit, the never ending suffering awaits. Your actions against my kind have condemned you.” He inhaled again and lay motionless. For a moment Aydan thought he was dead. The dragon let out a long breath, groaning in pain. “Search yourself Aydan. The truth is as I speak. And if I die, nothing prevents you from it.”

Aydan wrinkled his brow. The dreams the dragon spoke of haunted him for months. Most nights he wished for rest but was cursed by the horrific images.

“How do you know this dragon?”

Dragus inhaled before speaking. “I am the gate. Through me you enter obliteration or paradise. If I die your choice it made and can never be undone.” The dragon wheezed. Aydan could see how much pain the dragon was in. “But if I live, if you share just a drop of your blood with me, I can escort you to paradise. But hurry Slayer, my life flickers.” The dragon lay motionless on the ground, his blood boiling under him, smoke rising up all around.

Ayden hesitated. “What if your words are false? How do I know you’re true?” Dragus coughed, his body losing strength with every passing moment.

“The dreams Slayer. Search yourself,” Dragus said, his voice now a low rumble.

With his dagger, Aydan sliced his arm drawing blood. The bloody dagger was thrust towards the dragon’s mouth and he dropped some of his blood on his tongue. When he did a bright flash consumed the dragon, blinding Aydan. When the light winked out, the dragon sat before Aydan full of life.

“Thank you Slayer,” Dragus said. His voice was deeper than before without a hint of weakness. Aydan held his sword in front of him.

“I saved you. I expect you’ll keep your word dragon! We have a bargain.”

Dragus sniffed the air. The scent of the archers nowhere to be found. He and Aydan were alone. He exhaled dark gray smoke from his nostrils. “Aydan, a dragon keeps its word. Always.”

Large heavy wings unfolded behind Dragus. He rose in the air, snorting smoke and fire.

Aydan howled when the flames engulfed him. Scorched flesh sizzled in the intense heat. Dragus roared his victory, the sound echoing throughout the forest. Aydan fell to the ground in a blackened heap of ash. Dead.

Dragus shot upwards, circling around the charred body. “The only trophy we need! The arrogant Slayer no longer a threat. And his paradise of wailing awaits. With the Slayers blood running through my veins, never can man slay dragon again. Never!” Dragus snatched the smoking body and flew fast across the forest, free and alive. The rest of the horde would soon share in the victory and dragon-kind would once again rule the land.

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If you like this story, you might find my book (Almost) Average Anthology perfect for you. It’s a collection of 16 flash fiction stories that span horror, scifi, and fantasy. You can get it now for just .99 or the paperback for $5.99. Click here to find out more: (Almost) Average Anthology: tales of adventure, loss, and oddity

The Gem and the Hide

It’s time for another short story and this month is a fun fantasy piece I wrote a while back. I’m determined to one day write a longer novel length Medieval/fantasy piece but until then, I’ll keep writing these.

Read on for my latest story and feel free to leave a comment, like the story below, or share it with others. I do appreciate all the support!


The Gem and the Hide

Gerald approached the cave with his heart beating loudly in his chest.  Lady Ygraine needed the gems from deep within the cave at the wizard Shonar’s request in order for her kingdom to be free of the dark Lord Mormet.  As her champion, Gerald took his quest seriously.  He was Lady Ygraine’s only hope.  He’d not fail her now.

Lighting a torch, Gerald wiped his brow and stepped inside.

He wound his way through endless tunnels, following the map given to him by Lady Ygraine.  He found the sparkling green and blue gems, encrusted in the surrounding walls.  Reaching out to pry a strikingly bright green gem from the cave’s wall, the room started spinning.  The floor disappeared from under him and he fell for a long time only to land safely on soft ground.

Gerald found himself surrounded by thousands of blinking lights, twinkling their song at him.  He shielded his eyes from the visual onslaught.

“What pray tell are ye that flashes this infernal device!  Yield.  I yield!” he shouted to the lights.  A strange series of clicking sounds enveloped him.  With a flash, everything turned bright white then all stopped.

He felt solid ground underneath and stood.  He couldn’t see a thing.

“I must leave this cursed cave before anything more vile and hideous befalls me,” he said out loud.  He reached around with his hands in the blinding whiteness but found no walls nor gems which to hold.  He looked around searching for anything to get him back outside.

Nothing.

He walked straight ahead, arms outstretched, searching for a wall or any surface with which to guide himself.

He stepped on a soft, squishy substance and stopped.  Bending down, he nudged the viscous material.  It was warm to the touch and gave just the slightest.  Surprised, Gerald stood up and continued his cautious walk forward.

Ferocious hot air fueled by enormous flames whooshed past him, singeing his beard.

“By the gods, what hell am I in?” he said.

“You my pretty, you are in my home.  My sanctuary.  You are an intruder.”

“Who’s there?” Gerald called out to the voice.  Thin tendrils of smoke whisped from his mustache and eyebrows.  He patted them down, hoping to extinguish whatever small flame caused it.

“I do not answer to mortals of the fifth realm.  You are in my home, you answer to me.”

The voice was harsh, raspy, and male.

“I am Gerald of the Moors, champion of Lady Ygraine, the keeper of the Valley.  I kneel to no one!” he replied.

The voice cackled.  “Then why did you yield so quickly…champion?”  Gerald bent his head low.

“That’s what I thought.  You are nothing.  You are in my home Gerald.  Why do you bother me in the seventh realm.  You don’t belong here.”

“I’m on a quest to retrieve the jewels in this cave.  My lady needs them to save her kingdom.  Will you help me?”

Another loud, long laugh from the voice.  “I told you Gerald, you don’t belong here.  You are much to far from home now.  You are my champion now.  You do what I want.”

Gerald’s heart sank low.  His beloved Ygraine, the only Lady he’d ever truly loved was lost to him.  All he had was this formless voice to command him.

The voice spoke out again.  “If you do my bidding, I might be kind enough to send you back to your dimension.  Fail me, and your soul is mine.  Forever!”

Gerald wrung his hands, thinking over the proposal.

“Spirit, my life is yours to command.  I give to you all I am, only so I may return to my Lady Ygraine,” Gerald replied.  A soft cackle answered him.

“You will bring me the hide of a boar.  It needs be white in color and red of eye.  Bring it back within a fortnight and your realm I will send you.  Now go!”

Before Gerald could reply, the scene shifted again like a veil removed from his eyes.  He stood in an old forest full of large trees unfamiliar to him.  He spun around searching for the cave.  Light twinkled from a knot in the nearest tree.  He stepped towards it.

“I said go!  Come back when you have the hide or your soul is mine,” a voice said to him from the twinkling knot.  Gerald marked the tree with his sword and took off in search of his quarry.

After seven days of fruitless searching, Gerald lost hope.  He saw no boar.  And a white one would be even harder to find.  Late that afternoon as he sat under a tall tree enjoying the comforts of the shade, he spotted it.

Across from him about fifty paces away was the beast.  It was larger than any man and whiter than snow.  It snorted and rooted in the dirt, covering its snout with brown and black.

Gerald’s eyes lit up.  Hope burst through his veins.  He crouched low and made his way towards the boar as silent as possible.  When he was within ten paces, he drew his sword and lunged.  The beast jerked its head up at the sound but it was too late.  Gerald thrust his blade deep within its heart, killing it.  He skinned it and hurried back to the knot in the tree.

A brilliant light shone from the knot and Gerald again found himself inside the white nothingness though this time holding the hide of the slain boar.

“I have your treasure, now grant my request as promised,” Gerald said to the nothingness.  Silence.  “Spirit, listen!  I have your bounty, now grant me my boon!”  To his right, Gerald heard the soft familiar cackle.

“So, you’ve slain the beast, eh?  My what a diligent knight you are.  Well, a promise is a promise.”

The hide disappeared and Gerald fell once again into a deep void until he landed on hard ground.  He pushed himself off the ground and recognized the cave instantly.  He reached out, grabbed a green and blue gem, and ran out as fast as he could.

Upon his return to the castle, Lady Ygraine marveled at his success.

“You’ve been gone so long!  I feared Lord Mormet would gain the kingdom.  You truly are my hero!”  She kissed him, causing his face to turn a pinkish color.

“Well, you have done a wonderful thing here Gerald.  Fortunately for you and the kingdom, Lord Mormet could not attain the sacred hide from the seventh realm,” Lady Ygraine said.

Gerald’s face lost all color.  He spun around to face the wizard Shonar.

“What sorcery are you about Shonar?  Tell me!” Gerald shouted.  Shonar shrugged.

“Nothing.  But luckily for you, Lord Mormet didn’t get that hide.  If he had, these gems would have no power.  This kingdom would be under his rule and we’d be helpless to stop him,” Shonar replied.

“But how do you know?” Gerald asked.

Shonar waved a hand in the air.  “Wizards know much Gerald, it’s what we do.”

Shonar turned to walk away and Gerald swore he heard a familiar soft cackle as the wizard strode down the walkway, a faint glow surrounding his body.

Flickr Story 4: The Spine of the Gods

It’s time for another Flickr story and this one was a fun one to write.  If you’ve read the Flickr story from December, you’ll see a familiar character in this one (actually both are the same.  The hero was originally named Lailoken in “Aimee’s Quest” but I changed it just before posting it).   It wasn’t intentionally created as a sequel or alternate story, but it does come across that way.  Maybe one day I’ll write the adventures of Lailoken and Brida, but for now we have another fantasy piece featuring two of my favorite characters.

The picture was found on Flickr, though I’m not sure where the actual place is.  I loved the colors and the massive mountain in the distance.  As I stared at the image, the story started unfolding.  What you have below is what I came up with.  Please share the story with others and feel free to leave a comment below.  I appreciate any and all feedback.  Thanks!

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The Spine of the Gods

“They are beautiful, aren’t they?” Lailoken asked.  He and his snowcat Brida sat along a high ridge overlooking a verdant valley dotted with brown and red.  The late autumn air swirled around them.  Brida looked up, nudged her head against Lailoken’s thigh and laid her head back down.  
“The Spine of the Gods.  Don’t you know what this means?” he asked.  Brida didn’t move.  “Well, if you were any kind of snowcat Brida, you’d know.  We’re almost at the edge.  Once we cross over, who knows what awaits us.”  
Lailoken gazed across the valley to where it ended abruptly in sheer grey cliffs that rose high in the sky.  They looked like a giant beast lay down and died, leaving an enormous skeleton.  The cliffs rose like vertebrae in the sky from which it earned its name Spine of the Gods.  From this vantage point, they looked impassable.  What lay beyond…that was stuff of legends and that was where Lailoken and Brida were headed.
Lailoken rubbed Brida’s snowy white head.  The giant cat purred loudly.  “Come on, we need to get down there before nightfall,” Lailoken said to Brida.  The cat purred louder.  “Brida, come on now,” Lailoken said as he stood up, brushing the dirt and grass from his woolen pants.  Slowly, Brida rose and stretched her long frame, letting her sharp nails poke from her paws as she did.
It took them close to four hours to make their way down to the valley floor.  They walked along a stream that bubbled and gurgled until they came to a small village nestled in the middle of the valley.  There were only four roads, more like two that intersected in the center of the village.
“Brida, stay out here until I can find us a place to stay.  They might not be too welcoming to a large snowcat like you,” he said as he scratched her under her chin.  She rubbed on his thigh almost knocking him over.  “Brida, you’ll be safe out here.  I’ll be back soon.”  With that, Lailoken walked on towards the inn.
“Welcome to the Dark Dog Inn,” the innkeeper said as Lailoken walked inside.  The room was dusty but comfortable.  Once inside, Lailoken froze.  The innkeeper had the face and head of a giant dog, like a retriever of some kind.  He’d never seen a real caninian and the sight of one startled him.
“Some kind of stranger, eh?” the dog faced innkeeper asked.  His face was a deep brown with large brown eyes and a full set of teeth.  His long ears hung down to his shoulders.
Lailoken struggled for words.  
“Yeah, you aren’t from around here.  Not too many visitors from out of the valley.”  The innkeeper raised his snout and sniffed the air.  “You brought a snowcat here?”  
Lailoken looked at the innkeeper carefully.  “Yeah…yeah I did.  She’s harmless though.  She won’t bother anyone.  I was looking for a place we could stay.  But…”
“But what?  You think we can’t handle a snowcat around here?  We’re caninian, but we are civilized.  My name’s Gorthe.  Welcome,” he said and flashed a smile that was at once warm and threatening.  He reached out a hand that was all human.  Lailoken cautiously shook it.  
“Come, let’s get you settled in.  So what brings you here?” Gorthe asked.  He motioned for Lailoken to follow him down a hall to a small room at the end.  
“Just passing through,” Lailoken said.  Gorthe eyed him and nodded.
“Here you are,” he said waving a hand to the empty room.  “You can stay here, but your snowcat will have to stay outside in the stables.  No animals are allowed in the inn,” Gorthe said.  Lailoken wanted to protest, to say how could half-dogs say any such thing, but thought better of it.
“Thank you Gorthe.  I’ll need to show Brida where she can stay.”  Lailoken left the inn and walked back to where he left Brida.  He found her laying in the tall grass away from the road watching for people passing by.
“You won’t believe it Brida.  They’re caninians!”  Brida didn’t flinch.  “Did you hear me girl?  They are half-dogs!  I thought those were just myths.”  Brida licked her paws.  “Well come on, I found us a place to stay.”  Brida rose and trotted to Lailoken’s side.  She followed him down the road to the inn where he led her to the stables.
“I know it’s not the best, but it’ll do.  I’ll bring some food later.  Rest up, tomorrow we go to the Spine.”
The night passed without incident.  Gorthe gave them a few small loaves of dense bread for the trip and wished them well.  Lailoken and Brida were gone before the little village woke from the cool night.    
It took most of the day before they were at the base of the Spine.  The sheer grey cliffs rose high into the clouds where they couldn’t see the top.  Brida growled as they stood marveling at the sight.  “What is it girl?  You knew we were going here.  We are going through Brida.  We’re crossing to the other side.”  The snowcat licked her paws unconcerned.  
Lailoken pulled a map from out of his sack, unrolled it and thought.  He scoured over the ancient markings.  “Ahh, yes…there it is,” he said out loud, rolled it up and put the map away.  “Brida, we go this way,” he said pointing to a barely noticeable crack in the solid wall.  They walked closer and Brida’s ears perked up at the sound of a low humming noise.
They walked closer and stopped just outside the crack.  Inside Lailoken watched in wonder as a glowing portal in hues of blue and purple shimmered before him.  The hair on Brida’s back stood up and she growled a deep menacing growl.  “Brida,” he said softly, stroking her massive head, “it’s ok.  This is the way through the Spine.  We step in there and it takes us to the other side.”  She hesitated as Lailoken stepped forward.  “Come on, let’s go,” he called to her.  With a hesitation not normally shown, Brida carefully walked towards him.
Lailoken stepped in the shimmering portal first, his leg breaking the vertical plane.  Brida followed.  Just as her head broke through the portal, Lailoken heard a shout behind him.
“No!  Stop!  Don’t go in there!”  It was Gorthe running towards them, his large ears flapping with each step.  Lailoken looked back at him, confused.  “Stop!  The caninians…don’t go in there!”
It was too late.  Lailoken’s momentum carried him forward.  On the other side of the portal, a new race of beings emerged.  They came to be known as the felinians.  

Flickr Story 3: Aimee’s Quest

This month’s Flickr story is a fantasy piece with a familiar twist at the end.  As I wrote it, I wasn’t sure how it was going to end, but after some thought, the ending came to me.  I’m sure many of you will pick up on the inspiration.  (If not…we need to talk!)  I have no idea where the picture is from but it caught my attention when I found it on Flickr.

I hope you enjoy it.  Please share and leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

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 Aimee’s Quest


I stood on the cliff’s edge with my long brown hair blowing in the wind, shielding my eyes against the sun as I stared at the dark forbidding castle below.  It was my destination.  I’ve travelled many days in search of Castle Morrigan, and there it stood in all its gory beauty.  I knew all along going there might mean I never return.  It was the price I intended to pay.  I had no choice.
Borma the dark wizard kidnapped my beloved Aimee and brought her to this decrepit castle.  I followed the trail, alone but for my unfailing partner Brida.  Brida is a snowcat, immense in size with a temper just as large.  She protects me fiercely.  I’ve had her since she was a cub and now in her full grown state, she inspires fear in others and safety in me.  Without Brida, I might never have made it thus far.
And there we stood, the wind blowing her white fur this way and that while I looked at that castle of misery.  
“Brida, we’ve made it,” I said.  She turned her head upwards at me and back towards the castle, growling as though she knew what lay ahead.
We followed a well worn path that ran down the cliff, zig-zagging and crossing back and forth until we reached the bottom.  I knew we would be spotted by any guards at the castle, but at this point I didn’t care anymore.  My mind was singularly focused on Aimee.
In my head I envisioned her chained in a dungeon, dark and afraid.  It fueled my anger.  More than once I used that anger to push myself harder and farther in search of her.  Now that I could see the means of her captivity, it blinded me with rage.  Nothing would stop me now.  Not even a heard of snowcats or a kith of giants.  My anger burned ever brighter.
I unsheathed my sword and approached the castle, its dark gloomy walls rising higher in the air.  It was settled in such a way as to force visitors to climb down into a shallow valley making the castle rise higher giving the illusion of power and magnificence.  I felt its weight hovering over me but I couldn’t let it overcome my singular focus on recovering Aimee.  The castle itself was partly in ruins, hardly ever used anymore.  It was so far away from anything that its significance long ago faded.  
It was perfect for Borma, the dark wizard of the mountain.  Once forced from his refuge deep in the snow capped Middle Mountains, he retreated to this desolate dwelling, knowing none would stop him.  I believed he’d have some guards serving him and approached as though he did, wary of a crossbow bolt yet still carried forward by my anger and rage.
Its gate was open and I heard no sound from inside.  Brida growled a low menacing sound, the kind that often forced her prey to flee in terror.  We walked inside and found ourselves in a large courtyard.  It was grey and dirty, the walls rising up all around us.  I noticed many of the crenellations were crumbling or missing altogether.  
It was so quiet leading me to think maybe the occupants were gone.  I hoped at least Aimee still resided within those drab decaying walls.  The only place we could go was up a flight of stone steps off to our right, so we did.
At the top of the steps, there was a small landing with a large wooden door.  We approached wary of the impending ambush.  Brida moved slowly and stealthily at my side.  As we neared the door, I jumped and held my sword in front of me as a raven that must have roosted in a broken section of the wall near the door suddenly burst out, flapping its black wings and cawing at us madly.  My heart beat faster and faster until I calmed myself when I realized what happened.  Brida’s eyes were wild.  “It’s fine Brida, just a filthy raven,” I said calming her.  
I stepped to the door fearing the worst.  I knelt closer listening for sounds on the other side, but it was quiet.  Wary of any hidden surprises inside the door, I crashed into it, hoping to catch the guard inside unexpectedly.  I tumbled forward into darkness, falling to the floor.  Brida followed me inside, growling and scanning the room.  
It was empty and silent, no sign of anyone.
I stood up confused, dusting myself off.  Surely I was in the right place.  “Brida girl, where are they?” I asked.  She sniffed around and suddenly broke off down a dark hallway.  “Brida, wait!” I called out.  
I noticed a torch on the wall.  I sheathed my sword and reaching into the bag around my waist, I took out the flint and steel I carried and struck it, igniting the tar soaked torch.  I pulled out my sword and carried the torch in one hand while my sword I held in the other as I followed down the dark corridor in search of Brida.
I tracked her paw prints in the thick layer of dust on the stone floors until I came to a large room that had a small cot and a desk with a chair.  Brida stood in front of the desk sniffing and growling.  “What is it girl, do you smell something?”  She didn’t turn her head.  I saw a small piece of parchment on the desk and approached it.  I lay my sword on the desk and picked up the parchment, reading it by the torchlight.  
You are persistent Myrddyd.  However I am much too clever to let you catch me here.  Your darling Aimee is alive but no longer here.  By the time you read this, she will be with me in another castle.  Her blood is important to me.  I need her pure crimson blood for my greatest spells.  Fear not, I will not let her die.  I wish you could understand, but alas I know you do not.  
B
“No!” I cried out loud, my arms raised high.  “Aimee…where are you?” I bemoaned.  Brida howled a hideous, terrifying sound.  
My beloved was gone, taken to another castle.  
Red filled my vision.  I vowed to never stop searching until I found her and killed that wretched Borma.  

My search continues to this day.