Behind the Forgotten Chronicles

With the conclusion of my young adult scifi series The Forgotten Chronicles, I wanted to take a moment and share the process for how it came to be.

When I wrote the first book, The Selection, I kinda hoped to write several books but I wasn’t sure how it would be received or if anyone would care. I knew the story was interesting and action-packed, but I had no idea if it would lead to anything.

The way I write longer pieces, I have a tendency to leave the ending somewhat open for another installment if I feel it deserves it and if readers ask for more. It might not be the best way to write, but as a novice with little recognition, that’s how I thought (I’ve since changed my approach, but that’s how it was when I wrote The Selection.)

THE FORGOTTEN CHRONICLESTRILOGYAfter its release, I was surprised by the reaction for The Selection. By and large, most readers enjoyed the story and were awesome about sharing that through reviews or connecting with me on social media.

It wasn’t until about a month after its release that I decided to write a follow up novel. That was also when I decided to make it a trilogy (I mean, it worked for Star Wars!) I started writing in early May of 2017 and by November, I had a fairly clean and polished story ready for release with book 2, Rise of the Forgotten. It came out in January of 2018.

Before the release of book 2, I had already started book 3.

I kinda knew how I wanted it to end and did a bit of planning to make sure The War for Truth was a satisfying conclusion to the series.

It’s been an educational journey as I went from “Hey, read my book The Selection” to a finished trilogy.

I never wanted to write a YA series. I wanted a book for my son written by me. What I found out was the story worked for others and they were eager to find out more about the world introduced in The Selection. I can’t even explain how amazing it felt knowing someone else cared about what I created.

I hope you were one of the many readers who took a chance on me. If not, no worries. Maybe one day you’ll give it a try. Until then, feel free to ask me anything about the process or how it came together. I’d love to share more with you.




Self-Doubt Sucks

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know I’ve been kinda down on myself the past few weeks. I’m not normally one to share a lot of personal info (like do you really care that I ate nothing but fruit for breakfast or how work is going?) however I did take the time to share how discouraged I’ve been with my writing.

depression-2912424_960_720Like most writers or creatives, I doubted myself and my skills. I doubted if I should even continue writing. It’s not like many people are reading it! But an amazing thing happened.

I had support.

By sharing my doubts about my craft, many others (maybe even you!) stepped in and told me to slow my roll. You encouraged me to continue what I’m doing because I do indeed have a tiniest clue as to what I’m doing. I do not suck as bad as I thought I did.

I think I go through this mentality about once a year or more. When it passes, I blissfully continue what I’m doing and spend my time writing new stories that will one day entertain and delight readers.

I’d love to make writing a full-time paying gig, but for now it’s not there yet. It may never be, but with encouragement from those brave enough to try my work and like it, I know I’ve got support from those who truly care about the next adventure I write.

It helped me so much to see how many people believed in me. I don’t like sharing my doubts because I don’t want others to see my weakness. I don’t want them to pity me. I have a hard time accepting help and encouragement, a trait I know is not the best. But sometimes, it just needs to come out.

If you’re experiencing something like this, I’m here to talk if you need it.

Sometimes Ya Gotta Change

Writing a book is an exercise in patience and resolve. At some point the end comes and whether it’s good or not, it’s time for revision after revision before it’s time to share it with someone else. At least, that’s been my experience.

With my Forgotten Chronicles Series, each book has been written with different methods that may or may not turn out for the best. You the reader will be the judge of that.

When I wrote The Selection, it was a NaNoWriMo novel written with very little planning ahead. If you’ve read it, you might pick up on some of the rambling sections or plot points that might not be as solid as I would’ve liked. I wholeheartedly believe it’s still an amazing story worth a read. The action is there and much of the world building was alive in my mind and continues to be so today. It was a story based off an idea I pitched to my wife and son. They thought it sounded interesting and that was that.

After it’s release and the positive response I received from the twenty or so brave souls who tried an unknown author, I started work on Rise of the Forgotten (my latest release). For that book, I wrote a three page outline detailing what and where I wanted the story to take place. The book is much more in-depth than The Selection and explores more of the world I introduced in the first book. The characters have more depth and the story follows four main storylines. Was the change in my approach worth it? You’ll have to tell me.

Sine right around Christmas, I’ve been working on the third book in the series, The War for Truth. This one has been tough so far. I wrote an outline like I did with Rise of the Forgotten, but several chapters in, I needed to change it. I then rewrote the outline, rewrote some of what I’d already done, and continued. A few chapters later, I had to revisit the outline and rearrange chapters to flow better. I also feel I’ve grabbed hold of plot issues early enough to work through them with greater efficiency and skill. I like the process I’ve developed with this book. It doesn’t feel like full-on plotting, but maybe it is. I still feel like I can be creative and not pigeonholed into the outline. It’s something I intend on using with future books.

I share all this because as a writer, it’s imperative to grow. I cannot stagnate with what used to work unless it was phenomenal. I tend to not believe I write the greatest books in the world, therefore I have to improve. Through this series alone, I’ve tinkered with my process so I can write the best story possible at the time.

I encourage you to re-evaluate your process and seek ways to improve. We can all be better.

If you wanna see my progress, feel free to pick up my books The Selection: The Forgotten Chronicles Book 1 (in ebook, paperback, or audiobook) and follow it up with Rise of the Forgotten: The Forgotten Chronicles Book 2 (in ebook or paperback). Let me know what you think.


New Release This Week!


Hey everyone, this week is gonna be great! My new book Rise of the Forgotten: The Forgotten Chronicles Book 2 releases this Friday January 19th! I’m so excited about moving the story forward and hope you enjoy your next visit to the world of Anastasia.

You can pre-order the book for only .99 on Amazon. I do hope you take advantage of the pre-order price. After release, it will go to $2.99.

68In support of the new book, The Selection: The Forgotten Chronicles Book 1 is on sale for .99 all through the week. Feel free to grab a copy. If you get both books, that’s less than $2!

I’m also super excited to share that The Selection is now available on audiobook! Narrated by Paul Jenkins, he does an amazing job of bringing the world to life. It’s available on Audible, Amazon, or iTunes.

PrintI’m running a Facebook giveaway of the audiobook for 10 lucky readers who pre-order Rise of the Forgotten and send in a screenshot of the sales page showing they bought it. I want to extend that contest to the blog. So…if you pre-order Rise of the Forgotten for only .99, send me a screenshot of your purchase page (or add it as a comment below) and you’ll be entered to win a download code for the audiobook of The Selection. The contest ends at 5pm CST on Thursday Jan. 18th.

That’s it for this week. I hope you join me as we continue the story!


(Almost) Average Spotlight: Christa Yelich-Koth

I met Christa earlier this year and was fortunate enough to read her book Eomix Galaxy Books: Illusion (Awesome book by the way and it is FREE on Amazon the week of December 11th! Go get it!). So for the last (Almost) Average Spotlight of 2017, I present scifi author Christa Yelich-Koth.

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

How long have you been writing?

Christa Yelich-KothI’ve been writing since the early 2000’s, but didn’t get my first publication until 2012. Since then I’ve had 2 novels, 1 graphic novel, and a 6-issue comic book series published.


What inspired you to start writing?

I suppose I’ve always liked to read stories and so began telling them/ writing them. I’d love for readers to enjoy my books as much as I love reading other people’s books.


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

cv banner2My current project, COILED VENGEANCE, is in the final stages of editing, yay! It will be released through Buzz & Roar Publishing in spring of 2018. It’s another novel in the Eomix Galaxy Books collection, though it’s a standalone story, so you don’t need to have read the other books first.

The book itself is a science fiction thriller, with dream messages, ice-melting slugs, bounty hunters, and genetically-enhanced murderous children. It follows Ness Opute, who will stop at nothing to find the woman who murdered his wife. But Opute is not the only one on the hunt.


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

Illusion coverI definitely prefer scifi and fantasy, though I’ve delved into detective fiction as well. I enjoy those genres because they let me do anything as a writer, so I’m completely free to follow the characters and not worry about constraints.


What authors influenced you?

My biggest influences have been Anne McCaffrey (for her worldbuilding), Stephen King (for his incredible character depth), Edgar Allan Poe (for his gorgeous descriptions and mounting tensions), and Anne Rice (for her layered backstories).


What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading fantasy novel NOCTURNE by author Kat Ross. She is a newer author I’ve discovered and I absolutely LOVE her books.


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

Identity coverI write a few days a week. I’m a pretty fast writer so I get a lot done in less time. I also get bored easily if I work on my books every day, so this way I get breaks in between.


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

My books and comics are all available on my website ( or can be found on Amazon (keyword: EOMIX) or through . The audiobook for ILLUSION will also be available on ACX starting December 2017.

Titles are:

Eomix Galaxy Books: ILLUSION and IDENTITY

HOLLOW (graphic novel)

Hollow’s Prism 6-issue comic book series


Where can we find you online?

Twitter: @cyelkoth




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

Here is an excerpt from COILED VENGEANCE:

“Opute charged the payment on his card, stripped down, and climbed onto the table. As he lay there, he wondered for a brief moment at the recklessness of his decision, when he started to feel lightheaded. His hands and feet tingled. Then his whole body felt compressed under a great weight. Opute’s eyelids started to close against his will and he could feel the panic rising inside him. However, much to his dismay, his arms and legs wouldn’t listen to his orders and he simply lay there, paralyzed. Unable to move or call out, Opute’s eyes closed. Though he tried to fight it, he felt himself being pulled into darkness.”


Any parting words for writers?

3 pieces of advice:

1) Show people your work BEFORE you publish/submit to agencies. When you are the writer, you know everything. The reader may not get all of that from your story so you need to know if that’s the case.

2) Network with other writers. This can help with edits, ideas, storyboarding, marketing thoughts, and help along the way. Plus other writers will understand what you face and be able to sympathize and support better.

3) Get your work edited by a professional. It’s easy to have an English major help you or someone else who loves to read, but they may not catch what’s necessary in writing a BOOK, which is a completely different beast. As an Amazon Bestseller and award-winning novelist, I cannot recommend this enough.

Master of the Drunken Fist: Chapter 26

Well, this is it. The final chapter of my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel Master of the Drunken Fist. I do hope you’ve enjoyed the story so far, warts and all. It’s in dire need of a rewrite and clean-up, but since I was going to by busy working on a new novel this month, I thought it would be fun to share this one.

By completing this novel, I gained the discipline and desire to continue writing and become a published author. After completing this novel, that’s when I decided I was going to pursue this as long as possible. I hold this story as something special because of all it represents to me. Long live NaNoWriMo!

If you missed any of the previous chapters, check out the Table of Contents.

Chapter 26

Mike’s bleary eyes took some time to adjust in the near darkness he found himself. He was face down, laying on the floor. Looking around, he thought he made out the familiar shape of his bed through the door frame. He was cold. He must have been laying there for hours, his back was aching badly, but he didn’t have a clue as to how long he was out.

Slowly, he propped himself up on his knees. Dizziness overcame him, a familiar sensation, though never welcomed. Resting back on his heels, he tried to stop the room from spinning. He failed miserably. Stretching out his right hand for support, he leaned a bit to the side as the room kept up it’s playful dance, mocking him. He tried hard not to let it consume him, but in the end, the room won and he vomited all over the floor. He wretched and wretched until he felt as though the next thing to come up would be his stomach followed closely by his intestines. Never in his entire time of visiting the void had he felt this bad.

“Oh my God, this sucks,” he said to the darkness, spittle flying from his lips. Luckily, there was a full moon out on this late autumn evening, otherwise he wouldn’t have seen a thing. He tried to move, but the dizziness overwhelmed him again. Quickly, he stopped. He was in no mood to vomit again.

“What…the…fuck…” he said. “Where are the lights and…am I at home?” Confusion gripped Mike. Always, when he came out of the void, he knew within moments where he was at and what time it was. Now, well, now it felt off to him. It was as though a twisted joke was being played.

He reached down to push himself up to his feet, his hand landing right into the pile of vomit he left on the carpet. “Damn it! That’s fucking gross,” he swore to himself. He wiped his hand off on his pants and stood up, still reeling from the spinning room. He stumbled a bit before catching himself on the couch. Looking around in the dark, he recognized the room as his living room, so he was in the right place after all.

He noticed an eery silence in the house. Nothing was humming, or buzzing, or running. Utter silence. Looking to the satellite box, he tried to read the time, but it was dark.

“We have a power outage?” he asked no one. “Where’s my fucking power?” He then realized why he was so cold on the floor. Without the power, his furnace couldn’t work. “Damn, how long has it been out?” He thought if maybe he forgot to pay the bill, but his memory couldn’t recall when he last paid the bill. Actually, he couldn’t remember the last time he ever paid a bill. Noelle always took care of that.

Noelle. Just her name brought shame and love and anger to mind. He knew she deserved better. She tried to help Mike, tried to get him better, but he had none of it. He didn’t see the road he was on, and so, he ran her off. The best thing that happened to him, and he chased her off with his insistence on drinking and visiting the void because they “needed him” there. He smiled at that thought, because they did. They needed him badly. But poor Noe paid the price for his decision. She loved him tremendously, but she was unable to bring him back from his visits. She couldn’t stay any longer.

“Yeah, but that was what, just last week? There’s no way they turned off my power that fast.” Mike started to argue with himself. He was losing his grip on the reality around him.

Mike stumbled into the kitchen, looking for some paper towels and a bucket to clean up his mess, all the while trying every lamp and light switch along the way. None of them worked.

Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his phone, thinking he could use that for some light. He clicked the home button. It was dead. “Damn it!” he yelled out loud and threw his phone against the wall, shattering the glass screen into hundreds of tiny shards. “How long was I out? Or have I forgotten this bill too?”

Looking down at his watch, he noticed it said Dec. 3 for the date. When Noelle left him, it was early September.

“What the fuck? Where have I been? That can’t be right. It’s impossible. There was no way I was out that fucking long. I’d have died if I was. And wouldn’t someone come check on me, like my boss?” It was then that he remembered losing his job. He thought that happened just days after losing Noe. No one was going to check on him. He didn’t have any friends, he ran them all off long ago so he could spend more time in the void. He wasn’t particularly close to his family, so they wouldn’t be checking on him. He was alone. In the dark.

Mike figured he must have somehow been in the void ever since just after Noe left and he was fired. But that put him at about two and a half months of real world time gone to be there. He knew he was there for some time, but didn’t think it was that long at all. If so, that meant he must have missed the bills. And his power and phone, if not more things, were shut off. He didn’t have a job anymore either, so getting back on his feet again didn’t even register to him at that moment. He was in the dark. Without his girl. Without his job. Without anything.

The words of Abe, and then of Cortez, came back to him. “Take care of things,” they told him. At the time, Mike was just surprised they seemed to know about anything other than what was happening at the moment. In hindsight, he saw now that they were trying to warn him, to tell him to get his shit together. In his blind desire to be with them, he neglected everything on this side. He was standing in a dark, lonely, cold house to remind him of his decisions.

It was too much. He fell down to the floor, curled up in a fetal position, and just laid there. He was lost.

His mind wandered to the void. He started seeing images of Abe, of Cortez, of Victor, all swirl in his head much like the room had not too long ago. They floated about, like ghosts. He could see Abe running from the Sponser. He tried to yell at Abe, but then saw himself, or what must have been himself, because it didn’t look anything like him, hack away at the Sponser with a hatchet. The same voice that told him who people were in the void was the same one that told him that’s you when he saw the man attack and fatally wound the Sponser.

Then the images swirled, showing Cortez and another man fighting Aztecs on a hill. That’s you he heard the voice again. This man didn’t look anything like the real Mike either, but he knew it was him. He saw the fight and saw how cat-like he was in his actions. Impressed with himself, he started cheering himself on. “That’s it, go on Miguel! Kick his ass!” he yelled. While watching the fight, he noticed the Aztecs started turning black, with long flowing robes and eyes of flames. He didn’t remember that happening at all. It was as though this memory was made up, not real like the others. One of the Sponsers came flying directly at him and Mike flinched, scared of what it might do to him. In the void, he was the hero. Out here, he lacked the courage to stand up to the vile creatures.

Suddenly, the scene shifted again and he saw snow on the ground. It was bright outside. He heard voices, Russian ones, and knew where he was at. There were screams as four Russian men and one woman appeared before him, fending off an attack from about twenty or so Russian men. “Hey, they were Sponsers, not men. I was there!” he said aloud to his knees, still tucked in the fetal position. He noticed how three of the men were cowering and the woman, Anya, was holding her ground. The fourth man, that’s you again the voice in his head told him, was decimating the men one and two at a time. His fury was such that it frightened the rest of the attackers and the defenders as well. He saw how they backed away from him while in his full fledged attack mode. Still, he admired the work he did. He was brutal and efficient in his killing blows. Where the ability came from, he didn’t care. It was just a thing of beauty to watch him hack and slice his way through the enemy. He couldn’t remember why he was fighting them, but that didn’t matter. He was doing really, really well and he enjoyed the show.

Once again, everything shifted. Now in front of him stood Abe, Cortez, and Victor. Mike was taken aback at the sight of all three of them standing there together. He didn’t think there was any link between the three, not that he could tell anyway.

“Mikey, we dun told ya to take care o things back here, didn’t we? Now look what ya dun did,” Abe scolded him.

“Yeah, but you needed me Abe. You told me yourself.”

“Mikey, ain’t you got no bit of sense?”

“No he doesn’t Abe,” Cortez interrupted. This was getting to be a bit much for Mike as now they were all talking to each other. “He has so little sense, and now look at him. He’s pathetic.”

“What? No. No I’m not. I saved all of you!” Mike realized that he was speaking in his normal, everyday English and not the native tongue of either of these two.

“Mikhael, you didn’t save a thing. What did you think was going on?” This time, it was Victor speaking, and he too was speaking not in his native Russian, but in English, though with a heavy Russian accent.

“I thought you needed me, all of you. Each one of you said it yourself. Without me, you wouldn’t be able to succeed. I was there for you!”

There was silence in the dark house except Mike yelling. He stayed on the floor, though by now he had uncurled himself and started moving about while arguing with the air.

“No Mikey, we all dun told ya ta take care of things here. And what did ya do? Tell me Mikey, where are the lights? Where is your phone, ya got service in that damn thing? You ignored us Mikey.”

“He’s correct Mikhael, we all tried to warn you. What you did with that message, it was all up to you. We couldn’t do it for you. That’s what we meant. We said it was something only you could do. And it is. It was,” he corrected.

“No, you’re wrong. That’s not what you meant and you know it!” Mike was starting to lose control of his head. He didn’t know what was right, or wrong, or real, or not. Confidence in his own sanity wavering, he had enough of this. Standing up, he meant to confront all of them on equal ground, but they were gone.

“Oh my God, I’m losing it. I really am losing it.” He no longer saw images swirling in his head, they all disappeared into nothingness.

Mike was lost in doubt as to whether what he just saw was real or his imagination working against him. The more he tried to work it out, the more it slipped through his fingers like grains of sand. He finally gave up. Working through mental problems was not one of his strong suits, it tended to only cause him more grief than anything else.

“I don’t have a problem damn it! Why can’t anyone see it? There is nothing wrong with me!” Exhaustion took over and he sunk down on the nearest chair. And fell fast asleep.

Sunshine warmed Mike’s face. The bright light woke him from his slumber. He’d been sleeping hard, no dreams, no void, nothing. His body thanked him for it, as though it hadn’t had a restful nights sleep in what seemed like forever. He found himself slumped over the kitchen table, sitting in one of the mismatched chairs he used for company. How he slept so soundly like that, he didn’t know. But it didn’t matter, he felt refreshed and ready to take on the day.

It didn’t matter to Mike anymore if he had Noe, or his job, or even if he had power. None of that bothered him this morning. What did attract his attention was the fact that he knew the void was his playground, to go in and do as he liked. As long as he drank, he got there. And he was fine with both.

He giggled while he sat there. A maniacal, evil giggle that would have scared anyone had anyone been there. “I can’t believe it took me so damn long to figure out the connection with alcohol. I’m an idiot at times,” he scolded himself before giggling a bit more. His hold on his sanity seemed to slip, and he didn’t care. He had a place he could go and escape from all this shit. This world held nothing but ridicule and monotony for him. He found true life in the void. Adventure was found there, and he was the hero.

He thought about the void a bit longer and the more he did, the more it made sense to him. More sense than this world did.

Suddenly, he had a revelation. “Hey,” he said, “What happens if I mix the drinks? What if I make a cocktail with more than one kind of alcohol?” Excited by the prospect, he ran to the liquor cabinet and found several half-empty bottles of liquor. There was vodka, rum, whiskey, tequila, some various flavors of schnapps, just a random assortment. “Oh, the ‘shine!” he said and ran into the other room, where he kept the secret stash of moonshine. He ran right through the vomit on the floor, but in his ecstasy, he didn’t even notice the path he made through it on the carpet.

In the silence of his powerless house, Mike mixed the various alcohols together. There wasn’t a recipe he tried to follow, just as much or little of each as he felt necessary. He looked around. His house was filthy. Vomit on the floor, and by the looks of things, it wasn’t the first time there was some on the floor. Bottles lay everywhere. But he was happy. He had the secret of the void. He thought once more of Noe, but dismissed it. “She doesn’t care anyway man, she’d never understand your need,” he said out loud. He was right. He had this wonderful blend of alcohols, his very own “super-cocktail,” and it looked beautiful.

With no one around, in the cold, lifeless house he used to share with Noe, he took a seat at the table and raised the glass to his lips. He couldn’t stop smiling thinking of the wondrous adventure that awaited.

Thank you soooo much for reading my novel Master of the Drunken Fist. I know I wasn’t entirely happy with the ending, but for now it is what it is. If you’ve read along all month, please drop a comment below to let me know your thoughts. What worked? What didn’t work? What would be your ideal ending? Let me know! I want to hear from you.

Thanks again!



Master of the Drunken Fist: Chapter 25

Welcome back once again to the next chapter of my 2012 NaNoWrimo novel Master of the Drunken Fist. The end is almost here! If you’ve missed any chapter, please check the Table of Contents to catch up.

Chapter 25

Mike took off on a dead run. He knew what was going on by now, he was a pro at the void. He ran as fast and as straight as he could go. Before long, he found what he was looking for. There was an orange glow off in the distance. Spotting the color, he went straight for it and went right on through without a care in the world. He knew where he would be.

Stepping through, he was definitely in Russia by the sound of the conversation around him. He was in the common room of the inn, with it’s fire blazing warmly at the end of the room. Victor and the others were sitting at a table near the fire with another man Mike didn’t recognize. “Hope I didn’t miss anything boys,” Mike said as he sat down with them.

“No, no not at all Mikhael. Please, join us. You need to hear this. As you were saying Pieter,” Victor nodded to the man sitting with them.

“Well, yes, um…oh yes, as I was saying. The “mayor” as he calls himself seems innocent enough, but our men tell of him exacting fierce vengeance on anyone he considers an enemy. If you get in his way, he will cut you down. Either himself, or with one of his many followers. He is very, very dangerous. He rules this town with that fear. Not many are willing to openly stand up to him, however if we can get things started, let the townspeople know he will not win, then they will jump to our cause. We just have to take the first step.” He finished speaking and swallowed the last of the brandy in the glass in front of him.

“With fear you say, huh? Pieter, those are the men most easiest to bring down. It will take some, how would you say, physical persuasion, but it can be done easily enough. That’s what I brought my boys for, especially this one,” as he points to Mike. “He can handle himself well enough. And the rest of my men, they too are capable of leading this insurrection. Though I hesitate to call it that since this “mayor” has actually gone against the wishes and mandates of his majesty. But for lack of a better word, we can call it as such.”

“Liberation Victor, we can call it that,” Mike said. It was as though he were completely sold out to this world in Russia. He secretly hoped he never left here to go back to the real world. There was so much more promise for him here.

“Yes Mikhael, liberation is much more appropriate. The people can rally behind that, right Pieter?”

“Well, yes, of course Victor. They don’t really care what we call it, just so long as we rid them of the bastard mayor.”

The two men laughed together as they raised their newly filled glasses high. “To liberation men!” Victor toasted, and the two of them clinked their glasses and drank their brandy down. As cold as it was outside, that drink looked invitingly warm to Mike, but he thought better of it. What would happen if I got drunk here in the void? What would that do to me? he thought. Then he figured that was a question to better try later on, maybe when he was done with the work here in Russia.

The conversation went on for several more hours, though mostly about family and friends and how the latest harvest went. It seemed this city, Vostok, was doing quite well with trade and such. Their main source of trading partners were the folks living out to the west of the city and the Chinese merchants from the south. They were doing quite a bit of business with them, and those trade routes were the major force behind the king wanting the city back in his control again. Otherwise, all those taxes would continue to go into the hands of this “mayor” who used the funds to keep his control tight on the city. He bribed merchants and built a small mercenary force to act as guards to the port and the main gates. Mike had to admit, he sounded like a man that was in control and knew what he was doing. How they were going to bring him down, he wasn’t quite sure.

Pieter assured Victor that his men were ready, so not being one to waste the moment, Victor decided they would act the next day to get things moving in the direction he needed them to go. The conversation turned more mundane as he drinks kept flowing. As the evening wound down, all the men returned to their rooms to rest up for what was going to happen the next day.

Waking early, Mike walked to the common room to find Victor already there, sitting by himself near the fire.

“Mikheal, you are up early.”

“Like always Victor. Are we ready for today?

“Yes, of course. Once we get a good belly full of breakfast, we move out into the city and begin our work. I’m glad you came down here, I needed to talk to you.”

“Sure, what’s on your mind.” Mike had a brief panic attack, as though he was a caught spy and was now about to face the punishment.

“Mikhael, the others don’t seem to notice this, but I do. You seem…different than the rest of us. When we started back in Moscow, I don’t ever recall you being able to understand Chinese, but when we met those sailors a while back, you knew their every word. And then, every once in a while, you seem to disappear. I’m not sure where you go or what you are doing, but I know there is something else there. I know there is another life you lead Mikheal. I can sense it. I also know that there is something wrong there. I’m not exactly sure what that is either, just that it has brought you to your knees. I suspect a woman to be involved, it almost always leads back to that. Whatever it is Mikhael, you take care of it. I’d say right now, but we need you here. You can do things which we cannot. Your physical strength, your knowledge of language, is something none of us have. We need you to be successful in our venture.”

“Victor,” Mike began slowly, “I do have something to confess. I, I am not from here.” He was ready to spill it all, and why not. He figured there was nothing to lose by doing so. “I am from a different place Victor. My name is Mike, not Mikhael. This is some sort of alternate world for me, one in which I am needed and wanted. I’m actually from America, and I think from a different time period. I go into these trances and get teleported to strange lands and adventures. This one, here in Russia, is just one of three different places I’ve visited since I started this teleporting.”

Victor just looked at him, his glass of juice raised halfway to his lips. “Mikhael, that’s not what I meant about you being gone. This…teleportation you speak of is amusing, but I don’t buy a word of it. I meant you had a problem back home in Moscow!” That wasn’t the reaction Mike expected. He felt foolish for saying it. It sounded so delusional once the words left his lips. How could he have expected Victor to handle it? He wasn’t entirely sure, just not in this way. In any case, he stopped talking about it. It was clear Victor didn’t believe him and he didn’t want to lose the trust Victor and the others had in him, so he let the topic die. He so wished he had a drink at that moment to calm his nerves.

In time, the other men filed out of their rooms, sleepy and staggering from the previous night’s drinking. They sat down with him and Victor and they all ate heartily. It was hard to tell, but Mike thought they might have felt this could be their last meal. They were silent and savored every bite of the food. It was an odd turn for Mike, as normally they joked, and laughed, and wolfed down their food. The gravity of the days events must have weighed heavily upon them.

Finishing their meal, Victor got up and they all followed him out of the common room. They went back to their rooms to gather the necessary items for the day, namely their weapons and monkish robes. After getting their supplies, they met Pieter out in front of the inn. It was still early, the sun barely over the horizon and the cool of the morning washed over them.

“You men ready for this?” Pieter asked the four of them. Victor nodded and they followed Pieter down the street. He took them several blocks to the east and north until they came to what Mike thought was an old warehouse. It was large and when they walked in, primarily empty except for racks on the western wall full of blades of all kinds. There were sickles, spears, long knives, and even a few bows with quivers of arrows. It looked like a farmers collection of implements, but that was going to have to work for their liberation as there was nothing else available to them. “These are what we have Victor, it’s not much but it should work. As much as the mayor is ruthless, he’s never faced serious opposition before and I think we will surprise him.” Victor scanned the items carefully. Some had rust, others looked dull, but Pieter was right, they would do.

“Great Pieter! I think this will work well.” Pieter smiled, feeling confident he had done well.

“My plan was to ambush him at his home while he’s sleeping and kill him. We could then parade his head on a pike all through town so the people would know not to be afraid anymore,” Pieter said.

“I like the way you think Pieter, but how easy is it to get to him? Surely he’d have guards keeping watch. Men like him have to always watch for exactly what we intend. It won’t be that easy.”

“Of course not Victor. However, I do have a loyal comrade working as one of his trusted night watchmen, and he can grant us access to the mayor. It took some coin, but he is on our side all the way.”

“Hmm, a bribe you say? That often doesn’t lead one to be loyal.”

“Trust me Victor, he’s loyal. I have been planning this for some time now. This is the time to strike! We must overthrow him.” Mike noticed a hint of annoyance on Victor’s face while Pieter spoke. It was slight, but noticeable.

Just then, Anya came running into the warehouse. “Victor! It’s a trap! Pieter…” and then Pieter slapped her hard, knocking her to the ground. “Shut up you. I should have killed you long ago,” and he raised his hand to strike her again when Mike caught his hand, twisting it and bringing Pieter down with the pain.

“Leave her alone Pieter!” Victor growled as he raced to her side. Pieter broke free from Mike’s grip and started making his way to the door where Anya appeared from.

“She’s right Victor,” he sneered, “This is a trap. The mayor pays quite well, and you, well you are just an idealist. A dog at the foot of the king. You obey, but for what? Because he says so? Good bye Victor. You should never have come here.” And he slipped out through the door. There were shouts coming from all sides of the building, confusing them and not giving up what direction the ambush was coming from.

Anya was able to get up with a little help from Victor. “Are you alright dear?” he asked her. She shook her head yes in reply. She was visibly shaken up, but seemed to be ok. “Yes Victor, I’m fine. We need to get out of here. There are twenty or more men outside. The mayor is with them. They are going to kill us.”

Victor thought for a moment and seemed settled on a plan. “We must get some of those weapons. We are going to have to prepare for a battle with these men. I know they are mercenaries, but I also know we are more to handle than a normal man. I think if we coax them in here, we stand a better chance. We bring them to us, not us leaving to be picked off one by one.”

The others nodded in agreement and grabbed whatever tool/weapon they felt the most comfortable with. Mike was surprised to see Anya grab a bow with a couple quivers of arrows. She noticed the look on his face too. “It’s ok Mikhael, I’m quite used to these. My father had me learn to hunt when I was young. We all had to help.” He seemed pleased by her answer and left her to the bow. The rest of them gathered together, waiting for the enemy to come storming in.

Their wait was short lived. Several of the mayors men came through the same door as Anya, while a couple others came in from a rear door. All of a sudden, the enemy turned shape. They transformed right on front of them from men to the black, hooded, wicked shrieking Sponsers with flaming red eyes. Mike just stood there, dumbfounded by the transformation he witnessed. The others however seemed to not see a thing. “Come on Mikhael, fight on brother!” Victor called out to him. “These men are ready to die at our hands today!”

Mike could hardly move. Shock gripped him. For the first time in the void, he froze and couldn’t move from his spot. He wondered why the rest of them didn’t notice the change. “Victor, he stumbled out, “D-d-d-did you see what happened? The men…they…changed.”

“What? Come on man, get it together. Fight or die!!”

Mike swore all the men coming at him were no longer men, but the menacing Sponsers. They must have come here to seek revenge for what he did to their others when with the brothers. He broke from his stupor. Rage filled him. He hated the Sponsers. It was time for them to die.

In a flash, Mike whirled the sickle he picked from the collection of tools and wielded it like it was an extension of his body, as though he always had this tool of death at his side. He moved quickly and swiftly, darting in and out of the coming blows from the Sponsers. They tried to catch him with their spears and blades, but with his speed and deftness, they struck at air. He spun around, catching one of the Sponsers on the back of it’s legs, knocking it down. As it fell, he sliced with the blade, severing it’s head from it’s body in a spray of black blood. The sight of the dying Sponser only fueled his lust for more.

He spun and sliced and carved through three more of them before he noticed the others with him had stopped. He was in a blind rage-filled fury up until then, working carefully to dispatch the Sponsers one at a time, making sure they felt his blade.

All was quiet in the building. Victor looked at Mike cautiously. “Mikhael, are you…what you did…are you ok?” He asked hesitantly. The killing display put on by Mike was something to behold, and Victor and the others were astonished by it.

Out of breath, Mike replied, “Yes, I’m fine Victor. Those things must die. All of them.” His body heaved with each laborious breath.

“Mikhael, they stopped. Your flurry of blade scared them off. I think they turned away. Or maybe they went for more men. I don’t know and I don’t care. We need to leave now before they decide to return.”

They crept up to the door, careful to watch for more men attacking them. Once there, they found the outside deserted. There wasn’t a sign of any left outside. “You must have scared them off Mikhael. And to be honest, you frightened me as well. I knew you had the instincts, but I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Mike shrugged it off. “It’s nothing Victor. I knew they were weak and I was strong, that’s all. Now, where do we go from here?”

Anya pointed to a building high up on a hill, north of them. “There,” she said. “The mayor would go back there, his stronghold. If you keep up what you did back there, we will have no problem stopping him.”

Mike liked the sound of that. He was the hero, the one stories would be told about for generations. As he thought of how it might go down on history, he suddenly found himself falling fast down to nothingness. He started spinning wildly, faster and faster. Finally, he hit the bottom. And woke up. He wasn’t sure where he was at.

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to comment, please do so below. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. Come back tomorrow for the final chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist.