Friday, October 30, 2009

The Necropolis of Alkhezzar

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Snippets IX - The Custodians

Snippets are small pieces I am considering expanding into larger works.

The click-clack-click click-clack-click of rail car passing over tracks fades into the background score even as it remains ever present, permeated into every element of the car. Every few minutes a sliding crescendo of sharper sound, the outside air rushing past unmuffled by walls, signals the occasional opening and closing of the doors to either end of the car.

Through the windows, countryside slides by peaceful and undisturbed. There is a faint rocking back and forth on the tracks, like the swell and crest of a ship at sea but left and right instead of up and down. Today the country is green, rolling hills covered in evergreens, rusty hills in the far distance, dim and out of focus. A stream just shy of being a river flirts with the rails on the left side.

There is no one else in the car.

There never is.

The swooshing sound of the rear door does not care, however. No one comes in or out but the sound goes off at least once every seven minutes.

Sigh. I guess they had to miss something.

A tone sounds, soft on the edges but unmistakeably not the sort of sound expected in an antique rail car.

"Program ending in thirty seconds. Program ending in thirty seconds."

"Already?" I checked my chronometer. Spot on, as always. I am not sure why I have been spending my sim-time on the train. It always speeds by.

The sim decouples with a fade to gray followed immediately by soft lights coming up in the sim room. The couch releases and retreats.

"Agenda." A tone acknowledges receipt of the instruction.

"Today's agenda:" The polite but impersonal female voice spells out my fate for the day.

"Ship time oh nine hundred, observational maintenance, stasis wing seven. Ship time eleven hundred, observational maintenance, stasis wing eight. Ship time thirteen hundred, meal, commissary. Ship time thirteen thirty, observational main.."

"Stop," I say with exasperation. "Why don't you just tell me the only thing I am doing today is checking popsicles for nonexistent temperature fluctuations and give me ten more minutes with the rail car?"

"Query error. Daily simulation time has been expended. Agenda is not monolithic."

"Not monolithic? It's a pile of two hour shifts looking at stasis readouts!" I groan and rub my eyes.

"Ship time thirteen hundred, meal, commissary," the voice replies.

"Oh, right. I forgot. I get to eat lunch." I grumble to myself and start heading for Wing Seven.


And that is it for Snippets.  Hopefully there was something in the lot you enjoyed.  A few of these are stabs at some story working its way through my head (all that ice - ghoul - northwest passage stuff).  I have a full length novel of The Custodians that is in deperate need of a complete rewrite.  "Pearson Was A Fool" is a kick off for the prequel to my first novel "Means to an End" which is undergoing editing at the moment.  In fact, I am going to go back to that post and put the original opening in the comments.  The working title of that novel is "The Fools".  At the moment Fools is trapped somewhere between my ears.

November is going to be exciting and adventurous for me.  I am going to serialize the full length story "The Necropolis of Alkhezzar".  I have been finishing it up this week and will have a special treat going up on Friday the 30th in celebration.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Snippets VIII - The Demons of Ice

Snippets are small pieces I am considering expanding into larger works.

They are a terrible scourge, the ice demons that crawl in with the darkest of night and winter. As the spider webs of frost steal across a pane of glass or a still puddle, they slip through the crisp air. They slip through night so deep a million faint stars play loudly among their usual brethren, through air so sharp the slightest whisper of breath between snow shrouded branches carries a mile. They move as dancers, bereft of sound in stride or cry, they leave no marks upon new laid drifts. Their eldritch blue visage held aloft by lament and the yearning of centuries they quest forth in endless pursuit of those that violate their lands. The cold and unwelcome realms of eternal ice cloaked in perpetual night are their haunts.

Some must have escaped their extended claws else no one would know the danger of those lands. Instead they would be mysteries themselves who ventured beyond the last villages, insane wanderers and fortune seekers so bent to their task they know nothing of the merciless death that awaits.

But how much is story and how much is truth? Do their eyes burn as cold as the night but with an azure gleam? Does their grasp hold man and beast rooted to the ground unable to flee but fully aware of their impending end? Who has survived to bring these tales to the light? Or is there another purpose? Do they walk among us even now awaiting the eternal creep of winter and the coming night to transform in sinister alleys into sorcerous wraiths of hate and evil?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Snippets VII - The Necropolis of Alkhezzar

Snippets are small pieces I am considering expanding into larger works.

"You were right, Fafnir." Pops chuckled. "Oh were you ever right." Pops' eyes danced and sparkled with barely contained giddiness.

"Found something?" Fafnir asked quietly.

"Heard something," came the reply. Pops leaned in conspiratorially. "It's that Thomas guy. The Lady and the surgeon were settling him in. he was sort of in and out of it. Started mumbling..." Pops paused and let the tension build. All of his weight was shifted forward.

"If he was a child, he would be skipping and dancing," thought Fafnir. Out loud he finally asked, "And?"

"It's the Alkhezzar." The word burst out of Pops in a bubble of glee.

"What?" Fafnir grimaced. "No. No. No. The fantastical lost necropolis that has been leading you around by your...stomach, from one dive bar to the next and so far has turned up nothing?"

"I wouldn't cast our adventures in that light..." Pops said.

"I would!" Fafnir's eyes flashed. "And don't call them adventures. Gambling with throat cutters for beer money in a rat infested tavern whores wouldn't enter isn't an adventure. It's idiocy. Just like your obsession with this vanished city of the dead."

"Lost necropolis." Pops insisted with an impatient tone. "There is a difference." Fafnir glared. "And it does exist," Pops added hastily.

"And Thomas, delirious with blood loss, disoriented, barely living let alone conscious...he just happened to confirm your every suspicion?"

"Well..." Pops shuffled his feet. "He mentioned a map. Something about keeping it safe."

Fafnir sighed and gave Pops a rueful glance. "Let me guess the remainder, my honorable friend. Upon hearing of a map of unknown quality, content, and veracity you had to see it for yourself. You slipped away from whatever door you were listening at and..."

"Hey..." Pops interjected.

"From whatever door," Fafnir continued over him. "Slipped away, rooted through his things. Found it. Took it. And are now trying to convince me that you have, finally, after months of not doing any real research, found a clue to your mysterious city."

"Well. Not exactly." Pops started rummaging through the nearby desk. The room was large. It was an overnight room for one guest and had a small writing desk near one corner. Pops, Fafnir knew, could not let a closed drawer remain unclosed.

"He probably doesn't even know he is doing it," thought Fafnir.

"What then exactly?" he asked the halfling.

"It is a map to the key." Pops proclaimed proudly.

"The key?" Fafnir sighed. The faintest beginnings of a headache were forming. He needed sleep. Soon.

"Yes. The key points the way to the necropolis, and presumably opens it. This is a map to that." Clutched in his fist was a roll of tired looking parchment.

"'s a map to...another map?"

"Ya," Pops beamed.

"Bones and Blood, Pops!" Fafnir swore. "Put it back. They've already lost one of their party, they might lose a second and if Tess thinks you're out to rob them..."

"Hey, you were the one that said they would be interesting to follow," Pops said defensively. He slipped the parchment into a belt pouch.

"Your map to another map isn't the reason," Fafnir explained and then had a sudden thought. "You aren't just making all this up as an excuse to cover the fact you robbed him blind are you?"

"No! I mean, I'd never...I mean, No! This is all I took. Once I saw the symbols in the thing, I figured you were a sure thing." The conspiratorial tone and smile crept back over him. "You like symbols," Pops finished with a grin and an earnest twinkle in his eye.

"Come on Fafnir," he cajoled. "How long has it been since you've had a paying job? The council doesn't trust you. The you."

"The council doesn't trust battle wizards. They are concerned because I am not moving on to some nebulous 'front line'." Fafnir frowned at Pops and said, "The Watch watches me because they don't trust you. At all."


"You are gaining a reputation. And making a name for yourself."

"Oh really?" Pops switched instantly from wounded to curious.

"The smiling swindler."

"What?" Pops cried. "That is a terrible name!"

"What do you expect? Merchants, on the Turn of all places, are complaining..."

"No," Pops interrupted. "I mean, that name lacks flair. It lacks class."

"So, it's dead on then," Fafnir said with a chuckle.


"I am just saying...the powers that be in this city want me to move on and the merchants guild is pushing the Watch to find a way to contain you."

"It's not like I run the black market," Pops said.

"For lack of trying?"

Pops waved a hand in Fafnir's direction while the other tried another drawer at the desk. "Guilds are too much work. I am doing fine bartering."


"Bartering...with and there. Besides, with you around it isn't like they are going to hire someone to do something about it."

"I am not so sure about that...tonight was odd." Fafnir softened his tone and looked thoughtful.

"How so?" Pops asked.

"That crew was operating far too close to a border everyone knows about. And the Cateris...lurking around just watching..." Fafnir frowned.

"I don't see what a pack of curious cat-folk has to do with our merchant problem."

"Your merchant problem," Fafnir corrected him. "Think of it this way: if someone hired that bunch to move in at a place where no one should be dumb enough to be found operating, how long is it until someone gets hired to do something lethal that is also in the best interests of everyone except you and I?"

"They could have been out of town employers. Or Thieves Guild themselves," Pops reasoned.

"Wasn't Guild. They were rabble and the Guild would have let the group move all the way in to their web, not jump them fifty feet from the door."

"Out of town, then?" Pops asked.

"Maybe." Fafnir grunted still thinking.

"Either way," Pops said with a smile. "It means they had something and I say it is this map." Pops patted the small satchel at his hip.

Fafnir sighed. "How soon are they going to notice it missing?" he asked.

"Not sure," Pops replied. "I pulled a swap with a spare bit of parchment I had lying around."

"Ok. Let's assume morning then. I need to rest."

Pops looked around the room taking in the heavy drapes and tapestries. "Is this enough to muffle your screaming?" he asked gently.

Fafnir sighed again. "It should be. I didn't use much power tonight."

"Are the nightmares ever going to stop?" Pops asked with true concern in his voice.

"No, Pops. That's the way it goes sometimes when you tackle demons. You know it as well as I do." Fafnir looked away. "Go, Pops. Try not to start a riot with the remainder of the night. I need to sleep."

"Good night, then." Pops let himself out and headed down the hall to his own room.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Snippets VI - Forests of the Carolinas

Snippets are small pieces I am considering expanding into larger works.

The beaten dirt road twists away through the remnant haze of the morning's slow rain. Forest walls of living green press in from both sides. It had been the sort of apathetic shower that never builds momentum, that lacks conviction or direction and, the moment it totters between becoming something and becoming nothing, it turns sideways and wanders into an equally apathetic mist. The humidity exists as a creature of the forest. The air is heavy and no dust kicks up behind the jalopy; the oppressiveness extends to the earth itself.

"How far does it go like this?" I ask. The canopy is folded away and I have to shout to make myself heard over the throaty growl of the engine.

"Like what?" My driver asks. The question pulls him from the tedium of his task. The man does not turn his head. His eyes blink slowly as if the mind behind it has only just crawled out of bed to find noon well at hand. It is ten thirty, however, and we have been bumping and bumbling our way down this cruel rutted track for hours.

"The walls of forest split only by this road. The green canyon before us. How much further?" I ask again.

Another slow blink. This time I get through to him. The humidity and the heat of the sun has beaten away at the man.

"Thirty miles, maybe a little more. Less than two hours," he answers. And with those sentences pulled from him I watch the lassitude return, his brow relax, and his eyes gloss over as they focus again on the road beyond the front glass.

I turn away from the driver and look again at the forest. It pushes to the edge of the road or perhaps the road holds it at arms length through some quiet threat or promise. The only breeze, felt as a faint combination of our forward progress and the distant siren's lure from the edges of autumn, is just enough to breathe rippling life into individual trees. The effect is unsettling, as if each wall of shifting green holds itself paused but a moment for breath before continuing its slow maddening dash to crush the hated road and its occupants between the two sides.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Snippets V - Exits are: Out

Snippets are small pieces I am considering expanding into larger works.

The emergency klaxon signifying the imminent destruction of the station fades into the persistent hammering of your morning alarm.

"This recurring nightmare crap has to go," you think as you emerge from sleep. "And that alarm is the worst." The dream of fiery destruction fades and you open your eyes.

White Room:

You are lying on a warm white bed barely large enough for you. The room is square with white walls, ceiling and floor. A white light is blinking on the top of a white box next to the bed.

An alarm is beeping.

Exits are: Out


You can't get close enough to the door for it to activate while lying in bed.

You are in a white room. A white light is blinking on the top of a white box next to the bed. An alarm is beeping.

Exits are: Out

>>turn off alarm   

You thrash and smack at the top of the white box until the alarm clicks off in mid beep. The room becomes peaceful and relaxing. The bed is warm.

Exits are: Out

>>examine bed          

The bed is warm and inviting. It is a white rectangular slab heated from within by an unknown source. The surface of the bed conforms slightly to your body. The firmness of the bed is optimized specifically for you. Lying in bed makes you drowsy and you yawn.

You are yawning.

Exits are: Out

>>examine box    

The white box sits next to your white bed within the white walls and ceiling of this white room. You wonder who thought all of these white surfaces would be calming and relaxing. Whoever is was, they were right! You feel calm and relaxed. The box seems featureless but you know it has a variety of white buttons set into its smooth white surface. You yawn deeply.

You are yawning.

Exits are: Out

>>press buttons   

What buttons do you want to press?

A giant yawn escapes from within you and you settle quietly into the warm, calming, relaxing bed. It is a fantastic bed and you fall back to sleep quickly.

The room shakes violently as a rogue asteroid smashes through the central frame of the space station. Lights in the room flash blood red. An emergency klaxon drives every thought from your head. A terrible hiss builds quickly into a deadly rush. Seeping cold devours all warmth from the room. You blackout.

You failed at everything in only 5 turns.
Your score is: 0.

Try again? (y/n)


loading ---%

The emergency klaxon signifying the imminent destruction of the station fades into the persistent hammering of your morning alarm.

"This recurring nightmare crap has to go," you think as you emerge from sleep. "And that alarm is the worst." The dream of fiery destruction fades and you open your eyes.

White Room:

You are lying on a warm white bed barely large enough for you. The room is square with white walls, ceiling and floor. A white light is blinking on the top of a white box next to the bed.

An alarm is beeping.

Exits are: Out


Friday, October 9, 2009

Snippets IV - Of Rings

Snippets are small pieces I am considering expanding into larger works.

It is elegant. A band of metal with no special quality or luster, it is unremarkably caught closer to silver than to white in hue. There is an unnatural heft to the thing such that when dropped, if one is careless enough to do so, it remains fixed where it first strikes the floor without bounce, rebound, or slithering cymbal crash.

The ring is pleasantly cool to the touch as if it was fresh from the ice box on a summer day. That delightful sensation persists from the moment it slips down around your finger, deposited comfortably smug in the soft walls between your digits, until the time when you foolishly remove it.

Never take it off.

It is a gift receivable only once, Catholic in its ideal but not technically so as you may voluntarily divorce yourself from it. But, once so divested, you may never again gain from it. The ring will not remove by force, through what arcane mystery no science has been able to fathom. And there have been rumors that the finger, the hand, and arm possessing the ring cannot be removed from the body.

What is known is that the dead hold their rings for eternity. Cremation destroys both body and sorcerous metal, but none have been so adorned and dead long enough to know if putrescence bites the mysterious band as it does the flesh. And all agree, who have slipped the wondrous thing over two knuckles, the world is a better place behind the gifts of the ring than it ever was without it. It quiets the systemic storms of noisy nothings, it is a sliding glass door falling with the heavy grace of engineering locking out the caterwauls and wretched cries of the world beyond.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Snippets III - The City Below The Mountain

Snippets are small pieces I am considering expanding into larger works.

In my youth I heard a tale of a lost world held in the depths of the earth.

"Something none of us have heard before, grandtha!"  There was a crash of violent thunder and a triple blaze of lightning.  The sky through the window lit briefly showing a rolling mass of blue black clouds bursting with energy stretching into the infinite horizon.  The storm was near its height, drunk with elemental power.

"Oh you've heard all my stories before."  The old man chuckled.  Boom.  Another peal of thunder.  The young one before him were wide-eyed, too old to be called children, and not yet men and women.  They had not felt a storm like this before.

"Please.  There has to be something.  The night is come early with the storm and the mood is perfect for it."

The old man gazed out the window, drinking in the physical presence of the gale outside.  It would blow for hours yet, drawing on the mountains for sustenance.  The next blast of lightning licked down from the bulbous clouds and detonated against a distance cliff face.  There came a far off rumble of fallen rock.

"There is one."  This was greeted with a cheer.  "But I warn you!" he said with dire emphasis.  "It is not a tale told lightly.  It is filled with horrors and wonders both.  A tale of a land you have never seen, one that holds treachery, danger, and mystery at every turn."

"Tell us! Tell us!" came the cries. 

"Very well."  he took a deep breath.  "Gather round and listen, for there are dark places in the world.  Deep places.  There are lands without sun.  And a city beneath the mountain that holds wonders of a time too far gone to recall." 

In my youth, not much different in age than you, I heard tales of a lost world that existed below the earth we live upon.  I thought them mere fancy.  Stories to pass the night.  And then, on a night much like this one, the violent rains and thundering strikes from the sky shook the world so vigorously that a piece of the mountain fell away.  There were floods of earth and water both.  And, after three days of such heavy forces, the elements relented and we were left mouths agape at the gateway etched into the mountain's side.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Snippets II - The Ice of the Northwest

Snippets are small pieces I am considering expanding into larger works.

I know nothing of ritual or any eldritch pattern of tongues long dead with the passing of innumerable centuries.  The mysteries of life and death remain tangled threads to my mind.  What I do know, what I can clearly recount to these borrowed tattered pages is that the world, the night, and the darkestplaces therein hold their secrets clutched fiercely to their breast and only release those terrible wonders to the bold, the foolish, or the doomed.  I have certainly been accused of all three in the recent past, however, as I hope these letters can somehow convincingly relate, insane is an unwarranted moniker.

The happenings of the weeks prior to my internment in this miserable abode are imprinted fresh on my mind each night when my eyes at last close.  And although my eyes burn with those wretched sights, my tongue falls dry and freezes stiff whenever I attempt to recount the tale to what few visitors I receive.  My hope is that the icy spectres of fear and memory will fail to find purchasewithin the hand that wields this pen.  But enough, now, of prevarication through the abstract retelling of the terror lodged firmly in my core.  Although eventually doomed, the path of this tale, that first thread dealt into that first stitch by the fates themselves, begins in the wilds of the great Northwest.

There are three of us on this adventure, the Goodman Kemper, the ubiquitous Smith, and myself whom the other two have taken to addressing as, quite plainly, Doctor.  We let loose our guide several days ago, but kept most of the dogs, trusting Kemper and his uncanny ability at orientation.  So far we have seen little beyond the ebb and flow of ancient forest and the perpetual roll of unbroken hillocks and bumps snow coated by the hand of a master confectioner.  The dogs are dire things standing nearly as tall as a man's waist and crafted by the surrounding winter into frost hounds pulled from an ancient Norse legend; at once steaming with energy and coated in saber rattling wind chimes of jagged ice.  It is easily ten long days since last we huddled beneath a civil structure and sipped a piping hot tea.

Rising above the unending wall of trees to the north are crags of white capped rock, rough edges of violently upturned crust peaking through on sheer faces and outlined with snow at each wrinkle.  We travel a north easterly line.  A part of me wishes it was northwest instead if only to hold the future promise of the eventual Pacific as some measure of an end to this quest.  We are each left alone to thoughts of this sort.  At least, this is a common path my mind takes to divest itself from the constant battle against glare and cold and the continuous whuffing and yipping of the dogs.  I know not how the wheels turn for my companions.  Kemper is meticulous to a fault and it is ever a wonder to me that he can leave aside his planning, maps, and calculations to actually embark on adventure.  Smith is older than both Kemper and myself.  He has seen places and events that make familiar border with the unmentionable.  He is a survivor although I have yet to determine if that makes him especially lucky or unlucky.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Snippets I - Pearson Was A Fool

Snippets are small pieces I am considering expanding into larger works.

Where to begin?  Pearson was a fool; brash, arrogant and filled with the unyielding conviction of his own mortality.  That we followed him, that we ourselves were filled with the same, well...we should have seen the hypocrisy sooner.  The fact remains - Pearson was a fool and too few of us survived that discovery...

Beyond the white-stone wonders of the capitol the loyal state of Virginia stretches to the west and the south.  The touch of man fades as a late summer sun dwindling slowly through the evening without care or worry.  Suddenly discovering the lateness of the hour, it hastens through its final arc and beyond to plunge all in ever deepening dark.  Buildings fade from monumental to stately and from stately to service, service to functional, then homes, then farms, until even the farms are swallowed by the forest.  The forests of Virginia are alive.  They breathe and swell with the wind and water poured over them by low clouds tripped on fog and pierced by ancient mountains toppled low.

It is into this rolling verdant maelstrom of nature that I find myself, riding out the last moments of wind and rain as the steam engine relentlessly pulls its train of rusting cars into station.  With a slow grating screech and a final light lurch, the cars settle into hissing stillness.  The locks are thrown.  In minutes my companion and I find ourselves on the platform - the only passengers to step off.  The brakeman are already making to continue their westward voyage.  The station is so small that I doubt it would have seen a stop was it not our specific destination.

We are not alone on the tracks, but the group waiting has made no move toward the slumbering metal beast.  There is a tense moment.  I am mentally combing through my possessions.  Is the pistol in the coat I am wearing or is that reassuring weight some other similarly bulky trinket?  The group moves toward us.

"Smith?  Is one of you Smith?" one of them calls.  There is a small click from the man at my right.  The whereabouts of his pistol, at least, is not a subject of debate.

"And if I am?" my companion calls back.  It is an interesting tactic as, truth be told, I am Smith.  His name, through some curious twist of fate and dark humor, is Merlin.  And Merlin is an extraordinarily dangerous man.

There are three of them, all long coats and hats pulled low.  We are, both groups that is, cagey to a fault.  Ours is not a mild profession of simple service for meager fare.

"That will do," Merlin instructs the three.  Something in his voice signals to them that the business end of something is likely pointed in their direction.

"We...we are not your enemies, Smith."  The man in the lead whispers something else caught only by his companions.  "I...we...are taking our hands out of our pockets.  Empty save for the paper in my left, a timepiece, and slowly on all counts."

And they do - in an eerie unison, not in to any form of submission or admission of fear, merely cautious as one would show a great cat caged at meat time.

"My name is Heinrich.  I was instructed to meet a misters Smith and Merlin out from the capitol on a matter of urgency."  Heinrich hesitates and then continues, "and some delicacy which is at risk the longer these introductions take.  By your watch what is the hour?"

For the first time I speak up.  "By my watch I make it twelve minutes before the hour of ten.  And by yours?"

The man turns to me after clicking closed a small pocket clock.  "Nearly a full eighteen before the bells."

I think for a moment, juggling codes and numbers in my head.  "Then we shall have but the bells to decide who is right."  I reply.  All parties relax.  "I am Smith.  This is Merlin.  Perhaps we should adjourn to somewhere more discreet?"

"Indeed." says Heinrich. "We have a car waiting.  Right this way."

About Me

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Geek - Gamer - Librarian - Writer. Only awesome at one of those things at a time, unfortunately.

About Fading Interest

After writing op-eds and travelogues for several years, after finishing a few books, and after failing to get the ball rolling with project after project I stumbled into an idea that might just hold my interest long enough to enjoy some level of satisfaction with my writing.