Posted on June 6, 2016
Ever spend months/years trying to figure out the best way to answer a question, and then read it somewhere and think “holy crap, that’s spot on!” A friend of mine recently answered this question in an interview, and did so in a more clear and succinct manner than I ever could, so I thought I’d share.
Why do you write?
“Writing is what I do. It’s how I understand the world. I see it as my profession, but it’s more than that. I have always felt that there are essentially two mes. There is the me that I show the world and the private person I keep for myself, the person who is simply trying to figure everything out. I don’t know if I am alone in this, but my guess is that I am not.
It is the private person who I am protecting from the rest of the world who needs writing, really needs it. It’s the way I understand what this place is and where I am. It’s the way that I allow myself long thoughts. In those few moments in my life when I haven’t written, I have found myself contemplating less and reacting more. I have found myself becoming depressed and even listless. Writing gives me purpose and focus.
Aside from that, writing allows me to connect with the rest of the world. I hope that people read my poems, stories, and books and understand what I mean. I hope that I can connect with them.”
Posted on May 21, 2016
This is a novella I wrote for the Thursday night game night I play with some friends. I’ve always been an avid RPG fan, mostly because of the story you get to help tell. This is the story of what my character was off doing whilst it was my turn to be the Storyteller for a few months and run the game for everyone else. I tried to tell it in a way that would explain the world for people who were unfamiliar with White Wolf Publishing’s Exalted game setting, but parts of this still probably won’t make any sense. But if you’re a fan of high fantasy, I think you’ll enjoy it, if you can barrel through all 23,595 words of it. Should you not have time to finish in one sitting, you can use the provided anchors menu to jump back to your spot.
Posted on March 21, 2016
The following are two journal entries made by Gavin, a cleric I played in a pretty sweet D&D campaign with some friends. One of his party, a young monk by the name of Josiah, died, and the rest of them were on a quest to resurrect him, because he held deep in the recesses of his mind some secret that would save the country from a dire peril. And this was at least six or eight years ago, so I apologize for the dramatic, over-the-top writing style. heh
December 2, 1483
A few weeks since…
It has been a long and silent voyage home, our grief masked only by the crashing of the waves against this ship and the beating of this icy air over the deck. It is the beginning of December now, and I can feel a crispness in the air that makes me hope we reach our destination soon. The captain says we shall reach Calabria within a week’s time, though I’m not sure how long it will take before we all can fully grasp the terrible truth of Josiah’s passing. I have never felt so broken, so helpless as when I lifted the poor boy’s beaten body off the floor on the night of our flight from that horrid place. I can still see the battle before my eyes, the unarmed Josiah fighting to the death against the formidable eunuch, and then as the world seemed to stop, I watched helplessly as both combatants fell to the ground, neither the victor. I stood by and watched… all I did was stand there… and watch…
We are each handling it in our own right I suppose. The lady Velora is taking it hardest of all I believe, as none of us have seen much of her since we set out to sea a few days past. She rarely if ever leaves her chambers, and though none of us have taken in much sight of her on this voyage, I have on more than one occasion heard the mourning come drifting vaguely from her chamber in the last stretch of night as I begin my morning prayers. Boot is his usual quiet self, though somewhat more reserved and slightly more unapproachable than normal. The man has much to bare, having grown quite close to the youth in their apparently many journeys together. Leoril has taken to the rigging, as always trying to take in any new thing he can about sailing or the common tongue of the people we left, though I have no desire to learn more than that one phrase in this tongue, one I have no need of yet. I believe that Leoril does this partly out of his genuinely curious nature, but mostly with the hopes of distracting himself from that horrible scene we all now have embedded in our minds…
I can say with all honestly I have never felt a fire burn in my soul and spread through my body like fairy-fire as rapidly as this desire for revenge of an immeasurable magnitude against the magistrate who dared defile that battle proclaimed to be governed by the gods. Gods indeed! The filth shall soon know what it is to stand before a god in judgment, and he can be thankful it is not I enacting the sentence. One who believed in the gods and their terrible wrath would not mess with an affair of such, and you most certainly do not hurt one of my friends in the process! I question not only the man’s integrity, but his allegiances in king and country as well.
That lying perversion of the priesthood will not live to see the changing of another season, I swear by my father’s mace, as was his father’s before him as it has been the legacy of house Nye to use its blessed power even before my father’s birth to right the wrongs of this world. Ever since the first Nye received this precious gift for reasons lost to the history books, First Light has shed its splendor across the land for sight and restoration of peasant and priest alike.
And it is on this, the second day of December in the year 1483, standing at the bow of the mighty Wyvern’s Dream, a Lithican merchant ship we happened upon resting at birth in Sascoba stocking for their return voyage north for the winter season, I swear here and now that First Light with the holy blood of my ancestors pulsing through it that I, Sir Gavin of the house of Nye, son of Sir Khoran Nye, grandson of Lord Tyyran Nye, will be responsible for finding the man who murdered Josiah and delivering the killing blow… again, and again, and again if necessary. Come wizards, demons or dragons, none shall stand in my way until Josiah is once again restored to us, and the evil who tainted that battle and sent the youth to his premature after life shall never again walk the lands of this world.
By all that is holy, I shall use everything in my means to send that accursed creature to the netherworld as assuredly as he did Josiah, and I can guarantee that when the times comes and he kneels before me begging for his life, I will not think twice about the sentence to finally be brought to pass as his body is rent in two by one swift stroke of the full might of Lathander’s justice. And in the midst of my own inescapable anger, I only hope I truly am merciful enough to let him die in one stroke, rather than face the alternative I feel seeding deep within my heart, but know I am above exacting. Or rather, I hope I am strong enough to deny this new feeling of vengeance, an antipathy so enraged, I have not felt its equal since the passing of my own father to the hands of that condemnable hell spawn on an equally fateful day so many years ago. Save only that while it was a gallant fight betwixt Josiah and his adversary, there was no honor in his death, only murderous treachery that I pray with Lathander’s aid will soon be rectified as only the power of a vessel for the divine can. I am not a vengeful person by nature, and it was only through the influence and teachings of Lathander that I was able to overcome the hatred boiling inside me after the untimely death of my father.
But now that I think on it all these years later with a clearer conscious of mind, was it really untimely? Had it not been for his death, my family’s lands would now be in ruins, everything I have come to know and love gone in a fiery blaze of Infernal devastation. And had that not happened, would I ever of chanced upon meeting my new found adventuring companions? In all likelihood I find those chances slim indeed, and sadly so for I have grown quite fond of them. We are a very capable troupe, though while thinking back over this last misadventure, I have somewhat overestimated our own abilities, particularly my own, and quite underestimated the vile straits our adversaries will reach in their ever present quest to stop us from ours.
My only solace through this is a distant memory the Lady Velora mentioned about a city, or temple rather of some priestly order far off to the distant East where the dead are made to walk again, not with the malice of the undead, but fully restored to the living! If there is even an inkling of a chance this information is most indeed valid, I hope we reach them in time enough to bring the poor boy back to us. Would that my own divine powers were strong enough to save us the trip, for while I can mend and cure and bring an almost dead warrior back to full, augmented life, the power to bring people back from such a state as Josiah’s has been reserved for far more powerful than I.
But his death shall not be in vain, nor go unpunished. I will hold to my sworn vows, and I’m sure the others have made similar silent promises. In fact, even now Leoril is standing atop the mast swearing, though I find myself glad I am not adorning my helm, lest I understand him and feel slightly inclined to chastise him for the outburst.
But alas, it is getting a bit dark, and the looks of an early winter storm are fast approaching on the horizon, readily present in the even stronger chill in the air as a thousand frozen lances of sea-spray pelt me with each monotonous rock of the ship.
Gavin pulled his cloak tighter around him, synching it close at the neck in a desperate attempt to keep out the sharp sting of the crisp sea air. He waited a few more minutes to depart as he watched the glory of a sunset at sea. The deep reds and purples casting their blazing colors over the skies above and stretching from one horizon to the next like a blanket of heavenly turmoil, vividly changing the color of the great ocean itself, falling down and resting upon even the faces of the men around him, giving them the same deep red shade in the eerie light, the whole ship washed in the saturating red. For a single moment, the whole world became red, somewhat symbolically for Gavin as this was the beginning of a new feeling for him, a new chapter in his life, one hopefully to be short lived. The sun finally sank into the depths of the ocean, breaking the moment as the crimson clouded sky gave way to burst forth with tens of thousands of stars in an equally moving display, though this one of beauty and not ugliness of malice. But there was no beauty to behold right now, not on this day, for not much could hold any beauty in the eyes of ones struck so deeply with the ugly truth of life’s mortal frailty.
“I bid thee farewell, beloved sun, for I feel your warmth no more,” Gavin whispered in a silent, steady tone, the indefinite, heavy words floating weightlessly away on the wind. And with that final thought he turned, and without word to those who made inquiry of him as he passed or to anyone at all, the gallant knight, grief-stricken and wrought with sadness once again, strode below deck.
December 8, 1483
Dark will be the day we come to find that a boy so young, holding such a world-shattering secret past would be lost to us forever, leaving the earth with no hope for what lies ahead; no hope for any conceivable future or possible reconciliation. The pressures he must have felt in life are now relinquished to us with his passing. The burden of his death has weighed heavily on us all, as even now I have quite the burden firmly affixed on my back, his body awaiting safe passage to people capable of healing it. Fittingly, after – or rather as part of – Leoril’s beautiful burial ceremony, the boy was placed inside a magical compartment of his own carrying sack, preventing his stiff remains from further damage or possible hampering or sabotage on the undoubtedly perilous journey we have ahead. It is a weight I will allow none other to carry.
Leoril, while proving himself strong of heart in recent encounters of both the body and the mind, I doubt would feel terribly comfortable with such a task. The man has little belief in his amazing talents, and I believe he would not think himself up to the task, as able and completely competent as he is. And Mr. Thimblefoot, while as big of heart and strong willed as any giant I have ever encountered, knew the boy intimately in life and I fear would draw too much of a personal connection to the satchel’s precious cargo, bringing about more inner turbulence than any one of us should have to bare, all of us needing to keeps our wits most definitely about us in the treacherous days ahead.
Then there is the lustrous and resilient Lady Valora. While she is more than physically capable, I would never allow her the emotional taxation of such a sentimental burden. She is a strong one, stronger than even I gave her credit for originally, on the day of our first meeting when I swore my allegiance to her in her endeavor. Our fathers had been close once in years past, not as friends of yore who share boisterous stories of each other around a great fire in the dead of a frostbitten winter’s night, but as combatants who held a mutual respect for each other both on the battle field and off. And it was this deep respect my own beloved father held for hers – coupled with the Lady’s own magnificent presence – that I found myself more than willing to aid her in her quest the moment she found me worthy of asking. It was a distant fondness my father felt towards hers, though I feel my affections for the lady growing with each passing day, not as a desire to be her lover or consort as Josiah did (and, bless the gods, will once again), but as a fellow combatant, equally matched in righteous power and our desire to rid the world of darkness. And it is in respect to those various connections that I would not allow her the burden I now bare on my back.
Though in forethought, standing here on deck and contemplating the great scope of life and not my own meager problems, it is a small burden I carry to be sure should our efforts prove fruitful and the young Josiah be once again restored to us. It will be a glorious day indeed when he can once again walk among us, to share in a hearty laugh and well-over-exaggerated recounting of our battle to restore him. Yes truly I say, on the fateful day of Josiah’s rebirth, the glory of Lathander will shine mightily across the land, from the western most shores of the Sea of Promise to the farthest stretches of the Land of the Mountain King. Though in truth, it is all I can do to keep myself from going mad thinking of all the days that lie betwixt that celebrated day and the undoubtedly grievous one just now birthing on the horizon.
But alas, the sun is rising, and it is time for the beginning of a new day, one I am sure will be filled with not nearly enough things to distract each of us from what it is we really wish to speak of. The time for that conversation will most assuredly come though, and soon it seems, for the captain says he expects us to reach port by mid afternoon, the birds already beginning to circle high overhead these few days past.
And yet already here we are it would appear, for someone almost as high overhead is yelling something of land. I can see the other members of my party now beginning to move about as the morning begins.
The Lady Valora is rising above deck to catch sight of our home, though she wears a much more apprehensive face than do the rest of us, for as responsible as we all are for the grim fate which hath befallen us, it is inevitably she herself who will have to break the devastating news to Lord Turalius, a position I neither wish on her nor envy in the least. I suppose the news will be spoken in private, the two of them in audience with each other as the two often are, and only someone of her well-earned social standing and renown could. One day I aspire to be of Valora’s fame, though I am finding the journey to such fame is not easily won. And if such travesties as the untimely death of this poor boy be part of the price of such prominence, I would gladly continue my meager existence defending my family’s keep. I only hope once restored to us, Josiah will find it in his heart to forgive me for letting him down, unable to help him in his hour of need. His last hour of need…
But I fear I am letting my emotions on such a matter show far to well, and in truth I think Leoril is looking over at me again. There is something all but unnerving about the way the elf seems to read me, almost as if he can sense my thoughts. An ability that could prove most useful once directed elsewhere, though none the less eerie at the moment. Whether it be the strange feeling of my virgin sea-legs or simply a hint of divine intuition, I think I have more than once caught the slightly youthful half-elf giving the Lady a subtle – if not carefully hidden – fanciful look. Vague in nature, it is nothing so noticeable that any of the others might see, but I sometimes wonder what his true feeling for Valora are, and how deeply they lie in that complex head of his.
But that is a mystery that must wait for another time, and one that I believe is better left alone at the moment. The day is fully at hand and the commotion of the ship in full swing. Given the already slightly increasing temperature, I feel it is yet going to be the most beautiful day of our voyage. Though disturbingly, and for some unknown reason I find myself momentarily terrified of, I feel the sun will bring me little warmth anymore, if ever again…
Posted on March 21, 2016
Kaj was my introduction to the amazing world of the Exalted campaign setting by White Wolf Publishing. You’ll find a lot of my writing is about characters in that setting, it’s amazing. Think Inuyasha meets Naruto meets Game of Thrones meets classic Greek mythology. Yeah, it’s that fun.
Part One: A Little Back Story
How had this happened, again? Kaj thought to himself as he tried unsuccessfully to suppress his unusually rapid breathing, hoping It wasn’t as adapt at hearing as he was. He pulled his sword in close and pressed his back up tight against the cool stone wall of the ancient Ziggurat. He could feel the sans-primordial power of this place coursing through the stones, cool even against the magical barrier of his bronzen skin.
He paused for a moment, listening for any sign of his ardent pursuer. As he closed his eyes and focused, releasing a small amount of the Essence he had was gifted with, the sounds of both the temple and the surrounding jungle became clearer than humanly possible, his senses heightened by one of his gifts from the Unconquered Sun. He could hear the crickets chirping a mile away, a stream a hundred yards down the mountain gurgling peacefully away without a concern for what was happening, the mating call of some wild forest foul yearning for a mate. How he knew it was the mating call, he couldn’t decipher. He smiled though, thinking I know the feeling my friend, and may you fetch better luck than I. But wait, what was that a sound coming from around the corner?
He stood there against the wall, preparing to turn the corner and confront what had started as his prey, gripping Animus Born of Death’s Vespers firmly in his grasp. He counted to three, and then swung out into the entryway, ready to run this thing down in full stride. Before he could even make it out into the entry though, a monstrous being came crashing through the wall at him in an explosion of mortar and muscled arms, taught with the intent to rend him asunder. Kaj barely managed to roll out of the way, both dodging the attack and deflecting the flying chunks of stone, blasting the larger ones and allowing the smaller to bounce harmlessly off his skin. The creature quickly got its bearing and leapt at him again. Was this nine foot tall monster really what the town’s people had meant when they had described him? As Kaj continued to roll and parry, taking only a few grazing shots here and there, he thought back to when he had first arrived here.
* * *
It had been almost a year since he’d left Iri back at Chiaroscuro after their extended “vacation” with Silence and Jewel. While he had no feelings whatsoever about Silence and the whole ordeal, the thought of Jewel brought a scowl to his face, though he knew such feelings would need to be addressed at a later time. After leaving Chiaroscuro, he’d found his way south-east, towards his Manse in the hopes of finding some time to recover and recoup after the previous few years events. Before making it quite all the way through the mountains to the Manse, however, he’d stumbled upon the small village of Nanotsu tucked tightly away at the base of the Eastern slopes of the mountain range. Boasting no more than five or six hundred people, the rural and fairly hidden town seemed brimming with energy, despite something ominous hanging in the air that they were unwilling to reveal.
Deciding to stick around for a bit and investigate, he found several menial tasks to perform around town, trying not to draw too much attention to himself. It didn’t work, however, and soon the villagers grew impatient and tried repeatedly to get him to leave town. He complied, though waited in hiding around the outskirts to see what the fuss was about. After a few days, a band of maybe thirty poorly-skilled but none-the-less well clad brigands rode out of the jungle and up to the city’s gates. Kaj had heard them coming from miles away and came up close enough through the jungle that he could sit back and watch and listen to what was happening.
They announced themselves as emissaries of Wraak sint’Bannog. As the people of the town opened the gates and let the brigands in, Kaj leaned back against the tree his was sitting in, frowning and contemplating where he had heard that name before. He looked over at the men riding into the city and caught a glimpse of the sigil burned onto their forearms. After a few moments of mentally working back through several of the texts he had read on such things during what seemed like a lifetime ago’s stay at the formidable library of his Mentor’s manse, he finally recognized it as not as an intricate tattoo but as the branding it was, and he almost fell out of the tree. Could this monster still be around after all these years?
Kaj moved quickly at this point, hurrying to the fifty-foot town wall and hurtling it silently, piecing together what he could recall of his readings on this matter as he searched for the men. If his memory served him right, and it more often than not did, Wraak sint’Bannog was (as of the first age) a local god and self-proclaimed protector of one of the only active volcanoes in the area. The volcano had since been believed to have become dormant, but Kaj had a sneaking suspicion that things weren’t as quite as he had hoped this near his beloved manse and home. Wraak was also a strong proponent of human sacrifices, both of the graphic and simple nature (sometimes not being too picky on the matter) and if those soldiers were here to procure such an offering to their god, than things could get a bit out of hand.
Kaj followed the small procession through town, sticking to the shadows and conveniently-less-crowded rooftops. The band arrived in the center of town and was met by a group of several men. One of which was, though Kaj had never seen him during his brief stay here, an elderly man of such powerful stature and with such a beautiful, curved sword tied tight at his hip that right away it was obvious he was Taiga, the mayor/governing official of Nanotsu. Kaj crouched and slunk back on the roof he was on, shifting over silently into the shadow of a crude chimney, peering effortlessly through the billowing cover of the thick smoke. One of the brigands stepped forward and approached Taiga. Kaj leaned back and closed his eyes, concentrating and allowing the flow of Essence to carry their words to his ever-perceptive ears.
The leader of the intruders’ name was Mamoru, and by the look of the red assumedly-Jade Daiklave hanging from the side of his mount’s saddle, Kaj could but only guess at the nature of this one. From what else Kaj could pick up from the conversation at this distance, he was apparently leading his soldiers here for Wraak’s yearly tribute from this town. Kaj could tell Taiga was trying very hard to keep his cool, though Kaj could see his steadfastness begging to falter. Mamoru began acting very animated, waving his arms around and pointing at several of the young women in the crowd. Taiga began to argue, and several of the men from either party started fingering their weapons nervously.
Seeming to come to an agreement of sorts, Taiga hung his head in resolve. Mamoru smiled grotesquely in victory, and surveyed the townspeople, most of who had since gathered around. Mamoru must have found who he was looking for, because he looked directly into Taiga’s eyes, then without breaking eye-contact with the man, raised his arm and pointed to, though not the prettiest or most attractive, one of the still more beautiful maidens standing amidst the bustle.
As Kaj watched, it was obvious Mamoru had made his point. When Taiga realized who had been pointed to, his face visibly paled, and Kaj could see enough of a resemblance between the powerful ruler and the young maid to know what was going on, and who had been “randomly chosen” to go back to the mountain fortress of the hungrily awaiting deity. Seeing the men on either side preparing for the worst, Kaj knew what was coming and knew he had to act soon.
Mamoru waited for Taiga’s reaction, gauging him. Taiga hung his head, hands falling to his sides. The leader of the brigands let out a triumphant laugh as two of his men headed towards the crowd and their intended prize. Before either of them got there, Taiga sprung forward with the speed and strength of a man not even half his age, whipping his sword out and through the hearts and throats of both men, then whisked around to handle their maniacal leader.
Mamoru, knowing it had been coming, had already leapt into action. The moment Taiga turned, Mamoru used his own daiklaive to deliver a flurry of blows, the last of which knocked the sword out of Taiga’s hand and sent it flying wildly into the now partially-panicked crowd. Mamoru used Taiga’s shock at this sudden tactic to swiftly kick him to the ground.
Hovering over the man, Mamoru began making a speech about the futility of fighting against the power of a god, and ended by saying something about making an example. Kaj couldn’t make it out exactly, as he had already leapt into action. . . quite literally. Without even considering the impending consequences of such an action (as was often the case is these situations with him), he got a running start for several yards then slid the remaining distance to the edge of the two story building, lying here on the far edge of the town square, and leapt with all his might.
Mamoru looked down at his defeated adversary of so many years, thankful for a chance to finally wipe out both he and his emotionally-attached and thusly-weak politics. He thought he saw something flash out of the corner of his eye, but was so caught up in the moment that he ignored the compulsion to turn and instead drew his sword back and brought it down with all of his might, hoping to drive it far enough through this decrepit governor that it would splatter his life’s blood on each of Nanotsu’s nearby council members.
The instant before his sword struck home, it was blocked by what appeared to be a blade made of shimmering gold. Mamoru reflexively flicked his head to see where it had come from, and saw the wielder, wreathed lightly in flickering violet flames, burly and bronze with a glowing mark on his forehead, kneeling in the crater it had just created from his surprising ascent, and very much between him and his character lesson.
Mamoru’s jaw dropped in shock as he instinctively took a step back. He quickly surveyed the scene to see what was happening. Had this intruder, this Anathema, been hired by the people of Nanotsu to attempt to stop them this year? Though many attempts had been made in the past, never before had they enlisted the aid of one so powerful. As he gauged the people’s responses to this new force though, both those of his men and those of the townspeople, he knew that this was not the case by the similar expressions of awe and terror on all their faces, giving him the confidence to speak up in light of things, needing something to rally his men around him and against this one, whoever he was and wherever he was from.
“What are you doing here, Anathema,” he spat, “and why have the people of this town taken it upon themselves to hire an outsider, a demon, to protect them?”
Kaj maintained his firm visage but managed to smile inwardly at the tactic, one that had been used against him before. He glanced around a bit, subtly enough Mamoru didn’t notice, assessing the situation as far as any potential enemies might be concerned, and realized that this might be a tough one, though some of the townspeople seemed to recognize him. He looked down at Taiga, who appeared to be less shaken than he’d expected, oddly. Seeing this as an opportunity to graft an at least somewhat stable (though temporary) alliance, he kept his right arm and consequently Animus Born of Death’s Vespers extended threateningly towards Mamoru, pointing his left towards the partially scattered town council before addressing their leader.
“Rejoin your men, Lord Taiga. I will deal with this one.” Taiga looked a bit taken back by this, but stood, straitened his garb, and didn’t move. Kaj turned his head a bit and looked at him. Taiga crossed his arms and stared him straight in the eye, matching the intensity of his gaze. Kaj knew they would have to talk about this later, but now was not the time. Mamoru was the first to speak again.
“People of this town,” he began as he spun in a semi-circle, pretending to care, keeping one eye on the audience and both eyes on Kaj. “This demon has come to alter and abruptly destroy the traditions of this town.” He kept looking around, catching the eyes of those he knew it was working on, skipping past those that he knew held little concern for anything more than their lives at the moment.
“If he is allowed to continue this onslaught, he will not only bring the terrible wrath of our sovereign down upon you, but who is to say that he won’t kill you next? Look at him standing there in his all-consuming horror, wreathed in the destructive flames of his long-departed patron god.”
He went on like this for several more minutes, and Kaj just bided his time. He knew there was something about Taiga that led him to believe he wasn’t buying any of this, though he wasn’t sure he wanted to trust the man implicitly yet either. He waited until Mamoru had finished his sermon, and swung back around to meet his gaze challengingly. Without even looking to the crowds to see where the people stood, Kaj for one of the rare moments in his life thought about what he was going to say.
“People of Nanotsu, I am no more demon by mortal-build than the creature that stands before you, though my heart is made of a much purer substance than the demon that ravages his own.” As he spoke those few words, Kaj saw Mamoru slide one of his hands behind his back, deftly signaling something to his men, who slowly began fanning out and circling around him while drawing their weapons. Kaj saw several of Taiga’s soldiers begin to do the same, then glanced at Taiga out of corner of his eye and saw one of his men run up and hand him his retrieved sword. Taiga looked at it, then at Kaj, held up a hand to halt his men, then sheathed his weapon and signaled for them to do the same. Taiga merely crossed his arms again at this point and watched, looking first at Kaj, then at Mamoru.
Kaj look at Mamoru, who was beginning to drop back into a charging stance, and knew this was his last chance to win over the people of Nanotsu before all Void broke loose.
“People of this town, I swear to you on nothing other than my sword and my divine heritage as a Child of the Sun that I mean no ill intent, take it as you will. All I ask in return,” he looked around from face to face, managing to catch a few of the citizens who had been more hospitable towards him during his brief stay, “is that when these men are driven from this land, you grant me audience, brief as you may desire, to discuss this. If banishment is what you desire, I will leave, but” and he looked Taiga squarely in the eye, “you know there is more here than some realize.” With that last comment, he knew Taiga had agreed inwardly but was fighting what to say or do for the sake of his people.
Rather than say anything, he nodded, almost inperceptively, but it was all Kaj needed. He turned back to Mamoru and addressed him a tone that could only mean serious, especially coming from a six and a half foot tall, rippling southern man wielding a eight foot long, foot thick blade made of Orichalcum, glistening like the purest gold in the early morning sun.
“I will give you one chance, and one alone, to leave this place and return to your master. Tell him I will be arriving shortly to discuss his future. I warn you, should you stand here and decide to fight, not one of you will remain standing in the time it takes the first of you to fall.”
Mamoru seemed taken aback by the command, but recovered quickly and responded by lowering his weapon. Before anyone else could respond and without looking to consult his men or advisors, he dashed forward at full sprint, anima banner flaring brightly and leaving a trail of smoke behind, bringing his weapon to bear and calling on his men to attack. Which they did.
Moments later as the last one fell, Kaj, breathing controlled and sweating mildly, a veritable bonfire of flaming essence, stood before the twitching corpse of Mamoru, still clutching his precious daiklave, little good it had done him. Kaj stared for a few more moments, allowing the violet-hued and flaming essence scarabs of his anima to crawl all over and through the corpse, bidding the brash man of Dragon-Blooded descent farewell as he had so many others. At this point Kaj turned to Taiga, expecting some kind of response other than the one he was about to receive. Taiga nodded, then turned to his men and told them to clean up the mess, before turning back to Kaj and speaking to him for the first time.
“Come with me, and we can talk.” With that, he turned and strode away. Kaj, bewildered by the man’s control, had no choice. As they walked and conversed, half the people of the town still looked on him with fear, while the other half seemed to have mixed feelings of awe and wonder. Over the course of their walk, Taiga relayed to Kaj that there had been warriors not unlike himself in the past, some of them able to vanquish these underlings, some of them not. Though, he did admit with a chuckle that none of them but one had dispatched the men quite so wholly and quickly. But all of them, regardless of skill in combat, had failed upon entering the immense manse that was Wraak sint’Bannog’s mountainside ziggurat. The one who had seemed to be a particularly powerful individual had borne the same mark as Kaj upon his forehead. But he had ended up like all the rest, and shortly after a new group of soldiers came crashing into the city to exact the god’s vengeance.
Taiga and Kaj talked for a bit longer, detailing out the path leading up to the mountain palace, a mere few hours hike through the jungle. They had just arrived at Taiga’s beautiful home when Kaj thanked him and told him he would return when the job was done. Taiga looked questioningly at him, almost hesitantly.
Kaj assured him that he could handle the job, and though Taiga seemed a bit hesitant, he could tell that this one was different, and just might be able to, and found that despite his delicate position and the repercussion is might cause, he trusted him. For the sake of his people’s future here, he knew he had to. With that, Kaj thanked him again, and strode off toward the northern wall of the city. Taiga was about to tell him he was headed the wrong way, but somehow knew he would manage.
Part Two: Earning A Place
After having fought him here on his own turf for more than an hour, Kaj knew both from his own research and his prior conversation with Taiga that this was actually Wraak sint’Bannog, his first personal encounter with a god. He also realized that Wraak had calculatingly had his Ziggurat carefully built high against the side of this mountain, so as both to be able to view the land that was “rightfully” his from atop such a high perch, and to tap the natural energies found within and funnel them into his own personal store, which must have been what was giving him such strength and stamina in this fight. That was it!
With out even thinking about the consequences of such an action (that was twice today), he dodge/parried one final blow, placed his head low, and while temporarily banishing his daiklaive to Elsewhere, burst forward and pounded head-first into the monster’s chest, wrapping his arms around him and running full speed, driving him through the wall behind him, and through the next, and on through the next. With each wall came another horrible crashing sound, followed by falling stones and several searing blows on Kaj’s back by Wraak as he drove the nine-foot tall behemoth of a man with his grotesque, almost reptilian facial-features and thick leathery skin farther and farther from the temple’s core.
Finally, Kaj knew what was coming by the sounds of the wind whipping across the surface of the outer wall and with a last surge of energy, barreled forward and leapt with every once of strength he had left. They shot out the side of the Ziggurat in another explosion of ancient stone and mortar and went sailing out through the air several dozen yards and over the open expanse of the world below. While still being pummeled by Wraak despite the urgency of their predicament, Kaj let go of him, recalled Death’s Vespers to his side and the two combatants continued to fight in mid air and they plummeted down, down, down towards the jungle canopy below.
During the ascent, Kaj managed to somehow gain a little distance from the creature. While this left Wraak helpless to attack, Kaj simply called on another of his favorite techniques and let his marvelous eight-foot long weapon fly, tearing through the air with a horrible, deep, whirling-shriek, cutting deep gouts in the sides and appendages of the god he had come here with ever intention of merely talking to. Talk of peace often ended up taking a turn like this when he was involved, though the Bronzen skin and violet-flaming majesty around him might have seemed like an inadvertent threat. How he often missed Khald in moments like these.
With each strike, he could see his efforts were finally taking their toll on the beast, as evidenced by the miniscule ribbons of blood trailing through the air after their still-falling bodies. As they burst through the upper jungle-canopy, Kaj lost sight of Wrakk for a moment, and when he came back into view, both of them still several hundred yards above the jungle floor, Kaj could tell his adversary was beginning to heal slightly, and suddenly worried that this fight might not be over yet. Worrying about the price that Nanotsu and it’s inhabitants might have to pay if he failed, and with the pagan and unyielding god between he and the ground that was now hurrying into sight, Kaj screamed out one last time in the name of the Unconquered Sun and rather than preparing for impact, threw his beloved sword with all his might, using the force of his descent and driving it straight down hard after the monster. He lost both the beast and his sword in the rush of low-hanging branches that now whipped by him as the jungle floor suddenly broke through and everything went black.
As Kaj’s eyes fluttered open, for a moment he wondered where he was, thinking to himself this isn’t Chiaroscuro. As he came a little more to, he remembered both where he was and what had happened and jumped to his feet. It was only then that he realized that his arm was broken. Quite broken, actually, though the magic of his enchanted skin coupled with his magnificent hearthstone had kept his skin from being pierced during the fall. He rested his injured arm in his other hand, then looked up at the hole he had caused in his ascent from the mountain, and almost fell over again. He had forgotten that the Ziggurat was atop a bluff, though it was easy to explain why the fall seemed so long once he realized that it was easily a mile. As he looked to his shining bronze but broken arm, he was thankful that he’d had the foresight to use the spell before entering the lair of his foe. His foe!
The realization of battle potentially not yet completed brought Kaj whirling around in search of both his sword and its last target. Had he the Essence, he could have merely called it to his side. He caught a glimmer of gold through the underbrush, however, and pushed his way through. When he emerged into the little clearing, what he saw was both iconic and a little disturbing.
The hole in the jungle canopy above allowed the light of the sun to splay through just right so that it cast a beam down on the fallen god, almost like it was showing triumph over the darkness that was almost vanquished. As he walked closer, Kaj realized that his last throw had not only struck Wraak sint’Bannog square in the chest, it had driven him to the ground and gorged a solid three feet into the fertile earth itself, sticking out of the creature’s impaled chest by another four or five feet. Kajiff had to admire the god a bit though, for he still seemed to be gasping for air and twitching ever-so-slightly with each convulsive gulp. The creature’s hands were bloodied, his fingers severed to the point of falling off from grabbing at the blade from his prone position and trying to remove it.
Kaj, the battle-hardened general and seasoned warrior almost felt a pang of sympathy for the wretch. It was then that the creature somehow managed to turn his grotesquely misshapen, leathery head towards him, giving a chortled laugh and spewing blood all over the immediate area. The blood started a few minor fires where the spray landed, but Kaj paid them no mind as he focused on the task still at hand.
“You will never [cough] be the great general you aspire to be,” Wraak managed to choke out amidst the gurgling, his own life’s blood draining out of both his open maw and his many horrendous wounds and charring the otherwise untouched flora around him. “Your patron neither loves you, nor cares for your selfish dreams. And the people you are trying to protect should soon be receiving my final gift to them.”
He started to say something else, but before he could get anymore out, Kaj, feeling a surge of returning Essence, drew on the bond he shared with his sword, summoning his loyal steal through the air and towards his waiting grasp, the gory ripping motion and sound as it left Wraak’s body drawing a satisfying shriek of agony and despair. Kaj infused his body with another burst of Essence, allowing him to wield the mighty sword with his good arm, and with one fluid motion as the sword burst into his hand, he spun a full circle, bringing the sword and his fully-extended arm arcing high overhead and then down with all his might, driving straight through the neck of the no-longer smiling deity, ending after eons a reign of fear and death once and for all. And just like that, Wraak sint’Bannog was no more.
As Kaj stood there in the clearing ablaze with the golden/violet glow of his anima, mingled with a thousand reflections of the light streaming down through the hole in the canopy and glistening off both his bronzen skin and the golden breadth of his Orichalcum blade, he watched the monster fade from this life, wondering if it would ever make it back. As the toxic blood poured out of the now open wound and seeped into the ground, the surrounding flora began to wilt and fade. Kaj knew he had to dispose of the body, so he used his one good arm to hoist it over his shoulder and somberly began the long trek back up the mountain. Kaj was unable to completely quell the bleeding, thus the body left a steady dripping trail of poison and death behind him, almost like one final blow to the earth he no longer strode upon.
When he reached the Ziggurat and strode through its entrance for the second time that day, Kaj quickly disposed of the body and made his way cautiously through the newly-rubbled areas. After an hour or so he again found the throne room, or this place’s equivalent of one. The room was massive, its many ornately decorated wall hangings carved of the smooth, black molten rock found abundantly around this volcano. The room itself boasted fifty-foot high, arched ceilings, the breadth nearly twice that and the length triple, all roughly carved of stone and adorned with the same polished obsidian, glistening in the torch light provided by both he and the wall-mounted, essence-fueled torches.
As he approached the throne where he had first encountered the demon god, he veered slightly to the left and towards a pile of bodies, some of which seemed as ancient as this very hall. They were “the chosen” at various times throughout the years, picked by the people of Nanotsu to liberate them from their horrible curse. After each incursion, as told earlier by Taiga, Wraak rent horrible pain and suffering upon the people for their insolence, though with each new generation, some new vassal was either born into the town or traveled through it to take up their cause, a stalwart city forged by the ages, broken by the forgotten warnings of each prior generation.
This pile represented a sadistic time line, each layer telling a different tale of a different time, though each ended the same, and the pile Kaj now explored seemed to spread on more than was imaginably possible in the dark corner of the great hall. He found himself fortunate to still be emitting a fairly powerful light of his own to aid him. Something over here had caught his eye at first glance earlier that day however, and based on what Taiga had told him, he was determined to find it. And after a bit of searching and careful moving of a few of the deceased, he found him.
He peered cautiously at the golden bracer adorning the fallen warrior’s arm, knowing full well that its counterpart was likely adorning the other, though by the way it was twisted and bent underneath him it was hard to tell. He also took note of the belt the warrior was wearing, carefully removing it as well in his attempt to brandish the bracers. After carefully inspecting the strange and obviously powerful gear, but deciding not to brandish them until further scrutiny could be applied, he glanced down at the fallen solar, and found himself wondering how long until his own reckless abandon in combat would bring such a fate upon himself.
As he turned to exit, he looked to a spot by one of the two pillars bordering the entrance to the room, the spot where the now deceased apparition had managed to grapple him. He’d bitten down hard enough on his upper arm/shoulder that he actually pierced the effects of both his adamant hearthstone and his bronze skin, leaving a gash almost eight inches long running off of his shoulder. As Kaj looked to his shoulder now, he realized that the body he’d been carrying had bled into the wound, filling it and infusing the hole in his shimmering, metallic skin with a substance that Kaj couldn’t readily identify, though he knew he would need to have looked at as soon as possible.
He continued to contemplate both his wounds and his future until late that night as he left Nanotsu for yet another time, this one for a more extended period, if not permanently. The people of the town had wanted him to stay and had already begun building a statue of him in the middle of that same square he had faced down the brigands in, beginning the process of cleaning the land of the evil that had plagued it for so long.
As he looked back at the city one last time, he wondered how long a life like his might last, and for the first time since his exaltation, wondered what life would be like again if it slowed down a step from time to time.
But the sun was drawing low, and he knew it he had to get moving if he was going to make camp before it got too cold. So he turned his back on the city, comforted in the knowledge that something greater must lie ahead, and with the enchantment of his bronze skin fading slowly away, strode off into the sunset, alone.
Posted on November 1, 2015
Everyone should be doing NaNoWriMo. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to find the time to sit down and write, so I’m looking forward to getting back at it! I started my novel almost seven years ago now, and have been taking notes and jotting things down since then. It feels good to finally take the next step. Wish me luck!
Posted on October 5, 2015
For those of you have yet to meet her, this is my beautiful, amazing little daughter, Laura, newly turned one month old. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, she is the cutest little kid in the history of the world. She also has an adorable smile that melts my heart — she gets it from her mom. Life is pretty amazing, and I just thought I would share that thought today. Along with this cute picture. And yes, there will be more to come.