Sunday, January 31, 2016

The King's Challenge #193

TKC 193

An unholy silence settles upon the ancient rocks around us, as if deafening us to everything familiar, every reality we are able to imagine.

Kay mentions it first. “Something happens on the other side.”

I realise where his thoughts are. “You desire to return, to help them.”

Long minutes pass in our own kind of silence and then he answers. “Truth is, I wish to go in to grab Mirlin and Manuel, and then I wish for the three of us to run until there is no possible way to find us.” He swallows. “The three of us did everything together; we have known each other since childhood.”

I stare starkly up. I do not mean enough to him for him to change his mind about he expected of his life.

He glances down with a half-smile. “But that is wishful thinking. A different future awaits, one with you in it … I hope.”

I am such a girl, for huge smile plasters itself to my face. How obvious can one be? Blushing, I look away.

Kay touches my cheek. “I want to see how you feel. You are the reason I hold onto my sanity right now. Please do not hide from me.”

Goosebumps assail my arms. I blink up at him. “Please talk to me when your burden is too heavy.”

This time he smiles wide. “Deal, Siri Mur.”

Laughing, I clamber onto a boulder in much the way Lyra did earlier. “Listen, everyone. As soon as the sun rises we will make our way down the mountain.”

Murmurs of agreement sound. I notice adults, men and women, move to the gathering of children to collect their young. The ones who are unclaimed gaze around with big eyes wondering where their parents are. Their minders will help them cope, hopefully.

Kay hops up next to me. “Before we go, there is something you need to know.” He launches into an explanation about the Ilfin and Glonu.

The adults’ eyes are soon larger than those of the children.




Saturday, January 30, 2016

The King's Challenge #192

Part VII
Siri


TKC 192

“All is well! Come!” I shout, hoping the others will hear me through the barrier. I have taken my courage in hand and trust Lyra and Horin know what they are doing. I am alone outside of Arc.

Around me the night is still and cool, and wholesome. Until this moment I had not realised that sense of peace was in fact missing inside the bowl of mountains.

My relief is almost overwhelming when one of the women steps through with a child holding onto each hand. Swiftly all the children are gathered, and then Kay exits. He looks for me first, and my heart skips a beat.

“Let us move to that outcrop,” he says as he approaches. “It will be warmer for them.”

Together we herd the young to a jumble of large boulders, and then watch as men and women leave the confines of Arc. These are the Ilfin, and they are now free. Again my relief threatens to overwhelm me.

As I bend to listen to a girl asking about her mother, Kay grips my upper arm.

“It’s closing,” he whispers.

I see it too. The oval of darkness is shrinking. “Hurry!” I shout to those still to come through, but it is doubtful they are able to hear me.

The doorway between us and them snuffs out then.

We stare into a beautiful valley, such as it was when we first arrived, and see no people. Kay mutters about even the view being a damn mask, and he is right. What we see is not real.

I gaze up at the westerner at my side. It is up to us now. We are the leaders of this much reduced host.

He lowers his head to look at me. “We go east. Horin tells of a cave system.”


I know of it, yes. “Let us go.”


TKC Collage 15 (Horin's story 2)

Considering where episode 191 ended, it is time to shift to a new point of view, don't you think?

Therefore, the final images for Horin's story :)



Friday, January 29, 2016

The King's Challenge #190 and #191

TKC 190 and 191

Ignoring the panic behind us, ignoring even Lyra’s manipulation of the elements – which is not as easy to do – I face the oncoming ethereal horde with my own army of ghosts arrayed behind me.

The deactivated orb is still in my left hand. As I am about to shove it into a pocket, I feel vibrations overcome it and glance at it when I can barely afford to divide my attention.

The instant I look at it, it bursts into emerald brilliance.

Yes!

I throw it up, setting it free to act as it wills. It knows what to do.

Lyra abruptly screams, causing me to flinch, but she merely adds voice to an enchantment.

Focus, damn it, I tell myself.

Peripherally, I notice the panic behind us come to an end upon Lyra’s scream. I have not the time to give it attention, but sense how deliberation sets in there. Men and women find weapons and gradually approach the scene of battle.

Yes, Ilfin will always fight rather than surrender.

The enemy is upon us.

Raising my sword, I step into the first line and swipe the blade side to side. Heads roll. And then the entire horde is among us.

Soon all sense of time evaporates. All there is, is muscle memory and rage. My body moves as it knows how to do, while the fury of the Warrior assumes battle station. I slice, chop, swipe and stab. I run, brace, duck and dance. An ancient war cry erupts from my mouth, words I am unable to translate, they are that old. Alongside me, the ghostly Ilfin scream it also, and tear wispy heads from ethereal bodies. The orb dances and darts in, killing Glonu ghost after Glonu ghost. An eerie screech accompanies each killing, one that fills me with dread, yet I am glad of its terrible actions. The orb is, after all, an extension of my inner Warrior.

Shouts and grunts behind reveal the battle is now everywhere and all are in it.

Lyra is untouched. She stands with arms up in an island of calm, while chaos surrounds her. Glonu attempt her barrier only to disintegrate. Electric bolts seek targets and find them, leaving a smoking pillar in the stead of a light being. Hail smashes open faces. Gusts of icy wind cleave into torsos to rip the Glonu apart.

We are not untouched, however. Men have the heads wrenched from their necks. Women are disembowelled. Ever swifter, the defence behind us loses strength. My host dissipates as their souls are crushed into oblivion. I am covered in blood and gore, and some of it is mine.

Sunbeams highlight the horror. Dawn has arrived, and the battle is nowhere near an ending. It will end only when we are dead; this horde will not retreat until it is so.

I hear Damin utter a mighty cry to the left. Relief floods as I see him hurtle closer with his unit streaming alongside him. They tear into the melee. While not exactly fresh, given their night just passed, they have greater will at this point and that will make a difference.

The orb is rushing at me. I see its light grow ever closer. By the stars, the time has come. Stepping aside, I throw my arms wide. The orb smashes into my chest, a sharp agony that almost has me losing my stance. It burrows under my ribcage, a searing pain that attacks every nerve in my body. I scream, but I do not falter.

Then it is gone and the terrible wound on my chest closes as if it did not happen.

I straighten. No more fear. No doubt. No compassion either.

The Lord Enris Makar wades into battle with his muscles expanding, growing ever taller. He knows no mercy.


Horin is dead.


Most Misused Words



Thursday, January 28, 2016

The King's Challenge #189

TKC 189

As I run, I understand the resident sorcery of Arc depleted my orb. We are not meant to leave here. Some of us now have, while others are being interred into oblivion to the south. The ethereal host is furious.

I come upon Lyra as I hear panic erupt behind me. The Ilfin trapped with us are aware of approaching death.

Lyra stands braced, hands thrown up and out. Her fingers are aglow and crackles of light swirl around her fingers. Damn, it is her Warrior talent. It will end her life far sooner than necessary, as mine will fell me before a life is lived.

I crash into her. “Use your Elemental powers!” As she stumbles, I catch her. “Lyra, I am already compromised; allow me to do this. Shield us with the elements.”

She stares at me for just an instant and then nods. Straightening, she lifts her arms. Again her hands glow, but now the electricity is missing. Throwing her head back, she gazes up, fingers curling.

Lightning bolts smash into the earth between us and the host. Hail thunders down.

Ignoring her manipulation, I stand forth, sword drawn. This is a blade forged on another world, infused with the ability to strip masks from pretend friends … and to pierce the veils surrounding beings without substance. Simply put, it kills ghosts.

We are here.

My heart almost ceases beating when I hear those words. This night is filled with too much emotion and too many surprises, and thus a few moments elapse before I understand.

The Ilfin of Arc are with us. Those already dead. Those enslaved and awaiting their freedom.

I give a grim smile to the ether around me. Clearly the enslavement had not reached their souls also, despite what the slave masters believe. The ancient Glonu only think they harness souls into eternity.

“I see them!” Lyra shouts above howling wind and cacophonous thunder. “I see you, friends!”

“They are with us!” I grin manically.


The first true battle of this time and place begins then.


Magical Pages





Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: When Everything Changed




The King's Challenge #187 and #188

TKC 187 and 188

Lyra continues, “We have before us an opportunity to leave Arc before we are enslaved. Damin’s actions this night has opened a means to exit.” She points at me. “Horin will now reveal the opening we must use before it is again sealed.”

She says nothing of the Glonu/Ilfin division that brought this on and perhaps that is the wisest course right now. She has ensured Kay will be with the marchers on the other side; he will inform them of the real situation … once they are away from here. Wise, yes, for Lyra has neatly circumvented chaos.

“Horin and I will wait for Damin and those with him to return, and we will follow as soon as we are able to. Please, go now. Massin has not been touched by the asteroid; it is safe to return.”

Lyra swallows when she says those words, for she knows that safety is now highly relative. Spaceships will soon park in our skies.

“Horin?” she prompts.

I head to the barrier and deploy the orb. A shimmer of green reveals the position of the veil between us and the world beyond … and it also shows a dark oval in the sparking emerald wall. As the green intensifies, so does the darkness. It is a doorway.

Gesturing, I say, “Go now as swiftly as possible.” Every member of the teams sent out left with both camping equipment and a food parcel; this was deliberate, for it grants them the means to survive beyond these mountains.

Siri is first; to prove to the children it is safe. She smiles at Lyra and nods, and steps through. Her voice sounds from beyond, for we can no longer see her through the veil. “All is well! Come!”

The other women herd the children through, and then Kay is there. “Take them to the lower edge of the plateau,” I murmur to him as he comes abreast. “There is a system of caves.”

He nods, sends Lyra a final look, and passes through.

Thereafter the Ilfin vanish one by one, a long line of men and women, old and young.

Lyra steps off the boulder to come to my side. “It’s working.”

It will not hold long, though. I feel the tension in the orb’s essence; it labours to maintain the doorway and will soon run out of energy to do so. Also, it is a truth there are too many Ilfin. Some will be trapped with us before too long.

“You are worried,” Lyra murmurs. “How long will it hold?”

“Maybe half an hour still,” I grind out, anxiety building inside as I sense the orb’s difficulties. “Hurry them through.”

Lyra hisses then, causing me to jerk. Almost I sever the link that enables the oval of darkness.

“The old ones come,” Lyra whispers, staring back into the valley.

I dare not look away from the barrier. “Light beings? How many?”

“A host.” Her face becomes a mask. “Keep it open; I will delay them.”

Before I am able to ask how, she vanishes down the slope. By the stars! Nearly I scream my frustration. “Move!” I shout instead. “Time is short!”

The line hastens forward. Man and women disappear into the black beyond. I notice the edge of the oval begin to skitter as if under pressure, and then it seems to diminish. The damn thing is closing!

“Move now! Run!”

Men and women run.

“Stop!”

The line freezes, thank the stars. The oval snuffs out. The orb falls to earth as an inanimate thing, depleted. Swiftly I gather it up and then I turn to hurtle after Lyra.


A host of ghosts is swarming from the valley below. They will be upon us within moments.


Review: The Last Survivors



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The King's Challenge #185 and #186

TKC 185 and 186

“What was Damin’s name?” Lyra finds her voice.

“He must find it first, Lyra.”

“You told me mine,” she points out.

I grin. “You are my sister.” A stormy look enters her eyes and I swiftly add, “It will be easier for him if he discovers the knowledge himself. Telling him is akin to him listening to a lie.”

One eyebrow hikes up. “I will not tell him.”

Thankfully, at this point, a communication from the man under discussion comes through to me. I stand immediately after. “I must go. Damin is ready and I need to bring the Ilfin in.”

Lyra’s expression freezes and she does not speak.

I leave the cave, but only moments later I realise she is following me. I desire to remonstrate with her, but one look tells me I dare not. She will probably whip me or something. Nodding, I lead the way north.

And hour later we come upon the first teams. This night all are away from the usual camp, a request from Damin to ostensibly speed the gathering process. Of course, he needed everyone away from the rim this night.

“My lady,” someone calls out. “Why are you here?”

Perhaps bringing Lyra is the best idea. People respect and revere her, and will therefore follow her lead. She smiles at the questioner and I realise this was her intention when she followed. I gesture and she nods, taking the lead from here on.

“We need everyone at the rim,” she answers the man quietly. “We have a situation we need to address without delay. Please gather your things and return to the slopes, and pass the word.”

“Everyone must be there before daybreak,” I add.

“What is happening?” another man asks.

“We would prefer to reveal that when all are near.” Lyra smiles again. “If I tell you now, by the time those further out hear it, it may be somewhat different. We prefer to share the news so there is no doubt.”

Silence greets her words, but they do trust her. Within moments there is concerted movement as the men and women swiftly pack. The man who questioned Lyra first takes further initiative and sends runners out to find the others.

“Have no fear, my lady,” he says on a grin, “we will be there before the sun, all of us.”

Lyra bows her head. “Thank you.”

Minutes after, we are at the head of a column of Ilfin returning to the rim. I hope this will work. I have my doubts.

An hour of hiking later, we are back. Far off, I hear the unmistakable sounds of battle … of terror … of dying. Silence falls over us. Everyone hears it.

“What is happening?” a young woman asks of Lyra.

Swallowing, she states, “Arc is attacking the southern teams.”

Voices are raised and questions hurled. When someone shouts that we should go forth to help them, Lyra lifts her hand for silence. “Damin is already there. Please. When everyone is here, I will explain.”

New runners depart in haste to ensure the stragglers hurry in.

The heavens begin to grey when Damin touches my mind again. Now it begins, for most of the Glonu have been slaughtered. Damin, Mirlin and his unit will remain there to bury the dead, to remove them from Arc’s influence. I pray he is swift enough in that task.

“Horin?” Lyra whispers.

“It is time,” I say simply, having no words to explain the rest of what this night has wrought.

Lyra inhales and clambers onto a tall boulder. Her action brings the silence she requires. First she looks to Siri and the women with her surrounding the children near the cave’s entrance. Kay is still with them, his face expressionless.

“Move the children into position, Siri. You and Kay must go with them, understood? They will need you.”

Siri nods, but Kay’s lips tighten. He does not, however, argue.



Review: Rise of the Dragons




Review: Just Desserts




99 000+!

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Monday, January 25, 2016

TKC Collage 14 (Horin's story so far)


Another 14 posts have passed. If you have missed episodes, catch up on The King's Challenge Page (link in sidebar). Thanks for reading so far!


The King's Challenge #183 and #184

We are halfway through this challenge!

TKC 183 and 184

Mirlin leaves to meet Damin soon after, which leaves Lyra and myself with Kay, and Kay is about to release every pent up emotion he possesses.

Fortunately, Siri comes in then, and the man deflates instantly. Lyra is wide-eyed before she hides a smile, but my eyebrows shoot up. So this is how it is for the westerner. Siri Mur has crept into his heart and, by the looks of it, she returns his favour. Her blush is quite marked when she realises Kay is with us.

“The awning collapsed,” she murmurs. “We need a strong hand to drive the stakes in again.” She looks only at Kay. She is with the other women in charge of the children, and the awning is a makeshift roof to protect the young from the elements.

Kay smiles. “Something I am able to do at last. Lead the way.”

Siri, laughing, swirls around and vanishes back into the night, and Kay follows in a far better frame of mind than earlier.

“Well,” Lyra says when we are alone, “I did not see that he feels the same, although I noticed her sending him glances.” She laughs lightly. “Good for them.”

“Damin will not like it.”

“Damin’s arse,” she grins. “I will set him straight.”

She will indeed. Poor Damin. “You used to set me straight as well.”

“Horin, don’t. There is too much going on.”

Standing, I wander closer to where she prepares dough for bread. We have not much in the way of flour or yeast left, so the result will be quite a treat. “Looks promising,” I murmur, seeing the dough already rising in the heat of the cave.

Lyra gazes up at me. “What will happen to you? Horin, will you have a chance to fall in love, to know happiness? Have you known happiness?”

Her questions completely demolish any peace of mind I have, which is not much. I sit untidily opposite her. “I see someone in my dreams of a past time, but I cannot remember her name.” Staring at my sister, I add, “I think she was my wife.”

Swallowing convulsively, Lyra says, “I always thought our souls forget when a life is over.”

“Souls remember; it’s the vessel that forgets.”

She stares at me then, tears brimming. “I understand the concept, Horin, but it is hard to apply to …”

“Yourself? It is hard, and it took me a while to accept as well. My true acceptance came when I was known as Enris Makar and therefore this time I do not need to question it.”

“Were we all someone else before?”

“Some are new, but that is rare for the Ilfin. We tend to return to our roots, because our souls will not surrender to anonymity until this war with the Glonu is done with.” I stare back at her. “I look forward to anonymity.”

“Why?” she cries out.

“Peace,” I murmur.

Silence falls between us as we watch each other’s faces. When Lyra closes her eyes tightly, I know she has realised my time will be short in this cycle. I hope she and Damin have a long life; they will remember me even if I lose all memory.

“Who was I in a time before?” Lyra eventually asks.

I give her a skewed smile. “My sister.”

Again her eyes go wide; I have surprised her. “As in born to the same parents?”

I laugh. “As in, yes. And it’s not the first time. We have always been brother and sister.”

“What was my name when you were Enris? And why do I not remember as you do?”

“You never came to Massin in that cycle; I guess Arc has something to do with my memories. Your name was Iniri and you were sent to another Ilfin world … where you met Damin by another name.”

Astonished, she has not the wherewithal to speak.


“I remember all that, but not her name. I wish I can remember her name,” I whisper.


Proverbs of Middle Earth: Eomer and Haldir



Sunday, January 24, 2016

The King's Challenge #181 and #182

TKC 181 and 182

Three days later virtually the entire host is dispersed. Work teams head out in the morning to return as night falls, although some roam further afield and camp out wherever they are. It appears, after the division, we are more Ilfin than Glonu and while this is better for the situation on this side of the rim, for escape it is a problem.

One Ilfin requires three Glonu sacrifices in order to leave.

Many Ilfin will thus remain trapped here to become part of the Glonu army. I notice how drawn Lyra’s face becomes; she has calculated those numbers.

Kay paces the cave like a madman, muttering under his breath. Manuel has gone south, but I noticed the searching look he gave his brother-in-arms before he left. Manuel is suspicious of this entire enterprise. He, like to the others, does not yet know his genesis, but soon Arc will reveal it to them and then we will be in trouble.

Soon Arc will play with Ilfin minds also, to transform them into the enemy; we are almost out of time.

The children remain nearby, under watch from rotating teams of minders. The women are all Ilfin, the kids are made up of both kinds. Lyra is silent on the subject, as I have held my peace. No one desires to hurt a child; by unspoken consensus we have decided to save all of them if possible, whatever it implies for the future.

Kay comes to a sudden stop. “How long do we have before we no longer recognise that this place is a trap?”

“Not long,” Lyra says quietly.

Kay focuses his attention on me. “We need to keep those we believe able to fight, right? But if Arc gets to them …”

“One problem at a time, Kay,” I say.

“Where is Damin?” the westerner demands, appearing suspicious. “Are you all planning stuff behind my back?”

Lyra flicks me a look and I understand her concern. Is Arc beginning to prove its insidious influence? I shake my head slightly and she looks away. “Damin is having a quiet word with those we marked as fighters. He will then lead them south.”

Kay stares at me. “Why am I not involved?”

“Your loyalties are torn,” Mirlin says as he enters the cave. “You will seek to save Manuel and others you know from your long march to this place.”

“It’s Manuel, Mirlin!”

The older man closes his eyes. “I know, my brother, but this is war.”

Manuel swings back to me. “Why are you not with Damin?”

“Folk trust Damin; I am a boy who changed, someone who does strange things,” I respond. “Damin is the better choice for this task.”

“And if it comes to fighting?”

“If he needs me he will call.”

Kay frowns. “How? He will be far from here.”

“He is a Delver,” I remind the distraught man. “And I am able to hear him.”

Lyra smacks a wooden bowl down. “Will you keep quiet? I have had enough of war talk.”

Mirlin turns his head my way, his gaze unreadable. Yes, it is time to talk to my sister. To that end, I stand up from the log someone dragged in as seating. “Lyra …”

“No,” she snaps. “I know that tone. Do not treat me as a child. Not only will I not accept the reversal of roles from you, but I am well aware of the stakes … and my part in it. Leave me alone.” She shifts her focus to Mirlin. “Are you not meant to be with Damin?”

“I am meeting him in a few hours. He needs time to get everyone in place,” Mirlin says. “Horin, we need you with us.”

I shake my head. “I will be bringing the Ilfin to the barrier. When enough have died in the south, I aim to help them go beyond.”

“There is a lot of plans in place I know nothing of,” Kay mutters.

“You are not alone in that,” Lyra says, staring at me.



Saturday, January 23, 2016

The King's Challenge #179 and #180

TKC 179 and 180

After a rousing speech about the need to secure the territory near the rim of the mountains until we are able to find the solution to again leaving, Damin explains about the work team idea in greater detail. There will be two to four teams for each task, in order to cover more ground in the same time frame.

Please, he says, come to the table for your task, so we may record your name and with which team you will be. This way we can keep track of who is where in the event something happens. He does not explain what that ‘something’ is, but folk use their imaginations and no one speaks against it.

Studying him, I realise Damin has the kind of presence people trust. If they know why he summons them individually, trust will evaporate.

It begins. The task list is long and the line of people is endless. Damin sits behind a makeshift table with a scribe’s tools before him and looks up at a man or woman, asks for a name, then records it in one of two places. He has a smile for everyone, but his tension is evident in a ticking jaw. He has not revealed to us what he sees, but it is clear the images are overwhelming.

When a team comprises of twelve members, he sends them to Kay. The westerner hands to them tools they will need. Each team is then sent on its way.

Watching all this, I understand it will be days before all are marked as either Glonu or Ilfin, days before they are separated north and south. We do not have that kind of time and yet it must be done. The next issue is how to summon Glonu to the barrier without raising suspicion …

Mirlin comes to rest at my shoulder, startling me. “Notice the difference in terrain,” the man murmurs. “South is rockier, has more obstacles, while the northern slope is smoother.”

Casting my gaze in both directions, I see his point. “He sends the Glonu south.”

“He makes it difficult for them to defend themselves,” Mirlin nods.

“Because he intends to go to battle with them.” Again I focus on Damin. The Marsh Devil. The man understands that the time wasted in separating this host will need to be recovered. He therefore plans for a mighty event, one that will be over swiftly. Diabolical, but smart. I agree with him. Lifting my gaze to Lyra further up, where she dispenses food for the day, I also understand she will not be pleased.

I need to have words with my sister soon.

“Horin, start marking the potential soldiers Damin sends north,” Mirlin says. “We will soon have need of them.”

My lips tighten, but I nod and Mirlin moves away. It seems I am not as forward-thinking as the others are. They have already understood what must come next, while I twiddle with my sword here, watching and wondering. Mirlin’s retreating form reminds me of his talent. One able to see in darkness. Blinking, I see it will be a night battle. Damin will use Mirlin to advantage. Diabolical … the mind of a general.

Lyra is waving at me. I make my way through gathering work teams to her side.

“Horin, will you tell Damin to add a search for clay as a task? We need to make more vessels.”

She barely looks at me, merely sending a fleeting smile. She has her hands full with dispensing stores. Around her is a host of children, all trying to help. I blink at the young ones, my stomach dropping.


By the stars, we will have to deal with this situation also.


Don't dismiss the elements


Friday, January 22, 2016

The King's Challenge #177 and #178

TKC 177 and 178

Kay and Mirlin enter the clearing, both fixated on the holographic image. They are as wordless as Damin and Lyra have become.

“We have been skirting around this issue since the beginning of the march, have we not?” I state, watching them. “Back on the plateau you shared the Glonu/Ilfin tale, did you not, Mirlin?”

The older man lifts his head. “You were not yet with us for that.”

“I am aware, but young Horin dreamed it.” I inhale deeply. “My point is this; the markers were there for us from the start. The walk across the plains should have deterred us from ever entering here, a final obstacle, and yet we ignored everything shown us, such as talents suddenly springing forth, and everything shared via old legends. We came anyway.”

“We did not know what Arc is,” Lyra frowns.

“So we entered blind and ignorant?” I demand. “I think not.”

“We would have died out there, Horin,” Damin rasps. “That rock in the sky was about to annihilate us. We needed this haven and therefore we marched. All else was unimportant.”

“You suggest it was fate that brought us,” Kay sighs.

“Destiny,” I say. “The asteroid was but a prompt; it got us moving. Maybe it would have killed us, but perhaps that would have been a kinder fate. On the other hand, we have something in our favour. The asteroid got us moving, yes, but it shoved us into action before Arc was ready for us. We, in fact, still have the element of surprise.”

Damin frowns as he wraps his mind around the nuances. He points at the shifting image before us. “They were coming anyway.” He lifts his gaze from the ethereal fleet to me. “This is why the talents sprang forth. Although it is in answer to a threat from space, the asteroid was not the real threat.”

“On the mark,” I murmur, impressed with his deductive powers.

“Thus our talents would have prompted a march on Arc anyway,” Lyra says. “Destiny.”

“Indeed, but now we have the issue of innocents and that is a problem for us. We brought too few soldiers and too many famers and trades people. It divides our attention.”

“Wait,” Kay mutters, stepping closer to the image to peer in. “The fiery threat brought us from both west and east, which I assume will have happened whatever the prompting device. What about the two kinds?” He inserts a finger into the image and yelps when it sparks, swiftly withdrawing.

Smiling wryly over our ever-present curiousness, I respond, “Both were summoned. We have not forced this current dilemma upon ourselves.”

“How many?” Lyra demands, gesturing at the ships.

“Many. I have no number.”

“And where are the Ilfin?” she continues.

I gesture at the orb and the image clouds briefly. Another shivers into our presence. More spaceships, but of a different design. “They are coming also.”

Mirlin releases a pent-up breath. “All-out war for Massin.”

“Therefore death by asteroid would have been kinder,” Damin mutters.

“How far behind are the Ilfin?” Lyra asks, delving into the practical issues rather than her fear … our fears.

“Too far to prevent the Glonu from landing.” I anticipate her next question. “The Glonu fleet will be here in less than ten days.”

Damin smacks his palms together. “Then we need to get moving. First we release all Ilfin from Arc …”

“That means sacrifice, Damin!” Lyra snaps out.

“I no longer see it that way. The Glonu here will join the Glonu on approach, for they are called to this battle as we are called to defend. The more we weed out now, the less we will have to fight later.”

“Damin is right,” I affirm. “We use the Glonu here to free the Ilfin from Arc, whatever our conscience tells us. And then we take the Spire down.”



Notes on The King's Challenge (January update)



Hello, everyone!

You may have noticed daily episodes are two at a time recently. Due to the season break, I needed to catch up on missing episodes and therefore doubled up a few times, discovering in the process it is easier to write 600 words than it is to curtail myself to 300! Honestly, though, I want to see where this story will end – yes, impatience sets in. I need to finish it!

Of course, sometimes there will be less time available to me, and a 300 word episode will be posted J

Having squinted through some of the story as I format it into one document, I realise there are extras I will be adding in when the edit process commences, such as more description of both place and people. Also more pointers to the greater story will be inserted earlier in order for the whole to make sense. At this stage, we are getting the story down – the bling comes later!

The edit begins to prompt in the back of my mind, however. I am writing and posting this challenge in First Person Present, but this may change. Maybe. I begin to feel Third Person … maybe. My point is, the final book may be somewhat different …

Last in this session of notes, is NAME.

What will we call it? I have a few ideas, but not yet one that stands out for me – any suggestions?

Thanks for reading!

Elaina


Deipnosophist and Callithumpian



Thursday, January 21, 2016

The King's Challenge #175 and #176

TKC 175 and 176


Lyra is inconsolable. Attis means much to her. In a manner I do not fathom, Attis became me, her little brother Horin, to her.

“How will he cope alone out there?” Lyra wails as Damin attempts to calm her. She shoves his questing hands aside. “He is just a boy!”

Abruptly I have had my fill. While I do not desire to hurt my sister, reality is reality, and she needs to hear it without delay. “Lyra, Attis will survive out there, I swear it to you.”

Clearly my tone arrests her emotional outburst, for she stares at me. “And how can you know that?”

I step forward and Damin watches me warily. I ignore him. He will understand. “Attis is now marked by Arc. He is a Glonu who has seen and heard and knows. Young he may be, but he need no longer fear death out there. In fact, I will wager his youth will draw others to him.”

“Marked how?” Lyra whispers.

“His presence. It isn’t a physical mark.” I saw his ‘presence’ up on the mountain when Attis realised who he was. Knowledge flooded into his eyes, his spine straightened, and utter confidence overcame him. It set him apart from others of his age; hell, it will set him apart in a gathering of adults. Glonu will flock to him, while Ilfin will know to avoid him.

“You think he is dangerous,” Damin mutters.

“Not today, not too soon, but one day he will be part of an army. I hazard the boy will vanish until that time arrives, for someone will see his potential and protect him, hide him somewhere.”

“Glonu, you mean,” Lyra snaps out.

I incline my head. “Glonu, yes. To prevent that future from ever coming to pass …”

“Arc must fall,” Damin states.

“Indeed.”

Lyra glares then at both of us. “We are meant to escape! To save our souls from the slavery in place here! And now you actually suggest a war in this place?”

Damin lowers to a boulder situated in the clearing we have gathered in. We are well away from other ears. “A small unit. Most must leave, yes, but a small unit must remain … to march on the Spire.”

Damin can be relied on to understand the nuances indeed. “Yes,” I murmur.

“Count me in,” the fair man states.

Of course he is. “I already have.” He huffs, but sends a grin my way.

“Wait just a damn minute,” Lyra says in her soft voice, the one that signifies danger. The wise will run when they hear her assume this tone. Neither Damin nor I can claim wisdom, however. We wait for her words, glancing at each other. “Everything we discuss is heard. You do understand that?”

Less bite than I expected. I shrug. “I want them to know we will come for them.”

“Ah.” Lyra lifts a finger, and I brace myself. “You know nothing of the Spire, Horin. It is the greatest trap present inside Arc! It will take everything we are!” Twin spots of colour adorn her cheeks. “We did not undertake this mission to a sanctuary to die inside it! I refuse to lose you and Damin to …”

I muscle forward. “… to what, Lyra? We are dead no matter which way you look at this situation!”

“Hey!” Damin growls.

It is time to cease being accommodating. Growling also, I snap my fingers for the orb and throw it at the ground. “Look!”

A hologram erupts into the clearing. Ghostly spaceships fly through the spaces. It is a massive fleet.


“They are coming,” I whisper then.


Review - The Sanctuary Series (Boxset 1 -3)



See also my review for Sanctuary: Defender in the Quest Review posted on Writing World


PS: The Sanctuary Series boxset is currently FREE :)

Who were you in a Past Life?


Respected Witch in the Renaissance!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The King's Challenge #173 and #174

TKC 173 and 174

As the orb slaps back into my hand the red dome vanishes. Thus, the shield is in place, but we cannot see it.

No one says a word for some minutes, until Kay murmurs, “Someone still needs to test what it does.”

“Well, I am not putting even a finger into that,” Manuel grumbles.

“I will do it,” I state and move forward.

Kay shakes his head. “Horin, it will prove nothing. You are different to the rest of us.” He strides boldly forward …

… and Manuel tackles him to earth. “Do not be stupid, brother.” Manuel sits on him, glaring down. “It will probably kill you.”

Kay shoves him off to rise in titanic fury. “Don’t tell me what to do!”

“I will!” Manuel hollers. “You always do the crazy stuff; I know you, remember? This is beyond crazy and I won’t lose you to your stupid bravery!”

Kay’s expression clears of every emotion. “Fine.”

I almost laugh when Manuel’s mouth drops open in astonishment. Almost, for I understand Kay is at the point he may reveal something he should not at this stage let loose.

“Fine?” Manuel echoes. “Really?”

Swiftly I intervene. “We need a warm-blooded animal.” Both men jerk their heads in my direction. “To test the barrier; what did you think I meant? A rabbit, or something to that effect.”

“Actually, that is a brilliant plan,” Manuel sighs in relief, “and I know where to find what we need. Wait here.” He strides away into the darkness.

Kay stares at me. “I will not be able to hide what I know from him.”

I nod, well aware of his difficulties. “Then one of you needs to join a work detail that takes you away for a time.”

A sigh sounds. “Again, a brilliant plan. You are full of ideas tonight, aren’t you?” A shrug follows. “There’s a team preparing for tree felling …”

“First ask Damin what the team is before joining,” I warn. “It may have to be Manuel who goes.”

Another sigh erupts and then silence overtakes us.

We wait for Manuel to return and he does within a few minutes, holding aloft a mole. “I noticed dirt piles a few days ago,” he grins.

“Man, I am loath to send even that little creature into the barrier,” Kay whispers.

“It must be done,” I state and take the mole from Manuel. Carefully approaching, I place the tiny animal on the ground, pointing its snout towards the invisible shield. It does not move, and I am forced to prod it forward. It shuffles a bit and stops. Muttering, I urge it to move.

The mole crawls forward … and passes through without harm befalling it. For the briefest instant the shield sparks, and yet the mole passes through unmolested.


“What the hell does that signify?” Manuel demands, watching the tiny creature shuffle away into the darkness beyond.

“No soul, therefore no threat,” Kay murmurs.

I nod. “I am afraid so. Thus we still have no idea what this barrier will do to us.”

“You passed through before,” Kay points out.

“I was already dead,” I mutter.

“But what did you feel?” he insists.

“Nothing. I was dead, idiot.”

“I will test it,” a new voice says. A young voice. As we turn to see who it is, Attis is already striding past us.

“Attis, no!” I shout.

But it is too late. Attis walks without stopping into the barrier. It sparks and shimmers and an eerie wail – low, almost below the edge of hearing – fills the region.

The lad passes through and halts. For a long moment he is motionless, staring outward, and then he turns.

“I see,” he says. “I am a Glonu. And this Glonu is now free.”


Swiftly he vanishes then over the rim.


Celtic Tree Zodiac


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Monday, January 18, 2016

The King's Challenge #171 and #172

TKC 171 and 172

By evening Manuel has his list of tasks prepared and Mirlin has announced the intention to create work teams. Many groan, but none speak against it. All understand the need to get matters organised.

Hunkering beside Mirlin’s fire again, I watch Manuel. He moves about the rocky space with a smile and never seems frustrated. Clearly he possesses a positive attitude to life. I like the man, which makes it all the harder to accept him as an enemy.

Kay has not again put in an appearance. I wonder if it concerns Manuel; after Mirlin left the west for the plateau, Kay and Manuel were ever together and they led the westerners across the plains as a team.

The man is not stupid either and that is borne out when he suddenly swings around to catch me watching him.

“Why have you not attempted to cross back into Massin?” he demands.

My eyebrows hike up. Manuel has a point. Why have I not? Are we so certain the barrier is there that we simply accept its presence? Staring at him, I say, “I guess fear has held me back.”

Manuel nodded. “It holds all in check, but we should test this invisible shield.”

“I agree.” Abruptly I am impatient. Standing, I gaze at the man. “Care to try with me?”

“Now?”

“Darkness will hide our failure, if that is the way of it.”

Manuel grins. “Let’s do it.” He grabs water and two of the flat breads delivered to the cave earlier and shoves the haul into a knapsack. Lifting his weapon – an ornate dagger – he hooks it to his belt. “Shall we?’

Admiring the man’s sense of adventure, I laugh and precede him out into the night.

Half an hour later we are at the point where the ascent flattens to a level area. This is where we entered Arc. Both of us regard the well-trodden path dubiously. We are out of breath from the climb, and now bravado reveals itself. We are not as prepared to test the barrier as we thought.

A whistle off to the side startles us. Weapons are instantly to hand.

Kay emerges from behind a jumble of rocks and stands arms akimbo to eye us. “One can floor the two of you merely with sound, it seems.”

Manuel splutters into laughter. “Bugger off. Why are you here?”

“Same reason as you, I suspect, but I chickened out.” Kay shrugs. “Thought I’d wait until someone else arrives.”

His features remain in darkness and perhaps that is for the best. Manuel cannot read his friend’s expressions. I step forward …

“No, Horin,” Kay murmurs. “Do not quest for the barrier using your body. Establish its presence first.”

Use the orb, is what he means, and he is on the mark. Bravado is making me stupid. Taking a breath, I flex my fingers and swiftly the green sphere dances on my palm. Exhaling and inhaling again, I calm myself and tell it what it is I seek from it.

The orb lifts and bobs forward, following the path to the rim.

We follow, every set of eyes fixated and fascinated.

After about ten steps, it halts and we do as well. The glowing ball goes up, then down, and back to eye level. From there it moves left, then to the right before returning to its stationary position.

We do not move even an eyelid.

Abruptly the orb elongates to become a spike. It retreats from position, halts again, and then hurtles forward as if to pierce something at great speed.

“Sands,” Kay mutters.

Manuel is dead quiet, his jaw gaping.


A hiss of sound has us grabbing our ears. And then the heavens over Arc are no longer star-filled. A scarlet dome shudders into being.


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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Review - Escape (The Prisoner and the Sun Book1)



The King's Challenge #169 and #170

TKC 169 and 170

Kay leaves before Manuel returns to the cave, afraid he will give it away. Damin absconds as well with Lyra and Siri, but theirs is a search for sunshine. Joseph and Hanna left with first light to join the Messengers and share news. I find myself hoping every Messenger is also an Ilfin, for their services and skills will be needed again beyond these mountains.

Thus it is only Mirlin and I at the breakfast fire when Manuel enters.

The man comes in boldly, all smiles, his curly hair in disarray. “Man, those kids demanded tale after tale! The plateau kids wanted stories of the ocean, while the western ones demanded secrets of the mountains … not that I know any of those!” He laughs. “I prevailed on them to tell tales to each other and ended up entranced myself.”

He squats at the fire and sends me a look, before shifting his gaze to Mirlin. Perhaps he senses something; he definitely marks our silence.

“What is wrong?” he demands.

“Exhausted,” Mirlin mutters. “Got no sleep.”

“We were attacked,” I say by way of explanation. “We think Arc is beginning to change people.”

Manuel shakes his head. “I have noticed underlying aggression as well. What happened?”

I offer a shrug. “We were forced to defend ourselves.”

“This was meant to be a place of safety, by the sands,” Manuel mutters. “What do we do to prevent it spreading, this aggression?”

Mirlin heaves a sigh. “I am thinking we put everyone to work.”

“Keep them busy? That’s not a bad idea.” The westerner nods as he thinks it through. “Wood gathering teams, water fetchers, foraging parties, hunters, and those who can make camp life more comfortable should be detailed to organise laundry, set up shelters and so forth. Yes, it can work for us in many ways.”

“Will you make a list?” Mirlin asks. “I need an hour or two in dreamland first.”

Manuel grins. “Leave it with me.” He rises and heads out. “I’ll grab a bite at another fire.”

In the silence after, Mirlin says, “The frantic activity will distract him.”

“I agree.” I watch Mirlin expectantly. He does not disappoint.

“I am concerned, Horin. The Warrior talent eventually kills the host. We need you alive.” His tone is soft, but it is also determined.

“I still have time enough, have no fear.”

“How long?”

I look away. His intensity is now unsettling. “It depend on how often I wield my sword.”

“Not the orb?”

Reluctantly I admit, “The orb too.”

“You have used it frequently. How long, Horin?”

“A year at most,” I respond. “Ever stronger and larger … until the day my time comes to an end. In the moment of my death I will diminish back to the boy.”

“The boy Horin dies, but it is not your end, am I right?”

“No.”

“You are, in fact, an immortal.”

I glare at him. “It helps me none. As a soul I am unable to do much, except await a new birth.”

Now Mirlin is the one staring. “I have read much. Some of it pretty damn old. If I read it right, there is a way to prevent the diminish cycle. The lady Lyra can do this, for she possesses all the talents, does she not? Including Warrior. If she …”

“I cannot place this burden on her,” I interrupt angrily. By the stars, will the man keep quiet? The moment Lyra accesses her dormant Warrior, she too will transform. My beautiful sister will become someone else.

Mirlin spreads his hands. “I am merely pointing out your options.”

“Why?” I growl.

“We need you, Lord Makar. We both know, with a host of Glonu now in creation here, the shudders will summon others from the stars.”



Proverbs of Middle Earth: Faramir