Excerpt: Seclusion

She jolts awake. The nightmare, again. It haunts her, as it has every night for…how long has it been? Time has gotten away from her.

She rolls over on her back, staring at the root-canopy that forms this sizeable, yet well-concealed, den. It had been inhabited by a troll until recently; she had seen to its unceremonious eviction. Its pelt makes up the rough bed in which she was sleeping, while its decaying head rests on a boulder about five feet from the front entryway to the den. The presence and stench of it keeps away all intruders, including the nearby band of giants. They are only eight in number, so tending to their small herd of mammoths is of more importance than a dead troll. It is one less troll that will attempt to prey on the calves, and the smoke from their massive communal fire eliminates the stink of decaying flesh on days when the wind changes.

The nightmare is fading, but she can recall every detail. The dream is a memory of a real event, the details of which hammer at her brain like the siege machines hammer the walls of a fortress. She fully understands, now, why her father would sometimes wander the manor halls at night, long after the family had taken to bed. Two major events of his life still haunt him, many years later, although far less than they used to. She idly wonders how long the scene she witnessed would remain in her memory. She gags helplessly as those memories rush back, and claws her way out of the troll-skin bedroll towards the back of the den and the entryway to a short, rear tunnel. This tunnel is too small for the troll to have used; it had probably been created by the original resident of the den, as it leads to a small cave which opens on a ledge in a hillside. She staggers to a corner of the cave and doubles over, retching, but nothing comes up. Her stomach is empty. She hasn’t had any substantial meal for some time. The food-basket, tumbling from numb fingers…sweet cakes crumbling in the dirt…a carafe of wine shattering on stone…

She can’t stand her own cooking now, as the smell of food makes her nauseous beyond reason. Raw flesh is all that she can eat and hold down. What she craves and wants to consume sickens her. Stabling Sylph had become a necessity; even her own faithful steed was in danger from her appetites. She had to get away from the town and the people in it, for their protection as well as hers. Skulking through the woods…a campfire glinting between the trees…a young couple with their child, taking shelter for the night as they travel…their friendly invitation to join them for a meal…her maddening hunger at the scent of their vitality…the wife screaming as her husband was pinned to the ground, slavering teeth inches from his throat…rushing headlong through the forest, blinded by tears and tree-branches, frightened at the near-massacre…

“What’s happened to me?” she whispers to herself, doubled up in agony on the cave floor. The nausea passes. She gets to her feet, stumbles a bit, then steadies herself, swaying slightly. She needs to feed. The urge isn’t as strong this night as it has been, but it is always there, along with the distant siren song. It is very faint out here, making it easy to resist. She knows that her very being depends on resisting that call. If she succumbs to it…she shakes her head, negating the thought. That can’t happen. I won’t let it. I refuse! I shall resist…

She reels to the cave entrance and looks out, blinking in the bright moonlight. The giants are slumbering a fair distance away, with one standing watch, guarding the clan and the mammoth herd. She picks her way down from the ledge, making her way to the tree-line. The scent of a nearby herd of antelope makes her stomach knot with sudden hunger. She is torn by the desire to feed; the desire to answer that distant, deadly call, and the need to get a message to her family. Confusion roils in her mind…why is it so hard to think? The wild scent of the herd fills her nostrils. She surrenders to her hunger and crouches in the shadows, creeping as close as she dares.

A large buck, standing sentinel, whips his head around, startled by the distant howl of a wolf. The night had been almost eerily quiet, but now an answering howl, and then a third, floats on the air. The nervous herd mills about, then moves off towards the giant-camp. They have learned that relative shelter can be found amidst the mammoths; only the boldest and hungriest predators dare to attack the shaggy beasts.

She freezes amongst the shadows, not daring to follow the antelope herd. The giants will have heard the wolves as well, and might be more than ready to defend their camp. Her stomach knots with another sharp pang of hunger; her fevered brain reaches for a solution, and then it hits her: follow the pack. She had been successful with a past hunt when she had tracked a foraging band of goblins, following the wild boars for a full day after the goblins had captured three and returned to their rough camp. Following wolves would be fairly easy. Turning in the direction of their howling, she slips off into the night. She must feed…

ESO Fan Fiction: Scenes From the Battle, Part III

The enemy forces are swarming like angry bees…chaos abounds. The battle is at a fevered pitch and the noise is deafening: the thunder of arcane explosions. The clash and crunch of blades and mauls on armour. Screams of pain; shouts of rage, battle-cries vocalized in many different tongues. The thunk of the catapults; the splattering sound of rotten bags of meat exploding on masonry, the shattering of pottery. One intrepid assistant to the quartermaster has assembled a oil-throwing catapult near the banner at the inner rear of the fortress. This, combined with the meatbag catapult, is holding the enemy forces at bay in the main courtyard. The majority of their cloaked assassins, though, and more than a few mages, have evaded detection and made their way deeper into the fortress. They will be able to wreak havoc on any unwary defenders, and Tur’a knows that the more patient ones can spend hours in hiding, biding their time to make an escape under cover of darkness.

Watch out! her mind screams. She rolls to her left, bringing her sword up to block a vicious overhand stroke from a burly Orc’s war-hammer. The scarred, tusked face looks surprised at the swift motion, pausing just long enough for Tur’a to sweep his legs out from under him. Lotharr’s own sword removes the Orc’s head with one strike, the body twitching as the head bounces down the stone steps and rolls into a corner. Baragon draws his bow-string back, loosing a hail of ice-tipped arrows. There – another mage revealed! Tur’a leaps at him, lashing out with a pyro-kinetic whip. The mage screams as he burns from within, consumed by flames…a pile of ashes is all that is left as Tur’a moves on.

The sounds of the battle seem to fade as she advances. Her mind is focused on one word: BURN. Everything is wreathed in flames…it’s beautiful. She smiles serenely and walks forward, sword held loosely. She looks down at it. It seems useless and unnecessary at the moment, so she sheathes it and keeps on walking. Everything seems slow…she drags her eyes to the right, seeing a cat-man exploding from the shadows as he unleashes a volley of knives in a spinning cyclone of death. She sees the trajectory of each blade and throws herself flat – they whiz harmlessly overhead as she extends a burning, psionic chain. Get over here, she idly thinks, and the cat-man is suddenly…right there, in front of her. She grasps his shoulders and inhales deeply – his life essence drains as she sucks it in. She releases him…he turns to run, staggering weakly. She focuses momentarily – GRRRAAAWWWWR!!!
Flames blast outward in a corona; the cat-man crumples in a blazing fetal position. Tur’a advances, oblivious to the destruction – she is in the eye of a firestorm of her own creation, and feels more alive than she can recall. She burns…

ESO Fan Fiction: Scenes From the Battle, Part II

*CRASH*

The battering ram smashes the inner gate – and two of its wheels fall off. The warriors using it move it aside and in a matter of moments, the machine is disassembled. The parts will be used to repair the two ballistae which are making quick, short work of the inner gate. Inside the assaulted fortress, the quartermaster bawls instructions to his assistants as they rush to outfit and defend the battlemages and sentries. The now-useless transit shrine has been abandoned as these stalwart few stand at the ready. Tur’a and Baragon remain crouched and ready at their positions, not bothering with the oil-pots any longer. Tur’a eyes the enemy troops swarming in and hopes that Lotharr and his small crew have managed to evade detection. They are quite skilled, but the sheer numbers they face are daunting…any stealth attack they may have planned would have to be swift and enormous in scale.

Tur’a glances over at Baragon, who gazes intently down at the enemy numbers. She has seen him on the battlefield more and more lately, and his fighting is impressive. Such skill! No wild flailing about with his broadsword, as she has seen many others do. No, he wields his blade similarly to the way she was taught; the art of sword-play that was nearly lost to her people when they were driven from their homeland, so long ago.

*CRASH*

She snaps back to attention, surprised at being distracted, and sees Baragon smirking at her as shouts and the clashing of steel resound from below. They turn their attention to the stone stairway, standing to join two archers and a mage. Lotharr and his team barrel back in the door they had crept out of moments before, tabards ablaze. They move to various positions around the stairway and hold fast while the quartermaster replaces the oil-pots near them. Working swiftly, his assistants have managed to erect a catapult near the empty scroll-bier. The stench of rotting meat mingles with the smell of smoke, hot oil, burning cloth and leather, and charred flesh. The real battle will soon begin. Tur’a welcomes it…her heart is racing. She feels the wrath of her fellow knights of the dragon, their combined quiet rage feeding hers. Blazing runes dance at the edge of her vision as she grasps her sword tightly and raises it high. Flames lick the edges of the brutal blade as it takes on the appearance of molten lava. Beside her, Baragon draws his bow. Elves and their bows, Tur’a chuckles to herself. They come in handy, there’s no denying it…

*WHUMP*

She’s hurled backwards by a massive explosion! Dazed, flat on her back, helpless…GET UP! her mind screams – she rolls to the side, narrowly evading the mighty swing of an enemy’s maul. Her vision clears in time to see a flash of blades as Ildris opens the throat of the warrior with brutal precision. She re-cloaks and vanishes, but not before wreathing her younger sister in some healing magicks to cleanse the effects of the concussion. Tur’a smiles in relief and turns her attention back to the stairwell. Her sister is here! Ildris always brings heavy reinforcements. The battle is far from over…it can now begin in earnest. Baragon moves back to her side, closer than before. His face is a mixture of anger and…is that concern that she sees? No, that’s not possible. Just a trick of the eyes, she figures, as he draws on his own inner fire. His face becomes a blank obsidian mask with one blazing eye – he reminds her of a statue she saw as a child.

Tur’a shakes her head again, slightly, thinking that she must still be feeling the effects of the spell. These distracting thoughts aren’t helping! She feels foolish and disconcerted as she returns her attention to the fight. It needs to end swiftly…time to get serious.

ESO Fan Fiction: Scenes from the Battle, Part I

*BOOM*

The muffled sounds of heavy impact on the outer walls of the fortress jolt Tur’a from sleep. A pity – the dream had been a nice one. Tangled in bedclothes with…someone, while a storm raged outside. The heavy balls of ice launched from the magically-infused trebuchets had mingled with the noise of surf crashing on the rocks of the small island…

*BOOM*

Tur’a is fully awake, now – this is no small distraction. The timing between the sounds of impact is too close together… she knows that there are multiple siege machines outside the walls. She hopes that reinforcements arrive soon…if the walls take enough damage, the mages will be forced to direct their energies to defense mode, which will render the shrine of transit useless. She grabs up her heavy helm and claps it firmly on her head, then affixes her staff in its special sheath on her back. Taking some provisions from her satchel, she eats quickly and fastens her gauntlets as she runs upstairs to take a look into the outer courtyard.

*BOOM*

She crouches low to avoid detection, creeping close to the small balcony that overlooks the inner and outer gates. There – she sees the outer gate shudder as a battering-ram is wielded from the outside. A massive ball of ice hurtles over the wall, striking the inner gate as she gets closer. She feels the impact through her feet as the fortress shakes. Those clever bastards…they’re weakening the inner gate with trebuchets, which will make it much easier to breach the fortress with the battering ram. Instead of wasting time and firepower on the outer walls, they are going after the doors!

*BOOM*

Backing away from the balcony, she edges back downstairs and hurries to the quartermaster, shouting orders. He runs up to the balcony, directing his assistants to set up hot oil-pots above the inner gate. It will be a vain attempt at thwarting the enemy, but might buy just enough precious time to keep the inner of the fortress sealed. The transit shrine blazes brightly – reinforcements are on their way; people will emerge as quickly as they can, for as long as the outer gate holds…which won’t be for much longer!

*CRASH*

The shrine goes dark as the outer gate is breached…a score of fighters made it through beforehand. Tur’a is relieved to see Lotharr, Baragon, and a number of high-ranking, seasoned veterans – they will know what to do. Not a word is spoken; everyone knows their battle-rankings and defensive positions and move to their assigned locations without hesitation. Holding the inner fortress secure is of primary importance while they wait for their respective secondary squads to arrive, whether they are mounted or on foot.

Lotharr motions to five in the crowd, and they quietly exit through a side door to scout the courtyard, get a better count of the enemy, and possibly pick off a few of their stragglers. Baragon mans one of the oil-pots; Tur’a takes position at one to the right of him, while an Orc stands ready at one to Bargon’s left. All three watch quietly as the battering ram slowly rumbles into the courtyard, surrounded by mages casting protective spells over it – they are even prepared for the hot oil! Tur’a watches them through narrowed eyes, glaring at the hated golden banner waving high. Two ballistae are set up by the enemy as their cloaked assassins make quick work of the guards at the inner gate. Massive bolts crash into the weakened inner gate as those wielding the ram pick up speed…the oil-pots won’t slow them down one bit.

Tur’a grins under her helm. She likes the odds of this battle…they have survived worse. Let the fun begin.

The Power of Body Language

This is something that many people forget – great information, here!

M.C. Tuggle, Writer

Yojimbo2

Are you frustrated with your characters? Are they slowing down what should be a gripping, page-turning story? Maybe it’s time you got them off their rear ends and put them to work.

In my re-writes, I search the text for characters who THINK rather than ACT. When I spot a cerebral, lackluster character, I start re-staging the scene like a director, deciding how the characters should approach and look at one another. When I’ve done my job, every character will be in motion. His tone of voice, eye movements, expressions, and stance will reflect and amplify his emotions and attitudes. THEN each character can tell a compelling story.

Body language is one of the most powerful tools a writer can use. When we express our characters’ emotions and thoughts in concrete, physical terms, we pull the reader deeper into the story.

In my sci-fi short story Aquarius, the protag…

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Checklist for the weekend…

What have I done this week? Let’s see…I think I made at least four new acquaintances. I have seven old ones asking where I’ve been. I’ve definitely annoyed or pissed off five different people, but I also got five people to smile. I’m sure I’ve gotten 20 or more people scratching their heads in confusion. I’ve listened to a ton of music, drafted some posts for this blog, and completed my character back-stories for my guild site. I took a few pictures and hope they aren’t a pain in the arse to post. I have five songs picked out in an attempt to get back on the radio, if only for 30 short minutes…but I will become an honorary “Ultimate Sinner” on “The Boneyard!” That will be fun.

Still gaming like a fiend, striving for that elusive, ultimate veteran rank of 14 before the veteran system completely goes away – those Champion Points are adding up. I also have the short story ready to submit for critique…my internal dialogue has been hilarious, if you can imagine that!

Credit: Kikiandtea.com

Short and sweet today…still busy – but that’s a good thing.   🙂

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