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I haven't been on DA in a long while but I am still making art, and art-like stuff.  I'll be posting a bunch of work from the last year or so.

No, really.  I haven't been doing much art lately, but you can find my writing on:

 

www.fanfiction.net/u/3694901/

and

www.fictionpress.com/u/849235/

 

My scanner lives! Updating the drawings from before with decent scans, and lots of newish junk.
In fairness, about half of these updated images are craptastic, but that's because my scanner is still at work. Will replace with better images when I can bring it home.

Just wanted to let everyone know I was still alive and doodling. And writing.
I'm fresh out. Give me something to write or draw!
I don't remember where this one came from. But I usually find this sort of thing mildly amusing...

Choose 12 Characters
1. Elhilom Ithraedol (CR)
    - Immortal thief/ousted demon prince. Likes booze, women, and outsmarting people. Obsessive about his looks.
2. Kestrel (Sword of the Makers)
     - Naara's right-hand "man" (er, woman?). A loyal knight.
3. Eric Harding (CR)
   - The God of Time. Crazy as shit.
4. Emerald Viper (Exalted)
   - Changing Moon Lunar from the White Wolf game. Sexual opportunist. Likes food, booze, and shiny things.
5. Mouse (CR)
    - Super-strong, upbeat little troublemaker. Likes playing cookies.
6. Cathak Loren (Exalted)
    - Dawn Caste Solar from the White Wolf game. Boy Scout.
7. Himitsu (Exalted)
    - Chosen of Endings Sidereal from the White Wolf game. Exactly like Xellos from the anime "Slayers".
8. Tess (Exalted)
   - Ancient Twilight Caste Solar from the White Wolf game. Mad scientist. Loves tea.
9. Naara (Sword of the Makers)
    - Arrogant, brash, and unapologetic. The wizard/prince of Athera. Likes causing trouble.
10. The Nok (Sword of the Makers)
     - Ancient monster/collector of lost things. Giant salamander with short temper.
11. Artemis Ravencroft (CR)
    - The Goddess of Chaos. Hair-trigger temper. Crazy as shit.
12. Stephan (Sword of the Makers)
     - Young wizard. Used to do everything by the book, but... yeah. Recently discovered to be "a little bit" dragon.


Questions:

1. 1,3,6,10 are playing poker. Who wins?
The game seems to be turning in Elhil's favor, despite the fact that Eric is a God. Loren is losing horribly but thinks that folding is probably a good call. He contemplates making an exit just as Eric discovers that Elhil has been cheating all along. The two poof off somewhere to go kill each other.
The Nok does not understand the rules and crushes the whole table, scattering cards and chips everywhere. Since there is no one else left to blame, it chases after L the sight of little white fangs in a very broad grin.oren and tries to eat him.

2. 4 &9 are about to get married. 2,5,7 crashes their wedding. What happens?
Viper and Naara are probably in Vegas, completely trashed and just looking to stir up some trouble. Kestrel demands that Naara come home and sober up, Mouse wants the cookies she was promised for helping the two of them run off in the first place, and Himitsu just wants to see what's going to happen next. When it's revealed that he spiked everyone's drinks in the first place, Himitsu promptly disappears.

3. If 12 just screams in the middle of the night, what is the reason?
"Cup" decides to crawl into bed with his master. Stephan's familiar (a little shapeshifter) then turns into something really unpleasant. All this accompanied by high-pitched giggling, of course.

4. 2,4,5 are in a play. What kind of play?
Viper and Mouse are determined to reinterpret one of Shakespeare's tragedies with a liberal dose of pie-slinging and sex. They are convinced this will make the play more fun. Kestrel diligently pours over her lines, determined to give the character she is playing her best effort. When she hits the stage for her first dramatic monologue, Viper and Mouse hit her with a fire hose. Then they run away.

5. 3 send birthday invitations to 4,8,11. However, they didn't show. What happens?
The invitations Eric sent to Tess and Artemis were received and the two decided there was no reason to interrupt their important work for something as trivial as a 28,954th birthday of someone neither of  them like very much. Viper intended to come to the party, but wound up having sex with someone she met on the bus instead.

6. Dancing with the Stars invited 6 to their show. Will he/she accept?
Loren accepts, but he doesn't know how to dance. He stumbles through the routine and apologises profusely to his partner.

7. Who would win in chess, 1 or 2?
Elhil beats Kestrel - no contest. She's good... but he's got 4,000 years of experience.

8. If 4&7 played battleship (the game), who would win?
Himitsu destroys Viper. He doesn't even need to peek at Fate to read every move that she makes.

9. Would would win in real battleship, 4 or 7?
Himitsu plans the battle with a very slim margin of error. Viper gets frustrated and turns into a giant sea monster, sinking all of the ships including her own. A pyhrric victory - but this one goes to the Lunar.

10. If 1-6 and 7-12 are two teams, which team would win in dodge ball?
Elhil and Loren vs. Himitsu and Stephen? Well, the first team definitely has the advantage from a physical standpoint, but Himitsu's manipulation of fate will allow him to dodge balls even after they've hit him and Stephan can incinerate projectiles from a distance - being a wizard. So, this one goes to Stephen and Himitsu.

11. Would 3 win in a triathlon?
Eric manipulates time. He was at the end before the whistle ever blew.

12. 1&6 are going out. 7&12 are following them. Why?
Stephan and Himitsu are both convinced that Elhil is up to something, because Loren is such a nice, innocent boy scout and Elhil is a devious bastard. Also a devious bastard, Himitsu has no intention of preventing Elhil from getting Loren into trouble - he just wants to watch the whole world burn. Stephan honestly wants to help the poor sod.

13. If 9 is hired to kill 4, who hired 9?
Naara isn't really the type to kill anyone, let alone someone like Viper who he'd probably hit it off with. Who's behind this mess then? Himitsu - without question.

14. 8 is trapped in a hole for 3 days in a forest. 1 finds him/her. Would 1 help?
Elhil gloats over the fact that Tess is trapped in a hole, despite how scary powerful she is. He thinks about helping her but wants to get some sort of concession first. Ultimately, Tess finishes her tinkering and hovers out of the hole. She wasn't really trapped  - but while she was down there, she got distracted and started building some sort of super-weapon. She promptly points the super-weapon at Elhil for teasing her. Elhil poofs.

15. 3&7 are at a bar. If a fight starts, who started it?
Eric and Himitsu in a fight would be pretty terrifying. Between the time manipulation and the fate manipulation going on, there would be no way to ascertain who started the fight - if indeed, any such fight ever occurred.

16. 4&6 are making out in the bathroom. 10 really needs to go to the bath room (really, really bad). What happens?
Viper's intention of taking advantage of Loren is cut short by the Nok barrelling through the doors. They run.

17. If 1 were to open a shop, what shop would it be?
Elhil has no patience for running a business of any kind. Except if that business sold booze.

18. Can 11 be trusted with a machine gun?
Artemis? ... No.

19. 12 sees a rainbow. He/She follows the rainbow. If he/she found the pot of gold, would he/she kill the leprechauns or bribe him?
The Nok - "EATS ALL THE LEPRECHAUNS!!!"

20. If 2&5 are drunk and went to 3's house, what happens?
Eric stares in confusion at Kestrel and wonders how a mortal managed to get into the realm of the Gods. Then he sees Mouse, slams the door and goes to get a drink.

21. 4 just won the lottery. What would he/she spend first?
Viper has no idea what to do with her new found wealth and promptly parties it all away.

22. If all entered the Olympics, who would win the most gold medals?
Elhil - Fencing (gold) and Gymnastics (gold)
Kestrel - Fencing (silver) and Riding (gold)
Eric - Track (gold), Soccer (gold)
Viper - Swimming/Diving (gold), Weightlifting (silver)
Mouse - Women's Weightlifting (gold), Track (gold)
Loren - Weightlifting (gold), Fencing (silver), Martial Arts (bronze)
Himitsu - Martial Arts (gold) ... Yeah, Sidereals are pretty good at that shit.
Tess - Martial Arts (silver), Archery (gold)
Naara - Fencing (bronze), Track (silver)
Artemis - Fencing (gold), Martial Arts (gold)
Stephen - Archery (silver) - He never really shoots a bow, but probably has good hand-eye coordination, Track (bronze)

The Nok gets angry and demands all of the medals. Everyone throws in their medals, except for Artemis.
Artemis punches the Nok into orbit.

23. 11 is babysitting the class pet. Would the pet survive?
Artemis? No.

24. 4&11 are eating cake. However, the cake was 12's birthday cake. What happens?
Stephan glares at Artemis and Viper eating his cake. He then decides to go ask Ginger to make him another one.

25. If snow is outside, what is 9's reaction?
SNOW! YAY! (Naara)

26. Who would be best in James Bond movies?
Elhil. Without question.

27. If all of them are stranded on an island, who would resort to cannibalism first?
Elhil - poof
Eric - poof
Artemis - poof
Himitsu - poof
Naara - grabs Kestrel, summons an Elemental and flies away
Stephan - Summons an Elemental and flies away.
Tess - Builds an airship out of a coat hanger and a wad of chewing gum - and flies away.
Nok - burrows into the ground and vanishes
Viper - turns into sea monster and swims away
Mouse - Rides off on Viper's head.

Loren starts praying.

28. 5 is trapped in a gorilla cage. 6&4 are outside of the cage. Will they help?
HELL NO! Victory is theirs! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW HARD IT IS TO PUT MOUSE IN A BOX?

29. Would 9 be a good peacemaker? If so, what are his/her methods?
Naara is a very bad person for this job. If making peace involves turning everyone against him, however - he stands a pretty good chance of succeeding.

30. 4,5,8,12 are playing strip poker. What happens?
Tess, Viper and Mouse all gang up on Stephan. Because that's hilarious.

31. What happens if you give 12 a chainsaw?
Stephan will cast a spell on it to see what it does. When he's not looking, his familiar Cup will pull the cord and go running around with the chainsaw, terrifying villagers or forest creatures as the case may be,

32. 6,7,9,12 are drunk. If they go to 4's house, what happens?
Stephen, Loren, Himitsu and Naara are all drunk. This is a recipe for disaster. They wind up at Viper's house.
She produces more beer and tries to seduce all of them.
GASP! Can it be? A [i]new[/i] story?! It is a bit rough and ragged. I had some trouble working on my REALLY BIG STORY and ended up on this one instead. Exalted story  - - - again. Can't help it. The world setting is way too fun.
______________
VANGUARD, Ch. 1:

I knew there was something wrong as I rode towards Fort Glory. I'd been gone two weeks not counting the days I'd camped at Haven and all the roads had been far too quiet on my ride south. The weather was warm but not too hot, the roads were dry and the sky was clear almost every day. Normally I would have counted myself lucky not to catch a glimpse of Ragara Damao's goons hiding in the woods, but tensions had risen so high around Lookshy that I was sure their absence was a bad sign.

I'd known for years that significant powers were moving around Wake's Raiders and that a larger rebellion was forming. Chrysalis had grown from its humble beginnings into a bloated organization with far too many members marooned all over Creation. Who was in charge, no one knew anymore. It was hard to believe that only twelve years ago Wake, Rhapsody, Devil and myself had been laying a trap for The Emissary on the roof of Gongfang's Fireworks in Nexus.

As you can probably imagine, the only thing harder than trying to trap an ancient Anathema is figuring out what to do when you actually catch him. It was doubtful that Wake and I would have ever attempted anything as audacious as blackmailing The Emissary himself on our own, but Rhapsody had a way of making very dangerous plans seem like very good ones. More importantly, after seeing Clever Devil in action, I fully believed that she could kill anyone that Rhapsody decided needed killing. Wake was no slouch with a blade either.

Of course, I played some part in the whole business myself. As many of my friends have often professed, I can talk my way into, out of or around anything. Over the years I've tricked a prince into proposing to me, weaseled my way into the most exclusive school of sorcery in the world, passed myself off as a Dynast and even convinced a pack of Lunars that a dead muskrat I'd found floating in a rice patty was really their missing mentor. That business aside, I have never traded words with anyone more treacherous than The Emissary himself. Though he ultimately agreed to all of our demands, I did find myself wondering afterwards whether I'd actually beat the Solar at his own game or not.

As for the rest of "The Founders" of Chrysalis... neither Wake nor I had seen Rhapsody and Devil in years, not since Devil had been shot at The Battle of The Gray River. While I still heard Rhapsody's songs sometimes as I traveled, the only word that ever came from The Emissary was sent directly to Wake and always reassured him that everything was still proceeding "according to the plan".

Not that either of us knew what "the plan" was. It had a habit of changing frequently and the last version of it that we'd been parlay to was four years out of date.

Neither Wake or I had been part of Chrysalis's inner circle since the day we learned that all of our co-conspirators were Anathema. We'd never told our Raiders why we'd left the vicinity of Whitewall either. So many of the recruits we'd collected were people who'd been dealt the worst lot in life that Creation could offer. Experienced mercenaries like my old friend Nine Lives understood that there was often very little difference between "heroes" and baby-eating village-burning demons - but the starry-eyed kids who made up the majority of our forces usually quit with their first harsh dose of reality... and we simply couldn't afford to lose them.

It was better that our Raiders didn't find out the truth... that the core of Chrysalis, which touted itself as a "by mortals, for mortals" rebellion was actually comprised of Solar Exalted who made even the best bred Dynasts of the Realm look like incompetent children when it came to sorcery, intrigue, crafting, warfare and virtually everything else.

If the timing hadn't been so crappy, maybe Wake and I would have taken the moral high ground and thrown in the towel ourselves, but when you're entrenched for the winter in eight feet of snow with four hundred and fifty mercenaries and an army of Fair Folk banging on your doors... telling your men not to support the demons who are feeding them is kinda counterproductive.

Of course, why we hadn't given up when spring came was something I didn't really understand. For the most part, when The Emissary wanted to do things a certain way, it seemed safest for the rest of us follow orders and hope that we were still too useful to be sacrificed for the greater good.

Truthfully, if I was The Emissary, I would have seen no good reason to tell Wake or myself  anything at all. Us Raiders had our own immediate agenda... and that was to steer clear of Lookshy while taking care of those who were starving to death in the countryside and killing as many Realm soldiers as possible. All things considered, it was what we were best at.

But since the first of Ascending Fire, the orders that Wake received from Chrysalis had been more vague than ever before and a few of my old contacts had recently gone missing. One of them had been murdered in a fashion almost impossible to describe. It made me sick to remember the scene as I'd discovered it and I could not shake how Dorian's scared little wife had told me that a dead man had killed her husband. "The plan" from on high was either coming together or falling apart, I couldn't be sure which... but I expected to see some major upheaval soon.

Like the predatory whales that swam in the deep blue waters surrounding my childhood home, I'd learned that the real monsters of the world tended to glide by underneath the surface of conflicts, invisible and unnoticed until they got very hungry. I still couldn't see the great big whales that were circling around our little war... but sometimes at night I swore I heard them singing.

Though Wake would surely say I was being paranoid again, the uncomfortable feeling stewing in my gut left me convinced that even our Raiders had outgrown the two of us as leaders. When we first started striking out against The Realm, we'd promised that we weren't going any further than Heian. We'd convinced ourselves that we would always stay close to home so that we could protect our own. The fall of Thorns changed all of that and "home" became Fort Glory. Now Wake and Strength of Many were talking about moving north.

I wasn't sure that the Anathema could be trusted and I didn't like how Wake hung on his every word. We were four days from Lookshy and our allies in Nexus were weeks away through territory that Ragara Damao controlled.  Wake and I had only about a thousand men that were fully trained, not to mention too many old people and children to move. The further we pushed our limits, the more tenuous our grasp became. If we tried for too much, I knew we'd lose everything we had.

Of course, there was no use telling Wake that. Although he wasn't a Dragonblood himself, he'd been raised as a Dynast and there was very little that he did not think he could do. Sometimes it seemed as though he was overcompensating for what he perceived as his own unforgivable weakness – his failure to become one of the Princes of the Earth.

I reached the western gates of Fort Glory. The sentry sitting atop the wall was a boy I didn't recognize, probably not even fourteen years old. The black tabard he was wearing had been made for someone twice his size and he didn't even have a decent weapon, just a sharpened stick.

I reached under my cloak and produced Wake's seal for the guard at the gate to inspect. She wasn't much older than the sentry, and I didn't recognize her either.

"What's your name, recruit?" I asked.

"Sissy, ma'am." She whispered, her voice scarcely audible. She was no soldier despite her attire, and the way she stood left me convinced that she'd never held a weapon in her life.

"Sissy?" I echoed incredulously. "Whoever heard of a guard named Sissy? Listen, recruit. From now on, you're called Steamroller!"

The girl gaped at me and someone above us laughed. It wasn't the boy who'd been serving as sentry but a grizzled old veteran I knew very well. He was tough as nails and if he hadn't been blind in both eyes I would have gladly entrusted the lives of Wake and everyone else inside Fort Glory into his care. As it was, his ears alone made him better than any four of our usual sentries.

"Is that you, Vanguard?" Nine Lives wondered.

"Yup, I'm still alive." I tipped my hat in Nine's direction. It didn't matter that he couldn't see me. The sound of all the gold coins I wore jingling made my gesture obvious enough. Nine often bragged that he could hear me coming from a mile away. My usual attire made me stand out in the Scavenger Lands... but unlike Wake, I didn't ever want to forget where I'd come from.

Someday, if I lived to be old and gray... I was going to make it home.

"Wake will be glad." Nine grinned. "Now what's this I hear about a Steamroller?"

I dismounted from my horse. Like a spider, Nine climbed down from his perch. I hugged him for as long as I figured he'd tolerate and then helped him over in the direction of the gate.

"This is Steamroller." I introduced him to the girl.

"I... uh, I don't think I could answer to a name like that." The girl admitted, looking embarrassed. As I evaluated her more closely, it occurred to me that I couldn't have possibly picked anything less fitting. She was so thin the looked fragile. Her skin was almost transparent white and I got the distinct impression that if I spit on her, she'd crumple up and double over like she'd been struck in the stomach with a cannon ball.

Of course, it wasn't my job to tell things like they were. It was my job to keep folks fighting without pay and without even the barest necessities. When our mercenaries were getting close to mutiny, that was when Wake always called for me. And when he called, I always came. Despite how disillusioned I'd become in my old age, I suspected it was because I still believed in our cause... at least a little.

"Sure you can!" I punched "Sissy" in the shoulder and she stared at me in confusion. "Y'see, Steamroller... most people only live up to what others expect of em'. So if I tell this kid that he's "Lucky"..." I jerked my thumb at the sentry, who blinked in surprise. "I figure that he will be. You tell yourself you're a steamroller and you'll be surprised at what you're capable of If it makes any difference to you, my given name is Hafizah."

She laughed out loud at that... and then looked even more embarrassed. "I'm sorry, ma'am." She whispered feebly. "Please don't be angry with me. It's just that you're..."

"The real ol' Vanguard?" Nine supplied. "Sure is. Don't let her young face fool ya. This lass is the one what roped me into Wake's Raiders."

"You were drunk and you started a bar fight!" I reminded him.

"That I did! I was an honest mercenary back then! And now look at me, rebel scum through and through! Ain't even got me decent pair of boots to my name." He snorted.

"Hey! I didn't make you stay with us!" I protested.

"Of course you didn't. You were too good to tell anybody they had to die back at Whitewall. That's why I couldn't go." Nine replied with a roguish grin.

"For what it's worth, recruit... Wake named me Vanguard. I felt obliged to live up to it." I winked. "Now are you going to let me in before ol' Damao gets here or what?"

With some help from Nine Lives and the sentry boy – the one I'd decided to call "Lucky"... little "Steamroller" opened up the gates.

I entered Fort Glory and went to find Wake, biting my tongue a little so that I wouldn't start harping on him about the age and quality of his guards.

Wake had promised when we started out that we would never put children in danger. The fact that the faces I saw around our camp were getting younger and younger worried me. Children panicked more easily than seasoned professionals and nervous sentries are almost as dangerous as lazy ones.

As it turned out, Wake was not in his office. It was a rat's nest as per usual... a mess of maps and correspondence stinking of cheap wine and the opium that he'd begun dipping into for his nerves. If someone had been rifling around in things that weren't their business, there would be no way of knowing it.

I'd tried more times than I could count to impress the importance of properly hiding or destroying certain documents upon Wake... and yet he still worked out ciphers on the same paper as the  messages he received, completely defeating the purpose of coding sensitive material in the first place. I straightened things up a little, burned everything that seemed inconsequential as I read through it and left Wake a short note on his desk.

I cleaned up after you.

I didn't bother to sign with my name or any of my aliases. There were very few people in the Scavenger Lands fluent in Flametongue. Wake had only learned it in order to understand when Nine and I were making fun of him behind his back.

I finished replacing the floorboards to hide some of our better maps and sat down with a cup of tea. Not two minutes later, the sentry from the wall burst in.
Before I saw who it was, my hand was on my dagger.

"Vanguard!" The boy shouted. "Vanguard!"

He swallowed whatever he'd been about to say next when he saw where my blade had implanted itself into the wood of the door, a mere inch away from the top of his head.

"You know that you're not supposed to come in here without announcing yourself first, don't you?" I eyed him suspiciously. "What is it?"

"It's... it's Damao!" He stammered. "He's got Wake!"

As it turned out, Ragara Damao didn't even have the decency to send one of his own men to convey his demands. A panicked horse had come barreling up to our gates with the body of Gedden Swindon tied to it, an arrow in his throat and a knife in his back, pinning a note to his corpse.

The note was addressed generically, which made me wonder if Damao didn't know that I'd made it back to Fort Glory.

I was at a loss to guess how Damao had gotten hold of Wake in the first place, at least until I tried to call the Raiders together and discovered that Wake had taken Osric, Feather, Raj and anyone else who was worth their own weight out to investigate a series of bandit attacks taking place on the eastbound road.

It had been a trap, and not even a very clever one at that. In past years, before he'd started addling his own brain with opium, Wake never would have fallen for it. Though I still had the majority of Fort Glory at my disposal, the most experienced Raiders that I would have chosen to enact any kind of subterfuge – had all gone with Wake and were either captured by Damao or dead.

I took stock in what I did have... four hundred and twenty six men at Fort Glory, most of them older than forty or younger than sixteen. We had more soldiers in Haven, at Gray River and at Robber's Roost – but the nearest Raider-friendly village was four days away. I was missing most of my best officers, but I still had Nine Lives, whose obvious blindness made him easy to underestimate, Sakura, my protege... and the skinny little sentry I'd called "Lucky" who seemed especially promising.

Damao had made his intentions crystal clear. If we wanted Wake alive, the Raiders would disband. We'd turn over to him all of our documents and Fort Glory. And if we did so, he would let us all walk away.

Maybe.

There was something I didn't like in his tone. As an expert of deception myself, I have a certain knack for reading the words-within-words that most everyone conceals in their writing. I quickly made up a letter to deliver to Damao promising that we would give him whatever he wanted – if he would provide some indelible proof that Wake was still alive and also furnish us with a list of who else he was holding captive and how much he wanted for each of their ransoms.

Naturally, I had no intention of paying him anything.

As I worked out the gist of my plan with Nine, Lucky listened and watched us. I'd guessed him right... the boy was a sharp one. Though he was seventeen and looked much younger, I saw in his eyes that he itched to cut his teeth on some real work. He reminded me of myself, many years ago.

"I need this to work, Nine." I finished, clasping his hand. He squeezed mine back and chuckled slightly. "Now, I know you and the Raiders can convince Damao that I'm planning on betraying him... especially since I am planning on it. But I need him to believe that I'm trying to waste his time and hold out for Haven to get here. It'll buy us a week, and I don't doubt that he won't furnish us a complete list of who he's killed or captured right away. If you have to, demand that he tell you what happened to "Steamroller" and "Lucky"." I suggested.

"Steamroller?" Lucky frowned. "But nobody's going to know who that is!"

"Exactly!" I smirked.

"You're terrifying, Vanguard." Nine reminded me.

"Only when I have to be." I replied. Sighing heavily, I turned to Lucky, took Wake's seal from my neck and pressed it into his hand. "You and Steamroller. Take the fastest horses we've got. Now I'm sure that girl can't fight to save her own hide, but I'll bet she can run like nobody's business and she won't look like trouble. Go with her to Haven. If anyone stops you, you're siblings, traveling to get medicine for your ailing mother. I've got some herbs with me that come from Gem. They smell like the living dead and nobody will know what they're really used for, nor will they be inclined to test them. When you get to Haven, you're going to find "Mother" at The Amber Moth. Tell her everything. Then send Steamroller along with whoever "Mother" can spare – all the way down to Lookshy. They'll be looking for a place called The Plum Blossom. Bartender there is called Li Wei. Have Steamroller tell him - "We've been doing an awful lot of running around." Those exact words, do you understand?"

"What about me?" Switch wondered.

"It's almost Calibration. You are going to Nexus." I informed him. "Now I know you can't get there in the amount of time that we have right now, but if for any reason, this plan fails and Wake or I are killed... certain people are going to need to know about it immediately. We can't have Chrysalis sending us people who need protection if Fort Glory has been compromised or burned to the ground. There are a few people who can help you once you're in Nexus, but your best bet is to go straight to Harlotry and look for places that are hiring musicians. The words you need to say are - "I wear my heart on my sleeve". Someone will get you in touch with Windswept Rhapsody."

"Like the ballad?" He gave me a strange look.

"Yes, like the ballad." I smiled slightly. Most of Creation was familiar with Rhapsody's favorite ballad – the one she'd arrogantly written about herself. Then again, Rhapsody did have more than a century of experience and a certain amount of supernatural mastery that made it very easy for her to write amazingly catchy tavern songs. Bards picked up her work like sailors picked up whores wherever they came to port... zealously, and with very little consideration of the consequences.

There was no sense in explaining to Lucky that Rhapsody was not named for the famous song but was in fact, its innovator. Admitting that she'd been roaming around Creation for more than a century was only slightly less damning than telling the whole truth – that she was a Solar and bloody dangerous even when she was nominally on "our side".

"All right." Lucky nodded. "Anything else?"

"Mm." I paused. "If Rhapsody says or does anything particularly strange or has a... rather unorthodox method of getting you back here, just try to trust her."

"That's all?" Lucky gave me an odd look.

"That'll be hard enough." I sighed heavily. "Be careful, Lucky."

"You know, I have an actual name." The kid informed me.

"Doesn't matter. I want you to be Lucky." I replied.

"What if I told you that my name was "Never Fails"?" He pressed.

"I'd still want you to be Lucky." I tousled his hair. He had very unusual golden-colored eyes that would probably make him quite striking when he eventually outgrew his enormous ears and obstinate-looking nose.

"What are you going to do?" Lucky wondered, turning to look at me as Nine shoved him in the direction of the door.

"I've got a letter to deliver." I smirked.

"But... won't Damao just take you captive then? Like he did Wake?" Lucky pressed.

"Not if he doesn't recognize me." I replied. "And the benefit of dealing with Dragonbloods is that they never really look at mortals too closely."

Taking her cue, Sakura stepped out of the shadows. Lucky stared in disbelief. While her disguise wouldn't hold up under close scrutiny, from ten feet away she could have been my twin.

"I'm meeting him as Sakura. The letter I'm holding says that I'm being returned to him as a gesture of good will. You see, about five years ago, Sakura here ran away from Damao's nephew. I'm sure the old man is going to insist on me staying in his compound until I can be returned to my rightful master. It'll give me a few days at best, but that's all I need to tear House Ragara apart from the inside."

"Why can't someone else go?" Lucky wondered uneasily. "I mean, you shouldn't be the first one in, right?"

"Kid, do you know what the word "Vanguard" means?" Nine asked with a grin.

The boy only shook his head.

"It's a military unit. The vanguard are up at the front." Nine explained. "They're [i]always[/i] the first ones in."
Kit, an orphaned shepherd boy discovers that he is one of the last of the Bréanainn Faol - an ancient order of wizards founded by the infamous Math ap Mathonwy. Because of his awakening Gift, Kit is forced to flee from the only life he's ever known and begins searching for Jacob Leveque, the man who introduced him to magic.

In his search for Leveque, Kit unwittingly ends up stealing a magical artifact of enormous power - the last of Scherazade's legendary Traveling Boxes.

As Kit learns to wield his own magic and dodges the nefarious wizards of the Order of Neptune led by Giovanni Prospero, he travels from his home in Northumbria to far-off India and China - and from the 14th century to the 20th.

Kit acquires several companions - Bella Giorno, a femme fatale from 15th century Venice, Siegfried Lorenzo Louis-Phillipe O'Connor, a wisecracking con-artist from 19th century London and Thaddeus Montgolfier - a fearless American balloon pilot on a journey around the world.

Together, the four of them must stop Prospero from getting his hands on The Box and find a way to free Math ap Mathonwy from a terrible faerie curse before The Order of Neptune's plans to wake a slumbering Sumerian Goddess put the whole world in danger.
Oh no - this can't be good. But with Nanowrimo on the horizon - why the hell not?

For sanity's sake, I'm going to use my best-known characters. I'll also add which story(s) they are from.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

101 Character Question Meme
by =Jerepasaurus

1. Lord Elhilom "Panther" Ithraedol
Series: Chaos Realm
Concept: 4,000 year old demon prince. Makes his own entertainment at the expense of anyone and everyone.
Likes: Getting drunk and chasing skirts. Being the center of attention.
Alignment: Chaotic Awesome.
Personality: Jack Sparrow, Alucard and Casanova.

2. Ireval "Artemis Ravencroft" Ithraedol/Inapsupetra
Series: Chaos Realm
Concept: Arrogant. Ruthless. Sometimes terrifying to be around, sometimes awe-inspiring.
Likes: Red roses, cookies, swords and very complicated games.
Alignment: Chaotic. Because... well, Goddess of Chaos?
Personality: ...

3. Eric Thomas "Teyame" Harding
Series: Chaos Realm
Concept: Omnicidal God of Time/Mild-Mannered Art Student
Likes: Hurling lightning bolts at things and trying to kill himself in the past or the future. Has a penchant for dramatic entrances.
Alignment: Either Chaotic Good or Chaotic Evil, depending on when you catch him.
Personality: The Doctor, as played by David Tennant with a slight touch of John Constantine.

4. Damion "Mad" Mack
Series: Chaos Realm
Concept: Dimension and Time Hopping gangster - the most infamous in the multiverse. Is his own grandfather.
Likes: Causing mayhem. Pubs.
Alignment:  Chaotic Neutral.
Personality: Is basically a combination of The Blues Brothers and The Boondock Saints.

5. Prince Naara Ttashiel Endymion
Series: Sword of the Makers
Concept: Fabulous, Arrogant Sorcerer/Prince. Everyone who's met him will kill him if they can.
Likes: Playing pranks on the unsuspecting. Learning things he isn't supposed to know. Looking gorgeous.
Alignment: Chaotic Good.
Personality: Harry Dresden (aJim Butcher's Dresden Files Series) and Tony Stark (as played by Robert Downey Jr.)

6. "Sir" Kestrel Yfair
Series: Sword of the Makers
Concept: The greatest Swordmaster in the world - a big damn hero. Actually a woman.
Likes: Stabbing things first and asking questions about them later.
Alignment: Lawful Good.
Personality: A bit of Aramis (The Three Musketeers). A Paladin Batgirl?

7. Ginger Comfort
Series: Sword of the Makers
Concept: Farmgirl turned Mercenary. Eminently practical.
Likes: Good food, good clothing (or well-made anything), people willing to give a straight answer.
Alignment: Lawful Good.
Personality: Honest and loyal. Sticks like mud. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, but exceptionally good at bludgeoning with Common Sense.

8. Seyadra Ayud
Series: Sword of the Makers
Concept: Half-Dragon Mage, consummate troublemaker
Likes: Food, treasure, fire. Getting her way.
Alignment: Chaotic Good.
Personality: Lina Inverse meets Amanda (Highlander). Unforgivably snarky.

9. Emerald Viper
Series (Game): Exalted
Concept: Changing Moon Lunar. Snake. Sharp Like Bowling Ball, Quick Like Tree. Crazy as Shit.
Likes: Food, alcohol, sex, sleep and treasure in no particular order.
Alignment: Chaotic Good.

10. Cathak "Alexander Faeslayer" Loren
Series (Game): Exalted
Concept: Dawn Caste Solar. Overgrown, insecure Boy Scout.
Likes: Saving the Day, Killing Monsters. for Mad to shoot with his fully operational ghost-catching gear
Alignment: Lawful Good.



Getting along:
1. (6) demands you take a road trip with them to see the sights. What is their idea of a good trip anyhow?
A nice little ride on a summer afternoon. Possibly foxhunting?

2. (7) has made something very, very special, taken a great amount of time and care in doing so... and suddenly (2) has just tripped and fallen on it. Oh no! What was it and how does this end?
Upon meeting Ireval, Ginger can do nothing but stare in horror. Ireval blames Ginger for the destroyed cake. Ginger promptly apologizes and spends the better part of the next week wondering what she did wrong.

3. (4) was trying to cook, but something distracted them and now things are on fire. How do they handle this?
If Damion was cooking, things being on fire is probably intentional. He laughs and watches them burn.

4. The yard is full of eye-level weeds and brambles. (5) is going to get fined a hefty fee unless they find a way to clean it up. Can they get (3) to help them out?
Naara summons Eric and promptly runs away. This doesn't actually persuade Eric to clean anything, but Naara finds it entertaining.

5. (1) Has gone out to eat and only realizes when the bill comes…that their wallet seems to be empty. Then, they spot (9) at a table nearby. Thoughts?
Elhil upon seeing Viper with stolen wallet - Sex first, then get money back?

6. A stray puppy just showed up on the doorstep and (8) is the first to find it.
Seya sneezes and accidentally incinerates the puppy. Then eats it.

7. (6) has been gaining weight for some unknown reason and is having a hard time getting it off. How do they feel about it/deal with it?
Kestrel? More exercise.

8. (2) was just mugged while (10) was with them. How do they handle it?
Ireval was mugged? By whom - Cthulu? - Loren stares in horror. Ireval demands that Cthulu give her purse back, and then punches him into orbit.

9. (9) finds a huge spider in their bed and tells (5). Who deals with it and how?
The huge spider in Viper's bed turns out to be another Lunar (shapeshifter) intent on dragging Naara into a threesome with herself and Viper. He happily obliges.

10. (5) hears noises in the middle of the night and suspects burglars. What happens?
Naara skips off merrily to terrify the burglars out of their wits. They flee in terror.

11. (1) is crapped on by several pigeons overhead that they weren't aware of. (4) sees this happen.
Damion laughs his ass off - until Elhil throttles him and demands to know why.

12. (8) has a case of hiccups that they can't get rid of. (2) has some suggestions for a cure.
Seya's hiccups would involve breathing fire on things. Ireval's solution? Punch her into orbit.

13. (3) finds out they have a long lost sibling. How would they take this news?
Eric chases down said sibling and kills them. There's only room in the multiverse for so many Gods, y'know.

14. Does (5) or (10) ever sing? They managed to both get drunk and are making dares involving karaoke. (9) is lucky enough to be their sober audience.
Naara sings like David Bowie. Loren sings only when he's drunk and never in tune. Viper gets Naara into bed with her and lets Loren humiliate himself alone.

15. (6) just bought their dream car. What is it? (10) just bought the best transportation they could afford. What are their opinions of one another's vehicles?
Kestrel - some kind of large truck, like a Chevy? And a 10 horse trailer! Loren - scraped together pocket change to get something that barely runs.
Kestrel (to Loren) - I can fix that for you. Maybe?                  Loren (mopes)

16. With much determination, (1) just decided to grow a very special garden. What's in it? (7) is curious and goes to see for themselves what it is.
Elhil is most definitely growing marijuana and/or opium. Ginger thinks the plants are pretty and makes a little bouquet.

17. (9) and (8) have decided to get a part time job, and it requires drug testing. Other than the joys of peeing in a cup, what will the results of the test divulge about each?
Viper cannot be employed by anyone EVER. The percentage of controlled substances in her body is higher than the percentage of H2O.
Seya is not human.

18. What is (5)'s middle name? What does (6) think of it?
Ttashiel. Kestrel thinks it's hard to pronounce. Naara makes those nasty Draconic words sound so cool, the silver-tongued bastard.

19. (7) encounters a large cooked insect in their favorite food. To their recollection, it was not listed in the ingredients.
Ginger picks the bug out and keeps eating.

20. How does (3) or (2) sleep best?
Gods don't need sleep.

21. (4) just bent over and 'cut a ripe one' while walking past (9). Who is more awkward?
This turns into a farting contest. And then a drinking contest. And then a "superior farting contest" - with a large audience.

22. (4) and (8) are forced to babysit a toddler for 3 days. How to they fare?
Mad Mack gets bored and leaves. Seya gets hungry and eats the toddler.

23. (10) and (7) get into a heated argument and they both get it all out who thinks what about whom. How bad does this get, and how does it end? Does it get resolved?
Ginger hits Loren with her skillet. Loren would never hit a woman, so he sits down and mopes.

24. (4) is invited to a costume/Halloween party, but it requires they bring a partner with a themed/matching costume. (1) begs to go with them. What do they dress as, and how does it go?
Mad Mack shows up dressed as one of The Ghostbusters. Elhil shows up without a costume. When this failure to play along is brought to his attention, he summons something truly horrific for Mad to shoot at with his fully operational ghost-catching gear. Then Elhil takes a glass of champagne and leaves. He comes back to the party thirty minutes later dressed as Zorro - and is disappointed to discover that the monster he summoned has scared off all of the attractive women.

25. Has (6) ever been on any sports team in their life? If not, do they have any qualities that would benefit them for any particular game?
There aren't really any sports in Kestrel's world, but she is the kind of girl who would play hockey and/or football. On the boy's team.

26. If (5) had one artistic skill, what would it be?
Naara? Applying make-up and doing hair.

27. (7) has cooked (4)'s favorite food. What's going on?
Everyone was hungry. Ginger made food.

28. Is (5) skilled with any instruments? If not, are there any they would want to learn, or might actually be proficient at but have never considered?
Naara doesn't have the patience for instruments. He broke several while attempting to learn them.

29. (2) heard that (9) has a secret silly/stupid talent that is worthwhile to see. They demand results and won't go away.
Viper obliges Ireval. Because Ireval is terrifying, and Viper doesn't give a damn about being taken seriously anyway.

30. (4) is playing their favorite game and (1) decides they want in on it. What's the game, and do they accept?
Mad Mack is making trouble (freaking the mundanes). He gladly lets Elhil help, because while freaking people out with fireballs is hilarious, freaking them out with demons is even funnier.

31. (7) decides to build a house and asks (8) to help. Should they be worried?
Seya sits on the pile of lumber and watches Ginger build the house, picking her teeth and making snarky comments. Ginger completes the house anyway.

32. (8), (2) and (6) are invited to a pool party. It ends up being more of a frat party with water, women and cops in wee hours. What the hell happened?
Seya was the life of the party for most of the night, but Kestrel got annoyed and left when everyone got too inebriated. The cops were called when a drunk made a pass at Ireval. She physically turned him inside-out, threw his carcass into the pool and then punched the whole house into orbit.

33. (3) suddenly calls (10) "needy". Why?
Eric has absolutely no sympathy for anyone, and Loren IS a whiny baby.

34. (2) decides (1) must have a tattoo, and is very adamant. What is this tattoo idea? Does (6) like it? If they decide to get it, where is its location going to be?"
Elhil has so many tattoos already that Ireval probably couldn't guess where he might actually put another one. Kestrel thinks they are both insane and is very disturbed by the idea of tattooing with black magic (since an ordinary needle wouldn't do the job).

35. (6) has a minor hobby. (4) doesn't think too highly of it. Why is that?
Kestrel's hobbies are all "boring" and "aristocratic" - like fencing, foxhunting etc. Mad Mack thinks someone should invent a variation of raquetball that involves tomatoes, ducks and barbed wire.

36. (8), (5) and (2) are offered a free hot air balloon ride. Does anyone go for it?
Seya flies off, uninterested. Naara jumps at the opportunity. Ireval waits until he's high in the air and then pops the balloon with her mind from the ground. Seya comes flying back - now things are getting interesting!

37. (10) becomes addicted to an online game and won't stop playing it. What's the game, and what would guarantee to get them away from it for good?
Loren is playing some sort of hack and slash RPG. Some real monsters to kill would get him off his butt.

Assorted questionable things:
38. (3) has just received a package sent to them they don't remember ordering. They open it to discover a sex toy and (9) just happens to walk up and see it in their hands.
Viper - Oooh, for me? Eric (eye roll) - All yours!

39. (7), (8) and (10) decided to go out and get drinks. (7) orders something more potent than they imagined and are now completely smashed. Not only that, but a woman has started flirting with them.
Loren decides to help Ginger get home safe. Seya flirts with Ginger's admirer. She's not really interested, but she gets a few free drinks out of it.

40. (5) dares (2) to streak down the busy street in broad daylight for 500 bucks.
Ireval punches Naara into orbit.

41. (3)'s biological clock is suddenly ticking and they feel they have to discuss it with someone. (6) and (7) are first they run into. How does this go?
Kestrel and Ginger stare blankly at Eric, not understanding why he thinks that the entire multiverse is about to implode. Being the God of Time, if Eric actually started aging, something would be majorly fucked up on a cosmic scale.

42. An angry pimp sees (7) walking down the street and thinks they're someone else. They won't leave them alone, and other than cussing and describing filthy sexual acts, they demand money.
Ginger hits the pimp with her skillet, knocks him unconscious and continues walking.

43. (4) receives a love letter with many naughty and indecent suggestions, but doesn't know who it's from. By chance, they come across (10) and (1) laughing loudly about something. What happens next?
Mad sets Elhil's shirt on fire.

44. (3) is currently in a relationship, but encounters someone so stunning that they can't help but flirt endlessly. (6) warns (3) later that they may spill the beans after catching them.
This would never happen. Eric is incapable of flirting.

45. A woman approaches (9) and says she wants them to give her a child, since she has no one and desperately wants a baby. She's willing to pay anything.
Viper steals a baby and trades it to the woman for a case of scotch.

46. (4) has a secret fantasy that they would never want anyone to find out or they would be shamed forever. Do they ever indulge in it, or is it just a dream? What would (8) say if they found out?
Mad isn't ashamed of anything. He manages to make even asinine things seem cool and totally acceptable. Seya laughs hysterically anyway.

47. (9) asks (2) who the first person was they ever had sex with, and where. Would they answer them, and how?
Ireval punches Viper into orbit.

48. How often does (10) "date themselves"? Do they usually imagine something or someone in particular? Uh oh. (8) just walked in on them doing it.
(Nessie, you could not have possibly phrased this question in a more disturbing manner.) Loren's too much of a Boy Scout - he probably thinks that masturbating would make him go blind. Seya would offer to help him out, and that would only be even more mortifying for him.

49. (1) dared (4) to get a Brazilian. Do they toughen up and suffer, or run away screaming?
Would NEVER happen. Elhil would consider this sort of thing a pick-up line - and therefore, it would only be aimed at women. Not that it's a very good pick-up line, but when you're Elhil - you don't actually need a good line. "Come back to my place and let me tear your clothes off" usually works for him.

50. (7) has fallen asleep drunk on the couch and is down for the count. (2) and (5) are more than a little tipsy themselves, and decided that a nasty prank must be played. What happens when the victim in question wakes?
Naara is so disturbed by Ireval's idea of what constitutes a "prank" (pulling someone's teeth out?!) that nothing actually happens.

51. Does (10) have a nickname during foreplay? Now what if (6) overheard it and repeated it aloud to them one day? Would it slip out in conversation?
The idea of sex makes Loren's head explode. Kestrel would laugh at all of this.

52. (7) found an old unlabeled tape. Upon watching it, realize it's a porno their parents made of themselves. Reactions?
In her panicked attempt to turn off the television, Ginger accidentally knocks it out the window. Too embarrassed to admit what really happened, she claims she was trying to kill a rat with her skillet.

53. If (9) had to choose a vehicular-type location for sex, what would they choose?
Airship. It's much more fun being under the console having your way with someone when they're piloting something that can fly more than 200 mph and has enough weapons on-board to sink a small continent. On that note, anything armed with weaponry or owned by the government. Fly it like ya stole it, baby!

54. What sort of naughty things might (7) have done as a child? Do they do it often? (Just any sort of thing)
Ginger was the enforcer of law and order. The worst thing she ever did was put a freshly baked cake where the pigs got to it.

55. (5) had a dream about (8) and (2) doing something disturbingly weird together. What is it, and do they tell them about it later?
Naara envisions Seya and Ireval both roaring and spitting fire back and forth at each other. He waits until they are actually doing this and then informs them both that he had a dream about the two of them. They are so disturbed by what this might mean that they immediately stop fighting.

56. (3)'s most favorite physical feature on their partner? If no partner, how about in general?
Rather than physical features (they're kinda pointless from a God's perspective) - Eric is all about "someone who really understands him". Which is basically no one but other Gods and similarly crazy people.

57. What is (6)'s favorite physical feature on themselves?
Kestrel isn't fond of her own looks, but prides herself in the fact that she's tough as nails.

58. The most disturbingly honest/awkward thing (1) could ever compliment (9) about.
Elhil can lavish comments on anyone. Nothing would really make Viper blush.

59. (2) goes out on a date and it goes very well, but at the end of the date the person gets suddenly rough and demanding. Attempted rape! What the shit is going on?! Who wins?
Ireval takes said person - and punches them into orbit.

60. (8) notices (5) is having a difficult time sitting down comfortably. What are their suspicions about it, and what is the truth?
Seya thinks that someone probably either stabbed Naara or shot him in the ass as he was merrily skipping away from some wretched mess that he caused. She'd be right about that.

61. (10) seems to be talking in their sleep lately, very loudly. The name of (3) was distinctly overheard by (7). What results from this?
Ginger wakes Loren up and asks if he's having a nightmare.

62. (9) tricks (3) in some form to get them to do heavy drugs. What's the likely scheme, and how does it play out? What happens the day after?
Viper gives Eric Lunar Brew and is disappointed when it has no effect on him whatsoever.

63. (9) wakes up in bed with (4) and (1) and a terrible hangover. Only (4) isn't wearing clothes. Holy hell, what happened?
This is nothing unusual for Viper or Elhil. Mad is trying to play some kind of joke, but he discovers that it isn't as funny as he thought it was when he was still drunk. The other two throw him out and lock the door so they can get back to having fun.

64. A doctor has called up (5) and reports that (8) is sterile...
Naara - Whew! That's a relief! Thank the Gods!

65. If (10) could choose one person to lock up for a day and torment them, who would it be? What would they do?
Loren is incapable of torturing anyone.

66. Is there anything that (6) has ever done, that if (2) found out would make them want to kill them for it? How would (3) react if it came down to it?
Highly unlikely. Kestrel isn't the type to offend Ireval - which is about the only thing that Ireval considers a serious offence. The only person Eric isn't willing to run afoul of IS Ireval, so if she decided to kill someone he'd pretty much stand back and let her do it.  

67. Who is the person that (7) hates most in the world? What would happen if they saw them? Oh no. Speak of the devil...
Ginger doesn't hate anyone. Anyone she dislikes, she hits with her skillet. Which might constitute HATE, really. It's a cast iron skillet.

Wheeeee! Other things that make no damn sense:
68. (6) decided on a whim to buy a lotto ticket and actually won a million bucks. What happens next?
Kestrel pays off various debts and hands the rest of the money out to her peasants. And there is much rejoicing. YAAAY!

69. (10) becomes a victim of candid camera. How do they handle the realization that millions just saw what happened?
Loren is mortified and can't say or do anything.

70. (4) gets a message saying their house is bugged. What's their reaction?
Mad Mack tells his house to eat the bugs. It spits them out of the gutters in a form that resembles crushed tin cans. Mad lives in a sentient, uber-haunted "hell house" with a mind of its own. Who the hell would "bug" Mack Manor - and live to observe whatever they were filming? More to the point, who would want to spy on Mad? It's not like he does anything at home besides smoke cigarettes and watch himself on television anyway. Well, that and enchant the lawn ornaments to spray cheese-whiz and confetti on intruders.

71. (1) and (10) have never experienced a sonic boom. Now they have. On a tarmac. For no apparent reason. WHAT DO?
Loren draws his sword and prepares to fight, but he never gets a chance. Elhil uses black magic to seize hold of the plane, throws it to the ground and shatters it into a million pieces. Loren then wets himself.

72. (8) reads up on hypnotism and decides to try it out. (7) is their guinea pig. What will they make them do?
Seya makes Ginger do all sorts of housework. She thinks she's become a master hypnotist, but then discovers that Ginger was just doing the tasks because "they needed doing".

73. (4) and (9) get stranded on a desert isle for a year? How are things going when help arrives?
Neither Mad Mack nor Viper are found on the desert island when help arrives. Rescuers discover a huge cache of empty liquor bottles, a decomposing dinosaur carcass strangled with Christmas lights and impaled with an umbrella, a dog-eared shojo manga with obscene made-up "translations" on every page, an inflatable swimming pool filled with jello, an untold number of sex toys hanging from trees like some kind of bizarre fruit and one very confused sheep spray-painted with the symbol for radioactivity.

74. (6) discovers the secret family recipe to Bush's baked beans on a scrap of paper they found.
Kestrel gives the recipe to Ginger, who cooks it.

75. Local scientists manage to get a hold of a blood sample from (3) and discover their body produces the cure for cancer and now the entire scientific community wants in on it.
Eric loosens a hail of lightning bolts on the entire scientific community and then invents a nastier kind of cancer.

76. (5) suddenly wants to become a pirate, and decides to go after (1). What in the world inspired this idea?
Naara has always wanted to be a pirate, because pirates have adventures and cause trouble. He decides to go after Elhil because Elhil is extremely powerful and will probably kill him. Enemies are no fun if they can't waste you in a nanosecond.

77. If (6), (3) and (5) were in the same college together, what sort of stereotypical students would they be? An example would be jocks or geeks. What would they major in?
Kestrel is majoring in ag. engineering and is on a scholarship for hockey or some other brutal sport. Eric IS an art student - who spends all of his time holed up in his dorm room reinventing the fundamental nature of the universe. Naara is majoring in political science and theatre. He thinks they're basically the same thing - and he's right about that. He's also screwing everyone who can't resist him - which is basically everyone.

78. If (1), (2) and (10) each gain a superpower, what would it be? What would they do with this newfound power?
Neither Elhil nor Ireval would be surprised by the ability to do ANYTHING. They consider it par for the course - they DO manipulate the primordial chaos, after all. Loren would immediately go catatonic for a week and then sort out what to do next. If these three didn't possess their repetoire of existing powers and were limited to one superpower each, Elhil would have invisibility, Ireval would have pyrokinesis and Loren would have super-strength.

79. (9) has been convinced they should write a book or series. What is it about?
Sex.

80. (4) has just received a pet rhinoceros. What are their plans?
Mad Mack's plan for a rhinoceros? Teach it to rollerskate, use it as a mount for jousting - or shrink it somehow and put it into a snowglobe? All three?

81. (7) inherits a fancy Italian restaurant from and obscure distant relation they didn't know they had.
Ginger's amazing ability to cook anything and manage things sensibly soon makes this restaurant the most successful one around.

82. If (3) could learn at least one magic trick perfectly, what would it be?
... Trick? As opposed to ACTUAL magic?  - - - Eric would do one of those disturbing ones, like shooting himself in the face and somehow remaining unscathed.

83. (8) is given a pet goldfish and told it brings good luck the happier it is.
Seya gets hungry and eats the goldfish.

84. Does (10) like mudkips?
Loren (and Sarah) has no clue what those are.

85. What type of starter Pokémon would (1) go with? What about (5)?
Naara would have something catlike or fire-oriented, like his usual familiar, Kitty. Elhil would shove some sort of horrible reality-devouring Great Old One into a little ball, just for shits and giggles.

86. If (1) had to cut off a body part to save a loved one from a madman, what would they give up?
Just about anything. Elhil's a romantic. Realistically, he'd probably just bend the multiverse a little and turn the madman inside out.

87. (2) and (9) are given joint custody of a kangaroo. Where does this go?
Ireval punches the kangaroo into orbit. Viper has sex with it.

89. (2) runs out of the kitchen with blood on their hands, but runs away to fast for anyone to see the real damage.
(1) soon follows with a knife but both refuse to say anything about the event. Time to play detective. Make some deductions!
Ireval and Elhil were playing "bet you can't dodge this" and accidentally killed the mailman.

90. (7) wants this more than anything else in the world. What is it, and can they ever have it?
There's a boy that Ginger is madly in love with. And as to whether or not she ever gets him - you'll have to wait until I finish the series. I don't know for sure yet.

91. If (3) took up falconry...
Eric's idea of a hunting bird would be something akin to a D&D roc, picking up elephants in mid flight. It would also shoot lightning out of its eyes.

92. A unicorn is chasing (4). Explanations?
A bowling ball, five dozen cans of industrial-strength ultra-duster and two rolls of duct tape. No, really.

93. (2) really wants to go to the zoo, and refuses to do anything else until (5) and (8) come with them. What do they say or think of this?
Naara and Seya believe that this is a set-up... a situation designed to get them punched into orbit. Which in fact - it is.

94. A company calls up then visits (6), begging they do an ad or commercial for them. What's the product, and are they willing?
Kestrel is asked to help sell power tools. She agrees if she gets to test them out first and say what she really thinks about them.

95. (10) has become a twitching, blithering idiot with bouts of hysterical uncontrolled sobbing. Possible reasons?
Life.

96. Thousands of people show up at (9)'s door and declare them a deity they shall worship forever, and turning them down is a blasphemy with harsh consequences. Does they go with it, or try to find a way out...and what do they even want to worship them for?
Viper has finally succeeded in getting herself instated as some variety of love goddess. She wakes up abruptly and discovers that it was all a dream - AGAIN.

97. (3) has been banned from swearing ever again around any other person for whatever reason. How do they deal with this?
Eric? Lightning bolts and lots of swearing.

98. (10) has been drafted into the military!
Loren is somewhat confused by this - considering that he enlisted in the military more than twenty years ago and has been in ever since.

99. (7) falls in quicksand. Their thoughts?
Ginger slowly and calmly finds a way to slip off her belt, which she cleverly attaches to a tree root and uses to haul herself to safety. She takes a bath, washes out her clothes and then builds a warning sign in front of the pool of quicksand to prevent anyone else from falling in.

100. (1) and (3) are chasing a swarm of butterflies. WTF and why?
The butterflies are phenomenally powerful extra-dimensional beings. Elhil wants to play with them. Eric wants to smite them.

101. (8) and (2) suddenly start aging backwards. Hello again puberty! Did they miss it?
Seya finds this perplexing, but goes about looking for a solution.
Ireval starts aging backwards?  The multiverse implodes.
I have lots of stuff congregating in my various sketchbooks that I figured people might enjoy. Nothing really finished, but that's how I work. More to come.
1. Four cups of coffee does not constitute breakfast.

2. I will not stay up all night on IRC.
* Nor will I stay up past midnight doing any one or more of the following: surfing the web, downloading music, watching streaming video, playing games, blogging, writing, reading or drinking.

3. My fridge will contain actual food - not only ketchup, expired milk and beer.

4. Sleep is not for the weak. It is an actual life function and necessary.

5. I will occasionally run a vacuum sweeper, mop the floor or scrub the bathroom.

6. I will not appropriate all of my linens from cheap hotels nor will I acquire all of my cups from fast food restaurants.

7. I will build no furniture from cinderblocks or cardboard boxes.

8. I will not use duct tape nor baling wire to repair any vehicle I intend to drive.

9. Items stored in my living room will not be packed in milk crates, rubbermaid bins or plastic grocery bags.

10. It is inadvisable to start the day with a shot of vodka and four aspirin.


.... crap.
Bleh, so this is a rough draft of a story about my Night Caste archaeologist, playing very fast and loose with the world setting.


"Shadowsbane"

"A fine little circus you've got down here." A voice remarked casually.

I turned slowly at the sound of those words, suppressing the overwhelming desire I felt to sock whoever was making fun of Team Firewander right in the teeth. When I did see the arrogant jerk, my temper cooled somewhat.

The voice belonged to a youngish Immaculate monk, probably an Air Aspect Dragonblood judging by the frosty color of his skin and the absolutely nauseating aura of pretentiousness that surrounded him.

To be fair, the lot of us weren't really at our best. Our "Purveyor of Brute Force" and former Icewalker, Bruja, was picking her teeth with a knife clearly "made for killin' folk" while Little Fox, our resident Djala had just let loose a belch that absolutely boggled the mind and was scratching himself obscenely. Since it was insufferably cold on site, our Southerner Mehmed and consummate pretty boy Kasashi were crouched together over a kerosene lamp warming their hands, both dressed in more layers of clothing than I had in my entire wardrobe. Kasashi in particular hated Nexus's winter weather... which consisted of rain, more rain, and gray slush the consistency of porridge sloughing off rooftops.

That being said, we all probably smelled like a pack of wet dogs.

Though he scoffed at the lot of us archaeologists, I could tell that the Dragonblood was a little intimidated by the sheer scale of the corridor he'd entered into. The ceiling was a full twenty feet above our heads and both it and the floor were inlaid with steel tracks etched with arcane patterns in different kinds of jade and orichalcum. Of course, the tracks themselves paled in comparison to the enormous construct that hung still partially suspended from the upper track, glowering at all of us as we worked. It was made to look like a dragon and when we succeeded in clearing the rubble from around it, we expected that the craft would be more than fifty feet long, a perfectly preserved piece of engineering more than 1,500 years old.

"You, monk, have just set foot upon the legendary Whispering Serpent. We call that ugly bugger 'Fluffy"." Little Fox jerked his thumb at the construct, though no one had asked for his input. The Dragonblood gave him a very condescending look, which didn't particularly surprise me. Fox wasn't known for his manners and didn't give a rat's ass what most Immaculates thought of him, particularly since they were generally complacent with the idea of most of his people remaining slaves. Fox gestured to the marks on the wall. "The Whispering Serpent is... well, it's like a tunnel for transportation. There are these constructs which fix themselves to the tracks you see on the floor and the ceiling over there and they..."

There was a brief quake. Fox glanced at me, obviously concerned.

"I'm sure it's quite fascinating, but I am here on much more important matters." The Dragonblood snorted, dismissing him. "What was that just now? The ground shook."

"A tremor." I replied casually. "People say that they're caused by all of the explosives we use excavating."

"And you don't believe that?" The Dragonblooded pressed, reading my disdain for that theory effortlessly.

"Personally, I think it's fae. We are halfway under Firewander after all." I shrugged.

"Do all of these ruins date from the Shogunate Era?" The Drgonblooded paused. The way he posed it, it sounded a bit like he thought he was asking a legitimate question. The fact that he'd mistaken ruins more than 1,500 years old for ones that collapsed only a few centuries ago surprised me.

I laughed. "If you think they were building stuff like Fluffy here during The Shogunate you're sadly mistaken! Nexus is thousands of years old, but built predominantly on a foundation of Gray River sediment. The original city has sunk hundreds of feet below what's now street level. There are   Shogunate and Contagion Era ruins under every building in the Market District but here under Firewander is where the real fun is. Palaces of great golden demon-gods... all kinds of toy boxes full of ancient goodies." I gestured to The Whispering Serpent. "You saw the Tomb of Night before you came in here. What you probably don't realize is that tomb was built on top of a building that was once taller than The Guild Hall. One of the first entrances to The Whispering Serpent was uncovered by an idiot kid poking around The Tomb of Singing Blades. A couple of Immaculates found the way in when they came to clean up his body." I paused, noticing two more Immaculates clumsily working their way down the narrow ladder which lead down from the Shogunate Era dig two stories above us.

"Who are you anyway?" I demanded, turning to the Dragonblood with my hands on my hips. "This is a restricted site, you know!"

"My name is Summer Storm and I've been sent by Dean Peleps of your University." He replied, clearly tired of playing games. "Now take me to your supervisor at once!"

"Well, Summer." I smirked. From the looks of him, he surely went by "Storm"... but I wasn't in the mood to be cooperative. "I am the supervisor."

"You?" He frowned, surveying all of my tools hanging off of my belt and bandoleer. His eyes stopped for a moment on the pair of fine old firewands I wore holstered on my hips.

"Yup. I'm Sapphire Indari." I nodded, gesturing to my crew. "And these are the red-headed stepchildren of The University of Nexus's Archaeological Department – colloquially known as "Team Firewander". Bruja, Fox, Mehmed, Kasashi." Each of my crew looked up at the sound of their names. If they were wondering why I hadn't mentioned Val, who was technically my supervisor, they didn't say anything.

"Oh." The Immaculate replied flatly. "Dean Peleps warned me about you. Where's Professor Valen Riverborn?"

"Val is working in the next section up ahead. I'll take you to him." I offered, not at all surprised that Peleps Nyubo had warned the Immaculates to steer clear of me. I was well aware that my "controversial" opinions and casual disregard of authority would have gotten me expelled from The University long ago if the Department's most brilliant researcher did not stubbornly plead my case every time I came up for review. Val was a Fellow himself and a favorite of the University's most generous benefactor, the eclectic Master Adamant Quill who sat on The Council of Entities and owned a substantial portion of Nexus's Market District.

The four of us, myself and the three Immaculates, made our way through a series of finely-machined doors that it had taken us months to blast open and then down the stairs into the main temple. Two more quakes followed, each a little stronger than the last. The Whispering Serpent track came to a stop before a glass atrium with patterns of the night sky etched in silver and gold above our heads. Before us was a massive marble structure, easily eighty feet high with a set of monstrous doors... again, opened by the repeated and liberal use of powerful explosives.

"Neat, isn't it?" I smirked, noticing that Fox was following just behind the two Immaculates who had finally caught up with Summer Storm and myself. He had a wicked look in his beady little eyes and I motioned for him to get lost. The Djala caused almost as much trouble for Val as I did, and I loved him for that... but I figured it wouldn't be wise to test the patience of the Dragonblood I'd already been mocking, particularly since I wasn't going to lead him in to see our biggest find.

"Wait here. I'll be right back." I gestured to a pair of makeshift benches near the Whispering Serpent's track. "I'd take you in further, but it's a little hazardous. Especially with the quakes."

That was a lie, but the Dragonblood bought it. I slipped through the ruined doors and smiled in satisfaction as I saw Val gnawing on his pencil, sitting on the foot of forty foot tall statue of solid orichalcum, rarer and more valuable than gold.

The statue was of ancient god that had once reigned over even the Immaculate Dragons, a god called The Unconquered Sun. Excavating First Age sites, Val and I had run across him many times before. Usually he was depicted as a well-muscled, armored man with four arms, very stern and serious in a manner that commanded respect. The massive idol we had discovered was different... perhaps singularly unique.

If I adored "Fluffy", which I did... I was absolutely in love with "The Big Guy".

As opposed to looking down upon his worshipers with a haughty, fatherly demeanor, the god had a very silly, endearing sort of smile on his face. Put simply, it was impossible not to like him, and all of the bits of his prayers which were inscribed on the surrounding walls only made him seem even more appealing. Thought the worship of the Unconquered Sun during the High First Age had been omnipresent, whoever had built the Temple that Val and I had been working diligently in had touched upon something very rare in monumental architecture, a sense of certainty of purpose and pure, genuine faith.

The Temple was Team Firewander's greatest secret. We'd known about it for almost six months and it was getting more and more difficult not to reveal our find to The University. Fox and Kasashi were getting particularly impatient, but Val and I had our priorities. There were thousands of inscriptions on the walls surrounding the ancient god, and once his existence was revealed... it would only be a matter of time before the government swooped in and melted him down for the exorbitant price his orichalcum body would fetch.

The ground shook beneath my feet. Then again, maybe the quakes would get us all first.

As much as I was afraid of being trapped under tons of stone, I reasoned that even being buried alive would be preferable to what might happen if the Immaculate Order or worse yet, The Realm proper - knew that Val and I had discovered a Temple of The Unconquered Sun from the High First Age unmarred by the passage of time they would certainly seize all of our notes and probably execute the both of us as heretics.

Of course, I'd known that I was dancing with death from the moment that Summer Storm and his fellow Immaculates had first arrived. There had been rumors around the Department about a trio of Immaculates grilling certain University Fellows to find evidence of religious "backsliding"... but I hadn't expected them to come all the way down to our dig site. Trying to dismiss them would only have caused more trouble. Though I was sure that my crew and I could have taken out the two junior monks with no more than a whisper on our own turf, the Dragonblood would have given us a spot of trouble... and if we gave any sign of resistance he would have certainly known that we were hiding something.

Pretending that nothing was amiss and being my usual sarcastic self was the only option. Fortunately I had been raised by a former Seamstress who ran a teahouse renowned throughout Nexus for black-market dealings, I'd learned from an early age how to lie flawlessly under pressure. The only thing that really made me nervous was knowing that Fox would not be able to keep his mouth shut.

I'd been standing over Val for more than a minute when he finally noticed me. He pushed his glasses back up on his crooked nose and grinned. Val has a sort of insufferable sweetness to him, which sometimes makes me slightly jealous of his adorable little wife. He's only ten years older than I am, just over forty... but a lifetime spent in libraries and fussing around in ancient ruins has given him a stooping posture and a pale cast to his skin. His very fine blond hair constantly comes loose from the ribbon he uses to tie it, making him look permanently windblown and his eyes have such thick, permanent dark circles that some of his students at The University have taken to calling him "Professor Badger". Personally, I've always considered him more of a ferret. One minute he's stern and serious, the next he's bounding around gibbering and clapping like a child in a room full of glorious new toys.

"Sapphire!" Val exclaimed. "Finally! I could use your help!" His eyes drifted towards the ledge that surrounded the entire main chamber about twenty feet up. There were sets of inscriptions far above ground level that had once been accessible via a set of moving marble steps, but since neither of us possessed the Essence to activate the ancient machine, our preferred method of recording them was for me to climb up the wall and recite aloud to Val so he could write down the information. We were both virtually fluent in Old Realm, so the process went fairly quickly... but as we had learned over our tenure at the site, sometimes the inscriptions changed and Val would need me to read them again. Although I spoke Old Realm with less effort than he did, since I had been raised speaking both Rivertongue and High Realm, his penmanship was beautiful and mine looked like a dozen bent nails driven into paper. "Could you climb up to the first panel on the West wall and start for me there?"

"I could." I replied, speaking in Old Realm just in case one of the monks happened to be listening. Although it was possible that one or more of them knew the ancient tongue, it wasn't terribly likely. "Except that you know, with three Immaculates waiting outside... it might not be a good idea for me to start reciting prayers to our lovely demon-god here. They'll think we're Anathema." I finished, using the Immaculate Order's more-popular name for the avatars of The Unconquered Sun, incredibly powerful beings suffused with divine energy that had once ruled all of Creation. They, not the Dragonblooded of the Shogunate, were the builders of all the treasures that we unearthed.

What exactly "Anathema" ought to be called was a subject of much contention amongst the Team Firewander. Mehmed was a dyed-in-the wool Hundred Gods Heretic but he usually called them "demons" all the same. Bruja, heavily entrenched in her own particular tribal superstitions referred to them by an Icewalker word that I could barely pronounce while Fox, who actively hated Dragonblooded referred to any enemy of The Realm as "the good guys". Of course, Kasashi paid lip service to the Dragons like Val and I did. Everyone officially employed by The University was required to... but as the three of us were all true students of history, we were likewise disinclined to let religious propaganda get in the way of solid research. So while we worked, we settled on what the walls said.

We called the Anathema what they had called themselves. Solars.

"Anathema? As opposed to run-of-the-mill heretics?" Val laughed slightly, though I could tell that the news I had just delivered did not sit well with him. Either that, or he was observing the tremors which had started up yet again.

"We're far too spectacular to be ordinary heretics." I retorted. He picked up his notes and quickly put them back inside his satchel.

"Well then, if there is soon to be a Wyld Hunt on our trail, let's not keep our fine, Enlightened company waiting!" He proclaimed, his voice absolutely dripping with sarcasm. The two of us linked arms and marched out to meet Summer Storm and his companions.

"Valen Riverborn, I presume?" The Dragonblooded observed.

"Yes?" Val replied.

"We've been sent to evaluate the integrity of your... Team Firewander. As you've doubtless heard, there have been whispers of anarchic behavior and heresy amongst certain members of the Department of Archeology. My companions and I have been tasked by your Dean Peleps to root out such... undesirables." He explained.

"Well, my team may be a bit "rough around the edges" but they're good folk. We dig under Firewander, you understand, so sometimes we run into patches of Wyld or beast of one kind or another. Not to mention the tremors. They've been getting worse lately and there's no telling when a big one will tear out the very ground beneath our feet " Val explained. "Hence the deportment of my crew. In the past ten years, a dozen researchers have been killed on this portion of The Whispering Serpent alone. Sapphire and I currently have only one graduate student working for us and that's Kasashi. The other three you met are all mercenaries. They're here to kill fae if we run into any and do most of the heavy lifting. Well, except for Fox. To be honest, I don't know why we hired him."

"Entertainment value." I replied with a smirk. "And you know, if we are attacked maybe he'll hold off the fair folk with one of those roundabout stories of his, like he did last time?"

Val laughed at the memory. The Immaculates looked confused. It was likely that they didn't believe us.

"That's something else which confuses me. If it's so dangerous why are you mortals down here?" The Dragonblood pressed.

"We're cheaper to hire than you Enlightened folks." I replied.

"Sapphire, that's enough. Don't be rude to our guests!" Val sighed heavily. "For the most part, sir, we're salvaging magical materials. The oldest ruins have the greatest quantities of them."

"Surely some of these... things are better left alone?" It was the first that one of the other monks had spoken, and the look that Summer Storm gave him was absolutely paralyzing. His murderous gaze was broken only barely by yet another earthquake. I'd lost count of how many there had been. A lot, probably. More than there ever had been on days or months previous. They were getting worse. Building up to... something, I didn't know what.

"The University doesn't think so. And might I add, The Heptagram is in agreement with The University on that account. They purchase most of our salvage." Val informed the Dragonblood, who looked somewhat subdued upon hearing that we were at least marginally employed by The Realm's most exclusive school of sorcery to supply their students with a good quantity of magical materials necessary for crafting artifacts and weapons, like the white Jade staff that he carried himself.

"All the same." The Dragonblood replied. "It is necessary that we speak with the members of your crew."

"Well, then let's go speak with them! I'm sure that you very busy gentlemen have much more important things to do than waste your time fussing around down here with the likes of us!" Val began to head in the direction of the construct.

"Oh no, not so fast!" The Dragonblooded interrupted him. He stopped just inside the first door. "We want to talk to each of them individually. In a civilized environment. This place is cold and damp and it absolutely reeks."

"What do you mean by civilized environment?" I frowned.

"At the University. Where we may open and close doors instead of blowing them from their frames with explosives? Where we may sit in chairs instead of on piles of rubble?" The Dragonblood paused, waiting for Val to respond.

"Well, Mehmed and Kasashi are probably freezing anyway." Val sighed in defeat. "I suppose we could call it a day. It must be nearly sundown anyway."

"Yourself and... Sapphire are not needed. Dean Peleps has personally vouched for your character. It is the integrity of your... hirelings that is of concern to us." The Dragonblooded finished. "We'll take them all with us."

"And bring them back?" Val hazarded a guess.

"Tomorrow morning." The Dragonblood said. Of course, the way he spoke that word made it sound a bit more like "Perhaps."

"I will warn you, Little Fox is exceptionally rude and crude. He doesn't mean what he says... well, honestly I suspect that he does, but he was denied a proper education and well..." Val rambled.

"The Djala?" The Dragonblood wondered.

"That's the one." I nodded. "Val, your crew will be fine."  I reassured him, though I wasn't sure if I believed that much myself.

"Of course they will be!" The Dragonblood replied sharply. "What kind of barbarians do you take us for?"

Despite the obvious temptation, I wisely decided not to answer that rhetorical question.

Without another word, he swooped past the both of us, followed closely by his men.

"So, are we calling it a night?" I suggested.

"No." Val replied, his eyes fixed on the darkness that the three Immaculates had vanished into. "We're working until they throw us out of here. This could be our last chance. Besides, I've got to show you the door that I found!"

"Door?" I immediately covered my mouth, hoping no one had heard my expression of shock. Every door we'd encountered so far had required a pile of explosives to get through and probably more time than we had left, but it was hard not to be enthusiastic about another new room, another glimpse 1,500 years into a world that was almost too beautiful to imagine.

Once we could hear the sounds of everyone climbing up the later, Val and I dove back into the temple. While he scribbled in his notes and murmured about where he'd left off, I snuck into his bag and found the two peaches his wife usually stowed with his research... one for each of us to eat as we worked. As kind as Lily was, it wasn't difficult to see why Val was so loyal to her.

Not that he hadn't had... other "offers".

Resolving to be somewhat less of a bastard in my future lives, I set the two peaches in front of The Unconquered Sun and quickly mumbled one of his prayers that I'd memorized from reading the walls of his temple over and over again.

"What are you doing?" Val demanded.

"Nothing." I lied, moving to the left just a little so that I was standing in front of the peaches I'd taken out of his pack.

"Talking to that statue again?" Val laughed slightly. "I thought you didn't have any use for Gods?"

"Well, we both know that Immaculate Philosophy is basically bunk. Any real historian can tell you that, and most gods aren't worth the incense you've got to burn to get their attention." I replied.

"Most Gods?" Val laughed again.

"Well, Burning Feather is easy enough to find, at least around Harlotry." I remarked, naming the Goddess of Intoxicants who had often nursed her own ferocious hangovers at my mother's tea house. "This is different." I finished, knowing I probably sounded as defensive as I felt.

"Oh yes, this is serious heresy! Because you mean it, don't you, Sapphire?" Val rolled his eyes. "Is that why you're leaving this great golden demon our lunch?"

"I don't know." I muttered. "It seems like the right thing to do. You said so yourself. The tremors are becoming more frequent, there's still the fae and now we've got those Immaculates breathing down our necks. We're finished here. We can only pray we're not also finished at The University. I don't want to go look for a real job."

"And you think old Sol Invictus will protect us from those over-zealous Immaculates, Dean Peleps and all of the pretentious fellows of the University?" Val sighed.

Together, he and I both stared up at the god.

"I dunno." I paused.  "A god like that might protect you from anything. Maybe even lawyers and bad weather."

Val smirked. "Along with the fair folk and all the fiends of Malfeas, eh?" Still amused by his own brilliance, Val sauntered around behind the statue. There was an inscription there, one of the few that changed frequently, almost too fast to watch. He studied it for a moment, waited for the glyphs to line up and then pressed the one for "truth". The characters stopped moving.

"Okay, now this is where I needed you before!" Val pointed to the inscription that he had asked me to read to him earlier. "Get up there and read me the first panel, and then the third panel."

I put my right foot in the crack of the wall and seized the nearest handhold I could, an irregularly shaped brick with barely enough space for me to dig my fingers in above it. Another two holds and I was on the first ledge. I studied the panel for a moment. It had not changed since the last time I'd read it, so I recited it quickly, almost completely from memory.

"Slow down!" Val ordered.

"Complain, complain! We don't have all day, Val! It's probably almost dark already. If we're here too late, someone will come back looking for us!" I protested.

"You try writing old realm characters as fast as you speak, omitting, of course, your atrocious accent. How you learned to speak a provincial dialect of a thousand-year dead language I shall never know!" He groaned. Ignoring him, I leapt over to the ledge in front of the third panel, slipping just a little as a small tremor rocked the temple. "Oh, be careful!" Val winced.

"Want to switch places?" I taunted, looking down on him.

"Don't be ridiculous Your handwriting is horrendous." He replied.

"Then shut it, Val. I'm perfectly fine. This is why you bring me on these excursions of yours. I'm here to climb because you can't." I put my hands on my hips and waltzed backwards and forwards along the ledge. Val was more nervous about heights than I was, and it was always funny to watch him squirm a little.

"I could get up there!" He protested.

"Eventually." I teased. Though my mother had considered reading a relatively "useless" skill, she had diligently put me in dance lessons from the time I'd been able to walk. I pulled my scarf off of my neck and tied it over my nose like a veil, adding a few turns and overblown gestures to demonstrate how comfortable I was standing on that six-inch ledge more than twenty feet above the ground.

"Stop goofing off!" Val groaned. "Don't bother reading the whole bit. What's the third word in the second section?"

"Clarity." I replied.

"Right, and in section one it was virtue." Val returned to the "door" he had discovered and entered both of those characters. The wall slid open with an audible hiss, revealing a staircase leading up.

I stared in disbelief as I hopped down to the floor. Val waited for me at the foot of the stairs.

"Do you want to see what's up there or not?" He teased.

Without hesitation, I bounded after him. We'd made our way up about four or five flights of stairs when we reached another door. I immediately went for the handful of explosive charges I still had on my person, knowing they most certainly wouldn't be enough. Val stopped me.

He watched the door as he had the wall we had passed through and waited for a series of glyphs to line up. This time, the one he pressed read "compassion" and "courage".

"How did you crack the code?" I wondered.

"It just came to me." Val admitted with a shrug.

He studied the pattern again. The doors had not budged after he selected the glyph for courage, but that glowing glyph was holding steady while the rest continued to shift and change.

Seeing a character I recognized, I immediately pushed it without considering the possible consequences of my rash action. The doors began to move, slowly, with the sound of a great number of locking mechanisms churning inside of them.

Val stared at me in disbelief. I smiled slightly, noticing that I'd impulsively selected the glyph for "peach".

"It just came to me." I informed him. As the last lock disengaged and the immense doors rolled open, Val and I stared in awe at the room we had entered into. The walls were lined in columns and a faint glittering of golden energy above our heads held up thousands of tons of dirt and rubble that had almost fallen into what appeared to be an exquisite little garden, perfectly preserved despite the lack of sun and care, with a stone well at its center. The well radiated light and the energy within shook the air around it, like a stormcloud in the moment before a lightning strike.

"Whatever that well is, it's still working. This must be the source of the tremors." I observed. As if to confirm my guess, a massive tremor shook the floor beneath our feet.

"Working, yes... but what is it doing?" Val whispered, awed.

"I don't know. Maybe we'd better go get those Immaculates." I admitted.
"They'll never let us down here again!" Val protested. "They'll take all our research!"

"I know... but those tremors are liable to kill someone! They keep getting more frequent and worse. " I sighed heavily in defeat. "I hate the though of giving this place up as much as you do, Val, but if this is the cause of all the shaking... it might be worth sacrificing our careers."

"We have careers? You mean to say, outside of being unwanted stepchildren of 3rd rate University and harborers of mercenary heretics and anarchists?" Val exclaimed. Being sarcastic was his way of saying that he saw my point and was with me, even if he didn't particularly like the direction I was going in.

"I don't like this." Val paused as he noticed that I had taken several steps closer to the well. "You ought to stay away from that thing. I mean it." He advised.

"I won't touch it." I replied. "I just want to look inside."

The light pouring from the well made it almost impossible for me to get close enough to see whatever was glowing so powerfully, but as I stood there for a moment amid all of the tremendous rumbling, I began to make out the shape of a face. It was not my own reflection, but the face of a lean, dark-skinned man with hypnotizing green eyes and the unmistakable golden brand of the Anathema burning between his eyes.

There was someone inside the well, someone looking back at me... but what was more terrifying still was that I knew that stranger, somehow. I knew that man as if he were an old friend and remembered every contour of his face with terrifying clarity, as if I had seen it more times than I could possibly count. A deep sense of dread welled up in the pit of my stomach as a skeletal hand reached out for my own and drew me with a force I had not thought possible to put both of my hands down on the stone sides of the well.  Pain racked my body and almost caused me to collapse to my knees. I was convinced for a heartbeat that I was about to die.

Only Val seizing my arm and wrenching it nearly out of my shoulder socket brought me back to the present. The rumbling was uncontrollable and all around us, parts of energy were flickering and fading, causing huge chunks of stone and dirt to collapse from above our heads.

"Run!" He ordered.

While usually I was faster than my old friend, my feet moved like they were weighted down with lead. He was a few steps ahead of me when the staircase collapsed and managed to roll out the first door before it exploded in a burst of blue-white light. With no stairs left in front of me, I stared in horror at the ten foot gap between the spot where I stood and the remainder of the staircase, a pit black as pitch and similarly immeasurable.

And I jumped without hesitation, leaping from one collapsing piece of stone to the next. Shogunate Era machines from the excavation to the east of us came crashing through the wall opposite of the entry to the temple. Piece of ceiling the size of rickshaws fell upon us, and Val caught my eye once before a massive falling boulder forced him out the main doors and back in the direction of the Whispering Serpent. I jumped to follow him out, held my breath, closed my eyes and prayed that I would land in a manner that didn't kill me. That was when the ceiling came crashing down, bringing with it a dozen tons of Shogunate Era rubble from the excavation above us and even more from the street above them.

Both of us should have died. These days, people say that we were lucky. But it wasn't luck that saved us. It was... an Act of God.

At first I didn't even consider what I'd caught hold of or why it felt so warm and clean when everything else was as cold and foul as the muck of the Gray River. I was too glad not to be falling, and the rocks had stopped coming down on my head, even if I was still getting a shower of thousand year-old dirt. Above I could see the hole that had formed... not more than ten feet across, but from the looks of things... right in the middle of Market Street. As I'd guessed when I stumbled upon the well, we were very near the surface. The sun had just set and the stars were peeking out but a strange golden light still illuminated our excavation site.

It was like nothing I'd ever seen before. Everywhere the light touched the walls, the ancient inscriptions began to flicker with life. The shadows where Val had feared that Wyld-mutated monsters might be hiding were obliterated and the temple looked bigger and more spectacular than ever before.  

Trying to guess the light's source, I looked up and saw what had caught me and saved my life. I was clinging to the outstretched hand of The Unconquered Sun.

The God was holding me up with that smug little smile on his face and the light that I saw was bleeding from my own skin. Even if I hadn't spent the last fifteen years of my life traipsing around First Age ruins, I would have known what had happened to me. In the words of the Immaculates, I'd become  Anathema, a baneful, child-eating, village-burning demon. If I'd still believed anything that my mother had painstakingly drilled into my head, I would have gone running for the nearest temple and begged for someone to swiftly execute me. But it had been a long time since I'd last subscribed to her twisted philosophy.

I'd spent too many hours buried in books and basking in the grandeur of First Age ruins to believe for more than a heartbeat that Solars were monsters. If anything, I'd begun to see them as precisely the opposite. And now that I was one, well... I didn't know what to think!

Terrified as I had been only moments before, I couldn't bring myself to yell for Val. If he was on the other side of the wall that had collapsed, he wouldn't be able to hear me anyway... and standing in one place for too long glowing like I was would be something akin to signing my own death warrant.

Without considering how impossible the feat I was about to attempt should have been, I leapt twenty feet into the air and landed effortlessly on my feet in the middle of Market Street. I'd have to go back around to Tomb of Night and try to reach Val through the ventilation we'd installed. No one could see me, most especially neither of the young Immaculates who were currently interrogating our assistants. Val had promised the monks that they wouldn't find any heretics on Team Firewander. He'd meant those words too, when he'd spoken them less than a hour ago.

But since then... everything had changed.
www.lifeoutsidethegarage.blogs…
If you're looking for "Endymion", go to the Yahoo Group. Trying to do some housekeeping around here.
It's been difficult to write this scene. It's all very visual in my mind and I can't seem to sort it out. I've been revisiting an old project of mine and attempting to re-write it. The style doesn't really mix well with how I currently write, but let me know what you think. There are a lot of characters (I understand) but that's because this is much later business that comes after most of them have been introduced. The basic premise is that our real world hides a supernatural world that went underground in the 17th century ("Age of Reason") - a world that certain individuals like Shakespeare and Chaucer and Dante knew was real.

For example - Virgil "The Immortal" is a repeat character, as is "The Knight" from Chaucer's "Knight's Tale" - an individual who consistently travels on pilgrimages "seeking God and redemption" - despite being the most famous "paladin" in the history of the Catholic Church (another immortal - alive since the First Crusade) "St. Luke the Avenger".

Another of the main characters, Grace, is a descendant of the sorcerer Prospero from The Tempest. She's constantly at odds with a second teenage character, Marcus, who is from a clan of Scottish necromancers who've been struggling to cast of the death curse set on them by Macbeth.

Most of the characters are significantly older, so this is not really a story about High School kids and the supernatural. It's about the supernatural world that these two kids wind up immersed in - which is often operating at a level way, way above their heads. Marcus is unique in that he holds the distinction of being the only working necromancer in Phoenix, Arizona - while Grace through a series of lucky breaks and whatnot has managed to become the last surviving Prospero and inheritor of the legendary family "bondling" (magical summon/familiar) - Arial, an ancient elemental.

About other characters:
Michael Cottington "Prince Mikey" - Half-Sidhe (Selighe) - Usually found around University of Oregon where he is attempting to finish his graduate work in Physics. His (non-Changling, human) brother Matthew is an undergraduate studying history and literature - - and a huge geek. His love interest is a community-minded wannabe reporter - who absolutely cannot find out the truth about him. Titania from "Midsummer Night's Dream" had another affair with an out-of-work actor/hippie in 1970 - which is where "Prince Mikey" comes from.

Grigori Nicholai Ilytch - One of the most powerful vampires in the USA. 900 years old and from Russia. Owns a string of casinos in Las Vegas but has left the city and is currently bunking down in Phoenix. This is suspected to be because of the influence of Roderick Pierce "aka Gorloys" - a powerful Unselighe Sidhe lord from New York City - who has frightfully discovered a way to subvert the fae weakness to cold iron - even to the point where he can shoot people with a gun.

Amat-Nur - permanently cranky Sumerian dragon who claims Phoenix, Los Angeles and most of the Southwest as her territory. Descendant of Tiamat and partially responsible for keeping the Goddess contained for the better part of seven centuries. Definitely on her "revenge list" - near the top.

"Friday" - Amat's pet human - an overweight, sometimes-stupid amiable British drunk who runs the bar "Paradise Gothic" where lots of these folks meet. Has no powers but the dragon's protection - which is sufficient to deter anyone who might consider killing him (about everyone). Found wherever Amat is.


Isobel Wainwright (aka. Tiamat) -
(Ancient Sumerian Goddess of Vengeance and Destruction, trapped in human from - Usually located in Seattle.)

After being shipped off his island, Prospero made an attempt using the King of Naples in the 1400's to seize political power (a major no-no). He was defeated by a mercenary army assembled by the Pope and led by St. Luke. When the soldiers broke into his sanctuary, they found the sorcerer dead and his staff shattered into a thousand pieces. He'd clearly been in the process of summoning something - but it was gone when they arrived.

Being mostly mercenaries, Luke's soldiers took the pieces of Prospero's staff as prizes and carried them all over the world. Meanwhile, the creature Prospero summoned hunted after the pieces to reverse the spell he had cast and free itself.

"The summoned monster" is currently in the body of a misanthropic woman with no apparent magical powers, an affinity for scorpions, storms and snakes ---- who is zealously pursuing her revenge on everyone responsible for her exile on Earth (since the 1450's!)

She is actually an ancient Sumerian goddess of destruction and vengeance - so releasing her in the world would be BAD.


(Those of you who read my Nano story may recognize these characters - sort of. They were borrowed and modified from this older story for that one.)

Django Morales "Coyote" - Native American trickster spirit currently posing as a drug dealer. Has a history with Amat and is not held in high regard by "Mikey". Usually found in Phoenix, Arizona.

Baby Gray - Street musician/old hippie who wanders around doing Janis Joplin and Dylan covers, giving people insight (marijuana) and whatnot. Has been accused on more than one occasion of being a fairy, one of the Muses, a bard in the Celtic sense (wizard) or a "street angel" (guardian angel). Never answers these accusations on way or another. The last is most probably the case - but even in the magical community, angels are believed to be "mythical". Usually found in Seattle or San Francisco, sometimes in Denver or on Hollywood Boulevard panhandling. If she's a guardian angel - she's guarding someone who really gets around.

Without further adieu, the story is posted next.
The much-anticipated rough draft of Chapter One. This is a collaborative project between myself and Michael Demiurgos (aka. Chris).

The challenges of writing with someone else questioning the language that I use (and changing things) is a big one. I'm very used to "AND THIS IS HOW I WRITE, DAMNIT!"

Chris uses highlights, outlines and an italic, serify font. His laptop has an itty bitty keyboard and runs Windows 7. I have BIG, STRAIGHT, KEYBOARD with nothing foofy or weird about it - that I can type as fast as I talk on. I'm running MS Word 97 because it does nothing goofy and never tries to help you format, update, or link to the internet. I always type in Times New Roman and never highlight anything.

This makes for an interesting collaboration. Good challenge for me, writing something that other folks might actually understand...

What you are about to read is the part of the story Chris mostly invented/wrote. He created the characters of Stephan Lucien, Master Taliesen and the Archwizard. (I still dislike the use of the name Taliesen (seems too "legendary"/"loaded"  - and doesn't go well with Lucia/Lucien, Saleri and Dominari) - how do you folks feel?)

Although... I must claim credit myself for the names of "The Cloisters", Vincentus Saleri and Sigismodo Dominari.

_____


Chapter 1

Stephan looked into the mirror. He could not tell if the spot he saw was on his glasses or on his face. He gently removed his glasses and wiped them on the collar of his new Journeyman's robe. Squinting at his reflection, he sighed in relief. The spot was on his glasses after all.

Normally, Stephan was not so concerned with appearances. He was average-looking, not too tall or short with red-brown hair cropped about the level of his chin, hazel eyes and fair skin. While he had inherited his father's broad-shouldered build, he preferred spending his most of time in the library and his posture had begun to reflect his habits.

He stood straighter and adjusted his robe. Though he had only recently been promoted to the colors of gold and cream which signified his new rank, he had an appreciation for how quickly such a robe began to show dirt. His favorite instructor, the Archivist Wizard Taliesen, though a master of magic, commonly dressed in the simple gray of a Novice to avoid looking slovenly.

Stephan, however, would be expected to appear in perfect formal dress for what was liable to be the most important meeting of his life. A Wizard of The Order of Light began his studies as a child of ten or twelve years. When he grasped the fundamentals of his lessons and learned to behave in polite company, he was promoted to the rank of Apprentice. Rising from Apprentice to Journeyman status was a far more difficult task, and many would-be Wizards were expelled from The Cloisters without ever receiving their cream robe.

But the path to Master was more difficult yet. A Journeyman would be assigned either to a master within The Order's stronghold or to any number of other posts scattered throughout the Kingdom of Torres. Though after spending years within the marble walls of The Cloisters, many Journeymen were anxious to travel, Stephan hoped desperately that he would be permitted to stay exactly where he was. Born into a poor family, he had no illusions about life outside of his safe, clean home.

He had always been a model student, however, and he would not complain about the assignment that he was given... even if he had the misfortune to be assigned to the Master of Scriptural Studies, whose chief responsibility was to loom over the shoulders of Apprentices and question their moral character.

Stephan dismissed his "mirror" and it collapsed back into the bowl of water he had drawn it from. Such practical magic came naturally to him and suited his simple lifestyle. Wizards of the Order of Light were supposed to be humble and before they reached the rank of Journeymen, they were permitted no possessions at all. Stephan smiled slightly as his gaze drifted towards the new trunk placed at the foot of his bed. He did know what he would fill it with, but the thought of having a few nice things appealed to him. Like all of the living spaces within The Cloisters, his walls were white-washed and unadorned. A single arched window faced east and a simple spell served to keep out the elements. Even still, Stephan thought that it might be nice to have another blanket or two before winter. He wondered how everyone might react if he came back with something bright green.

Just as Stephan was daydreaming about setting foot outside of The Cloisters for the first time in ten years, a brilliant red and gold hummingbird formed of arcane flame zipped through his open door.

The sending hovered to a stop only a few inches away from his nose and spoke in a dry, cold voice that he knew only too well. The Archwizard of The Order, Sigismodo Dominari, had given him nightmares when he first came to The Cloisters, and Stephan, even at twenty-three years old was only marginally less afraid of him now.

"Journeyman Lucian. I will see you now."

Without another word, the sending vanished, not waiting for his response.

Stephan almost bolted out the door but the remembered that it would not suit his new station to be caught running in the halls. More importantly, he had almost forgotten his staff.

He reached out for it and it leapt immediately into his hand. His ability to control inanimate objects was his strongest gift, the first to manifest and mark him as a would-be wizard. While most magic required complex preparation and ritual, the inborn gifts of a wizard varied and could be used without spell components or incantations. In this regard, Stephan considered himself quite fortunate. While never a brawler himself, the ability to hurl a chair with his mind had kept him from being bullied by the more aggressive boys.

Though it wouldn't be appropriate for him to use magic unnecessarily, Stephan was looking forward to giving his staff a fair try. As a focus for a Wizard's power, a staff could magnify the energy fueled into a spell. A journeyman's staff was the first enchanted object that he made wholly by himself. Stephan had spent many months working out the enchantments for the only weapon he would ever carry. His itching fingers could not let the beautiful white birch wood rest, however...and so he had carved a stylized sunburst on one side of the head and an owl's face on the other.

Jealous of his talent for woodworking, several other Journeyman had approached Stephan about "doing some work" for them. They'd even offered to pay, but Stephan had politely refused. It was against the rules, after all... and he wasn't about to do something that could comprise his future.

As befit a great Master of Magic, the Archwizard's study was atop a tall tower with an unobstructed view. If he so wished, he could look out to the East across all of Torres or West at least as far as the Myst that drifted on the horizon line.

Though the Archwizard's tower could be seen for miles around, it could only be entered through a single set of doors which could only be reached by passing through every hallway in The Cloisters and climbing no fewer than seven sets of stairs. The labyrinthine corridors of The Order's stronghold gave the impression that the place was much bigger than it actually was and also served to disorient the ambitious nobility of Torres who often came to beg favors of The Archwizard.

Stephan felt a slight pinch of fear as he reached the ornate bronze doors which led into the Archwizard's antechamber. The vast, echoing hallway of polished marble stood out in stark contrast to his humble room. Its opulence was clearly intentional, meant to awe even the most powerful visitors. Stephan knew that such a display served a very important purpose... to remind arrogant men who were accustomed to getting their way that they were in the presence of those who would not be commanded. More powerful than any prince or king was the all-seeing, all-knowing Order of Light.

Just as he was about to lay his hand upon the door knocker, he heard the sound of unusual footsteps. Someone wearing boots with hard soles, quite different from the shoes worn by every Wizard within The Cloisters was approaching.

The doors swung open without a sound and Stephan leapt out of the way. A messenger in the royal colors of blue and gold with the King's heraldry on his mud-stained tabard was leaving the Archwizard's study. The man had clearly not bathed or shaved in many days and he smelled as though he'd been riding for a solid week. The messenger glanced in Stephan's direction with a strange expression on his face and then departed without a word, the sound of his boots on the floor echoing down the hall long after he was out of sight.

But the enchanted doors of the Archwizard's study did not close behind the messenger as Stephan had expected they might. They stayed open, waiting, as if they could see the young Journeyman where he stood.

"Come in." The Archwizard ordered.

Trying not to think about the messenger whose nervous eyes still troubled him, Stephan went inside.

It was even more difficult for him to maintain his composure inside the Archwizard's study than it had been for him in the hallway. The walls were draped with lavish tapestries and the ceilings painted with white, gold and lapis blue. All of the furniture was made of polished mahogany and lushly padded in rich scarlet velvet and silk. Stephan knew from experience that the chairs looked very soft but were actually rather uncomfortable to sit on.

The Archwizard gestured in his direction without a word and he sat anyway. A slight incline forced him to keep his legs tense, in order to keep from sliding out of his chair. He tried not to touch his toes on the huge carpet that stopped only inches away from his feet. The first time he had seen it, he'd made the mistake of asking how valuable it was, and ever since he had made an effort never to step on it, usually banging his shins in the process. Before coming to The Order, Stephan had lived with his mother, father and three brothers in an old farmhouse with windows made of wax paper and only two rooms. Raised to believe that something as simple as a new pair of shoes was a great luxury, he could not conceive of walking on something that had been paid for in gold.

In a valiant attempt to avoid staring at the carpet, Stephan forced himself to look at the ceiling instead. It was more than a work of art, it was a masterful enchantment inlaid with glyphs for light and warmth and scent. The air smelled a bit like a garden in summer, laced with a faint, almost subliminal hint of an oncoming storm. Stephan suspected that the smell, like the chairs, was a subtle way of making visitors feel like supplicants, intimidating while appearing to extend every comfort and courtesy.

Crystal decanters containing amber-colored brandy and ruby-red wine floated on silver platters very near to his head, alongside rare sweets and other delicacies. Small air and fire elementals kept the food warm and the drinks cool. As tempting as the repast appeared, Stephan could not bring himself to touch any of it, especially not with the Archwizard's icy blue eyes fixed upon him.

Though Archwizard Dominari had ruled The Order for more years than Stephan had been alive, he looked no more than fifty himself, albeit with an unnatural grayish sheen to his skin. His face was over-powdered and touched with a slight bit of rogue to give the appearance of health. With the power he possessed, he could have made himself appear as attractive or imposing as he wished, but such flippant use of magic was considered bad form when in the company of other wizards. Stephan almost wished that the Archwizard had donned some sort of disguise as it was very difficult to look upon his true appearance. There were few lines on his face but his eyebrows were nearly gone and his head was completely bald. The white and gold of his robes made him look even paler than he was, like a corpse dressed up for show and set in a great red velvet chair.

The Archwizard poured himself a very small amount of brandy. Though alcohol was not forbidden by The Order of Light, it was discouraged and Stephan was somewhat surprised to see the old wizard do such a thing. "I thought that damned messenger would never leave. Those "King's Men" must think we work for them." He remarked casually, as if he were speaking to someone he considered to be a peer rather than a child.
Stephan tried not to show his surprise at this unexpected change. For certain, there were benefits of becoming a Journeyman, but he had naively believed that the Archwizard never spoke candidly to anyone. He decided to reply as formally as possible, so as to avoid saying anything he might later regret.

"Help yourself to whatever you like." The Archwizard waved dismissively in the direction of his hovering serving trays. Hoping that his hands were not shaking too obviously, he poured himself a cup of tea and sipped it nervously. It was by far the finest he had ever tasted.

"You summoned me, Archwizard?"

The faintest hint of what might have been a smile crept across the Archwizard's thin lips. "I have an assignment for you." He replied.

Stefan waited with bated breath, not daring to interrupt. The Archwizard seemed pleased, and Stephan hoped that it was because he would be assigned to the position he had so long desired, that of Assistant Archivist. He knew that he would enjoy serving under Master Taliesen, and that the old wizard could certainly use his help.

Perhaps there was a spark of human compassion in the Archwizard after all.

As if reading Stephan's thoughts, the Archwizard nodded slightly. "Perhaps when you get back."

"Back?" Stephan echoed incredulously. He was being sent out from The Cloisters? True, serving The Order abroad was part of the responsibility of every Journeyman, but Stephan had hoped to avoid such an assignment. He sipped his tea again and was thankful to have it. Worrying about breaking the delicate little cup kept him from fiddling excessively with the collar of his robe.

"It seems that the king cannot maintain His Peace in the south. Rebellious peasants trafficking with Arborean rebels, messengers disappearing and rumors of meddling Graywalkers encouraging all sorts of heresy amongst the common folk. Nothing new, of course." The Archwizard continued.

"But what does this have to do with me?" Stephan wondered. Though born of a poor family, he was from the north himself, the lands which had always been part of Torres and were not inclined to fight against their rightful king.

The next words the Archwizard spoke caused Stephan to slip out of his chair and choke on his tea, spilling half of the cup on the precious rug and the rest on the Archwizard himself.

"I need you to go into The Sickle Wood." The Archwizard finished, deathly serious in his tone.

Saying nothing of the tea, the Archwizard dabbed his face dry with a fine linen handkerchief as a little elemental servitor scurried to clean up the mess. Stefan choked on something like a laugh. There was nothing funny at all about the situation. He had never been more embarrassed and after hearing that Archwizard meant to send him into The Sickle Wood, he was also mortally afraid.

"Compose yourself! This is a very serious matter!" The Archwizard ordered.

Stefan sat bolt upright in his chair. If his feet were on the rug that the servitor was busily drying, he did not notice.

"How can I put this succinctly? The King's heir is ill and may die soon." The Archwizard explained. "His majesty's doctors are working on a cure but they need more time." He spoke the word "doctor" in a condescending manner as if such men, without any magical Gift were little better than the dirty peasant women who had once called themselves "witches" and plied the same trade. "And so the King has turned to us. We of The Order of Light are his last best hope to preserve the succession and prevent war with Arborea. The young prince must live, or the king's exiled brother will certainly try to claim the throne. In the heart of the Sickle Wood there is a powerful preservative spring that can extend life indefinitely, even for one who is on the brink of death. This is the water you must retrieve."

He set a small blue glass bottle on the desk in front of him. Stephan only stared at it.

The Sickle Wood was a dangerous place. Many centuries ago when The Order of Light was young and the lands that would become Torres were first civilized, it became necessary for Wizards to drive off all of the ancient, chaotic creatures of Myst and dark magic that had once inhabited the world. They were trapped permanently within a section of forest called The Sickle Wood which was avoided by travelers at any cost. Never before had Stephan heard of anyone being sent there, and dealing willingly with the denizens of the Wood was at very least heresy. If arcane dangers were not enough, the Wood also served as a base for rebels who sought to overthrow the king and any criminals brave or desperate enough to take their chances with the Fae.

Stephan had never heard of such a preservative, but he knew better than to doubt the Archwizard. The Archwizard reached into his desk and drew out something else wrapped in a fragment of gray silk. It was a little ball of intricately carved ash wood, about the size of a marble and strung on a simple leather cord. Stephan blinked in surprised. With the way that the Archwizard held the thing, he expected that it would be powerfully magical, but he could sense no energies at all radiating from the trinket. It was not until he numbly took it into his own hand that he could feel the treasure pulsing like a heartbeat.

"This medallion is your bartering token." The Archwizard explained. "It was once used by one of the founders of our Order who helped to create the boundary which encircles The Sickle Wood. Harmless enough, but of great sentimental value to The Fae. They have been known to kill men to obtain one. Give it to them in exchange for safe passage in and out of their domain, but be careful how you word your request as they are treacherous by nature and will honor what they promise exactly as it is said. Provided that you do not stray from the path or overstay your welcome, you should be quite safe."

"Safe?" Stephan stared at the medallion, wondering if it was truly a thousand years old as the Archwizard claimed. Such a little thing did not seem capable of protecting him from all of the dangers that he was liable to encounter. More importantly, there were plenty of adventurous young Wizards within the order who would be only too glad to meet some real creatures of The Myst.

Having seen what a hungry sylf could do to flock of sheep and having been the victim of more than one "harmless" Fae prank himself, Stephan was not so eager. "Why me?" He asked.

"You, Journeyman Lucian, are a model student. One of our very best. There are few opportunities for a wizard to make a name for himself these days. The great deeds have all been done, the wars are over and there are Masters resting on their laurels in every field of study." He paused and poured himself another brandy, noticeably more than before. "I am giving you the opportunity of a lifetime, Stephan. The chance to do something that has not been done before, to make a name for yourself!"

Stephan paused. After such a commendation, he could not find the strength to protest. "I suppose you've already arranged my transportation?" He hazarded a guess. "A boat upriver to Torres, and then the King's Road south through Vigil, I suspect?"

There was a very large map of the world painted on the walls of the Order's library where Stephan spent most of his time. Although he had never considered himself the restless sort, he had spent hours studying it. The Sickle Wood was easy enough to find. Shaped like the farmer's tool that shared its name, it marked the boundary between the Kingdoms of Torres and Arborea. In more recent centuries, there was no sensible way from one capital city to the other except by sea, although a great marble road had once connected them, passing directly through the center of the Wood.

"Hm. No, it would be unseemly to take a boat. It would give the impression of undue haste on behalf of the king." The Archwizard replied. "And you have only just been promoted to Journeyman, Stephan. The Order cannot afford to have its youngest members trailing gold coins in their wake... the peasants will think we've become a charity. You'll walk."

The distance was considerable... three weeks travel by foot on some of the deadliest and most poorly maintained roads in the Kingdom. Stephan stared at the Archwizard in disbelief.

"Don't give me that look! The great Archwizard Vincentus Saleri walked everywhere! Humility is a tenant of our order, and an important one at that!" The Archwizard scolded.

It was obvious from the change in his tone that the Archwizard considered the matter closed. "You are dismissed." He replied gruffly.

Stephan stood slowly and without a backward glance, he returned to his room. It was still very early in the day, not yet noon and while he would have preferred a pleasant walk in the gardens where he could ruminate over the things he had just learned, he discovered all of his belongings and some rations carefully packed and waiting for him on his bed as he walked in the door.

"No haste indeed?" He murmured to himself. The unspoken message was that he would leave immediately. Walking as fast as he could, he would not make it much further than the outskirts of Lucia, the large trade city which was The Order's closest neighbor. That too, had evidently been anticipated. A bedroll was tied to the top of his pack along with a small cooking pot and a simple clay cup with a curled handle. Tucked inside the cup was a letter on crisp white paper, sealed with gold wax. It was a document of safe passage, addressed to any who served the king, stating his identity and the purpose of his travels.

Stephan considered for a moment going to see Master Taliesen and then decided against it. The weight of the strange medallion the Archwizard had given him made him wonder if things were not somehow more complicated than even the great Sigismodo Domanari seemed to believe. It would be best, he reasoned, if as few people as possible knew what his business was. If everything went well, he would be back in a few months and he would be able to explain the situation then. He hoped so, at any rate.
Picking up his pack and giving his new room a farewell nod, Stephan went on his way.

As he approached the gates that separated The Cloisters from the bridge which connected it to the outside world, he regretted his initial haste decided to walk as slowly as possible.

He was a Journeyman now, a real Wizard and an emissary of The Order of Light.

If the Archwizard wasn't in a hurry, neither was he.
  • Listening to: My upstairs neighbor mixing Hardcore
  • Drinking: Beeeeeer!
Visited The Nessie-monster, found annoying meme. For those who've not been introduced to said "Jerepasaurus" - check her out!

This apparently is supposed to calculate how happy you are. I'd be a lot happier if I wasn't doing work-work at home.
Also, I could use some fritos and some good virus protection software...


[x] You have a boyfriend/girlfriend
[x] You have your own room.
[x] You own a cell phone.
[x] You have an ipod/ mp3 player.
[x] Your parents are still married.
[x] You have more than 2 best friends.
[x] There is a swimming pool in your backyard. (The apartment complex has one... but they never clean it - does that count?)

Total: 7 out of 7. (Apparently, if these are the qualities of a good life, I should be on Cloud Nine...)

[x] You dress how you want to.
(Work has a dress code, but it's tolerable).

[ ] You hang out with friends more than once a week.
(I'm in Snyder, Texas and most of my friends are in Colorado, Arizona or Washington... so, no.)

[x] There is a computer/ laptop in your room. (One of each, both dysfunctional...)

[ ] You have never been beaten up.
(BUT I'M A FENCER!!! I LIKE GETTING BEAT UP!) - Of course, I do like winning more...

[x] You never cry more than twice a month.
Fuck, is this some kind of "Emo" test? The last time I cried, I had a five pound chunk of wood dropped on my head from eight feet up. And I only cried (briefly) because the P.O.S cracked my head open.

[x] You are allowed to listen to the music you want to. (I'm 27. This is obviously made for High School kids...)
[x] Your room is big enough for you. (Um, I have had my own apartment for almost 10 years now? Sheesh!)

[x ] People don't use you for something you have.
(I'm constantly abused for my brain - but my job is research-oriented, so it's sort of a brain-on-stick deal.)

[x] You have been to a concert.
At least one big show and several small ones every year. And if I could, I'd go clubbing every weekend. Haven't been since April of last year, sadly. Country is not my music of choice and there are not other options around here.

Total: 6 out of 7

[x] You have over 50 friends on Facebook.
(This is idiotic. Unlike some people, I only friend people I actually know...)

[x] Your parents let you have a Facebook. (My parents haven't "forbidden" me anything in more than ten years - and I USED TO BE the most computer-savvy out of my siblings.  Think my brothers probably have me beat now, but I can still kick anyone's ass when it comes to MS Excel and spreadsheets. NINJA!)

[] You get allowance.
I have NEVER received an allowance. I have, however, worked a JOB since I was sixteen. Did school on student loans, got $58,000 in debt, went to do a Master's of Arts on scholarship and now work full-time in my chosen profession making about the same that I used to make slinging pizzas... about 1,300/mo.) Will someone give me an allowance so I can pay my bills on time?

[x] You collect something normal.
NORMAL? I collect SWORDS + KNIVES, LICENSE PLATES, MASKS and COMIC BOOKS (I guess that is normal?) I also collect antique BOOKS/mostly classic literature... AND BEER BOTTLES! (Hey, that's a "normal" thing to collect!!!)

[x] You look forward to going to school. (Why, oh WHY did I ever graduate?! Life was so much simpler when I only had to make it to "19th Century Intellectual History" or "The Medieval Origins of the Modern State" at 8 am. In the near future, I might be teaching somesuch class, so I'm not sure if I'll enjoy that.  I would, however, like to go back for a degree in metallurgy/conservation or archaeology to go with the MA in History that I already wield (with all of the threat and effectiveness of a large wooden spoon...)

[x] You don't wish you were someone else.
People suck.

[x] You play a sport.
I fence, shoot archery, throw DARTS (sport or drinking game?), mountain bike, snowboard and skate.

[] You do something after school. (Does getting high count?) I don't actually attend school any more - but nor do I generally do anything constructive after-work. My habits tend towards - BEER, BOOK, COUCH.

Total: 5 out of 7


[ ] You own a car. (I no longer own a car. I currently have a VESPA/scooter which is much more gas efficient and cheaper to repair).
[x] You usually don't fight with your parents. (I haven't fought with my parents since I was 17 or so).

[x] You are happy with your appearance.

Other people are NOT, but I don't give a flying fuck what they think. I hate getting my hair cut and have NEVER had my nails done. I don't pluck my eyebrows, rarely wear makeup and only shave if I am going swimming.

Usually I rock that sloppy librarian look, complete with frazzled Einstein hair - untucked/unironed button-down shirt and smudged glasses. I'm very blind and usually get out of bed ten minutes before I'm supposed to be at work. My diet consists of Ramen noodles, aspirin, coffee and pop tarts. If I still smoked cigarettes, I'd probably look like a heroin addict.

As it is, I look like every professor I had in graduate school - neurotic, over-educated and color blind/fashion impaired. Some days I pull out the whole T-shirt+Blazer+Jeans+Sandals+Baseball Cap/Sunglasses - like a Hollywood director.

[x] You aren't self-conscious at all.

[ ] You have never got a failing grade in your life. *Oh, piss off. This is idiotic.

[x] You have friends.

Total: 4 of 6


[x] You know what is going on in the world.
I read the news every day - AND IS THAT EVER DEPRESSING! This should be a negative point.

[x] You care about so many people.
Half of them are bastards or morons. Why is this a positive?

[x] You are happy with your life. (Generally. I really could use more money and a more exciting place to live... Snyder bores me.)

[x] You know more than one language.
Tiny bits of Italian, Japanese, German and reprehensible French = Second language, sort of?

[x] You have a screen name.

[x] You own a pet. (1 BIG DUMB Columbian Red Tail Boa "Leonard" and the Smartest Dog in The World "Juneau")

[x] You know the words to 5 songs
How is this happiness? I can think of many songs I wish I did not have permanently wedged into my brain. Like "I Will Survive", "American Pie" and "Bad Romance"?

[] You don't have any enemies.
We are SO not going down THAT road!

[] You are a generally nice person
Piss off, fucking wankers.

Total: 6 of 8

Now count your numbers and multiply by three. (84)

Then title this journal "My life is ___% Happy"
  • Listening to: The Radio At The B.A.D.
  • Playing: Tax-Filing Flash Plug-in Incompatibility Mayhem
  • Drinking: Beeeeeer!
A segment of my long-running Exalted fan-fic - because I love Loren soooo much. He's so pathetic and dopey and you kind of want to hug him (before you kick him in the head). Like Felix in that respect.

Anyway, the other piece is CR: Fiction. Arduh is such a whiney bitch. Writing him is fun.
  • Listening to: REM
  • Drinking: COFFEE
I'm at my friend Keijo's place helping him download the junk he needs to get his computer working - "YAAAAARR! We be pirates!".

Just posting some of my current work. Among other things I am revising Raedawn for the millionth time. It's totally my version of The Almighty M's "Jikoshia".

So, without further adieu...

* Snippets from Dreams of Endymion which are fucking hilarious.

* Some recent scribblings (2)

* Revised Raedawn scenes.

Ciao!
  • Listening to: Juno Reactor
  • Drinking: COFFEE
Mom bought me a scanner!

JOY~!!!

It scans slides and negatives too!!