Friday, August 13, 2010

Please Comment and/or Follow!

I've heard from a number of people who have visited this blog, but I have seen few comments posted and fewer Followers. For commenting, if you don't want to use your gmail or some other ID, posting as "Anonymous" is easy; just select it from the drop down. However, if you sign-in, you can Follow the blog and have notifications sent to your email when I have new postings, and even edit screwed up postings by yourself. Please don't by shy. Participate! -Brandon

Live Readings are Revealing

Reading a chapter to an audience is illuminating at worst. It shows you where your best punches are thrown and where you've come up short. Reading my first chapter from the blog tonight in Beaverton, Oregon, humbled me. The raves made me feel like I could pull Katy Perry's California Gurls (Ok, I can only imagine a fleet of girls in Daisy Dukes with bikini-tops intensely hanging on my every word!), but I saw shortcomings, albeit small and unnoticed by the crowd because I compensated. During the reading I saw my imaginative use of dialogue could go even further.  For example, I added into the vocal reading what I have in italics:

       Shivers ran down her spine from the sound of a hunter deprived its prey.
       Oh no! They know.
       The Sentinels just realized they hadn’t taken the Nightshade Trail.

I find it interesting that no matter how much I think I've gone overboard with drama compounded with adverbs and adjectives, it sometimes can even go further!

If you haven't read the chapter yet, do it! It's in the blog below, or click here:


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Great Book of Arketh, as mentioned in The Necromancer Lord Reborn

The Great Book of Arketh is a compilation of sacred writings of the Arkethian religion. This compilation includes Beginnings, the Book of Solaris, and the Book of Defendere. The two latter books describe the lessons of Arketh's two prominent archangels. It should be noted that the Scrolls of Livarius, while included in many of the teachings in the Church and the Holy Order of Paladin Knights, are not considered a part of the Great Book of Arketh.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chapter One Formatted...

Directly pasting a chapter into the blog leaves much to be desired in the way of readability, so I spent time cleaning it up.

See my first chapter!

In my blog, you can read the first chapter of The Necromancer Lord Reborn. This is a fantasy suspense in which a young man aspires to become a Paladin Knight, but how can he when his own Church wants to kill him? Take a look! - Brandon

Necromancer Lord Reborn - Chapter One

         Laurel Ivylan’s legs burned like magefire. She had run long distances before, but never this hard.
         And certainly never for her life.
         Ash trees and shrubbery made the forest a maze of obstacles. At one time, this must have been a beautiful woodland, but now everything was petrified and lifeless. Tree bark had long since turned pitch black. Onyx leaves fell like stones. And low hanging branches created a wide sprawling canopy that made it impossible to distinguish between day and night…aptly earning the forest its name.
         Good thing she possessed darksight. Or at least, half darksight.
         The ability to see darkness in shades of gray and the body heat of living creatures was an Elven trait – one that she hid shamefully beneath long, dark copper curls, further covered by the hood of her forest cloak. Aside from her brown, amber-speckled, almond eyes, what remained appeared all Human.
         Just as she usually preferred it. Except now.
         If not for her darksight, she couldn’t have avoided all the trips and pitfalls of this cursed forest. If not for her Elven heritage, she would be dead.
         Just like the others.
         As she ran, two young men tried to keep up. They were clumsy, tripping over their own feet. Yet they were determined.
         Fear is a powerful motivator.
         As she leaped broken branches strewn across her path, Laurel Ivylan promised herself she would not meet her end. Not here. She had come too far. She had worked too hard to become a Ranger of Oewrick.
         Besides, she had to survive. The Races of Gwydmir depended on her.
         But first she had to escape.
         Julin wasn’t helping. “We have to go back!” he hollered from behind.
         Laurel cringed inwardly but kept running. Her eyes searched. No sign of their pursuers. Thankfully, she had managed to evade them.
         But for how much longer?
         Despite their forest cloaks spun of special Elven thread, blending them with their surroundings, Laurel knew it was only a matter of time before they were found. Near invisibility meant nothing right now. Not when they barreled through the forest like stampeding giant torbogs.
         Laurel’s feet barely touched the ground. Descended from a long line of Rangers, she knew how to move quietly, blend into the wilderness, track any creature over any landscape, and guide even the most wayward to their destination.
         The greenbacks, on the other hand, couldn't find their hands in their own pockets. They stomped through the trees, broke branches, and kicked up debris, leaving nature wrecked in their wake. Not only were they leaving a clear trail, but the crackling echo in a forest of deathly silence was like a storm of thunder. It was a wonder the novices had even managed to earn their Cloak and Leaf!
         If only she hadn’t brought them.
         But that choice had not been hers to make.
         Every year the council of Wilders in Oewrick chose a Ranger to be Watcher. The Watcher’s sole responsibility for one cycle was to frequently visit Darkwood and make certain the magical Dread Barrier remained strong, that no signs of deterioration existed, and more importantly that there were no signs of escape by what was kept imprisoned inside. An undead Wizard.
         The Necromancer Lord.
         This cycle was Laurel’s turn as Watcher, though she hadn’t volunteered. No Ranger in her right mind would.
         Long ago Darkwood had been a lush woodland, but slowly over the cycles, the evil of the Barrier’s prisoners had seeped into the dome’s magic, polluting it along with the surrounding forest. Just standing in proximity to the Barrier filled your mind with horrors, making you think things you never thought before – of fear without reason…of death. And so it had become known as the Dread.
         Which explained why the Wilder elders of Oewrick had to choose each Watcher. It was selected service. There was no choice in the matter. Once selected, there was no alternative but to serve out the sentence.
         Frankly, Laurel was surprised the Wilders hadn’t chosen her sooner. From day one, they had been trying to run her out of the society of Rangers. She figured they had finally thought this up as a sure way to succeed. They had thought she wouldn’t possess the nerve to accept the responsibility, expecting her to give up and run away scared. After all, others had. But in so doing, she would have given up her Cloak and Leaf, and with it any future as a Ranger. Exactly what the Wilders wanted.
         They’ll get no such satisfaction! she remembered thinking. Even if just to spite them.
         So when that didn’t work, and she had proven stubborn against the fearful effects of the Dread, they had ordered her to fetch the novice Rangers fresh out of training. Fresh out of adolescence. Greenbacks.
         Admittedly, Laurel did not work well with others. She was a loner. The Wilders knew this. Teach them the ways of Darkwood so they may one day serve as Watchers, the leaders of the Ranger Society ordered her. And though the rebel in her wanted to tell them what they could do with that order, she couldn’t let herself throw away all she had achieved. So, she complied.
         Only, when they reached Darkwood, she had wished she hadn’t.
         The greenbacks had behaved like obstinate children. Her repeated warnings about Darkwood and the Dread fell on deaf ears. They strayed ahead of her. They traipsed through thorny plants that could have poisoned them. And a whole bed of nightshade blossoms had been flattened under their feet.
         They were infuriating!
         But the worst came when they had finally reached the Dread Barrier. While trying to herd them back together, she had regrettably missed the signs of what awaited them.
         For that, she had no one to blame but herself.
         “You hear me Laurel? Stop! We have to go back!”
         Angrily, Laurel stopped so fast she slid across the soft earth.
         The novices nearly plowed her over before coming to a halt themselves, tired and out of breath.
         Laurel shoved a finger into Julin’s cloak and said as loudly as she dared, “Address me as Ranger Ivylan or Ivylan, greenback! Now, if you have any sense at all, which by all evidence you don’t, for the love of Natura you will keep your voice down. Hear me?”
         Julin at least had the sense to recoil a bit. Still, he had the audacity to let blame inflect his tone. “Have you forgotten what happened to the others?”
         How could she forget what had just happened? Their screams still filled her ears. The ghastly way their lives were torn from their bodies…
         Laurel closed her eyes tightly, trying to shut out the memory. Only it just made it easier for the horror to replay in her mind as if she was witnessing it again for the first time.
         Two wraiths had suddenly appeared out of nowhere, right on top of Pepper and Chake. The creatures had made short work of them. Then they snatched up Jaks and Williams…all in the span of mere heartbeats.
         With her attention consumed by the greenbacks, she had never seen the ambush coming.
         Laurel snapped her eyes open, banishing the nightmare as she glared at Julin.
         “I will never forget,” she told him coldly. “Never!”
         Julin didn’t seem to hear her over his labored breathing. “We’ve got to…find the…Nightshade Trail. We’ve got…to go back!” he bellowed.
         Her whisper was harsh. “Are you daft? You may as well be calling out Supper Time! Get hold of yourself!”
         The other greenback, Kerik, leaned heavily on his knees. His fleeting glances spoke loudly of how scared he was. Quietly and between breaths, he said, “We can’t…keep this up!”
         He was right, Laurel thought. They were spent. Even she was beginning to feel the onset of fatigue.
         She glanced around, her darksight gauging the scenery. Nothing looked familiar, and yet everything appeared the same. Black and dead. She couldn't be sure, but she guessed they had traveled just over two league’s distance. That didn’t help, though. In order to make a quick escape, she hadn’t paid attention to which direction they fled. Now, with little idea where they were, she couldn’t tell with any certainty how close to Darkwood’s border they stood, which made the decision to rest all the more difficult.
         If they were close, then she would continue on. If not, then they would have to take a breather. The greenbacks wouldn’t make it much farther otherwise.
         The question was how long until the wraiths found them.
         After listening a few more moments to their labored breathing, she decided to rest. If they were found, then they would all need their energy to step up the pace. Four deaths on her conscience were more than enough.
         “Take a moment to catch your breath,” she whispered to them.
         With cat-like grace, she moved over to a tree and crouched. Her forest cloak made her all but disappear into the trunk. Her amber-speckled eyes blinked away the tears of sweat streaming down her forehead as she searched for any sign of their pursuers.
         Aside from the red silhouettes from the greenbacks’ body heat, she saw nothing but stillness and gray twilight.
         While the greenbacks kneeled to rest, she reached for the acorn pouch hanging from her belt, assuring herself she had not lost the contents. The bulge and weight felt like the pouch might contain heavy marbles, but it was something else entirely. Perhaps the very reason they were being hunted.
         At least, her intuition told her so.
         It couldn’t have been coincidence finding what she had found near the Dread when they were attacked.
         “Where are we?” asked Kerik quietly.
         “Southeast of the Dread, I think.”
         “You think?” snapped Julin. He took a deep breath. “You mean you don’t…know? Bloody snakes! We wouldn’t be in this…this wouldn’t…have happened…if you were a real Ranger!”
         For a fast moment, Laurel thought she might go over and slap some sense into him. Instead she remained cool. Nothing she hadn't heard before. “I assure you I’m more Ranger than you are.”
         “For the love of Natura, Laurel, you’re a woman, and those were my friends!”
         “Ivylan!” she told him venomously. She had put up with him, all of them, and his insolence this whole trip long enough. “Call me Ivylan or Ranger Ivylan, greenback. That’s your last warning.”
         “Whatever,” he riposted. “Pepper, Chake…they shouldn’t have died. Not like that!”
         “Had any of you listened to me in the first place – ”
         “What exactly were those things?” Kerik’s question stopped the argument.
         She didn’t need to give it any thought. “Sentinel Spirits.”
         “No…” Kerik shook his head in wishful disbelief. “No, th-they can’t be.” But his body shivered with the truth.
         With her darksight, she could see his eyes limned in a red haze, shining, evasive, pleading. He reminded her of someone swimming in the middle of a stormy sea looking for a lifeline to a ship.
         “Why don’t we just go back to the Nightshade Trail?” Kerik begged. “I just want to get out of here.”
         She sighed at the obvious. “It’s the first place the Sentinels will look. Leaving the trail is probably the only reason we’re still alive. Those things can think, Kerik. Haven’t you heard the stories about them?”
         “I have,” Julin announced from across the patch of the rock-like leaves between them. “They’re Shade’s bloodhounds. The Necromancer Lord used them in the Chaos War to track and kill. That’s all they do.”
         Laurel nodded. He wasn’t as dense as she’d thought.
         Kerik gripped his cloak tightly in his fists. “But that was a long time ago. I mean…they were all killed. Or trapped in the Dread, right? So what are they doing here now?”
         Good question, she thought. And one she had considered. But she dared not voice her answer. She didn’t want to frighten the greenbacks any more than they were right now. They needed to stay focused on escaping.
         She took an assessment. Both greenbacks were breathing much easier.
         Ready to move on, she stood.
         They jumped.
         Nervous as flitblits, she thought dismally.
         Like small, underground, furless versions of jack rabbits, flitblits tended to bolt in random directions without thinking about the trap straight into which they headed.
         Maybe the greenbacks would start listening to her now, but honestly she didn’t hold out much hope.
         After making certain the flap on her acorn pouch was tightly closed, she asked, “Can you two go on?”
         “If you can, we can,” Julin said impudently. He stood, though the effort obviously took more than he preferred to let on. “So which way?”
         She scanned the dark surroundings to get a sense of bearing, but it was like looking into an endless field of twisted pillars swathed in eternal night.
         As a young girl, Laurel’s papa once told her that a Ranger didn’t observe nature but rather became a part of it, actually feeling the wind in the leaves and hearing the trees sing. Her papa had been a great Ranger, and he had taught her much. But here, no wind blew. No trees sang. The only thing Laurel felt was the icy clutches of death brushing against her skin.
         But the three of them had escaped death once already. Time to do it again.
         Just as she decided on which direction to take, a high-pitched wail echoed throughout Darkwood.
         Shivers ran down her spine from the sound of a hunter deprived its prey.
         They know.
         The Sentinels just realized they hadn’t taken the Nightshade Trail.
         “This way!”
         With feline grace, she launched into a run heading south. At least, she hoped it was south. Either way, she figured it was away from the Nightshade Trail, and therefore away from the Sentinels.
         If her experience meant anything, then she figured they were less than half a league to the border of Darkwood, where the bitter forest gave way to the wild grass of Thendar Plains. Once clear of the forest, then…well, she would worry about that when they got there.
         She checked behind. The greenbacks followed.
         Maybe they weren’t as foolish as they behaved.
         She led them through the darkness, carefully picking her path so the greenbacks wouldn’t get tripped up. Her own feet barely touched the earth, like a whisper on the wind. But the greenbacks resumed their loud trampling. If the Sentinels got close enough, all the camouflaging attributes of their cloaks wouldn’t mean a thing.
         Unfortunately she was right.
         The smell of warm, freshly turned soil suddenly filled the air like that of a steaming graveyard as the temperature abruptly dropped. Laurel saw her own breath crystallize before her. A moment after the chill of death prickled down her back, two massive wraiths of both shadow and light materialized through the trees where the Rangers passed. Thanks to their forest cloaks the spirits did not immediately see their prey, allowing some distance before the Sentinels pursued at breakneck speed. High-pitched wails pierced the darkness like an eerie wind thrashing through the blackened leaves overhead. They were terrible sounds. Freezing to the heart…like quicksand to the feet.
         Laurel pressed forward, hoping terror put an extra step in the greenbacks’ feet the way it had hers. She weaved between trees thick and old with growth. Low hanging limbs grabbed at her with their skeletal clutches. Like whips they lashed at her. One branch threatened to yank away her cloak and even snatched at her acorn pouch as if knowing the proof that she bore with her. She grasped the pouch closely as a mother would her babe and forged on.
         Deafening wails made it sound as if the Sentinels were right over their shoulders, though in truth they were about thirty paces back and closing. Laurel knew there would be no losing them this time.
         We should be out of here by now!
         By the looks of the thinning trees, Laurel thought they had to be getting close. Yet the cursed woodland just wouldn’t end!
         Had she picked the wrong direction? Was she even heading toward the forest border? What if she was actually leading the greenbacks deeper into Darkwood?
         Doubt began to seed in her mind. If only she could know which direction was the right one.
         Once more, her papa’s words bubbled up into her desperate thoughts.
         ‘My little fireflower, a great Ranger can track a bird’s footprints through shrubbery and a snake across stone, but a true Ranger can talk to animals.’
         Of course!
         Ignoring the beads of perspiration dropping into her eyes, she focused her mind outside herself…outside of Darkwood.
         It wasn’t easy. She could barely focus on where her next foot should land let alone on sending a plea for help.
         Projecting her thoughts, she conveyed her need for directions and hoped they pierced the black veil of the forest to reach beyond. It was a long shot at best, but it was all she could do.
         That and keep running until her legs could carry her no more.
         From behind, the Sentinels pursued relentlessly, floating in zigzagging patterns trying to overtake the greenbacks. At one point, Julin stumbled over some vines. Somehow he managed to evade the wraiths and continued on.
         With no response to her silent call for help, Laurel’s hope and courage began wilting like a plucked flower. She didn’t know how much longer they could keep running like this.
         Then Laurel heard a screech. Not the blood-curdling sound of the wraiths, but rather one thankfully familiar and wonderfully welcome. It came through the black-mottled tree tops above.
         Another screech followed, then another further off.
         Laurel called back, “Left!”
         Like a flock of birds, the Rangers darted sideways through a group of prickly bushes. They landed on a path, thin and partially overgrown, but passable.
         “We lost them!” Kerik exclaimed with relief, letting exhaustion take him.
         “They’re still close,” she warned the greenbacks, not trusting to any sort of luck. “Don’t slow down…!”
         Too late.
         From one side of the path the Sentinel Spirits suddenly appeared. They enveloped Kerik. He struggled but couldn’t break free. He screamed and writhed beneath their ethereal forms. One of the spirits reached down Kerik’s throat and wrenched out what could only be described as the essence of his life – his soul. As Kerik’s limp body crumpled to the ground, the spirits fed on their prize.
         Julin had stopped. He watched, transfixed with horror.
         “Fools!” Laurel forced her aching legs to carry her on. “Julin, run! Don’t stop! Not for anything!”
         She heard leaves crushing beneath careless feet behind her and knew he’d heeded her. It wasn’t long before they heard the frightening wails of the spirits again, announcing a renewed pursued.
         Laurel could no longer feel her legs. She tried not to think about it. She continued down the narrow trail, following the long straight-away until it turned into a switchback abruptly ending at a massive wall of brambles so thick with growth that it might as well have been a fortress wall.
         “It’s a dead end!” Julin screamed in dismay and accusation.
         She considered turning aside, but then heard the familiar screech once more. This time from the other side of the bramble wall.
         “Go through it!” she told him.
         “We can’t get through that! We have to try another way!”
         “Do it. Now!” She clutched her precious pouch and dived directly into the wall.

*         *         *

         Julin watched Ivylan vanish into the thorny branches of the bramble wall and figured her gone to the Netherworld. Surely that way was death.
         It would serve her right!
         She didn’t know what she was doing and she had no right to call herself a Ranger! Because of her, five good Rangers were dead, each and every one of them his friend.
         Turning, he searched for another way out. Perhaps the path had forked somewhere and they’d missed it.
         His heart told him they hadn’t, though.
         Here the path ended. To either side grew a mess of trees and tangles of bushes as thick and forbidding as the bramble wall. It was so bloody dark, he started blindly testing for ways through. Thorns sliced his Ranger cloak as if it were made of parchment. It appeared impassible…Impossible.
         When the Sentinels appeared on the trail from around the bend, his heart raced. Fear consumed him and his feet took root. He couldn’t make himself move, which actually benefited him. With his forest cloak, he became just another part of the forest backdrop.
         The wraiths hovered, searching.
         They were horrifying to behold, almost human in appearance, but thin and wispy as if they’d been pressed between the hard covers of a book, shredded by torturous means and turned into shadowy remnants of their former mortal selves.
         Suddenly, they locked onto him and launched his way. As they came, their gaping mouths opened wide. Shrills blasted forth.
         Julin decided if he could pick his death, it wasn’t going to be by way of the Sentinels. Not after what he’d seen them do to the others.
         Quickly he spun around, put his arms out and lunged toward the bramble wall where Laurel Ivylan had gone.

*         *         *

         On the other side of the brambles, Laurel punched through and tumbled into long, purple-tipped grass. When she came to her feet she found herself beneath the open night sky outside Darkwood.
         “Thank…Natura!” she exclaimed between breaths.
         Stars filled the sky. And, thankfully, so did a full moon, which cast a bright and silver glow across the plains.
         Laurel breathed even more heavily with relief. Where there was light, the spirits of the Netherworld would not go.
         She was safe.
         A fall breeze stirred across the plains. It was cool, yet felt warm against Laurel’s skin in contrast to the cold, stagnate air of Darkwood. Bramble thorns stuck to her cloak, and her hands appeared as if they had been raked by cat’s claws.
         None of it mattered. She was alive.
         When she heard the same familiar screech that had led her out of the forest, she reflexively lifted her arm and looked to the star-filled sky.
         A gold and white feathered owl descended to land on her.
         “Thanks, Willa,” she told the owl gratefully.
         The owl chirped gleefully in response and clicked her beak affectionately. A pallet of snow-white surrounded the owl’s face, accentuating the large golden eyes glittering against the moonlight. Laurel could read thoughts in those eyes and communicate with the owl just as if Willa was a person. Such was the bond for those Ranger’s skillful enough to befriend a familiar.
         Laurel’s warm smile for her familiar faded as she realized Julin still hadn’t appeared through the brambles.
         Suddenly, a horrific cry of pain and anguish came from the other side. Then, just as suddenly, the cry stopped.
         Laurel felt numb.
         “Fools,” she whispered with a hint of bitter regret. At every turn they had refused to listen to her…refused to trust her. “They were stubborn fools, Willa.”
         The owl ruffled her feathers and hooted in agreement.
         Part of Laurel told her there was nothing more she could have done, repeating in her mind she couldn’t have known this would happen. But then, she thought miserably, it seemed those who depended on her always ended up dead.
         Just like her papa.
         Laurel squeezed her eyes against the possibility of tears and hardened herself. She refused to let herself be weak now. Too much was at stake and she had a long road ahead of her if she was going to warn others of what happened here tonight.
         With that thought, she suddenly remembered.
         Please be there
         She opened the pouch on her belt and inspected the contents. At the sight of several crystals, relief flooded her. This was her proof. No one would believe what happened here tonight without it.
         Perhaps in a way the greenbacks had served their purpose, she thought. They had given her a chance to escape, given her the opportunity to warn the Races. In that, at least, they would be honored…even if they’d been stubborn fools.
         Noting the clouds moving in overhead, she decided to get moving. It smelled like rain in the air. Before long, the moon would disappear, which meant the Sentinels would be free to trespass beyond the borders of the forest.
         To Willa she said, “There’s a saying that death lies at the end of Road West.”
         Beyond the sunset horizon stood the gates of death through which all must pass to find their places in the afterlife. Just beyond was the Netherworld, that place of perdition where sinners were condemned to a world of fire and torment. But those who didn’t deserve such a fate continued past, moving on to Haven and eternal peace.
         “Let’s hope the greenbacks’ journey doesn’t end at Road West,” she said as she closed her acorn pouch and tied it securely. No matter how they had disrespected or rejected her, she didn’t think they deserved that.
         Willa hooted in agreement.
         With one last, regretful glance at Darkwood, she turned east and began the long trek on foot across the grassy Thendar Plains into Argist Kingdom. She didn’t plan on returning home to Oewrick. The Wilders would be so caught up in blaming her for what happened to the greenbacks, it would take too long for her warning to reach the right ears…if they believed her at all.
         No. Instead, she headed toward Krendore, the capitol of Argist, where the King of Men ruled. To him she decided to bring the terrible news.
         The Dread Barrier had been breached.