The Heir Apparent pt. 3

The familiar comforting power, like tongues of flame, poured from my soul as I fixed the necromantic binding in my mind. Heat pooled and swirled with purpose in the palm of my hand. In that instant a distracting sensation burst through my focus before I could banish it and lingered afterwards like a foul smell. With strange resistance I felt the tattooed lines on my palm grow warm.

In a herculean act of will, I bound the invocation together and in one final push I cast my spell towards the shining ghost. Dark spectral chains tore through the twilight and ensnared the apparition. Breathing deeply, I took the moment to reflect on my fatigue and sense of hollowness in wake of the casting, such a bitter cost for such a seemingly simple conjuration was a concern should I have needed of it again. I cursed my recklessness for not testing it before I came.

A sudden motion in my peripheral drew me back to the moment. The phantasm had somehow slipped free and darted towards me. Time felt like it slowed to a crawl around me as I stepped back, my heel losing traction sending me falling backwards and in a testament to my own ego, instead of reacting to the threat my mind fixated on the failings of my binding. Did I disrupt the symbol of the weave so much with my nails, had the rituals effects shaken my mind more than I realised, had the necromancer cheated me when he sold me the formula, or had I simply performed it incorrectly?

As I collided with the ground, reality caught up with me all at once. Too slow channel another spell, or find my knife, the spectre flicked it’s serpent-like body, as if swimming through the air, and all at once it was upon me. Grimacing in anticipation, I recoiled, bracing for its strike. But none came.

The phantasm coiled around me like a constrictor, it’s grip undeniably present but ethereal and strangely warm, in some ways it felt not unlike a sociable house cat begging for attention. Bewilderment paralysed me as I searched frantically for a reason. In the stories ghosts were violent tormented creatures that haunt ancient constructs like the cathedral with deadly malice. It’s soft head nuzzled its face into my palm, interrupting my thoughts.

Cautiously at first, I stroked my hand along it’s head and down it’s regally fin-sailed neck. It felt like it’s skin was charged with static from before a storm. Like a more solid cloud I felt, when I touched it, almost as though my hand would pass right through it. Gradually I felt myself relax, the perception of danger fading. As I petted the… thing, absently I concluded it probably wasn’t a ghost, this thing was aggressively social and was possessed of both physical form and warmth, All traits inconsistent of no description of ghosts I had ever heard.

I almost laughed in excitement, the cathedral’s mysteries were just beginning to reveal themselves to me.

The Heir Apparent pt.2

(Edit: Exploring my options for the tense and perspective the Chrysalis setting should be written in. Leaning towards either First/past or Third/present, but I don’t know.)

All at once I was here, as if trapped in a dream or a nightmare my senses straining to absorb the onslaught of information that assaulted me. Blinding arrays of prismatic light exploded in every moment, enveloping and drawing me in. I was overcome, the sounds at once both cacophony and symphony, everything I knew and could not, parsed and mingled with perfect clarity. Feeling at once familiarity and fear of the dreamscape I found myself in, I drifted through this chaotic purgatory which held no concern for my sanity, until a crystal of order coalesced before me and peeled back space like the lid of the eye of reality.

***

Pain! Deep burning agony cracks my flesh, tearing me from my nightmarish vision. I don’t know how long I lay there, cursing my frailty, twisted into a tight ball. Retreating into the reaches of my mind I prayed for release from this torture. Death could not have been more welcome in those moments, my life’s work and ambition forgotten in the face of this suffering.

Through aching, gritted teeth I growled my defiance, my stubbornness and fury proved stronger than my weakness. With every muscle screaming, I uncoiled and rose, inch by hateful inch. Pressing my bloody, nail bitten, palms into my knee, spitting blood from where I had bitten the inside of my mouth, I straightened my unsteady shaking legs and stood tall under the bright light of the near noon sunlight.

My vision swum as I opened my eyes, black spots covering my vision as I fought for clarity. I reached tenderly into my pockets, feeling my clothing was burnt and hung raggedly from my frame, as I searched. I could feel myself fading even as I drew the injector and positioned it against my chest, pulling the trigger I winced gruffly as the needle punched into my chest. A refreshing wave of healing numbness seeped through my body and invigorated me, giving me the strength to throw off my pain and bring myself to a human stance at last.

The dark spots dispersed from my vision being replaced by the strange dreamlike clarity of the elixer. I remembered where I was, the roof of the haunted Ancient Cathedral. A surge of victorious pride escaped me in a harsh laugh that burst the dam, soon my laughter filled the forbidden wild expanse that isolated the Cathedral. Sinking to my knees, deep wracking laughs shook my chest as tears overflowed and streaked down my cheeks.

“I’m still here, you old bastard,” I pledged softly as my laughter ended, only nature and the Cathedral to hear me. Breathing deeply I closed my eyes and centered myself, anchoring myself to the present once more and casting out the emotional shadows of my past. Confident I had once more control of myself, I opened my eyes and raised my head, taking in my surroundings for the first time since completing the ritual that morning.

In front of me, sharing the overgrown rooftop with me, a wraith hung in the air, moving slightly as if rippling in the wind, the creatures was a deep blue, almost black, and shone as if lit by lightning. It bore the shape not unlike that of a serpent crossed with a fish or great sailed reptile. Though inhuman in form its eyes struck me as terrifically intelligent. Fear fuelled my response, taking an involuntary step backwards, I raised my palm, directing it towards the monster summoning my magic to face this new threat.

Representation in Art

So today I was reading a webcomic, and in one of the pages there was a lampshading attempt made by the artist to acknowledge, in universe, that his artistic style had shifted to drawing the female characters more voluptuously. A character (all in the scene were female) noted another character had seemed more buxom of late and the addressed character noted that it seemed to be going around lately.
A beat was taken as the characters all spent the final panel looking down at their own chests. I laughed, and thought no more of it until I read the authors notes on the page below. He referenced a discussion in the comments below, which upon reading revealed some female readers had felt discouraged and excluded by this artistic shift and in particular this gag.

This crystallised an internal discussion I’ve been having with myself for many, many years now, but in particular since I’ve started writing again and thinking about what I wanted to include in and express with my writing.

I’m white, male, cisgendered, neither rich nor poor and have a very limited social circle that exists outside of those categories (with the exception of gender, women do make up around half my social circle).

I like to keep mildly aware of social and psychological issues relevant to artistic expressions. Some include the exclusion, or stereotypical portrayal of categories of folk that exist outside of my norm, but also of the clumsy presentation of them by privileged individuals like myself who attempt to include them.

When I write I wonder, “Do I have too much emphasis on male characters?”, “Am I trying to hard to include female characters”, “Are my female characters truly female, or are they simply re-skinned male characters”, “Do I portray male and female characters with a different level of dignity due to my own gaze as a male, or the assumption that my audience may be predominantly male?” or even “Am I being insulting and perhaps condescending, or even damaging my story by focusing so heavily on these thoughts”

For conclusions, I must note that I will never be able to perfectly write an Australian aboriginal woman, or a black transgender person, because I haven’t lived their lives or known their experiences. But at the same time I could never perfectly write a Wizard from another time and place.

I don’t want my stories to be only for people like me, I want people who haven’t had it so easy to find characters like themselves as I have to find someone to admire in my tales. I want young girls to be able to read a story which doesn’t treat them like objects, I want to not have all my heroes be white, and I want all genders and sexualities to be treated with respect by the writing. I don’t want to write a liberal utopia that pretends bigotry of all flavours don’t exist, instead I want to acknowledge the nuances and complexity inherent to every person.

I think I’m fortunate to have had a lot of feminist influences in my life during my formative years. The works of Tamora Pierce, particularly The Song of the Lioness quartet, and the webcomic The Devil’s Panties and it’s audience community through the forum, and of course my Mother who is working on a PhD about women protesters in Australia, were just some of the things that really taught me to consider how art should be inclusive and that representation matters.

It’s not my intention to be particularly “bloggy” here, but I thought this was relevant enough to warrant writing down. It’s not intended to be a piece with a conclusion, simply some, but far from all, of my thoughts on the subject put into words.

The Constellationist pt.1

Shadows twist and coil within the limitless void. Writhing and twisting coils fueled with depthless malice constricting to warp the space between.

I felt it all around me, within me, thus abhorrent alien lust that poured endlessly from the darkness. A coagulant mixture of avarice, wrath and a sickening cocktail of emotions beyond my ken overwhelmed me, drowned me and gutted my scream before I could make it.

Dark, so very dark, this twisting nether weighs heavy, a blackened veil of night without stars. But all is not lost…

A single pinprick of light breaches the storm and finds me. I swallow it and it consumes me.

***

Fingers twist with casual precision, weaving expertly my unruly flaxen hair, rapidly tying it down into two comfortable braids. A whimsical melody hums gleefully across my lips unbidden, but not unwelcome. A shiver of excitement overtook me while I impatiently fastened my warm fur lined coat. I had woken filled with energy that morning, though I considered it silly, my excited for the day, my eighteen birthday was irrepressible. Though I was hardly a child any more, I couldn’t help it, I loved my birthday.

I slung my satchel over my shoulder, running over my mental checklist quickly. Father must have already left for work, I realised trying not to feel forgotten, he’s been exceptionally busy with something lately. Krystal, my Father’s wife, would be home this evening and had promised me a present from her journey, I remembered fondly, I missed her. Before stepping out into the hall, I placed my hand on the dimly glowing panel, and the door closed and sealed with a quiet hiss behind me.

I made my way along the path, my mind drifting into a daydream as I tried to imagine the mysterious origin of the spire. Marcellus, our community’s priest and my father’s advisor, said that it had been built by the gods long ago when they still walked the earth and that they had left it for us, their children, to preserve in their absence. I had adored those stories when I was a child, but now they were too vague and moralistic to satisfy me. Where did the gods go? Why did they leave? Why did gods need to build a tower anyway? I preferred the stories my friend Francis invented, I smiled as I remembered some of them.

My pace had slowed, distracted by my fantasies, images of ancient civilization and secret sorcerous architects cast aside by the beauty that faced me beyond the spire. Looking out over the forest below, my hand rested wistfully against the transparent spire wall. The gentle morning sun swept across the valleys below, shining its light over the silver rock formations and the thin mist cover below us that blanketed the emerald tree tops, just highlighting the encroaching golden browns of approaching autumn. Sighing happily, I turned away from the view and continued on my way, my shoes clicking delightfully on the walkway.

***

The doors recognised me and glided apart to permit my enterence into the workshop. As I waited for the light to gradually light the room I inhaled deeply, enjoying the esoteric scents of chemicals and magic that mingled in the air.

Depositing my satchel in the back room I heard Henry’s familiar voice booming from the forge, “Arielle, is that you girl?”
“Yes sir” I called back, hurriedly setting the store. Setting the wealth of accesories we sold. A variety of trinkets, jewellery, curiosities, as well as armour and weapons.

Henry asked emerging steadily, wiping his gloves on his heavy apron and pushing up his glasses, rubbing bloodshot eyes with the back of his wrist, “Gods blood, Arielle, you’re here early aren’t you?”

I grinned in amusement, Henry was a tall, broad man, with a well maintained, sharp white beard, who had a head for his work and not much else, “No sir,” I replied with militaristic glib, “It’s nearly 6, my usual starting time.”

He grunted in muted surprise, his mind seemingly already departed to the task he’d just left.
“Any shipments or orders today, boss?” I asked, seemingly surprising him with my continued presence,
“Hmm, yes, I think so,” he waved his hand absently towards the ledger.

“Working on something interesting last night, sir?” I asked, this time directly, dropping my pretense of work, Henry was aloof but it was rare that he found a project challenging enough to ensnare his interest so completely.

With a considered pause, “Actually yes,” he replied and turned to look at me directly, “Would you like to see it”

Short Term Goals

So given the purpose of this blog is to give some structure and incentive to my writing, I’ll be outlining my goals in the, hopefully not in vain, attempt to lock myself into achieving them.

I have three settings:

  1.  The Black Sun
    In the modern world, on a day like any other, except that when the sun rises it is a blackened hole in the heavens crowned in celestial fire. Heralding the beginning of something.
  2. Chrysalis
    A fantasy world with a mysterious pre-history. Humanity exists in this world in a fractured and primitive magical society.
  3. Roleplaying
    Stories from the backstories of my characters in roleplaying games.

My Goals:

“The Black Sun” slot is to be practice in short-run stand alone tales. It will continue til I feel it’s reached a conclusion, after which it will be replaced with another short-run stand alone tale when completed. I’ll be experimenting a lot in genre’s, styles, formats, perspectives and techniques here.

“Chrysalis” is a world building exercise. There is a world in my head which is incomplete but full of as yet unrevealed secrets, there will be recurring characters, shared locations and a fairly safe and comfortable style of writing as the focus will be on world over language.

And roleplaying is cause roleplaying character adventures and stories are fun and great sources of stories provoked from somewhere I wouldn’t otherwise draw.

Timeline:

Stories will be released midnight as Saturday becomes Sunday when I’ve been diligent in my writing. This upcoming weekend (9/4/17) will release the last part 1. Then in future weeks I’ll endeavour to pursue those tales. With the dream of actually completing one.

So now it’s in writing.
I’ve got to do it, right?

Zairron

The Poisonous Blood of my Ancestors pt.1

With arms raised wide above his head my grandfather begins the chant. His low reptilian rasp rumbles upwards through his chest, growing steadily in power and volume until even the high claustrophobic stone walls that envelope us tremble.

Around me the dimly lit chapel swells and fills with the draconian hymns. Cloying green mist snakes from the braziers evil green flame seeking out the desperate lungs of the congregation. Beneath my hood I chance a moment to glance away from the altar to observe the gathered Acolytes.

At my side my mother sings her praise, her formidable figure cloaked in zealous rapture as the first tongue of green mist crept into her nostrils causing her emerald eyes to shine with otherworldly power.

Shifting my gaze I locate several of my rivals amongst the lay. Under the shadow of my Aunt Róisín I spy Deirdre the beautiful, a silver tongued seductress who whispers sickening lies and poisonous truths. Useful but dangerous to know.

Barely visible beneath in the shadows of the alcove, Scáthach, the Viper. Seemingly on his own, I know his older brother Treasach wouldn’t be far. They prefer to negotiate with a poisoned blade across a sleeping throat. I despise them most of all.

Unwilling to risk any more time, I switch back to observing the sermon as grandfather’s hymn reach its peak. The sickeningly sweet smelling mist brushes my nose and obediently I inhale deeply. I feel my scales resonating with arcane power as my consciousness fades and I am lost to the ritual.

***

“Wake up” my mothers voice breaches the barriers of my mind and carries with it a cacophony of horrendously distracting noises which banish the fog of ritual sleep from my mind and anchoring my mind cruelly to my body. My body seems to weigh many tonnes crushing me deeply into the cold floor. My face and palms drag against the stone floor as I push myself up to my feet.

“Time to move,” her voice causing me to squint and grimace in pain, piercing my skull. I look cautiously around but I can’t see her in the chapel, just me and the torpid bodies of my cousins. My muscles scream as I begin to move, the rituals aftereffects demand my submission as the poison mist creeps like thick thorned vines through my veins.

My feet drag step by torturous step towards the alcove where I’d been told Cormac would have been concealing himself. My back siezes painfully and I drop to one knee at the entrance, my jaw clenched in a soundless scream for what feels like hours as I wait for the pain to end and just as I’m sure I won’t be able to last another second it passes. Gasping deeply for ragged breaths, I open my eyes and relax my jaw, beneath me, Cormac lies helpless.

Rolling Cormac onto his back I steady myself over him and focusing on the twisted emerald power in my blood, I feel the torment in my form draining from my muscles, my veins, my psyche, pulled into a roiling point in the pit of my chest. In a low, steady breath, I release it. The poison from my lips plunges greedily into Cormac’s.

Crawling back to where I woke, the sorcerous power now gone I feel weak, exhausted and hollow. “It is done,” I whisper to my mother before the spell fades, and as she fades I smile imagining she is proud of me.

The Black Sun pt.1

When I woke that morning I thought it was the middle of the night. There was no sunlight shining through my window, nor even a single bird’s song to liven the air. Struggling with my twisted and tangled sheets, resistant yet to opening my sleep filled eyes, I hunted lazily for wherever I’d dropped my phone the night before. Suddenly razor sharp energy rips through my veins, adrenaline pumping in response to the sudden unexpected shrieking of my alarm.

In a panic, cursing and fumbling I killed the obnoxiously chirpy tune and squinting through the too bright light I read the numbers on the screen in bleary confusion. “What the hell,” I wonder aloud lifting myself into an upright position I try to understand what was going on, had my phone’s internal clock changed during the night? Glancing out the window by my bed, the heavy fog of sleep was ripped away by the sight that confronted me.

The sun sat on the edge of the horizon, black as the blackest pit, but wreathed in a hot gold and crimson crown. It hung ominously, casting its empty gaze down across the city. Time ceased to exist for me as I sat and stared, my mind racing as it dragged itself resistantly to some kind of conclusion. “An eclipse?” I wondered silently, the though brought me no comfort since I hadn’t seen a single post online the day before to predict one.

Unlocking my phone I fired up social media to see what everyone else was saying. This deep-seated sense of wrongness demanded answers and community.

***

I didn’t know it then, but that morning heralded the beginning of a great and unceremonious shift, a dull and despondent end, bereft of fanfare or warning, to all we have ever known.

The Heir Apparent pt.1

The glorious predawn light luxuriously breached the highly perched wall as its opacity gently gave way and bathed the girl sleeping uncomfortably at her desk. Her eyes clenched in discomfort as the light lovingly caressed her face.

With a start her eyes opened and she shot bolt upright. A hint of panic clawed at her, her shrewd, practiced eyes surveying the situation, struggling to wake her mind to catch up with her body.

“It’s morning,” she hissed sharply, her voice jagged and raw. Without another word she lept to her feet, hurriedly closing the large tome and stuffing it into her shoulder pack before turning and tearing out towards the hall.

The door slid open with a gentle hiss to permit her passing, the halls filled with the rapid pattering of her footsteps. The thin light that lined the floor during the night had almost entirely gone out eliciting another curse under her breath, damning her mistake at falling asleep.

“Maybe there’s still time” she thought to herself as the hall ahead remained untouched by the light as she rounded the corner. From behind her the familiar dull buzz began to warm up as the building woke from its nightly slumber.

Leaping up the stairs three to a bounding step the guiding lights blinked completely out. She knew she was running out of time but her legs and lungs already screamed for respite in response to her desperate attempt to redouble her pace.

Light shone through the opened door ahead, now or never, she burst forth onto the rooftop lifting her tattooed palm to the sky she croaked out the words, her parched throat and cracked lips ached.

Collapsing to her knees, arm still raised she felt a vast alien presence fill her body and mind with lightning surging through her palm riding a primal scream from her as every synapse in her body opens at once as if she were being burned alive until everything dark and she collapses.

The soft rays of the sun warmly cover the girls body on the rooftop as it continues to rise gradually. The birds song as serene and beautiful as the day.

The Hermit pt.1

“But why is Necromancy called ‘Dark Magic’?”

The boy shivers his thin linen clothes poor comfort against the damp cool air of the cave. His weak voice echoes thinly through the air as he steps back from the offered warm meal, lingering so the edge of the light from his lantern just barely catches the steam rising.

From the darkness the boy hears the crunching of leaves under foot, a human shaped shadow outlined in the darkness approaches from deeper within the cave. The boys breath catches in his throat, a mixture of fear and excitement as the thin lined hand reaches into the light and draws the plate back into the darkness.

Silence, but for the sounds of nature consume him as the boy stands waiting. To run, to stay, he struggles to calm his breathing, his knees shaking intensely despite his efforts to still them. Minutes dredge themselves past, accompanied by the gentle scraping of cutlery in the darkness and his own shallow breaths until at last his patience can take no more.

“H-hello?”

The quiet clang of cutlery discarded on the ceramic of the plate answers him, causing a small startled jump in him. As he opens his mouth to say something, a strangely soft but powerful voice from darkness replies,

“Necromancy attracts those with darkness already in their souls…”

(To be continued)

Welcome

Hi, my name is Michael O’Dempsey. Though since this is the internet and silly names are far more fun I’ll just be going by Zairron Plaguestrider, Zairron for short. It’s the name of a character in a story I wanted to write back in high school but never pushed myself to.

With that bit of backstory, I’ve created this blog with the intention of writing more for practice and enjoyment. Whether you’ve managed to find this blog on your own or from others, feel free to read and leave feedback or comments if you’d like.

I’ll aim to post short stories once a week by the end of Sunday on the weekend. We’ll see how well I do at sticking to that. There’s no plan for a consistent theme, from horror to fantasy, I’ll be writing whatever comes to me.

I’ll be linking stories that are connected by categories. Tales within the same continuity will share a category, beyond that stories pertaining to a character I feel significant will also have categories to represent that.

Maybe it’ll grow into something, or maybe it’ll meander gleefully in every which direction.

Enjoy your stay,
Let’s see what happens.

Zairron Plaguestrider