Nightmare Chapter 3

By Kris Kramer

A Rise of Cithria story


Chapter 3 (of 6)

Read – Chapter 1Chapter 2

“How many are there now?”

Ansen Havarton, Steward of Breakwall Castle, leaned over the massive mahogany writing desk that filled the center of his stark office. Dozens of parchments lay scattered across the top, a regular fixture of his daily routine as he pored through notes, letters, inventories and budgets. Two soldiers stood opposite him, a centnar and a decnar, both wearing polished breastplates, flowing red capes hanging from their shoulders, and stylized helms nestled in the crooks of their arms.

“We chased away around thirty,” the centnar said, “but there could have been another dozen or two hiding on the far side of the river. We don’t have an accurate count right now.”

Ansen slammed his fist onto the desk.

“Why here? Why are we suddenly a refuge for these people?” He looked at the two stone-faced officers, neither of whom appeared to have any more answers than he. “Is someone spreading rumors about buried treasure underneath the castle? Or a legendary sword? The tomb of a lost Thandaran Emperor? Tell me, because I am at a loss to explain why over a hundred vagrants and refugees have come from all over Caldera to Breakwall looking to find charity.”

The soldiers averted their eyes. Ansen huffed at them, then moved from the table to stand next to the narrow window that overlooked the courtyard of the castle from three stories up.  He’d claimed this room as his office twenty years ago, after taking over as steward from his father, also named Ansen. The view allowed him to see much of what happened in the castle from on high, but he also secretly enjoyed the fact that no one liked climbing three long flights of stairs to come see him.

As usual these days, the courtyard was busy with merchants delivering goods, soldiers sharpening swords, villagers coming and going, and couriers hurrying through the gates. The castle was as it always had been – the hub of a bustling Artoran town lying in the shadows of Corendar. His work organizing this castle and the town it lorded over had been much of the reason why some of the earls seriously considered his lord as a successor for Tanchet’s debacle of a reign as King of Caldera, before Thaine Trannoch was plucked from the army. But now a disease had taken root in the town, and though he couldn’t see it, he felt the symptoms.

“Twenty at the docks, fifteen at the village church, another eight at the castle chapel, ten or so near the way house along the Corendar Road, and now upward of fifty hiding in the forest?” Ansen shook his head. “On top of that, Lady Violet has somehow found the motivation to personally provide them with food and alms, which means they have no incentive to bugger off now.”

The centnar grunted. His name was Sevris, and he’d been captain of the guard in Breakwall for almost as long as Ansen had been steward. “Poor timing for her to suddenly find her heart.”

Ansen gave him a warning glance, but nothing more. Lady Violet, despite being only a lord’s daughter, normally carried herself like the spoiled, whiny princess she imagined herself to be. That was probably inevitable when her father once aspired to sit on the Calderan throne.

The decnar, a dashing young man named Joah, cleared his throat. “People are saying all the refugees bring her gifts. Expensive ones, too. Seems easy to understand why she likes them if that’s true.”

Sevris grunted in agreement. Ansen leaned against the window with a resigned sigh.

“Keep sending men out to the forest. At the very least, make the Lady’s new friends see the value of congregating on the other side of the river.”

Sevris bowed his head and left, along with his decnar.  Ansen continued to stare out the window, watching the chapel specifically. A young woman in stained, muddied clothes stood at the open door on the far side of the courtyard, looking out as if waiting for someone. Another newcomer to Breakwall, with a story that didn’t line up and a purpose that was fuzzy at best. Most of these refugees offered eerily similar tales about why they’d come to this place – they all claimed that they needed a new home, and Breakwall was where they wanted that home to be. As flattering as some in the castle found that notion, Ansen had trouble understanding why they didn’t go to Corendar, only a day’s travel to the north. The Church there was far more capable of handling such a large number of poor and homeless migrants. And they’d find more help in the form of alms and charity from the cluster of nobles there.

He rubbed his eyes and stifled a yawn. He wasn’t himself these days. Troubling nightmares had plagued him the last few nights, bringing with them gruesome visions of black-robed men dragging him from his bed and taking him to the darkest part of the woods where they cut him and smeared themselves with his blood. Once he woke from the nightmare, drenched in a cold sweat, he couldn’t go back to sleep. Nor did he want to after such vivid horrors. But his lack of sleep lately was keeping him irritable and exhausted. And far too excitable. Worst of all, the fatigue kept him from making sense of this new dilemma.

He’d simply have to focus on his work. When life refused to make sense, Ansen had learned long ago to keep his hands busy until it did. He returned to his desk, picking up a small stack of documents that his lord would need to review. He left his office and walked down the spiral stairs to the second floor of the castle.

He found the door to the castle’s drawing room, where Lord Morgantin held private meetings with visitors or officials. He knocked gently and opened the door to find a large room decorated in the finest of Calderan luxuries. Red and gold-trimmed curtains framed two wide windows that overlooked the northern reaches of the Breakwall domain. Numerous elegant tapestries hung from the dark stone walls, and a thick, plush red rug covered the middle of the floor. Small wooden tables were arrayed around the edges of the room, each one displaying silver or gold artifacts, or fancy collections of mugs and dinnerware.

Lord Selvan Morgantin sat in a high-backed chair in the rear-center of the room. He was thin and impossibly tall, an imposing man who literally looked down his nose at everyone. But he was also a good man, for a Calderan lord.

Seated on a plush bench to his left was his only child, Lady Violet Morgantin, who engaged him in conversation with a furious scowl on her face. Upon Ansen’s entry, however, they both stopped and looked at him.

“Ansen,” Lord Selvan waved him in. “Enter.”

“My lord,” Ansen bowed his head and took a few steps into the room. “Can we speak a moment?”

Lord Selvan nodded. The steward hesitated briefly to see if Lady Violet would leave the room, but she remained seated, turning only slightly to face him. She was twenty-two years old, having been only a babe when Ansen took office, and still unmarried. She’d had suitors, but she’d tired of them all for various reasons, usually a lack of money, or a lack of manners. A few simply stopped calling on her, providing decent enough excuses, although everyone in the county knew the real reason they lost interest.

“I bring word about the recent troubles we’ve had.”

“The murders?”

“Yes, my lord. I believe it to be a symptom of our refugee problem.”

“Problem?” Lady Violet balked. “Why do you use that word, Steward?”

Ansen blinked. The Lady of Breakwall had only recently become involved in the day-to-day affairs of managing the Morgantin domain and he still wasn’t used to it.

“Lady Violet, the mercy you show these people is commendable, and lauded throughout your father’s lands. But the fact remains that these people are unknown to us. They are draining us of food, water, supplies, and coin, and they all give us different reasons for being here. Sometimes two different reasons on the same day. And now, immediately after they blacken our shores, we have two murders to address.”

“So you assume the killers are amongst these refugees? Despite having no proof of that fact?”

Ansen tried very hard to remain calm.

“My lady, we haven’t seen anything so vile in these lands for a decade, and the last time it happened, the killer brazenly declared himself in the West Gardens after killing a man he accused of improper relations with his wife.”

“It still sounds incredibly circumstantial to me.”

“We have three witnesses who claim that a man in mud-stained clothes was near the Redbird tavern when Eric Gavelson was killed. As for the boy in the village, another refugee had been bothering his family for food only the day before. No one else is suspected in either crime, and the people of Breakwall believe that these murders were committed by someone hiding amongst the refugees. It is my duty as steward to see that these criminals are found, and I must start with the obvious suspects.”

“Your entire argument is based on nothing more than–”

“Violet,” Lord Selvan said, casting an annoyed glare at his unruly daughter, “that is enough. You’ve had your say on this matter. Please leave us.”

“Of course, father.” She gave a slight bow of her head and left the room. Ansen watched her for any sign of annoyance, but she left with as much grace as she could possibly muster. She really had changed. A few weeks ago, she would have thrown a tantrum before storming out red-faced.

Violet closed the door behind her, and Ansen turned to the lord, who shook his head with a weary smile.

“That girl does nothing but perplex me, Ansen. One day she’s screaming at her handmaiden for leaving a speck of dust on her dresser. The next, she’s bringing food to men and women living in filth or hiding in caves.”

“Perhaps she has finally discovered her noble purpose in this world.”

Lord Morgantin shook his head. “If only that were true.”

“You should have faith in your daughter, my lord. Some people find their calling late in life.”

“Perhaps. As I always say, my friend, I pity the fact that you’re fourteen years younger than I. When I die, and she becomes the true Lady of Breakwall…”

“I will have my hands full, yes. But I welcome the challenge. And if I find that I cannot rise to it, I can still retire to my home in Artalia.”

Lord Morgantin laughed.

“You would sooner leap to your death from Goldcliffe than leave anything here undone.”

Ansen smiled. His lord knew him well. “I live to serve, my lord.” He set his papers on the table near the lord’s chair, before taking a seat of his own.

“Now,” Lord Morgantin adjusted to face his steward, “to the more pressing issue, justice must be done. You wish to send for sentinels from Corendar?”

“Yes, my lord. I spoke with Didach Antonis at the church, and he says some of the sentinels there claim they can read the truth of a man’s intentions. I would like to summon them to question the refugees and see if they sense anything amiss.”

A flicker of surprise crossed Morgantin’s eyes. “Sentinels can read a man’s thoughts, now?”

“Antonis claims that it’s actually more subtle than that. They use their magic to sense changes in feeling or mood. When someone lies, they get scared, or angry, and the sentinels can see that in the man or woman’s temperament. Apparently it’s an old Inquisitor trick.”

“Don’t we have a sentinel?”

Ansen shrugged. “Gunnar is not in Breakwall, as far as I can tell. He left two days ago, without any notice.”

Morgantin sighed and shook his head. “That man… He used to be dependable. Now, he drowns himself in the vices of his church. What sort of message does that send?”

“I agree wholeheartedly, my lord.”

Selvan reached out for the documents, flipping through them with little interest.

“Send for the sentinels. And do what you must to resolve this. I have faith in you, Ansen.”

“Thank you, my lord.”




A knock on the door pulled Ansen from his work. He looked up to see a red-faced young man standing in the doorway of his office, fidgeting with a piece of paper in his hands.


“I-I have a summons for you, from Lord Morgantin.”

Ansen squinted at the man. Evening had come, casting the room in darkness, save for the candles on his desk. “You’re new, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Lord Steward.” He bowed, awkwardly.

“Just Steward. I’m not a lord.”

“Yes… Steward.”

“Where am I being summoned to?”

The man looked at the note in his hand.

“The gardens, Lor-,” he paused, “Steward.”

Ansen nodded, glancing down at the pile of papers still cluttering his desk. Oh well, if the Lord of Breakwall wanted to summon him for a leisurely walk in the gardens, he couldn’t very well say no. He could probably stand to take a break, anyway.

“Tell the lord I will be there momentarily,” he said to the man, who bowed again and then disappeared down the hallway.

Ansen stood, stretching out the stiffness in his back and neck. He grabbed his coat from a rack in the corner. He’d become a bit more susceptible to the cold in his later years, and it wouldn’t do to be shivering all evening. He threw the coat over his shoulders, closed the door to his office, and went downstairs.

The castle was nearly empty, as it usually was this time of day. A lone servant carrying an empty platter scurried past as Ansen strode down the wide hall leading to the gardens. Ansen opened the thick wooden door at the end of the hall and stepped out into the cool night air. A cobblestone path meandered through a thick copse of hedges, ending at a clearing with a round gazebo in the center, typically the starting point for his walks with Lord Morgantin. The gazebo was empty, though, and he looked around, seeing no sign of anyone.

He heard some conversation in a nearby work shed, and decided to ask the gardeners if they knew where Lord Morgantin had gone to. He approached the door, turning as two dark-robed figures appeared at the edge of his vision. He began to ask the question of them, but as he discerned their appearance, he froze, seeing only the attackers from his nightmares.

No. This isn’t real.

His rational mind took hold, reminding him that he was awake, and in his own lord’s garden. He relaxed, ready to dismiss his fright as mere paranoia, nerves from his lack of sleep. But as soon as he opened his mouth to question them about their suspicious clothing, they lunged at him, knives flashing in the moonlight. He cried out as they jabbed deep into his flesh, over and over, until he fell to the ground, writhing in the throes of death.

The dark-robed attackers backed away, and a new figure emerged, standing next to Ansen’s head. A woman, with black hair and a bright red dress that somehow shined in the darkness.

“Lady…?” he croaked.

Lady Violet leaned over and ran a finger next to one of his wounds, her face devoid of emotion. She pushed on it, and for a moment he thought she might be trying to stem the flow of blood. Instead, she held up a hand stained dark red, the blood dripping from the glittering rings that lined each of her fingers. She rubbed the blood across her face, tasting it on her lips. A wicked smile greeted him as she exulted in the act.

She crouched down next to him, turning his head to face her.

“Had you been a weaker man, you may have been useful to me. But I have no place for servants of your will. Go in peace, Ansen Havarton. Your time as Steward of Breakwall is at an end.”

He tried to fight, to shout at her. But he only managed to get out one single word.


A curt laugh escaped her lips. She looked around at the garden, surveying her realm.

“Your world pleases me. What other reason could there be?”



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Nightmare Chapter 2

By Kris Kramer

A Rise of Cithria story


Chapter 2 (of 6)

Read Chapter 1

“… okay?”

Everitt lifted his heavy head to see the burly, thick-bearded barkeep watching him from the other side of the bar, his hands squeezing out the last drops of grimy water from a wash rag onto the sticky wood countertop. Streaks of sunlight slipped between the wooden planks of the wall behind the barkeep, and Everitt squinted as one slashed across his face.


“I said, are you okay?” The barkeep leaned forward, planting two meaty hands on the bar. He squinted at Everitt’s face, examining him. “You don’t got the Rylish fever, do ya?”

“No,” Everitt said, forcing a weary smile on his face. “I’m fine. Been a long walk home, is all.”

“Mmmhmmm.” The barkeep frowned, not believing a word. “Walking makes your head hurt?”

His fears are many. But he offers me nothing.

Everitt froze. It had been days since he’d last heard the voice in his head. It whispered to him sometimes when he met people, opining on the strength of their will. He was fairly sure the words weren’t his own, but that only begged the question ‘then who?’ The Goddess? The Grim King? An ancient Anduain spirit or a Bergsbor deity? Any of those possibilities made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Men who heard voices tended to get thrown into a Church hospice and never seen again. So he did what he’d done since leaving Trenant Keep. He ignored it.

“Nah. Just been hit in the head too much. Like any good soldier, I don’t know when to duck.”

The barkeep nodded slightly as he wiped down the polished wood between them, unconvinced but also unwilling to debate the issue. Everitt faked his good humor until the barkeep finally wandered away, into the storeroom in the back, and then resumed rubbing his temples. His headaches were getting worse.  And they weren’t happening due to any lack of skill in ducking.

He reached down to feel the worn leather satchel hanging at his side, its touch reassuring. For a moment, he couldn’t remember why he even had it. It carried something heavy, something someone would find important back home. A gift, he thought. The details escaped him, so he let it go. All he needed to worry about right now was getting to his new home as soon as possible.

The front door opened with a creak and late morning sunlight flooded into the small tavern, illuminating every dank corner. Once Everitt’s eyes adjusted to the harsh light, he saw a sailor standing in the entrance, wearing dark brown pants that ended at his calves, and a thin, linen shirt with streaks of brown tar across the front. Everitt hadn’t heard a peep from the high-pitched signal horn, blown from the town’s lookout tower to signal the arrival of a new ship at the dock. Had he missed it? The sailor rapped on the wall next to him to get everyone’s attention. Other than Everitt, though, no one else was in the bar, save for a sleepy older fellow named Jax sitting in the corner.

“Trade ship from Evidsar is in. Setting back out at the next bell for Conovaria and then Corendar.”

Everitt straightened up. “Taking passengers?”

The man nodded. “The captain handles goods mostly, but he’s got a few cots down below.”

The sailor left and Everitt quickly fished through his coin purse for an unar, a small copper coin engraved with a Thandaran crest, and tossed it on the bar. He gave Jax a quick wave and then left the tavern, a neglected little shack nestled in the trees alongside the Vitrix River. He worked his way down a riverbank crowded with tall grass and weeds and onto the docks of Rylicum, a small port town a day’s ride west of Corendar. He’d been here two nights, waiting for a boat that could take him on the last leg of his trip. Several times he’d almost given up waiting, opting to walk the rest of the way, knowing that would add days to his journey. Indecision had kept him paralyzed on that bar stool for two days, too impatient to leave, and too impatient to stay.

Now, salvation had finally come.

He found the ship, a long, narrow sloop with a single mast, tied up to the only dock in town. Two sailors dragged a large cart toward the town center a few dozen paces up a wide dirt path, while the captain, an older man in finer clothes, stood at the end of the dock, yelling at two other men still onboard. Everitt approached the rickety wooden dock, hailing the captain, who waved him over.

“I’m looking for passage.”

The captain regarded him with a raised eyebrow. “Headed south?”

“Aye. Breakwall. You stopping there?”

“I can.”

“I can pay.” He held up a large silver coin, stamped with the Thandaran flame. “A tren should be more than enough, right?”

The captain gave him a sidelong look. A tren was worth three vinars, the standard silver coin of nearly every trading post that accepted Thandaran money. “A tren just for hitching a ride to Breakwall?”

“A fast ride. That’s it.”

The captain rubbed his chin. “We gotta stop in Corendar for a few hours and pick up a load.”

“Nowhere else?”

“I usually dock at Conovaria for the night, just to see what furs they got. But the tanner there’s been overcharging me the last couple trips. Maybe if he sees me skipping him this time around he’ll be a little more forthcoming the next one.”

Everitt nodded. “So, one stop at Corendar for a few hours and that’s it? We sail through the night?”

“I can manage that. I can get ya’ to Breakwall tomorrow night.”

Everitt felt a huge load come off his shoulders. A weary smile formed on his lips. “Done.”

“Hop on, then, if you’re ready. We leave after the noon bells, or as soon as Enick and Roj come back with the cart.”

Strong willed, but can be bought. Useful.

Everitt winced at the strange words in his head and immediately looked away from the captain. He never had the stomach to face anyone after this demon – it had to be a demon – so prominently announced their weaknesses in his head. He stepped onto the boat and handed over the tren. The captain tapped it, then tried to bend it between his fingers. He grinned at Everitt with crooked teeth.

“Can’t be too careful. I’ve seen folks press unars together and paint ‘em silver. Fools some people, but not me.”

The captain signaled one of the deckhands to show Everitt to a cot below.  A skinny, gold-haired boy, barely into his teens, led Everitt down a narrow flight of stairs into the bowels of the ship.

“You from Breakwall?” the boy asked.

“No.” Everitt shook his head. “Not yet, at least.”

“You fought any Anduains or Bergsbor?” He glanced back over his shoulder at the sword hanging from Everitt’s belt.

He fears the captain’s lust. He will be mine completely.

“Some,” Everitt said, looking at the walls, the floor, the flickering candles hanging in glass lanterns on the walls. Anywhere but the boy. “But not lately. Not much happening up near Trenant these days. A few Anduains and Bergsbor sneaking around here and there, but that’s it.”

“You been to Hannerkeep? My brother’s there a lot. Says it’s a bit of a dump. Compared to Trenant.”

“Your brother’s right.”

The boy showed him to an open storage area with a few cots pushed up against the far wall. Everitt nodded his head in thanks and sat down on the cleanest one he could find. He listened as the boy clomped his way back up the stairs, then leaned his elbows on his knees and continued rubbing his temples.

They will corrupt easily. Quickly. They will beg to be mine.

“Stop,” he whispered, despairing at what he’d gotten these men into. The voice never responded to him, but he had to try. He rubbed his temples again, even though it made no difference.  “Please.”

This entire ship will be mine. Soon.




The following day, just as the sun touched the western horizon, Breakwall came into sight. Everitt waited up top most of the afternoon, eager to be off the boat and on his way. He’d tried to avoid the sailors as much as possible, but it couldn’t be helped. Every time one came by, the voice returned, claiming how easy it would be to take them. He tried in vain to convince himself it was only meaningless words. But something deep down told him that he knew very well what those words meant, and what the voice had said about him not so long ago.

The boat slowly floated down the river before the sailors brought out steering poles, pushing the boat toward the eerily familiar docks. They edged up to the nearest one and the deckhands tossed a rope to the men on shore. One of them pulled until the boat bounced off the side of the wood, then tied everything down. Everitt didn’t even wait for the bobbing to stop. He hopped onto the dock and hurried up the path that led through the town and then up the hillside to the castle. He’d never been to Breakwall before, but he somehow knew the path as if he’d run it a thousand times as a boy.

He reached the castle gates, still open during the daylight, and threaded his way through the crowd of craftsmen, merchants, and laborers leaving Breakwall Keep for the night. Once through the gates, he paused, unsure where to go next. He racked his brain for a place, a destination, anything that would finally grant him peace.

The Garden.

Everitt shivered. He’d be done with this soon, he reminded himself. As soon as he reached the Lord’s Garden.

Most Calderans knew the story of the Lord’s Gardens in Breakwall. Lord Morgantin had opened the Gardens to the public as a way to garner support from his people and to project a magnanimous air while campaigning amongst the earls to be king. He’d lost that battle to the former general, Thaine Trannoch, but to his credit, Morgantin kept the Gardens open during daylight hours ever since.

A soldier eyed Everitt curiously as he hurried across the courtyard and through the entrance to the Gardens. Everitt jogged down the cobblestone path, and then around the hedge maze, searching for his quarry. The sun would set soon, and any minute guards would kick him out. He’d have to wait until the next morning to resume his quest. Another night might kill him. He needed to finish this now.

There. Walking down the west path with her handmaiden. The Lady of Breakwall. Lord Morgantin’s daughter.

His spirits soared as he approached the beautiful young woman.

“My Lady.” He bowed, catching only a glimpse of her annoyed look. “My name is Everitt Jonus. I’ve come to beg succor in your celebrated lands, so that I may witness my Lady’s charity in person.”

The Lady of Breakwall stared back at him, her stern expression unchanging. She had long, black hair, pulled back into a thin gossamer netting, and searching brown eyes. Her face was oval, with flawless porcelain skin, save for a small, flower-shaped birthmark over her left eye.

“Charity?” She blinked at him, taking in his unkempt clothes with the practiced disdain of a noble. “Do you not have any sense?” She waved him off. “Go to the Church and beg there.”

“I brought you something.” He held up the satchel. “A gift, from the north.”

The woman and her handmaiden tensed as he reached into the satchel. Their anxiety turned to wonder, though, when he pulled out a finely cut pink gem set in a circular brooch. He’d stolen it from a lord in the Red Hills who’d been visiting Trenant Keep. He’d never stolen anything before in his life but this magnificent gem he’d simply walked up and taken from the lord’s quarters while he was at a feast. It was the most brazen thing he’d ever done, and he wasn’t even sure why he did it.

“A singing crystal?” Her expression softened. He handed it to her, bowing his head slightly, and she looked at him in genuine surprise. “It’s beautiful.”

“You’ve wanted one since you were a child, yes?”

Her eyes widened. “How did you know that?”

Everitt smiled, feeling the weight of the world lift from his shoulders. “A very old friend of yours told me. She was very persuasive.”



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Nightmare Chapter 1

By Kris Kramer

A Rise of Cithria story


Chapter 1 (of 6)

I see everything now.

For eons, I ruled a domain void of light and color, consigned by my jailers to a place where darkness bred horrors too twisted to imagine. I knew no peace, because my subjects screamed and wailed in terror, begging for release from their hellish existence. I felt no warmth, for there was none to be had in a realm without soul.

My world was dark. Lonely. But it was my home.

My life.

My prison.

Then the lights appeared. They came to me like distant stars twinkling through the veil of a night sky, a comparison I’d forgotten until a short time ago. They never lasted long, many times winking out of existence before I could reach them with my clumsy and overeager hands. But still I sprang at each new light, desperate to discover what treasures lay hidden beyond. Occasionally, I found one that lingered long enough for me to finally see what I’d so long been denied.

A glimpse into another world.

I exulted at the chance to stare through these windows into the minds of creatures who lived and breathed and died under clear blue skies, walking on soft green grass, surrounded by others of their kind. They laughed by roaring fires, the light gleaming off of their metal clothes and tools. They ate hot food and drank frothy cold drinks with each other, praying, crying, touching each other’s warm skin. They stopped to watch water running through a brook, or down a waterfall. They smelled colorful flowers and danced to cheerful music. They stared at the distant horizon, or gazed at the night sky, which reminded me too much of my own world, but also gave me a sense of camaraderie with people I did not know.

Through these windows I watched, and heard, and felt, and experienced what it was like to be part of this beautiful new world.

And I envied them all.

They call them dreams. As they slumber, they imagine their own world in their minds, but with a twist. Some things are less, others are more. They describe it as a warped mirror, an imitation of their own reality. Others believe them to be visions of the future, or lessons from the past.

For me, dreams are unadulterated joy.

I slip into those dreams, and I look around in awe, like a child watching a prism. But just like a child, I start to touch things, and when I touch things, they change. They grow black, diseased. They crumble. They twist into something that induces terror in the dreamer’s mind, and delight in mine. When I do this to their dream, they give it a different name.



I was clumsy in my first attempts, but after some time I knew what to look for, and I slipped from dream to dream with practiced movements and effortless grace. But still, they faded away so quickly that I never managed to truly know the people of this world.

But then, something changed. Thousands of new dreamers appeared to me, all at once, and they didn’t wink away after a few moments. I’ve learned much about these new dreamers. They come from all corners of an island called Caldera, though a few have different names for it. Andua. Sudmark. Elegant names, and fiercely espoused by the people who live there. I know the island well. I’ve seen its great cities – Corendar, Tan Arbrel, Casuuld – as well as its villages, where people live and work and farm. Some train their bodies to use weapons, so that they can slay their enemies. Others tap into The Remains, which they call magic, and they use it to reshape their reality, just as I reshape their dreams. But one thing common to them all is war. They prepare for it, fear it, embrace it, despise it.

These are not their dreams, though. Not dreams of their own making. Merely a facet of their thoughts that works to keep them docile in their reality. An interesting trick, and one I make sure to remember.

Some of them use their magic to create dreams for others, keeping them imprisoned in their own minds. They call themselves Nameless, although many of them have a name, a holdover from the laws of their gods who, strangely enough, do not dream. Ever. These Nameless learned the magic from an outsider, a trick called Domination, and they’ve cultivated it ever since.

I care little for their motivations, only that they are successful.

They do not understand the pleasure they’ve given me. I visit each one, careful not to touch anything. I only observe, searching for the handhold that lets me grab on and stay. The strong ones can throw me out of their dream, no matter how much I hold on. The weaker ones submit to my touch, but only if I come to them in a form they can accept. Then, I can do what I want, and stay as long as I choose, and the longer I stay, the more I learn.

At first, I wanted only to join them, to live amongst them in a world full of light and color. But would I have power in their realm? In their dreams, I can do as I wish. Would I be as powerful if I had substance? I did not know the truth of this question, though I suspected the answer to be promising. I needed to find a way into their world, and I would have to do so through the dreams. But people only dream when they’re asleep, or unmoving. Useless to me in my endeavor. But I did not give up, and after much searching, my persistence was rewarded.

I discovered a way to stay with them, even after the dream ended.


Her name was Alayna. She was the last one I tested before finding my true way into their world.

My journey had taken me through a large number of soldiers and their holy men, Calderans who called themselves Esteran mostly. Some of them were priests who worshipped a goddess with no name, and learned magic that let them heal and strengthen their fellow warriors. They came from other areas, lands with names like the Red Hills, Venria, Brinwall.

Alayna was a priest from a place called Breakwall, the name for both a town and the castle that lorded over it, in a county called Artora. Breakwall was close to Corendar, the gleaming white city I’d seen in so many other dreams, the city that lured me like a moth to a flame. Alayna had visited there, and she dreamed of it again when I found her. That’s what drew me to her initially, the chance to revel in the glory of Caldera’s magnificent capitol city.

But it was Breakwall that made me stay.

“You’ll never amount to much out there. The Didachs will treat you like a commoner.”

The words of Alayna’s friend, Violet. She was angry, and she showed it through insults and derision. A common trait of these people. In her dream, Alayna walked through a garden in Corendar with her friend, sharing last words before leaving to join the Church that was ever-present in the dreams of many Calderans.

“How I’m treated doesn’t matter to me as much as how I treat others. That is the way of the Church and its healers.”

“Pathetic.” Violet’s anger grew. She craved power, and control. Alayna did not. Perhaps that’s why I was intrigued by her. “The Church is the refuge of peasants and lesser born. Why would you associate with that?”

“Because I enjoy helping people.”

Alayna blamed the other girl for her troubles. They were friends once, but no longer. Violet had become distant and petty once the carefree days of childhood left her. Alayna, meanwhile, had seen the horrors of the world and wanted to mend the scars her people scratched upon it. The enmity between them drove Alayna away from their home, to this cavern, where she healed the soldiers fighting their war against Andua and a place called Bergmark.  I reached out with my hand, caressing the tension between the two girls as it writhed between my fingers.

“Helping yourself, I think.”

“Violet! How can you say that?”

“Who’s really benefitting from this, Alayna? People who deserve to die already, or you, who gets to think she’s saving the world? The Goddess Reborn.”

Alayna’s eyes somehow grew larger, and she saw her friend in a new light, one that revealed every dark spot in Violet’s heart. Something about that look intrigued me, and in my race to understand it, I became Violet. I wanted to see Alayna’s eyes on me, and feel her wretched disgust with what her friend had turned into. Humans despise that feeling, but to me, every emotion they experience is the sweetest dessert.

“Who are you?”

At first, I think she’s asking the question of Violet. But then I realize the truth. My touch has corrupted the vision, and Violet is now something less than human. Alayna has seen through the illusion. Few people are so quick to sense my intrusion. She’s much stronger than I thought.

I am Violet, I told her. I am your friend. Love me, as you do her, and you will see the truth.

Alayna backed away, and the garden around her disappeared. Suddenly, she was back in that cave, only now the torches on the walls rage, spewing torrents of flame all around us.

“No,” she says, reaching for the sword that suddenly appeared at her side. “You’re lying. You’re not Violet.”

My touch is now toxic for her. Stone rises from the floor between us as her will pushed me away. She’s exceptionally strong in this realm. I break it apart as fast as it comes, but we both know the effort of taking her is too much. Not when there are so many who will embrace me far more willingly. The image of Violet fades away, and as I drift off to my realm, I show her my true form. Her panic is palpable.

“You’re a-a-a monster!” she screamed. “A nightmare!”

Yes. Nightmare. That is not my true name, but it is a name I embrace, for you have given it to me. You and your people, who perform for me, and provide the only light in my world, have bestowed upon me a title reserved only for the most fearsome of things.

That is what you think of me. Therefore, that is what I will be when I find my way through the dreams and into your world. Where I will stay. And where you will know me as a new god.

“No! You’re not real. Your words are lies!”

I am not real. But your fear is. The terror that claws its way into your heart is no less true than my words. I am not in your world, but I will be. All I must do is find a suitable host. And now I have.

“What?” she asked. “What does that mean?!”

I left her, retreating back into my domain slowly, so I could hear her screams as she begged to know who I would take next.

She would figure it out soon. But by then, she would be too late.



Read Chapter 2 now!

Want more Cithria? Check out the Rise of Cithria series on amazon!

Get started with the first book for FREE!

Want more Cithria?

I know you’re all eagerly anticipating the next entry in the Rise of Cithria series (Book 5 – The Exodus). So are we (we’re looking at you, Patrick). So during this little downtime period, Alistair and I have written a couple short story/novella entries set in the world of Cithria to tide everyone over. The first of these, a prequel adventure starring your favorite nuathreen trackers, Bruce and Gil, is now available on amazon!

Rise of Cithria Origins: Bruce and Gil

Supplies are limited, so go grab a copy RIGHT NOW!

In addition, yours truly will be releasing a brand new Cithria story in the next week or so called Nightmare. I’m inclined to make it available the same way we used to release our Cithria stories, one chapter at a time on Only I’ll probably post them there and on this site. Either way, you’ll be able to start reading Nightmare as soon as next week!

I’ll post more details soon, but I wanted everyone to know that we haven’t forgotten about our Cithria fans, and while we’re hard at work getting that next book out, we’ll be doing additional spot stories like these when we can. So keep your eyes posted here for more information!

The Fall of Tavak Now Available!

For those of you who asked (I think it was one guy) the latest book in the Tales of the Lore Valley series – The Fall of Tavak – is now available on

Fans of the series should be happy to know that I’ve already started working on books 7, 8 and 9 (I write three of these at a time) but I can’t say when they’ll be ready. In between Cithria book 5, the sequel to Olympia, and the upcoming Goblin Hunter, Lore Valley stuff will end up getting pushed to the side for quite a few months. But I’ll notify everyone on my progress here or on twitter.

Anyway, without further adieu, go get yourselves a copy of my latest book!

Get it now at!

The Fall of Tavak Cover

New Assar is under siege.

After a deadly storm left dozens of Assarin nobles dead and the King of New Assar missing, the Tavak Uprising swept through the coastal villages like wildfire, rousing hundreds of Anzarins to the cause, along with their unscrupulous mercenary allies. The Tavak Army reached the gates of New Assar, leaving it in shambles as an army of enraged Anzarins stormed through the streets, destroying everything in their path. Caught in the frenzy of battle are the Wind Riders, each of whom must navigate the chaos around them in order to survive.

Jonir is dragged through the city by Nevi, the fiery Anzarin woman who wants him to see just what the Assarins he’s come to treat with are capable of. Emra debates her options with Maradin Dumon, the King of New Assar, just as her hunter returns, seeking to finally put an end to her life. Iago wakes from a fever dream, alive but seemingly cursed with a painful wound that no longer exists. All the while, Galen seeks his alliance with New Assar, and must negotiate with the enigmatic Jacyn Denridar, a man who holds the fate of the city in his hands.

Buildings burn, soldiers die, and secrets are revealed as the Wind Riders face the mistakes of their past, along with fears of their future.

Book 6 of the Tales of the Lore Valley pulp fantasy series!

Basketball and Science Fiction

So, in between my mad rushes to finish the dozen or so books I’m currently in the middle of writing, I’ve decided to include some extra-curricular writing to the mix. Starting pretty soon I’ll be contributing to the science fiction website Save Sci Fi as an official contributor. I’m not sure when my first article will go up, but I’ll put a notice up here once it does.

In addition to that, I’ve already started adding some volunteer contributions to Mavs Moneyball, a basketball news site focused on the Dallas Mavericks. I’ve applied to be a contributor there as well, but I haven’t heard back on whether or not they accepted me.  Hopefully that happens soon, and I can add sports reporter to my resume.

I did write an article for the Moneyball site a couple weeks back, though, just to show off my writing chops. I’ll link that below, along with the next batch of articles I plan on writing, all so you guys can go check them out and add some comments, just to show that I do have at least a couple fans out there. 🙂

Durant’s Diminished Legacy

The Fall of Tavak

It’s about that time… time for a


WR6 Cover - 300x487

That’s right, book 6 of my Pulp Fantasy series Tales of the Lore Valley – The Fall of Tavak, is very nearly upon us. I’ve finished the main draft, and it’s going through some final edits as we speak, in preparation for online release. I don’t know exactly when it’ll be published and available, but I’d suspect sometime in late April or early May. Certainly in time for the Fan Expo Dallas in early June, just don’t count on me having print copies by then. Print copies are a difficult thing to get done in a short amount of time…

Regardless, the ebook will be ready soon, so get yourself prepared for an explosive conclusion to the House Corovin storyline, and the beginnings of a new adventure, beginning with book 7 – Rikoso Tunga!

Also, and this is highly premature, but I’m finally starting to work on the second Tales of the Lore Valley series, tentatively called The Prophecy of Fire. It takes place in the same world as the Wind Riders, at the same time, only with different characters. The Prophecy series will showcase a different part of the Lore Valley, delving into kingdoms and legends that the Wind Riders doesn’t always have time to get to. But it tells an important story in its own right, one that will eventually (along with potentially a third series) tie together with the Wind Riders, but you don’t need to know a ton about one series to enjoy the other. However, if you’re a Lore Valley fan, I recommend reading BOTH!

Of course, the caveat here is that while I’m WORKING on the Prophecy of Fire series, it’s still a long way from becoming reality. But I’ll post some updates on that series as I go.

Free Books Reminder

Just a reminder that I have some FREE BOOKS! That’s right, if you make use of Amazon’s Kindle eReader, you can download three FREE BOOKS from Amazon RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND!

Want more info? Read the post below…

Free Books!

I usually get a pretty decent number of downloads for these FREE BOOKS but I feel the need to remind people every once in a while that they’re there. Especially the Lore Valley and Organization books.

Batman v Superman Review

In short, I liked it.

It wasn’t great. I’m not fawning all over it like some of the fanboys out there. But it also wasn’t as terrible as some critics will have you believe.

It was good. Maybe a little better than okay. That’s about it.

There’s a pantheon of great comic book movies – The Winter Soldier, Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, The Avengers. This movie falls WAY short of those. There are a number of curious script decisions and some editing and directing failings, and I’m still a little confused about how the actual Batman v Superman happened in the first place.

(All he had to do was explain to Batman about his mom, right? I’m not the only one who realizes that, am I? Or use his super-speed to check every warehouse in the city. He’s Superman! And he had a whole freakin’ HOUR to find her! He found Lois Lane in a freakin’ African desert!)

Anyway, none of it was enough to make me hate the movie.  I was entertained, and the plot was essentially about as convoluted as some of the source material Zack Snyder was drawing on, anyway. So I didn’t really hold any of those failing against it. It is what it is – a movie about two superheros fighting each other under some very strained logic, realizing how dumb that was (about 45 minutes too late), then banding together to defeat the real enemy, a monster whose main power was to overwhelm the viewer with flashy CGI.

(Not so) Strangely enough, it also didn’t aggravate me with its potential. I’ll do that with a lot of movies. I’ll see greatness in them that just wasn’t quite realized, and I’ll rewrite the movie in my head to take advantage of certain beats or moments that I thought were underutilized. A good example is Skyfall, which I thought was a frustratingly good Bond movie that could have been a GREAT Bond movie, almost on par with Casino Royale (one of my favorite movies period). It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, so I’m racking my brain here, but I remember the scene in the second act where Silva had escaped and Bond was chasing him and his henchmen through the tunnels. I wanted to see to some examples of Bond being a bad ass there, moments like the ones in Casino Royale where he bursts through the drywall, or kills the guy while falling down the stairwell. A boring, by-the-numbers gunfight/chase scene could have shown us SO MUCH MORE BOND BADASSERY, but it didn’t. Thus making the movie good, but not great.

But in watching this movie, I felt none of that. I haven’t spent a moment afterward thinking “if only they changed this scene, or did that one differently.” The whole movie was all just… there. It was bright, and pretty, and loud, and Wonder Woman was cool, but nothing about the movie blew me away, and nothing made me think “that was so awesome I need to see it again!” Which probably tells you all you need to know right there.

The more I think about it, thanks to the horrible early reviews, I probably came in with really low expectations, which means I was pleasantly surprised that the movie didn’t suck my life force away for two and a half hours. In fact, the more I think about it, that’s probably a pretty good summary.

“Didn’t suck my life force away for two and a half hours…” – Kris Kramer

DC and WB, feel free to put that on your posters.



Author Interviews

Every once in a while I’ll do a book promotion through promo website, and included in that promotion is an author interview. I think I’ve done about a dozen or so of these by now, and they all tend to follow the same pattern. They’re a little bit impersonal and canned, with pre-listed questions that rarely get into any detail about your book. They’re more designed to ask general (and sometimes vague) questions about you, the author. Mostly fluff. Very little substance.

That being said, this one wasn’t terrible. Over 200 questions to pick from, and even though a number of them were the same question asked in different ways, some were pretty insightful, and new (to me at least). So I didn’t mind answering these questions, and the answers gave me a chance to impart some useful information.

The interview was for a promo with, which you may have seen on Facebook. Normally, I don’t suggest spending a lot of money on book promo sites because the return is rarely worth the investment.

(One of these days I’d love to do some research on how well these sites actually work out for anyone but that requires a little more work than I want to do right now.)

But this one isn’t too expensive for what they offer ($49 I think???) so I’m going to give it a shot for Olympia. I’ll let you guys know if it works out. Of course, if it REALLY works out, you’ll see Olympia all over the amazon sales charts.


In the meantime, I’m posting my interview with the site here in the hopes that you learn something interesting about either me or my writing. Or, maybe this is just a ploy to not have to do any serious thinking for this week’s blog post, which is already a little bit late.


1. Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?

No, but it helps. I happen to be one, but even with my normally rigid expectations for other people’s writing, I sometimes let a few things go in my own. Writing a novel is a big, complicated, sometimes overwhelming job, and it’s rare that a single author can get his or her work through the gauntlet without letting something slip by.

But all that being said, I’ll spend all day yelling at people on the internet.

2. How important is research to you when writing a book?

It’s very important, and I enjoy it immensely. I actually got into writing through my love of history, which of course spawned thousands of dramatic stories of my own.

3. What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?

Computer. I do a lot of writing on notebooks, and I like to switch things up, but the vast majority of my writing is done on my laptop. You can’t beat copy/paste and undo/redo.

4. What inspires you to write?

Pretty much everything.

5. How often do you write?

Every day, usually. The amount of time I spend writing changes but I’m a creature of habit, and I believe consistency is key in being a good writer.

6. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

I used to, but that’s gone out the window. It’s dangerous to wait for inspiration to start writing, because you could end up staring at a wall for two months, so I try to stay consistent in my writing schedule. But the quantity of my writing varies a bit from day to day. I still try to keep up with word counts but that’s only when I’m doing first drafts. After that, I rewrite as needed until it’s ready.

7. Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?

There is for me, but I don’t think that applies to all writers. I know several who are extremely sociable. I would say that I know more extrovert writers than I do introvert, but that feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Introverts are at home, not meeting people.

8. Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I’m definitely a plotter, but I’ve been known to experiment with writing on the fly, usually with short stories. But at least one of those short stories turned into a full-blown novel (Sanctuary, in case you’re wondering), so there’s definitely value to it.

9. What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

Coming up with language that paints a picture in people’s minds. I’m good at laying out the groundwork for a story, or writing dialogue, but flowery descriptions that build an image that springs forth from the recesses of my readers’ minds is hard to do.

10. Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?

I think a more appropriate term for Writer’s Block is “laziness” or “lack of motivation”. You cure writer’s block by writing. That’s it.

11. Have you ever left any of your books stew for months on end or even a year?

Yep. Olympia and Sanctuary are both books that stymied me for a long time. I had issues with the plot and no matter which way I went, or what I tried, I never felt comfortable, to the point that I had to walk away from both books and work on other things for a while.

12. Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

Yes, and that can’t be undersold. Visual media plays a huge role in allowing us to connect with characters. When you can see someone on TV or in artwork you immediately start to associate certain emotions or ideas with that image, and that builds up your attachment to them. So a good cover helps you do that. Just make sure it’s not a cheap, stock art cover. That does you no favors. If you’re going to splurge on something, then either do it on the cover, or editing, or both.

13. How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?

It would feel like any other Tuesday.

14. Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?

No. I have once or twice, but that’s a bad practice, I think. You don’t want to get argumentative with your own readers, whether they like you or not. Even bad reviews are from people who took the time to read your book.

15. Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?

Yes. Start writing about fifteen years earlier.

16. Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?

Shogun by James Clavell. I remember it sitting on my dad’s shelf when I was young, the stark white cover with red lettering, and I always wondered what it could be about. I imagined a hundred different things, none of them even close to the actual story. When I was 12 I decided I couldn’t wait any longer so I reached up and grabbed it and started plowing through that beast of a book. It was eye-opening to say the least, and Clavell ended up as one of my favorite authors for some time. To this day, I still think King Rat is an awesome story that needs to be made into a movie.

17. Do you read any of your own work?

Not like I do other books. I don’t read my own work for the same reason I don’t typically re-read other books. If I already know where the story is going, then I’m not as interested in it.

18. Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

My mom. She was an early champion of my writing, reading everything I put out. She still does, to this day, and tells people all about it.

19. Does your day job ever get in the way of your writing?

Every single day.

20. Another misconception is that all writers are independently wealthy, how true is that?

That is a horrendously false lie.

21. Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?

Ummmmmm, that would be a horrendously outrageous lie.

22. They say books die every time they are turned into a movie; what do you think?

I don’t believe that at all. If you look at sales numbers, it’s pretty obvious that book sales go up when a movie comes out. People are always interested in the original story, and that goes triple (or more) when the movie is good.