Why Story Matters

I always enjoy finding articles from established writers responsible for some really cool stories… in this case, the guy who created one of my favorite shows – Avatar: The Last Airbender. The link below is part 1 of a three part series of posts showing the process for how he (along with the other writers/creators of the show) broke down episodes, with some examples from a specific episode of Legend of Korra (the followup series to Avatar, for those who don’t know).

Writing the Premise

There’s another great link that I’ll have to find that shows something similar for Pixar. If I can round that up I’ll throw it up here as well. Stuff like that is already good to read, even when you’ve already read it. We all need reminders of what’s important in a story, especially when you get so deep into the rabbit hole of writing that you forget the big picture stuff.

Hopefully this helps you as much as it did me.

Divinity – Worthy of a Chapter 2?

The other day I posted a screenshot proving that there are Cithria Book 5 words happening as we speak. The book is coming, even if I can’t say exactly when (although I hope by early 2017). But anyone who knows me knows I’m always in the middle of about 5 different things at a time. That’s where Divinity comes in.

Divinity was originally a story idea from Patrick. He pitched it to Alistair and I a couple years back and I decided to run with it and see what I could make of it. Every so often, I’ll do what I call a Chapter 1 exercise. I’ll write Chapter 1 of a story, and if it’s good enough to warrant a Chapter 2, then I’ll try and flesh the whole thing out and turn it into a short or even a novel. Sanctuary started out in this exact same way. So I’m doing the same with Divinity.

Take a look at the first chapter below and let me know what you think. Is it worthy of a Chapter 2? Or maybe even more?



Chapter 1 – A New God


“Who is it, Seer?”

The sentry’s question barely penetrated the tempest of Janara’s thoughts. She stared out across the dusty field before the High Altar, seeing nothing save for a vast, unending plain of dry, cracked ground surrounding a single figure on horseback. A small plume of dust rose into the sky as the rider approached them quickly, no doubt galloping across the lifeless desert.

“I don’t know,” she whispered. The sentry looked at her in surprise from under his gold-trimmed helm. Sparkling gold and silver armor covered him from head to toe, and a white cape with thick gold trim hung down his wide back. A long sword hung from his belt, sheathed in the finest leather, and he held a majestic spear in his hand, its base resting on the ground before him. His mouth moved to question her, then stopped. Janara answered his unasked question. “I have not foreseen this.”

The sentry blinked. He hadn’t expected that answer.

“What of the High Prophet?” he asked.

Janara shrugged, feeling her worry gather into the pit of her stomach. The other Orders only sent emissaries once a year, and all eleven had made their trips in the first weeks after the new year. Kings, Queens, and Emperors each had their visits negotiated, but none were allowed here more than once every three years, and all had used up their allotted visit for some time.

Learning what the future held was not a trip one postponed.

“He has said nothing to me.”

The sentry fixed his gaze on the approaching figure, a frown of concern on his normally stoic face. Whoever this visitor to the High Altar was, he wouldn’t be here for some time.

“I will meditate on this,” Janara said. “If I’m not back in time, keep him, or her, outside the Altar.”

The sentry nodded. “I obey, Seer.”

Janara tirelessly bounded up the Five Hundred Steps of Wisdom, the wide staircase that led from the base of the Altar to the Middle Entrance, a wide opening on the near side of the great pyramid that served as the home of their Order. She glided down the hall, her floor-length white and gold robes wafting behind her as she entered the White Room, one of several meditation rooms used by the Seers of the Order of Cenembor. She found it empty, so she hiked up her robe slightly, and knelt on one of the square mats lining the outer edge of the room. She faced the plain white pedestal in the center, upon which rested a smooth, glassy statue of a large eye, roughly the size of her head.

She pushed back her long, tightly-curled, red hair, slipping it into a golden hair clasp to keep it out of her face. She pressed her hands together in front of her chest, then took a deep breath to steady herself. She closed her eyes, found her center, and let herself be one with the High Realm.

“Allfather Cenembor, Allseing Eye of the Universe, Granter of Wisdom and Foresight.”

The words tumbled out of her in monotone chant, a little faster than she intended. The High Prophet told her once that she sometimes said it too fast, a sign of impatience, which did not serve their Order well. But this was no normal situation. She composed herself and focused on the words. The Allfather would see her, he would smile at the power and clarity of her words, and he would bless her with his gift.

”I ask a boon of you, Allfather. I humbly beg for a vision of the future. Show me who entreats your High Altar this day. Show me their intent, and I will praise your glory.”

Nothing happened. She repeated the prayer, focusing all of her will into the chant. Again nothing happened. A novice could spend all day trying to gain the Allfather’s notice. She, however, had never had to do this more than three times. She tried again, fervent in her desire, and her worship. She must have that boon!

The magic came. It flowed through her body, from her toes all the way up her back and into her head. That’s where it held its greatest power. In the mind. She opened her eyes, seeing nothing save the foresight the Allfather had now given her. Anyone watching would see a shimmering aura emanating from her entire body. She’d never seen her own aura, though. She only saw the visions.

In this one, she was high above the plain outside the High Altar, desolate as always. The vision brought her forward, to the structure itself, the massive half-pyramid with the top lopped off. The four outer corners of the pyramid continued upward from the base like raised swords, their points nearly meeting far above the top platform. A massive stone eye rested on the four points, carved to face both east, toward the Blackpeak Mountains where followers of the earth gods roamed, and west, across the Ohan Desert and into the Everlands, where the storm gods held sway. She’d seen this vision before, many times. The High Altar was built in remote, desolate lands, making the power contained within hard to abuse by the other Orders. This was where she’d spent most of her adult life. It was her home, and she knew it intimately. But something about it was different this time.

It was empty.

No Seers walked the top platform. No sentries patrolled the base. The village just south, populated almost entirely by servants, workers, stable hands, and craftsman who supported the High Altar, was lifeless. The entire structure stood empty in the vast expanse of the dry, dusty plain. Completely silent.

She blinked, and the vision vanished. She looked around, finding herself still alone in the White Room. A sinking feeling in her gut spurred her back to the gate.

She returned to the path leading to the stairs. The sentry still waited at the bottom, his eyes fixed on the visitor who was now almost upon them – a young man, riding a brown horse. She debated going back to see the High Prophet, but still she waited. There was no need to warn of something he must surely already know about. She forced herself to stay calm and she walked slowly down the stairs to the wide stone porch at the base. The sentry looked at her, seeking some sort of reassurance. She gave none. She only stared straight ahead at the rapidly approaching visitor.

Within moments a man no older than herself reached the base of the porch, rearing back on his horse until it stopped only a few paces ahead. The horse trotted back and forth on the grass, breathing heavily, while the man rubbed its neck, calming it. Stable hands arrived from the stable at the southwest corner of the High Altar, but the man waved them off. They stood by mutely, watching Janara for any sign of what to do next.

The man hopped off the horse, keeping the reins tightly in hand. He wore simple riding clothes, dark brown woolen pants, a lighter brown linen shirt, leather boots and belt. His wavy, dark hair was shoulder-length and unbound, hanging over the front of a gaunt face lined with beads of sweat. He had no weapons or armor, no accoutrements of the other gods or kingdoms, no visible sign that he intended harm.

“Welcome to the High Altar of Cenembor. I am Janara, Seer of the Order of Cenembor. What is the purpose of your visit?”

The man regarded her with a barely concealed smile.

“You don’t know?”

Janara fought to keep her composure. She said nothing in response.

“I have come to speak to the High Prophet of Cenembor,” he said. “Obviously.”

Janara blinked, and tried to retain the polite smile on her face. One did not demand to speak to the High Prophet. The High Prophet foresaw all visitors, and made preparations for their arrival far in advance. This man had not been expected.

“You are not expected.”

He opened the saddle pouch and pulled out a small cloth. He used it to dab the sweat from his forehead.

“Tell the High Prophet I am here. He will want to see me, for I bring news.”

Janara visibly frowned.

“Your name?”

He raised an eyebrow. “He’s the High Prophet. He will know my name.”

Janara suppressed her annoyance. Both at this man and at her failure to foresee anything about him. Was this her failure or was it the Allfather’s? Surely he had a reason for not showing her of his coming.

“Wait here.”

He bowed his head, and then finally waved the stable hands over. They gladly took the horse away to be fed and watered. Janara hurried back up the steps to the Middle Entrance. She followed the hallway back until she reached the next set of stairs that led to the platform at the very top of High Altar.

Janara found him sitting cross-legged on the pedestal that overlooked the rear of the structure, facing the Blackpeak Mountains. He routinely meditated there, searching for visions of the future that foretold of great prosperity or dire troubles. The entire world paid begrudging tribute to him, the one man who could tell them anything they wanted to know.

“High Prophet,” Janara began, finding the words difficult to form, “a visitor has come. He asked to speak with you.”

For several torturous moments, the High Prophet did nothing. Then, he slowly turned his head to look back at her.

“That cannot be,” came a raspy reply.

Janara lowered her eyes.

“It is true, High Prophet. He waits now at the gate. He said you would know his name.”

She felt his eyes boring into her for a long moment. Finally, he turned back toward the mountains.

“Give me a moment.”

The High Prophet closed his eyes and began his own meditation. After a brief moment, a golden aura surrounded his body, much stronger than Janara’s. She stared in silent awe as the power of Cenembor wrapped itself around the High Prophet, granting him the gift of sight, not just of the future, but all possible futures.

The aura faded and he turned back to her. His eyes were troubled.

“Bring him to me.”

Janara bowed her head and hurried back to the front. She reached the gate where the sentry still waited with the visitor.

“Follow me.”

She led him back up the steps, through the Middle Entrance, then up the central stairs leading to the platform. She walked across the smooth, stone floor toward the rear platform, where the High Prophet still sat, now facing them as they approached. Janara moved to the side and beckoned the visitor to move ahead, while she knelt on a mat nearby.

The guest stood before the High Prophet, who watched this young stranger carefully. The man bowed, then sat cross-legged on the thick rug in front of the platform, mirroring the High Prophet. They watched each other, both waiting for the other to speak first. Eventually, the High Prophet could no longer contain his curiosity.

“I have not foreseen you.”

The man nodded slowly.

“Why?” the High Prophet asked.

The man licked his lips, glancing around at the palatial platform.

“I’ve come to deliver a message.” His eyes came to rest on a smaller eye statue sitting to the right of the High Prophet. “There’s a certain irony involved in what we do. You are the High Prophet of Cenembor, the man who has proven his worth to the Allfather, his devotion, his reverence, to such an extreme that the Allfather has granted you the greatest gift he has to give. His sight. From here on your perch, you can see all things, all futures, all pasts, all possibilities. But you couldn’t see me.”

The High Prophet sat completely still, giving no indication as to the truth of this man’s words.

“Why?” the man asked. “Why couldn’t you see me?”

The High Prophet’s expression hardened, and Janara’s unease turned into worry. She’d never seen him this way. He looked… nervous.

“Perhaps,” the High Prophet began, “there are things beyond the Allfather’s sight?”

The man smiled broadly.

“You are most certainly worthy of his boons, because you are wise. Wise enough to know that even with the sight of a god, you can’t see everything.”

The man closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Janara tensed, unsure what to expect, but the man simply opened his eyes and resumed speaking.

“My message is this: For far too long, you have all labored under mistaken beliefs. This world has rebuilt itself around the Twelve. Twelve gods who fight, and bicker, and taunt, and gloat. Twelve gods who crave acknowledgement, who are desperate for worship and adoration. Twelve gods who grant their boons to those whose beliefs are the most fervent, so that they may carry on the fight for veneration.”

He glanced at Janara, who shivered under his gaze.

“I’ve come to tell you that there is a thirteenth. One who sits outside the circle of the Twelve, banished for his generosity to them.” He stood, smiling as he turned back to the High Prophet. “He has returned. I am his Champion. And I am here to reclaim his gifts.”

The tone of his voice changed and Janara sensed the malice in them. She got to her feet, ready to either run or fight, but unsure which of those would do any good. Her gift was sight. She had no martial abilities.

The man held out his hand. He slowly squeezed it into a fist, and Janara watched as the High Prophet jerked forward onto his hands and knees. His aura appeared, but instead of shimmering around the edges of his body, it flickered, and then pulled away, floating through the air straight into the man’s fist. The High Prophet’s eyes widened and his mouth opened in silent protest. Once the magic left him completely, he fell onto his side, breathing in spurts.

“Sentries!” Janara shouted. The man turned to her and she felt her insides shudder. The magic that flowed through her body now ripped itself free, escaping through the very pores of her skin. She cried out from the searing pain, watching in horror as the power she’d devoted her life to wafted through the air and into this terrible man’s clutches. She fell limply to the ground, her skin suddenly cold and brittle.

Gold and silver-plated sentries charged forward, the metal footsteps pounding on the stone as they rushed forward. The man opened his hand slightly and a blade appeared there, made entirely of light. It gleamed as it cut left and right, slicing through the metal weapons of the sentries as if they were parchment. He drove the blade through the chest of each one, and they fell to the ground, their eyes devoid of any life. Within moments, all of them were dead.

“This is not a punishment,” he said, facing the High Prophet, who lay on his stomach, wheezing. “This is a cleansing. The Age of the Twelve has come and gone. They must be wiped from the world, in order to start anew.”

He drove the blade into the High Prophet’s back. The old man’s eyelids fluttered, then closed. The body fell to the ground, unmoving.

“Help!” Janara managed to scream as the man approached her. “Help me!”

He stalked toward Janara, who crawled backward across the floor. He raised his blade of light up into the air.

“You will know peace. That is my boon to you.”

The blade came down.

Like a vision from the Allfather, she watched as her soul twisted and writhed, the light within bleeding out, leaving a shriveled husk behind. She fell away from it, pulled upward, high into the sky, and then beyond.

Into blackness.






Nightmare Consolidated

You may have noticed that I’ve been posting weekly chapters for a short story called Nightmare, set in the world of Rise of Cithria. Now that the story is complete (well, part 1 at least) I wanted to make it easier for new readers by consolidating all the Nightmare links into this one post. If and when a part 2 comes, I’ll update the links again to include the new chapters.

Also, if you haven’t read Rise of Cithria yet, I encourage you get started with the first book, The Chosen, for FREE. Use the link below to see all the current Cithria books out right now, and see if the hype is deserved!

Check out the Rise of Cithria series on amazon!



by Kris Kramer

An ancient being, imprisoned long ago by powerful jailers, escapes to another realm via dream magic.

Chapter 1 

Chapter 2 

Chapter 3 

Chapter 4 

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Nightmare Chapter 6

By Kris Kramer

A Rise of Cithria story


Chapter 6 (of 6)

Read – Chapter 1Chapter 2 – Chapter 3 – Chapter 4 – Chapter 5

Alayna stepped quickly through the tall grass, fate driving her through a distant, lightly-trod forest path blanketed in darkness. Clouds covered the sky, blocking out the moonlight and the stars, giving them cover as they’d crossed the river and began their trek to the castle’s secret entrance. A good omen, she thought, although, not without its problems. The men in front her, Centnar Sevris and Decnar Joah, were little more than black silhouettes bobbing left and right through the unseen brush, navigating the path with ease. Alayna stumbled occasionally on a branch or a rock, but she handled it much better than Gunnar, who seemed to trip on something every third step. After a while, she’d taken to holding his arm to help steady him.

Twenty-four soldiers followed the two priests, walking in a single file line as they left the protection of the forest and approached the small millhouse nestled at the base of the wide hill ahead. Alayna had seen the place a hundred times in her youth. The stonework marked it as Thandaran, as did the long, crumbling wall in front that stretched out along the northern base of the hill – the remains of the actual breakwall the town was named after. Legend told that the wall had once circled the entire hill, built as a defense by the Thandaran general Verterax against the native Anduains over five hundred years ago. With that wall, the Thandarans held off wave after wave of Anduain savages in a battle that lasted an entire summer. Their victory helped secure a foothold in Andua, and led to the rebirth of the island as Caldera.

She had no idea that mill, a fixture of her childhood and a source of pride for Breakwall, sat on top of a secret tunnel leading into the castle. A tunnel that, according to Gunnar, had been built to allow former lords of Breakwall to ferry secret consorts in and out. It somehow cheapened the city’s history.

A wide creek wove along the side of the hill which was funneled into a narrow, man-made ravine that pushed the water underneath the mill, driving the slow-moving wheels that at one time ground flour and cut wood. The water still flowed, but the wheels were in disrepair, as all of the mill’s operations had long since moved into the town along the river bank. No one lived or worked in that place anymore, and hadn’t for hundreds of years. Which, as Gunnar had explained, made it a fantastic secret entrance.

They entered through the front door, which creaked loudly upon opening. Once inside, Sevris motioned everyone to stay where they were as he fashioned a torch, then stepped into the storeroom and crouched down next to the back wall. He reached his hand into what looked like a large mouse hole on the floor. A twist of his arm produced a loud click, followed a moment later by the middle of the floor dropping away. Alayna gasped as a dark hole appeared only a few feet in front of her. Sevris stuck his torch into the hole and peered over. After a quick check, he lowered his legs into the abyss, and then climbed down on an unseen ladder.

Joah followed, and then Gunnar. Alayna went next, doing her best to ignore the slippery residue on the rungs. The ladder went down a few dozen steps before depositing her onto a damp, rocky floor amidst the others. Water from the creek seeped down the walls, disappearing into recesses below she couldn’t even imagine. Sevris had already moved down a narrow tunnel, lighting torches that lined the walls. Gunnar followed, motioning Alayna to do the same.

“You go ahead,” Joah said, giving her a gentle nudge on her shoulder. “I’m staying behind to make sure the rest of these ladies follow us to our doom.”

He grinned, and she forced a wan smile in return before following the sentinel into the long tunnel. The air was warm and thick with moisture, making it hard to breathe. Sweat beaded up all over her skin and she constantly wiped the sleeve of her robe across her forehead as the stepped gingerly on the slick floor. Every sound carried from one end of the tunnel to other. It struck Alayna as odd that no footstep, grunt, cough, or whisper went unheard. She supposed secret didn’t have to mean quiet.

She marveled at how fate had led her here. She was sneaking into Breakwall Castle, to kidnap the Lady of Breakwall, a woman who had once been as close to her as a sister. Alayna’s father had been the town’s dock master, but both her parents had died when she was young and Lord Morgantin took her in. She’d always assumed he’d done it mostly to give his daughter an extra plaything, but she never held that against him. She’d enjoyed growing up in the castle, her and Violet running through the opulent halls at night, handmaidens chasing after them with threats of whippings, or worse. Violet never let her forget that she was essentially a princess and Alayna only an orphaned dock master’s daughter, but they were young and carefree and she never took the insult seriously.

That changed once they became teenagers, and Violet took on more of her courtly responsibilities. They grew apart quickly, wanting different things and taking wildly different routes to get them. But she still cared for Violet. She still thought of her as a sister, if an estranged one. And she had to wonder, how much of this was her own fault? If she hadn’t fought that creature so harshly back in the caves, he could have taken her instead of Violet, and Breakwall wouldn’t have suffered. She’d have gladly sacrificed herself for her people. That was her responsibility as a war priest, and it was doubly so as a citizen of Breakwall. She only wished she’d known at the time what was at stake, because she might not get another chance.

Eventually, a brick wall blocked their way, with a narrow iron grate in the center. Sevris waited as the rest of his ragtag army caught up, then lifted a thick latch set in the grate. It clinked loudly, echoing far down the tunnel and then back again, and Alayna winced. No one else seemed to be nervous, though, so she forced herself to be calm.

They stepped through the grate and into a room with stone walls that matched the build of the castle above. Sevris led them through a door at the far end and down a hallway that ended at a circular stairwell that looped up a good forty feet before disappearing through the ceiling. The centnar held a finger to his lips and carefully climbed to the top.

Alayna held her breath as her own steps brought her closer to the castle proper, where bustling servants and curious guards could be found around every corner. Would they have to fight to get to Violet’s room? Would they have to kill or hurt anyone who accidently stumbled upon their little army? She hoped not. She prayed silently to the Goddess, begging Her to get them through this with as little bloodshed as possible.

The ladder ended in another storeroom with wide, barren shelves, save for small trails of grain and flour. Sevris had already opened the door and Alayna almost didn’t recognize the kitchens beyond. They were empty and lifeless, devoid not only of people, but also of food, barrels, and cooking utensils. A stark contrast to the lively, bustling place she remembered as a child.

The men congregated near the storeroom as they came up the ladder, although Sevris sent a few to monitor the three doors leading out to two hallways and the dining chamber. Each one indicated with a shake of their head that no one was near. Once everyone had reached the kitchen, Sevris motioned to Joah.

“Take your men and bar all the outer doors. I don’t want to be surprised by a night watchman or a servant who might be wandering the halls. Once you do that, set up patrols to watch the halls between here and the back stairs, to cover our escape. When we leave, I want to do it fast. And quiet.”

Joah motioned to some of the soldiers nearby and hurried off. Alayna watched with some trepidation as he disappeared through one of the doors, taking half the men with him. She suddenly felt naked, wandering about the castle in the middle of the night, like a thief, with only ten men to watch her instead of over twenty.

The rest of them filed into one of the halls, their pace quickening until they reached a wide, stone staircase at the back of the castle that led to the bedchambers above. They moved up to the third floor, where Sevris again signaled them to stop.

“We split up here,” he whispered to his waiting men. “Dirk, take five men and check the Lady’s old room. I’ll take the rest and go to the lord’s chambers. She could be in either one, but if you find her, make sure you keep her tied up and gagged and then bring her here. We rally here with the Lady, and then we make a run for the tunnel.”

Dirk nodded and left with his men, splitting the number in half once again. Alayna and Gunnar followed Sevris and his remaining four soldiers toward the lord’s chambers, the floors and walls bare and bereft of any adornment. Again, nothing like what she remembered. Her heart thudded in her chest as they approached the double door leading to the lord’s chambers. Except for that horrible dream, she hadn’t seen Violet in over six years. Would she still have some semblance of her old self? Would she even look the same? The creature’s true form, revealed to her in that original nightmare back in the caves, sent a chill down her spine. Even more so because she’d seen Violet herself morph into the creature. That image suddenly seemed far too fitting.

Sevris paused at the door, gathering his men to charge in without any hesitation. He opened the door and rushed inside, followed by the other four soldiers. Alayna and Gunnar went in last, only to stop at the sight of an empty room, dust outlines on the walls and floors signaling where furniture had once been. A single, half-melted candle sat on the center of the floor, it and Sevris’s torch providing the only buffer against the all-encompassing darkness.

“She’s not here,” Alayna said. She let out the breath she’d been holding, and the tension eased from her shoulders. Dirk and his men would have to do the hard part of taking Violet by force, tying her up, and dragging back to the meeting point. Alayna was quietly grateful for that.

“Maybe you aren’t looking hard enough.”

Alayna spun to see a female figure standing in the doorway leading to the sitting room. The woman stepped through with purpose, the candlelight quickly revealing the pale skin, black hair, and calculating smile of Lady Violet. She wore riding clothes under a thick, red coat, along with leather boots and gloves. They hadn’t caught her sleeping. They’d caught her just about to leave.

“Violet,” Alayna whispered. “Is that… you?”

Violet pretended to look offended.

“Who else would it be, dear? Don’t you recognize me?”

Alayna’s heart went cold. She recognized exactly who she was speaking to.

Sevris stepped to the front. “If it is you, Lady Violet, then you wouldn’t object to joining us in Corendar, where the Church can make sure of that.”

Violet’s smile faded, and she eyed the men in the room like a snake sizing up mice for dinner.

“This place reminds me of my home.” She stepped deliberately to the center of the room, throwing a dissatisfied glance across the empty walls. “If not for the light from the candle and your torch, we’d be standing here in near total blackness, unable to see each other, our minds racing to imagine the worst horrors possible stalking us in the dark. But that torch, or a single candle on the floor,” she leaned over to pick it up, holding it close to her face, “illuminates everything, casting aside the horrors we imagine for those we can no longer deny.”

The smile returned.

“Let’s not pretend anymore, shall we? I know what you’ve been told by Alayna and Gunnar, and I know how much you want to believe in their words. That makes this so much easier for you, doesn’t it? It gives you a reason to act against me, without sacrificing your honor, or turning you into outright brigands.”

She held out her arms.

“Well, if it makes you feel better, then it’s all true. I am far more than just Lady Violet, the lord of Breakwall. I am the ruler of a realm none of you feeble, weak-minded beasts can even fathom. Where I come from, I am a god, and I have every intention of making that true here.” She examined her fingernails, as if bored by the conversation. “It’s already happening. The longer I stay in this realm, the stronger I become in it. The more I can make it mine, just as I do to your dreams.”

Gunnar coughed. “No more of that, my Lady. The Church sentinels and inquisitors will be busy for some time investigating your claims, which you can tell them all about in person.”

Violet glared at the sentinel, then sniffed.

“You.” She pointed at the man at the far left. “Your name is Alec. You have a wife here in the city who begged you to see reason when you questioned her desire to serve me. She’s carrying your first child, and you want nothing more than to find her and drag her out of here. You only serve this man,” she motioned to Sevris, “as long as you think he can help you with that. Otherwise, you’d have done the same to her as you’re about to do to me.”

Alec’s eyes darted back and forth between Violet and Sevris.

“She’s lying.”

Violet frowned. “Alec, you let me into your dreams eight days ago, and you never pushed me out. I see everything inside of you now. More than that, I own everything inside of you.” She pointed at the soldier standing next to Alec. “Kill him, Alec, and I’ll return you to your wife.”

Alec slowly drew his sword, but his hand shook. Sweat poured down his face. Alayna couldn’t tell if he was fighting Violet, or himself.

Sevris dropped his torch to the floor and pulled his own sword. “Don’t do it, Alec.” The rest of the men followed suit, all of them turning to surround the suddenly isolated Alec.

“I… I can’t…”

“Alec,” Violet said, reprimanding him, “I’m not convinced you want to see your wife at all.”

Alec’s expression went blank, as if he were seeing something in his mind. Suddenly, his face twisted into horror and he charged the man next to him, who defended himself just as furiously. The others came to his aid, while Gunnar grabbed Alayna’s arm and pulled her out of the fray. Within moments, the rest of the men had disarmed Alec, and two held his arms tightly while he struggled against them like a rabid dog.

“You. Richard.” Violet pointed at another of the men. “Do the same. Kill the others.”

Richard looked at Sevris and the other soldiers, his eyes wide with fear as he pointed his sword at them.

“Stop it!” Alayna shouted. Violet turned to her, and Richard froze.

“Are you impressed, Alayna? I couldn’t do this when we first met. Now, it’s almost too easy. It makes me yearn for the days when some of you actually stood up to me.”

Alayna stepped forward, shrugging off Gunnar’s attempts to hold her back. “Violet! I know you’re in there. I know you can hear me. You have to fight this monster that’s controlling you. It’s doing terrible things in your name, but you can cast it out, just like I did. I know you’re strong enough!”

Violet smirked. “It’s not about strength anymore, my lovely. It’s about desire. Violet is getting everything she ever wanted. She will be the face of a goddess. Remembered forever as the woman who united all the peoples of this world into one. In fact,” Violet raised a hand, pointing at Gunnar, “she’s eager to get this over with.”

Gunnar’s eyes bulged and he cried out in terror at some unseen being before him. It lasted only a moment before he crumpled to the ground, cradling himself and moaning. Richard, held at bay by Violet’s speech, leapt into the fray, attacking the two prone soldiers, before Sevris cut him off. Alayna ignored the fighting and ran to Gunnar. She couldn’t get into his head to help. She had no skill with Domination, yet, only healing. So in a panic she did the only thing she could do. She cast a healing spell to soothe the sentinel. His agitation seemed to lessen but he was still unresponsive to anything she said.

Alayna glanced back to see that Sevris had disarmed Richard, and was pinning him to the ground.

“Sevris!” she called out. The centnar glanced at her, only barely looking away from Richard, who still struggled mightily. “We need to get her before she hurts anyone else!”

Violet laughed. “Get me? You have this all backward, my dear. I know everything that’s happened in this castle tonight, or in your caves this morning. I was in Gunnar’s head the entire time, listening to every word as you planned your attack. I’ve been waiting here all night for you to show up, just so I can tie off every last loose thread from this little adventure. You won’t be getting me. I will be getting you.”

She glanced at Sevris, who blinked a few times, as if just remembering where he was. Without warning, he plunged his sword into Richard’s chest, who squealed like a stuck pig. Alayna cried out in horror, but it made no difference as the centnar turned to the other soldiers and attacked. Distracted as they all were, he cut them down easily. Killing each man with simple, precise strikes. Once they were dead, Alayna watched in horror as the bloodied warrior turned to face her.

“Now the sentinel,” Violet commanded. “Leave the girl.”

Sevris stepped toward them, and Alayna moved to stand in front of Gunnar, heedless of the danger.

“Don’t listen to her! She’s controlling you!”

Sevris paused, his eyes narrowing.

“Do it now,” Violet said, a hint of annoyance in her voice.

“Be strong,” Alayna said. “Remember who you are, what you care about. Think of your honor.”

Sevris remained still. He stared at Alayna, but it wasn’t her he saw. He’d retreated back into his mind. He was fighting the nightmare. Alayna froze, silently praying to the Goddess that he was winning.

“No!” Sevris suddenly shouted. He turned and charged across the room, reaching Violet in four long strides. He grabbed her, then spun around behind, clutching her with one arm and holding his sword to her throat with the other. Violet dropped the candle, which rolled across the floor and settled in the corner. For the first time tonight, her face showed true fear.

“You’re coming with us, my Lady,” Sevris growled.

Violet squirmed in his iron grip, finding no recourse. She went still, and locked her eyes on Alayna, who felt a deathly chill in her bones.

“Ilsan,” Violet said calmly. “I need you.”

A man appeared from the sitting room, having hidden there this entire time. He wore loose, black clothing that covered every part of him, including a hood wrapped over the top of his head and a facemask that revealed only his cold, dark eyes.

He darted out from the doorway and Alayna caught a flash of steel in his hands as he charged straight at Sevris. The centnar turned, trying to use Violet as a shield but Ilsan was too fast. The black-clad man ducked around the lady and jabbed his blades into Sevris’ side. Sevris cried out, pushing Violet away so he could face his attacker properly, but it was already too late. Ilsan darted in again, his hands moving faster than Alayna thought possible. A moment later, he retreated from the centnar, who stared down at his bloody torso in shock.

“Aron?” she said.

Sevris’ mouth fell open, but no words came out. He looked up, his face wrenched with pain, and pointed his sword straight out. He managed a single shaky step toward Ilsan, who regarded the soldier coolly. Before he could take a second, though, he dropped to his knees, his sword clanging to the floor.

“No!” Alayna cried out. Sevris’ eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he toppled to the ground, moments from death.

Violet calmly adjusted her coat. “Now the sentinel.”

Ilsan moved toward Gunnar. Alayna ran to stop him but a quick punch to her gut dropped her to the floor, struggling to catch her breath. By the time she looked up, Ilsan had already cut Gunnar’s throat.

She tried to scream, but there was nothing left in her lungs. Instead, she coughed and sputtered, wheezing to get some air.

“Hold her.” Violet’s voice. “Don’t hurt her.”

Ilsan’s iron hand clamped down on the back of her neck, pinning her to the floor with incredible strength. She struggled at first, before giving up entirely. What else was there to do? Violet approached her slowly, then leaned over and grabbed Alayna’s chin, lifting it up to look her in the eyes.

“It was a valiant effort, my friend. You continue to not let me down. But your fight is over. I’m leaving now. I don’t know where, yet, but it will be somewhere quiet. Out of the way. Without an oppressive king or church looking over my shoulder. When I find that place, I will start over. My new followers will build me a home, a home that will grow along with my power over the minds of men. My home will turn into a kingdom, and then an empire. When I return to this island – and I will return – it will be at the head of an army of millions. I will be more than a god. I will be the God. I will rule this world. And then… I will abandon it for a new pleasure.”

Violet stroked her old friend’s hair.

“I want you to know that I won’t kill you, Alayna. I respect you. I have since the very beginning. So much so that I’ve chosen you to bear the responsibility of knowing that I will cover this world like a blight, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”

Violet leaned in close to whisper in Alayna’s ear.

“What good is a nightmare, if no one is left to suffer it?”

Violet let go of her, and Alayna’s head dropped in defeat. The Lady of Breakwall left, followed by the silent Ilsan. Alayna sat on the barren floor, hunched over, weeping, as their footsteps echoed softly through the hallway, eventually fading away entirely. Only then did she dare to move from her spot, crawling over to Gunnar’s body and cradling his head in her lap.

She cried for some time.

Finally, she rose, her tears spent, and she ventured out of the room, Sevris’ torch in one hand, his sword in the other. She wandered the castle, tentative at first, waiting for another nightmare to spring out from the darkness. But none came. Emboldened, she explored, finding only empty hallways and bare rooms, the only sound her own footsteps. She found more dead soldiers, men Sevris had sent off. She didn’t find all of them – Joah was missing, along with a few others – but she found enough.

She went to the courtyard, and then through the open gate. The town below was dark and lifeless. The streets were empty. The houses abandoned. Nothing was left. No one remained save for two dogs that watched her curiously from the door of the tailor’s shop.

She went to the dock and looked downriver, seeing only the faint glow of light from a distant boat, just before it disappeared around the bend. That was the ship that carried Violet – her body if not her mind – off to some unknown land, where she would cultivate the terrible power inside her.

Until the moment she came back to terrorize them all.

There were no stars, and Alayna remember how she’d thought that was a good omen when they first set out that night. Now, it only added to her crushing loneliness. She sat down on the dock and stared at nothing, losing herself in the still, silent darkness that surrounded her.

Her nightmare had only just begun.



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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 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!

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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.

Coming Soon – Feb 2016 Edition

I had a different blog post planned for today, the first in a series of epic rants about how people are dumb and how they don’t have to be. But that post isn’t quite ready for publication just yet. So while I tweak and massage my rage-filled meltdown essay, I’m going to cheat this afternoon and put out a nice, easy Coming Soon post to tide you guys over for the week. Plenty of goodness to talk about, though, so don’t get your pitchforks in a pickle.

Audiobook news

First things first… The Descent – Rise of Cithria Book 2 is now available as an audiobook! It’s again narrated by Kevin Clay, who is an amazing voice actor, and he proves it once again on this book, handling 20+ characters with ease and grace. If you loved the first book (and I know a LOT of you did because you told me all about it) make sure to get the followup. And if you haven’t listened to the first book, go grab that one too!

Click here to get book 2 on Audible.com!

Also, don’t forget that the first book in the Tales of the Lore Valley series, The Wind Riders, is also available on audible.com, narrated by Joel Froomkin. Get started on my epic pulp fantasy series while it’s still young!

Rise of Cithria Book 5

Finishing up our newest Cithria book, The Exodus, is still an ongoing process. If I had to guess, we’re looking at a release date sometime this summer, although knowing us and our limited time these days with all these babies going ’round, I’d say that’s an optimistic guess. We’re past the halfway point, but there’s still a lot of work to do, including edits, polishing, formatting, etc. I’d be surprised if we don’t have copies at the Comic Con in September/October, though.

If you just so happen to be inclined to get yourself involved in finishing the next book, then I do have some good news for ya. We can use some help with the cover, specifically what it should be. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll know we put a lot of work into those spectacular covers, and we want to make sure we make this one just as iconic as the rest. We still have a few weeks before we start working on that, however, so we might do something fun this time and round up some suggestions from readers. I’ll post something a bit more official on that later, but if you have some early ideas you want to throw out, post them in the comments below!

Also, to help tide people over from their Cithria withdrawals, Alistair and I are writing some short stories set in the Cithria universe that we hope to release sometime in the VERY NEAR FUTURE. I can’t say when, exactly, or how, as we need to figure out a lot of the publishing logistics, but I’m pretty sure at least one of the stories will get released online, on this very site, in a chapter-by-chapter basis before getting packaged up as an actual book/ebook/zine. Alistair’s story is still a work-in-progress, but mine should be done within a couple weeks, so look for that story, Nightmare, to appear sometime in March.

Dallas Comic Con/Fan Expo Dallas

We were not at the February Comic Con, a first for our little group of authors. But, as of now, our plan is to be at the show in Dallas this June. There are some complications regarding the due date of a certain baby boy, but we’ll do our best to work around that, and we’ll hope and pray that he’s born either sometime before or after that particular weekend. Assuming there aren’t any major layout changes, I’m also hoping we’ll be in the same spot as last year, which means it’ll be REALLY HARD to miss us. We’ll have a little bit of new stuff, including Tales of the Lore Valley, and some short stories, along with some artwork, so be sure to drop by and check that out. Or, just drop by and say hi. Or just leave us food and money. Whatever. We’re not picky.

Half Price Books

I’ve been taking part in some events at the Half Price Books in Frisco, near Stonebriar Mall, and with several more appearances on the docket, that particular store has become something of a home base for myself, Demethius Jackson, and Jan Sikes. We’ll continue to do some signings, readings, and workshops over the course of the year at that location, so if you’re in the area make sure to keep an eye out for times when one or all of us will be at the store. The workshops will actually be creative writing workshops, hosted by published authors, so if you’ve ever wanted to get into writing, and based on how many people I meet who tell me THAT VERY EXACT THING, then these workshops will be exactly what you need. I don’t have dates or official details on those just yet, but I’ll post them as things get finalized.

Also, we’d love to make all this work HPB is doing amount to something, so be sure to hit the store even when we aren’t there, buy some stuff, and tell them your favorite local authors sent you! Hopefully they’ll know you’re talking about me…

That’s all for now. Check back next week for more random goodness!

Comic Camaraderie Redux

Some of you may have noticed (maybe not some. Maybe a few… or just me) that we weren’t at the Sci-Fi Expo this past weekend. We made that decision a while back, due to Patrick’s baby being due right around that time. Little did we know she’d be born a month early and we probably could have made the show, but I’m kinda glad we took the weekend off. I saw my daughter dance, I caught showings of Deadpool (awesome) and Hail, Ceaser! (okay) and I had a nice Valentine’s Day dinner with my wife. We made the most of playing hookey.

I say it that way because we’ve been at every Dallas/Irving show since the beginning of 2013, so it’s weird to not be there and know other people are. Especially when this is the show that somehow makes national news (thanks Stardust!). We’ll be back for the big one in May/June in downtown Dallas, but since my own child is due around that time, it’s looking like that might be the only show we do all year. No Comicpalooza in Houston, nothing in Austin or San Antonio or Oklahoma, and probably not even the smaller ones here in town. Babies have a way of monopolizing your time, and we don’t have a ton of new releases ready, anyway. I’ll do a Coming Soon post in the next couple weeks, to highlight what we’re all working on (and by all, I mean my writing buddies from www.the4threalm.com) and what may be coming out in the near future (hint – CITHRIA SHORT STORIES!!!) but in the meantime, most of us are bunkering down and doing some child-rearing while mixing in a bit of writing here and there.

However, in honor of the Sci-Fi Expo (or Dallas Comic Con or Fan Days or whatever the hell it’s called these days) that we unfortunately missed, I wanted to repost something Patrick wrote a few years back. It’s a great little article about Comic Cons in general, and how they always engender some fantastic times, simply because we’re all there to have fun, and to let our inner geek out. I always like going back to this post after a good show, so I thought I’d throw it out there again, just in case we have a new reader somewhere.



Comic Camaraderie
Patrick Underhill

Reposted from – http://the4threalm.com/2013/05/20/comic-camaraderie/

Kris Kramer, Alistair McIntyre and myself just had a very successful weekend at the Dallas Comic Con. Not successful in that we’re all now super famous and can quit our day jobs, but we all left feeling incredibly positive about the whole thing. But I don’t want to write about our personal experiences at the Con, I want to write about what really happens there.

Every time there’s one of these big comic book conventions, various late night talk shows or radio programs always try to make fun of the nerds that dress up and pretend to be the characters they love. Now, I’m not bashing that, because they’re usually pretty funny; but they miss the point of why these people do it. They don’t do it to feel like they’re a super hero, they genuinely do it to entertain other people. Most of them take great joy in it.

When you see a whole family dressed up like the Super-family (and I mean they went all-out on the costumes) and having to stop every five feet so someone else can take their picture, they’re doing that for other people. They’re trying to get to another booth to check out the vendor’s wares, but they happily indulge every stranger that comes up to them. Another little girl, that couldn’t be more than four and dressed like Supergirl, was striking her pose as soon as someone got their phone out. I’m sure they like the attention, but they also know that most everybody there actually appreciates their efforts.

There’s a sense of happy camaraderie at these things that I don’t think you can find at any other kind of convention. Political conventions are often tainted with angry extremists from either side, and seem to be brought together only to stand against the other side. Literary conventions get split into groups, and there’s always a few folks there that think their tastes are somehow more refined than yours. But comic book conventions are a different breed. Even the Star Wars and Star Trek fans get along. The steampunk cosplayers seem to have no problems at all with the zombie crowds. It’s a menagerie of classes co-existing on a level unheard of by any sociologist out there.

I mean that, you’ve got literature fans of every genre that don’t look down their nose at you if you happen to like dragons and magic over Tom Clancy. And right behind them comes someone that wouldn’t even read a free book. There goes a big buff dude in a Call of Duty t-shirt beside a scrawny kid with a pair of hobbit feet. What’s this, the Picard supporter is having a good-natured debate with a Kirk man? And a hot chick is smiling at every awkward dude there?!

It’s all about where they are. It’s the comic book convention. You’re going to see some folks that haven’t left their house in a while, and right by those is the soldier having a good time with his family before he ships out in a month. But they’re all drawn together by their love of worlds that exist apart from our own. Worlds of heroes, where the good guy always wins. Worlds where every woman is beautiful and every man backs his words with action. And everyone gets along because they walk down the aisles and can see that there’s room enough, even in a convention center packed with people, for everyone’s beliefs. And the angriest guy there is the one that wore an eyepatch because Nathan Fillion canceled due to pinkeye. And even he seemed to be having fun.

Free Books!

Not everyone may know this but I happen to have a number of free books available for download on amazon.com. Three, to be exact. If you enjoy free books, and you’d be weird if you didn’t, then DEFINITELY go to amazon RIGHT NOW and DOWNLOAD some BOOKS!!! And then maybe check out the rest of the series…