Whew! I’m very glad to have finished this. I had a few plot mechanics that were giving me headaches, so the first draft is a few weeks late.
Now the real fun begins! The framework is in place. Time for the artist to color in his sketch.
Whew! I’m very glad to have finished this. I had a few plot mechanics that were giving me headaches, so the first draft is a few weeks late.
Now the real fun begins! The framework is in place. Time for the artist to color in his sketch.
Following last week’s Oscar mixup, Goodreads sent me the list of winners for my giveaway for 10 copies of Abhuman: Resistance. As I glanced down the list I was somewhat surprised to see so many UK winners. Then I realized all 10 winners were from the UK? What?
In the spirit of fairness, I will immediately sponsor a new giveaway for the USA & Canada starting tomorrow, March 7’th 2017
Sorry for the glitch!
Here’s a short scene I may add to Abhuman: Revelation. I wanted to explore what it might feel like to be stalked at night, in the comfort of your own bed–normally a sanctuary.
When you were still and warm and peaceful. Your heart making a tiny patter, your feet warm, and your head heavy. That’s when they came. That’s when it happened.
The commotion in the hallway woke Cheska. Ngome City was as still as the vacuum of space during the night cycle. Even essential workers, who’s jobs demanded odd working hours, made every effort to glide through the city like silent ghosts.
Someone began yelling. “No!”
That’s what had disturbed Cheska’s slumber. Then loud thumps, hard crashes, and the sharp rapport of objects breaking.
Her heart, which had been barely beating a few seconds ago, now pounded in her chest. She wanted to sit up, to look around. But she was terrified, because she knew exactly what was happening.
Yesterday Wei Lu had been sentenced to the Core for being a deviant (a death sentence), but the Covenant didn’t stop there. When a deviant was discovered, they expunged all living consanguineal relations—all family members up to, what people used to know as, great grandparents. But in Covenant society one never knew their direct biological contributors; each child was carefully crafted in-vitro, their progenitors chosen from the optimal genetic match within the 10,000 or so meticulously curated residents of Ngome City.
And that was the terrifying part about someone being sentenced to the Core—you never knew if you might be next. The convict could be a direct relation. Then the next night, after they were sentenced, designated members of the community would sneak through the city, extracting and extinguishing all consanguineal relations.
It was for the good of her people—she knew that. Still …
Cheska heard powerful sobbing outside the door to their quarters. She kept her head pressed hard to her pillow, forcing herself not to look up. She pulled the blankets over her eyes and tried to conjure up the most recent qvid she’d gone to experience with her best friend, Azara. Dolphins. She imagined their rough skin and playful chirping. She longed to see a real one someday, but she didn’t think their gene bank had samples to seed Krijese with. Not that she would ever see them, even if they had the samples from Earth. It would be centuries before Krijese had oceans capable of sustaining large aquatic life.
Loud voices, more sobbing. The sounds were growing more distant—it was done. Whomever had been related to Wei Lu was now heading to the Core. At least their end would be swift.
Why didn’t The Covenant adopt a more humane process for dealing with deviants? After all, they now grew their protein in vats; partly in deference to the suffering of animals, but also for efficiency’s sake. Couldn’t they reform these deviants? It seemed wasteful to her, but then, Cheska was only fifteen. She supposed there was a lot she had to learn.
She also had everything to lose if they discovered her secret—she was one of them.
Long blends fantasy and science fiction into an exciting read. This is The Chrysalids by Wyndham on steroids!Amazon Reviewer
"... a splendid beginning to an intriguing new series"Diana L. Driver
Interesting character, riveting plot, and intriguing ideas make "Abhuman" a great readAmazon Reviewer
Cheska lives in Ngome, a glistening domed-city orbiting the planet Krijese. Her people are hard at work terraforming the planet below, making a new home for themselves. Life is good. Life is safe.
I think, therefore I am. They were wrong.
Unless you’re Abhuman.
In Covenant society, genetic mutation carries a death sentence. But Cheska has done a good job hiding her powers.
Cheska begins having the most vivid waking dreams of a handsome boy named Taro. She feels unnaturally connected to him. Distracted by these visions, she accidentally uses her powers in public. Now exposed as Abhuman, Cheska is forced to flee her home.
Taro tells her in a waking dream, that somewhere on the planet is a safe-haven for Abhumans, called Sanctuary. But when her stolen shuttle crashes, she’s forced to limp across a devastated planet.
When she finally meets the resistance, they explain everything:
She is not who she thinks she is.
She is not what she thinks she is.
And, she is supposed to save them all.
Star Wars and X-men meet The 100
That’s exactly the kind of story I set out to tell. It had to be like Star Wars, sweeping, nothing less than pan-galactic. Rich in history and lore, and deeply layered. I wanted the incredible, and semi-plausible, powers, such as found in the x-men series. No super, ultra powerful mutants who can kill nations with a puff. I liked the idea of powers though: telepathy, enhanced strength, speed, healing. There are lots of “powers” that we can actually tap into with current science, and if we extend that vector out a century, so much innovation is likely. Finally, I wanted the depth of character that had me spellbound in The 100, by Kass Morgan (Books and TV).
I suppose you could call this series: Warring Galactic Mutants with Feeling?
NOTE ON POWERS: What you’ll notice in Book 2, is that I start to explain a bit about how Abhumans power their powers, or fuel the fire. We have the energy in our bodies to do astonishing things — it’s all in the calories. Let me know what you think of that system.
Why am I writing this series? To tell a story, of course. But who’s? At first, the book was supposed to be a straightforward Science Fiction story, told equally from the points of view (POV) of a teenage boy and girl. It was their story, their yin and yang. But as I wrote, the focus of the story changed. I’d never believed this kind of thing happened – where characters would really start to assert themselves and take you in places you didn’t intend to go, but it does–it did. And so the story became about three incredible women [Cheska, Delfina, & Madchen] and the challenges they struggle to overthrow an evil theocracy. It became a story about their intertwined roles as daughter and mother, hero and villain, or mentor and protege. And not to worry, there’s lots of action gluing it all together.
I’m also going to explore a few serious subjects in these stories. Philosophical, such as free-will and morality. But also more serious, and immediate issues, such depression. Do we think a hero does all this stuff, and his emotional state is perfectly balanced? I highly doubt it. So I’m going to explore what I think might happen to heroes who’ve had to much thrust upon them.
“Real people? I thought you wrote fiction?” Yeah, I do. But I want you to feel like the story people in my books are alive–like they have needs, wants, desires–real lives. To that end, I always start character building with a picture. I start by borrowing an actor’s photo for a quick mental sketch–that nails down hair, features, height, weight, etc. In order to share my characters with you visually, I commissioned a series of character sketches, see below. Then of course I do the normal writerly things, like make sure they have lots of problems.
I admit it, I use a lot of strange words in my fiction. I borrow shamelessly from dozens of languages. One thing a few people have asked for over the years, is a pronunciation guide. And so, I put one together for The Covenant series.
Here’s Abhuman as an example:
Some also wanted a quick guide to the various Abhumans – what types of powers they have, etc. I haven’t gone into great depth, you’ll have to read the books to experience the real terror that is The Covenant.
How am I structuring this series? Great question! Abhuman started as novella that was well received by Beta readers back in 2015, and I began working it into a larger, full-length novel. But I ran into personal health issues etc, and the project got delayed. This summer (2016) I decided to continue the project, but to write more frequent installments–going back to the novella format.
These are NOT short stories- the first novella is around 37,000 words long. 50,000 is where novel territory begins. This is a similar strategy employed by many authors testing a new series – such as Wool (The Silo Saga) by Hugh Howey.
At an average of around 175 pages, these novellas are about the same size as “novels” that I used to read as a Young Adult (12-18). These days, novels have gotten fat. No two ways around it. 50k words used to be a solid novel. Now 120k+ is the norm, depending on genre.
My plan is to have three novellas represent one larger “cycle”. The first, is called the Abhuman Cycle, consisting of Books 1 to 3 in The Covenant series. Once all three novellas are in print, I’ll issue an Omnibus edition, collecting all three novellas into one larger book. That way folks can collect the smaller novellas (each with unique and stunning cover art), or buy the Omnibus edition.
My tentative plan is to finish the Metahuman Cycle in 2017, then see how you folks are enjoying the series. I have truck-loads of ideas for future installments, so if you love it, tell me! Heck, tell everyone! 😉
That’s about all my news for now.
I was tinkering with a more fantastical feel. Something that evoked Cheska’s innocence, yet captured the darkness she would embrace. This cover is NOT in print (yet).
It’s that time again! I have the next book in The Covenant series ready for Beta Readers.
You get to tell me what you like, what you don’t like, or what you’d like to see happen differently. I listen to my readers.
$0, Nada, Zip. It costs you nothing. I’ll send you a FREE copy in the format of your choice (PDF, ePUB, Kindle)
In addition to early access to the story, you’ll also get entered into a draw for a $25 Amazon gift Card
I’m hoping to get all feedback returned and collected by Jan 15’th 2017. Then I’ll draw winner for the gift card.
Cheska has the power to save them all, but only if she can save herself first.
She may be the most powerful Abhuman every born, with the power to bend space & time. Most fear her. A few seek to control her. Her powers pale compared to the evil theocracy that has enslaved her people.
Genetically engineered to emerge within the enslaved human population, Cheska is haunted by the terrible responsibility thrust upon her. Now that her powers have fully manifested, new memories emerge, and surging emotions threaten to tear her apart.
She never asked for this. Never wanted this. The resistance say that she is their salvation, that only she has the power to fulfill the prophecy and deliver them all from slavery. But she’s already lost almost everything, and they want to take even more?
When the resistance receive a distress call from Cheska’s mother, still up on their cityship in orbit, Cheska demands to be on the rescue team. If she has the power to save her people, then she’s determined to start with her mother.
Betrayed, she makes a harrowing journey through a planetary superstorm, only to find her people already doomed.
She has one shot to save them all, but at what price?
Cover mockup for book 2 in The Covenant series. Coming soon!
Magic still lurks in the dark corners of the world, and at the ends of the Earth the last remaining life-forger, Fornulf, plies his trade, crafting legendary living-blades for those few nobles who can afford them. Betrayed and on the run, Fornulf and his family must enlist forgotten allies and forge new alliances to rid their homeland of evil. To defeat the usurper and save his people, Fornulf is forced to make a choice no man should have to. – Filled with magic, betrayal, heartache, and courage, “Of Ice & Magic” defines Epic Fantasy. * A Novella (19,300 words) Listen to the author read the first chapter!
From the Award Winning Author of “Northern Lore”, comes “The Runes in 9 minutes”. In 9 minutes you will be using the runes for personal development and exploration. Of course you aren’t going to master the runes in 9 minutes, but you can start! We’ll even teach you how to create your own set of runes. All you need, in addition to this book, is a sheet of paper and something to write with. Kindle $2.99 Paperback $9.95 In this book you will:
This is a book of runes for beginners, and as such, I designed it to be a concise and inexpensive introduction. If you like what you see and the runes are for you, then you can extend your studies. If the runes aren’t your thing, then you haven’t invested much time or money. Call it a runic sampler if you will.I hope you enjoy the book. My goal is to share something that’s very dear to me, and that has been part of our Northern culture for thousands of years – worthy of study.
– Filled with magic, betrayal, heartache, and courage, “Of Ice & Magic” defines Epic Fantasy.
The old gods died. Magic died. I wept to see them gone.
I had been born in a world overflowing with magic and gods, in a time when bravery was the most noble of virtues and a maiden the most treasured prize. Such is not the state of the world today.
While I relax on a bed of velvet, safe behind glass walls which stand upon a finely crafted oak floor, people come to admire my beauty. They glimpse their faces in the reflection of my perfect skin and marvel at the lines and curves of my exquisite physical form.
True, I bask in their admiration, and their envy that they are not as well formed. Yet my home is but a prison.
I have lived, or should I say, existed, for a thousand years. I say that because living implies freedom and I have none. As the lights fade each night and my admirers retire, I slip into a world of dreams, a world filled with my past glories.
It began at the ends of the world, on an island of ice and magic which had risen up from the frigid sea. On that island a clever smith named Fornulf had built a forge into the side of a great fiery mountain. Not an ordinary forge, mind you, it was a fjor’tyna—a life-forge.
Certainly he could make common weapons there; they were the building blocks of his marvelous works, but a life forge was a womb that birthed the most marvelous of artifacts. The most cherished of these were the fjor-sverds—the living swords. Some said Fornulf had studied under the ancient dwarven smiths, the sons of Ivaldi, but who can say.
Fornulf was an apt name for him as it meant ancient wolf. With his graying hair and silver beard he looked the part. He was cunning too. And I do not mean just in ways of smithing. No, he was too clever by half for any mortal man, though he spoke little, causing many to underestimate his guile. I warn you now, never underestimate a life forger; for only the wisest and most cunning of men can learn such art.
Under a full moon, Fornulf’s forge glowed with a hellish hue as the bellows sprayed water to cool the magma, great clouds of searing steam exploding into the air. This was no ordinary forge. Here on the edge of the ancient mountain, raging fire and horrendous heat were ever present as molten rock flowed from the depths of Muspelheim, the kingdom of Surt and home of the fire giants. While a normal forge must be stoked to breathe life into it, the life-forge had to be cooled, so water was pumped over the lava to regulate the heat.
Hues of sunset and blood illuminated the small stone room. Fornulf’s heavy leather apron hung singed and burned from a thousand such nights at the forge. The leathery skin on his arms and face was in no better shape.
On that moonlit night, Fornulf’s hammer rang against a blade as it struck the anvil. Sparks flew and the sword blade sang at its makers bidding. Fornulf’s son, Karl, had been his apprentice for six seasons. He was handsome and strong, and almost a man at seventeen years old.
Karl held the sword on the anvil with a pair of tongs, flipping it as his father struck the blade. Every so often Fornulf would thrust the blade back into the maw of the life-forge allowing the liquid rock to sear the metal. Karl would pump the bellows, causing the lava to scream as the water cooled its brilliant skin to black. Then the hammering and flipping would continue.
The blade had been forged of sky-iron, taken from a rock that fell from the sky. Such metal was said to have much magic. To that twisted lump, Fornulf added ores of gold and silver, and one thing rarer than all: powdered diamond. A life-forged blade was the most expensive weapon a noble could buy; no commoner could ever afford one.
Fornulf had come from the northern mainland, but now made his home on the island of ice and fire. He’d brought his new bride and their two babes to make a fresh start after a plague had taken his first wife and four of their children. He`d married again, in his mid thirties, but he was an old man now—fifty-one winters he’d seen.
Fornulf delivered one last hammer blow to the blade, then held it up to his eyes for inspection, scanning the yard-long length of fine steel, admiring the herringbone pattern and the runes incised on the blade. He nodded, satisfied with his work, then thrust the full length of the steel into a barrel of rendered whale oil to temper the blade. This was the most critical part of the process. The oil hissed, popped and bubbled as the metal cooled.
He motioned to Karl who immediately went out, returning a short time later with a naked young man, perhaps eighteen, followed by an older man in dark grey robes.
“Are you ready?” Fornulf ask the naked youth.The young man nodded, shivering in the cold air, protecting his modesty with his hands.
No names were exchanged. True names held great power over the owner of them. When magical forces were called upon, as they were about to be, every precaution was taken. The older man in the grey robes was simply known as a vitki—a wise man. He was skilled in the way of galdr magic, the spells of which were chanted.
A middle aged woman in a green robe slipped into the room as well. She was a seithkona—a spirit walker. She carried with her a hide covered drum.
Karl ushered the naked man to a stout oak table, where he was instructed to lay down. Fornulf carried the now cold sword blade in his bare hands.
“You must take the blade and hold it against your body. Do you understand?” Fornulf asked him.
The naked man nodded nervously.
“You do this of your own free will?” Fornulf asked him.
The naked man nodded again.
“I need you to say the words aloud so that the gods may hear you,” Fornulf said.
“I do this of my own free will and offer my life force to the sword,” the naked man said evenly.
Fornulf nodded to the vitki and the seithkona. Aside from Fornulf, they were the only two practitioners of the elder arts on the island, so rare were their gifts.
From inside his robes, the vitki produced a wooden wand, carved intricately with runic patterns. He walked to one side of the table where the naked man lay, and began to chant. The seithkona did likewise, standing across from the vitki, joining the chant beating her drum rhythmically.
The nameless, naked man, held the sword across his chest and abdomen, trembling. Drumbeats and resonant chanting suffused the room. The ceremony may have lasted for minutes or hours, for time has no meaning when the worlds of men and gods touch, as they did that night.
The sword began to hum, to vibrate, to glow; the galdr chanting and drumbeats infused it with eldritch energy. The naked man began to vibrate . . . and to fade. At the perfect moment, Fornulf drew a dagger across the naked man’s throat and blood flooded the table.
The blade burned brighter, and brighter, threatening to blind them all, and the naked man faded away, like morning mist under the light of the sun. Fornulf threw up an arm to shield his eyes from the glowing metal, but as quickly as the light had flared, it was gone. The vitki and seithkona fell silent and silence filled the room. No, not quite silence. There was something. The blade . . . whispered.
The sacrifice had been accepted.
The next day great shadows slithered against the backdrop of jagged mountains. Fornulf had stepped outside of his house and gazed up at them. The rock on the island was as black as ink, much darker than his native lands. The seasonal moss and lichen spattered the black canvas in patterns of greens and yellows. Fornulf’s forge lay at the end of a deep canyon on the side of a fiery mountain, where liquid rock bubbled up from the bowls of the underworld.
“Riders,” Karl said.
Fornulf brushed soot from his apron and tried to make himself presentable. He’d worked throughout the night, as he had to finish fitting the hilt and cross-guard for the sword. It was done now. The sword was polished and oiled, ready for its new master. His family were quick to line up in front of the house, anxious to meet the wealthy gothi, or chief, for the first time.
Six riders on well-bred horses galloped up the track to Fornulf’s modest farmstead. Perched arrow-straight on the back of white stallion, sat Torgny Magnisson, Chief of Aegisheim. He’d been chief of the South Farthing for only a few years, taking over when his brother had died. It had been a bitter succession, as his brother had a son and heir. Torgny had judged the boy too young and had assumed the mantle of chief for himself. Of course, Torgny was the wealthiest man in the entire South Farthing, if not on the whole island, and few would dare to challenge him, lest they find their debts suddenly called in, or fail to find favor in days to come.
Fornulf’s forge lay on the western edge of the Eastfjord Farthing, close enough to Torgny’s territory, but he’d had few dealings with him till now. He’d made weapons and armor for Torgny’s men, but had never crafted anything for the chief himself.
Clad in bright mail and backed by a fine blue cloak, Torgny slid from his stallion. He was balding, but wore a well-trimmed beard that had once been straw colored, but now hung streaked with grey.
Fornulf limped forward, an old injury acting up that morning. He gave a slight bow. “Lord, it is an honor to have you at our humble steading.”
“Of course it is,” Torgny said with a smug smile.
Fornulf hadn’t expected that and felt rather uncomfortable.
“I jest, good smith, I jest!” Torgny said, clapping both hands on Fornulf’s shoulders. “Thank you for welcoming me to your home.” Suddenly Torgny’s nose twitched and he recoiled, his face twisting in disgust. “Gods above, what is that smell? Rotten eggs?”
“Ah, apologies, Lord. Vapors from the depths of the earth. We have grown accustomed to it living here. Like the urine pits of the weavers, the vapors are our burden.”
Torgny’s face wriggled under the assault, but he seemed to master his disgust. “You’re a brave man, Fornulf.” He smiled.
“May I present my family, Lord?”
Torgny made a sweeping gesture. “By all means.”
“This is my wife, Hildegund”
Torgny gave a nod to Hildegund and followed along with Fornulf’s introductions.
“This strapping young man is my son, Karl.”
Torgny gave him an appraising nod. “Strong. Good stock, eh?” he said looking at Fornulf. “He’ll make a good warrior I’d wager.”
Fornulf cleared this throat. “I hope he will make an even better fjorsmythr, Lord. He is my apprentice.”
“Indeed, a much rarer resource,” Torgny said.
“And this,” Fornulf said, “ is my daughter, Berengara.”
Torgny’s eyes grew wide at the sight of Berengara, and he said nothing for a moment. Fornulf’s daughter had that affect on men, such was her beauty—so like her mother.
Seeing Torgny’s discomfort and Berengara’s, Fornulf spoke up. “I’ll be looking for a husband for her this year, Lord. If you know of any good matches, I’d be much obliged for your counsel. She’ll be sixteen in a couple of moons.”
“Marriage?” Torgny said, trailing off. “Of course. Yes. She is … lovely.” He seemed to shake himself out of his fugue. “I will see what I can do.” He turned to Fornulf “Now, to business, good man. I believe you have something for me?”
“Yes, Lord.” Fornulf motioned to Karl, who produced a clean sheepskin bundle. Fornulf took the bundle reverently and turned back to Torgny. He inclined his head and unwrapped the bundle.
Lying on the wool side of the sheepskin, the completed sword glistened. Its handle carved of walrus ivory, and inlaid with tiny sapphires. Inset silver wire wound around the ivory, and runes representing hail and ice lay boldly stamped on the cross guard and hilt of the blade.
“You’ll notice it’s imbued with the runes for hail and ice, as you requested. As you use the sword, it’s will and yours will become one, it’s powers shaped by the union of your two life forces.”
Torgny nodded absently.
“But what are these runes carved down the central groove of the blade?” Torgny asked.
Fornulf smiled, nodding. “Those are runes for ULFBERHT. He is the fabled fjorsmythr, the first of us, and my own master. His school is one of legend, and there is only one apprentice at a time. Ulfberht is now dead, and I have assumed my master’s fjorsmythr mantle. My son, Karl, is now the only living apprentice. Every sword that I forge bears Ulfberht’s name to honor his memory and his gifts to mankind.”
Torgny said nothing, he just stood, mouth agape.
“Have you a name for it, Lord?” Fornulf asked.
“Magnificent,” Torgny whispered.
“Its name, Lord?”
Torgny shook his head, appearing bewitched for the second time today. “No- I mean, yes, I have a name for it. Isbrunna.”
“Iceburn, that is a beautiful name, Lord.”
Torgny motioned for the blade. “May I?”
Fornulf held out the blade. “Of course, Lord.”
Torgny held the sword like a child with his first honeycomb. He was giddy with delight and Fornulf thought the Chief might actually cry. Torgny stepped back a few paces and swung the sword in a few arcs, marveling at the balance and lightness.
“It feels alive in the hand!” Torgny exclaimed.
“They do, Lord.” And of course, that wasn’t just metaphorically speaking—the swords had a soul, a will, if only a shadow of its former self. “Your sword’s power will blossom as you use it. As you and the sword become accustomed to each other, your mastery of its power will grow. Like any new skill, Lord, it will take some getting use to.”
“Have you made many?” Torgny asked, never taking his eye from Isbrunna.
“No, Lord. Only a handful these last thirty years. Only nobles such as yourself have the silver to pay for the materials.” What he didn’t add, as the chief well knew, was the fact that such a blade demanded a living sacrifice—a willing sacrifice. A man had to pay a fortune for a someone to give his life willingly to a blade. Those who did might be down on their luck and were offered fortunes, or position for their family, in exchange for their sacrifice—a price very few wanted to pay. It did not mean offering their lives, it meant offering their souls. The sacrifice would then dwell inside that weapon until it was destroyed, or until the end of time itself.
“Well, then I count myself very lucky that you sailed to our little island, Fornulf.”
“It pleases me to know my work will bless your household, Lord.”
Torgny handed the sword back to Fornulf who wrapped it up in the sheepskin. Torgny snapped his fingers. “Kraka.” A wiry man with a wild and frizzy head of red hair, and a matching beard, retrieved the bundle.
“Now, if only my leatherworker can craft a scabbard to do Isbrunna justice …” Torgny trailed off.
“Your man Sigurd is a fine craftsman, Lord, I know him well. You’re lucky to retain him.”
Torgny produced a pouch from beneath his blue cloak, handing it to Fornulf. “For your work, Fornulf.”
He took the pouch and was surprised at its weight. It had to be much more than he was promised.
Torgny must have noticed Fornulf’s surprise and said, “A little extra for you.”
“Lord,” Fornulf said bowing.
Torgny glanced back at Berengara again before he turned on his heel and mounted his white stallion. “Gods keep you well, Fornulf and family.” Torgny waived and set his horse to a canter. His men quickly followed.
“What a lovely man,” Hildegund said.
Fornulf opened the pouch, eyes wide. “And generous too,” he said suspiciously as he considered the weight of the pouch in his hands, “this has to be twice what we agreed for my fee.”
Now that was strange …
The purpose of this collection is to create new tales that take inspiration from the myths and fables of Northern Europe. They should stay true to the principles of the original tales (so no flying trolls, or Elves with Laser vision, for example) but they should be original (not retellings).
The stories take place in several countries, and cover a time-frame from the Viking period (“Hold the Door”) right up to modern day (“The Edge of Darkness”).
This is not the first release from Nordland Publishing, but it is our first anthology. We are a small Norwegian company, and we are delighted to say that we received contributions from many parts of the world.
Folklore combines the work of a wide range of contributors; from previously unpublished amateurs, to award winning poets and best selling authors.
– Follow the North Road.
[NOTE from Hugh: one of my short stories is included in this anthology. Article re-published with permission from NordLand Publishing. Link to original article]
For fans of my Draugr’s Saga tales, Chronicles of the Draugr King provides some back story and the legend behind the great evil Aedan and his Viking friends awoke.
I make these marks on the second day of the triduum of Allhallowtide (November 1’st), in the year of our Lord 664, at the monastery of Saint Enda of Aran, on the isle of Inishmore. This Abbey is not my home, but was the closest hallowed refuge to which I could flee. My name is unimportant, though what I am compelled to record hereafter is of the gravest nature, and pertains to the very salvation of mankind on Earth.
The triduum of Allhallowtide is dedicated to remembering the dead, including our hallowed saints, martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. This year, it is my solemn burden to cause to be remembered a spirit so far from hallowed, as to be the spawn of Satan himself. Yet, for the sake of future Christians, I must mark this lambskin and warn you of a spirit who sundered kingdoms and men’s souls as a sickle through ripe wheat.
Scholars say that the creature was born in the territory of the West Slavs, or Wends, in Anno Domini 595. He was fathered by a man called Sobieslaw on the woman Jagoda. The child’s name had been hidden, suppressed; at great cost in life and souls, it was at last uncovered. For in a name there is power. As the word God will dispel evil, Christ’s name may calm souls in the darkest hour. So the name of this evil creature, Branumir, would be our greatest weapon against him. I must stop to wonder whether Sobieslaw knew the evil his child would visit on the world, and by naming him Branumir, which in the tongue of the Wends means protection and peace, intended mockery at his spawn’s future victims. I shall refrain from judgement, for we know not the good or evil nature of the boy’s father, or of his mother, who died in childbirth.
By 595, the great light of Christendom illuminated the lands of the Wends and most of Europe. Only the pagans in the far North resisted the good word and salvation of our Lord.
Among the goodly Christian folk of the West Slavs, Sobieslaw hung on to his wicked rites, worshiping the dark gods of the pagan Slavs—who we Christians know to be Satan and his minions. Sobieslaw was a great metalworker, some hailed him a wizard of the forge. Perhaps that appellation rang more true than his honest neighbors suspected. By some misfortune, for Sobieslaw, his pagan devotions were uncovered. His King was furious, and had his people drive Sobieslaw and his young son, then only two summers old, out of their lands.
We know not precisely what route they took, but we are informed that a year after his expulsion, Sobieslaw sought sanctuary with the Danes, also a pagan people. It must be assumed that he expected a sympathetic king to employ him, for he was a talented smith. His metalwork was said to be of the highest intricacy. I shudder to inscribe this, but his work had been said to be “divine”. Forgive them Father, for they could not have known the evil he wrought, nor that which his deeds ushered into the world of men.
He was not long with the Danes before they too expelled him. One can hardly imagine Sobieslaw’s dark practices if even the unrepentant pagan Danes would not tolerate his rites and sacrifices. In time we would come to know the full breadth and depth of his evil.
In the following year, it was recorded that he travelled yet further North, to the land of the Norse. In short order, they too expelled him. This is where our tale becomes muddied. Having been expelled by three kings, Sobieslaw must have understood that he would have to practice his black arts in secret if he was to live. His name is not recorded again. It was only through diligent scholarly research that we found connections to a traveling smith who had made his way to Ireland.
His evil may have gone unnoticed, if not for the fact that he was now in Christian lands, and we Irish devotees are wont to record events, as I do now. Thusly, a large number of suspicious deaths were recorded. Had they been common folk, their passings would have gone unnoticed, but they were all of them highborn; kings, princess, and bishops. Though no immediate connection was established, as these deaths occurred over many years, and across the many kingdoms of Ireland. It was only when the Annals of Clonmacnoise were being compiled, that a diligent monk noticed a peculiar pattern. In many cases where a highborn death—under undetermined circumstances—was recorded, it was also noted that a masterfully skilled metalsmith had attended court at the same time. This diligent monk will ever be remembered for alerting the church to this great evil; brother Colman Moccu Bairdene, who later became Abbot of the Clonmacnoise monastery.
It was my good fortune to have visited Clonmacnoise and to meet Brother Bairdene. I was firmly convinced of his conclusions, and in me, he cultivated a staunch ally. An old acquaintance of mine happened to be on pilgrimage to Jerusalem in that year, and was closer to Rome that either of us. We wrote to Brother Mar Hormizd, relaying our fears and sent copies of the evidence for him to consider. He is a wise man and agreed to become our emissary to the Holy Father in this matter.
While in the eternal city Brother Hormizd presented evidence to representatives of our Holy Father, Pope Eugene the first. Sadly, as a council convened to investigate this evil in June of 657, our Lord called Papa Eugenius to heaven.
Amidst the turmoil of a papal conclave to elect a new Bishop of Rome (Vitalian, the first of his name, succeeded Eugene to the throne of Saint Peter), the investigation was set aside as a new pope began his rule of the church. For seven years Brother Hormizd petitioned every church official of note, with no success.
During Brother Hormizd’s seven years in Rome, we continued to scrutinize all new cases of unexplained highborn deaths, with which a visit by a traveling metalsmith was also recorded. Finally, one record mentioned the smiths’s son. That first record was a terrifying revelation, as we understood the full extent—or thought we did—of the evil growing on our emerald isle.
Many new pieces of evidence came to light. Over many letters, we illuminated the connection between the smith, the deaths, and the boy. Each scenario unfolded as follows: a highborn man would commission a piece of metalwork from the smith, usually ornate jewelry. The smith would come to court to present his masterpiece and the smiths’s son would deliver the object on a silken pillow to the highborn. The next day the highborn would be found dead; their bodies shriveled and desiccated, as if mummified, like the Egyptian practice (well described by Herodotus). The most disturbing common thread of these records, is that over a period of 65 years, the smith, and his young son—said to appear four or five years old— never aged. At the time these patterns were noted, the full horror of this evidence had yet to be comprehended, for when has mankind battled such evil here on Earth?
Though Brother Hormizd presented this staggering body of evidence and irrefutable conclusions, the church had other matters which took precedence.
Frustrated by the church’s inaction, we three conspired to dispel this terrible and festering evil. In the Fall of 664 we met at Clonmacnoise to set our plan in motion.
We knew the smith to be working at a chieftain’s holding up the Shannon river, to which we travelled. With funds we borrowed form the Abbey’s coffer (forgive us, Father), we hired men to detain the smith. On October 30th, under the cover of darkness, our agents secreted Sobieslaw from the chieftain’s holding and brought him to the oratory near Killaloe, on Friar’s Island. It was our hope that the evil could not escape the island of its own accord, owing to running water surrounding it.
At high noon, on the day of All Hallow’s Eve, we three began the exorcism. The smith’s son watched on. For hours we intoned the sanctified words, employed holy water and our crucifixes, to no avail. The smith, Sobieslaw, cursed us in a strange tongue, we assumed of the Wends, but otherwise exhibited no ill effects from the exposure to our holy powers and artifacts.
When, finally, we admitted defeat, recognizing that exorcism was none of our specialities, we agreed to transport the smith to Rome, for surely the Holy Father would recognize the evil instantly, and his more experienced servants could perform the exorcism. Our accord had a numbing effect on the smith. His belligerence faded. Then, he smiled at us. I admit to you, dear reader, that his malevolent grin chilled my soul. Though I knew God to be with me, I faltered, my faith was shaken. In that moment I walked through the valley of the shadow of death … and I did fear evil. God, forgive my weakness.
Sobieslaw began whispering dark words that carried the weight of oceans, yet floated as lightly as morning mist. Upon those words, his son was drawn to him. I am no poet, and words fail to capture the horror we bore witness to that day. As they boy embraced his father, in the next heartbeat the boy grew to manhood before our eyes. Then, his body and his father’s literally became one. We made the sign of the crucifix, held our relics as shields before us, but his power overshadowed our faith, like a mountain to rabbit’s warren.
Sobieslaw, if that is truly his name, began chanting in a baritone, his thunderous words shaking the ground beneath our feet. Behind us, the oratory shook, then collapsed into the earth, as if swallowed by hungry beast.
Then Sobieslaw spoke to us in Latin. “Behold my power, fools.” He looked to the sky, arms outstretched. Then, as if he had plucked it from the heavens and snuffed it out, the sun’s light failed. Night fell upon us, a chill washed over our bodies like a frigid ocean wave. We are told that at the crucifixion of Christ, the sun also grew dark, and is supposed to be a wondrous and holy sign—crucifixion darkness—they call it. But this was no holy omen. In those eternal moments of darkness, Sobieslaw’s skin grew inky black, as if he drank the heavens dry.
We were no match for that evil. We were but three good Christians with no authority or power granted by God or the Bishop of Rome. Our hubris nearly doomed us. God, forgive us, but we fled. By land and by sea we escaped. As we did, the sun remained imprisoned in coal dark shadows as it settled into the Irish sea.
Now, we must find another way, for not only have we failed to banish this evil, we forced it to take overt action in the world of men. Our pride may have ushered doom to the Emerald Isle … and beyond.
Set in Dark Ages England, Scotland, and Ireland, Draugr’s Saga is a series of stories about a former Viking slave, Aedan. Adopted as a blood brother by Erik Ragnarsson, Aedan must find a way to stem the tide of the Draugr, which may bring about the Zombie Apocalypse of the Viking Age.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Unbreakable: A Novel by W.C. Bauers www.goodreads.com/book/show/22238182
I read a book this week called Unbreakable by a new author, W.C. Bauers. It was a very good book, in the vein of Honor Harrington and Starship Troopers. What really struck me though, was that once I was about ¼ of the way in to the book …. I thought the author was writing in Weber’s Honorverse. I heard terms like: Hexapuma, BuPers, Diaspora, LAC (light attack craft), all very common verbiage in the Honor Harrington Universe. The author even has a “pull-out quote” from David Weber on the cover: “I highly recommend it.”
After some quick research I found no direct connection to Weber’s Honorverse.
Then it hit me: this is a technique called RESONANCE. David Farland wrote an excellent book on the subject: Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing.
The author (whether conscious or not) is using many terms that are familiar to Honorverse readers. This causes the work to resonate with them. He also uses the term “The Verse”, like in Firefly. By using resonance, these subtle cues really anchor the story in familiar territory, even though this a new author and his first book.
In addition to the warm and fuzzy feeling created by resonance, it’s a very well written book, with a decent plot, excellent character development, and lots of elements familiar to us lovers of Military Science Fiction and Space Opera.
The main character, as in David Weber’s Honorverse series, is a woman, which is a nice change. She’s no wilting violet, but what would you expect from a woman called Promise Paine?
I especially enjoyed the details on the suits of armor and weapons. A really cool feature of the Marine’s energy rifles is the concept of a ‘reserve’ – a last ditch built in backup of 30 shots – designed to be used when the shit hits the fan and you need to evac asap.
To quote David Weber, I highly recommend it!
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In Star Viking, Haldor Olsen founds a futuristic Feudal state among the stars. Here’s a chart with the list of Noble titles, as well as their corresponding Military rank, and size of their civil administration. It’s a work in progress.
The third installment in the Tribes of Yggdrasil series is now ready for editing!
It’s been an intense four months writing the first draft of Star Viking, but it’s been a blast. I’m extremely proud of the quality of this story. It’s got everything that I consider essential to epic storytelling: It’s intense, it’s brimming with gritty Human emotion: like despair, love, hate, betrayal, revenge, and happiness. There’s a beautiful love story in there, as well as lots of nail-biting action scenes, and intrigue. All of those threads are woven into a vivid tapestry that I am certain fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy will love.
Alpha Readers, rev up your editing engines!
Fans, the pre-order on Amazon will be available shortly, and the book will be available world-wide, Dec 15th, 2014 – in all digital formats as well as paperback.
COVER COMING SOON – image below is a placeholder.