Tenlyres Chapter 36 – Gray Smoke

Hello, everyone, Tim here.

I am working on edits for Tenlyres before I set up the preorder for the complete edition. Keep your eyes peeled. This will be done soon.

Yesterday I celebrated a pretty phenomenal birthday. I think there are more RPGs in my future too. So yeah, it’s been a very good week.

You know how you can make any day better?

At the top of the sidebar of my website there is an email list sign-up form. You can also sign up at this link. Short of buying my books this is the best way to support the serial and show you want it to continue.

Sign up for the mailing list at either location, and you will receive my new short story in the Tenlyres world, Mount Higatha, as well as a copy of Tenlyres II, for free!

 

Download Tenlyres I for free!

Buy Tenlyres II and read the rest of the released story right away!

Previous Chapter

 

The battle of Howling Pass is over.

            Ilsa and the nomads have escaped to count the cost.

Smoke rose from the funeral pyres built of tower and steppe-grass.

There were far too many, especially considering the number of fallen nomads left behind in the pass.

Hiragen and a limping Ganara had laid Akirette at what was now the center of the blaze, with her people all around them. Megalli had yet to wake again since the end of the battle, though she still breathed.

So much had been left behind, from Hailek to Ilsa’s red staff, to her instinct for mercy.

The fires blazed higher. Ilsa watched from a distance, standing beside Lemuel and his sister, tears in her eyes. She could not help but remember how Akirette had sworn not to die in the cave, that night not long ago. Yet, she had raced into action to save the leader of a different tribe.

Megalli had only survived because of Akirette’s charge, and come to that, Ilsa and Lemuel owed her their lives as well. Those facts only made watching the smoke rise more difficult.

Ilsa choked out a sob and leaned against Lemuel where they stood.

And the greater tragedy yet lay ahead. With the death of the Red Lector, a war for Ayoch on the steppe had become inevitable. It did not matter how he died. The other four lectors of Ayoch, and the Queen’s army with them would be on their way. They would wage war against the people of the steppe, and the demons of the old gods.

The war would begin, and the people of the mountains and steppe would be caught in it. More Uzan would arise because Ilsa had been weak. Because she had failed.

She sagged where she stood, completely exhausted after kilometers of riding west from the pass, across the plateau. The mountains had taken a lot from her, including her faithful strider. She shivered in the breeze that came with the sinking sun. Blue contacted her mentally.

You killed one of them. I know you did this time.

Maybe marring the name on their forehead really worked, Ilsa thought back, brow furrowed. “We can’t be sure yet,” she said out loud.

Lemuel glanced at her, tears behind his glasses. “What do you mean?”

“I was talking to Blue.”

“She’s close,” said Tirica. “I see her.”

Lemuel frowned.

Her friend made her way to them through the gloom and shadows cast by the flames. The mind eater’s face looked as tired as Ilsa felt. “The Red Lector isn’t after the Keeper anymore, I suppose.” She sighed. “But his wife won’t give up the chase as long as we have her daughter.”

“Ashnia made it?” said Ilsa.

“After her mental scream she passed out,” said Blue. “I’m just glad she didn’t get hit in the melee.” She indicated her own dented and scratched body-armor.

“You’re glad?” Tirica wrinkled her nose. “She’s really dangerous.”

“Yeah, but isn’t everyone?” Blue shrugged. “There was a time all I remembered was how I loved her. Now I wish I didn’t.”

Tirica looked into the fire and nodded. “I guess that makes sense. Because of who she is.”

Blue turned to Ilsa. “Cass and Ferdinand are talking.”

“Where?” asked Ilsa. “And hey, you shouldn’t spy on everyone.”

“I’m keeping my mind open for now.” Blue pointed down by the fire where two shadows stood with their arms around each other. Ferdinand’s overgrown mop of dark hair pressed into Cass’ red one.

Ilsa raised her eyebrows at Blue. “What are they talking about?”

“I thought I shouldn’t spy?”

“You have an open mind right now.”

“You can guess.” Blue gave a small snort of laughter. “Each other.”

Ilsa glanced at Lemuel. “Who’d have thought?”

“What, my old enemy and your old friend?” Lemuel shrugged his shoulders. “I guess there’s never a good time, and they both know that well enough.”

The fires burned higher, and the shadows deepened. In the morning they would need to keep riding and send out messengers to gather more Oshomi. Ilsa would do her best to tell what happened in those letters. But for the night, the pyres held back a little bit of the cold, and a little bit of the darkness.

Ilsa prayed their sacrifice would not be in vain.

#

Thanks for reading. Sign up for my mailing list to show your support for Tenlyres. The form is at the top of the sidebar on timniederriter.com. Or, click the mailing list link here. Tenlyres is taking a break next week as this is the conclusion of part two. See you soon for the release of the complete edition!

Share and enjoy!

 

 

Of Mooks and Monsters Episode 27 – Interview with Jim Ryan

Hello, everyone!

In this week’s episode, Tim talks to game master, podcaster, actor, and writer, Jim Ryan.

Find Jim out on the web and check out some of his podcasts.

https://jimyesthatjim.com/

http://www.crucibleofrealms.com/

https://cyphercast.net/

 

Thanks for listening.

Share and enjoy!

Tenlyres Cover Reveal

Today, in honor of the approaching Tenlyres pre-order (And release), I have the cover for Tenlyres the complete edition.

 

So there it is. I’m very happy with the design, personally. I hope you readers will agree.

I’d say share and enjoy, but I think its a little self-serving. Ah to hell with it! Share and enjoy.

I’ll be back soon.

Thanks for reading.

Zen Game Mastery

I meditated a little before running an RPG for the Of Mooks and Monsters Podcast yesterday.

By this I mean, yes, I sat down on my meditation pad in the lotus position and focused on my breathing for a few minutes. I’m glad I did. And not just because I procrastinate far too much on meditation.

I thought it a little, odd, but I did this because I was nervous.

You see I wasn’t just game mastering an RPG, I was recording it for broadcast, with players I had never gamed with before. And that made me nervous.

It got me thinking about the Samurai, because wouldn’t it do the same to anyone?

Seriously, though. There was a reason.

For much of their history, the Samurai of Japan practiced Zen Buddhism as part of their training.

It once baffled me how a warrior culture could practice one of the most peaceful of all religions. Once, I had a professor describe to me that the Samurai benefited from the acceptance of reality in a way that also is a taught by Buddhism.

That acceptance is that eventually, everything is impermanent.

You must act in the moment, and accept the consequences. In battle taking no action is not an option.
Same for running an RPG in person.

The game is alive, and the players make choices you cannot predict. I simply put the tools in their hands, sometimes from the beginning, sometimes because their questions earn it. This is the power of the game master. But I was worried about messing up.

Turns out I really didn’t need to be. That session will air on the podcast in a few weeks. I really enjoyed it, and the players seemed to feel the same way.

I’ll be back soon with news on Tenlyres and its upcoming release.

Thanks for reading.

Tenlyres Chapter 35 – Hidden in Death

Hello, everyone, Tim here.
Tenlyres has been finished in rough draft, but this serial has a long way to go from here.
At the top of the sidebar of my website there is an email list sign-up form. You can also sign up at this link. Short of buying my books this is the best way to support the serial and show you want it to continue.
Sign up for the mailing list at either location, and you will receive my new short story in the Tenlyres world, Mount Higatha, as well as a copy of Tenlyres II, for free!

Download Tenlyres I for free!
Buy Tenlyres II and read the rest of this story right away!
Previous Chapter

Ilsa fights at the heart of the battle to escape Howling Pass.
The Red Lector’s traitorous general, Boraij Kana and Ilsa’s own father stand in her way. Along with a horde of Uzan.
The lives of Ilsa’s friends are at stake.

She shot Kanan first, and the bullet made him stagger. Then his knees buckled. One shot left, she turned toward her father. The troops all around were crying out in dismay, maybe at the fall of their general, or maybe at the closing ground between them and the nomad’s resurgent attack.

In a few seconds, it was obvious Kanan’s troops were too occupied with Akirette and Siuku’s attack to shoot at Ilsa. She glared at her father over the body of the Red Lector, and the fallen forms of Kanan and Megalli.

Black Powder closed the dead Lector’s eyes and then straightened to his full height. His dark gaze glimmered with something that could have been a hint of an emotion in any other human. But not in her father.

His guns hung in his hands, both nearly fully loaded.

“Haven’t we done this before?” he said. “You with a wounded arm. Me, always surprising you?”

“Melinda is dead. I had no choice.”

“You killed her. There are always so many eager to learn from me.” Black Powder’s fingers remained off the triggers. “And hers is far from the only life you’ve taken today.”

Ilsa’s stomach turned. “You too.”

He nodded. “Did you like the trick with the exploding artillery carriage? I’m glad you made it through the blast.”

“I still don’t know how you survived it.” Ilsa’s heartbeat seemed loud, too loud with the battle going on behind her. She could not help but notice the Uzan behind her father had stopped shooting. They marched toward the battle, side by side with Black Powder’s remaining mercenaries.

“It ruined my coat,” said Black Powder. “But that couldn’t be helped, I suppose.”

She glared at him, partially to cover her fear for Megalli’s fading breaths. She did not want him to know she was concerned for the Vogmem chieftain. If he cared enough, he could kill the woman on the ground in an instant.

The chill air grew colder. Ilsa’s bruised chest felt almost like the lance had never been removed from the wound.

Kanan snarled as he scrambled for his fallen pistol. “You bitch, I’ll kill you.”

“I’m talking to my daughter,” said Black Powder. “Stay out of it, Boraij.”

Kanan’s face went white. “She shot me.” Spittle flew from his lips. “Kill her. Vel, you must.”

“Do not tell me about ‘musts,’ Boraij. I answer only to the Gray Lector. No human stands above me.”

“That’s not like you,” said Ilsa. “To answer to anyone.”

Her mother floated near her in her minds-eye. “You’re right. He’s always been ferociously independent.”

Black Powder’s eyes twinkled. “I could nearly say the same for you. Except you’ve always had one master even as a mercenary in the east.”

“What do you know about me?”

“Unification will never occur under the power of humanity. The dreams of your clergy are hopeless.”

“You may be right.” Despair clutched like a cold hand at Ilsa’s heart even as she said those words.

Nothingness would be better than her father’s view of the world being true.

“Daughter, you know I am.” Black Powder smiled, actually smiled within the heart of a bloody battle. “Now, put down that gun. I can’t offer you more than your life, but it is more than the priesthood with its flowers and feathers ever could.”

“What are you saying?”

“Abandon your mission here. Go live your life the way you want. I won’t stop you.” He motioned with one pistol over his shoulder at the liner of Uzan a mere twenty meters behind him. “Neither will my allies. You like men, don’t you? Have some fun. Make friends. Enjoy your existence for a change. Ilsa, your mother and I only differed on the details of what we wanted for you. We both care, in our own ways.”

Ilsa’s mind raced at the ridiculous offer that hung in the air between them.

Blue.

Ferdinand.

Siuku.

Lemuel.

The Four, even Akirette, and Ganara.

And Cass.

“I have made friends,” said Ilsa in a near-murmur. “And you won’t let us all go, even if you’d spare me.”

“What makes you think that?”

“You chased us all here.”

“Goji Haram commanded this army to pursue the Keeper of Tenlyres.” Black Powder looked down at the dead Lector. “I’m here for what is in this pass.” He motioned toward the wall of the mountain off to the side where he had detonated the gun carriage.

Where the stones had shifted and pockmarks scarred the wall, shape stood outlined in the stone.

The shape of a lyre made of darker stone, with pale strings of metal stretching from top to bottom.

Ilsa’s eyes widened.

“Another one?”

“Not just any of them either,” said Black Powder. “This marks the entryway to the realm of Asurdeva, hidden in death.”

“The god of the Uzan.”

“Eldest of his kind, daughter.”

“You would really let us all go?”

“I have a different army to fight now. The Red Lector’s widow has troops at your back.”

Two Uzan stomped forward to Black Powder’s side. He nodded to them, then pointed at the outline of the Lyre in the cliff side. “There it is my friends.”

The gun-demons grunted words Ilsa did not understand. Black Powder frowned. “No need to kill the goat and horse riders. They are fleeing already.” He smirked at Ilsa. “See, daughter? Your friends are free to go.”

Ilsa knelt down beside Megalli keeping her gun trained on Black Powder. “I don’t trust you.”

“Probably wise,” he said.

Akirette’s vanguard broke through Kanan’s troops behind her with a thunder of hooves. The eye of the storm became charged with violence once again.

Kanan scrambled away from Ilsa toward the line of Uzan. Blue’s strider stopped beside Ilsa and Megalli. A saddle-line slapped against Ilsa’s shoulder.

Lemuel helped her lift Megalli, until Blue could get the chieftain onto her saddle.

Then, others arrived all at once, Akirette, Siuku, Cass. And the two Uzan beside Black Powder opened fire.

Bodies fell from saddles. Blood misted in the air and the battle was fresh. Black Powder threw up his arm to stop the Uzan and pushed one of them back with a shout of “Cease-fire!” that shocked Ilsa with the sound of urgency in her father’s voice. She climbed onto the back of the horse that carried Lemuel. Her pistol flew into her hand once more.

The only Uzan left firing rounded toward her, guns leveled at Lemuel. A perverse, hideous grin stretched across the monster’s broad gray face, spreading the name of its god across its brows.

Ilsa’s last bullet hit the creature in the face. She shouted toward Siuku as she dropped the gun. “Get everyone out of here. We have to go, as fast as we can.”

The Keeper of Tenlyres heard, and guided her horse back from the fray, calling to her riders.

The Nomads began to slip past the Uzan and headed west out of the  pass, but the Uzan Ilsa had shot propped itself up on its back, the bullet wound yawning between nose and eye. Guns emerged like flowers from its palm and fingers. It aimed at Lemuel and Ilsa.

She pulled the revolver from the back of his pants, thumbed the hammer back on the unfamiliar single-action. The Uzan opened up on them.

Suddenly, Akirette was between them, spinning Ganara’s black staff to catch the stream of bullets unleashed by the lethal demon. She looked back at Ilsa and Lemuel. “Ride,” she said. “Get away.”

Black Powder stared at the Vogmem chieftain in shock. The Uzan kept shooting, but Akirette deflected or caught all the rounds headed toward her. Her teeth gritted in concentration and effort.

“Not easy,” she said.

Ilsa and Lemuel pulled away from the battle. The Uzan turned toward them. Ilsa picked a shot around Akirette and the staff. She took careful aim at the name of the old god.

Her bullet streaked across the name of Asurdeva, scarring the word with a line of blood.

The Uzan went limp and stopped shooting. The monster seemed to shrink as it died, withering and becoming thin where it has been beefy and bloated.

Akirette lowered the staff, breathing hard, and turned her goat to follow Ilsa and the rest of the retreating nomads.

Black Powder shot her in the heart. One squeeze of the trigger. She dropped the black staff and it clattered to the ground. Black Powder stalked toward the fallen length of Blackwood. He withdrew one pistol and picked up Vada’s staff.

Akirette hugged her goat’s neck with both arms and the runner continued after the rest of the nomads, carrying the mortally wounded Chieftain with it.

Ilsa screamed in fury and pulled back the hammer to fire again. Her father nodded to her, then turned his back as the Oshomi horse carried her and Lemuel away from the bloody battlefield and back to the plateau of Yr.

Tears ran from Ilsa’s eyes, but she knew somehow she had survived the day.

#

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Tenlyres Announcements

Tenlyres is nearing completion in rough draft. There is still a lot more to serialize, but I expect to finish writing the story this week.

That also means the Tenlyres Complete edition will be arriving in online stores around the end of the month. There will be a preorder set up as soon as I get the book finalized.

All in all, I’m very excited by the progress I’ve made on this story over the last month or so. And I’ll be happy to have it completed, though I have grown to like my characters quite a bit. It is long-past time I should get back to writing the sequel to Hunter and Seed, but books arrive when they arrive so I can’t complain.

I’ll be back with more news soon. I have some exciting stuff lined up to spread the word when Tenlyres releases, but for now, there isn’t much else to say.

Thanks for reading.

Tenlyres Chapter 34 – Black Powder

Hello, everyone, Tim here.

Happy new year!

Tenlyres is back today after last week’s year-ending cliffhanger.

In case you weren’t aware, at the top of the sidebar of my website there is an email list sign-up form. You can also sign up at this link.

Sign up for the mailing list at either location, and you will receive my new short story in the Tenlyres world, Mount Higatha, for free!

 

Download Tenlyres I for free!

Buy Tenlyres II and read the rest of this story right away!

Previous Chapter

 

Ilsa and her comrades are in the northern mountains, allied with the Vogmem tribes there.

            The battle to escape Howling Pass and the mountains intensifies.

            And Ilsa’s ruthless father is still leading on the other side.

 

The Uzan marched up the pass, too few in number to block it entirely, but each individually powerful enough to slay a dozen men and women in seconds. They bristled with weapons that belched impossibly bitter smoke.

And they surged toward the rise in the center where the Red Lector’s forces still held ground. Cannon fire from the Uzan wrecked the remaining armored vehicles behind the Ayochian troops.

Ilsa looked for the Red Lector and found him quickly, at the heart of his troops on the sliver of high ground, beside the fat commander, Boraij Kanan, and to Ilsa’s surprise and horror, the tall shape of Black Powder.

Her father looked no worse for the explosion he had triggered at the gun carriage, except for having shed his outer coat. He held a bonded pistol in each hand, but for the moment did not appear concerned with the battle, or the Uzan.

Aloof as ever, even in the face of the demons he had set free.

Ilsa’s half-numb and paralyzed right arm twitched. She kept her eyes on her father and the Red Lector who stood so near him. She clenched her teeth just to keep from yelling at them to stop hiding and fight. But her father had survived the explosion he had caused. He seemed as invincible as the Uzan, but there had to be a way to finally end him.

The Red Lector brandished his sword and waved it at a pike with a broken end held by one of his few remaining Lectoral Protectors. Ilsa squinted through smoke and dust as the red-armored protector hoisted his weapon higher. Megalli’s body hung from the weapon, tied by the wrists. Cuts and gashes ran through her clothes, dripping with blood. Ilsa’s stomach turned at the sight of the small woman being displayed as a gory trophy.

A shout of dismay ran through the Vogmem near Ilsa, and none was louder than the oldest of the Four, Akirette. Tears in her eyes, the old woman raised a rifle in one fist and held the reins of her goat runner in the other.

“Warriors to me!” she shouted. “Show them our answer to this insult.”

Ilsa pointed Akirette out to the Oshomi rider guiding the horse on which she rode. “Follow her. The Uzan are too close.”

The Oshomi, a scar-faced woman with tangled black hair, grunted and turned the horse toward Akirette. Nearby, Lemuel spoke to the rider of his horse in a voice Ilsa could not hear. But then he pointed at Siuku, who rode opposite Ilsa.

He must be thinking the Keeper could still save Megalli. For all Ilsa knew he could be right, but the danger of closing with the Red Lector would be terrible, even if all the nomads attacked at once.

Ilsa caught Lemuel’s eye and then shook her head.

Then, the horse beneath Ilsa accelerated after Akirette. The Vogmem charged.

Ilsa’s mother’s voice reached her mind through the ghostly world. “You may be wrong, Ilsa. She could still be saved.”

“She’s still alive?” Ilsa murmured.

Mother’s eyes opened. “Don’t let her hang there any longer.”

“I won’t.” Ilsa checked the pistol she held in her functioning hand. She grimaced as she thought of the difficulty of reloading the weapon, and the fact that her other hand could not clench to summon its bonds. Only two guns left loaded in her bonds.

The horse thundered beneath her, a far rougher ride than a strider like poor, loyal Hailek. She clamped her legs around the saddle and held on tight.

Akirette’s warriors closed with the enemy, opening fire on Ayochians and Uzan alike. Bullets rebounded from stone more than they found their marks, but members of every force fell in the exchange with screams and cries of pain, or in the case of Uzan, with eerie silence.

Ilsa looked for Blue in the charging force. She found her friend riding her strider close to Lemuel and Tirica. Blue sent her a message mentally.

The Keeper has our flank, Ilsa. Be careful, there’s something odd going on among the Uzan.

Ilsa scowled. “Something other than them being undying monsters?”

Blue did not answer that question.

The horse carried Ilsa into the heart of the battle ahead of Lemuel and the others. She shot and killed the nearest Ayochian, but dread built in her stomach as the Uzan continued to advance. And she and the nomads kept charging right at them.

Time to find out if defacing the name of their god would break the magic that kept them from dying.

She caught up with Akirette just as the Red Lector’s troops surged forward with him and his protectors at their center. Black Powder and General Kanan followed with their personal troops around them. Mercenaries and mechanized infantry formed a line behind the Red Lector’s household troops.

Ilsa spotted the protector carrying the pike where Megalli hung by her wrists. She shot the man twice at close range, once in each arm. Her small rounds did not break his armor but made him turn toward her with a wavering half-step. She found the gap just above his collar and mortally wounded him with a third bullet.

He sank to his knees. Ilsa leaped from the saddle of the Oshomi horse. She landed beside the dead protector and found Megalli laying, bloody and unconscious on the edge of the fray. The Red Lector howled in rage and rushed toward her with two more protectors flanking him.

Black Powder advanced nearby, leading his mercenaries away from the Ayochian rearguard where the Uzan continued the slaughter.

Oshomi flooded around Ilsa and Megalli. Hooves stamped the ground. Bullets and arrows flew. But there was no sign of Siuku, and Megalli did not have long judging by the amount of blood she had already lost.

The Oshomi horses reversed as the Red Lector’s close-quarters troops advanced. Ilsa crouched beside Megalli’s bloody body and leveled her pistol at the leader of the Ayochian forces. She would fight here alone if she had to, just like in the cave, just like always.

Maybe that was her destiny, no matter how many friends she knew. She fought alone.

The Red Lector stood just behind his protectors, and the two red-armored men loomed over Ilsa. Goji Haram’s lip curled. His saber’s edge gleamed red. “You’re too late to save her, priestess. But you can die at her side.”

Black Powder’s familiar voice burst like a shell over the sounds of carnage that surrounded Ilsa, Megalli, and the man’s guards. “It’s time.”

Two shots cut the air, louder than the rest. Snipers. The Lectoral Protectors in front of the Red Lector staggered. One of them looked up at the cliff side where the deadly shots had originated. Ilsa smelled their blood, mingled with the same, almost-sweet, scent of paralyzing ballistic venom as Melinda’s bullets. The bodyguards crumpled between her and the Red Lector.

“Damn you all.” The Red Lector thrust his saber at Ilsa.

She shot him twice. The first bullet smashed his fingers and made the sword tumble from his grip. The second clipped his back knee, so when he tried to step forward, he fell to the ground in front of Ilsa. Pain wracked his lined features.

She looked at him from her crouch. A sick confusion built in her stomach. Who had shot those bodyguards?

“You’re father’s men,” said mother in Ilsa’s mind.

Black Powder and Boraij Kanan marched forward through the battle. Neither of them fired a shot, but the Vogmem retreated before them. Even the sounds of the Uzan and their roaring guns faded away.

Mother’s voice returned to Ilsa. “Your father… This isn’t like him.”

“He wouldn’t betray his commander to save me,” Ilsa said. “I know that much.”

She kept her pistol extended before her. Just two bullets remained in the magazine. And one in the chamber.

Black Powder looked down at the fallen, struggling, bleeding shape of the Red Lector.

“Goji Haram,” said Boraij Kanan in a voice too fierce for his heavy frame. “Sinner against the Gray.”

The Red Lector gave up reaching for his saber and rolled onto his back to face Kanan and Black Powder. In the same motion, he went for the pistol on his hip. “Kanan, you’d dare betray me?”

Before Ilsa’s eyes, Black Powder shot the Red Lector through the palm. Haram recoiled and clutched at his shattered extremity.

“You-Vel, how dare you betray your Lector!” Haram spoke through gritted teeth. “You will hang for this, mercenary scum.”

“Make no mistake, Goji,” said Black Powder, stone-faced, “Half of me is Ayochian, but another half comes from Chogrum and the east. You are not holy.”

“Only the divine monarchs of Ayoch are holy!”

Kanan stepped onto the Red Lector’s wounded leg. Haram gasped with pain but surprised Ilsa by maintaining a defiant expression. Kanan sneered at Haram. “We belong to a different master. The Gray Lector is with us now, Goji Haram!” He raised his pistol over his head, a light of ecstasy gleamed in his eyes. “I bowed for you, scraped for you, killed for you. But now, you will die by my hand.” He lowered the pistol to his heaving side. “My loyalty has always been to the Gray Lector.” He raised the barrel of the pistol.

“I won’t beg for my life,” Haram said, “But please shut up.”

Behind Kanan’s back, Black Powder nodded.

“No, I will not listen to you.” The traitorous general pressed his heel into the bullet wound Ilsa’s shot had left in the Red Lector’s knee. “I want you to feel the humiliation I felt for all these months of serving under you.”

On the ground less than a meter from Ilsa, Megalli groaned softly. Her eyelids fluttered and looked at the Red Lector, fallen nearby. Her hands were still chained to the broken pike, and she looked weak, closer to death than ever. Ilsa snarled. Three shots. She still had three shots. And three enemies stood between her and saving Megalli.

She lurched to one side and fired at Kanan. Black Powder’s hands moved in a flurry. The bright flare of a scatter shell flashed from one pistol. Ilsa’s ears rang with the sound of the shot and shell.

The bright shards of Black Powder’s scattershot intersected spread across her bullet’s trajectory. And there its line ended. He had picked her bullet from the air. Ilsa’s teeth ground together. Her father continued to demonstrate his impossible, infuriating skills.

Her father’s lip curled. “Give us a moment, daughter.”

Kanan turned toward her, his pistol leveled. “You are next, priestess.” He swung the gun to point at the wounded Lector on the ground. “I think I hear your sons and your wife on their way,” he said. “But they will be too late.” He looked around lazily. “Give my regards to the ‘divine’ monarchs of Ayoch. Your gods are dead, Haram.”

“Kill me or not. My family will punish you.”

Kanan laughed and turned toward Black Powder. “Do you believe this man, Vel? I cannot take his threats seriously. Never could, really.”

Black Powder rolled his eyes, then focused on the Red Lector. His pistol-barrel twitched, almost imperceptibly toward the man on the ground. He squeezed the trigger.

A shock ran through Goji Haram’s body. He snapped to one side, then went limp on the ground. The wound from Black Powder’s bullet went straight through his heart, spreading blood across the stones of Howling Pass.

Ilsa stared at the fallen Lector for an instant, then surged toward Megalli, keeping her pistol trained on Haram. The fat general whirled toward her, gun in hand.

He could not normally have beaten her to the shot, but she felt slow from fatigue as well as the poison spreading from the wound in her arm. He trained the pistol on her and shouted. “Vel, you had no right to take his life from me. For that, your daughter dies.”

A simmering heat at the back of Ilsa’s awareness broke through to her conscious mind. With it, a terrible shriek echoed in her mind, and she somehow knew, in the minds of every human and animal in the pass. Unmistakable rage combined with incoherent grief in Ashnia Haram’s psychic outburst. Kanan flinched to one side. His eyes crossed and he dropped his pistol so it skittered to the ground.

The entire battle roared with the mental fury of all Ashnia’s mind eater abilities bent to one single emotion. Anger. Warriors stopped fighting, stood paralyzed. Even the Uzan froze in their paces.

Ilsa’s mind burned with the sensation. Tears ran down her cheeks as Ashnia’s rage melded with sorrow. Uncontrollable, unwarranted grief made her cold, bruised heart feel ready to burst. She fell onto her side and lost her grip on her pistol.

The shriek of temper was everything for an immortal stretch of seconds. Then, the furious mental scream subsided as quickly as it had arisen. Ilsa looked around, disoriented.

Uzan guns roared anew, killing more Ayochians and nomads alike.

Kanan regained his footing and turned to his right. There, Black Powder walked to the body of the Red Lector.

“You were a fool,” he said. “But an enemy must be respected.”

“Vel, you bastard,” Kanan’s eyes fell to Red Lector’s body. “You had no right. He was mine to kill.”

“We are in battle,” Black Powder said. “Kill, then gloat, if you must.”

Kanan’s troops pushed forward around the two men, Ilsa, and Megalli. Ilsa gripped her pistol, but kept her head down, hoping they would think her still disabled by Ashnia’s explosive anger. They had killed the mind eater’s father, but Ilsa could hardly relate to that level of devotion to a parent.

Kanan raised his eyes and glared at Black Powder. The sound of hooves and claws approached, but Ilsa smelled Ayochian powder like a cloud approaching with them.

General Shayi Haram’s troops were about to reach the battle.

Ilsa’s mind shifted halfway to despair.

Then, mother’s voice spoke in her ear. “You can still live through this.” In a stern voice, she said, “Ilsa, stand up.”

And Ilsa listened.

#

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Of Mooks and Monsters Episode 25 – Actual Play – Risus Hack 2

This week on Of Mooks and Monsters, Tim Niederriter and Rob Ward continue a one on one game featuring the Risus Hack system, based on rules by S John Ross.

Be warned that this podcast contains horrific events. General Mongoose once again rides across the solar system leaving havoc in his wake.

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Shift 2017

Happy New Year, everyone!

I am back after a good break for Christmas and New Years. I drank more than in any prior holiday season but kept sober most of the time. I had some fun with my siblings, and travel did not prove overly irksome. And on New Year’s Eve, my father turned 60, so I celebrated with the family and still got to bed on time.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. At the same time, I have also been thinking about my writing, especially the last part of Tenlyres, which is nearing its completion in rough draft. It seems strange to me that this series did not exist in prose form AT ALL last year at this time. It took most of my work time in 2016, but in 2017 I want to be more dedicated, because next up on my list in the second Maker Mythos novel, “Spurring the Beast.” I’m excited about that one, and I got some words in it done last year too, so it won’t be long.

The time has come to get back all the way to having fun while I write. For too long I have seen it as important to think things through as I go. Well, this year I have a new mantra to go with the ones my professor gave me on my trip to India six years ago.

Back then my mantras started with “I’m glad I don’t walk faster.” And, “I’m a very lucky person.”

I think both of those are still true. I’m going to add a third personal mantra as of today. “I have fun writing.”

This is not meant as an affirmation, necessarily, but as a reminder. Because it is absolutely true. Even when the writing gets tough, the work is satisfying. And that is a fact I swept under the rug years ago. Time to get it out again and dust it off for its rightful position on the mantelpiece of my mind.

I don’t have any resolutions for this year, but I want to keep getting better at the things I’ve been striving toward. Health, productivity, and independence.

Health is off to a good start, as I have already been walking quite a bit for two days. My food intake has been reasonable as well. I will do my best to cultivate a healthier mindset for publishing and working too.

Productivity goes with my new plan to make a habit of writing three sessions per day instead of just one bigger session. Wish me power to form that habit successfully over the next month especially, if you will.

Independence is another serious movement for me. This is not just making more money, but also forging a sense of doing things by myself and getting my driver’s license (I still don’t have one, obviously).

Those are my three prongs, but the first two take priority for the most part because they require the most time commitment (For productivity) and mental effort (Health). So, without further ado, I think it’s time for me to switch to writing fiction for the day.

Good luck, and happy new year.

Thanks for reading.

And while you’re at it, give the opening of “Hunter and Seed” a try!

https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B01AKC5T7Q