Serial Poll

Hello, everyone.

Tenlyres is complete, so this week I want to ask you readers who enjoy getting stories in pieces online what you would like to see in the future of my serials.

Just one question, so please, if you read the serial, let me know what you want to see going forward. Also, comment if you want to give other input. I’m open to suggestions.

Click here to answer.

Of Mooks and Monsters Episode 45 – Dustmarrow Hall Game #1

Today, Of Mooks and Monsters returns with some Risus Fantasy gameplay in our new Dustmarrow Hall campaign!

Tim runs.

Rob plays.

And we have a grand old time.

Hope you do too.

Share and enjoy, and check out Tim’s free ebook samples over at instafreebie if you haven’t already.

Thanks for listening!

Alive After Reading Episode 10 – Suzy Vadori

This week, Alive After Reading returns with an interview with young adult author, Suzy Vadori.

Check out Suzy’s intriguing YA novel, The Fountain today!

And don’t forget, your host, Tim Niederriter, has a few giveaways ongoing on instafreebie. Check out that page here.

Thanks for listening!

Share and enjoy.

Tenlyres – Final Chapters

Hello, everyone!

This is the final installment of Tenlyres here on the site.

It has been a long journey. Thanks to everyone who followed the story.

These last two chapters go together, so here they are on the same day, in the same post.

I couldn’t be more grateful for this experience, and though Tenlyres is over, I will continue to serialize stories here, on Fridays. This story is over. Other stories must begin. However, for the near future look at a few short tales as I work on the next long-form serial.

Thanks for reading.

Tenlyres: The Complete Serial Edition is out! For five dollars, get the complete story. Buying my ebooks is the best way to support the free content on this blog and help it continue.

At the top of the sidebar on my website there is an email list sign-up form. You can also sign up at this link. Signing up is also a great way to support the serial and show you want to keep seeing it.

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: Complete and read the rest of the story right away!

Previous Chapter

The battle is over. The time has come to count the cost.

53: Voices

 

When the voice of one is silent, the knowledge of all suffers.

When one voice drowns out all others, that is even worse.

 

The last of Asurdeva’s light faded from around the base of the Flowering Lyre. Ilsa gripped Blue’s arm and muttered a prayer to Hathani as she opened her eyes.

Silence reigned over the steppe.

Uzan stood frozen. Mercenaries and Ayochian traitors looked down at the weapons they had abandoned, surrounded by Vogmem and Chogrumian troops.

The battle was over. The voices of the guns faded.

Ilsa looked at the failing body of Black Powder. His breathing came and went fast and shallow where he lay with his back to the lyre’s northern arm. His brands had gone dark, and blood dripped from his jaw line.

Siuku finished sealing Ilsa’s wounded shoulder. She reached for her forehead and closed the cuts above her brow. Ilsa bowed into the keeper’s hand. “Thank you, keeper.”

“You fought for all of us. I wish we could have helped you.”

“You did. If you had not gone after Asurdeva—Tirica—He wouldn’t have given me the chance.”

Siuku frowned at Black Powder’s fallen form. “He was exceptionally quick. And uniquely dangerous.”

“Was.” Ilsa took in the damage her bullets had done to Black Powder. Six bleeding wounds formed a spiral on his chest. He might still be alive, but not for long. He had never done anything but evil to her, but still, tears began to creep into her eyes.

Blue got to her feet beside Ilsa. She helped up Siuku, then offered Ilsa her hand.

“You’ve taken more than enough hits for me,” she said. “Let me help you.”

Ilsa clasped her friend’s hand and pulled herself up into a standing position. She looked back down at Black Powder. “I almost can’t believe it. We won.”

“Almost?” Blue’s expression cracked into a grin as she fought laughter. “I can’t believe it at all.”

“The alliance between Chogrum and the nomads was strong,” said Siuku. “But the Uzan would have beaten us without your song, Ilsa.”

“Not really mine. Credit to the ancients.” Ilsa looked down at Tirica’s unconscious form. “Is she—?”

“She is alive.” Siuku rubbed her red eyes. Were those tears there?. “I can hear her heartbeat.”

“What about Asurdeva?” asked Ilsa.

“Suppressed, but not gone.” Blue sighed. “I don’t know if what the keeper and I did will last.”

Lemuel rushed to the set of strings, then turned sideways and eased through. He crouched next to Tirica. “She’s alright.”

Ilsa sank down beside him. She put a hand on his shoulder. “Thanks to Blue and the keeper.”

Ashnia picked her way between the strings after him. “She could be. But as long as that god lives within her, she is in danger.”

Tirica’s eyelids fluttered open. She looked up at Lemuel and Ilsa. When she saw them tears began to flow. “I—I’m so sorry. Ilsa, I can’t—” She sobbed. “I can’t ask you to forgive me.”

“No need to ask,” said Ilsa.

“Black Powder?”

“He’s dying.” Ilsa reached for her eyes but decided the tears there deserved to stay. “I shot him.”

“How could you beat him? Cass didn’t stand a chance.”

Ilsa’s tears flowed. “Cass—Tirica—Is she—?”

“She’s alive. He wanted to torture her.” Tirica looked at Black Powder’s fallen form. “I guess he won’t get the chance.”

“Not now,” said Blue.

“Never again.” Ilsa looked at her father’s body as the breathing slowed, then stilled.

Tirica followed her gaze. “You beat him. How?”

“He cared too much about that monster in you.” Ilsa shook her head. “That gave me an opening.”

“Rest,” said Lemuel to Tirica. “You’re alive. You’re free. That’s enough.”

Tirica nodded to Ilsa.

She rose and took in the scene on the other side of the Lyre. The prince still lay unconscious, his severed arm stretched on bloody stone. His bodyguards hovered around him. A few of them had been wounded as well. Kaij and Yunn stood side by side, glaring at the Chogrumians nearby.

“Thanks for the help,” Ilsa said to them. “I guess we’re even after all the times you tried to kill us.”

“I’ll tell our mother you said that,” said Kaij. “After we take General Kanan’s head.”

As more allied troops arrived from the battlefield, many of them leading prisoners of war, it became obvious Boraij Kanan was not among them. Megalli’s hawk touched down on the far side of the strings from the prince. She dismounted and reported that she had seen him disappear in an explosion.

“A blast seal,” said Ilsa. “He’s still alive.”

“We’ll find him,” said Kaij. “And he will pay.” He turned to Ashnia, who now stood, pensive, beside Blue. “Are you coming with us, little sister?”

Ashnia’s gaze moved to Blue, then to Tirica. “There’s something else I need to do.”

“Something we have to do,” said Ilsa’s friend.

Ilsa looked at her, surprised. “Blue?”

Blue caught Tirica’s eye as Lemuel helped the girl to her feet. “If anyone knows a way to exorcise Asurdeva, it would be the Temple of Colors.”

Ashnia nodded.

Blue sighed and then turned to Ilsa. “We’ll need to go east of Yr to find the temple’s heart.”

Ilsa approached Blue. “I need to head back to Dal. My mother isn’t insane. She needs to be released.”

“So, I guess this is goodbye,” said Blue. “For now.”

“Take care of yourself, Blue.” She wiped the tears from her eyes. “I couldn’t have asked for a better partner on this mission.”

“Neither could I.” Blue clapped a hand on Ilsa’s shoulder. She looked ready to cry herself.

Ilsa pulled her into an embrace. “Go on,” she said.

“Maybe this way I can find out who I was, who I am.”

“I can tell you who you are.” Ilsa tightened her arms around Blue, then released her. “You’re my friend.”

“Always will be. Memory or no memory.” Blue sniffed back tears. “I’ll see you later, Ilsa.”

Ilsa released her and nodded. They had a lot to do to clean up this battlefield, and there was still peace to negotiate between Chogrum and Dal. But the monsters were silent. For now, that had to be enough.

Siuku touched Ilsa’s arm, then withdrew a short distance. “You have been able protectors, the two of you. It is not easy to say goodbye.”

Ilsa sniffed. “What do you mean?”

“This alliance must spread. Chogrum and Ayoch will have peace if I can speak to their leaders at once.”

Ilsa smiled. “It’s been an honor, keeper.”

“The west is calling,” said Siuku. “Go, help your mother.”

“Thank you.”

“We worked together to bring us to this point. Now, let me see to the peace.” The keeper’s expression softened. “Tomorrow is ours to shape, whether we stand in one place or not.”

New tears beaded in Ilsa’s eyes.

One week later Ilsa prepared to ride west with Cass. The red-haired priestess had recovered enough with Siuku’s healing to sit in the saddle. Ferdinand and his white strider waited for them and their borrowed Chogrumian runners on the edge of the camp.

The sun was just rising at their back. Ilsa guided her runner between a row of tents. Her mind wandered to Lemuel. She had not had the heart to ask him to come with them. His sister needed him more than Ilsa did.

She had left a letter in their tent for him. Hopefully he would understand. Her mother had been a prisoner for too long. Now she could go free, and there were things she could teach Ilsa about the spirits.

She glanced at Cass as they rode toward Ferdinand.

“Are you alright?” Cass asked.

“Save the concern for yourself,” said Ilsa. “When we found you we weren’t sure you’d live.”

“Looks like Hathani gave us both a second chance.” Cass leaned forward in the saddle. Her bandages and slings made her look almost like a box kite as they flapped in the wind.

Ilsa sighed. “Maybe that’s why I feel like I’m starting over.”

“Because of Lemuel?”

“Yeah. Him and Blue. It will be strange, not being around them.”

“I’ll give you that.”

Cass’s eyes moved to the scroll case on Ilsa’s saddle. “You’ve been writing. Do you think you’ll start preaching?”

“You know I’m not a great speaker.”

“Hey, if you’re starting over you can learn.”

“What would I even say?”

“What do I say?”

“Before I rode out of Dal you told me to be red.”

“Seems to me you followed that advice.”

They closed with Ferdinand.

“Good morning, priestesses,” he said.

Cass touched her lips with one hand and blew him a kiss.

Ilsa smiled. “We’re ready to ride.”

“Not yet,” said Ferdinand. “We’re missing someone.”

“Who?” asked Ilsa.

“Lemuel didn’t tell you? That figures.”

Ilsa’s eyes widened. “Are you—? You’re kidding me.”

“Not in the least. But it looks like the bookworm slept in.” Ferdinand grinned at Ilsa. “You know, I like being the bearer of good news.”

Feet pounded on the steppe grass behind them.

“There he is now,” said Ferdinand.

Ilsa turned in the saddle. Lemuel rode toward them on a runner of his own. He held onto the saddle with his big hand, and waved with the little one. “Wait for me.”

“About time,” said Ferdinand as Lemuel caught up. “Looks like Ilsa tried to ditch you.”

Ilsa’s face grew hot. “What? I—”

“We didn’t talk about it,” said Lemuel sheepishly. “I’m sorry. I was just… nervous. Ilsa—”

“Didn’t you want to go with Tirica?”

“Ashnia told me the Temple doesn’t keep written records. Tirica told me she could handle herself. And Blue…”

“Blue?”

“She told me not to let you leave without me.”

Ferdinand whistled. “You cut that last one pretty close.”

“Oh be quiet, grave robber.”

Ilsa giggled. “That’s plenty.” She reached for Lemuel’s small hand and took it. “Let’s ride.”

 * * *

 

54: Recoil

 

A firearm pushes back when fired, but for humans the only direction is forward.

Do not take all your lessons from weapons of war.

 

Dear High Priestess Uopemm,

When last you saw me, you condemned me for my father’s deeds. It once seemed true that I could never forgive you. Since then, things have changed. I send this letter with Cass because I know I am not welcome at Saint Banyeen’s. Please, be kinder to her than you were to me. She did a great service for me, and for all the nations of the plateau in dueling Black Powder. I will let her tell you the rest.

No doubt you have heard of the peace negotiations between Chogrum and Ayoch. Let us both pray that hope is realized. That is out of both our hands now, but I wish the Keeper of Tenlyres the greatest fortune in executing her plan.

I am writing to tell you that your payments to the hospital will no longer be required. My mother is to be discharged. I will see to that myself. High Priestess, I have learned as much from my travels as I ever did from you. Both you and they have been great teachers, both harsh in your own ways.

Regardless, I forgive you.

Goodbye,

Ilsa Barrett

#

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Of Mooks and Monsters Episode 44 – Dustmarrow Hall Character Creation

Welcome back to Of Mooks and Monsters!

This week, Tim and Rob are back with some actual character creation for Risus Hack to start a new game.

Enjoy!

Share this episode. Or email us at podcast (at) ofmooksandmonsters.com

You can also check out Tim’s free giveaways at instafreebie right now.

Alive After Reading Episode 9 – Neil Enock

This week on Alive After Reading, Tim talks with author, actor, filmmaker and inventor, Neil Enock.

The focus is on Neil’s books but check out all the places you can find him and his work below.

As of the posting of this podcast, there is still time to back Neil’s kickstarter for wristrack.  Check out Neil’s books, “Mayan: Atlantis Returns,” and “Doc Christmas: The Magic of Trains” at Amazon.com.

Check out Tim’s books on Amazon.com. Or sample his work for free at instafreebie.

Thanks for listening!

Tenlyres Chapter 52 – Asurdeva

This is the penultimate week of the Tenlyres serial. We’re in the middle of the climactic scenes. Enjoy!

Tenlyres: The Complete Serial Edition is out! For five dollars, get the complete story. Buying my ebooks is the best way to support the free content on this blog and help it continue.

Download Tenlyres I for free!

Buy Tenlyres: Complete and read the rest of the story right away!

Previous Chapter

The final battle continues…

With or without faith, we humans walk through the night, looking for signs of dawn.

 

Ilsa and Blue looked at the Red Lector’s children around them on the lyre. She still could hardly believe they had arrived to fight beside them, rather than to kill them.

Ashnia regarded Ilsa and Blue coolly, her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. Siuku completed what healing she could on the prince of Chogrum’s ruined stump of an arm. He lay unconscious, surrounded by his guards.

Lemuel’s jaw hung open. He looked from Kaij to Yunn, to the frozen, headless body of the Gray Lector. The massive Uzan leader had not been able to reach the critical piece just severed by Kaij’s blade.

Ashnia grimaced between the strings at the battle raging beyond the lyre.

“The fight isn’t over,” said Blue.

Kaij lowered his sword and put a hand on Ashnia’s shoulder. She closed her eyes. “General Kanan is still alive.”

“Not for long.” Kaij’s lips drew back in a snarl. “He’ll pay for killing our father.” He looked down at the Gray Lector’s body. “Just like this one.”

Ashnia opened her eyes, facing the battlefield. “Not if I beat you to him, brother.”

Ilsa stared at the Ayochians. “You’re all here for revenge?”

Yunn turned toward her in the saddle. “Your cause didn’t sway us. If that’s your question?”

Siuku rose unsteadily from beside the unconscious prince. “Either way, we are on the same side for now.”

“Right.” Ilsa grunted. As much as she hated to admit the Ayochians had saved her life, she knew it was true.

Kaij glared at her. “For now.”

Blue eyed Ashnia. “Do you sense that?”

“Sense what?” asked Ilsa.

“Reach out,” said Blue. “Ashnia, this was the Gray Lector, but their god is still unbound. He is on his way here.”

Beside Ilsa, Lemuel found his words. “Asurdeva is a god. What does a god look like?”

Ilsa closed her eyes and breathed deep, focusing her spirit senses. The oppressive scale of the spirit she had first sensed moving from the center of the plateau while she had been in Chogrum, threatened to blanket the entire lyre and all the armies around it. Heavy. Choking. She opened her eyes with a gasp for air.

Lemuel touched her arm. “Are you alright?”

“Blue is right,” she said. “Asurdeva is here.”

Siuku glowered across the lyre. “He is not the only one.”

First stood beside Black Powder on the other side of the strings. The two mercenaries both held their bonded pistols. Ilsa’s eyes narrowed and she stared at them. A cackling sound echoed over the battlefield as if the lyre itself was laughing. Ilsa covered one ear with her free hand. The other still held a song pistol with two bullets left loaded.

A shadow drifted overhead. A slim shape plunged downward and landed on Black Powder’s side of the lyre. Tirica Chollush, her eyes wide open and gleaming, stared at Ilsa, a sardonic grin on her face. When she spoke, the tone and inflection were completely unlike Lemuel’s sister. “It’s good to be home. I always liked the east best.”

“She’s betrayed you,” said Kaij. His sword withdrew into the bond on his hand. He raised a pistol in the other.

“Wait,” Ilsa shouted.

Lemuel rushed toward Kaij.

Too late.

Kaij shot Tirica twice in the chest. Her frame buckled with each impact. Ilsa stared, never doubting the two bullet’s deadly accuracy.

A low rumble shook the lyre from within.

“Good aim, child,” said Tirica in the same odd and amused tone. Her face was hidden by the veil of her hair. The bullets fell onto the lyre’s base, rattling against eternal stone. “But it will take more than that to harm this vessel.”

“You mean—”

“I am Asurdeva, children. You may have stopped my Uzan, for now, but that matters not. You cannot destroy my vessel.”

“What do you want?” Ilsa locked eyes with Tirica as the girl raised her head.

The gaze of Asurdeva was as cold and lethal as Yunn’s ice.

“You will understand, Ilsa. Because you are the work of my greatest disciple.”

First smirked and trained her pistol on Siuku.

Black Powder bowed his head and sank to one knee. “You do me too much honor, master.”

“All glory is mine. But I will share it with my chosen ones. Those marked with my seal upon their souls.”

The brand on Ilsa’s hand burned with sudden pain. It hurt as if the scar was still fresh from the fire.

Her fingers tightened. She glared at Tirica and her father. Last winter she had not believed her mother could see spirits, but now she had to contend with a god just as new to her. With the revelation of the spirits, though, she might have a way to fight back. She had to resist.

“Don’t be afraid, Ilsa,” said Asurdeva. “This is the moment where you’re precious Unification becomes reality. The ripples of my disciples, empowered by your father, will reach out from within. And the bonded will conquer this world at my will.”

First sneered, but made no sound.

Black Powder returned to his feet. “Ilsa, do not fight now. The song you played did more than seal the Uzan, it empowered our bonds. We will complete the work of Asurdeva together.”

She clenched her teeth. “I thought you didn’t believe in Unification?”

“I don’t. Not as can be achieved by mortals.” Her father’s gaze locked with hers. “The war we are about to begin is the triumph all of history has been leading toward since the Three delayed it all those millennia ago.”

Ilsa’s brands glowed with inner light. She dropped the song pistol in her hand and conjured her own guns. The most vital of her instincts were silent, leaving only thoughts to run through her head. Total control of her own body. Total awareness of every heartbeat, every breath, every step as she walked toward Asurdeva and her father.

The others stood, frozen. Kaij screamed from behind her, but the sound seemed far away.

“No lesser bonds will join us. Only the chosen,” said Asurdeva.

Ilsa slipped between the strings of the lyre and approached the place where Tirica stood under Asurdeva’s control.

First’s branded hands glowed with inner light.

Her father reached for her, sleeve falling back to reveal an arm marked by countless brands from palm to elbow. Every one of them glowed in a pattern that signified a spirit bond.

“Don’t fight us, Ilsa,” he said.

She glared into Tirica’s eyes. “Snap out of it,” she said through her teeth. “Tirica, you didn’t agree to this. I know you didn’t.”

“The vessel need not be willing,” said Asurdeva. “All I require is a bond to the spirit to take control.”

Ilsa’s heart pounded.

She raised her pistol and pressed it to Tirica’s forehead.

“That isn’t loaded,” said the god.

“Like it would matter if it was,” said First with a snort. “Give up, kid.”

“A bullet cannot harm the god of weapons. And that,” said Asurdeva, “Is what I am.” She reached for Ilsa and caressed her cheek with her unbonded hand.

Tirica had only one bonded weapon. What would happen if that brand was disrupted? Ilsa’s thoughts ran with the rest of her awareness, ever onward, ever closer to chaos.

Blue’s mental touch plucked the thought gently from Ilsa’s stream of consciousness

Tirica’s hand pressed to her cheek. “You must know the moments when not to fight, child.” Her lips parted in a lurid smile. “Now is the ultimate moment.”

This is the moment.

This is the moment.

The moment to act.

Ilsa lowered her pistol and reached up and gripped Tirica’s wrist. She closed her eyes. “You may be right,” she said. “Please. Show me mercy, Asurdeva.” She tried to fight but her own voice sounded reverent. Unwilling, but obedient.

Asurdeva brushed the hair from Ilsa’s brow with her fingertips. Her other hand rose to cup Ilsa’s face.

“Child, what kind of god would I be if I could not forgive a convert?” Tirica’s forehead pressed to Ilsa’s. Her hands raised over her head, arms spread wide and open.

Ilsa opened her eyes and met Tirica’s, now lit by the glow of the weapon bond from Tirica’s hand.

An arrow flew in silence until it hit the center of the brand with a bloody, painful-sounding, thunk. The light on the brand flickered and went out. Tirica lowered her arms and howled in pain, clutching at her mangled hand.

On the other side of the lyre’s strings, Siuku lowered her bow with deliberate slowness. And the spell of Asurdeva’s will broke as surely as the bond had been broken by the wound torn in Tirica’s hand.

“How dare you, infidel?” roared Asurdeva in Tirica’s voice. “You think you can trap me in this body?”

Siuku and Blue exchanged glances.

“Which one of us are you talking about?” asked Blue.

“If you will not unify in my war, you will perish before me!”

Tirica’s unwounded fist crashed into Ilsa’s stomach with such force, Ilsa’s feet left the stone of the lyre. She flew backward and rebounded from unyielding strings with a cry of pain. A series of shocks ran along her spine.

“Black Powder,” said Asurdeva. “Destroy these mortals.”

Her father raised both hands, a pistol in each fist. “As you command, master.”

Ilsa rolled onto her side and loaded her pistol with a magazine from her belt.

Black Powder and First took aim and began to fire over her head. Screams cries, and return fire answered them.

Ilsa got to her knees and took aim. First saw Ilsa targeting Black Powder and whirled to shoot her. Ilsa threw herself forward and rolled, trading misses with First.

She found her feet behind Tirica and right of her father who’s guns continued to speak. Ilsa and First faced each other down, just a meter away from each other. Pistols found the aim.

“You really are hopeless,” said First.

Ilsa grunted and they each took their shots.

Ilsa shuddered with the sound of the guns so close to her on either side.

First fell to her knees, then collapsed onto the base.

No pain. There was no pain.

“It doesn’t hurt, does it?” First looked up at Ilsa’s from at her feet. “Why doesn’t it hurt?” The woman’s eyes rolled back into her head. Blood ran from the hole in her chest. Ilsa turned to focus on her father.

He raised his eyebrows.

“Looks like she missed,” he said. “First may have been my first apprentice, but she was still just an apprentice.”

Tirica marched across the center of the lyre toward the others behind Ilsa. She could not tell if any of them had been killed by her father’s shots. Her senses narrowed and she focused only on Black Powder.

Then, Tirica reached the strings and plucked them in tune, using the strength granted by the power of Asurdeva.

Reality trembled.

Ilsa and her father still faced each other, just a few meters apart. The battlefield, the flowering ground around the lyre had vanished from view. They stood, surrounded in pure light.

Their weapons were still in their hands.

Father and daughter moved toward their triggers at once.

Ilsa faced Black Powder. Father. She hesitated at the last instant. So did he. Their fingers hovered by the triggers.

He said, “I’ll take no pleasure in killing you, daughter.”

She glared down the barrel of her weapon. Words had always been useless with him. “Even if you kill me, you won’t win. You’re alone in this.”

He shook his head. “Wrong, Ilsa. Asurdeva’s song is everything.”

The notes reverberated within the walls of light that surrounded the lyre. Ilsa gritted her teeth and kept her gun trained on her father. “Why serve this thing? This god doesn’t care about you.”

“And the Three care about you? Ilsa, they abandoned the world. They are worth nothing to humanity.”

“Do your monsters care? They kill without a second of hesitation.”

Her father smirked. “I chose this path, Ilsa. I led you to it, but I can’t save you. You have to do that yourself.”

“What do you think I’ve been doing all this time?” Ilsa’s finger trembled outside the trigger guard. “Your god is using that innocent girl—That girl you tortured, as his slave.”

“A vessel of the divine. Such an honor is more than she could have ever hoped for in her past life.”

“If she was one of your fanatics, you would be right. She is not one of yours.”

“The subject must desire power, or the divine could not manifest.”

“Don’t tell me she gave up her mind by choice.”

“Gave up? No, the process is one of bonding with Asurdeva. Something you will never experience thanks to the Keeper of Tenlyres. Her, I will relish destroying.”

“I won’t give you that chance.”

“Then stop me. If you can.”

She shot first. The bullet deflected off the stock of a shotgun Black Powder drew from his sleeve. The shot made no sound compared to the song Asurdeva continued to play. Ilsa aimed for the knee. The same shotgun’s barrel stopped that shot.

“You’re slow.”

She grunted and twisted her wrist to shoot him in the shoulder. He darted back and the bullet flew into the light at the lyre’s edge. She swung her other hand out and conjured her machine gun. He danced backward and loaded the shotgun with deft hands.

She shot at one hand, but the gun’s whirling steel stock deflected that one too. He dove to one side and sprayed shot at Ilsa. She ducked, but still tasted blood as a trio of pellets sliced across her temple. Red droplets swam in front of her vision, but the pain that went with it simply had to be ignored.

Ilsa slammed the magazine into her machine gun. She circled her father, moving away from the lyre’s strings and the source of the oppressive song. Tirica—Asurdeva—plucked the strings of the lyre with apparent ease. No human hand could manage that much strength. She stood at the center of the lyre, the arrow that had broken the seal on her hand discarded behind her.

“Do not ignore me.” Black Powder’s next blast opened a cluster of small wounds in Ilsa’s shoulder.

She jerked backward but kept her grip on her machine gun. She sent a burst in his direction. Four shots. Two in the air. One on the shotgun. One on his other arm. Blood flew from his sleeve.

On the other side of the strings, Blue and Siuku crawled toward Tirica, keeping their heads down.

She had to make sure Black Powder did not make time for them, even if it meant giving him better chances to hit her. Ilsa aimed high, then low, then targeted his center of mass with the third shot. He avoided every bullet but had to dodge back and duck low.

Siuku crouched across the strings from Tirica and reached out to touch the girl’s leg between the vibrating metallic strands. Blue held the keeper’s other hand. They were going to attempt a mental attack. Ilsa had to give them time to drive out Asurdeva, if they could even come close to fighting the spirit of a god.

She and her father traded shots, both evasive. Ilsa’s wounded shoulder and bleeding forehead began to dog her movements. She darted to one side and he emptied the last shotgun blast into thin air.

Her machine gun spent its last shot in a futile effort. She tossed it away and drew her second pistol. On the run, she loaded the weapon.

The song surrounded her. The light intensified to blinding white. Standing, his silhouette dark against the walls of brightness, Black Powder faced her, a pistol in each hand. He was breathing hard, showing his age.

I have a chance, she thought. If I can exhaust him I can win. She kept evading, shooting.

Asurdeva howled with rage behind Ilsa’s back. The song began to slow.

“No!” Black Powder’s lips drew back in a snarl. “He must not be stopped.”

Ilsa grimaced at him. “If two humans can stop your god, how powerful can he be?”

“Damn you, step aside,” Black Powder’s voice came out as a whisper. He raised both pistols and stalked forward, firing.

One of the bullets blasted through Ilsa’s already wounded shoulder. Lances of pain jabbed down from the earlier spots of damage and toward her chest. The other bullet went over her head.

Ilsa staggered toward him a step and returned fire. Her shot rent the collar of his coat and went out the back. Blood flecked his face and chin. He stumbled for a moment, eyes wild, then charged at Ilsa. His weapons blazed.

But he moved slower now.

She lost one gun to a pair of impacts on its barrel. She dodged to one side, pain flaring in her shoulder and chest. Hot blood ran into her eyes. One of his gun barrel’s snaked out and painfully connected with her jaw. She fell backward and hit the strings beside Tirica. Her world spun as she emptied the pistol into Black Powder, point blank.

Asurdeva’s scream ended. Tirica sank to the ground beside Ilsa. A heavy thump and gasp of escaping breath told her Black Powder had fallen, though she could not focus on anything but the window of sky visible through the center of the walls of light. She sagged down, pain coursing through her.

Siuku and Blue knelt down beside her. Soothing hands began to heal Ilsa’s wounds.

“You’re alive,” said Blue.

“So are you,” Ilsa murmured, still dizzy.

The echoes of the song began to fade. And the walls of light fractured into motes of chaos. She closed her eyes against the glare.

#

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Of Mooks and Monsters Episode 43 – Settling Disputes

This week, Of Mooks and Monsters is back.

Rob and Tim discuss the means of settling player disputes as a game master.

In other news, Tim has three giveaways going. Each one is the fresh opening of a novel in progress. Check them out at the links below.

White Curtain

The Mangrove Suite

Temple Theater

Triple Threat Giveaway

Hey, everybody, I missed my accountability post yesterday for two reasons.

1. It was Mother’s Day where I live. I love my mom.

2. I was actually busy working when I wasn’t doing Mother’s Day things.

That work involved editing and producing three samples of my existing fiction for three giveaways over at Instafreebie.com. Those are all live now, as the triple threat giveaway.

Each of the sections is the opening of a novel I have not yet completed. They will be available until July 15th 2017. After that point, I’ll look at the one with the most downloads and the best feedback, and then I’ll complete the most popular book.

So, without further ado, here are the descriptions for these three stories.

The Mangrove Suite

A story of lost love, and the man who will give anything to restore a memory.
Jethro Gall is a memeotect, one of the specialists who creates shows for the mental networks of his strange near-future world.
When he finds a woman who he once knew, but with her memory erased, he will pursue the truth behind the otherworldly beings that govern humanity, and their ability to remove memories.

This is one of three early samples by Tim Niederriter. Check out the ones that look interesting. The most popular will be the first to be fully produced. The other two samples are entitled “White Curtain Court Mage,” and “Temple Theater.”
Spread the word and enjoy them all.
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White Curtain Court Mage


An empire built on magic. A young plant mage. A rival nation prepared for war.
Edmath has trained for most of his life to become a life mage. When he graduates from his magical academy, the real challenge begins. Separated from his royal lover by their diverging careers, Edmath finds himself caught in the intrigue of court politics.
The machinations of the neighboring nation will push him to the limits as war threatens. He will be driven far to find the truth and to stay alive.

This is one of three early samples by Tim Niederriter. Check out the ones that look interesting. The most popular will be the first to be fully produced. The other two samples are entitled “The Mangrove Suite,” and “Temple Theater.”
Spread the word and enjoy them all.
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Temple Theater


Take the stage or die trying.
Dol once met the girl who would save the world almost nine years ago. He will do anything to protect her, and help her in her mission.
Gods in ill-health witness plays performed by mortals in their temples. Through those plays, mere mortals attempt to sway the minds of beings beyond time. Humans need all the help they can get against the gigantic enemies who appear in the east.
All the worlds a stage. And even the gods are merely players.

This is one of three early samples by Tim Niederriter. Check out the ones that look interesting. The most popular will be the first to be fully produced. The other two samples are entitled “White Curtain Court Mage,” and “The Mangrove Suite.”
Spread the word and enjoy them all.

#
Whew, the links are in the titles of each story.

Also, if you don’t want to scroll back up, here they are again.
The Mangrove Suite
White Curtain Court Mage
Temple Theater.

Thanks for all the support. Share. Share. Share and enjoy!

Thanks for reading.