The Ramblings of the Titanium Don

Explorations of Conscious Reality Creation and Other Matters

Category: Writing (Page 1 of 3)

What Have I Done With Challenges?

Some challenges are better than others.

As I have mentioned before, the reason why this blog is called The Ramblings of a Titanium Don is due to two reasons. A title I get to assume from the Society for Creative Anachronism (the medieval re-enactment society I’ve been a part of for over 25 years); and the three titanium plates holding together my right clavicle.

Me, NYE 1999/2000. I am in a wheelchair in this picture.

In case you missed this: On the last day of November, 1999, I was struck by a car crossing a street a quarter-mile from home.   I suffered pretty severe injuries to my right leg, right clavicle, and nerve damage to my right arm.  What followed was a year of serious recovery and therapy, and some pretty wicked scars.

Yes, it was a hit-and-run.  No, they never caught the driver.  Now, nearly 18 years later, unless I show you the impressive scars (or you manage to hit the titanium plate with a sword while fencing against me) you wouldn’t know how broken I was.

Important life lessons were learned.

As I was starting my recovery, I discovered that there were three primary ways to live life.

  1. Go with the flow.  Let life live you.  Go about the routine, let time have its way with you and the natural ebb and flow of life carry you along.
  2. Curl up in a ball and wait for death.  Don’t experience life, complain about everything, blame everyone else, pray for the afterlife but mostly avoid this lifetime.
  3. Grab life like the proverbial bull by the horns, and take it for ride.  Make choices, take chances, fight and push and manifest what you desire.

I quickly learned that I preferred option 3.  My recovery surprised and delighted my therapists, my doctors, and my family and friends.  I defied expectations of both the speed of my recovery, and the totality of it.  It was during this period of my life that I came to recognize the power of consciousness creating reality.  I knew only one option.  There was no other choice.  I would walk again normally, I would fence again.  Hell, I would even run again with a fused tibia/fibula in my right leg.

This incident would redefine my life.  Over the course of the next decade and a half I shaped my life philosophy, and majorly embraced conscious reality creation to manifest my desires.  It’s not been without its struggles, and challenges, but it has redefined me in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Using the past to improve the present and future.

Every November there is a wonderful contest called National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo).  The challenge: Compose a 50,000 word novelette in 30 days.  The prize:  The satisfaction of completing such a work.  I have faced this challenge several years, and completed a couple works (such as Vortex Pilgrimage).

In 2006, my second attempt at NaNoWriMo, I was debating what to write.  Several friends suggested that I should write out the story of my accident and recovery.  In particular many of the bits that had become some pretty funny stories years later.  I think we determined it might be an inspirational and humorous read for people.

This took my out of my comfort zone in several ways.  I was working a genre I did not normally do.  At that time I wrote sci-fi and fantasy more-or-less exclusively.  I also determined, because of the nature of the tale, to write in first person.  I normally work in third person perspective.

Most of all…there was a LOT of potential for embarrassment.  Yes, on the one hand I had this amazing recovery going on.  On the other, I was doing some rather uncool things (like cheating on my girlfriend).  How would this be received, not only by those involved in the story (even with the names changed), but by anyone who read it?

The very definition of Crossing the Bridges.

Suffice it to say, I wrote the story out.  I gave it an edit or two, and when I put up my author page, I included it in PDF for download.  When we first started dating my wife read it…and despite my less-than-chivalrous actions portrayed in the story, she stayed with me.

For a long time I have resisted sharing this.  Even though I have been told by several who read it this is one of my best works, I’ve been uncomfortable with taking it to a wider audience.  One reason is because I feared it might actually BE one of my best works.

What’s that all about?  Well, for a long time I was a sci-fi and fantasy writer.  It was these genres in which I most wished to be known.  I had a hard time wrapping my head around the notion of becoming known for anything else.

I am getting over that.  Hence this blog, and hence why I have finally have edited, and subsequently published The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Trip to the Post Office.

A sordid, funny, hopefully inspirational tale.

I hope you will consider getting a copy of my book, read, enjoy, and please review it!  I poured more of my heart and soul into this particular work, and told the story as truly as I could.  As always, thank you for crossing the bridges with me!

 

GOAL LOG – Week 28:

Diet:  Onwards and forwards.

Exercise:  Fencing two days, two days of a single lap around the small lake.  One day with a ton of walking.

Writing:  The three blog posts were done.

Meditation:  Five of seven days last week, never less than 6 minutes.

Gratitude:  I expressed gratitude for 5 things on three days last week.

 

This is the forty-second entry of my personal journey, the Crossing the Bridges series.  My collectively published writing can be found here.

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Thoughts on my Writing

Writing is my passion.

While my favorite things to write are fantasy, sci-fi and Steampunk, I enjoy writing EVERYTHING.  Give me a topic, tell me how many words you want and I will write!

I totally need and want more paid writing gigs.  But I digress.

Over the years I’ve written brochures, blogs, text for websites and many other business-centric pieces.  For a time I even had my own company for this purpose, though its focus was a bit broader.

For the longest time I thought myself a pretend writer.  I had only a couple small works published, I was full of uncertainty.  But now I see that I have always been a writer, and always will be.

Let’s recap, shall we?

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First there were my short stories, A Treacherous Stone, published by Dragon Moon Press in the anthology Rum and Runestones; and then The Vapor Rogues, published again by Dragon Moon Press in the anthology Spells and Swashbucklers.  Both of these anthologies, if you have not read them, are full of stories all about pirates and magic by some pretty awesome authors!

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After these two short stories had been published, I decided to try my hand at self-publishing.  I began with Pathwalking – A 21st Century Philosophy.  This is the first year of my Pathwalking blog, along with some additional bits.  I have been blogging Pathwalking every Wednesday for over 4.5 years, and still going! I am currently exploring offering classes on the topic, and creating a workbook of a sort to go with it.

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I began the fantasy series The Source Chronicles back in 1998.  Along the way I had, for a time, an agent, though this was not his normal line of publishing.  Then the first book – Seeker – was professionally edited.  I continued to seek an agent or publisher, until I decided, nope, time to go this on my own.  I published Seeker – The Source Chronicles Book I at the end of 2014.

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A year later, after completing editing, I published Finder – The Source Chronicles Book II.  Still not sure everyone who purchased Seeker realizes its sequel is available, and I have yet to see any reviews on Amazon.

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The third book in The Source ChroniclesHarbinger – is complete, but unedited.  My current plan is to have THAT one out in 2017.

Over the course of several years, I have participated in National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo).  I have, as such, completed 4 novelettes.  On more than one occasion I ventured out of my usual comfort zone and wrote something different from my regular genres.  One such story was Vortex Pilgrimage.  Influenced highly by the works of Paulo Coelho, I decided in July 2015 to edit and publish it.

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After some things posted to social media over a couple particularly dark days, an idea came to me.  Back into the realm of non-fiction, I wrote a short self-help/holistic short book called Five Easy Steps to Change the World for the Better.  I have this fairly simple idea I felt the need to express and share.

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Five Easy Steps to Change the World for the Better also was my first foray into using Smashwords to spread my work to a broader audience.

Back to fiction, I decided after all the world building that I did for The Vapor Rogues short story, I needed to create more.  So I began a new novel series.  I had completed the first book, and determined to get it edited.  That completed, just in time for the Steampunk World’s Fair I published Clouds of Authority – A Vapor Rogues Novel.  Yes, it’s Steampunk, but it is also full of elements of both sci-fi and fantasy.

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The next book in that series, Clouds of Destiny, is complete, I just need to edit it.

So I have now published a total of six different works, covering several genres.  I blog twice weekly, Positivity on Mondays and Pathwalking on Wednesdays.  I have 2 more complete novels, both in need of editing.

What am I working on now?

Currently I have one editing project and one writing project underway.

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Editing: The first successful NaNoWriMo piece I wrote was a narrative of my experience following the reason why this blog is called The Ramblings of a Titanium Don.  As I mention from time to time, in November of 1999 I was struck by a car while crossing a street (which resulted in my having titanium plates put into my right shoulder).  I wrote about my recovery and my life over the next few years after the accident.  It is fairly humorous, and also a true recounting from my perspective of that time.  It is one of the most personal things I have EVER written, and over the years numerous people have told me THIS is the story I should be publishing.

Well, after years of resisting, I am moving forward with editing The Journey of a Thousand Miles…Begins with a Trip to the Post Office.  The names have been changed to protect people, and rereading this has been an interesting experience for me.  I am unsure just when I will be publishing this, but keep watching.

Writing: For some time now I have been itching to go back to my favorite genre, sci-fi.  I just wasn’t coming up with an idea.  Then, in September of last year, something popped into my head.  Since then I have been writing this epic sci-fi space opera, creating new worlds, alien races, and using several non-traditional characters as well as playing around with some of the standard tropes of sci-fi stories.  I am creating a rich universe with a diverse cast of characters, and it has been a LOT of fun to work on.

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I still have no title for the story, but it’s probably so far on the order of about 350 pages and counting.  Not sure when this will be completed and shared with the world, but keep an eye out for it.

Once I complete editing The Journey of a Thousand Miles…I will either start editing Clouds of Destiny or Harbinger.  Additionally, I need to soon pick up where I left off in Guardians, the 4th book in The Source Chronicles.

So, dear reader, I have two requests of you.  If you have enjoyed any of my works, PLEASE share the links with friends!  Please, if you’ve not done so, take a moment to review on Amazon.  Word-of-mouth is STILL my best marketing tool, and more readers means more people buying my work, which in turn means I can spend more of my time writing, editing and publishing.  As I began, writing is my passion!

THANK YOU!  Thank you for your encouragement, and all your support and inspiration.  THANK YOU!

Available Now: Clouds of Authority – A Vapor Rogues Novel

I am absolutely delighted to announce that my Steampunk novel is available for purchase!

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Clouds of Authority – A Vapor Rogues Novel can be acquired for your Kindle or in paperback.

I am really excited about this series.  While it is primarily Steampunk, I have also worked in elements of sci-fi, Cyberpunk and even fantasy.

This weekend I will be attending the Steampunk Worlds Fair.  On Sunday , May 15, I will be reading a selection from the novel at 10:00am.  I will also be selling and signing copies of the novel as well.

I really think this unique series will speak to a wide audience.  Please read and enjoy – and please review on Amazon if you like it.

Thank you for your continued support!

 

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Coming Soon: My new Steampunk novel, Clouds of Authority

I am very excited about my newest book!

The first novel of my Steampunk series, called The Vapor Rogues, will be coming out in the next few days.  I am particularly excited about this series, because it is, I believe, a rather unique entity.

Back in 2012 I was given my second opportunity to have a short story published.  Like the first that was published in the anthology Rum and Runestones, the topic was pirates and magic.  Since I was newly into Steampunk, I determined that this would make a great background.

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And so The Vapor Rogues came into being, published in the anthology Spells and Swashbucklers.  I spent quite some time building a really elaborate, unique world for this story, mixing together elements of fantasy and science fiction into the wide open mold that is Steampunk.

As an author, I tend to write out my scenes and my story, and somewhere along the way the world comes together.  But with The Vapor Rogues, I laid out a pretty elaborate world in the beginning.

But just one short story in that world was not going to satisfy the work I put into its construction.

So I began the first novel, and Clouds of Authority was born.  I revisited the characters of The Vapor Rogues short, and expanded not only their story, but the story of the world three years after their first adventure.

 

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Clouds of Authority – A Vapor Rogues Novel:

Over eight hundred years ago, war raged across Amasheer.  In an act of unspeakable violence, a chemical agent was unleashed, poisoning the atmosphere.  To contain the spread of the toxin, the magic wielding, dark skinned Maju-Orcericians created a perpetual cloud layer to hold the poison beneath it.  The Maju-Orcericians took as many people as they could to the highest peaks of the world, above the cloud.  The survivors constructed immense floating cities over the next eight centuries, starting new lives and rebuilding the population…and a new era was begun.

But the eight centuries of stability created and maintained by the Maju-Orcericians is faltering.  Technology has changed only very slowly over the years.  The people have been relying on steam, solar and wind for the majority of their power, and dirigibles and biplanes for travel. The scion of an old family line is employing new technologies, and using them to gain control of multiple floating cities.

A young Maju-Orcerician may represent the next evolutionary step of her people.  Unaware of her importance, she seeks her own destiny.

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The prospector crew of the former warship Thunderbolt lead fairly normal lives.  Yet they have in their explorations uncovered secrets from the surface below that could change life for all above the cloud.

The winds of change swirl through the clouds of authority.  The world above the cloud will be forever altered, but no one can predict if it will be for good or ill?

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I have REALLY enjoyed creating and playing in this world.  I think the world I have built for The Vapor Rogues is pretty unique.

What’s different about this Steampunk story from others?

I have worked to blend the Victorian England elements of Steampunk, like the costumes and dirigibles and fantastical steam-powered technologies that never quite got built, with sci-fi elements like cold fusion, floating cities, energy weapons and computer technology, along with the fantasy element of sorcerers wielding unique powers.

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Clouds of Authority is the first book of a planned series.  The second book, Clouds of Destiny, is complete, but as-yet unedited.

Clouds of Authority – A Vapor Rogues Novel will be available for print and Kindle shortly in just a few more days!

 

PS: Special thank you to George LaVigne (for those in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) you know him as Don Orlando Sforza).  I commissioned art work for the cover, and what he delivered exceeded anything I could have hoped for.  Not just one of my favorite fencing buddies, he’s one of my favorite artists, too.

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My next novel

I am in the process of editing my next full-length novel.

This is a follow up to the 2nd short story I wrote that was published in the anthology Spells and SwashbucklersThe Vapor Rogues is my Steampunk/Fantasy story, for which I built a really detailed world.

Stampunkfinal-MW

The world I created was so rich that I felt the need to expand upon it.  As such, I have completed a first novel for a Steampunk series.  Clouds of Authority – A Vapor Rogues Novel will be available in early May.  Further, I will be doing a reading from the novel at the Steampunk Worlds Fair in Edison, NJ on the weekend of May 13th – 15th.

I will be sharing more details about this here, soon, though there is some information on the world (along with some crude drawings and other art) to be found at my Vapor Rogues website.

Here’s the thing.  This is a traditional novel, and will probably be in the neighborhood of 450 or so pages long.  I have come to realize, though, that I could easily split it into two parts and share it that way.

SO, I am asking, as readers, what would YOU like to see?  Please take a moment and fill out this poll:

Thank you for your continued support!

New book – Five Easy Steps to Change the World for the Better

I have an idea.

What would happen if we decided to think before we speak more frequently? Further, this being the 21st century and all, what if we decided to think before we post?

Why? To change the discourse of our society for the better.

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All too often we are inundated with anger, with hate, with negativity. What’s more, we tend to spread it out further by talking about these terrible things and posting about them online.

What if instead we change the conversation to more constructive things? What if we don’t spread our anger across the internet, but instead spread messages of encouragement and hope and love?

That is the entire premise of Five Easy Steps to Change the World for the Better. This short book I have created explores just that – taking five easy steps to think before we speak and post in order to change the course of our world.

Please check it out in Kindle and print format. My hope is that this simple idea can spread and improve things for everyone.

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Musings on writing projects and getting readers

How do I draw in more readers?

I have now published four books. It began with the first year’s worth of Pathwalking, including some extra bits (which largely came from this blog).

The second was Seeker: The Source Chronicles Book I. First in the fantasy series I’ve been working on now since 1998. Due to the nature of the story I targeted it not just to lovers of Fantasy, but to young adults. It is certainly no more violent than many other works for YA out there.

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A little more than a year later I published Finder: The Source Chronicles Book II. I continue the story of The Seeker of the Source, new location and many new characters. Expanding upon a world I’ve been writing in for nearly eighteen years now.

In the middle of these I published Vortex Pilgrimage. Not my normal style, an homage to Paulo Coelho’s style and the notion at least is based on many of my life experiences.

Come May, I intend to publish my 5th book. The first novel to follow the short story I wrote for Spells and Swashbucklers called The Vapor Rogues. This is more time in my Steampunk world, and I am hoping that I will be bringing the book to The Steampunk Worlds’ Fair. This composition will be called Clouds of Authority – A Vapor Rogues Novel.

Beyond these five I still blog every week here – Mondays I present Positivity, on Wednesdays its Pathwalking. All of the writing I do covers a fairly wide range of topics.

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I have more finished books. Harbinger: The Source Chronicles Book III is in fact complete, but unedited. Clouds of Destiny – A Vapor Rogues Novel is also complete but unedited. As I strive to write regularly my main focus has been on a wholly new sci-fi epic, though I am not quite halfway through Guardians: The Source Chronicles Book IV.

Writing. I write. Fantasy, sci-fi, Steampunk, other fiction, self-help or philosophy or New-Age or whatever you’d call my blog posts. I love to work at a job that utilizes me for either business writing or SEO blog and site writing or working on press releases and manuals and anything else that lets me write stuff.

I have the books, now the question is getting them out to a wider audience. I need to figure out how I can spread the word about all of my completed work, and increase my sales. I would love nothing more than to be able to write my novels full time.

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This returns me to my original inquiry – How do I draw more readers? There are book promotion sites out there I can utilize, but they are not free. I can send messages across social media to all of my friends and to the circles beyond. I can use PPC tools with Amazon and Kindle and Facebook to spread the word and draw more sales. It’s not a lack of options as much as picking and choosing where to spend money and convincing my friends to spread the word for me to try to increase my sales.

This is the downside to going the non-traditional route. I am my own publisher, I am my own marketing department. I get to put it all together, and I get to sink or swim based solely on the effort I put forth to make this what I want it to be.

This is the path I want to walk. This is the thing I want to give most of my time to, this is the thing I most want for my life. I want to have a broader audience read and enjoy my work, and I want to be able to spend more time writing and producing those works.

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If you have not done so, please explore my work. Further, if you do, please leave reviews – more reviews become tremendously useful when it comes to Amazon’s metrics. And if you enjoy what I do – please share with YOUR friends, so that I can spread the joy and give my heart and soul to the craft.

Thank you for your continued support!

Finder – The Source Chronicles Book II

Seeker – The Source Chronicles Book I was published by my Argent Hedgehog Press in November of 2014.

It is my pleasure to announce – Finder – The Source Chronicles Book II is here!  The sequel to Seeker is live for purchase.

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Five thousand years ago, a comet was on a collision course with t’Thera. To stop it from destroying life across the planet, all of the wizards and fully realized sorcerers and sorceresses combined their power to arrest its descent, destroying themselves in the process. With their passing, no wizards would rise again, and no sorcerer would ever claim the strength of those lost in The Falling of The Skies.

The Seeker has endured a number of trials, from which he has emerged stronger. Three years after he took part in pivotal events in the Kingdom of Sharron, he has resumed his quest to resolve the prophecy that drives him. The Seeker knows that his destiny is swiftly coming upon him.

In the nation of Vilcarr, The Seeker encounters the last Order of Sorcerers, as well as new allies and new opponents as he feels his destiny drawing him to find the long lost Source. Whatever it may be, The Seeker knows it will change not only sorcery, but the course of all the world. If Order is to overcome Chaos, The Seeker must succeed in his quest and become the Finder of the Source.

Finder – The Source Chronicles Book II is available for Kindle now.  It will be available on book form and for wider distribution soon!

Thank you for all of your support!  Please share with your fantasy loving friends, and please review on Amazon after you read it!

Finder is suitable for Young Adults age 15 and up.

New year, new book. Finder – The Source Chronicles Book II

Seeker – The Source Chronicles Book I was published by my Argent Hedgehog Press.  I know a lot of people enjoyed the book, and have been patiently waiting for it’s sequel.

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The time has come – Finder – The Source Chronicles Book II is nearly here!  I will be publishing Finder next weekend.  You can start off your new year with a good new read.

From the back cover:

Five thousand years ago, a comet was on a collision course with t’Thera. To stop it from destroying life across the planet, all of the wizards and fully realized sorcerers and sorceresses combined their power to arrest its descent, destroying themselves in the process. With their passing, no wizards would rise again, and no sorcerer would ever claim the strength of those lost in The Falling of The Skies.

The Seeker has endured a number of trials, from which he has emerged stronger. Three years after he took part in pivotal events in the Kingdom of Sharron, he has resumed his quest to resolve the prophecy that drives him. The Seeker knows that his destiny is swiftly coming upon him.

In the nation of Vilcarr, The Seeker encounters the last Order of Sorcerers, as well as new allies and new opponents as he feels his destiny drawing him to find the long lost Source. Whatever it may be, The Seeker knows it will change not only sorcery, but the course of all the world. If Order is to overcome Chaos, The Seeker must succeed in his quest and become the Finder of the Source.

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Finder – The Source Chronicles Book II will be available on January 2, 2016. Keep watching for more information!

 

Thank you for all of your support!

Finder: The Source Chronicles Book II – Coming soon!

Despite my best efforts, the release of Finder: The Source Chronicles Book II has been slightly delayed.

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There is a very good reason for this delay. My editor took longer than expected with his edits, and I have to go through them before I release my work into the wild. My goal is to offer a quality product to you, my dear readers.

I don’t want to under or over-estimate how much time I will need, but I do hope I might put Finder out before the end of the year.

In the meantime – this being the holiday season and all – you might want to acquire a copy of Seeker: The Source Chronicles Book I for the reader(s) in your life.

 

Not to leave you with nothing – I am offering here a special sneak preview of Finder: The Source Chronicles Book II. If you ccroll down – you can enjoy Chapter 1!

 

Stay tuned for the completed novel soon!

 

THANK YOU!!

 

 

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Spoilers ahead – Finder: The Source Chronicles Book II Chapter 1!

 

 

 

Have you finished Seeker?

 

 

 

 

Ok, you have been duly warned.

 

 

Finder: The Source Chronicles Book II

Chapter 1

“Is there something I can do for you, m’lord?” he asked calmly, turning in his chair.

He had become acutely aware of the presence of the men from a few tables over, standing behind him now.

The burly man in the lead was huge, all chest and shoulders, over six feet tall. He had a round face, and nearly no hair atop his head. He looked hardened, was covered in grey dust from stonecutting, and wore a stupid grin on his lips. He was obviously drunk as he laughed raucously, and his friends joined him.

They took a step closer.

He continued to sit where he was, making no move at all.

“You’re a stranger to these parts, eh, friend?” asked the burly man, his speech only slightly slurred.

“That would be true enough. Just passing through.”

The man gestured to the sword belted at his side. “That’s a fancy piece of steel yer wearing, friend. Worth a pretty penny, eh?”

“It was a gift,” he remarked in an offhanded manner.

The big man laughed, and his friends joined him again. It was a wicked laugh, meant to cause discomfort.

“A fine ‘gift’ it is, friend,” remarked the burly man. “You a fighter of some sort? One of those pansy swordsmen? I bet you never knew a lick of hard work in yer life, huh?”

He reached for his tankard, affecting a complete lack of concern. “I’ve done my share of laborious work, m’lord. As pleasant as this conversation has been, why don’t you return to the table with your friends, and I’ll buy you all another round?”

With unexpected speed, the burly man knocked the tankard out of his hand. The stranger stood up quickly, turning and facing the much larger man.

“That was unnecessary, m’lord,” he stated calmly.

“And just what do you care to do about it, little man?” asked his assailant, squaring his shoulders.

He didn’t miss the man’s attempt to intimidate him.

“Burke, leave off!” interjected a woman’s voice.

Burke and his friends turned to look, as did he.

She reminded him immediately of one of his closest friends, with her bearing and commanding voice. Her hair was curly ringlets, dark brown, and pulled back into a thick pony tail that hung just below her shoulder blades. Her eyes were brown as well, and the skirt she wore was divided for riding.

He immediately thought her a bit out of place here.

“Stay out of this, Shiara, it doesn’t concern you,” remarked Burke.

She took a step forward. “I do not think you want Valdan banning you from the tavern once more, do you? Additionally, I’m sure Master Arnock does not want to hear about this sort of belligerence again, either.”

Burke growled, “If you weren’t a woman, I’d show you what for!”

“Go ahead, Burke. Care to beat me like you beat your wife, before she left?”

As Burke made to advanced on her, the stranger quickly put himself between them.

“It’s not very nice to assail a lady, m’lord Burke,” he said calmly, putting some menace in his tone.

Glancing back over his shoulder, the stranger noted that she had been preparing to grab a dagger from her belt. “Besides, I don’t think you want her gutting you in front of your friends.”

Burke glared at him. “You think I should be afraid of a woman? Do you plan to be her protector?”

The stranger turned his head and looked at the woman called Shiara, her arms crossed, head tilted just slightly to the left, looking between them. “I do not believe that any woman should be spoken to in that manner, m’lord. You should probably go now.”

“Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is, stranger?”

“Do you have some sort of wager in mind?” he asked, his tone even.

Burke chuckled evilly. “No wager. Fight me.”

“You don’t approve of swords,” he remarked.

The burly man threw back his head and laughed. “Real weapons, friend. Staffs.”

“I have a walking stick I suppose will do,” the stranger said, putting a note of discomfort into his voice.

Burke gestured with his head. “Outside. Now.”

“Alright, then. If that’s the way you want it.”

Burke laughed drunkenly once again and called to his friends, who went out the door with him.

The woman, Shiara, approached the stranger. “My lord, I do not think you know what you are in for. Burke has been regional quarterstaff champion in the New Year’s Planting Games for ten years. And he is a real killer.”

He looked to her, and noted her sincere concern. “I’ll have to be careful, then.”

Lord Valdan, a short, thin man with a well trimmed beard and brown hair was the owner of the King’s Highway Tavern and Alehouse. Lord Valdan wore a scowl on his face as he passed the six foot long walking staff to the stranger.

The stranger went out the door, Shiara at his side.

It was early in the spring, a few weeks into the new year. The grass around the tavern and the rolling fields was a light green, and coming back to life. The scant trees that were visible from time to time along the roadside were just beginning to return to bloom.

Burke and his friends waited. Burke’s staff was eight feet long, as opposed to his six footer.

Burke spun his quarterstaff lazily, as the stranger leaned upon his own walking stick affecting discomfort.

“You’re up for a beating, I hope,” remarked Burke. His friends burst into laughter.

The stranger made a show of removing his scabbard and blade, and offered them to Shiara. “My lady, if you would do me the honor of holding onto my sword?”

She accepted, but wore a concerned look. “Careful, my lord. He is very drunk. He is vicious when he is drunk.”

The stranger nodded his head in response, and stepped over towards his opponent, taking up what appeared to be an unpracticed stance.

The patrons and staff of the tavern joined them, watching uneasily. Burke was laughing as though he had not a care in the world, spinning his staff, making ready to assail his opponent.

“Are you prepared to fight, stranger?” the burly man asked, mocking.

“Aye,” he replied uneasily, making it clear that he was uncomfortable.

Burke put on a serious look, and took up a stance.

It was then that the stranger decided it was time to stop playing, and altered his own stance, obviously appearing far more competent and confident.

Burke didn’t miss this, and looked uneasy, but advanced with a growl, swinging.

The stranger ducked, and in a blur of motion, butted the end of his staff into the larger man’s gut.

As Burke grunted, the stranger smacked him in the side of the head with first one end of the staff, then came around and hit the other side. Finally, he spun his staff, butting it with deliberate force into Burke’s nose.

The big man’s eyes teared, rolled up into his head, and like a mighty tree he collapsed backwards onto the ground.

The stranger spun his staff easily, then paused in a ready stance, making certain the man did not stand again.

The patrons and the employees of the tavern cheered as he planted an end of his pole into the ground, and eyed Burke’s friends.

“Anyone else?” he asked.

Burke’s companions grunted, grumbling and shifting uneasily in his gaze.

“Why don’t you take your friend here, and give him a hand? He’s going to be very sore when he comes to, his nose is certainly broken, and the hangover he will awaken with will be rather awful.”

They advanced to pick up Burke, and as they reached him, the stranger took a step closer, thumping his staff on the ground to get their attention again.

“Tell your friend he should stop assailing travelers. You never know just what you’re up against…appearances can be deceiving.”

They nodded their heads and lifted Burke, carrying him to a cart beside the tavern. The burly man was already moaning as he was jostled.

The stranger watched them go, then went over to Shiara.

She still looked surprised, as he grinned at her. “Could I have my sword back, please, my lady?”

She nodded her head, handing back his weapon to him.

“My lord, I think you taught him a much-needed lesson in humility Burke will not soon forget. You were magnificent.”

“Thank you, my lady.”

She bowed her head formally to him. “So, stranger, you’ve had quite the afternoon. You have defended my honor, but I did not catch your name.”

He bowed slightly at his waist to her, as he’d been shown. For some reason, he decided to be formal. “I am Lord Cam Murtallan, my lady. And you are?”

“Lady Shiara Bornull.”

Cam took her hand, and gently kissed it.

“A pleasure to meet you, my lady,” he said.

She smiled again, blushing slightly. Cam was pleased to note he had indeed learned a thing or two over the past several years living and working among nobles.

“I think I should like to finish my meal,” he continued. “Would you care to join me?”

“I’d be delighted,” she replied.

Remembering the manners he had been taught, Cam offered her his arm, which she took. Together, they walked back into the tavern.

“My Lord Cam, my apologies,” stated Lord Valdan, bowing his head ashamedly. “I am so sorry you had to do that. I do not approve of those ruffians behavior, and I never know from day to day…”

“It’s alright, my lord,” replied Cam, interrupting him. “The exercise has only reinvigorated my appetite. Please, bring Lady Shiara here whatever she would like, and I’ll complete my meal. Hopefully, Burke and his friends have learned a lesson, and will be less trouble during their next visit.”

Lord Valdan uttered his thanks, and took Cam’s staff. Valdan nodded his head towards Shiara before departing. Cam noted the intense respect the innkeeper had for the lady as he led her back to his table.

They talked for hours, after Irvarra, the serving girl, brought Cam a new hot plate of food, a look of awe never leaving her face. Clearly, no one had been capable of putting the bully in his place until now.

The conversation was very simple, as Cam told of the political happenings on the next continent, often omitting details that were too personal, or that he was directly involved in.

Shiara was telling him about the local Duchy, and the political system of the nation of Vilcarr.

“The Duke, hereabouts, is inactive. He and his family were exiled here, after he plotted along with his son and another Duke to embezzle moneys from the royal treasury of King Arion,” she paused and took a drink of the ale she had before her. “As punishment, he was spared his life, but banished to the countryside.”

Her narrative took on another tone. “It was a stupid plot, that would never have worked, and he was a part of it based on bad advice from another Duke, who was executed for his part in the plan. No titles were stripped, but the Duke’s family could only tithe what they needed to survive.”

“Interesting,” remarked Cam, not missing the grief in her tone. He decided to broaden the scope of the topic. “A lot of intrigue in the court of King Arion?”

She shrugged. “From what I hear, no more than in any other royal presence, and all that was over ten years ago. Nowadays, he’s got far better control. He’d only been on the throne a few years at that time. He has made a lot of changes from the rule of his predecessor, his uncle.”

Cam nodded his head, making mental notes. He looked out the nearest window, and observed that night had come as they’d supped. “It’s getting late. I should offer to arrange to put you up here for the night, or at least escort you home.”

She grimaced a moment, but it turned into a grateful smile swiftly. “My home is not too far. I would be delighted to have an escort. That’s very gentlemanly of you to offer.”

Cam laughed, his mind flashing back only a few years. He gestured the tavern keeper over.

“I’d like to settle my bill, Lord Valdan.”

The innkeeper looked at Shiara a moment, and waved Cam off. “No, my lord, ‘tis on the house. You did me a service today by dealing with Burke and his companions. It’s the least I can do.”

Cam nodded his head gratefully. “I could not let a lady be so insulted, but I thank you Lord Valdan.” He placed down several silver pieces. “For your excellent service, and that of Irvarra.”

Lord Valdan bowed to Cam, then to Shiara. Cam retrieved his staff, and followed Shiara out.

They went towards the hitching post, and she unhitched a strong looking stallion. The night air was crisp, but not chill. The stars shone brightly.

“Where is your mount, Lord Cam?”

“I have none,” he replied. “I am in no hurry, and prefer my own feet.”

“Truly? Well, I do not think Fleetfoot here will mind if we walk,” Shiara concluded, gesturing to her horse.

“Very well,” replied Cam.

They set off down the road, Cam’s staff over his shoulder. The moons were giving off enough light to make visible the road immediately before them. They were silent, for a while. Cam cleared his throat.

“So. You’ve been exiled out here ten years, eh?”

She stopped abruptly, and turned. “What makes you think I am related to the Duke?”

Cam grinned slyly. “My Lady, one of my closest friends is a Queen. You carry yourself in a way that screams nobility. Am I mistaken?”

She sighed, then laughed lightly. “No. I should not have thought I would be able to keep it from you. Besides, you would have become suspicious when we reached the estate.”

“Too late to pass yourself off as a mere servant,” Cam concurred.

“Without a doubt,” remarked Shiara crisply.

“The Inn is a part of your Duchy, then?”

Shiara sighed. “Aye. Lord Valdan is a good man. Probably our finest tenant, really. He owns the inn, we own the land. His rent is terribly low. Part of the King’s orders, along with our exile.”

“Your father was exiled…but what about you?”

She sighed again, and Cam found the tone almost musical. “My father wanted his family together. So we were sent with him. The King was sympathetic to him, because I was twelve, my brother seventeen. My mother had died a year earlier, which devastated my father. Certainly the main reason he took such bad advice. She handled the finances – she was the brains of the family. My brother…well, he is another story.”

She shook her head, silent a moment longer. “My father died two years ago. He drank himself to death. My brother, by default, became the acting Duke. But he had fallen in with a crooked merchant, made some ludicrous and repugnant choices, and has been on the run ever since. So I remain here, managing my family affairs.”

Shiara looked at Cam. “So, you know who I am. You mentioned the political situation in Sharron and Medaelia, your association with the royalty there, but not your part in it. I know you have held back. So, tell me, how did you get involved in it all?”

Cam paused, collecting his thoughts. Perhaps the most valuable lesson he’d learned over the past several years was discretion. “It’s…complicated. I need to go back a ways to explain.”

Cam began his narrative. “When I was a boy, I watched the Medaelians invade Anaria. My father was killed in his field, my mother raped and beaten. We went to the capital in search of her family, but they, too, had been killed in the invasion. My mother died soon after, and I grew up alone on the streets of Aldara. There I learned to fight with a staff, to survive.”

Shiara chimed in. “Explains why Burke did not fare well against you. He had no chance.”

Cam grinned slyly. “I wasn’t worried, no.”

“So, you grew up an orphan in a war-torn land? How did you get out?”

Cam paused a moment. “I…became fascinated with tales of ancient cities, from before the Falling. I learned to read, and studied all kinds of books. I traveled all over the continent, for years, looking for artifacts and treasures. I made a mistake when I reached Sharron, and was imprisoned for it.”

“What kind of mistake?” Shiara asked.

“That is a lengthy story, for another time.” He let that hang a moment, then continued. “Meanwhile, Princess Lyrra-Sharron, over a misunderstanding, was leading a rebellion against her father. She and her rebels, to make a statement King Varlock-Sharron could not ignore, saved me from the noose. I joined them, for a time, recovering my strength until I figured out the truth of the misunderstanding…and sought out the King.”

“After he had sentenced you to death? That is bold. If not somewhat foolish,” remarked Shiara.

Cam laughed. “Aye. But the civil war would’ve let Wilnar-Medira tear Sharron apart. I wasn’t going to let that happen again. Not after what he did to my country.”

Cam paused, then continued. “I managed to convince Varlock-Sharron that he could end Lyrra-Sharron’s rebellion without further bloodshed. I went with the King to confront the princess…as it turned out, he was able to turn her from her course, and send her to Penkira, to deal with Wilnar-Medira personally.”

“As reward for my actions in ending the rebellion without bloodshed, I was raised to the nobility of both Sharron and Medaelia. I served as an advisor to both monarchs…until they felt the need to send me here, as an ambassador. Besides, I discovered things in their libraries that have led me to believe I may find some artifacts here.”

Shiara made an indelicate sound. “Doubtful, Lord Cam. When Pallantir overtook the Nortamian continent, he looted it most thoroughly, creating quite the private collection, rumored to be somewhere on the Estarian continent…if the scholars of Afpar’s universities are to be believed. There is little here, I suspect, for you to find.”

Cam nodded his head. “Perhaps. But much was lost after The Falling. Time will tell.”

They were silent a while, as they walked over a low hill, and began to approach a large and impressive estate before them.

The architecture was slightly different from what Cam was used to in Gara-Sharron, Penkira, and the towns and villages of Medaelia and Sharron. An estate such as this would normally be two or three stories tall, and almost certainly fenced in. By-and-large, it would also be constructed of wood and stone.

Shiara’s mansion had no fence, except near the stables, and was only a single story, though it covered a large expanse of land. Cam was also not used to seeing so much brick and stone, and so little wood in the construction. He still found it to be an impressive building.

They walked to the stables, where Shiara gave her horse to a handler waiting there. They continued together to the doors at the side of the home, where light poured out.

“Well, then, my lady, I have brought you home safely,” remarked Cam. He found he was feeling strangely unsure of himself.

“Indeed, Lord Cam.” She paused a moment, before continuing. “I do hope you will not take this the wrong way, but would you accept my hospitality, and spend the night here? There are plenty of spare bedrooms, and I can have the servants prepare one forthwith.”

Cam looked up at the stars. It would be a cold night, and they had traveled nearly a mile off the main road. Still, he was feeling awkward, but did his best not to let that show. “I would be glad to accept, my lady. In fact, I’d be a cad to refuse such an offer.”

She smiled, and gestured for Cam to follow her in.

Cam decided he had made his first friend in this foreign land. His personal mission would continue once his business with the King was complete.

*****

In a cave lit by an eerie blue light, they sat.

They were gathered in a circle, all wearing dark cloaks with hoods drawn up. Before them, a giant shimmering blue orb gave off a ghostly glow.

The twelve looked into the orb. Each had given of their power to create it. Each saw something different within the shimmering glow.

Sorcerers. Allowed to practice openly, they gathered together here, to share what knowledge they had, and to observe what they could. They lived apart from the rest of mankind. They lived, to their minds, above the rest.

Every one of these twelve felt a disturbance. Something was not right. Things across the world seemed amiss. Something unexplainable was afoot.

It all began over three years ago, when they sensed a shift in the energies that drove their powers.

Something of great consequence was at hand. Something was about to shake the very foundations of the world. And the sense of this was only growing stronger by the day.

The number assembled did not matter. Sometimes more, sometimes less, they came here. They would come to ponder, to observe, together, apart from those beneath them, who could not nor would not understand, the world around them.

They watched now, knowing something was happening. What it was, and how it would affect them, they could not be sure. But no one doubted that life on t’Thera was about to change.

 

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