The Bellinora

She leaned on the Sword, breath ragged.

The place where she was rang hollow and empty, alone. An alone-place. It

by Rahmatozz
by Rahmatozz

would serve.

The Sword hummed and shook, but her grip was sure. Even in exhaustion, even at the edge of night, she would never let it go.

She fell on a stack of tiles, the ceramic crumpled underneath the weight. She folded her body around the Sword, rags falling over her thin form and ash-covered face. Sleep came just as her heart still beat – slowly, painfully, without the promise of rest. It was a thing that happened, easier and easier to ignore.

The Bellinora slept. But the Sword did not.


A group of children passed an empty house, it had been abandoned for several years. They had taken to throwing rocks at it in idle moments, but today the house seemed different. Peter lobbed a pebble absently while Dala and Wrench were clambering over the broken fence. His pebble shattered a snaggle-tooth window, as his bullets had a dozen times before – but something seemed different. A thrill went through his stomach, and Peter felt afraid. As if some great beast had made the abandoned house its lair.

Peter grabbed his friends and dragged them protesting away from the house. His mother had taught him well. ‘Humans can take no chances, Peter’ she had said. ‘Every hand is turned against us. You feel funny or worried, even if you can’t see the reason. You get as far away from it as possible.’

The three human children trotted away from the house, further into their neighborhood, the claptrap shanties and hovels that their race was bound to.

Peter did not mention the house or the feeling of fear. But he did not forget.

[Just a little bit I wrote for my Pathfinder campaign today. I liked it and I haven’t updated blog in a bit so HERE YOU GO.]

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World Map Unlocked!

Or found rather! On my hard-drive. This is a few years old at this point, leftover from my Lodestar campaign. Some of the names have changed in Spell/Sword, and the locations shifted slightly [mainly because a lot of them are from other stories and intellectual properties. Some from homage, some just because I was lazy.]– but for those of you wondering what else is out there in Aufero, here’s a reasonably accurate peek.

Artist - W. Steven Carroll
Artist – W. Steven Carroll

Click to see real honkin’ big version.

No Sound But the Rain

[A little writing I did for a D&D campaign I’m playing in. Always fun to play around with a new character voice. Putting this up here because the blog’s been super quiet lately, also to confirm that I haven’t forgotten how to type.]

Artist - Pavel Kolomeyets.
Artist – Pavel Kolomeyets.

I’ve carried this blank book with me for weeks meaning to begin a journal, but it never seemed like the right time. Now isn’t really a much better time, but I may have no time to do it later so let me begin my chronicle! The two clerics here, a father and daughter, were kind enough to lend me a quill and inkstone – it is one of the few things they have plenty of here, the food and water is quickly growing scarce.

But I’ll get to that in due time! When I come back and read this, I’m sure it will be less annoying if I tell the tale in its proper order. All apologies and contrition to my older self.

Hence the tale begins!

We traveled for weeks from a town of little repute and no particular name. As is common when travelling across the dangerous wilds I and some others bound ourselves into a road-pact. Surprisingly we encountered little danger on our way except rain, mud, and the less than friendly attitudes of my companions.

A quick list: Drake, a noble dragonborn blade. Bulloch, a dwarven adventurer. Lucas, still wearing the motley of his former trade. Rosemary, a young girl of startling arcane gifts.

I found them to be fine pact-friends, if a bit tight-lipped.

Arriving at last in Oldhaven, slogged down the hillside through the last of the muck, eager to dry ourselves in an inn of local repute, the Old Boar. Walking through the streets, something began to bother me. It was late by temple-reckoning, but the streets were completely abandoned and quiet. Nothing but the splash of the rain on the cobblestones. Pushing on into the inn, we were all keyed up for peril, though the danger could not be named.

Bulloch slipped into the inn first, then called us to join. We found tabled and chairs in disarray – signs of a rapid exit and some sort of conflict, but no clear cause. Again, is was Bulloch who shared a tale of another village called Perch that had been completely emptied by marauding goblins.

In short order we barricaded the main door for safety, and turned to a quick search of the premises for survivors or any slight thing that could tell us the tale of these strange happenings. We found several oddments left in the scramble, but no answers — until we found a mortally wounded child hiding on a rafter beam in the attic.

With the grace of Lady Onyx I was able to heal her wounds, and after a time of recovery she finally opened her eyes. I am grateful for the aid of Rosemary and Drake – the fighter’s bulk seemed a comfort to the child, and Rosemary’s young age gave her connection to the girl that also eased her fears. She told us as much as her terrified soul could allow. Her name was Leera, and ‘small, bad things’ attacked and took her family away.

We had more questions but she could not answer them for us. The answers appeared in the form of the sound of shattering glass coming from upstairs.

I had just looked outside the window, hearing another noise – and saw that all of our horses were dead! The culprits soon revealed themselves as filthy goblins poured down from the second floor waving brittle scimitars and gnashing horrible teeth.

In a short but brutal fight, my companions proved their mettle – laying waste to the flood of goblins pouring down into the common room. They bit deep into us, but we did not waver! At last the final goblin fell and I gave what aid I could to the wounded. We were all in agreement – we needed to keep moving.

Oh, I almost forgot! The goblins – they all were covered in blood. Matted in their hair, their lips and teeth caked with it. Goblins are foul creatures, there is no doubt, but this blood madness was beyond any tale I had heard of their savagery.

The rain stopped – perhaps a good omen? – and we moved as quickly through the streets of Oldhaven as vigilance would allow. Rosemary and Drake kept watchful eye on our young charge as we moved towards the only place of safety we could surmise – the Temple of Aventurine in the center of town. Any survivors would surely be there.

At last, we arrived. The stone doors and windows were tightly shut – a clear sign that people were within! I had to risk a true call to make my voice heard through the stone. If no one had been inside it surely would have lead goblins to us – but Onyx was watching over us and the stone door slid open revealing the blessed light of Day inside.

Ah, my eyes grow heavy! We have travelled far and faced great danger – with more to follow on the morrow. We will take what rest we can here in the Temple and pray that in its light we can find the strength to escape and avenge the ravage of Oldhaven.

(I have lost track of the date in our travels, and the clerics of Aventurine are too busy and kind to bother with such trifles, so for now I will date —)
First Night in Oldhaven
Nora Calamochnus

Lunch with a Villain II

We met again, weeks later. Pizza this time, the shadows and red neon of the joint seemed appropriate. He was there first this time, leaning over the counter in whispered conversation with the bearded cook. I don’t know what they were talking about, but the cook clutched his pizza spade as if it was the mast of a sinking ship. The villain spun to greet me, bright smile flashing. He flicked his brown cloak in an unnecessarily dramatic way and left the pizza guy to drown.

“Hey, I got us a pitcher and a pizza with Too Much Goddamn Meat on it. You’re buying.”

I sighed and dug out my wallet.

After paying I slid into the wooden booth. My lunch date had his eyes fixed on the large flatscreen TV on the archway behind me. I noticed that his eyes were no particular color. Was that because I couldn’t remember or because I’d never decided when I wrote him? I stole his hair from May’s Adversary and his nose from an old black and white movie, but his smile was all mine – some bright, shining shark-thing from my interior.

“So, what does it mean to be a Villain?” I asked.

“Shh,” he held his hand up. “Wait until after this play.”

“You don’t know anything about sports. I don’t know anything about sports, so it stands to reason that you don’t either.”

“Ahhhh,” he waggled his eyebrows, line of sight still locked to the TV. “but I can convey a knowledge of sport. Just like I can burn children and fly. You can’t do those things, but you make someone who can. Just the tiniest note on the piano – ‘Our Defense is looking strong’ – and suddenly the reader accepts me as an expert, a true fan. They imagine all the knowledge that you can’t give me and I have it. I’m just an echo chamber.I reflect more light then I emit — HOLY SHIT, THAT FUCKING REF. He had control of the ball! Damn it.”

“Are you done?” I took a sip of the watery yellow beer.

“Never, ever done. That’s what it means to be a Villain,” the brown-cloaked man grinned. “But that’s not what you came here to ask.”

“It is something I’ve been thinking about,” I said defensively. “I think I only write villains – Jonas and Rime included. Some hard-hearted thing, some hatred of everything that shines – I think it comes from younger days, feeling outcast and alone. The good people are the popular, pretty ones – so who wouldn’t be drawn to a life of evil in the halls of Middle School. Anyone who doesn’t understand the darkness in the human heart had a good puberty.”

“Oh, fucking shut up.” the villain leaned forward and took a fistful of my shirt. “Fine, you want to talk? Let’s talk.”

The brown cloak spun and he tossed me through the thick plate glass that separated the pizza joint from the sidewalk. I choked and stammered, my head full of empty vibration. The glass had cut up my left arm, but not too bad. My lunch date stepped through the shattered portal and leered at me. He snapped both fingers and his palms began to shimmer, then burn with a green fire tinged with vomit-yellow.

“Do you remember how to run?” the villain asked.

Judge Me By My Cover – Day 5

Oh, we’re so very close. This is just a line drawing of the final design. I had gotten used to seeing the ‘straight on’ view of the Bride – so when Mike dropped this different perspective in my lap, I was immediately in love. Stay tuned for the final cover reveal tomorrow!

Design Sketch - Mike Groves @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves @poopbird

 

[Sketches for the cover illustration of The Riddle Box, my upcoming novel. I’m showing off the design process and sketches this week before the final reveal of the cover.]

Final Cover Reveal: 7/12

The Riddle Box – Click the link to add to your Goodreads!

Judge Me By My Cover – Day 4

And now we’re back to the ‘bride’ – I was a little bit nervous about not putting Jonas and Rime [Our Heroes] on the cover, but our earlier discussions about a truly ‘evocative’ cover gave me courage. Here are two different versions of the ‘bride’ that Mike developed.

Design Sketch - Mike Groves @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves @poopbird

More of the ‘floating numbers’ from the cover of Spell/Sword – and the appearance of the secret symbol! It’s massively important to the plot of The Riddle Box, and also to other stories beyond for those that have been following since the Lodestar days.

Design Sketch - Mike Groves @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves @poopbird

I don’t know what the flowers are all about – but they look great. I also really started to enjoy how the Bride’s ‘skull’ could read as her literal skeleton or as some sort of creepy mask. Also the decolletage and blood – so tasteful.

[Sketches for the cover illustration of The Riddle Box, my upcoming novel. I’m showing off the design process and sketches this week before the final reveal of the cover.]

Final Cover Reveal: 7/12

The Riddle Box – Click the link to add to your Goodreads!

Judge Me By My Cover – Day 3

And then things got a little weird. As often happens, Mike surprises me with a design that I love, but has very little connection to what we had originally been working on.

Design Sketch - Mike Groves @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves @poopbird

 

Now, I love this illustration. We had some discussions about going with a very evocative image on the cover, instead of something directly related to the plot. The mystery transpires in the Manor of the Heart-Broken Lion in the novel – and Mike really responded to that. We ultimately decided to go back to the original trajectory, but SPOILER ALERT: this sketch will find its way onto the back paperback cover of the book and potentially tattooed into my flesh at some point.

[Sketches for the cover illustration of The Riddle Box, my upcoming novel. I’m showing off the design process and sketches this week before the final reveal of the cover.]

Final Cover Reveal: 7/12

The Riddle Box – Click the link to add to your Goodreads!