Quote of the Moment

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." - T. S. Eliot

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Chapter 2

DISCLAIMER: This is rough draft material. Don't be surprised if you fall into plot holes, trip over inconsistencies, and get hit in the head with direction changes. I've done my best to read through several times before posting, though, to make sure most spelling and grammar errors are corrected. Any constructive comments are welcome for when I revise this novel. Thank you for reading!

All current and previous chapters for Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession can also be found on Wattpad. And for an easy to access list of all chapters that have been posted to Born to Write, please visit the Table of Contents.

A new chapter is planned to be posted to Wattpad every Friday, and that chapter will then be posted on Born to Write on the Saturday after.

Chapter 1

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Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession

Chapter 2

Damian wasn't sure what to make of this new girl. True, she wasn't raised within these walls, but no other dedicant coming from the outside acted as she did. How had she passed the tests? She seemed too willful to become a Guardian.

The tests were only part of it, though. Anyone could give the right answers if they were so inclined--the final vetting took place here, and it was his responsibility as her mentor to decide whether she had the mettle.

He studied her back, straight black hair falling to her waist--clearly where she got her namesake--entranced by the portal nearest her. Her demeanor during the tour of the inside was a definite mark in the no column. However, he couldn't fault her for latching onto the sight of the gates. Everyone felt the pull of them, and some of the new dedicants had to be dragged away after seeing a portal for the first time.

Obsidian seemed to look at it differently, though. He couldn't put his finger on it, but she still seemed more aware of her other surroundings, not fully caught up in the magic. Still drawn. Not consumed. And the portals had a way to consume even the most determined dedicants. They'd lost a few to madness over the years, according to his parents. He'd never witnessed such a sight--he didn't want to either.

All of those thoughts weren't what bothered him most. No. She intrigued him. Something inside of him stirred when she smiled up at him--a desire for something other, something more than his cloistered life had allowed him. And such a desire could get him into trouble, steer him off of the proper path, following the precepts laid down by the Guardians. It could cloud his judgment when the time came to give his decision on whether she should move from dedicant to full Guardian.

But he had years before he had to worry about that. Why was he fretting now? He'd disciplined himself to not allow his mind to wander, and here he was, following paths, wondering what ifs that had no meaning in the present.

The past is gone and the future unclear--neither hold value over this moment.

Damian shifted from one foot to another, unable to bring himself to break Obsidian's gaze on the portal. He'd have stood there watching her back, stray hairs getting tossed about by the breeze, if she didn't turn to him, ending the enchantment on her own.

"Where to next?" The smile made her face shine.

He didn't answer her at first, merely observed her radiant features, in awe that she so readily dropped the connection to the gate. Like someone who had grown up around them, grown used to their presence, knew how to quench the desire. Like him.

"Is everything all right, Damian?"

He'd pondered too long. This girl had him thinking and wondering more than he had since he was a child. "Sorry, yes." He clasped his hands behind his back. "It's a bit of a hike to the center, but it's time to present yourself to the Council."

Her smile faded. "Already? I didn't think I had to do that until after my studies were complete, when they make the final decision on whether I'm to become a Guardian or not."

"They see all new dedicants upon their arrival. Tests and Guardians in the field can only assess so much--the council members have a tendency to see things that may have been missed." And if they saw what Damian did, she'd be turned out immediately. No reason to worry about his future decision, just as the precept dictated. Why fret over something that may never happen?

But part of Damian hoped the Council would miss what he saw, would approve of Obsidian as she was, so he'd get to know her better, have time to unravel the puzzle that stood before him. It was a hope that went against too many of the precepts. He knew it would be better for him and everyone within the House of Portals if she no longer graced the halls. But he didn't want to accept that.

A couple hours with this girl, and his mind was addled. She had him not thinking straight, not thinking proper. It was as if she carried a magic of her own. Like the portals.

"Well, then," Obsidian said. "Let's go."

Damian nodded, afraid to open his mouth. He had to stop thinking so much.

She walked by his side as they made their way to the central building, weaving around the gates. Knowing the path around the portals better than the lines in the palm of his hand, he was able to watch her, taking occasional glances so she wouldn't catch him staring. And what he saw unsettled him even more.

Most dedicants would gaze at each gate they passed, feeling the tug of each and every one of them, trying to listen to the call. But Obsidian looked straight ahead, likely at the council building, ignoring arch after arch.

And she slowly changed from the person he greeted at the door and guided around the main building. She stood up straighter, her chest more prominent under her white blouse, and her pace became smoother, as if she was gliding, her multi-colored skirt shifting with her step like it was part of her.

No hint of a smile played on her lips. She wore the stern and confident look of a Guardian, not a mere dedicant. If possible, her eyes grew darker, full of power.

In this shift of bearing, Damian saw the woman that had been hiding underneath the girl. And now he wondered which facade was her true form. He walked next to a shapeshifter--the change seemed so distinct that that was all he could think of to describe it. The puzzle only grew more complicated with this revelation.

She didn't speak a single word on their trek. No more endless questions, no more prying into his personal business. The bored look she had during the tour had been replaced by pure determination. This was a woman who had what it took to be a Guardian. Or so much more.

They reached the council doors, and Damian opened them, motioning her inside. "After you."

"Thank you." Obsidian stepped inside and vanished into the shadows.

He took a deep breath and followed her in.

The council building was designed much like the main one. It was circular, a hallway, which included several chairs along the walls for those waiting for a meeting, wrapped all the way around the circumference. They had to walk halfway around the circle to reach the entrance to the central council chamber.

Bear stood guard at the door, a middle-aged Guardian who Damian disliked. He'd overstepped his authority with his parents on more than one occasion, which is why he now was stuck with the boring duty of watching the council room door.

"Greetings," Damian said. "I'm here to present Dedicant Obsidian to the Council." He'd prefer not to be civil with this man, but he ranked higher. Those below must respect those above.

"It's about time you got here. You shouldn't have dallied." Bear opened the door and sneered at them as they walked past.

Damian had only done as was expected of him--no dallying involved. He suppressed the desire to accidentally tread on Bear's foot in passing. His name suited him all too well.

They entered the stuffy meeting room, no windows to allow the breeze in. The worst room in the House of Portals. And the last time Damian had been here was during his own raising from dedicant to Guardian. It was torture then, unsure if he'd be accepted or tossed out of the front doors to deal with the entirety of Nect on his own, the stuffiness had made him feel like he was choking.

The five council members sat on the other side of the room behind a long desk, shuffling through papers. He didn't know how they could stand to be shut in this room for extended periods of time. Perhaps they'd gotten used to the sense of claustrophobia.

"Ah, perfect timing." Councilwoman Liss stood from her seat in the middle and beckoned to them. "Guardian Damian, you may stand off to the side, back by the chairs. Dedicant Obsidian, please stand before us." She sat back down.

Obsidian didn't hesitate. She glided across the room, situating herself before the now intent council members, papers before them forgotten. It was as if all five gazes bolstered her strength instead of making her quiver as they should. She bowed her head in respect. "Welcome to the House of Portals," Liss said. "You wish to become a Guardian, Obsidian?"

"I do."

"Why?"

Such a simple question, but one easily stumbled over. Damian was never asked--he was born here, and he was expected to follow in the footsteps of his parents. And he was raised with the need to help fulfill the precepts, to protect all gates from the commoners. No good would come if someone found a way to open one, if they didn't go crazy first.

"To maintain the order set down by all Guardians before me," Obsidian said. "To protect those in Nect who cannot protect themselves from the magic." Words expected of a dedicant, but the strength was in the delivery. She spoke with conviction, as if it was an affront that the question even had to be posed of her.

An amazing transformation indeed. The caterpillar who had chattered in his ear existed no more.

The five council members watched her, gazes boring deep into her soul, looking for any twitch, any indication that she wasn't sincere, that she might crumble in her attempt. Damian was just glad they weren't looking at him like that--it had been all he could do to stay firm when they did the same to him at his graduation.

Liss turned her stare to him, as if she had heard his thoughts. "And you, Damian? You've spent a short time with Obsidian. Any observations? Do you think she belongs here?"

Acid climbed up his throat. Her gaze was hard enough to bare, but he hadn't expected to answer such questions. This was his first time as a mentor, having only become a Guardian a year ago. And how should he answer?

He should tell them what he'd seen. A silly, giddy girl who didn't seem to be serious enough for the task. Then the metamorphosis, as she shifted right before his eyes, preparing to show her best face to the Council. Yes, he should tell them.

Obsidian looked across the room at him. He tried to find pleading in her eyes, but there was none, only a distant consideration. Her fate was in his hands, sooner than he expected it to be, and she didn't feel the need to beg for his blessing.

Damian swallowed the bile pooling under his tongue. "As you see here, she'll make a perfect Guardian." His heart thudded in his chest, faster and harder than he'd ever felt it beat before. He'd just lied to the Council. Well, a lie of omission. Surely the woman before them would make a perfect Guardian.

But he couldn't push down the need to learn more about her, to figure her out, to discover just what it was about her that made his mind unravel. To discover her magic.

The truth in all things.

Didn't that also mean he should find the truth about Obsidian? He had to convince himself of that, or he'd have to admit that he just took the first step in the opposite direction of the precepts.

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Chapter 3 - To be Posted on Saturday, August 8 (Link here will be edited in once posted.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Magic Is Reality, Reality is Magic: Lughnasadh

Magic is Reality, Reality is Magic is a series that highlights aspects of religions, particularly Paganism. We pull things from everyday life to use in our fiction. Magic is one of the key attributes of fantasy. Why not explore the realm of magic that many people already have in their lives?


Picture By David Monniaux
Lughnasadh, also called Lammas (which at times I prefer to use simply because I almost always spell the former incorrectly), lands on August 1 and is the first harvest festival of the year. It's also a sabbat that honors the god Lugh. Harvest time has always been important--a representation of fertility and the success of growing food needed to sustain everyone for another year. This is the grain harvest, such as wheat, corn, and barley. Living where I do, I can see the rows upon rows of corn ready to be harvested soon!

It's a time to feast on all the harvest that has been brought in already; grains, fruits, and vegetables. And corn tends to be at the top of the list, since it's found in so many places. Some of the corn can even be used to make a Corn Dolly, to be used as a fertility charm and a ritual centerpiece. Alcohol made from grains, like whiskey, as well as bread, are also used in the festivities. Perhaps bake up a tasty batch of cornbread. Yum!

Aside from what I mentioned above, symbols of Lughnasadh include roosters and many things associated with threshing grains, like threshing houses and even carrying a bride over a threshold. And to keep up with the importance of corn, you can use popcorn to make strings of decorations for the celebration.

Of course I've only touched on information about this sabbat, so I encourage you to explore a bit further if it interests you. And here are some websites to start with: Lughnasadh, All About Lammas (Lughnasadh), and Lughnasadh - Overview.

Further Reading Suggestions:

Franklin, Anna and Paul Mason. Lammas: Celebrating the Fruits of the First Harvest. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 2001.

I hope you found this tidbit interesting! If you would like me to touch on a particular topic that fits in this series, please don't hesitate to contact me with suggestions.

NEXT UP:
Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Chapter 2 (Saturday, August 1)
What's In A Name? (Wednesday, August 5)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Chapter 1

DISCLAIMER: This is rough draft material. Don't be surprised if you fall into plot holes, trip over inconsistencies, and get hit in the head with direction changes. I've done my best to read through several times before posting, though, to make sure most spelling and grammar errors are corrected. Any constructive comments are welcome for when I revise this novel. Thank you for reading!

All current and previous chapters for Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession can also be found on Wattpad. And for an easy to access list of all chapters that have been posted to Born to Write, please visit the Table of Contents.

A new chapter is planned to be posted to Wattpad every Friday, and that chapter will then be posted on Born to Write on the Saturday after.

Prologue: Resolution and Novel Blurb

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Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession

Chapter 1

Obsidian clutched one side of the heavy wooden chest, insisting on helping the coach driver who transported her. After all, nestled at the bottom, waiting to be discovered, was her portal book. And she didn't want it to be found. Oh, no. If the Guardians knew it existed, not only would it disappear, she would too. They took their duties too seriously.

Sid had made it this far, showing that she was willing to give her life to become a Guardian herself. The tests had been passed, her and her family scrutinized, and now she wrested her chest off the back of the coach in front of the House of Portals, a dedicant, eager to learn.

To learn how to read the book she had found six years ago.

The chest thudded on the ground, and Sid sat on it, muscles in her legs and arms throbbing.

"There you go, miss," the coach driver said. "Shall I knock for you?" He pointed to the ornate double doors in front of them, the decor of its frame similar to the arch of the gate she had found on her family's land. It even had the ancient script at the top.

Sid wondered if it was the word for house. Or perhaps Guardian. Oh, or portal. She hoped it didn't mean doom. "No. Just going to catch my breath, then I'll knock straight away. Thank you kindly for the smooth journey."

It had been smooth, but sleepless. She couldn't believe she'd finally attained her goal. For the most part. It was only a matter of time before she knew every word of that ancient language. Then she could open her gate.

The driver stared at her for a moment, perhaps unsure what to make of her, then shook his head and pulled himself up behind the horses. Soon his existence was nothing but dust kicked up by the horses and the wheels.

Sid not only wanted to catch her breath, but revel in her accomplishment, to take in the beauty of the House of Portals. And enjoy her last bit of freedom, since she didn't know when she'd be allowed to step on this side of the threshold again.

Perhaps the word meant prison.

Best not to think such dark thoughts, especially when she was about to pass through those doors. Now wasn't the time to doubt, to question her goal. She'd had six years to change her mind, and she'd been unwavering. Then why did she feel like she'd swallowed an egg? One that hatched inside of her, releasing a chick to scratch around her insides. Ugh.

Knock, Sid. Just knock on the stupid door.

She stood, fist poised over the engraved wood. Such beautiful carvings, ones that if she looked hard enough gave the hint of telling a story. The story of all the Guardians who gave their lives over to protect the portals.

The doors swung open. Magic, it had to be. They knew she was here, hesitant to enter, and whatever magic soaked the gates had seeped into the walls of this place and sensed her presence. The magic wanted to suck her in, sure as the gate on her family's land had all those years ago.

A figure stepped out of the shadows and under the arch.

Sid released a shuddering breath. No magic. Just a Guardian. Well, she thought he was a Guardian. He couldn't be more than a few years her senior, though. Slim and willowy, he stood about half a foot taller than her. His light brown hair brushed his eyelashes and thin, metal-rimmed glasses perched on his nose.

She wished she could see his eyes better, but the reflection from his lenses half hid them. His full lips needed a smile--it would truly light up his face and make him rather handsome, but he only offered her a stern, straight-lipped look.

Yup, had to be a Guardian. Guardians were too damned serious.

"Obsidian?" he asked.

"That's me. But you can call me Sid."

He raised an eyebrow, so precise and effortless that Sid thought he may have practiced the maneuver in front of a mirror. "Sid? That sounds like a boy's name."

Rude. "Well, it's my name. No one else has ever had a problem with it." If all of the Guardians were like this one, she'd have to summon all of her restraint not to go off on them. It would be worth it, though. She needed the knowledge. Right?

"No matter." He motioned forward with his hand and two more people came out of the shadows. "These two dedicants will take your trunk to your room. Please follow me, Obsidian." He turned and disappeared back into the shadows.

Sid hesitated. She didn't want her belongings out of her sight. Would they go through her trunk to make sure she didn't bring anything with her she shouldn't have? She hoped not.

The Guardian peeked his head back out. "I assure you, nothing will happen to your things. Please, come."

She glanced at her trunk, imagining the book wrapped up in a cloth all the way at the bottom. If only she knew magic so she could hide it, so no one could find it even if they sifted through her items. But she didn't, and she couldn't. She'd made it this far, and she wouldn't let her fear of discovery stop her now.

"Coming." Sid stepped over the threshold--a wave of power swept over her, and she swayed. She looked back at the door, wondering if she'd actually stepped through a true portal, into another world. No, that was silly.

The two dedicants walked through carrying her trunk on either end, nearly slamming into her.

She side-stepped to get out of their way. "Sorry." She then turned to catch up to the Guardian, yet her surroundings made her pause again. Two sets of spiral stairs led upwards, the dedicants with her trunk maneuvering up the one on the right. From what she could tell, there were at least two levels leading up. In between the staircases was a door, larger, but just as ornate as the one she had stepped through. And another ancient word etched at the pinnacle.

The entrance she stood in was open, the ceiling high and ending in a dome. Someone had painted a beautiful mural on the dome, one that she could spend days studying and still not be tired of the view. A round world, likely Nect, shone in the middle, blues and greens made with a reflective paint to draw the eye. Surrounding the world were six gates. And a chain connected each gate to the world in the center. Flora laced the gates, different for each one.

"Are you coming, Obsidian?"

Sid pulled her gaze from the dome, wanting to lay on her back and study it more, but this Guardian had no patience. "Yes, yes." She jogged to catch up.

"Well, then," he said when she finally caught up. "This way first." He turned right, down one of two hallways that branched off of the entrance.

She practically had to run to keep up with his long strides and quick pace.

"Even though it's called the House of Portals, it's a bit more complicated than that. We're in the main building, which is a circle that wraps around, so it duals as a wall. Out the large door you saw is the central area of the compound, which we'll look at later. The first floor you'll find the kitchens, laundry, workers' quarters--."

"Do you have a name?" Not that what he was saying wasn't fascinating--actually, it wasn't, not unless he was telling her where the gates were--but she'd rather not just call him the Guardian. He knew her name, after all.

He stopped abruptly, and Sid ran into him. Like running into a wall.

"Oh. My apologies. I'm Damian." He looked down at her, head cocked, but didn't offer his hand in greeting. "I've been assigned as your mentor while you pursue your studies."

Him? This might be harder than she thought, especially if she had to spend most of her time with this unsmiling, rude man. "Aren't you a little young to be a Guardian mentoring others?"

Damian didn't answer right away, brows knit together. He pressed his pointer finger to the bottom of his chin briefly. "That's a matter of perspective. I was born and raised here. All of my pursuits have been to learn the ways of the Guardians, so I was a dedicant for most of my childhood. Young perhaps to you, who just stepped through the doors and know nothing. You'll probably never know as much as I do."

Condescending jerk. "Have you ever been outside of the House of Portals?"

"No." He clasped his hands behind his back. "Now, enough questions. It's time to continue the tour." His pace seemed quicker this time.

They continued around the circular building, Damian rattling off where everything was. Dorms, libraries, study rooms, classrooms. Sid tried to remember everything he mentioned, but she was more focused on him. No wonder he didn't have any manners or didn't know how to smile. What was it like to never see the outside, to spend your entire life shut away among a bunch of people who had sticks up their butts and lived for the rules they set down? Sounded miserable.

"And finally", Damian said, "we'll go out to the courtyard."

They'd made a circuit all the way around the first floor and were now standing in the entrance again, in front of the large door across from where she came in. She hoped he'd show her her room soon because he'd worn her out already with the long loop.

Damian opened the large double doors and ushered her through.

She obliged and felt that rush of power again when passing under the arch.

He stepped through behind her as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. Perhaps he was just used to it.

Sid blinked, the sunlight in her eyes a shock after being in the dim indoors of the main building.

"Here we have a few other buildings, including the council chambers right in the center."

Once Sid got used to the light, she froze, the sight ahead of her unbelievable. Sure enough, she saw the top of a large building further away, actually further than she'd expected if it was in the center, as the circumference of the building didn't feel that big.

That's not what she cared about, though. The entire courtyard was littered with portals. Not one or two, no, but dozens. And all in pristine condition. She couldn't discern any type of pattern for their placement. They were where they needed to be, some even tilted at off angles embedded in small hills.

Sid wanted to walk up to the nearest one, only feet from her, and touch it, feeling the engravings and the word at its pinnacle, like she had many times with her gate back home. She knew she couldn't, not with Damian standing right behind her. No one shall touch the gates without permission. Rule one.

Well, they couldn't watch her all the time.

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Chapter 2