Quote of the Moment

"What's Past Is Prologue." - William Shakespeare

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Ch. 31

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 will be posted to Born to Write and Wattpad about one month after it's released to my newsletter subscribers. If you'd like to see the posted chapters a month sooner, please consider signing up for my Author Newsletter!

Chapter 30

* * * * *

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession

Chapter 31

The few hours of sleep Damian had gotten hadn't settled his mind as he hoped it would. If anything, he was more nervous than before. Though he tried his best not to show it when Obsidian opened the door, said she'd be one moment, and dashed to the bathroom across the hall.

What in the Ancients was he thinking? Throwing away all he believed in and the world he knew to save a woman he'd only met for a few moments?

But he'd come to realize he didn't truly know anything, about the past, the Guardians, perhaps even the gates.

Obsidian stepped out of the bathroom, scooted past him, and closed her door in his face.

He sighed. After crying, hidden in Turmoil's hill, he'd come to the conclusion that if the council had stooped to kidnapping and experimenting on the people of Nect, that they'd crossed a line. They were supposed to protect the people of Nect from the portals. That core mission had clearly been forgotten and neglected.

And if the Guardians weren't doing as they claimed, someone needed to rectify the situation. Since he couldn't trust another Guardian to confide in, it was up to him.

The idea left a hollow pit in his stomach. He was resolved nonetheless.

First, he'd start with saving Ama. Then he'd take the time to plan, return to Nect, and tear down and rebuild the House of Portals if need be.

Guardians are the guides of Nect. He saw spots for a moment and almost fell over.

"Are you all right?" Obsidian had opened the door again without him even noticing.

Damian swallowed hard and nodded. Though if he kept feeling faint over his decisions, he'd be no good for saving Ama, let alone Nect. "Should have eaten dinner is all."

Her brow crinkled, and she crossed her arms. He had to get better at acting convincing.

Better at lying? The truth in all things. All the precepts that he continued to break, throwing the shards to the wind, sped through his mind. He had to remind himself the whole point of his decision was to expose the truth.

And he had to lead Obsidian and Bishop right now -- they'd start questioning his ability if he let them know just how scared he was. "Why aren't you in your dedicant robes?"

"Like those things are any good for skulking."

Good point.

They returned to his room to collect Bishop, then carefully picked their way to the courtyard, avoiding the few people who happened to be wandering the halls. Dedicants had to find some time to do their chores, and most preferred to study during the day.

Once they stepped out into the courtyard, the chill of the night made Damian's skin feel clammy. He'd been sweating too much. Worrying, still wondering if he'd chosen the correct path.

"What is that undercurrent I'm feeling? It's like the ground is vibrating." Bishop knelt down and pressed his palm to the earth.

The other-worlder seemed more sensitive to the magic than Damian had expected. Perhaps it was due to him reawakening his own with the whole secret detecting skill of his. "We're about one hour away from the gates shifting."

"They move?"

"Yes, and few Guardians risk entering the courtyard an hour or so before and after the shift."

"Well, let's hope the same can be said for the council building." Obsidian plowed ahead, forcing the men to follow.

They made it unnoticed to the entrance of the building, and Damian grabbed her arm before she barged through the door. "Not so hasty. We have to be careful about this. I know they're guarding the lab, but I can't be sure if they're guarding the outside of it as well. And tonight is simply an information gathering mission. We find the entrance to the lab, then we retreat for further planning. Understood?"

"Sensible." The edge to Bishop's voice sounded as though he wanted Damian to mess things up. Too bad.

"Don't be impulsive." This one was for Obsidian alone -- with opening the gate and kissing Bishop, she'd been a bit all over the place the last couple days.

She rolled her eyes and waved him toward the door. "Quiet as a mouse and stoic as a Guardian."

Oh, this time the jab was intentional, he was sure of it. He ignored it and entered the council building, the other two following close behind.

They paused before the first turn to enter the large circular hall. The burning lamps on the wall gave off dim flickers, and silence reigned.

Damian peeked around the corner, fearing he'd find Bear staring back at him, but the hall appeared empty. Bear couldn't have managed to be so quiet as to not draw attention to himself anyhow.

He slowly exhaled, forcing himself to steady his nerves. "There are offices and small meeting rooms on the outer wall. Bishop, start on the left, Obsidian the right."

"What about you?" Bishop whispered, but his voice was tense. The man hated taking orders.

"I'll start in the main council chamber in the center. Search for anything odd or out of the ordinary, that could indicate an entrance of some sort. If you hear anyone coming, hide. And meet back here when you're done."

The other-worlder headed left, muttering under his breath. "Everything's out of the ordinary to me."

Obsidian silently slipped into the first room to the right, as if to prove to him she could control herself.

For a moment, Damian remained rooted, as he had when he overheard Liss and Bear. Not only was he breaking several precepts, but risking his own life as well. The masses of Nect seek guidance from the Guardians, and all Guardians heed the words of the council. It disturbed him that he was more afraid of disobeying those precepts than of being caught snooping around the council chamber.

He eventually convinced himself to move, passing the small room Bishop explored and reaching the chamber door. Resting his hand on the doorknob, he imagined Liss's stony gaze waiting for him on the other side. No, he wouldn't let fear stop him.

Damian opened the door, and he simply found the same dimmed lighting as earlier, no other Guardians about. His muscles relaxed slightly.

The small window to search pushing him forward, he started in with the bookcases and pictures along the wall. He hadn't taken the time to study the paintings more closely all the other times he'd been in this room. They'd all seemed to be various landscapes from around Nect. But as he looked for an entrance or a switch, he saw the truth in the scenes -- each one had a gate hidden in the foliage or coming out of a hillside.

He tentatively touched the portal in one of the paintings. Though not the real thing, he could have sworn he felt a slight vibration, as if some of the magic had translated to the picture. Fascinating.

Though he wanted to explore the sensation further, he needed to move along.

When he finally finished the outer wall, a lengthy trial, he still hadn't found any sign of an entrance.

Damian took a couple steps toward the large desk the council sat so haughtily behind, day in and day out, concealing their secrets and declaring lies. And then he heard a soft whooshing coming from behind it.

Unsure of what he was hearing, he quickly ducked behind a row of chairs. They didn't completely conceal him, but he hoped the shadows that the dimness of the room cast would aid him. And he could actually still see the desk.

The sound stopped only to be followed by a grumbling voice. "Check on the new test subject, Bear. Make sure the lab remains safe, Bear. Sacrifice your sleep to bow down to the whims of the council members, Bear." The man seemed to rise from behind the desk. After he stepped to the side, the whooshing started up again.

That had to be the entrance. In the floor, then. It made sense that the lab would be underground -- not many places to hide such a place in the House of Portals.

However, Damian was now stuck, without any way to warn the others.

Bear stomped. "Aw, for the love of the Ancients, I forgot the report." He groped under the desk, which triggered the sound again, then disappeared below.

Damian skittered out of his hiding spot and bolted for the door. He guessed he didn't have much time before Bear popped up again, so he dashed to the entrance of the building. Bishop already waited, leaning against the wall and looking bored. "What took you so long?"

"Where's Obsidian? We have to get out of here. Now."

The man straightened, more alert. "She wanted to go back and double-check a couple rooms. I'll grab her." He slipped off.

"Hurry." Damian strained to listen, wishing he could hear the soft whooshing from here. He couldn't. But he did hear Bear pound the door to the council chamber open.

Bishop and Obsidian hustled toward him.

"What was that?" Obsidian stared down the hallway.

"No time. We have to go now."

She snagged his sleeve as he spun. "Isn't it time for the shift?"

Even in here, Damian could feel the buildup, leading to the scrambling around of the gates. She was right.

He considered ducking into a room, but then he heard Bear's footsteps grow nearer. "Hey, is someone there?"

No other choice -- they had to take the risk or get caught. "Out. Now." He opened the door and stepped out, the others right behind him. Assuring the door was shut tight behind them, he snatched up Bishop's and Obsidian's hands.

The other-worlder tried to struggle out of his grasp.

"If you don't want to die, you have to stay close and trust me." The power climbed, a boulder being rolled up a hill, getting ready to roll down and destroy everything in its path.

Bishop pressed his free hand to his temple and nodded.

"This way." They had to find a safe spot, and here wasn't it. So he wove around a few gates, the others holding onto him as they had when they'd crossed into Nect through the portal. He was sure he knew which permutation was next, and unfortunately it was one that shrunk the courtyard, the gates crowding closer together.

Finally, he spotted an area that should be safe, almost touching another portal. "Huddle close."

"Seriously?" Bishop yanked his hand out of Damian's.

"If you don't want to be impaled, yes. Not like I want to get up close and personal with you, either."

The man obliged, and the three of them pressed close together.

Though Damian hated the nearness of the other-worlder, Obsidian's touch, her fingers still twined in his, made him think of what Liss had said. His heart sped up, from his thoughts and the swirling power around him. Sparks crackled along his palm.

And then the magic hit.

Bishop groaned and Obsidian gasped. Damian had experienced it so many times that he managed to keep his silence. He just hoped he hadn't miscalculated.

Once the wave ended, unable to handle the rampant thoughts about being paired with Obsidian, he released her and stumbled back, right into the gate.

"Look at that, Guardian, you've broken your most important precept." Bishop raised his chin and laughed.

Damian scrambled away from the portal. He'd broken many more than that. The script at the top of the one he'd just touched read Destiny.

He waited for the call, like after he'd touched Turmoil, but nothing came. Just a soft silence. It chilled him.

"Back to my room. Now." He quickly glanced at the council building to be sure Bear hadn't exited, though no sane Guardian would be out in the courtyard during the shift. Then he wove his way through the gates, not waiting for the others to follow.

Touching Destiny unsettled Damian more than he cared to admit, not due to the precept, but the response. The last thing he needed was another worry on his mind.

Focus. It was time to plan Ama's rescue.

* * * * *

Chapter 32 - Expected July 2022.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Nymphs Need Love Too (Fractured Fairies, 5) - Excerpt

My first new release of 2022 - yay! And it happens to be the fifth installment in my Fractured Fairies series.

Nymphs Need Love Too incorporates Grinka's love life woes, her drama llama teen nymph sister, and a smart speaker that might be too smart for its own good. As always, the fairy brats are mixed up in all of it!

After you enjoy the excerpt below, please consider purchasing yourself an ebook copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, Apple Books, Google Play, or Smashwords. Or if you want to look at all the retailer options with one easy click, please go to Books2Read!

And please remember, reviews are much appreciated at any of the retailers and on Goodreads.

Happy reading!

I stomp out of the bedroom to find the fairy siblings flitting over a pyramid-shaped speaker, which is sitting on one of the living room end tables. "What is that?"

Tamor turns around and rolls his eyes. "Hey, Boo. Why is Grinka such a bitch?"

A red light flashes at the top of the pyramid. Then a female voice with sultry tones emanates from the speaker. "I’m sorry, I don’t understand."

"Yeah, me neither." The fairy smirks and scratches his balls.

"Seriously?" I plant my hands on my hips. "You know I hate it when you call me that, and all I did was ask a simple question, so it’s completely unwarranted." Yes, I can always count on these two to piss me off enough to encourage the fireworks.

"Why don’t you ask Boo what she is?" Tamara gestures at the speaker.

Her suggestion puts the breaks on my desire to splatter Tamor into tiny fairy bits... For the moment. Talk to an electronic pyramid? Okay, why not. "Um, hey, Boo. What are you?"

This time the light flashes green. "I am Yam-Boom’s newest, top-of-the-line smart speaker. Over time, I adapt to the household’s specific needs, even adjusting my personality to those I speak with. Please, ask me anything. Just don’t expect me to know everything."

Man, Boo has attitude. Kind of creepy, though.

Tamara claps her tiny hands together. "Isn’t she cool?"

I’m not a huge fan of Yam-Boom. They employ fairies, who prevented me from publishing my novel. Speaking of fairies... "How exactly did you two buy something like this?" Neither have a job, and I no longer keep any spare cash lying around. Last time I did, the fairies stole my hidden stash and bought a tablet, which is now mine. My money, my tablet.

"Uh..." Tamor is never at a loss for words. What gives, now?

Tamara titters and flits up to me. "Remember, Herby? Our cousin who loves wine porn and works for Yam-Boom. Well, he hooked us up. Right, Tamor?"

Her brother’s head bobs, almost as rapidly as his wings.

Eh, I’m not so sure about that explanation. They’re acting shifty. Maybe I can explode the truth out of them.

Before I gear myself up to do just that, Syndago bursts through the front door. "Grinka! I got a job!"

What do you prescribe a depressed sea nymph? A handsome tree nymph, of course.

Grinka can’t stop dreaming of Bello, the hunky tree nymph she met a couple years ago. Unfortunately, sharing her bed with her drama llama teen nymph sister has put a damper on her love life.

Who’s she kidding? Her love life was nonexistent even before she took in her runaway sister. Well, aside from the incident with her goblin ex-boyfriend and his dwarven girlfriend – an event that continues to haunt her in the form of the stalker dwarf.

But Grinka’s not-so-giant giant best friend brings her the gift of Bello’s phone number. Can she summon the courage to call him for a date? And if so, what will her sister and the fairy brats do to ruin it for her this time?

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Ch. 30

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 will be posted to Born to Write and Wattpad about one month after it's released to my newsletter subscribers. If you'd like to see the posted chapters a month sooner, please consider signing up for my Author Newsletter!

Chapter 29

* * * * *

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession

Chapter 30

Bishop felt rotten for declaring the rescuing of Ama not his problem, especially after Sid had so quickly labeled him a heartless bastard.

And so shortly after she'd promised to give him information if she ever uncovered anything of use to him. After her kind offer, he hadn't had the fortitude to tell her that even if she happened to keep Damian from burning the book and sneak back through the portal, he wouldn't be on the other side for her to deliver her newfound knowledge.

He almost warned both of them about the blink, but his sense of time was so distorted that he wasn't sure if they'd be walking into it or not. Best not to speak of yet another act that made him a heartless bastard in Sid's eyes unless absolutely necessary.

Shock slightly muddied his guilt. Damian wanted to help someone else in trouble, at the cost of his own station in life.

Maybe Bishop had assessed both of these people incorrectly -- he'd made the mistake of lumping all Guardians under the same umbrella. He should have known, a group was made up of a faceted array of individuals, and even if many sides were black and burnt, some could still shine.

"I need one promise from both of you." Damian stared at Bishop and didn't even spare a glance for Sid. "I'm in charge of this... mission. No running off to do your own thing, no matter what."

Well, Bishop hadn't misjudged him fully. Always needed to be in control.

"Of course. You know the House of Portals and habits of the other Guardians best." Sid beamed, but not at Damian. Oh, no. At Bishop.

Both of them knew all too well that he'd be the one more likely to protest. He'd rather not take orders from anybody, especially this uptight Guardian.

He sighed. Maybe not quite as uptight as he used to be -- his red-rimmed eyes indicated he'd been crying, and this little adventure would likely break every one of his precious precepts. "Okay. Agreed. Just don't try to use me like a puppet. And I will object to any stupid ideas."

Damian stared at him for a beat more, likely unsure if he could believe him.

True, Bishop hadn't given the Guardian a reason to trust him. He'd been scheming since the portal in Turss had opened. But he did want to learn all he could, uncover some of the secrets. All while not getting caught.

Plus the man's desire to save Ama gave him a sliver of hope. Hope that one day his own world could be saved as well.

"I swear to you, on the All-Seeing Eye and the Ancients, I won't do anything to intentionally screw up this rescue attempt." It was the best he could do.

Damian nodded, removed his glasses again, and rubbed his eyes. "First, sleep. We all need it. And we'll be useless without it."

Bishop pressed his fingertips to his right temple. A headache brewed behind his eyes. He'd forced that little lie detecting trick of his too hard, and it had repercussions. Attempting to use it on minimal sleep only made it worse. It was control issues like this that plagued so much of the magic in Turss -- large consequences for small magic. If he rested, though, he might be able to hone it more, actually assist. And he had a handful of other tricks up his sleeve, but he hadn't attempted any of them in a couple years, so if he wanted a chance to succeed, he definitely needed sleep.

"Does anyone want dinner first?" Damian opened his wardrobe and rummaged in one of the lower drawers. "Ah, here it is. A trinket that will make sure we wake in time to go investigating while the rest of the House of Portals sleeps."

The object fit in the palm of his hand -- a perfectly square wooden box with a circular dial on one of its faces. Score marks surrounded the dial, equidistant from each other.

"If possible, I have less of an appetite than before." Bishop snatched the alarm from the Guardian. "This is from Turss." Proof. Proof that the Guardians had stolen from his world. True, this was a more primitive version of the ones they currently used. A version that would have been in use when the Guardians visited last.

Damian frowned. "It's not an item widespread on Nect, as it's supposedly difficult to make. My father gifted it to me when I officially became a Guardian."

"Well, it's stolen technology." He handed it back, wondering what other tech from Turss lay hidden in wardrobe drawers.

"I think I'm going to skip dinner as well." The Guardian set the box on the desk and turned the dial. "This should buzz and wake us with plenty of time to search the council building before many others are about. Obsidian, feel free to stop by the dining hall before returning to your room. I'll come wake you when it's time. Hopefully your other roommate won't be overly disturbed."

Sid laughed. "Disturbing her would be a pleasure." She waved and slipped out the door.

Bishop took the proffered pillow and blanket, again situating himself on the floor next to the bed. His eyes lingered on the alarm, though, until Damian turned off the gas lamps. At least they hadn't seemed to steal the electrical technology that powered light bulbs, his refrigerator, and computer, among other things.

But that little wooden box was proof of how despicable the Guardians were, and he wondered if the one laying in bed so close to him had other designs as well. After all, he still kept secrets to himself.

Bishop attempted to stay awake. Unfortunately, his pounding head forced him into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Obsidian's appetite was as non-existent as the men's.

When she finally slipped under her covers, though, she stared at Ama's bed, unable to drift off.

She knew Damian was right -- they needed sleep to have their wits about them. Her brain felt like a foggy, clogged mess. But the stripped mattress right next to her only caused her to think of the horrible things the Guardians might be doing to Ama. Perhaps they tested to see how quickly she'd go crazy from touching a gate. Or if they indeed had lost their magic, they used her to relearn it, as a kind of magical sparring dummy.

Several possibilities swam across her sleep-deprived brain, none of them good. This speculation would only detract from her concentration.

Eventually, her mind so exhausted, she sunk into the darkness, and then into her dreams.

What horrible, wretched, torturous dreams they were.

They started with a perfect image of her gate back home, Sid standing before it, its call wrapping around her like a blanket. It wasn't as harsh and insistent as Turmoil. No, this one felt like when you slept in and woke to the sun streaming through your window, warming you between your sheets. It felt like home, as though it had always been a part of her.

The sense of comfort didn't last in this dream, though. All of a sudden a force yanked Sid back, slowly tearing her away from the portal. And as she was dragged away, she saw both of her brothers appear before it... and touch it. They then attacked each other, a madness seizing both of them. Both drew blood, and neither seemed able to stop, until they lay dying on the ground before the gate. Sacrifices for the Ancients.

Sid sobbed, trying to fight against the force still pulling her away.

Another body appeared next to her brothers. Ama, eye sockets empty, parts of her skin blackened and charred, and a gaping hole in her chest where her heart ought to be.

Still, the gate grew further and further away, until she could no longer see it or the bodies that littered the ground.

The sense of warmth and welcome shifted to a cold embrace.

And then she clung to the chain in Turss. It trembled beneath her, its heartbeat wild and erratic. Near her, a gash marred one of the links. It streamed blood, which dripped down into the canyon below.

Then the chain bucked, sending her flying off it.

Sid fell and fell, into the darkness and fog. She screamed, over and over again until her throat turned raw.

Enid punched her arm, and she started out of sleep.

"What in the Ancients is wrong with you?" The woman's vexed look leaked through Sid's sleep-filled eyes.

She clamped a hand over her mouth. The scream must have been real. "I'm sorry. Bad dream." A bit of an understatement.

"You better be. I need my rest." Enid crawled back into bed in a huff, muttering under her breath. "Why do I get stuck with these fool dedicants?" Then she rolled over and started snoring lightly a couple minutes later.

Sid couldn't go back to sleep, terrified of returning to those morbid dreams.

Though she still couldn't remember the script above her gate, she at least recalled its comforting call. A call that couldn't be ignored.

She'd save Ama, and flee to Turss, but she'd find a way back. There had do be another way. Another portal. One way or another, she'd get back home and heed her gate's call.

No sooner had she solidified her resolution, then Damian knocked at the door.

Time to uncover some Guardian secrets.

* * * * *

Chapter 31