Quote of the Moment

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

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Ch. 28

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 27

* * * * *

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession

Chapter 28

Damian cursed under his breath, wondering what spurred him to do as Obsidian asked.

All he wanted was some sleep, so he could think more clearly. Never had his life been this fraught with so much tension and critical decisions.

As he wove through the gates, the sun slowly dipping behind the main building and casting gruesome shadows throughout the courtyard, he wondered if he just should have confessed to Obsidian's strangeness that first day. One choice, it had all come down to that.

If he had, his life wouldn't be in such an upheaval. The council would have sent Obsidian home, and he would have continued on, oblivious of the wonder of another world and the duplicity of the Guardians.

Did he want that, though? No. The truth in all things. His mother had ground in that precept as he was growing up. Any time he'd been caught even in a little white lie, she'd railed.

And he believed in the core of that precept.

The council's lies needed to be investigated, at the least. But carefully and methodically. Once Bishop was safely back in Turss, and Damian had figured out how to reveal Obsidian's gate without implicating her, he'd work on rooting out the truth, no matter how deep it was buried.

First he had to calm Obsidian's panic. Her insistence that Guardians intended any physical harm to anyone in Nect was preposterous. Every time she'd brought it up, he'd cringed inside. Guardians existed to protect Nect from the dangers of the portals -- he still believed that was true. Protectors don't harm their charges. That would be like a shepherd sacrificing one of its sheep because it kept wandering from the rest of the flock.

Damian entered the council building, turned the corner, and ran straight into Bear. He stumbled backward from the unexpected wall.

"What are you doing here?" The guard sneered and thumbed his nose.

Those below must respect those above. One precept that was grating on Damian's sensibilities. Not only due to the obvious secrets sheltered by the older Guardians, but because of boorish fools like Bear.

This man had taken pleasure in picking on him for years, and he had no idea why. As a matter of fact, the older Guardian had been in charge of Damian's age group for a time, when he was only five or six -- he'd encouraged the other kids to heckle him.

It was impossible to respect someone so cruel. "I'm here to speak to a council member."

Bear chuckled, deep and self-satisfied. "No."

"You have no right to deny me--"

"I have exactly that right. I'm the guard to the council." The large man glanced over his shoulder, as if double-checking that no one hovered behind him to contradict his declaration. "Anyway, as it's the dinner hour, the council has wrapped for the night. You can come back at a proper time tomorrow and see how I feel then."

Damian felt a rumbling start low in his throat. "What exactly is your problem with me? I've suffered your derision since I was little and you were only a few years older than I am now. What is it that makes an adult hate a child so much?"

Bear opened his mouth, then shut it, seemingly unable to reply.

Now he'd done it. All of his properness had been thrown out the window. Obsidian had officially not only scrambled his thoughts, but had impressed on his actions as well.

The older Guardian finally found his senses and stomped up to Damian until he hovered over him like the bough of a tree. An uncomfortably close one. "Listen, you little punk. You'd be furious too if you were passed over for some baby who hadn't even spoken his first word yet. You're their chosen one, their golden child. They've been grooming you since before your mother pushed you out. Not a hair out of place, not a rule broken. They have plans for you. And Guardians like me get shunted to the side because of it."

Plans? Damian's heart skipped beats, his breath stilled, and his throat locked up.

"Is that Guardian Damian?" Councilwoman Liss's voice rose strong and confident from further down the hall. "Bear, please send him into the council chambers. I'd like to have a word with him."

"Of course, Councilwoman Liss." He lowered his voice. "Not a word to her about what I said. Hear me?"

Doing this man a favor wasn't on the top of Damian's list, but it was in his own best interest to keep quiet about what had just been confessed to him. "Loud and clear."

Bear moved to allow Damian to pass, and he did so, eager to leave the jaded man behind. He'd realized the council was keeping secrets, but not that some of those secrets concerned him.

Earlier, everything had paused, but now jitters shook his limbs, and he couldn't get air fast enough. Liss had always made him nervous at the best of times, but now after the last couple days and Bear's declaration, meeting with her terrified him. He would have preferred any other council member.

No option, so he entered the large council chamber. It seemed so small for just two people, half of the gas lamps turned off, dimming the room, making it more foreboding.

Instead of sitting behind the long desk, Liss beckoned to him at the front row of chairs. She sat and clearly expected him to do likewise. Right next to her.

He much preferred the bit of distance with her being behind the desk. No such luck.

So Damian forced his feet forward and mechanically sat down in the seat to the right of the councilwoman. Then he urged the words out. He'd ask about Ama, then escape as quickly as possible. "I'm sorry to disturb you at this time of day, but I'm here to allay my dedicant's nerves."

Liss propped her elbow on the back of her chair and smiled. The gesture appeared strange on her face, fake. Even sinister. Or perhaps that was just his imagination and lack of sleep getting the best of him. "Quite all right. Go ahead."

"Dedicant Obsidian noticed one of her roommates is gone. She's worried about what might have happened to her. I reassured her that she likely just went home, due to having determined she didn't have the gumption to become a Guardian. She was still fretting since her roommate never said goodbye, so I offered to ask a council member what happened to her."

"Hm. Ama?" She leaned forward a little, the smile sliding off her face as if it were a true mask that had been removed. Way too close.

"Yes." He practically had to choke the word out.

Thankfully she shifted back again. "Ah, yes. Nice woman. But unfortunately not a Guardian. The portal script remained elusive to her, and therefore her studies couldn't be continued. While she had some time left, she realized it wasn't enough. Mirim brought Ama before us today, as she'd requested. We dissolved all bonds, and sent her on her way home, as is our wont."

Even though Damian didn't believe Obsidian's accusations, he wanted to be sure things were right for her. So he took a moment to study Liss, searching for deception in her eyes, but only steel gray seriousness met him. Nothing like he'd experienced with his mother, though his familiarity with her made her easier to read.

He couldn't see a hint of anything to convince him to press. If Obsidian remained persistent, he could always talk to Mirim tomorrow. She was his mentor only two years ago, and he'd more likely discern any signs of lying from her.

"Thank you. I'll reassure her that Ama is safely on her way home." Damian stood, ready to rush out, but Liss grabbed his arm. Her touch froze him.

"Please, sit. I have some questions of my own." The weird smile was back, souring his stomach.

Those below must respect those above. Unlike Bear, Liss had never given him a reason to do anything but respect her, so he sat again.

"Aside from this bit of worry, how is your dedicant?"

Damian swallowed, his throat suddenly dry. Did she know about what had happened? Turmoil? Bishop? The portal book that he was suddenly hyper aware of being tucked into the bag slung over his shoulder? "She's doing well. A little frustrated by the number of precepts, but she's determined." Not a single word was a lie. She'd done so well that she already knew how to read the portal language. And oh, was she ever a determined individual.

"Good, good. And how do you feel about her?"

His face heated. Guardians didn't talk much about feelings. The question seemed especially odd coming from a council member. Not to mention it made him uncomfortable to no end. Obsidian had spun him in an emotional tumult since she'd arrived. "Um."

Liss patted his hand, and he wanted to scratch the spot she touched. "Don't worry. I take it as a good sign if you can't put your emotions into words. We thought she'd be a good balance for you."

"Good balance?"

"Yes, she's a bit strong-willed by our calculations, however she has a softer side to her that might smooth out your rough edges. If you know what I mean."

Damian wondered how much they actually knew about Obsidian. Clearly more than he'd assumed -- the poise he'd seen when she stood before the council had been nearly impeccable. Yet they'd realized a couple of her quirks even before pairing her with him.

But smooth his rough edges? Whatever was Liss talking about? A dedicant doesn't affect change on a mentor, but the other way around.

Well, unfortunately she had changed him. Only due to her rashness and determination to break every precept within days of stepping into the House of Portals.

The grin on Liss's face, though, it spoke to so much more. As though she'd expected...

No. They couldn't have planned for that. He swallowed, throat so dry it hurt.

The council hoped Damian would fall for Obsidian. An arranged match.

"Is there anything else you'd like to talk about?" He needed to escape this room. Her stare. Now. "I really should be getting back to Obsidian."

"Of course, of course. Off you go."

Damian didn't wait for any more encouragement. He rose and hustled to the door and practically ran over Bear in his rush to get out of the building.

The fresh air in the courtyard struck him, a welcome balm. He leaned over and rested his hands on his thighs. Thoughts swirled in his head, more questions than sureties.

Was pairing him with Obsidian part of what Bear had mentioned? Did they have his whole life mapped out, determined by their designs?

Had his mother and father even wanted him, or had his birth simply been a mission, a job, for them to create a tool that the council could mold?

That idea snagged on his mind, a sense of dread and loss clinging to him.

Then anger burned behind his eyes, shoving his horror of it all aside. How dare they try to manipulate his life, his choices.

Though if he truly thought about it, that was exactly what every single precept did. But this -- this was meddling on the highest order.

And he couldn't simply let it go. Obsidian had instilled that much in him. He wouldn't just walk away, cowed, willing to give up his autonomy to do as they bid. Nothing against Obsidian, but his life had been too much of a tumult the last couple of days for him to consider her as a future partner.

Perhaps he didn't want to be with anyone. And Obsidian pined for Bishop anyhow -- she'd likely make good on her threat of going back to Turss with him.

Damian stomped back into the building, determined to confront Liss and tell her he didn't appreciate being paired off with someone he barely knew. That he'd choose who and when to spend his life with. He wasn't sure where his declaration would lead him, but he couldn't remain quiet about this.

Before he turned the corner, though, to enter the main circular hallway, Liss's voice fixed his feet to the ground, as if roots had sprung from the floor and wrapped around his shins.

"You're sure Ama is properly situated? Mirim delivered her without problem or protest?"

"Well, there's always protest." Bear chuckled. "Until I dose them."

"Double-check her. Make sure she stays drugged. I don't want any chances on this. We have a dedicant with a heap of determination, if she's unwilling to accept what she's told. Until we're sure the waters are calm, we won't begin the experiments." Councilwoman Liss's voice faded as she spoke -- walking down the hall, away from the entrance. "And ensure there's a guard on duty at all times in the lab."

Damian's heart thudded so hard he thought both Liss and Bear would hear it. He slipped back out the door, as quietly as he could, though even the slightest movement sounded loud to his ears.

Then he sped around the gates through the courtyard until he reached the hill that hid Turmoil. Once safely inside, away from appraising eyes, he fell to his knees and wrapped his head in his arms.

Far too many surprises today. This one the worst.

Obsidian was right. And Damian sobbed, for the loss of his beliefs, the instability of his life, and poor, poor Ama.

* * * * *

Chapter 29 - Expected October 2021.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Bytes Bite, And So Do Fairies (Fractured Fairies, 4) - Excerpt

Yes, another release! I've been looking forward to this one. It's almost too fun sometimes to play around with Grinka's life.

Bytes Bite, And So Do Fairies is the fourth published title in my Fractured Fairies series, though you can of course jump in with any story.

Please enjoy the excerpt below. And if you'd like to grab a copy, Bytes Bite is only $0.99 at all major online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, Google Play, Smashwords, and Books2Read (the last will give you retailer options to choose from).

And if you read the entire story, please consider leaving a review at one of the retailers or on Goodreads. Reviews are awesome and helpful and it's one of the best ways to support an author you like. OK, I'll shut up now. Promise.

Happy reading!

Now, I know how hard it is to succeed as a writer. Most indie authors need to crank out titles on a regular basis to earn any kind of money. So I tucked away a good portion of my tips for advertising over the last few months. I want this to work – no, I need this to work.

The thing is, when I started writing this first novel, it also turned into an outlet for some of my anger. And oh man, do I have a lot of anger. Just ask Syndago. My not-so-giant giant friend is rather sick of replacing light bulbs. Hey, I can’t control my destructive powers well, and the fairies piss me off at least every other second.

Speaking of the fairies... it’s far too quiet in the apartment.

And no, they don’t know what I’ve been up to on the computer. At least I hope not.

Unfortunately, they’ve gotten rather tech savvy lately, somehow getting their grubby hands on a tablet. I’m amazed they haven’t broken it yet. Perpetually drunk, naked fairies are rather clumsy.

I check under my desk, then under my bed, and look out the window for good measure again. Nothing. Maybe Syndago took them to the park. They love to harass the real birds in their pigeon illusions.

The circle continues to spin and spin. What’s a sea nymph got to do to get her noir urban fantasy published? I smash the Enter button a few times, to no avail. Actually, the circle appears to spin slower.

Damned computer. It’s been so twitchy lately. I even checked it several times to make sure the fairies hadn’t poured wine in the vents, though they’d be reluctant to waste their precious booze for such a prank.

Maybe I didn’t kill enough fairies in my novel. Yes, I killed a lot of fairies. So cathartic, especially since I can’t kill them in real life. Trust me, I’ve tried a million times by exploding them into honey-colored bits. They’re as immortal as Syndago and me, sadly.

In my novel, though... burn fairies, burn.

I snicker, and the circle freezes. Then the screen turns black for a second, followed by flashing rainbow colors. “What the–?”

Fairy giggles flitter from my closet.

I wonder if this is what a gnome tripping on unicorn hairs feels like.

As usual, Grinka the sea nymph can’t catch a break. She simply wants to publish her novel. Unfortunately, Tamor and Tamara, the two fairy thorns in her side, mess with her computer. Too bad they’re immortal and can’t meet the same demise as the innumerable fairies in her book.

If that isn’t enough of a plague, Grinka’s sister Raina pops in from the Immortal World, bringing the first immortal virus with her. And now, Grinka is quarantined in her room with the two fairy nitwits.

Will she survive to hit publish, or will the rainbows and fairies win?

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Ch. 27

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 26

* * * * *

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession

Chapter 27

Bishop wallowed.

He didn't know what else to do. His entire life he'd had a purpose, a goal. And now he had nothing.

Once he returned to Turss empty-handed, the magic faction would surely condemn him, likely conscript him into battle. Because he'd failed his mission.

Not only had he failed, but he'd taken a risk by coming here... to Nect. He'd dreamed of a wealth of information and knowledge, enough to aid those in Turss. End the war.

Well, not just an end, but a slaughter -- magic trampling tech. That idea had always made him uncomfortable. But unless one side conquered the other, there'd be no end. There was no possibility for peace and compromise. The conflict had lasted too long.

Maybe he should simply turn himself into the Guardians. Whatever they'd do to him would likely be less dreadful than his people back home.

But then he'd also condemn Damian and Sid. While he still smoldered over the former, he couldn't bring himself to be so cruel to the latter. She had too good of a heart. And the magic that swirled inside of her... he was positive she had no idea, which was why he hadn't asked her about it. No point in mucking things up even more than they already were.

Bishop heaved himself off the bed and tidied the trays and remaining scraps of food. He always felt better when he was active, like when tending to his garden. A task he'd miss, maybe even more than listening to the call of the gate.

Once the room looked less disheveled, he dug out his clothes from where he'd stuffed them in the wardrobe and changed. His t-shirt was so much more comfortable than the button-downed shirt of Damian's.

He noticed the book Sid had pulled off the shelf was still on the chair, and he grabbed it to put it away, but the title on the cover intrigued him. Fairytales of Nect. Not something he'd expect a Guardian to have.

It also fascinated him that the language here was the same as on Turss. A fact that hinted that the people of this world were more connected to those of his than he'd assumed. Not that he'd ever find a text here that spoke of it. Wretched Guardians.

Bishop settled in the chair and cracked open the book. As he read through the stories, each one a fantastical, outlandish tale, something scratched at the back of his mind. It all felt oddly familiar. He'd read Turss fairytales as a child, but these didn't seem to match up. Maybe if he could get his hands on a copy back home he could compare. The familiarity bothered him, as though if he was so close to realizing the link, like when the words in the portal book felt just out of reach after they'd crossed into Nect.

Damian entered, shattering Bishop's concentration. He appeared disheveled and utterly exhausted with black smudges under his eyes. "Good. At least you're still here. I honestly didn't need another surprise to deal with today."

"Why do you have this book of fairytales?" Bishop lifted the text -- he didn't care about the Guardian's problems with too many surprises.

"Why are you asking silly questions?" He sat on the edge of his bed, removed his glasses, and rubbed his eyes. "If you must know. I enjoy them. That was actually one of my favorite books as a child, much to my mother's chagrin."

Bishop caressed the cover. "They seem familiar. I'm not sure how."

"There's bound to be many similarities between our worlds. The Ancients touched every world when they built the gates. I've even been considering that they created a common language that connects us as much as the portals. Well, at least since we ran into you."

"Can I take it with me?" He expected a no, but he still asked. Not only did the stories have meaning to Damian, but it likely broke some precept to take such an item from one world to another.

The Guardian put his glasses back on and stared at the book. "I suppose I can always get another copy. And though I can't help you with the war on Turss, I think I can oblige taking a little bit of Nect home with you."

Bishop pressed the book to his chest. For a moment, he thought Damian might not be as horrible as he'd thought. But then he considered how inconsequential a book of fairytales was compared to what he truly needed. The man claimed he couldn't help, however he might be keeping secrets of his own.

"I need to lie down for a bit. Can I trust you won't kill me in my sleep?" The previous kindness was obliterated by the harsh accusation in his voice.

"I won't touch a hair on your head. I swear on the gate back home to Turss." That didn't mean he wouldn't snatch the leather bag once the man was asleep.

Unfortunately, Damian situated it under himself before laying down.

Bishop sighed. Not that it would have mattered. There was nothing left here for him to do, and he couldn't use the book to get back on his own anyhow. It had taken him years to master the portal language in his world, and though he was sure he could eventually interpret the text here in Nect, it wouldn't be quick enough.

So, he went back to reading the fairytales and striving to figure out why they all seemed so familiar. It was the only distraction he had from thoughts of his future once he returned to Turss.

Obsidian wandered back to her room, the exhaustion tugging her down more and more with each step. Perhaps some sleep would be a good idea. That brief nap in the study room had only exacerbated her tiredness, and she hadn't had a solid night's sleep since before she entered the House of Portals.

She fumbled into her room, yanked off her dedicant robes, and collapsed onto her bed. Only when she rolled over did she realize something was off about Ama's bed.

Sid shot up, now wide awake. The bed was stripped, completely bare. This of course could mean that Ama was laundering her bed linens, but the pillow was gone too, as was Ama's chest that had sat at the end of her bed.

To make sure that the dread rising in her chest wasn't just her tired brain making mountains out of portal hills, she got out of bed and checked the dresser. Empty. Every single drawer.

"No, no, no." Her words sounded like the muttering of a mad woman to her own ears. She sat on her chest, and stared at Ama's bare bed, striving to make sense of things, but her weary mind merely flailed.

Enid entered the room, looked at Sid, then glanced at the bed. "Oh, she must have finally given up and headed home." She made a derisive sound. "I told her years ago she wasn't Guardian material, but she wouldn't listen." A quick up and down appraisal of Obsidian and she shook her head. "You could do with a bit more composure, too, unless you want to end up like her." She humphed, grabbed a washcloth, and left the room.

Rude. But her brain caught up too late to throw back a biting response. "Ama wouldn't leave without saying goodbye."

And that was what broke through her scrambled thoughts. Ama had a month left to untangle the portal script. She'd never indicated she was on the verge of giving up. Her spirits had even seemed high this morning, when she'd assumed Sid was sneaking off with Damian for something other than studying. Sweet, kind Ama wouldn't wake up so damned early to study if she wasn't determined to succeed. And she surely wouldn't decide it was time to go home without saying goodbye.

The Guardians had gotten to her. They'd given up on her. Who knows where they'd taken her and what horrible things they had planned.

Obsidian imagined poor Ama, broken and bloody on the floor. She screeched, hurriedly threw a shirt and breeches on, and rushed out the door.

Once she reached Damian's room she pounded on the door, danced back and forth on her feet, then banged again.

Finally, the door cracked open, a bleary-eyed Damian peering out. "Obsidian? I thought we agreed to get some rest. And why aren't you in your dedicant robes?"

"Let me in. I need to talk to you. Now." She flapped her hands, the jolt of worry infusing a nervous energy in her.

He ushered her in and closed the door behind them. "It's safe to come out, Bishop."

The other-worlder slipped out of the bathroom, took one look at Sid, and cocked his head. "What's wrong?"

Was it that obvious? Of course it was. She was scared to death for the kindest person she'd come across in this den of vipers. "It's Ama."

"Your roommate? The one having problems with the portal script?" Damian rubbed his forehead. He appeared exhausted, and she felt guilty for interrupting his sleep, but this couldn't wait.

Sid nodded, vigorously, hoping to emphasize her upcoming point. "She's gone."

Damian quirked the eyebrow, though it didn't rise all the way this time. "What do you mean gone?"

"I mean her bed is stripped and all of her stuff is missing."

He sighed. "It happens. Not everyone has the wherewithal to succeed as a Guardian. She's likely on her way home."

Infuriating man. "No, she still had a month to decipher the portal language. And she never would have left without..." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Without saying goodbye. I'm sure of it. I think the Guardians have done something much worse to her."

Damian rolled his eyes. "Not this again. I'm telling you, even though I know the council members are keeping secrets, we're not exactly sure what they're hiding, but I assure you it's not something like this."

"Wait. You're positive they're hiding something?" Bishop stepped forward, nostrils flaring. "You never mentioned that."

"Oh, for the love of the Ancients. It's not information you need to know. All I know is that my mother reacted when I asked her about Guardians having magic in the past. It doesn't change the fact that you need to go home."

Bishop glowered at both of them.

"Hey, don't go directing your ire at me." Sid crossed her arms over her chest. "I'm just worried about my friend."

"You've only known her for a couple days." A corner of Damian's mouth twitched.

Sid back-handed his arm. "And she's the kindest person I've met since arriving here. I just want to know what happened."

Damian rubbed his arm, brows drawing together. "Fine. If it will settle your mind, I'll inquire of her whereabouts with the council tomorrow."

"Not tomorrow. Now." Tomorrow might be too late. Even now it might be too late. "If I'm right and they... Please, Damian."

He closed his eyes and nodded. "Now it is. If I can find a council member. They're usually quite busy. Stay here with him." His pointing finger had more anger in it than it ought to. She couldn't tell if it was due to her or Bishop.

"Thank you."

Damian shook his head and left.

Obsidian hoped she was wrong. And yes, even if Damian asked a council member, they could lie through their teeth to him. Hopefully he'd spot it, though, like he had with his mother.

But if she was right. She'd do everything in her power to save Ama -- she was unwilling to leave the sweet woman to a dire fate.

* * * * *

Chapter 28