Quote of the Moment

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Ch. 32

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 31

* * * * *

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession

Chapter 32

Obsidian plopped onto the chair once they returned to Damian's room and wiped her palms on her breeches. Sweaty.

She wasn't sure what had her more shaken -- nearly getting caught, yet again coming close to dying from the shifting portals, or how close she had to get to both men. Perhaps she should have taken the time to explore a few romantic relationships instead of being solely focused on her gate before entering the House of Portals. Her past deprivation clearly made her current reactions even worse.

Best to concentrate on Ama and distract herself from the pathetic flutterings in her chest. "What happened back there?"

Bishop settled on the edge of the bed, but Damian still stood at the door, hand poised over the knob, and staring at nothing particular.

The gate he'd backed into... Perhaps it now called to him as insistently as Turmoil still did to her. "Damian. Come back to us."

He spun and shook his head. "Sorry. Bear emerged from what I can only assume is the entrance to the lab. Luckily, he'd forgotten something and had to go back, which gave me a chance to escape. Now, I at least know how to get in. A hidden door in the floor behind the council desk."

"Luck." Bishop stroked his chin. "Something that can turn rotten without a moment's notice."

"So when do we get Ama?" Sid didn't want her friend to be the Guardians' prisoner any longer than necessary.

"Unfortunately, it's not that simple. We have no clue how many Guardians are down there. If we saunter in, we chance getting captured immediately, especially if we're outnumbered. I've never known a Guardian to bear arms, but I'm not about to declare they won't be armed with surety anymore."

Poor, Damian. His whole world had been rattled. A bit of guilt wormed its way through her -- it truly was her fault.

"I might be able to help with that." Bishop's familiar grin melted across his face. "Another trick I learned can incapacitate people."

"Define incapacitate." Damian narrowed his eyes. These two really needed to start trusting each other more.

"Just sleep magic, that's all."

"Since you haven't used it on us yet, I assume it's just as rusty as your lie detecting trick?" Sid realized any advantage was beneficial, but she worried about relying on such things.

Bishop shrugged. "All magic in Turss can be unstable at times, unpredictable. This spell takes a lot of effort, so it would tap me, but I could always practice on you if you'd like." Oh, that grin.

Sid felt the urge to both slap him and kiss him. "And make that headache of yours worse?" Yes, she'd noticed how often he was rubbing his forehead and pressing at his temples. That hadn't started until he'd pulled out his secret sensing trick.

The smile dropped off his face. "An unfortunate side effect."

"How positive are you of executing this magic successfully?" Damian pressed a finger to his lips. He seriously seemed to be considering using this supposed trick.

"Maybe eighty percent sure I can pull it off. But likely on two people, maximum, or you'll be dragging me out as well as Ama."

"That could at least help with whatever guard they have set and Bear if we run into him." He was considering it.

She wanted to be sure they could save Ama. "Isn't it risky?"

"Now you're prudent? Not when you opened the Turmoil gate, not when you found the gate and book on your land. Now?"

Well, she couldn't fault Damian's logic. He had her. "Fine, fine. You're in charge." She squirmed -- she still didn't like it. Compulsion had overtaken her when opening Turmoil, but all of her other plans had been carefully thought out and calculated. She gripped the edges of the chair when she realized how very Guardian-like she'd acted to reach the House of Portals. No wonder she'd passed the tests. And she hadn't seen it clearly until now.

"Wait, you found a gate? Is that what you were hiding before?" asked Bishop.

"Partly." Speaking of finding gates... "Since I'm guessing it won't be wise to come back through the same portal after we reach Turss, I was wondering, are there any other gates that lead to Nect?"

"To Nect? No."

Sid deflated. Her resolution seemed less solid. It meant she'd have to sneak back through the gate in the House of Portals. Talk about risky.

"But there are gates to other worlds."

And like that, ideas buoyed her again. If she traveled to yet another world, then perhaps that world would have a way into Nect. Though she couldn't be sure that way would lead straight back to the courtyard, it gave her small hope.

"I think it's time we wrap it up for the night." Damian opened the door and motioned toward it. "I'll walk you back to your room for now. Then breakfast and going about our day per usual."

She rose and trudged out of the room. "That means I have to read the precepts. Ugh."

"The life of a Guardian." His statement sounded sad and lost, and he closed the door.

"I'm sorry."

They headed for the stairs, this time not caring if others were about, as plenty of other dedicants and Guardians had begun to stir for the day.

"No need to be. Eyes open and gates closed."

"I agree with part of that."

Damian stopped halfway up the stairs. "No more, Obsidian."

She skipped back down the few extra stairs she'd ascended, unsure what he meant, but intent on keeping the conversation to themselves. "What?"

"No more worlds." His voice dropped low. "Entering Turss is risky enough. A world torn by war. We can't be sure the next one we enter won't be crumbling to dust. So we prepare best we can in Turss, and then head back here through the same gate. That prudence you showed earlier, this is what it should be applied to."

"And if we're never prepared?"

"Then we're stuck."

Not words she wanted to hear. No matter, Damian might have sway as to what she did now, but once they entered Turss, she didn't need to stay by his side.

"Whatever you say." With all she'd dragged him into, she felt guilty for lying. It was a necessity, though. She trudged up the stairs, unable to meet his appraising gaze.

Obsidian resolved to leave both Damian and Bishop behind, taking the book with her. She'd find a way home to her gate, no matter the risk.

Bishop had lied. He was only about fifty percent sure he could successfully incapacitate someone. And two would possibly knock him out as well. Not to mention there was a slight chance of fatality for the person he cast on. However, he wanted to make sure Damian allowed him into the lab, so he had to appear useful.

The Guardian returned to the room, hands full of food, which he set on the desk. "I raided the kitchens. Though I got a few odd looks, you should be set for the day. I recommend getting some rest, if that headache's as bad as Obsidian seems to think it is."

Worse. It was worse. He hadn't even moved from the edge of the bed once the others left. It had been far too long since he'd used any magic.

"I'll even let you sleep on my bed for now. I won't need it until later."

Bishop grunted, tempted to roll over now, though he really should eat something.

"That bad?" Damian tossed him an apple. "Eat. Sleep. I'll keep my questions about Turss to myself until later. Perhaps best after we succeed at this rescue attempt and escape."

He stared at the apple he'd caught, only taking a bite once the Guardian sat down at his desk and pulled the book from his bag. "Why are you suddenly being so nice?"

Damian paged through the book. "Ah, here it is." He muttered under his breath, then turned to Bishop. "Contrary to your belief, I'm not an unkind person. And if we're to rescue Ama, using your magic as aid, you need to be well enough to execute it."

"So it's because you want something from me. Got it." Kindness was a gesture freely given, not offered to expect something in return. He quickly ate his apple.

The Guardian shook his head. "Whatever you want to believe. I still don't like you, but I won't allow my feelings toward you to hinder my inclination to treat everyone as a human being worthy of basic consideration."

A lot of words. Bullshit words. Bishop finished the apple and figured it best to eat more later. His head throbbed behind his eyes, blurring his vision. So he tossed the core and rolled over.

"I'll be back later." The Guardian's words were echoey, as if he heard them from underwater.

He allowed himself to drift, for true sleep to pull him down. If Damian had spoken true, he wouldn't consider harming him while he slept.

At one point, he vaguely remembered Damian entering the room again and pulling a candle from his bag, commenting about preparing for tonight and having retrieved the candle from when Sid had first opened the gate. The guardian smoothed out the script already etched into the wax -- they needed to reuse the candle.

Blackness took him again, and the next time he woke, he was alone. The headache had finally released its hold on him, and his mind felt clearer than it had since before he found Sid dangling from the chain.

And he was ravenous. He helped himself to the food still on the desk, studying the candle sitting there. This must be what they needed instead of the lantern. More proof of how primitive Nect truly was, and how the world shouldn't have things like the little alarm clock.

Damian and Obsidian entered the room.

"Such a waste of time today. Those precepts. I wish I would have had time to decide what to pack, instead." Sid's mouth twisted.

"Taking a whole day to pack a single bag is a waste of time." Damian sighed and closed the door. "And keep your voice down."

"We doing this tonight?" Bishop resisted using his secret-sensing magic to see if anything new had developed while he slept. That would have been a horrible idea, though. He needed to stay fresh and keep the headache away lest the fifty percent chance drop to ten.

"Good, you're awake. And look much better." Flat words from a matter-of-fact Guardian.

"Here, I brought this back for you." Sid placed a plate with a small dark brown square and a fork on the desk.

Bishop leaned over and sniffed it -- it smelled sweeter than fruit.

"Don't tell me you don't have chocolate cake on Turss. How horrible. I was actually shocked they had anything so decadent in the House of Portals."

He took a taste, and then he was sad they didn't have anything like it on Turss. "We should pack some of this."

Sid beamed. "Good idea."

"We're not packing chocolate cake." Damian opened his wardrobe and pulled out another bag. "This isn't a pleasure trip. Back to your room to prepare, Obsidian. I'll come fetch you around the same time I did last night."

She nodded and left.

"Headache gone? You still sure you can knock out a guard or two?" The Guardian's brow furrowed.

"Don't go second guessing the plan now. And I'm still eighty percent sure." Fifty, but what Damian didn't know wouldn't hurt him.

Bishop intended to discover exactly what the Guardians had been hiding and what other technology they'd stolen from Turss.

* * * * *

Chapter 33 - Expected August 2022.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Writing Update - June 2022

Is it writing update time already? How are we almost halfway through the year? Wow, time certainly does fly. Especially as an adult. How I miss those long summers as a kid...

OK, I'm getting off track. Seems like the theme of the year for me. Lots of distractions abound. Mostly life-related ones. Still trying to even out things with my health (physical and mental) and Youngest's mental health. Plus my dad passed earlier this year.

Now summer is throwing me for a loop with the million kid-related events scheduled (I try to not over-schedule stuff - I've never been a do everything parent, but Eldest seems to think she should do everything - she needs better time management skills, but I'm so not the one who's capable of teaching them to her - sigh). Plus the house is in a state of disarray due to an attempt at organization (decreasing the DOOM boxes) and projects (that need the organization done before they can be completed).

Through all the life distractions, though, I've been able to at least get some writing done! I'm not exactly where I wanted to be for progress at this point in the year, but I'm not at a standstill. So, let's take a look at what I've accomplished so far, and what I plan to juggle and change for this year's goals. If you'd like to see the original 2022 writing goals, visit 2022 - Keep the Momentum Going.

2022 Publications

Nymphs Need Love Too (Fractured Fairies, 5) - It lives! I published this back in April, so go snag a copy if you haven't yet.

Dead As Dreams (novel) - Unfortunately, I have to delay the release of this until 2023. More details about it under 2022 Progress.

Do Not Go Gentle (prequel short story to Dead As Dreams) - Yes, I've added this. Since I'm pushing off the novel, and I've had the idea for this short story for some time that's related to said novel, I'm hoping to publish this in Fall 2022.

2022 Writing Progress

❦ Revise, Edit, and Format Nymphs Need Love Too - DONE!

❦ Revise Dead As Dreams - Though I'm no longer publishing this in 2022, I'm still working on it. The revisions are just going slower than expected. I've clearly changed as a writer since I last touched this, and it needs more work than I thought! I've revised 32,406 words so far. About a third of the way through, and the back half needs a lot more work than the front half. This is still my main project. I will not put this novel off again!

❦ Draft, Revise, Edit, Format Do Not Go Gentle - This is the new story. And since it's related to Dead As Dreams, weaving this into my schedule at least keeps me anchored in the same world as the novel. I'm aiming for a minimum word count of 5,000, but not sure where it will land once done. I've drafted 520 words on it so far.

❦ Draft at least 8 Magic Morsel episodes - I actually drafted 10 episodes (8,979 words)! I'm up to 39 episodes of Magic Morsel published. I'd love to get back to this at some point this year, but it all depends on revision progress with Dead As Dreams.

❦ I've sent out 2 Newsletters already, and I'll be sending out 1 more this week (maybe even today). And I've stuck to 1 blog post per month here on Born to Write - maybe I'll increase these again one day, but right now... life.

Yes, progress. Some shifting around of goals, though. It's OK. As long as I'm still moving forward instead of treading water. We'll see where I'm at again come the end of 2022. Until then, happy reading, all!

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