Quote of the Moment

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

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Ch. 34

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 33

* * * * *

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession

Chapter 34

Bishop had to find information. To help Turss. To end the war.

After he heard Sid exclaim over Ama, he continued down the hallway, frantically opening each door on the outer ring. He'd yet to come across one for the inner portion, which he feared might hide what he was looking for, and could only be entered by yet another secret door.

One room contained tables with several beakers and different colored liquids. Yet another, animals in cages, all alive yet eerily quiet.

Eventually he stumbled on a room filled with file cabinets and boxes clearly containing paperwork. This, this might help.

However, he didn't know where to start, his limited time pressing at his temples and exacerbating the beginnings of a fresh headache. So he grabbed the nearest box, which like the others wasn't labeled.

Most of the papers appeared to be detailed information on gates, not from the courtyard but other spots in Nect. And detailed was a tad of an understatement. Whoever jotted down these notes covered every crack and crevice, dimple or dent.

Useless. Completely useless. He moved onto one of the file cabinets, and the papers here were more interesting. They seemed to extensively explore the Ancients. This could be of use.

But then he realized all of it was conjecture, only some of it based in the faintest of truths. The Guardians had truly destroyed everything they had on the Ancients. Wait, no. He scanned another passage again. The Ancients had destroyed all the historical texts, and the Guardians were trying to recover it.

He skimmed more of the pages, hoping to find the why buried in the words.

Then Damian barged in. "What are you doing? We've found Ama, and we need to get out of here."

"Why didn't you just leave without me?" Bishop growled.

The Guardian glared and clutched the bag still strapped across his chest. "For the same reason I didn't let you go when we stepped through the portal."

Ah, curse the light that blinds the Eye. The man actually did care. This complicated things. "I need more information. Supposedly, the Ancients were the ones that burned all your portal books and histories."

Damian released his grip, his arms falling to his sides. "Truly?"

Bishop nodded. He knew he could have lied again, or simply omitted anything he'd actually found, but the man had decided not to leave him behind, and he owed him for that. "I'm trying to find out why."

"The name's Sid." Her voice was distant, but full of determination.

He cursed. A couple days ago, he would have gladly sacrificed another to focus on his own objective. Now, he couldn't leave her to whatever Guardian monster she faced.

"Give me those papers and go. I'll be right behind you." Damian opened his bag.

Bishop shoved the files at him. "What do you want to bet she'll claim she doesn't need saving?"

Shoving the papers in his bag, Damian chuckled.

But Bishop didn't wait for an actual answer -- he zipped out the door and back up the hall, side-stepping Damian's still unconscious father. He was still pleased his spell had worked a treat. Well, on the third attempt.

A hulk of a man faced Sid, and another woman who he could only assume was Ama sat on the floor, appearing bewildered. The man advanced.

"So Bear, what's your deal with Damian? That first day when I had to go before the council, I noticed something between you two. What's the story?"

Bear paused, eyebrows drawing together. A Guardian that clearly was more muscle than brain, but Sid also knew how to apply questions that made the most thoughtful brain pause.

As Bishop approached her, though, he realized that wasn't all she had on her side. The little pocket knife in her hand glowed, a silver-blue to rival the afternoon sky of the Iris Meadows of Turss. And he felt the power humming off of her, stronger than ever before.

Part of him wanted to see what she could do with that power.

The cautious side of him, though, realized she likely didn't know what she was doing at all, and if whatever coursed through her failed because he didn't act, it would be his fault.

Bear took another step forward.

"I don't think so." Bishop summoned the magic deep inside of him, directing it into his right arm, reaching to the tips of his fingers. He raised his arm up and slashed it down with all the focus and determination he could muster.

It didn't take him three attempts this time. Bear fell with a thud, vibrating the floor with his heft.

A debilitating pain lanced through Bishop's head. He pressed a hand to his forehead, moaned, and dropped to one knee.

Through blurry eyes, he saw the blue glow on Sid's knife snuff out. She tucked the blade back into her cloak. Then she knelt down and pressed her fingers to the fallen Guardian's neck.

He knew what she was going to say before she said it.

"He's dead." She turned to him, the shock on her face swimming before him, doubling then tripling. "You killed him."

"I didn't... I didn't mean to."

Damian bounded up to them. "We can't worry about it right now. My father's stirring, and Liss may be on her way if she's not waiting for us above already. Obsidian, help Ama. I've got him."

Bishop's vision flashed in and out, the pain still stabbing him behind the eyes. Curse of the Eye. He'd betrayed his world, and now he was being punished.

More importantly, he'd killed a man.

Damian tucked an arm under him, and he stumbled up the stairs next to the Guardian.

One look back. Bishop had to. Bear's corpse burned into his mind. Yes, he'd seen dead bodies before. But he'd caused this one.

He'd wanted to end the war so he never had to do something like this. The will of the Eye laughed at his desires, the echo following him up the stairs and out of the council building of the Guardians.

Damian felt sick over Bear's death. Even with how the gruff Guardian had treated him growing up, he didn't deserve that. This wasn't how he wanted things to unfold.

There is no return from death. But we must allow the dead to sleep. The precept had a couple layers of meaning -- it not only referred to true death, but also the past. It always bothered him that the rules had so much repetition. Now, he realized it made it better to impress certain beliefs onto people.

Not that he had time to ruminate over the precepts of Bear's death. No telling when Liss would appear.

And though the anger attempted to tug at him, to accuse Bishop of being so careless, the man clearly hadn't intended that result, nor was he handling it all too well, and it took a lot of effort to pull his gaze away from the body.

"Do I press this button?" Obsidian was ahead of him, and they're reached the top of the steps. "Well, here goes nothing."

The door whooshed open. Damian feared Liss would swoop down on them, blocking their exit, but they entered an empty council room with no sight of her. Perhaps Bear had rushed down to the lab without telling her, confident that he could handle the situation himself.

Either way, they had to hurry.

They crossed the council room and headed down the hall, far too slowly for Damian's liking, but with two of their group needing assistance there was no possibility of speeding up. Finally, they stepped into the night.

The power from the gates swirled in his brain like a miniature cyclone more than usual. Especially the Destiny portal. Not that it called to him -- it still held its disturbing silence. Unfortunately, he'd have to leave it behind. Hopefully he could return one day and explore it.

And now he sounded like Obsidian. He'd told her not to do just that. A big, old hypocrite. "Let's get to Turmoil and get out of here." His declaration failed to extinguish his guilt.

Obsidian nodded, and he noticed she was trembling, eyes darting from gate to gate. Perhaps the power of them was also heightened for her, clawing at her mind.

Just as she ducked into the hill with Ama, Damian spotted Councilwoman Liss exiting the building he'd visited a couple days ago to visit his mother. He practically dragged Bishop into the safety of the misshapen hill, and left him leaning against it, heart seemingly thudding in every corner of his body, from his toes to his fingertips.

He peeked out to observe Liss. Her face maintained an unreadable expression, but she hastily strode to the council building. So he stepped back to the others, removing his bag from his shoulder. "We have to hurry. Once Liss finds Bear and my father in the lab, she'll come searching for us, likely starting with any hiding spots in the courtyard."

"Hand over the book, then." Obsidian had lowered Ama to the ground, who at least appeared more alert, and extended her arm.

It would have been easier if he allowed her to do it again. After all, she'd already broken the precept.

But Damian knew he needed to do it, for nothing less than to solidify his resolution to buck the precepts. He tugged the book out of the bag. "No, I'm opening the gate this time."

She lowered her arm and tilted her head, her brows briefly drawing together before she schooled her face. "Fine, then."

Yes, no denying she wanted the book back. He hoped she'd eventually realize while it had started out as hers, it had become so much more. It represented all that had been lost to Nect, and the hope that some of that could be restored to the world again.

Ah, portals be damned, he couldn't stop her, or himself, from entering other gates -- they needed to, to piece together the past. To figure out why the Ancients left and burned almost all of the portal books before they did so.

Damian approached Turmoil and looked down at the book. The script for Destiny peered back at him. He touched the cover. "One day, but not now." His conviction growing inside him by the moment, he pressed his palm to the gate before him, watching the script on the book shift and shimmer until Turmoil emerged.

The cool stone against his skin felt right, proper. Not what the precepts declared. It pained him to remove his hand, but opening the portal was imperative.

He picked up the candle. "Knife please."

Obsidian held the blade up and squinted at it before handing it over.

Questions burned on his tongue, but they'd have to wait for later. He sliced open a small cut on the top of his wrist, and he gritted his teeth against the pain. That didn't stop him from etching the script into the wax flawlessly. He placed it in the well under the arch once he was done and handed the knife back to Obsidian after he'd wiped it on a cloth he'd brought along just for this purpose. Unlike her, he'd considered and prepared everything before he'd leaped into this madness.

Yes, either way, it was still madness.

Then Damian lit the candle. "One of your pins now, please."

She obliged, her hair tumbling down her back. He still thought it looked better that way.

Just as eloquently as on the candle, he traced the script in the dirt with the pin. Now the words, the ones he hadn't heard when Obsidian had first spoken them, similar to Bishop's words when they'd returned to Nect. "Chains connect to other worlds like a web, tugging them toward the center. Nect calls -- the core, the heart, the nexus. The life of one world feeds the life of all. I cry to one of the limbs, one which sustains the heart. A world with its soul torn in two. Turmoil."

And nothing happened.

The power didn't jump, and the portal didn't swirl with brilliance. Damian's words hung in the air, ineffective. "What?" He felt useless, empty. Rejected.

If he couldn't be a follower of the precepts or a person who sought redemption for the treachery of his fellow Guardians, what could he be? Where was his place?

Bishop snorted. He must have recovered slightly if he had the energy to be so derisive.

Obsidian frowned, but then her face lit up in a sudden realization. "I know!" She yanked the hairpin out of his hand and studied it closely. "I accidentally pricked my palm with one the other day."

And the book detailed how an object to write the script in the dirt shouldn't have drawn blood. A small sliver of hope kindled inside him. Though he knew there was still a chance he'd fail again.

"Go, Seth! Look for them in the House of Portals. Find your son!" Liss's shouts jolted Damian. She was near.

"Give me the other pin."

"Are you sure you don't want me to do it?" Her confidence in his abilities clearly flagged.

He'd prove to her he could open the gate just as she could. "We have no time. You'd have to start over with the candle."

She plopped it into his palm, nose wrinkling.

Damian quickly obliterated the script in the dirt to begin again. He took a keep breath, willing his hand to remain steady. This time, when he completed the word, a power zapped his fingertips.

Yes, this was how it was meant to feel. He repeated the words, the power and call of the gate growing inside him with each utterance. "Turmoil." He released the word too loudly, the excitement building in him pushing it out.

Liss was sure to have heard it.

The portal blossomed, a fiery rose, eager to swallow them up. "Hurry, before she finds us."

Obsidian and he gathered their things, Bishop and Ama finding their feet on their own and stumbling up to the gate.

"Should we be doing this?" Ama's jaw dropped, hypnotized by the swirling flame. "It is beautiful, though, isn't it?"

"Link hands, everyone, and remember to hold on tight." He considered the possibility of losing anyone in the in between, especially after they'd just risked so much to save Ama. A horrible, disparaging thought.

First, Obsidian stepped through, hand gripping Ama's. Bishop went third, and finally Damian.

Just before he slipped into the coolness of the portal, he caught sight of Liss standing in the opening of the hill, hands clasped behind her back. She made no move to stop them, and instead of the shock he'd expected on her face, a pleased grin graced her lips.

The chain strong, Bishop tugged, and Damian was gobbled up by the gate, Liss's form gone.

But the look on her face followed him, poking at his mind. And he wondered if they'd just done exactly what she'd wanted all along.

After all, as Bear had said, Liss had grand plans for Damian. Those plans might have included him breaking the precepts and traveling to another world.

An intense cold, stronger than that of stepping through the portal, settled in Damian's chest.

* * * * *

Chapter 35 (The Final Chapter!) - Expected October 2022.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Ch. 33

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 32

* * * * *

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession

Chapter 33

Damian couldn't stop his heart from thudding in his throat. He knew the only way to calm it was to exit the council building and return to his obedient blindness as a Guardian.

But that was impossible, from a moral and logistical standpoint. His heart would suffer a lot more if he were to ignore the lies. And the bag with the book and tools to open Turmoil, along with two packs stuffed full of his and Obsidian's clothes and supplies plus the book of fairytales, was already safely tucked away hidden behind the hill that shrouded the gate.

They'd crossed the courtyard without notice, and now the council building seemed as deserted as it had the night before. This time, they'd risen earlier -- it wouldn't be good if they ran out of time to open the gate, and there was no telling how long it would take to get in and out of the lab with Ama.

Damian entered the council chamber, the others close on his heels. At least they all remained silent, though Obsidian appeared as if she might pop a blood vessel in her forehead if she had to stay quiet much longer. He directed them to behind the desk.

"Are you sure the entrance is here? I don't see anything." Bishop knelt down and swept his palms across the floor, shaking his head.

"Positive." Damian groped under the table, attempting to remember just where Bear had touched. Right when he was about to ask for help, his fingers brushed over an obvious circle carved into the wood. "Here it is. Are we ready? Once I press this, I'm not sure what we'll face."

Bishop stood. "Just do it before you think better of it."

Obsidian nodded and squeaked.

Yes, before he thought better of it. He sucked in a breath and pressed.

The door whooshed open slowly, as before. But this time, he could see down it. The light pouring from the opening was as bright as the sun, and stairs spiraled into it. Always a circle, or something similar to one.

"Guess you were right. Me first." The other-worlder descended the steps before Damian could object.

All he could do was follow, and Obsidian behind him.

When they reached the bottom, he wasn't surprised to find they stood at the entrance of another circular hallway, almost exactly like the council building itself, though it looked much bigger.

"How does the shrinking and expanding of the courtyard affect something like this? Same as the other buildings, it just doesn't? Like it's exempt?" She clearly couldn't keep it in anymore.

Damian turned to her and pressed a finger to his lips.

She pressed both of her hands over her mouth.

"I knew it." Bishop whispered and peered up at the ceiling.

The source of the bright light -- exactly like the bulbs in Turss. Yes, he had been right.

Were the Guardians simply thieves? But then why had they stopped going to other worlds to steal this technology? Unless they hadn't...

Dark thoughts of breaking the first precept. Damian needed to shake himself out of this and concentrate.

He slipped past Bishop, who was still transfixed, and glanced down the hallway, left and right. No sign of other life, and just as quiet as it had been above. All he saw were solid gray walls only interrupted by closed black doors. "Let's head left first."

"These walls feel like stone, but in one solid piece." Obsidian tapped her fingernails on the gray.

And Damian touched the first door in front of him, cold like steel. Metal. He turned the knob and pushed it open.

The light in the large room was just as glaring as the hall, and similarly empty, aside from all the dozen odd items lining the back wall. They looked like the reflective box in Bishop's cabin, yet not as square and bulky.

"Computers." The other-worlder shoved Damian aside and entered the room, then spun around. "Come in. There's more."

Obsidian sneaked past first, and Damian finally entered, wary and full of dread. The Guardians' secrets seemed unending. Once in, though, he turned to the wall with the door, and saw it lined with shelves and an array of curious boxes with buttons, knobs, and screens. "Are all these from Turss, too?"

"Honestly, I recognize one or two things, but the rest is a mystery to me."

"I'm beyond curious about all this, but haven't we lost sight of our goal?" Obsidian approached the door. "We have to find Ama."

She was right, they'd all lost focus.

All of them returned to the hallway, and Damian secured the door behind them. "One door at a time like last night, but this time we stick together instead of splitting up."

Just then, a Guardian stepped out of one of the rooms further down the hall. He spotted them instantly. "Hey, what are you three doing down here? Restricted access."

Damian knew the face and the voice. All too well. His father, who was supposed to be off on a mission in Nect. Clearly his mission was closer to home than he'd let on.

Seth drew closer. "Damian? What are you doing down here? And who's with you?"

"Time to do your thing, Bishop. Now."

"You know him?"

Damian swallowed, a lump refusing to go down, and nodded. "My father. Do it now. Please." The trembling started in his legs and quickly traveled upward, until it took hold in his hands.

Both his parents had lied to him, hid things from him, but his father's betrayal stung more. Their relationship had still been distant, but a congenial one. He had entertained Damian's penchant for daydreaming and fairytales, saying not to tell his mother -- it would be their secret.

Secrets. To the Ancients with secrets.

Bishop raised his right hand straight into the air, then brought it down swiftly. Nothing happened.

"Well?" Damian's anger and resentment built. If he could knock his father out himself, he would.

"I said it was an eighty percent chance, right?" Bishop attempted his move again, with the same result. "Maybe that's more like fifty percent."

Obsidian drew her knife, which she was supposed to leave back with the supplies to open the gate.

Seth approached and tugged a black rectangle out of a pocket in his white coat. "Bear, intruders in the lab. Contact Councilwoman Liss immediately."

Damian snatched the knife from Obsidian. This was his fight, his treacherous father. If Bishop's spell wouldn't work, he'd knock his father out.

Though he'd never had a violent tendency before today, he yearned for Seth to reach him, to take his frustration out on one of the many who lied to him all these years.

And then Bishop did the arm motion again, Damian's father dropping to the floor in a heap. The body lay still, breathing not even apparent.

"Did you kill him?" Damian handed the knife back to Obsidian.

"Well, there's a slight chance."

Seth's arm twitched, and he rolled over, a light snort escaping him.

Damian breathed a sigh of relief and realized just how horrible it would have been if he had actually attacked his father. It wouldn't have been out of defense, but anger and a desire to harm.

After all, in the end, that would have made him no better than the rotten Guardians who kidnapped and experimented on the people of Nect.

No, he'd never stoop to that level. Never.

Obsidian took the knife back from Damian, relieved he hadn't accidentally cut himself -- he trembled like a leaf clinging to a branch in a gust of wind. She stowed it back in an inner cloak pocket.

"Now what, Boss?" She added the moniker in hopes of jarring him out of his stunned spell.

No such luck, though she could understand how unexpectedly running into his father in this place, followed by watching him tumble to the floor, would freeze him.

Her turn to take charge. "We don't have much time, since he contacted Bear. Let's start with checking the room he came from. Perhaps Ama's in there." After all, she was supposed to have a guard. Not exactly the kind of guard she'd expected.

Sid snagged Damian's hand, and he succumbed to her tug.

When they stepped around his father, he couldn't take his eyes off the unconscious form, and he almost stopped to stare until she shook his arm to get his attention. "Sorry."

She should have said the same. Instead, she dropped his hand and entered the room.

It looked similar to an infirmary, cots lining the far wall. And in the middle one, Ama lay, tossing restlessly in her sleep, wires all along her arms and coming from under her blouse, which hooked up to a couple machines at her bedside.

"Ama!" Sid knelt next to her bed, ripped off all of the sticky circles that held everything connected to her, and stroked the woman's forehead. "What have they done to you?"

Vials of blood sat on a table next to her. Damian's father must have taken it from her. Perhaps they'd already started their wretched experiments.

"We need to wake her up enough to get her out of here." Damian had finally rallied and started rummaging around in some cabinets on another wall. "What is all this stuff?" He shook some vials of clear liquid. "No smelling salts? Ah, here we are."

He brought them over and ran them under Ama's nose, which caused her to toss more, but not fully wake.

"Come on, Ama, you need to wake up." Sid slapped her cheeks until they were bright red and encouraged Damian to use the salts again.

After he did so, her eyes flew open. "Wha? Where am I?" Her words garbled, whatever they'd drugged her with still had its grip on her. She glanced up, head weaving from the motion. "Sid? That you? Em all foggy."

"Yes, yes. They gave you something nasty. But you have to try to stand and walk. Here, I can support you." She offered her hand.

Ama gazed at it for a moment then offered a jerky nod and gripped Sid's forearm with a fair amount of strength -- a good sign.

Damian helped with guiding her up, and they successfully got her to her feet.

"'Member a bit now. Councilwoman Liss stuck me with something!"

"Rotten woman." Sid slipped her arm under Ama's and she helped her with a few tentative steps, until Damian could slip in on the other side to aid with the weight.

They all shuffled to the door and out into the hall. Damian's father had shifted, but remained asleep. She feared Bishop's spell wouldn't last long enough -- the image of him grabbing her ankle as they passed infiltrated her mind.

"Where's Bishop?" Damian's question yanked her from her mini daymare.

She looked around, and sure enough, the other-worlder was nowhere in sight, and he hadn't gone into the room with them. He'd sneaked off. How maddening. They had to get out of here -- Bear and Liss were on their way. "The Ancients help us. Leave the idiot behind?" She didn't want to, of course, but her mind insisted on flight, and time pressed on her chest like when her brothers rough-housed and sat on her to pin her down.

Damian grumbled and slipped out from under Ama's arm. "Can you try to get her to the stairs on your own? I'll quickly search for Bishop."

This was the Guardian who had originally suggested letting go of Bishop when passing through the portal. Yet now, he risked his own hide to save the other-worlder from his clear inanity.

And she'd considered abandoning him once they reached Turss. The compulsion to open her gate back home had overtaken her common sense and kindness. Something she'd have to avoid in the future.

Though Sid wouldn't allow him to dictate her fate, she wouldn't jump to such rash decisions. "I've got her. Go find him."

Damian nodded and continued down the circular hall.

"You've got to help me a bit more, Ama. Can you put more weight on your feet?"

"I'll try." The woman at least sounded a little clearer.

They wove around the unconscious form of Damian's father. Aside from a small stumble, they passed successfully, no hands shooting out to snag her ankles.

The further they walked, the stronger Ama seemed to get. They were almost to the stairs when a bleary eyed Bear emerged from above.

"Guess Liss was right to be worried. Pity, too. She'll be so disappointed you didn't work out as a match for Damian."

Match? What in the Ancients was he talking about? Well, definitely not what she should be thinking about.

She had no way of getting past Bear, her knife out of reach while supporting Ama. "Let me through." She wouldn't go down without a fight.

He laughed. "You got guts, Girl, I'll give you that."

"The name's Sid." She dipped her voice. "Sorry, Ama." Then she lowered the woman to the floor and pulled out her pocket knife as she rose.

It wasn't much, as small as it was, but it was better than nothing.

Obsidian gripped the bone handle hard, and felt a warmth surge from the tips of her fingers and into the knife. The blade glowed, a brilliant blue light.

"What the--?"

Even she couldn't answer him, shock settling in her stomach.

Whatever it was, though, she'd use it to get through this bull of a man and figure it out later.

* * * * *

Chapter 34

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

Genshin Impact - Yes, I'm Still Obsessed

So, it's been about a year since I wrote up my first Genshin Impact post, which means I'm way overdue for the next!

I'm clearly still addicted to Genshin... I mean, Sony's 2021 update said I played 1062 hours last year (and that's just on Playstation - I may have made a second account on my computer, but I haven't played that one too much - heh). At least my addictive personality gloms onto games instead of more destructive pastimes?

Oh, and I've kicked Summoners War to the curb (it was fun while it lasted, though). I still try to squeeze in some time for Everquest, and I also play Epic 7 (super casually) and Castle Cats on a regular basis. I've been making my way through Persona 5: Royal (which makes this the third time I've played Persona 5 - haha) as far as normal console games go.

Wow, that was a tangent. I should really post more often about gaming!

The rest of this post will be tons of Genshin Impact screenshots because... all the awesomeness. I'll make a note for each one. Enjoy, and happy hunting!

I figured I'd start with the Lantern Rite festival, since we're currently in the middle of it, in-game. This shot was from last year.

Yes, I got Xiao last year! And this is me releasing a bunch of lanterns with him.

This is during the Windblume festival. All the flowers! Lumine here is the female protagonist/main character (you get to choose her or her brother Aether to play at the beginning).

Pretty waterfalls!

The Unusual Hilichurl. He's in a different spot each day - always fun stumbling across him... and then attacking him to work on my achievement. ;) He always disappears into a suitcase, leaving some cabbages behind.

So, this squirrel was bugged and wouldn't run away per usual. I decided to have some screenshot fun. Doesn't it look like Keqing is reading to the squirrel? Lol.

Zhongli at the end of one of his questlines. He's still my favorite character to use, and he's a bit of a crutch for me. I think I have a thing for meteors (I still love all the meteor spells in Everquest, too).

This is Ayaka from the end of her main questline. And yes, I got her! She is wicked DPS, too. Hubbie kind of wishes he would have gotten her as well.

Here we have Yoimiya. I don't have this character, but Eldest does. I just couldn't pass up posting this awesome screenshot.

Oh, look at Dragonspine. So cold and foreboding, no?

Here's Albedo - this was during the winter event on Dragonspine. Fun storyline! Currently Hubbie is the only one in the house with this character.

Do you want to build a snowman? That's one of the things we got to do during the winter event!

Arataki Itto, the One and Oni (yes, he really says that). I love, love, love his personality. And bashing creatures with him, as well. As a plus, the voice actor is the same one who does Ryuji in Persona 5! There was no way I wasn't going to grab this awesome character.

Entering Enkanomiya, the latest area added to Genshin.

Going up, up, up in the Jade Chamber! That's Paimon, Lumine, and Shenhe. Paimon is your ever-present travel buddy. And yes, I managed to get Shenhe, too.

I was so thrilled I actually got this shot, as I thought I missed it. That's Keqing and Ganyu leading the troops!

Finally, sad Shenhe. This scene was even more beautiful to witness live. MiHoYo does do an excellent job with all the cutscenes - just awesome graphics, in my opinion.

And that's all for my waifu and husbando worship for now! Do you play Genshin Impact? If so, who are your favorite characters, and have you gotten any cool screenshots while playing?

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

2022 - Keep The Momentum Going

OK, I can break that nasty streak of even years going to hell, right? Right. *cracks knuckles* Let's do this!

I am going to up my goals compared to 2021, and I'm hoping I'm not sabotaging myself by doing so. Must stay positive. I'm going to rock 2022!

All that optimism is rather saccharin for me - lol. Time to bring things back down to reality. If I get my two planned publications out this year, I'm going to call 2022 a win. Especially since one has been waiting its turn forever - time for it to claw itself out into the world.

Onward with the 2022 writing goals!

2022 Mantras

❦ Just Write.

❦ Trust My Instincts.

❦ Focus.

❦ Sit And Get To It.

The first three are holdovers from the last couple of years, but the last one is new. Most times getting started is the hardest part, so no matter how I feel, if I have writing scheduled for the day, I'm going to sit down and attempt to get words out. If I sit there with nothing for a half hour, then I'll throw in the towel for the day - heh.

2022 Upcoming Publications

Nymphs Need Love Too (Fractured Fairies, 5) - Spring 2022

Dead As Dreams (stand alone novel) - Fall 2022

2022 Writing Goals

❦ Revise, Edit, and Format Nymphs Need Love Too - this should be pretty easy. Not tons to tweak, and I always have fun with Grinka, Syndago, and the fairy brats.

❦ Revise, Edit, and Format Dead As Dreams - and here we come to the novel that has waited too long. This poor story has been fiddled with off and on since 2005! And I love it, so I just need to finish revisions already. Right now it's a stand alone, but I can't say I haven't had ideas for a sequel...

❦ Draft at least 8 Magic Morsel episodes - I'd love to add episodes to this on Kindle Vella each week for the rest of the year, but since I need to get other things done, it's just not feasible. This is my focus, though, the first couple weeks of January, so hopefully I'll have another two months of episodes before I take a break from it.

❦ Draft 20k words of Gemini's Echo (Zodiac Aegis, 1) - Or I'll just add more episodes to Magic Morsel, depending on how I feel once Dead As Dreams is complete.

❦ Newsletter - I have scheduled 5 of these for the year; 2 for my releases, and the other 3 will each include two chapters of Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession. Yes, this means I'll be sending out the final chapter of that this year!

❦ Born to Write - At least 1 blog post per month (I know, I'm slacking on Marvel/MCU commentary, but writing comes before blogging, always).

❦ Social Media - Yeah, I'm not even sure what I want to do with this right now. I've had some ideas to fiddle with TikTok, but I so don't have the time to jump on that bandwagon at the moment. What do you think? What social media platforms would you prefer to see me interact more on?

❦ Marketing and Promo - I need to delve deeper into this when I get the chance to this year. Got to get my books in front of more eyeballs!

There you have it. Too ambitious? Just right? I mean, I also have a list of extra goals because I want to do all-the-things now. Damn it, time, why must you be finite?

What are your goals for 2022, writing or otherwise? Feel free to share. Either way, good luck, and may this year be less rocky than the last two!

P.S. Some Writing Bullet Journal pics below. At least the first full week of the year has started out well so far!

Header Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay