Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Steps of Hope

     Artis was fair, even among the fay. Beneath a crown braided with ribbons the colour of a summer sky, her curls were as pale and golden as the sun and drifted like silk on the breeze. The skin they caressed was as pure as milk, the cheeks they framed were as pink as a rose, and the eyes they shaded were as rich as forget-me-nots.
    But for all the shepherdess's beauty, she was not as vibrant as once she'd been.
    Across those rolling hills, silver streams and sparse, sun-bathed trees, her eyes stared numb for miles, and she stood atop that old, drystone wall like a figure of forgotten porcelain. She barely moved but for the breeze tugging at her skirts, and her attention remained fixed to the horizon, searching, as it always was, for sight of her lost lover.
    It had been years - not too many, by the mind of the sun, but more enough to change her - since she'd seen Arlen chase off after the stray lamb. She'd given it little thought at the time; sheep wandered, sometimes too far, and their enchanted fleeces would be a dangerous prize among mortals. Strays were worth chasing down.
    But he hadn't come back.
    She couldn't remember when concern had set in, nor when concern had changed to panic, and panic into a lifeless patience. But loss had never gripped her, not truly. Every day, she stared and wandered, peering into the distance for sight of his return.
    That summer's day was no different.
    Artis stepped off of the wall, startling her adoring sheep, and drifted out into the endless hills, wandering blindly while her flock trotted and bounced along beside her. There was little hidden from the sun between her and the horizon, just scattered fluffs of snow-white sheep speckling the hills, while the rich scent of grazing, rustle of leaves and lazy trill of songbirds tinted the air a dozen different colours.
    But she didn't notice them. Nor the faintest music on the breeze, nor the grass beneath her feet, nor the weight of another shepherd's eyes watching her from a rock on the streamside.
    But Silvius often watched her; the shepherd's stare was nothing new. It was so mundane, in fact, that she'd never noticed it at all. All Artis knew of Silvius was his magnificent skill with his pipes. He played for the fay, leading their céilí by melody while she led them by step. But that was all she noticed of him.
    Though she never heard it, he would sigh wistfully into the breeze whenever she passed by, and the tunes he played upon his pipe fell deeper into melancholy. And in those melodies, drifting on the air, she heard only the sounds of her heartbreak until her feet carried her out of its reach.

    For all her wandering, there was only one place Artis would stop while her flock spread out to graze, and it was in the shade of that hilltop rowan that her arms lifted and wrapped about herself in comfort. But her eyes never stopped searching. From here, the last place she'd seen her beloved, she continued to watch the horizon.
    Hours would pass before she moved again - but this time a curious bleat drew her from her cloud of thought, and she watched as one lamb wandered away from the rest, enraptured by something in the distance.
    Her heart shuddered as her eyes followed it, and her stare sharpened to that of a hawk's. But whatever had captured the lamb's attention remained silent and unseen. It was a mystery.
    And so the flicker of hope that she'd nursed and encased inside her heart exploded immediately into a searing fire.
    She ran the moment the lamb did, her bare feet glancing over grass while the creature's little hooves thudded their way ahead, moving faster than any lamb should - so fast, it fell out of sight in moments.
    But Artis ran on and on, the raging of her heart and the hope firing her muscles carrying her even past the point of exhaustion, and like a wind she covered several hills with Arlen growing clearer and clearer in her mind. Her eyes were wider than they'd ever been, and they saw the least they had in years. A smile even graced her lips.
    She had no idea how far she'd run, but she would run as far as she had to, as far as her feet could carry her, and then she'd run farther still.
    The same curious bleat rose suddenly from up ahead, clearer and louder this time, and she threw herself after it, tripping over herself while her smile grew wider and tears prickled her eyes, until she reached the top of the hill. There, the wind whipped past her ears, tangling her hair and pulling at the ribbons in her braids while her breath burned in her chest, but her eyes didn't stop scouring the area.
    Buttercups and grazing sheep dotted the slope that rolled away below, and her gaze tumbled after it to the stream winding around its base, and, finally, the figure sitting upon a rock at its side.
    The water glittered brighter through her tears.
    Until the wind died away, and the sound of pipes drifted towards her in the lull.
    Silvius's sorrowful melodies, steeped in shades of grey and lilac, smothered her flame back into a meek and sputtering flicker, and renewed in a moment the power of her heartbreak. The forlorn melodies, anguish and hope intertwined...his music brought to mind Arlen, only Arlen, and the vaguest wisp of a direction, like the dust drifting from an old and overgrown trail.
    Dust that settled every time she tried to take just one step out towards it, concealing the path once more.
    Then, as the last grain settled, a sudden certainty came crashing in: she would never find him. It was a certainty she turned away from, numb, any time it caught her eye. Because to give up hope was to give up on him. And to give up on him... Her heart wouldn't let her.
    Her eyes, filled with the tears of a loss she refused to acknowledge, turned up towards the beaming sun, and she embraced the ache of the music. In spite of that certainty, she began to dance.
    Her attention fell to the soles of her feet, to the feel of the grass, the small stones, and the roots beneath them, and she threw herself into it while other shepherds and shepherdesses arrived over the hills from all directions, called by the sun, drawn by the pipes, and moved by her steps.
    For all the love Silvius poured into his music while he watched her dance, the melodies only scorched her heart.
    And she would keep waiting in spite of it.

This story was written for Istaaire, who owns all the characters and their histories.
This story is not to be copied without both my permission, and Istaaire's.

Monday, 3 August 2020

Little Dragon

   Through the glittering surface of the dark, azure water, down past the constant tug of the current, beneath the reach of shimmering shafts of light, where the pebbles twitched and the green fronds swayed. The roar from the mountains penetrated even here.
   The tiny wyrm froze in fright at the vibration, before a gentle hum softened the water around it.
   "Do not panic, my little dragon. It is not a sound you will hear often."
   The wyrm turned back towards its mother as she coiled her long, serpentine body tighter into her rocky nook, and lay her great head down beside him among the waving stems of reeds. The same current that tried to pull him away merely tugged at the fronds on her chin. The duckweed didn't stir far above them.
   "Their story is your story. It is time I tell you, and you shall heed it well. For the good of all of us."
   The wyrm settled and watched as the light played over her scales.
   "Eons ago, dragons were abundant. We ranged through swamps, caves, deserts, seas, forests, jungles and ice. There was nowhere we could not live and adapt to, and the world was our kingdom for millennia. We saw the rise and fall of many creatures, and few of those who survive today are anything like they used to be. But we dragons have not changed so much. We have always been the kings and queens. We fit the world perfectly. It was made for us.
   "But in time, deep time, another creature - a wingless, puny creature - arrived and took offence. A creature that cannot adapt, and instead changes the world to adapt to them. In their eyes, our perfection made us a threat, and they began to hunt us. First, because they feared us. Then because they wanted our scales to wear, as if they could become like us, and be perfect like us. Then, for nothing but sport. Hundreds upon thousands of us have fallen for the sake of their glory."
   The wyrm jolted at a splash from the bank. The serpent lifted her heavy head and watched the beaver swim past. She didn't bother even to snap at it, and lay her chin back down.
   "And they learned. They hunted us in mating season, the most dangerous time they could - that was the thrill. The excuse. But we were then also our most vulnerable. We dragons are tied to our nests." Another hum rumbled through the water, and she twitched her fronds in amusement. "But this is how we river wyrms survived where others fell.
   "Dragons are ancient, as I have said, and we have never had reason to hide. Many make spectacles of themselves in the skies for mates and territory. Water dragons, however, do not. Nor do we breathe fire or fumes. And so few have thought to look for dragons by the water, and we in turn keep away from where along the rivers the creatures make their homes.
   "But one of our kind could see what the rest could not. She knew the creatures would expand their territory, just as we did, and we would either be seen, or cut off from one another, unable to breed. Our species would die out either way. And we could not fly away to safer waters like others could to mountains, nor survive on so little in the drowned caverns.
   "Suryū knew all of this, and when they were seen along the banks of her river, she acted.
   "But she did not kill them like others did. She stalked, and she learned. And when breeding season came with the rains, she made her nest among the reeds, and she laid - sooner than anyone else."
   A glint of silver caught the serpent's eye. Stretching her small, paddle-shaped wings, she adjusted the current passing over her, raised her head, bowed her neck, snapped, and struck. The fish was gone in an instant.
   The little wyrm snatched at one far smaller. She rumbled in pride again.
   "Suryū's eggs were small, and the water she breathed over them, warmed in her belly, was a puff rather than a jet. She knew they might well not survive with such treatment. But it was a calculated risk, and, ten days later, those small eggs, tangled in algae, did indeed hatch. The small, stiff little things were nothing like dragons, and jerked about in the water, tiny and helpless. They did not survive. They could not. They were nothing familiar, and were eaten by other clutches.
   "Suryū tried again the following season, and though these grew bigger, they did not survive, either. Many were caught in fishing nets instead. But she did not tire." She turned her head, and peered at him a little closer with one great turquoise eye. "You, little dragon, are a product of much toil.
   "It was in the seventh season that Suryū perfected her clutch, with hatchlings familiar enough to go uneaten, big enough to defend themselves, small enough to slip through nets, and fast enough to catch their own prey. This seventh clutch survived, and she passed her success on to the rest of us to follow her lead for the good of our kind. Many did not, believing we should not sully our lineage, that our 'kind' would not be our kind anymore. But there is a good reason that there are so many more of you today than there are of them.
   "But the deception alone was still not enough. The waters were still not safe. River wyrms had been discovered, and our numbers shrank rapidly. This clutch still looked nothing like their mother, but how long would it be before the deception was discovered, and the puny, offended creatures imagined a new threat?
   "So Suryū taught her hatchlings to weave wings of water and spider silk where their paddles should have been. She taught them to break through the water and move across its surface on six tiny legs. She taught them to fly, thrown up by small jets of water until those delicate wings took over. Then, one day, when they had learned all she could teach them, they perched on grass and reed and looked down at her through the water, and with a final bow of her great head, she sent them flying off downstream."
   She chuckled once more. "You might well wonder. Why fly when it was the downfall of the other dragons? Because they, like you, were small enough to slip through nets. No arrow could hit them, and they cast no shadows when they flew. If eyes were looking in the water, far better to be above it.
   "You will be too, one day. And when you do, my little dragonfly, make for the vast ocean. Lay and breed your young in the streams and rivers along the way, and tell them this story. And when you, or they, or their young, reach at last the endless sea, land yourself amid the rising coils of steam and bubbles." She closed her eyes and nudged him softly with her snout, humming softly into the current. "Our cousins await your return."

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Book Birthdays! [free books and short stories]

Today marks the birthday of The Zi'veyn and The Sah'niir! And, because I like to take book birthdays a little too seriously, I've gotten organised for the first time since Corona struck!

     The Zi'veyn is available for free on Kindle until August 5th!
Search 'The Zi'veyn' on your preferred Kindle store
or hit one of the links below for the most common stores:
UK    US    Can    Aus    NL

Otherwise, here's my schedule for the month, including both Patreon and public posts:

1st: 'One Öre' (short story) released on Patreon Archivist tier
1st-5th: The Zi'veyn free on Kindle
4th: New and quite different illustration
8th: 'It's Just Business' (short story) released on Patreon Archivist tier
13th: Artwork compilation on Patreon, all tiers
15th: 'One Öre' made available to everyone else
15th-19th: The Sah'niir free on Kindle
20th: Artwork compilation available to everyone else
22nd: Sneak-peek of Veysuul's cover for Patreon only, all tiers
22nd: 'It's Just Business' made available to everyone else
27th-31st: Hlífrún free on Kindle

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

6 Years of The Devoted Trilogy

    Monday the 27th marked the end of the 6th year I've been working on The Devoted trilogy.
   The story has been through so many changes that the initial plan - a file dated with the above date - is virtually unrecognisable. Characters have grown in ways I'd never expected, and science has played a bigger role than I'd intended. Biological magic, political entanglement and psychological impacts - which, I suppose, is only suitable when the enemy employs such levels of deception.
   When I started, it was a relatively 'complex' plot - just enough to be interesting. It has since grown into a labyrinth. Nothing, as it turns out, is quite what it seems, from the starting situation to the alliances involved. I've worried at times that it's too dull, and at others that it's too complicated. But when I read it all through, I find myself confident rather than concerned. And for all my other worries over the years, that no one would be interested, that no one cared, that I was 'wasting my time' (side note: time spent doing what you love can never possibly be time 'wasted'), I can say that I love what my trilogy has become.

  On Saturday August 1st, The Zi'veyn turns 2 years old, and The Sah'niir turns 1. The Zi'veyn will be available on Kindle for free from then until the 5th, and I have 2 free short stories to share, as well as a new and rather different illustration that I've been seriously torn between sharing and not. But I decided, given the occasion, to go ahead and throw it out there in August.

   The first short story will be available on August 15th (Aug 1st for Patreon) and the second will be August 22nd (Aug 8th for Patreon). Patreon will also get a sneak peek of the WIP of book 3's cover before anyone else, which won't be shown publicly until it's finished.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Darahir and Shalenn

   In a world of love and loss, it is a tragic truth and paradox that the two should cross so often, and an inexplicable inevitability that one should be pursued so eagerly despite the knowledge that the other will certainly follow, whether the first is successful or not. No matter one's race or disposition, blind hope and willing ignorance both fuelled and empowered them all.
   Because the joy that one could win in the lull between the two was worth every ounce of conceivable misery.

   It was in a coastal town in the luminous borders of Ygalis that Shalenn first snared Darahir's attention. Even at twelve years old, she was as beautiful as the golden rays of sunlight burning away the rain clouds, or the colours of a waterfall scattered under moonlight. Boys fell at her feet before they even understood the kind of spell she had them under, and girls detested her for it.
   Darahir, however, adored her. When her chores took her out into town, she chose her route by the best way to glimpse her, but ran away whenever Shalenn happened to be close, and when she was tied up in her alchemical studies, her attention still managed to wander its way out from her father's workshop, down the street, across the branching streams and through the magistrate's window, where the girl with sprays of elderflowers woven into her braids sat at a desk, practising her lettering. She spent hours imagining how she might finally speak to her, what she might say and how she might say it, and when that chance came, she ran away again.
   With every spring, Shalenn grew more radiant, and where boys grew bolder in their pursuit of her, and girls more hateful, Darahir grew only weaker. It wasn't helped by the fact that Shalenn rebuffed all new acquaintances - but she wasn't surprised by it. The magistrate's daughter wouldn't lower herself to the company of lechers and opportunists, not with her family's wealth and influence draping over her as she stepped so gracefully into marrying age. She was a higher breed.
   But Darahir knew that she needed only twenty seconds of bravery to prove she was different, to prove that it wasn't contacts or benefits she sought to befriend, but her.
   Bravery that, for reasons she couldn't fathom through the rapid beat of her heart, dragged a great amount of terror along with it. Every time she entertained the idea, she felt as thought she needed twenty more just to summon it. And Shalenn deserved more than a cursescript or decoction to feign it.

   For better or worse, the matter was thrown far out of Darahir's hands when she was out in the White Marshes one autumn evening, gathering salts for the cobbler's tonic.
   A shriek like the ripping of worlds shook the mists, and she abandoned her panning to run straight towards the terror, pulling a strip of parchment and ink box from her jacket as she went. She was already scrawling incantations before the second shriek tore through, and threw the crumpled sheet into the face of coalescing wraith as the helpless scream rose behind her. Seizing the woman's wrist, she dragged her away before any more could wake, and when she at last turned towards her on the safety of the road, Darahir's heart lurched and leapt up into her throat as though she'd been kicked in the gut by a horse.
   Pale, shaking, terrified, Shalenn stared back at her with eyes as wide and silver as the moon. 'Darahir' was all she said, breathed in a whisper, but that alone squeezed her heart higher. And then, with something far warmer than gratitude burning in her eyes, she kissed her.
   Surprise gripped Darahir before she could react. She recoiled instead, in shock, and in fear. And before she could make any sense of the moment, Shalenn had fled. Her sobs drifted back through the night while she stood alone in the dark, trapped in the grip of incomprehension, and the horror that chased it away.
   Weeks passed before she saw her again, at the door to Shalenn's own home, but her effort to apologise, having spent hours every day obsessing over her choice of words, were met cold.
"It doesn't warrant explanation," Shalenn had told her primly. "Thank you for coming by. Was there anything else?"
   "No," she'd replied with a defeated furrow, "nothing else..."
   The door had been closed on her.
   And Darahir became consumed. Consumed by the insult she'd paid her, by the look in her eyes when she'd kissed her, by the taste of her lips when they'd parted. Shalenn had spurned all others, but her...
   Darahir returned to her again a week later, and again a week after that, and the week after that, bringing her elderflower perfumes and sprays, and inks for her work. And each of her visits, and each of her gifts, were met just as glacially as the first.
   But Shalenn continued to open the door, even though she knew it was her, and that was enough to lure her back time and again.
   And then, in fate's truest fashion, war crashed against their shores.
   The alchemist's craft of poisons, blade oils, bombs and cursescripts were required for the effort, and Darahir was both obliged and proud to serve. But the thought of leaving Shalenn, her insult only just beginning to thaw, filled her with a dread so deep that it invaded her very existence. And so it was that an idea came to her in her dreams.
   An echostone, an obsidian shard with which one could be summoned to another's side. With it, Shalenn could call her when her temper soothed and her insult softened, whether she was one or one hundred miles away. With it, she would not forget her. With it, she would win her, in her own time.
   Obsidian wasn't rare in Ygalis, if one knew where to look, and an alchemist always did. It took three days to create the cursescript and sear it into the glass, and she left it with a note and a spray of elderflowers on her doorstep. She didn't wait for her to answer her knock.

   The campaign lasted for two and a half years, and she battled through it all with an unwavering hope in her heart. Even when the war was lost, and Ygrona absorbed Ygalis into its own rule.
   Darahir returned to her afterwards, but the coast had ravaged, and the town taken. Ygrona's banners snapped in the breeze where Ygalis's colours had been what felt like only yesterday.
   Shalenn's home, too, had been taken by another, a rich foreign family who'd taken the rule of the town. A young family recognised her, one with a profession still valuable to keep around, and told her she'd been among those to flee just before the occupation, and had taken little with her.
   "Did she take a black, glassy stone?" She'd asked, feeling her heart rise as high as it had when Shalenn had looked her in the eye in the marshes. It fluttered when they nodded. They knew because the looters had been vocal in their irritation that she hadn't left it behind with the rest of the magistrate's riches.
   Darahir spent years searching for her, but could find her nowhere. None had seen her - though none had been looking - but she had no doubt that they'd remember if they had.
   And while she still held hope in her heart, exhaustion inevitably set in. She settled down, expanded her craft, and waited for her. She came into the service of nobles and generals, and she earned her coin and titles. And she waited for her. She turned aside courtly suiters and the sons of dukes and counts. And she waited for her.
   And all the while, the ache in her heart grew deeper.
   By her middle years, the nights seemed to stretch longer, winters grew colder, and sicknesses came more often and sank with deeper hooks. As she lay in her bed one morning, decoctions on the table beside her to chase out a fever, she felt a strange stirring in her heart, heard a phantom voice whisper beside her ear, and felt the warmth of breath brushing across her skin.
   Her hope surged, adrenaline fired, breath choked in her throat. She lay there, listening to Shalenn's voice, while the world slipped away around her.
   In the same moment, in a bedroom back in a coastal town in Ygalis, the echostone tumbled from a limp hand and shattered across the floor.

© Kim Wedlock

Monday, 8 June 2020

Hlífrún Art Week

   This past week I've been sharing some of the artwork for Hlífrún (printed exclusively in the Patreon-exclusive hardback edition) across social media. Here are the gathered pieces.
   All were drawn by myself

There is one skogsrå per continent, and Hlífrún is the skogsrå of Arasiin. She has barkish skin, a wood-hollow in her back, a cow tail, a toned and muscular frame, and a twiggy, branching crown. She traverses the forests like a phantom, melting into trees and reappearing hundreds of miles away in a single step. She is not kind. She is not patient. Her fancies change like the breeze, and there's no knowing what her smile might mean. She is nature itself, and if you find yourself on the wrong side of her (or any side, having said that), watch your step.

Harpies - half-bird, half-human migrants of the south, perching watchfully in the oldest trees. All from kestrels to eagles bow to their superiority, and they, in turn, protect them from poachers and collectors.
They also make wonderful battle scouts.

The askafroa. She is a real danger - assuming you're within range. But range is, really, all it takes. They're aggressive opportunists, and will cast fast-acting curses on you, or your whole village, if you offend her or harm her tree - assuming she doesn't grab at you with twiggy hands.

Vakehn, forest guardians. They're not born to the wilds, but the wilds have adopted them all the same, neutralising old connections by growing lichen, miss and fungi over chestnut skin and forest green hair. Their weapons are made from wood approved for use by the queen, and they wrap themselves in gossamer and lichen to break up their shape like bird nests, and to maintain some degree of modesty - one of the few lingering connections to their previous culture. Their magic is used in defence of the wilds, and they answer readily to Hlífrún.

Arkhamas (or 'ditchlings') are pale, when they're not filthy, with matted hair tangled with all kinds of stuff, live in setts and drop from trees. They move around in warbands and steal food and clothing from villages. Folklore says they steal children and turn them into Arkhamas, but that's just not true. Children who live with them do so voluntarily, but rarely for very long. Kids run away on impulse, but soon miss warm food, beds and mother's kisses.

Pre-order Kindle for release on June 20th.

Paperback will be available on release day.

Cover art by Frenone.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Hlífrún Sneak Peek - Chapter 1

Hlífrún, Chapter 1

     A gentle, viridian breath rustled through the world. Weighted by the rich scent of loam and moss, the air pirouetted under the cool tug of the breeze, while the fresh edge of rain cast a welcome division in the long-unbroken midsummer heat. There was promise in that, of life and abundance, and enthusiasm hung like a restless fog stirred up by every other breath.
    The air was not silent. The air was never silent. Here, there was always some sound of comfort or company, overlapping and interlocking with another into an unrecitable harmony. It was a melody without rhythm, composed of the rustle of dark, summer-kissed leaves, the warble, chirp and trill of birds, the squeak, croak and howl of beasts and the babble of rolling streams. It was a symphony filled with secrets, while the voices of the trees themselves whispered 'welcome, Queen,' into the winds.
    She opened her dark eyes and watched the colours of eternal twilight shift through the forest around her, glittering in the fidget of leaves aglow with the sparse leak of sunlight. A pair of woodlarks looped and flitted briefly into view in a dazzling display of iridescent gold, and a beetle tumbled from a tree, landing with a soft thud on the damp moss below.
    Then all fell still once again.
    Hlífrún's grey lips curved into an insuppressible smile.
Here was serenity. This was a place of ancient souls; a place where time slowed and wandered, the smallest measure that of the passing sun, the longest that of the turning seasons. There was nothing to rush for here, no urgency, no fret. There was only life. All was as it had always been.
    Her gaze dropped back to the ground. Her heart sullenly followed as she locked onto the tidy mat of winding roots that stretched forwards for some feet, young, bare and smooth; ash and rowan woven together in a mutual charge to bridge the abyss that rent the otherwise pristine forest.
    Though she begged them not to, her eyes followed the line of that gaping wound yet again, searching despite the hole in her heart for a clue of the scale of destruction. Mercifully, the trees spared her that torment. She could already feel the rend all too deeply, as though her own body had been torn. And she supposed it had been, in a way. The spirit of this and every forest was equally her own.
    The leaves above fluttered with the heavy shudder of her heart. She drew herself back in with a sigh.
    She knelt gracefully in the damp soil, rain water swelling around her knees and trickling through the grooves of her grey, bark-like skin, and slipped a rough, slender hand down through the dirt. The earth bowed aside willingly.
    As she closed her eyes and released a slow, focused breath, a fine, off-white sheath began to form around the exposed roots. It crept out across them slowly, spreading like a tangled, fibrous web, sealing where they overlapped and wove together, where they knotted, where they released. Then a second mass responded on the far side of the rift, bleeding through the sheared soil. But it was slower. Sluggish, as though the last drops of its life force were ebbing away, sacrificed for this final growth.
    The approaching web ambled closer, creeping further and faster along the roots as though it recognised its kind, and when it burrowed at last into the severed soil, seized and anchored by the woody spears, the second, struggling mass bloomed.
    In that instant, the forest changed.
    All around, the pockets of grass and wildflowers that had found sun enough to grow stood taller and brighter, their scents intensified, and the branches of the surrounding trees reached higher toward the morning sun. Bark darkened around their trunks, roots thickened and flexed, and the soil that nourished them all swelled and sweetened with vitality.
    Pride flared through Hlífrún's blood. She drank in the rejoice of the forest, the tinkling songs of the flowers, the young, twitching voices of grasses, and the rumbling creaks of the ancient trees as each declared their gratitude. Even the air seemed to lift and hum.
    The change was glorious.
    Her eyes flicked towards another patch of rustling, quivering grass and watched a mole poke its head out from the soil. She beamed gleefully as it squinted towards her, and returned its relieved snuffle with a wriggle of her own nose before it bumbled lazily back into the earth.
    This rift was the last of them, at least for the moment. The mykodendrit had been repaired at the most vital locations - its fungal network would heal, and her influence across the continent's forests would repair with it. She could already feel her primordial link to the Vaen Steppes strengthening far in the north.
    She stayed there for a while, relishing the summer breeze as it teased her thick, dark mane through her twiggy crown, and bathed in the sounds of her queendom.
    Until another concern edged its way to the front of her mind.
    She didn't muddy the air with her sigh. She rose instead, lifted her chin, and walked on through the forest to address it.
    Midsummer's Day was almost upon them. It was an important day, a crucial one for life, the most vibrant of the year - but it was also a day that was in sore need of vigilance. Humans always built their fires in a preposterous celebration of the sun, and every single one of them seemed to think that they could control the most destructive force of nature. In her thousands of years, she'd never once seen a shred of evidence that suggested they were learning from their mistakes, even as whole villages burned down from a single stray flicker, never mind the forests.
    But, the wilds were not helpless to them, especially not with her at their lead. She and its denizens had developed a steady system over the centuries, and while a number of parties needed reminding of their role at almost every such occasion, it remained fairly reliable.
    Fairly. Unfortunately, humans couldn't always be so easily predicted.
    A tangle of juniper parted on her approach, and she stepped through with a distracted thanks.
    Her woody fingers were already curling into fists as the most recent of human offences blazed its way to the front of her mind: the blackened, skeletal trees, reaching from the scorched earth like gnarled claws pleading for help; the dead silence that weighted the stifling air more heavily than the heat itself; the woven willow faces of kvistdjur, her loyal forest wardens, charred and crumbling where they lay, unrecognisable, dead, dry and bare of leaves.
    She caught herself and loosened her fists, ignoring the sap that oozed from the fresh wounds on her palms.
    That day was almost half a century behind her, but the responsibility, the failure, remained as if it had been yesterday. She'd fought even harder since to ensure it didn't happen again, but the fear that humans would inevitably find some other way to blindly destroy her domain seemed to dig its roots even deeper into her heart with every passing year.
    And so, that morning, her preparations began anew, first with a few polite visits to reinforce the weakest links in her chain of defence - and the näcken and the Arkhamas were perhaps the least reliable of all.
    In fairness, the näcken weren't deliberately difficult - they didn't fall under her rule, so they couldn't be expected to hear her call to arms through the roots. But her sister, the Mother of Currents, didn't deal as directly with the creatures of her domain as Hlífrún did, and for that reason, the Mother of Roots wasn't above bypassing her and eliciting the river sprites' help herself. They would provide it readily enough - as long as they stood to gain, too. Which, of course, they did: by redirecting the flow of their rivers to put out stray fires or stop them from spreading in the first place, their water would pick up fresh nutrients, and that would benefit everyone.
    No, the näcken were not deliberately difficult.
    The Arkhamas, however, were.
    The short, almost child-like creatures were numerous, loud and impulsive, and seemed to refuse all authority. But their unique ability to communicate silently across vast distances was just as crucial to damage control as the näcken's rivers. And besides, she'd long since found a clever little way to deal with the unruly things.
    Hlífrún, stepped from the damp soil and into a birch tree, melding into the bark as though it wasn't there at all.
    When she stepped back out, the birch and surrounding forest had become an alderwood, the nearby sound of birdsong had been replaced by cackles, whoops and the sound of clambering feet, and what peace had draped the trees was now an indignant protest. But, whatever the Arkhamas were doing, it was only a minor offence. The older trees got, the more easily offended they became.
    She brushed her hand soothingly over the bark as she stepped down to the root-laced soil, and felt their collective disgruntlement fade. Then she started straight towards the racket.
    They soon fell into sight: seven of them, their pale skin smeared deliberately with mud, clad in either animal hides or human clothes stolen from washing lines, playing, eating, whittling while one was chasing a weasel. It was a harmless game - if the weasel didn't want to play, it would've been quick to let them know.
    It took some time for them to notice her - she'd stepped fully into their glade, in fact, before the weasel felt her presence, and even once it had scurried away from its would-be captor and up onto the tree beside her to nuzzle at her cheek, the rest of them still took a few moments longer to work out why. The trees were looming disapprovingly by that point.
    "Yer Majesty!" The weasel-chaser cried, grinning as he finally dashed forwards to greet her. The rest remained stubbornly where they were, on rocks, in the branches, and an eighth poked her head out of a hollow tree trunk. "'Appy Midsummer-Or-There-Abouts! What'n can we do for ya?"
    "Happy Midsummer," she smiled despite herself, stroking the weasel's head. As bold and troublesome as Arkhamas were, she couldn't help her affection. Their presence alone always lightened her mood.
    A single root rose from the ground and twisted itself into a stool, which she sat upon gratefully, her cow-like tail swaying happily behind her. "It's exactly that which I've come to talk to you about."
    Every one of them narrowed their oversized eyes with shared suspicion. A few wandered over her naked body. She smiled sweetly and ignored it. "I have a job for you all."
    "Again?" One of them groaned.
    "Yep, and it's very important."
    The first boy, one with sticks and bones tied into his matted hair, folded his arms and looked down his snubby nose at her. He had to tilt his head a fair way back to do it. "You said that last year."
    "And this year," she smiled brightly, "it's even more important. The humans will be lighting their Midsummer fires in a matter of days--"
    "Why do they do that?"
    "Now of all nows, an' all!"
    "Yer, it's hot enough, ain't it?"
    "--And I need you all to keep your big and wonderful eyes open," she continued over the gaggle.
    The bone-haired boy watched her for a moment. They all did, each sharing their thoughts in silence. Then came the whistle of air being sucked in through chipped teeth. "Sounds like a big respons'bility, Yer Majesty. What with the magic an' all - I mean, there's already a lot we gotta watch out for, ya know..."
    "I certainly do," she beamed, "which is why it's such a very big responsibility, and why I need your help so very much this year. I need you to keep watch for bonfires stacked too close to forests and move them away, I need you to stop anyone from lighting anything too close, and I need you to raise the alarm if anyone does."
    "Like I said," the boy smiled not quite as sweetly, "big responsibility, and a fat lotta work, to boot. Per'aps we'd all be better off if'n you just asked your vakeys to do it."
    The other Arkhamas began nodding and agreeing - audibly.
    She rested her chin in her barkish hand and pretended to ponder the suggestion for a while. Her dark eyebrows drew slowly together. Then her round lips pursed in doubt. "I'm not so sure the vakehn are capable of this kind of job. I mean, it takes a certain kind of strength and determination to face humans, wouldn't you say? I mean, if they could do it, I would've asked them already. After all, I know how dreadfully busy you all are..."
    Their eyes narrowed again.
    "No," she sighed, "I'm afraid only Arkhamas can do it."
    The bone-haired boy grunted. "Well, that's a shame then, ain't it? 'Cause we're just tooooo busy. Like you said yerself, 'Majesty."
    She sighed and rose to her feet. A flicker of victory passed over the Arkhamas's faces until they noticed that she, too, was smiling. "Thank you," she beamed.
    The forest children blinked at her as the root stool unravelled and returned to the ground. "What?"
    "I appreciate your help, Gaz," she sang, turning her tree-hollow back towards them and stepping away into the trees. "I really don't know what I'd do without you!"
    "H-hey, wait, what--"
    "You'd better spread the word right away and move out to the borders, or you might miss something!"
    "Bu-bu-but," Gaz reached out after her as the others scrambled to their feet in confusion, "we didn't agree to nothin'!"
    "Thank you, my dearests! I appreciate your co-operation, so very much!" Then she stepped into a tree and vanished - though she remained in there just long enough to hear the defeated groan waft out through the glade.

    When she stepped out again, the alderwoods had shifted to willows leaning silently along a river bank. She wended and wove her way among them, following the deep, flowing river below very carefully, stifling her trepidation. Water was a wonderful, life-giving thing, but unlike the earth, it was somewhat...insubstantial. It had a surface, technically, but there was no physical way to stand on it, and while it was true that her wild magic allowed her the ability to do just that, it still sent a chill through her bones. She greatly preferred solid ground - but she wouldn't find a näck that way.
    She continued to step carefully, and a musical sound of softly-bowed strings soon rose from further along the river. She smiled and moved a little faster towards it. The beautiful, alluring sound grew louder and sweeter, calling her closer and closer.
    Fortunately, she was immune to its magic.
    She stopped before the source of the melody and leaned forwards over the water, hanging on to the tree. It lowered her closer on her request.
    "You won't lure me in there, I'm afraid," she told her reflection, and waited as the music rose a little louder. She simply smiled and shook her head.
    Soon, another face half-rose from the water surface, breaking her reflection - that of a boy much like an Arkhamas, but with green, scaled skin, yellow eyes with the slitted pupils of a frog and long, algae-frond hair that drifted with the flow of the river. Those eyes looked back at her with some degree of irritation. She met them with an unbroken smile. "Now, young man: I need your help."

This excerpt is the entirety of chapter 1.

Read the whole story in Hlífrún.

Pre-order Kindle for release on June 20th.

Paperback will be available on release day.

Cover art by Frenone.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Hlífrún Pre-Orders Open!

   Hlífrún is now available to pre-order on Kindle! Paperback will be available on release day (June 20th) because Amazon still don't seem to have figured out how to make paperbacks pre-order yet, but if that's the piece you have your heart set on, just sit tight ^^

   Otherwise, search Hlífrún (or 'Hlifrun' - the accents don't seem to make a difference) on your preferred Kindle store, and you'll have the Queen's company on the Summer Solstice. Hopefully ours will go better than hers...

When the abuse of magic rips open borders and plunges the Emerald Kingdom into winter at the height of Midsummer, Hlífrún - skogsrå, Root Mother and Queen of the Woods - must find some way to thaw her forests, repair her eternal connection beneath the soil, and protect her kin from the deadly ravages of frost, magic and humans.

Inspired by the creatures of Scandinavian folklore and set within the world of The Devoted trilogy, this stand-alone supplemental and series of short stories sees the struggles of nature against the carelessness of civilisation as it fights back with root and claw.

Hlífrún is a stand-alone supplementary novella to Kim Wedlock's 'The Devoted' trilogy.

Cover art by Frenone

Friday, 29 May 2020

Hlífrún Map Reveal

   I'm a bit late with sharing on here, but here it is! The map reveal for Hlífrún! If you follow me on social media, you'll see it's really just on my official website of all things that I'm slacking ^^'

   Look familiar? It should. Hlífrún takes place between books 2 & 3 of The Devoted trilogy, but due to the stories taking place in the forests, largely across Turunda rather than the entirety of Arasiin, none of the settlements have been labelled. They're of no consequence to the Root Mother. The book also includes a continental map of Arasiin, showing the greater extent of damage across the queen's domain.

   All in all, I'm pretty happy with it ^^

   Hlífrún pre-orders open on June 1st. The book is released on June 20th.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Hlífrún Cover Reveal

Here she is!

   This stunning work was fan art made by Frenone after she beta-read Hlífrún last year, and she has very graciously given me permission to use it as the actual cover! I'm overwhelmed by the gesture and the permission, and I fall deeper in love with her image of Hlífrún every time I look at her.
   If you look closely, you'll notice how little landscape is actually present!

   Check out her amazing work and support her on Patreon and twitter!

Thursday, 14 May 2020

The Girl in the Crystal Tree - 2020 Fresher Prize Short-Listed

   My short story, The Girl in the Crystal Tree, has been short-listed in the Fresher Publishing Prize!

   The Girl in the Crystal Tree is a short story from my upcoming supplementary book, Hlífrún, and I was so pleased with the reception it got from beta-readers that I decided to take a chance and submit it to the competition. I was hoping to get long-listed, with short-listed being a far less likely goal. Winning is rarely on my mind, especially among so many other worthy writers. So, to be short-listed is an amazing feat, and I'm over the moon!

   The short story will be released within Hlífrún on June 20th, but it may also be shared separately, owing to this achievement.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Hlífrún Book Release Schedule

   On June 20th, Hlífrún, a short stand-alone supplementary novel to The Devoted trilogy (between The Sah'niir and book 3), will be released - 150 pages of short stories following the wildlings' plight against the Midsummer disaster. I wrote this over Camp NaNoWriMo in April 2019 and it has been through waves of beta reading to ensure it does stand on its own. I'm immensely excited about it, because it's quite different to how I would usually write.

   Below is the hype schedule. Patrons will see most of this a week or two sooner, as well as more posts over the 'art week'. There will also be a Patreon-exclusive hardback book with additional content. Outside of this, it will be available on Kindle on June 20th, as well as in pocket paperback in my Etsy shop, and on Amazon paperback around June 22nd. There will be a giveaway for a Patreon-exclusive hardback happening 2 weeks before release, too.

   Most of this will take place on Twitter and Instagram, with static posts happening here and Facebook, too.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

The Hermit

   All askafroa are protective of their ash tree. Consumed with concern for its health, their spirits and fates intertwined, they are vicious when approached. Few with any sense go near inhabited trees, day or night, for fear of the nymphs' wrath. Treading accidentally upon their roots usually results in the most ruthless ailments, and snapped twigs in curses of entire households.
   But where all other askafroa relished in their devotion to their verdant sanctums, one had grown lonely. Once, she'd adored the isolation; her tree had been enough. But now, she was tired. All thoughts were her own, opinions were her own; there was no argument, no discussion, no sharing or stories. Nothing and no one approached the aggressive little nymph. Even the birds feared her boughs.
   In time, she turned ever further into herself, hiding from her empty life. She dove deeper and deeper into her beloved tree, searching for the comfort that had once filled her so completely. She sank into the bark, slipped into the grain, seeped into the sap, but no matter how deep she receded, she could find no comfort. She found only her own heart, a knot of rotten wood. There was no contentment. There was no love. No joy. She realised she hadn't felt any such thing in a very long time.
   She began to cry tears stolen from the roots, and her voice rasped in sorrow. She hadn't spoken in a very long time, either.
   As her throat ached, she realised at last what she had long refused to face. And she knew, fearfully, how to fix it.
   Humans came on Wednesday. A whole village, each carrying a jug of water in shaking hands. They were pallid as they poured it, one by one, over the roots of her tree. She watched them as she always did from the safety of the branches.
   When the village elder poured the final jug and spoke his hallowed, beseeching words, she held her breath and scurried like a squirrel down the trunk.
   The whole village shrank back. She stared at them closely. They were peculiar, their skin so smooth, free of flaky lichen. But they didn't look scary. They looked frightened.
   She made her decision.
   Bracing herself, gritting her teeth, she reached a twiggy arm up into the branches and pulled one free. It hurt, but it was nothing like she'd been told; snagged hair, not a broken finger.
   Tentatively, she handed it to the elder. It would make a fine and sturdy spear shaft, or a whole quiver of hunting arrows.
   The surprise and gratitude upon their faces warmed her strangely, and she vanished quickly back into the tree, feeling fulfilled despite her loss.
   From then onwards, humans weren't so afraid of the askafroa, and visited often, watering her roots in exchange for strong wood or honeydew for the apiaries, and stories. And she savoured their visits. Despite her kin's disapproving whispers, she had opened her heart.
Written based on the Hermit tarot card for a scrapped project

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

The Hierophant

   "The juniper's berries, hot in the third degree, dry in the first, are key in countering poisoning, and are a powerful ingredient in the resistance of pestilence. The ashes of the--"
   "I am a centaur."
   Apollo looked up from the variety of herbs laid out across the sun-lit table and blinked at the scowling young man. "...Yes, Chiron, you are."
   "So what good are the properties of juniper berries among my people? Or music, for that matter? Or archery? Centaur are strong just as we are! We don't need weapons! Nor oracles!" He rose to his hooves and tossed the bowl of juniper leaves across the table, gritting his teeth while offence seared in his deep, dark eyes. He watched the condescending patience ooze from the god's rich bearing, standing as he was, his arms folded across his proud chest while he stared back with an infuriatingly gentle expression on his face.
   "Learning this won't help me to fit in! What value is this to them? To me?! How will the other centaur accept me among them when I don't know their ways, only yours?!"
   "And what are their ways?" He asked calmly. "Lust? Anger? Violence?"
   "No," he glowered, "wildness. As wild as untamed horses! And they are your sons, yet you speak so ill of them!"
   Apollo shook his laurel-wreathed head. "No. I merely speak the truth of them. As indeed do you. You do know their ways. So why do you not adopt them?"
   "Because you, dear foster father, will not allow me."
   "I've held you back?"
   "Yes!" Chiron boomed, storming around the table towards him in a thunder of hooves. "With all your teachings! Filling my head with useless things that will never help me find my place! You are a god, and the centaur are your sons! I am also a centaur - not of your blood, perhaps, but I am one all the same! But I've never been given the chance to prove it! Why would you wish to isolate me like this? Wish to make me so...different? Wish to make me suffer? Handicap me, blind and deafen me to my true culture? My true nature?!"
   "How," Apollo cocked his head, his voice still as soft and deliberate as ever, "can you know your own true nature if it isn't allowed to bloom? You remain here by choice, though you may not wish to admit it. Your door is not locked. You need not come to me every sunrise - but you do."
   "I'm not welcome among my kin! I have nowhere else to go!"
   "You do, once you acknowledge that you can turn around."
   "Enough of your philosophy!"
   "It's simply a truth."
   "Truth, truth, truth," his tail flicked, but he kept his itching back leg from lashing out and kicking the table away, "only the truths you wish me to know! You would turn me into what you want me to be!"
   "I would turn you into what you truly are."
   "And what, exactly, am I?!"
   A gentle smile curled the god's lips, a smile that abruptly froze the centaur's ire. "You, Chiron, are you. I'm simply teaching you how to find it."

Written based on the Hierophant tarot card for a scrapped project

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Read Chapters 1-6 Of The Zi'veyn For Free

or download a sample onto your Kindle app or device.
Buy the full book for £2.49/$3.49 on all Amazon stores.

Adult fantasy and grey characters - check out the book reviews on Goodreads!

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Join Me On Patreon! + Free Monthly Short Stories Coming June!

   I'd been playing with the idea for a while, and even went as far as to make my page last April to avoid Patreon's percentage hike if I ever decided to go through with it. And, a few weeks ago, I finally did.
   Writing is a huge passion of mine - you probably noticed - but it takes such a very large amount of time, passion and energy to produce anything I can sell, and I need to live in the mean time. So I decided Patreon might be a good way of both financially supporting my writing a little more, and bringing readers in on the process.

   I want to keep my tiers simple and affordable, so I only plan on having 2 true tiers at this point - $1 and $3 - and a couple of higher-priced tiers later on for one-off rewards that patrons aren't expected to keep supporting (ie pledge once, get the custom reward, then drop back to a lower tier or leave entirely). I'm still working on those higher tiers, but my lower tiers are more important to me anyway.
   Along with the below rewards that distinguish one tier from another, all patrons will get early access to news, cover reveals, and an inside look at the writing/creating process. They may also be subjected to my more personal writing woes. Sometimes a character winds me up, and I just have to vent. I will also need beta-readers from time to time, and patrons will absolutely be my first port of call.
Tiers & Rewards
Library Moth - $1 a month
   As of right now, there is only one tier available - Library Moth, $1 a month. This tier gives you monthly access to 1-4 raw snippets from my current work, usually something I wrote that very week, but that are chosen deliberately to avoid any spoilers (and will therefore impact whether I can share them weekly or not). These snippets won't be shared anywhere else, they're exclusive to patrons; no one else will see them until they find them in the books themselves, once released.
   There will also be a desktop wallpaper featuring a quote from my books - meaningful, or funny. These will be emailed out every month.
   This $1 tier is, ultimately, just a way for able supporters to contribute, and can join, cancel, and re-join at any time. There are no hard feelings at all. Money shifts; circumstances change.

Archivist - $3 a month (coming June)
   There will, around June, be a second tier available - Archivist, $3 a month. This tier will give the same rewards as the $1 tier, and will also provide 2-week early access to a monthly short story, which means that the story will be made available to everyone else 2 weeks later, so non-patrons won't miss out on those. These short stories may be book-related (but always written as a stand-alone, so no one will feel like they're missing crucial information), or they may be completely random.
   But - and I'm excited about this - it will also include exclusive access to my research every other month. This can generally be anything. I love to learn, I love making notes, and my research always gets out of control, so I definitely have some things to share. I research for my books, as well as for short stories, and can be about things like the moon, folklore, isolated cultures, crocodiles, wind, warfare, survival, tracking - the list is endless. Anything I need to research, I can share - and, like I said, I always go too far.
   The research won't include notes on how I've used it, it will just be fact, and that can be put to use by other writers, aspiring writers, or even artists creating OCs and cultures. You can read it and learn, or you can apply it to your own creative channels. That's what's so great about learning.

Future Tiers
   Future tiers will be more expensive because they will require a significant chunk of time for each individual, but they will result in one-off rewards such as a critique on a few pages of your own writing, or perhaps a custom short story (with full creative license).
   Because these will be one-off rewards, the patron isn't expected (and is in fact advised not) to keep pledging after that initial month.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020


   A hunt had brought her here. A need. An instability. She had to understand...something. She needed a reason for...something...
   For what, eluded her. Every time she thought it was in her grasp, every time she thought she could see her own questions, they faded into shadow. Such had plagued her for weeks, ever since she'd pulled herself away from the top of Lordearon's crumbling walls. She couldn't remember how she'd gotten there, nor why she'd returned to Tirisfal, of all places, after all these years, and after all that had just happened to upend her world. All she could remember of that week spent motionless beside the gargoyles was a question.
   What that question was, she'd also forgotten, but it had been there, and it had chewed its way deep into her mind.
   And now, somehow, she was here.
   Ny'alotha. The Waking City.
   She moved through its harrowing halls on stiff limbs, surrounded by a dark air that pressed in on all sides, squeezing desperation into her as it sought to grasp and rip her apart from the inside, and here, with every step, those faceless questions became louder and more distorted, and an overwhelming need for something clawed its way up her throat. Every step, another shredding reach.
   Her answers, her questions, her needs - they were here. The sole certainty in her dry and cracking soul was that she had to

   She wasn't alone, but the others weren't truly with her. She could see a madness around the edges of their eyes even as they, like she, fought back the droves of Black Empire soldiers. They'd come here to defeat N'Zoth, to end the matter once and for all - but N'Zoth was already inching his grip tighter around each of them.
   Their hearts would burst.
   Their minds would rupture.
   They would give in.
   But she could see it happening; she could see the darkness around her own eyes. It had been in her heart for so long already, and it had settled there. A warlock was closer to it, that kind of darkness. In here, that became her strength, her protection, and she held it close against her peeling skin like a suit of armour.
   She wouldn't fall. She would be the last one standing, and she would find... she would find something...
   Spattered in black blood, she moved deeper, the void-torn place changing ceaselessly around her, but in no way that she could follow. The discordant noise grew thicker the deeper into the Black Realm she went.
   She turned her mind away from it.
   It only grew louder with the effort.
   Then one sound rose above the others. Bitter. Mocking. Sylvanas's unmistakable laughter, her voice the sound of ripping silk.
   '...Nothing... Nothing...'
   Nothing. Nothing...
   The word repeated itself in her mind and conjured any and every meaning possible.
   She pushed on, her teeth gritting and cracking, eyes shut tight, following a path laid out by the darkness itself. It would take her where she needed to go. Of that, she had no doubt.
   And yet, she still caught a flash of something, and with it...comfort. Reassurance. Promise... And her mother's face.
   With cold, violet eyes.
   Had her mother always worn Sylvanas's face?
   No. No, she hadn't.
   Her teeth clamped harder and eyes shut tighter as she shook it away. Her mother had had green eyes. Green eyes, hair of curling flames, and a wide and irregular scar on her cheek - a burn from a splash of boiling water. She'd splashed that water, helping in the kitchen as a child.
   She held that face, that memory, and the sound of her mother's startled cry firmly in the centre of her mind - firmly, even as the darkness edged in around it.
   ' NOTHING!'
   Her fingers were wet. She'd broken her cheek. She realised she was clutching her face. She barely felt it.
   She barely felt anything anymore. Nothing beyond the dull clang of betrayal that reverberated behind her ribs.
   Another onslaught fell upon her thinning party, and she fought wildly, her spells flying far from where she wished them to as she held on to that desperate thread. The others were falling to the darkness around her, their blades and arrows finding their companions or simply attacking the empty air.
   Then, a crypt filled her mind, Shadow abstract memory, but one painfully clear, tinged with anger, hurt, loss and hatred. They were her feelings, and they were others', but she had been at the heart of them.
   Then Tirisfal itself filled her sight.
   Tirisfal in sunshine.
   Tirisfal in shadow.
   Tirisfal in mist, fog...smoke...Tirisfal was burning.
   Tirisfal was plagued. It would never come back.
   'The NOTHING!'
   She couldn't hold it back. The blackness crashed down in a wave. Her mother's scarred face stared back at her with five orange eyes. Sylvanas's victorious cackle filled her skull.
   Then Tirisfal was green again.
   The sound of battle vanished as she looked out over the healthy land, and her fears were suddenly so easily extinguished. And how foolish they had been! The deep, booming voice rattling through her ichorous veins assured her so.
   This was what she'd been searching for! Stability, familiarity, something to fight for!
   Those orange eyes, the eyes of her mother, overlooked it all. And the figures in black, they tended it - they treated the scars, the pustules, the writhing worms. Everything that shouldn't have been, they tended. They tamed. They strengthened.
   Tirisfal would be whole again, and it would be better than before.
   But then another darkness edged in just as she grew comfortable. It was another kind of familiarity, and though she turned away from it to continue to admire the world around her, the rich, purple lure enveloped her like yet another suit of armour.
   Her eyes fell onto the white slits that coalesced before her.
   You would...fall to...this? A deep voice breathed the words slowly, laboriously, from the outline of a face the colour of the sky at twilight. After...everything...? You would...subjugate us...use us...then this? With the steal...from cannot...even save...yourself?
   It wasn't mockery. She knew Arcarion's tone of mockery. This was disbelief.
   When she said nothing in return, watching the black figures tending - warping - Tirisfal through his incorporeal body, the voidlord withdrew.
   And she screamed.
   The splitting of dry skin as some alien part of her released the guttural sound snatched her back to the foetid place.
   Suddenly, those figures, those pustules, those worms - those tentacles - they were all around her. The same hopeful, deceptive aura saturated the air. Ny'alotha had her in its grasp and she was falling just as fast as the others around her. But as she stared around herself, between the flashes of battle, she found that Tirisfal wouldn't be the only realm to fall into complete desolation.
   The image of Orgrimmar flickered through her mind, cloaked in eternal night; the Storm Peaks turned from pure white to oily black; Tanaris writhed with tentacles and maniacally-flicking eyes. Even places as virile as Feralas, as shielded as Dalaran, as tainted as the Dread Wastes would succumb to this absolute evil.
   And there would be no coming back from it, because every single denizen of Azeroth will have lost their minds.

   Sylvanas had done this.
   Sylvanas would have allowed the world to rot in exchange for power, for a strength to achieve something the spirits themselves surely couldn't guess at.
   And Sylvanas had used her to do it. Used everyone to do it. And she'd been too weak to see what was happening and continued to lean on her beloved Dark Lady until she crumbled with the ground that shattered beneath the banshee's feet.
   And her own bones, the bones Sylvanas had freed from the Lich King's grasp, would pave her path to glory, right beside those of her victims. Because everyone - every single one of her kind, everyone who had stood beside her - were her victims. None but her own fair and immaculate skin mattered to her; none but her own power.
   And she would pull down everything she'd once stood for to gain more.
   Edwena had been betrayed before. By her family, her friends, her own kind. And she still stood.
   The Horde had been betrayed before. And it still stood.
   Truly, she was Forsaken.
   Everyone was forsaken.

   Her spine cracked as she pulled herself up straight. Her shoulders popped as she pulled them back. Her elbows clicked as she raised her hands. The dark, leeching magic she knew so well swirled around her, magic she had mastered in her ancient attempt to find purpose after her life had ended, restarted and been turned inside out. And she bellowed again - challenging Sylvanas, challenging N'Zoth, challenging herself - and felt that power flood her entire being and chase that reverberating betrayal out from where her heart had once beat.
   She fixed the putrid, sentient globules of blood rolling across the floor towards her with a burning, maddening hatred. They disintegrated beneath a rain of bilescourge, and she marched forwards with all who remained into the shuddering, booming, crackling carapace of the Old God.
   She was forsaken. She remained forsaken.
   And she would wear it well - because that was the only armour she needed.

World of Warcraft fanfiction, patch 8.3

Friday, 10 January 2020

Happy New Year!

   It's a belated post, but the sentiment remains. Happy new year, and thank you all for your support throughout 2019.
   Having taken a few months out from writing to take care of my Etsy store, I returned to work last week and read through everything I have so far for book three, making tweaks and changes and streamlining the whole thing a little more, while familiarising myself with the tone. I also put some work into The Sah'niir a few weeks ago and released an updated manuscript (no new links; it replaced the old one) to address a few typos and a problem with dialogue tags (so-and-so replied, thing-a-me-jig scoffed). It's all a learning game, even the best-known writers are still learning their craft, and it's so easy, as the writer, to lose yourself in the flow and take for granted that the reader knows who is speaking, and then pat yourself on the back for writing a wonderful, flowing conversation between two or three parties without breaking the pace - when in fact that very 'flow' is what causes a lot of readers to stop and have to re-read half of the conversation, breaking the pace far more severely than a near-invisible tag.

   I have a few things still to work on outside of writing, but I fully expect to be back at it this weekend. Thank you again for all your support in 2019, and I hope you'll stick with me throughout 2020, too!

I hope 2020 brings you all that you need it to.