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.