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Lighthouse Girl: Part 1, Djinn

A lighthouse in the middle of a misty city street, Telisa stands a head taller than the traffic that parts around her. Eyes glowing like lanterns and a black cloak snug about her shoulders, she is a mystery the locals whisper about but do not molest.

Dawn has arrived, and Telisa is lost. Reaching with fingers too long to be human, she traces grooves in a large oval sign. It was supposed to detail Titantale City, every street and block. Perhaps it did once, but generations of vandals have marred the oak, almost cutting through it with their graffiti.

Djinn: By Sarah Gavagan https://www.sarahgavagan.com/ used with permission
The djinn: By Sarah Gavagan, used with permission

“Hey there, pretty lady.” A shirtless blue man flies up to her and hovers on a swirl of smoke instead of legs. “I can direct you to interesting things.”

“I have been tricked and abandoned by rivals.” She brushes midnight hair away from pale cheeks and shining eyes. “Because I am an interesting thing.”

“Oh, then I’ll direct people to you.” He cackles and slaps his bare belly.

Continue reading Lighthouse Girl: Part 1, Djinn

The Undersea Party: Part 6, Titan’s Flute

The granite wall sparkles next to Jacob’s torch. Smooth and flat as glass, it is carved with a titan’s eye towards perfection. Jacob crouches, butt hovering over sea water that fills the room up to his calf, and the flame flickers where a knee-high tunnel bores through into another shadowed room.

Jacob places his torch in the hole, pulls out his black coral flute, and plays crisp notes. Discovered in a treasure chest full of titan gold, the instrument summons piquant water that he gulps like a flask between blows. He sighs. It’s refreshing, as if from a cool mountain spring, despite an off-putting taste.

Kriv hops over. “Can I try some magic flute juice?”

Wiping his mouth, Jacob tucks the flute into his ragged tunic and splashes the little beebo with sea water. “Since this room isn’t draining on its own, do your part. Drink your fill of this ocean slop that your awesome friend summoned.”

Kriv licks the cloudy water and spits. Belazar growls, handing the little man a flask as big as the beebo’s bald blue head. Continue reading The Undersea Party: Part 6, Titan’s Flute

The Undersea Party: Part 5, Devil

The Undersea hall is wide and tall, made by a giant race of scaled men. The floor is smooth and wet, and Jacob is slow with his steps. An iron and oak box strains his callused fingers. Sealed shut by centuries of neglect, it is red with rust and soft with rot.

Metal clinks inside as Jacob shuffles forward. “This one’s heavy enough to be filled with gold.” He huffs, struggling to maintain his posture. “Not more devil-damned dwarven copper.”

Kriv, short as Jacob’s hip, scoots his bald blue head under the chest. “Need more light.”

“Get out from under there,” says Jacob.

Belazar, a head taller and a barrel wider, shuffles over with a torch and grips the side of the chest with his free hand. “May I have a turn, Sir?”

Jacob nods, and the burly orcelf tucks the box under his arm, easy as a load of laundry.

“Thanks.” Jacob cracks his back. “It’s not the weight; it’s the awkward shape.” Continue reading The Undersea Party: Part 5, Devil

Ranger Of Path Updated With Prologue

With Caution And Care, A Prologue

Now with a prologueAdding a prologue to Ranger of Path was a tough decision. I worried it would distract readers and add complexity that would hinder immersion. I also didn’t want anything told through the prologue that would be better done with later chapters.

Like adverbs, filtering language, and bracketing scenes with sleep, I’ve heard prologues should be avoided if possible.

Ranger of Path is a story that needed this prologue.

It’s a short prologue, starting from the point of view of a squirrel and then a tiny creature called a brownie. It offers readers vital context to an event that orients the main characters of Ranger of Path and it’s sequel, Valkyrie of Desire.

Here it is, as added to Ranger of Path:

0. Prologue

A boy is caught pulling the legs off a cricket.

“Don’t do that. How do you think it feels?”

The boy chews on his lip and says, “Unhoppy?”

—Ishkur Inshushinak Ishtaran

A squirrel pokes its head out of a hole in an old fir tree. On a moss covered rock below, a man little bigger than it trills and waves an acorn with a right arm that’s shorter than his other by a third.

With greenish skin and limbs thin as twigs, he is a brownie, a fae friend of the forest and no danger. The squirrel scurries down and snatches the nut.

The brownie smiles and trills a bird’s song as he lies on the moss.

A hint of smoke stings the squirrel’s nose, and it rears up with whiskers twitching. The acorn falls, and the tiny animal bounds away, chittering a warning.

Fire.

Continue reading Ranger Of Path Updated With Prologue

Straw Boy Argument: It’s Not 500 Million A Day

What Lie Will Be The Last Straw?

Straw TruthThis boy with the “Great” shirt is my son, Yuri. He’s enjoying a blueberry milkshake complete with a bright red straw. It was a few years ago when we were going around Hood River’s Fruit Loop, back when I still obeyed the food pyramid and consumed sugar for energy.

Yuri tends to tell the truth, but he just turned nine. No matter how heartfelt, his truth may not be mine.

Given how my understanding of diet has evolved over the past few years and shifted successfully from sugar burning to fat burning, I appreciate how tricky lies accepted in mass can be.

Almost nine years ago another nine year old boy talked to some straw manufacturers to estimate that the US uses 500 million straws a day. Updates declare that the number is much higher, but not specifically how much more so.

Well over 500 million? I call bullshit. Continue reading Straw Boy Argument: It’s Not 500 Million A Day

The Undersea Party: Part 4, Statue

Torchlight makes shadows dance as the adventuring band tiptoes deeper into the Undersea maze. Built by a giant race, the place shrinks the veterans into children. They are like puppies and kittens with trinkets and charms, exploring an endless dungeon with fur raised and ears twitching.

Breath hushed, the band of five pause where the yellow ribs of something colossal blocks an entry like a portcullis.

Solaris runs her hands along a carved bone thick as her arm. “Could you break through this?” She gestures to Belazar. “Without too much noise?”

The bulky orcelf saunters over and grips the bone bars. “Maybe.” His dark gray skin flushes and tiny tusks poke from his lips as he grits his teeth.

Continue reading The Undersea Party: Part 4, Statue

Dad, There Was A Racist At Summer Camp

Downplaying The Racist At Camp

Racist Seuss
Dr. Seuss was a racist, but he evolved.

Racist” is a potent word even from the mouth of an eight year old.

I picked up my son, Yuri, from summer camp earlier this week, and he complained about a “racist”.

Skeptical, I suggested that he exaggerated.

Yuri tensed and shook his head. “He made fun of my name.”

I said, “People make fun of each other’s names all the time, especially kids. That’s not a big deal.”

Yuri pouted and sounded out the l/r confusion common to native Japanese speakers. “He made fun of that too.” My son pulled at the corners of his eyes to slant them. “And he did this.” Continue reading Dad, There Was A Racist At Summer Camp

The Undersea Party: Part 3

Spiders: Featured spider color altered from original: taken by Thomas Shahan. Used with permission.

Still under the docks of Titantale City…

The empty bookshelf swivels open to a passage, a short tunnel through the Undersea’s speckled blue granite.

Solaris runs her soft fingers across the rough cut stone. “Not titans’ work. It is old though. Maybe chiseled through by the first people that took advantage of the scaled giants’ disappearance.”

Jacob rubs his hands together. “Let’s get some treasure.”

“You first.”

Solaris taps his back with the base of her torch, and the martial artist leads her and the rest of their party into another dark room. The floor is dusty instead of damp and webs cover the walls all the way up to the ceiling, a tree’s height above Solaris.

“Spiders.” She spits on the dry floor. “Now, you’ll see why I prefer crabs.” Continue reading The Undersea Party: Part 3

The Undersea Party: Part 2

The walls are a mixture of porous and smooth, hard granite and fossilized coral full of holes. Solaris swings a flaming torch from side to side. Blues, blacks, and whites, all swirl together, and the wide corridor echoes with skitterings and clickings coming from inside the stone.

“Crabs are fine.” Solaris kicks at a foot-sized claw poking through the wall. “It’s the beetles, bats, and spiders.” She shivers. “Especially the jumping spiders. Those things look like a nightmare ate a teddy bear and grew eight legs, too many eyes, and huge fangs.”

The crab she had kicked snaps at her. Shell striped, purple and gray, with cyan barnacles adding a spiky layer, it is a giant crustacean that has survived many seasons. Solaris makes a circle and slash motion of her overgoddess to show respect and then jabs with her torch until the creature skitters deeper into the nether behind the carved stone.

Sylyca, the diminutive elf holding the parties’ other torch, points back at the oversized stairs they’ve descended. “We are below sea level, aren’t we?” She lowers her voice. “Have we entered the Undersea? Is that dream demoness close?” Continue reading The Undersea Party: Part 2

The Undersea Party: Part 1

Seagulls squawk and soar over the city’s slumside docks. Under new management, boards have been removed from storefront windows, replaced with trade goods displayed behind glass. Shiny trinkets, silk, and spices instead of empty bottles, drugs, and darker vices.

Clean money flows into what the band called Lute now controls.

At the edge of this district, a ship-length inland from the choppy water, a dark building sits. Built with salvaged titan granite, it is scaled for men, not giants. Shiny black pillars guard the entrance, a veneer of obsidian elegance.

Solaris, the sea witch, licks salt from her lips and runs her hand over the volcanic glass covering the stone columns. She helped remove crusaders that had claimed this place for their overgod of tyranny and death, but that isn’t what causes her goosebumps.

“There’s a way to another world underneath this Obsidian shrine.” She claps her hands. “Time to dust off some lost mysteries. The Undersea awaits our exploration.” Continue reading The Undersea Party: Part 1