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FRESH STORY CONTENT 1/21/2023 — Derek Barton — Wyvernshield!!

Tal hesitated, his knuckles inches above the wooden door.  He did not want to give the pair false hope but at the same time, Taliah did have a prophetic vision of a possible connection to their homeland.  

I can only offer them the facts that were presented.  It will be up to them how they face it, whether to believe or doubt is really their individual right.

He straightened his shoulders, confident in his decision and how he would proceed. First, he rapped on Scars’ door. There was no reply or sound. It was approaching late evening, perhaps the Flohki retired for the night.

The door abruptly opened as if the halfman had been there all along. “Master Tal?” His voice was a smooth tenor. 

The half-seagull and half-man creature eyed him standing in the faint candlelight.  His white feathered head was marred by a scar lacing down the right-side and his beak broken off at the tip.  In striking contrast, his chest, arms and shoulders were a complex pattern of scars, thus how his name was inspired.  He had never talked about his past or how his injuries came about, only that he was a tested, military veteran for his kind. 

“Scars, I am sorry for the late hour, but would you mind joining me for an important discussion?”

He nodded and joined Tal immediately in the hallway. They walked silently together down the corridor.  The Flohki was not a talkative type, down-to-business and never hesitant to assist.  Master Tal liked him very much and appreciated the character he had. It was likely a part of the militant-upbringing of their kind, but there was added a quiet nobility about the creature.  He was proud, yet humbled and earnest. Sometimes, Tal even sensed a shadow of shame. 

Something behind his eyes shows me quiet courage and accepted guilt.  An odd pairing that bears learning more of one day.  Yet, he is not ready to reveal that. 

Bare light illuminates around Ama’yen’s door.  She was another half-man creature but also had a subtlety and grace about her.  Half-feline and half-woman. She was said to be a powerful sorceress in her home world of Aberrisc.  

Ama’yen came to the door, wrapped in a light yellow cloth, semi-transparent in the light from her room.  Her long black hair was swept over her slightly pointed ears and braided on one side.  A circlet of silver and emerald gems on her forehead brought out the majestic green of her feline eyes.  Tal was a bit thrown off by the sudden attractive creature standing before him and her attire did not necessarily mean she was retiring for the night.

“Uh…sorry, I do not mean to disturb you, but I have important information. I have learned of some points of interest for the two of you. Were you in the middle of something?”  He asked, averting his eyes carefully from the form beneath the yellow wrappings.

“Nothing of importance. May I fetch a robe first?  Are we going somewhere or do you wish to enter here?”  The Yuul woman asked.  There was no embarrassment in her voice.  

He tried to match that. “Once you are ready, could the three of us talk in your room?” 

She agreed and shut the door.  The pair of men waited again in silence in the hallway. The compound was quiet in the evenings and for the most part there were very few sounds echoing in the halls.

“Please come in.” The voice muffled by the door.

Ama’yen was now clothed in a gray and white robe with thick fur lining the edges. She swung the door open, welcoming them to enter her small but charming room. A lit fireplace warmed the chamber. She ushered them over to a wooden, round table that sat four in one corner.  On it, a historical tome was laid open before one chair.

“I was reading and studying a book from your downstairs library. It has maps of the continents surrounding Tayneva.  Fascin-cintaring.”  She stuttered on the last word.

Tal helped her with it. “Fascinating.”  He smiled, hoping she would understand he meant to help and not mock her.

“Ah. Thank you.”

“You are a quick learner and you have already developed a large vocabulary.”

She pulled out the two chairs for them before returning to her chair. 

Tal started. “Last night Taliah, our Blood Seeress, entered a Seyde. A Blood Seyde. It can be tricky and taxing on her physically, but we both felt it was a necessary gamble. We wanted to see if she could learn more information on what we can do to stop The Bleeding Crown. That artifact’s power has grown immensely and I feared we were running out of time.”

“Letandra may also be facing a dire outcome the longer it has control of her.  When The Bleeding Crown abandoned Chroyanne she disintegrated,” Scars interrupted.

Tal nodded in agreement. “Indeed. The Seyde proved me correct, we are in a race against time. However, it also revealed some incredible predictions to her. Per her vision, The Bleeding Crown is somehow preparing to call forth from the expanse of the In-Between, the Etohlosii. These are artifacts similar to The Bleeding Crown. They are imbued with the latent remains of an ancient eldritch god known as ARa Etohl. If the hosts owning the three other Etohlosii reach our plane and reunite with The Bleeding Crown, then ARa Etohl will be resurrected. This cannot happen or all life on every plane of existence will be extinguished.”

While Master Tal could not read the Flohki’s reactions well, he could see that his information had Ama’yen’s rapt attention.

“Several names were given to us through her vision in the Seyde.  These are individuals that will help us in one way or another rescue Letendre from The Bleeding Crown and stop her from reuniting the Etohlosii. We do not have all the details of who they are or where to find them yet, but she is confident of at least one name. Someone known as Khedarr of Aberrisc.”

Ama’yen gasped, her eyes bulged.

“How is that possible?” Scars blurted.

“We are not sure, but Taliah said that some of our answers lie in Aberrisc and with this person known as Khedarr.”

The Yuul stood, backed away from the table, shaking her head. “No! We are locked out. Cut off from our homelands!”

“Taliah was told that a key connection was to locate something known as Mescarne. Somehow and in some fashion, this Mescarne exists on all planes of the In-Between. If you find it, then you can cross over to any world at will.”

“That is why you come to us?” She stiffly faced the fireplace, her arms folded tight over her chest, trembling as if the fire was no longer capable of warming her.

“Yes. First I need you to think of how we — or perhaps the two of you — might locate this Mescarne. Second, if you can go back, you would have the best chance of finding–“

“–Khedarr is a necromancer!” Her words were low but hit Tal like a hammer.

“A MAGE OF DEATH?”

She nodded glumly. “He was ousted from our lands by my father for his tainted practices. However, we did contact him when LLasher was near death. His ungodly skills have greatly improved. I still do not condone his research into the forbidden sorceries of the dead.” Ama’yen looked back over her shoulder, locking eyes with Tal to judge his reaction to her words. 

Scars added, “He might even be dead by now. When we had to ask for his help with Mending LLasher.  He only agreed if we took him back to her homeland, the Fhey Ras Isles. The Quietus had his wife and children enslaved. Khedarr swore he was somehow going to rescue them.”

“When Chroyanne left, who assumed power until she returned?” Tal asked.

Scars shrugged. “However, in my opinion, in contrast to his questionable research, this Khedarr did seem of honorable intent. If Taliah has received credible knowledge from this prophecy, then I would not suspect it would send us to look for someone who was already dead, would it?” Scars asked Tal.

“It does not seem likely that it would. The whole thing is moot if we do not have a way to find Mescarne. Have either of you been to the Mescarne in your world?”

Both shook their heads.  Ama’yen said, “I have heard of the continent, but few have found their way there and even fewer return.”

They sat together, wrestling with the possibilities in their heads. 

“If I remember right,” Ama’yen started, then paused in thought. Finally she said, “I believe Letandra confided in me that Taihven believed he had been brought to Mescarne. One time in one of his episodes. Yes, in fact, I remember now that he had gone back and was able to speak somehow with his dead father!”

“Did he give you any details about the land?”

“I am trying to remember now. It has been some time. Sorry.”

She crossed back to the table but continued to stand, a finger tapping at her chin. 

“While I am not recalling any solid details, my knowledge of your language may be hampering me. He might have mentioned a temple.  A temple of stone at the heart of a desert. I think…” She tapped again at her chin with her finger. Tal noted that each painted and jeweled fingernail was filed to a sharp point.

“Yes, yes. I think I can.” Mostly she spoke to herself, but then she faced Master Tal. “If this temple and Mescarne are in each of the planes, my guess is that the Lei Lines all intersect there.”

“Lei Lines?” Scars asked before Tal could.

“Powerful waves of magical energies that crisscross every plane. In my world, I had an acute sense of them and their location. Perhaps it is due to my heritage, but in Aberrisc we studied and used the Lei Lines to increase our powers and spells. Here I definitely sense the Lei Lines but not as clear as when I was home. If we could track one of the major branches of Lei Lines, I trust it will take us to Mescarne.”

Scars studied the Yuul. “Do you have any sense of how far away they might be?”

She closed her eyes and placed her hands on the table. Her breathing went deep and slowed down into a rhythmic even pace.  A soft purring sound came from deep within her chest.

Moments later. “Several lines are near to us, but a major vein as I am wanting to follow is quite the distance away and…deep into Tayneva.”

Tal nodded. To be discovered or captured on the continent would mean arrest and possible execution since they were labeled traitors. As he considered the weight of the mission, Scars interrupted his inner debate. 

“When can we go, Master Tal?” Scars asked. 

“Would you and Ama’yen then agree to find the temple? I know I am asking much of you. It may mean possibly your lives or possibly the only way back to your families and kind.”

“This fight is ours as well. Not just for the fallen king, our friend and his sister, but for the expanse of the In-Between!”

“Alright. Gather your items and what you want with you for the trip…home. In the morning, I will have Master Rivyen and Lyndasia go with you. If we can validate that part of her prophecy then I have faith you will find Khedarr alive and with our answers on how we can save Letandra and stop The Bleeding Crown.” 

FRESH STORY CONTENT 1/10/2023 — Derek Barton — Wyvernshield!!


Taliah laid with her back to the wall, propped up by pillows.  Master Tal Crowan and Rivyen sat in chairs on either side of her bed.  

“I know that this is asking much of you and you are in dire need to rest after your Seyde, but I feel time is of the essence,” Tal said as he reached out and scooped up her hands in his.

“It is,” she whispered.

“I have so many questions.  I am not sure what is the proper order to start.  Perhaps you should begin with what you know?”

She sighed and shook her head.  Tears mixed with blackish brown ichor which stained her cheeks. Fresh streaks continued. Ever since the Seyde the grotesque tears would not stop even when she was calm.  All she could do was wipe at her face to clean it every so often. Tal had never seen this kind of side effect from a Blood Seyde before.

“There were four receptacles that imprisoned the Broken God, ARa Etohl, and ended his reign of destruction eons ago, in a time before time.  These artifacts are known as the Etohlosii:  The Command Orb, The Deity Staff, The Magnus Cuirass and The Bleeding Crown.”

Rivyen interrupted, “That Orb! It played a part in the destruction of our realm and the death of my people!” His wavered toward the end.

Taliah turned and even though she could not see him, she sensed his aura as it washed over her.  It was full of rage and despair. 

It is happening all over again. All over again! His thoughts floated to her within the aura. The terror in him was building.  

“These items were imprisoned…well, they were in the care of a secret order of warrior monks, the LaVoshka.  They had the items secreted away and magically protected for several generations.  However, human greed combined with the fact that time erodes memories, the monks grew complacent. The Etohlosii somehow broke through the barriers to reach out and find willing volunteers. 

I witnessed one such escape.  They used a desperate brother and sister who were trying to save their mother.  Anyway, the enchantments were dispelled and the items retrieved, separated and freed upon various realms.”

“We know that The Bleeding Crown has some sort of intelligence — LLasher and the others contend that King Taihven verbally communicated with it as he tried to stop Letandra’s possession.  So, if all four of these items possess such intelligence…”  Tal stopped and tried to put the puzzle pieces together inside his mind.

She went on, “The greatest threat we are facing is that The Bleeding Crown and the other Etohlosii are symbiotic in nature.  In other words, they grow stronger with each other. Thus, The Bleeding Crown is calling out to the other three to join it.”

Rivyen grimaced and rubbed his hand through his hair. “If we cannot beat one of these Etohlosii, what will it be like with all four?”

“That is not the real question,” Tal interjected. “All of the Etohlosii contain a part of the Ancient Vile God.  This, your answer: All of them together will restore ARa Etohl.”

“We would be at the center of death and ruin to the entire span of universe,.”  Rivyen whispered, his voice low in awe and dread.

“I think that is why Letandra erected that barrier of storms.  She is hiding her activities so as to not be stopped.  The only way for her to contact the other Etohlosii is through powerful summoning magic.  To power it, she is having fountains made,” she said.

“Fountains?”  Tal asked, confused.

“Yes. She intends to use human sacrifice and the fountains are there to collect their spilt blood. Each time she uses the fountains to call out in the In-Between, it will send out some sort of message in a ripple pattern.  You know like when you throw a rock into a pond.  Sooner or later, her wave will reach the individual Etohlosii.”

Suddenly Taliah trembled with a chill.  Her face grew pale.  “I do not feel well at all.  But, there is so much more I…I have to give you.”

“It is alright, I will be–“

“–NO!  You do not fully understand.  We have a way to protect ourselves and even stop The Bleeding Crown, but we are in a race now.  The Etohlosii will have to find their own hosts and find a way to come here.  It will not be easy or quick, but mark that they are coming.”

She collapsed, quivering and sobbing as her body gave out. She fainted, falling back into unconsciousness.

****

Tal Crowan and Rivyen sat together at a massive stone table, this was the Order’s War Room.  Papers fluttered a bit in the wind. Neither man looked at the paperwork or at the other. They were lost in their worries, pensive and anxious over what they had witnessed and what they heard.

Finally, Tal focused on the words of prophecy before him.  The words were jumbled, some sentences did not even go together but that was the way with prophecies. He had never seen other prophets like Taliah, but he had read plenty of religious works to understand their patterns and the ways these predictions had a way of coming true.  They only made sense to those that were enlightened enough to search them out or they were clear to those that lived past the verses of fortune. 

There was a knock at the doorway. Cam Bahdrea stood patiently waiting for their attention.

“What is it, child?”

“The Seeress has awakened again and asks for you. I have also brought the medicated Brulla you asked for, Master Crowan.” She held a small tray with three serving cups and a clay pitcher.

“Lead us in then.”

Moments later they stood again in the room with Taliah.  The bloody tears had dried up and her cheeks were wiped clean for good.  

“Evening, Taliah.” Tal greeted her.  He took the tray from Cam Bahdrea and dismissed her.

“Thank you. I wanted to answer more of your questions now. I think I told you before, but I have to warn you again that we are in a race of time.”

“Yes, you did mention that before.” Rivyen remarked..

Tal crossed the room with the tray then poured a hot cup of Brulla for her. He offered it to her.  “I had them add some healing elements to it. Drink, then continue,” he insisted. He held a cup out to Rivyen, but he declined.

He then sat down beside her bed while Rivyen remained by one of the windows across the room.  

“At the end, as I was coming back out of the Seyde, a voice bombarded my mind with names and faces. There were some I knew, others were strangers, some not even human!” Taliah said, shaking her head to clear away the cobwebs like one does coming out of a dream.

“Yes. I made note of the names I heard you say.” He unrolled a parchment and read over his notes. He then read aloud, “Khedarr, Saiya Moi, Rhenden Vox, Kaydaa, Ayreth, Shei, Vii and Broenef Crosseau.”

“There are many names or maybe they are places mentioned inside the…the prophetic vision you were given,” Rivyen said from his place by the window. He could not hide his apprehension in putting faith in her words or her premonition.

“The important thing for us will be to decipher these words and names, their meaning so we know where first to put our energies. Prophecies are like riddles and can be easily misunderstood or misinterpreted. It is going to take some time to interpret and organize what was written down into some logical order,” Tal replied.

Talia waved her hands in the air. “Yes, clearly. But I was given knowledge about two of the names to start us off. We need to free the woman called Saiya Moi, she is a direct link to the LaVoshka and she will have more answers for us. She is imprisoned by the Beleardea.

“The other, well you see, some of the names are not chosen from our realm. One is the name of someone who will help us solve how to free Letandra. His name is Khedarr…of Aberrisc!”

Tal gasped as the words sunk in. “In order to free our world from The Bleeding Crown, we have to find a way back through to Taihven’s alternate reality? Back into the Chaos Plane?”

“The same voice insisted there is only one place, known only as Mescarne and it exists in every plane of existence, somewhere in every realm.  If you walk into Mescarne, you can walk–“

“–walk through the Door of Fates! Those words are in your prophecy! I saw it in Master Tal’s notes,” Rivyen shouted, interrupting her in his excitement. “If any of those names prove to be actual people, then your vision may just hold truth.”

“Perhaps Scars or Ama’yen will be able to tell us if they have knowledge of this place Mescarne,” Tal stood and pressed with hands to straighten out the folds of his long robe. “We now have some key steps to take. Get some rest now. Thank you for all that you have done here tonight. You have served the Order well. Your vision may have given us the gateway to get our friends back home. And a way to find answers and allies.”

Current & Future Works-In-Progress — Derek Barton – 2023.

Brand new year so it seemed a good time to report my current work and what I hoped to produce in the next year or so.

CURRENT:

The Flight Of The Dirithi — This new original story centers around Princess Jueneva, an orphan, half-dragon girl as she attempts to avenge what was stolen from her family. I have completed the first book in the series but I am in the editing mode stage and adding to the draft. This adventure may be broken down into five novels. We’ll see, but I am really enjoying it and anxious to see how this story comes to life! I expect this will be out for you in this next couple months.

With Malice: A Horror & Crime Fiction Literary Magazine — This is a group effort of a dozen or so horror and crime fiction writers that I have gathered to do a compilation piece each quarter this year. We will be doing about 5 short stories each edition as well as Author Bios, an in depth Author Interview and will have unique horror images, poems and illustrations! Exciting stuff!!!

FUTURE:

Wyvernshield #3 — This is the continuation of the Wyvernshield series surrounding Princess — I mean, the new Ebon Queen Letandra and heart-wrenching story in The Bleeding Crown. This time the main character will be the charismatic, ex-slaver LLasher as he is joined in his rescue attempt by Scars, Ama’yen and other new heroes! I wanted to break this large conclusion down into four smaller novels so you readers didn’t have to wait much longer for your answers. In other words, it takes a long time to write and edit 400 or so pages. The first part of four will hopefully be out the second or third quarter this year.

I Still Burn — I am introducing a new horror story centered on siblings, Rylund and Stephanie, who recently lost their parents in a horrific tragedy. As they adapt to their new lives with their drunk uncle and Rylund’s blindness, a whole new danger presents itself. I will be publishing the first few chapters to this novel in the With Malice Magazine issues. Then I produce the whole complete story next year.

Elude #2 (?!) — That’s right! A possible sequel to my Elude Series. A crazy idea hit me and will not leave my head so be prepared for Vicente Vargas to come out from hiding in Witness Protection and be in an exciting new horror story sometime in 2025.

As you can see, there’s plenty of new stories and writing coming your way!

** This year will be Dirithi #1, Wyvernshield #1 of 4, With Malice Edition #1 through #4.

** In 2024, Dirithi #2 , Wyvernshield #2 and #3 of 4, I Still Burn. I may do a fantasy literary magazine if With Malice is successful.

** And in 2025, Elude the Sequel will start among other projects by then! Whew!!

I also wanted to do a quick shout out for my father’s new work — he’s completed a brand new prequel to The Hidden! If you enjoyed the Predator series latest movie PREY, then you’ll love The Hidden: TRIBES! Look for this coming to Amazon & Kindle in the next couple months.

One last comment: For those of you who have read my last blog, January Writing Challenge, you’ll be happy to know that I am way over my quota of 300 a day (total 2400 words). I am at 3,400! Thanks to all of you who have shown support and interests!

YOU ARE MY MOTIVATION!!

A January Production Challenge — Derek Barton – 2022

This year has sure had it’s share of ups and downs for me, like I’m sure most of you can relate. While it was not as difficult and tumultuous as 2020 and 2021, I had more health concerns and some financial set backs.

This year coming up I want to meet head on and see if I can make some headway into my writing production. Currently I have four maybe five story lines fighting for air in my head! Yes, that sort of chaos and confusion does get very annoying to live with! You see, when I as a writer get inspired, the idea remains there in the back of my head almost like a petulant child. They stand with their arms crossed, one foot tapping and their bottom lip pouting — impatient and demanding freedom to grow up and to show what they can do. I love all my book children and want them all of course to shine but honestly, my health has not recovered to what it was prior to my stroke and I fall ill a lot easier than ever before. Grant it, I am getting older whch does play a part, too.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say, is I really want to get more stories out there (out of my head!) and into the world and the only way I can do that is by working harder. As someone once told me “own my stroke and stop making excuses with it”!

Next year I’ll also be producing, editing, writing and publishing my first ever literary magazine, With Malice! That’s exciting and hopefully it brings in more engagement with my work. It’s definitely tough to be motivated to write when you’ve got over a dozen books but haven’t sold more than a dozen copies in one year!! More than anything it’s getting reader’s attentions — all my work has gotten 4.5 to 5 star reviews so it’s not the content. Creating ads and paying for them is not investing, it’s more like gambling with money you don’t have and paying someone’s paying attention! With this magazine I’ll be bringing over a dozen other writers to my readers attention and they’ll be bringing my work to their reader’s attention! Win win!! Be on the lookout for those issues starting this March—one per quarter.

Have any of you bought something of mine? What attracted you to it? If you haven’t (no judgment or bad feelings), what has turned you off from doing so? I’m looking for some honest insight and maybe a direction to get better results. Any comments or feedback are highly welcome and appreciated.

With that all said, my goal or what I’m thinking of is I’m going to try and challenge myself and put it out there that everyday in January I’m going to write at least 300 words every day. Now I know 300 doesn’t sound too impressive but when you figure how much goes on all the time in your daily life…So I’m making a stand to at least getting it done every day no matter what…Oyyy putting the words and goal to print for all to see and judge — now that’s scary!

Of course there will be days when I will go for more and may write a 1000 but there will be days too that I make just my minimum. I’m hoping IF this challenge comes through I can do it for February! Who knows?!

I will also try to edit and publish some of that work for you guys too as “fresh content blogs”.

31 days x 300 words = 9,300 total. 12 months x 9300 = 111, 600!! (That’s maybe two books worth!!)

As of this post I’ll have done 24 posts this year. Not too shabby—last couple years I was down to like 10 blogs and that’s very dismal to me. The Fresh Content blogs have seemed to be a hit so also keep a lookout for more coming up this next year!!

Thanks to everyone who supports this blog and my work — maybe together we can truly create something special!!

Book Review of Stephen King’s “Fairy Tale” — Derek Barton – 2022

Fairy Tale

by Stephen King — a Coming of Age Dark Fantasy Novel

Released on September 6, 2022 — 608 pages

Being myself an avid fantasy reader and writer, this was a book I knew I had to read. The fact that I am a huge Stephen King fan is no secret, however, his fantasy works have not always been a huge hit for me. While I loved the novel, The Eyes of The Dragon, I didn’t find the Gunslinger series as satisfying. This novel has more of a feel and story tone similar to his work, The Talisman (it’s been ages since I’ve read this one, but I did enjoy it when I read it in the 90s).

The Synopsis:

Legendary storyteller Stephen King goes into the deepest well of his imagination in this spellbinding novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who inherits the keys to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher—for that world or ours.

The story revolves around a seventeen-year-old boy, Charlie Reade and an eclectic, elderly man, Mr. Bowditch and his German shepherd dog, Radar. Told through Charlie’s eyes, his long quest begins on the fated night when his mother dies tragically and his father plummets into a drunken stupor. In this tale, King loosely weaves in key elements of the classic Grimm fairy tales with the modern issues that society faces today.

The Review:

One of King’s super powers, or given the topic, I should say his magic ability as a writer is his character portrayals. He finds a way to not only bring unique and memorable characters but makes them instantly relatable. They walk into your life like old friends and by the end of the work, you know you are going to miss them afterwards! Charlie and Mr. Bowditch are fine examples of this.

One of King’s areas of opportunity would be getting into the actual plot or reason for the story. Like in his book, Billy Summers, it takes about half the novel for the true story to begin. Although I did enjoy the story events and the character build up, King needs to find a way to “get to it” faster — several other book reviews online also listed this as a drawback and that he lost their interests by not bringing the reader to the heart of the work sooner.

The fantasy is well constructed and solid world-building aspects. The curse upon the land tugs at your emotions and the dungeon sequences makes you cringe then shout in glee. Overall, he gives a respectful nod to the past fairy tales and produces for his readers, an entertaining, modern take on fairy tales.

The narration is done masterfully by Seth Numrich, a renown broadway/television actor and by Stephen King who voices Mr. Bowditch. The performance of the story is brought to life by Numrich’s accents and theatre skills. An awesome play in your ears in other words.

The Rating:

In spite of the duration it takes to get to the true focus of the tale he is telling, this is a gem for any reader and a classic piece by Stephen King. Don’t pick up this 600+ page work expecting an all out fast pace race to the end, but sit down in your favorite chair and delve into the story, enjoying it like you would a leisure walk through the woods on a nice, Autumn day. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! For rating purposes, I would score this 4.25 of 5.

By DEREK BARTON — Author of the ELUDE series (Parts I, II & III — a Horror/crime thriller), EVADE Series (Parts I, II & III)  & IN FOUR DAYS: a Horror-Suspense Novella (available on Audible.com!).  Also the Dark Fantasy novel series CONSEQUENCES WITHIN CHAOS and THE BLEEDING CROWN (both available on Audible.com!).

FRESH STORY CONTENT 11/21/2022 — Derek Barton — Wyvernshield!! – 2022

Salty sweat dripped endlessly down LLasher’s forehead and into his eyes. The bandana wrapped around his head was thoroughly soaked. His legs clenched beneath, doing the majority of the work, as he hauled himself up one knot at a time along his rough, hemp rope. 

A silhouette peered over the cliffside lip. “You are almost there!” Lyndasia called down. 

“I know, I know. I lost my arm, not my eyes!” he snapped back at her. “The things I am asked to do.  Being a criminal was so much easier!”

Only her laughter in response drifted down to him. 

Finally he crawled up and over the edge, rolled and laid on his back, his sides heaving. Lyndasia laughed and punched his shoulder good-naturedly. She rolled up to her knees, stood then offered him a hand to get to his own feet. “I bet you sat like a fat slug in your cabin on the ship. Just ordered all your crew to do your dirty work.  And do you know what that is called, my friend?”  

“What?” he snapped at her.  She was beautiful, but her humor was as usual mocking. Her long black dreadlocks banded together with green metal rings cascaded down over her right shoulder. She had tan and black studded leather and a pair of short swords scabbarded at her sides. Her brown eyes sparkled with mirth and energy. 

“That is what they call Koyo’rah.”

He stared at her, not understanding her words and lost to her meaning.

“Koyo’rah.  Another word for what you call karma.”

LLasher had to chuckle at the unexpected answer.  She had him dead to rights.  It was the standard practice for a slaver captain to remain on board while the Hunting Crews went out and brought back their quarries.

A flash of memory came to him. Faces of young men, barely past their first ten years of life, looking at him with wet cheeks and snot dripping from their noses.  They were captured and stripped from their families.  Young, strong and still at an age that they could be broken into fine, obedient slaves.  

LLasher’s good humor dried up.  Sudden shame over the ugliness of what he had brought upon the world.  How many families did he split up?  How many lives was he responsible for?  Koyo’rah indeed.  

Lyndasia must have seen the passing emotions and expressions across his face. “Sorry.  Are you alright?  Did I stir something up?”

“Let us just see what good we can do here today.”

She eyed him but decided to not continue the subject.

Changing the topic, she pointed down in the valley below. Today’s mission was due to a bit of the limited information found in the messenger bag LLasher and Rivyen had retrieved at Adventdawn. Letandra had opened mines. Their true purpose was not clear.  “There are roughly four guard towers, manned with minimal men. On the ground floor and in the mines themselves I found they are heavily guarded but there is a window of time when they switch out that we could take advantage of.”

“Who are these guards?”

“Most appear to be hired mercenaries or Dovvish Clan Barbarians. No one that seemed beyond my men’s abilities to overcome.  Inside the mines are the majority of the slaves.  They work all day and into part of the night. Seems the Queen has stiff penalties for failure to meet her quantity demands.”

“What?”

Lyndasia plucked out his spyglass from his belt  and pointed at a ridge on the western side of the valley. He brought the wood and metal tube up to see a construct with a row of fashioned nooses. Some were occupied and the bodies were being cleaned by flocks of crows. 

“Some of them are slaves, some of them are guards,” Lyndasia stated. “I understand your reasoning to be here, but you have to understand why Rivyen also vetoed the idea.”

“He does not like to take risks or chances.  That is not my style and, honestly, we are running out of time.  She is gaining too much power and resources.  I am not even sure we can take Letandra on at this point.”

LLasher tugged at his bandoleer of throwing hatchets and made sure they were secure across his chest.  

“He sees that. But what he sees and you do not is that we have a long struggle here.  He is in it for the long haul and when you are short-handed, it is not wise to bet against the odds working in your favor.”

He faced her, anger in his eyes. “If this is how you feel, then why are you here? I do not need babysitting and it is sure damn too late to try and talk me out of this.”

She stepped back a step, surprised by his sudden temper. “No.  I am not here to talk you out of it, I am here to back you up.  Look, you and I are more similar than you would think. Tal and Rivyen plan, organize and analyze every detail, but on the actual battlefield, those plans are often thrown out. The littlest items throw everything off.  I agree with you on this — stopping the mines.  We know whatever she is doing behind the Wall, she somehow needs this mine.  She does not know yet we know about it.”

“Exactly! If we take away the key parts of her plans, then we can make progress in other areas.  All we have been doing is playing catch-up.  We are the outlaws now. We are trapped off the coast and we have no inkling of her actions behind those stupid storms.  We are losing. And…I am losing Letandra.”

Lyndasia reached out and placed her hand on his arm and squeezed.  “Today, we are here and we are not being idle, alright?”

He coughed into his hand, trying to hide how emotional he was getting.  Changing directions, he said, “How many do we have and what are we up against?”

She answered, “There are a dozen men along the perimeter, patrolling and looking for any trouble inside and outside the quarry. In the pit with the slave miners, there are at least two armed foremen with each cluster.  Clusters vary based on the area they are working.  The most accounted for by my spies in a cluster was two dozen which had double the foremen.” 

She paused and pulled him close to lean to the right then pointed her finger to show him rows of wooden cages. “The pens have hyenas.  They are not fed for days.  This is another facet to stop slave uprisings.  If the hyenas are freed, they would swarm and shred anyone unlucky enough to be near.”

“Nasty.”

“We have fourteen archers and two teams of dagger-monks. Beross upon my request graced us with several potions that will put to sleep the animals.  We will release–“

“–Why not just have your archers shoot them in the cages?”

She frowned, disapproval registered on her face. “They are not to blame for their treatment. Once we destroy this place, they are going to be fed then released in the wild. The Order believes every life has meaning.  You have not learned this yet?”

The flash memory of young men lined up in chains, fresh whip marks on their naked backs, crossed behind LLasher’s eyes.  

“Alright.” 

“We can use the archers to take down the guards — they chose to be here.  The monks can sneak into the tunnel works and free the clusters as they come upon them.”

He turned away from her and held up his hand to block the light from his eyes as he rescanned the valley quarry below. “Seems a bit haphazard and prone to have slaves killed.  I think we would have better luck at sunset.  The majority of the slaves will be back in the dormitories and not spread throughout the mine tunnels. The archers and the dagger-monks can use the fading light to mask their positions.”

As the Khestal Ezan Spymistress she was not involved in battle tactics often. She shrugged. “As you wish. This is your operation.  I can divide one team of dagger-monks and have a few secure the slaves used during the late evening in the mines.”

***

As LLasher detailed, the quarry mine had ceased most of their operations as the sun set.  Four to five dozen slaves were being guided roughly to dinner in a circular clearing.  Two fire pits blazing.  On the pits were twin cooking pots filled with a watery brown stew.  Water pouches were handed down the line. 

The slaves were mostly prisoners from Wyvernshield and even some of the former pirates that had sacked the city before The Bleeding Crown took over.  There were all ages; the Ebon Queen did not discriminate between men, women, old and young. All were hands that could lift a pick or dig with a shovel.

“How do you plan on finding her?  She will not look the same as we remember her.” Lyndasia whispered to LLasher as they were back upon the clifftop spying on the quarry.

“That is a great question.  My hope is that Jereyna will reveal herself to us once we gain possession of the mine.”

“Jereyna was his woman?”

LLasher nodded.  “Aye. She and a friend of mine were leading citizens out through the sewer tunnels during the siege.  I do not know what happened or how they were captured but neither of them returned that day.”

“You are sure she survived?”

He winced. “My friend, First-mate Humphreys, learned that she had been taken prisoner. Later she was sent here with most of the prisoners.  Since then I have not heard anything else about her or my other friend, Ka Shayla.”

“You…you feel guilty.  You feel guilty over King Taihven’s death.  That is why you are risking all this — to free his woman in an attempt to ease–“

“–No. She is a side benefit to sacking the mine. If she was the only reason, I would have come here on my own and snuck her out. The mine has to be destroyed as you stated earlier.  It is a part of her plans and we have to find any way to delay or prevent her goals from being carried out.”

Lyndasia did not look convinced, but she did not press the issue further.

“Signal the archers.  It is time to shut down this disgusting operation,” LLasher ordered.

Six of the perimeter guards walked along the top walls of the quarry.  Three walked within the encampment below and three more were at the mouth to the only road entrance to the mines.

LLasher and Lyndasia slipped quietly down the cliffside.  Two of the dagger-monks went with them and the other team set off in the opposite direction toward the guard and foremen barracks.

Using the shadows and the occasional boulders stacked on the grounds, they made their way close enough to the hyena pens for Lyndasia to throw chunks of raw meat.  The growls of the creatures quieted quickly as they succumbed to the magical properties tainting the food.

LLasher hand signalled to her that they should hit the group by the fire pits. Mischief brought out a radiant smile upon her face, she nodded anxiously.

As they crept closer to the fire pits, one of the foremen could be heard berating a slave.  

“She is not asking much of you, scum.” He kicked a young woman in the ribs as she curled up on the ground. “Yet every day we have to tell Queen Letandra that we are even further behind!” He used his thick hide boot on her once again and followed it with a glob of spit that matted her hair.

Another foremen chimed in, “I think they do this on purpose.  They think all this is unfair.”

The first laughed at that. He spun around with his arms wide and addressed the throng before the fire. “What? You think because you were born in the city, you were beneath manual labor? You lot need something to motivate you, perhaps?”

He looked down at his boots. “Is that it, whore?”  He grabbed her by the long tresses of brown hair and hauled her to her feet. “What should I tell the queen next time? You are sorry, you were not made for–“

He blinked as a flash of fire light reflected off the metal of LLasher’s hatchet. It sailed end over end through the air and embedded itself easily into his thick forehead. His body dropped like a potato sack beneath one of the cooking pots. 

The second foreman stuttered in alarm, then went for his own sword but Lyndasia’s short sword slit his neck from ear to ear.

A louder raucous and more shouts were heard coming from the confines of the barrack shacks.  

The beaten slave woman shrank back from the strange pair in front of her and scrambled over to the other clusters of slaves.

LLasher held his hands high and empty. “I have others here that are working to free you.  Remain calm and quiet — we will have you freed shortly.”

He knelt down next to the first foreman, a man with a receding hairline and long, graying beard.  After yanking free his hatchet, he found a ring of keys on the man’s belt. He tossed them to Lyndasia.   

Lyndasia called out softly as she approached the suffering prisoners. “Let me unlock your leg chains.” 

LLasher asked, “Do any of you know a woman by the name Jereyna?” 

At first none dared to speak, but after he repeated the name, a lanky man walked free of the cluster.

“She was sick last week. They took her to the infirmary.  We have not seen her since.”

“Do they actually Mend here or…” Lyndasia asked but could not dare finish the question.  

LLasher paled at the idea of getting sick in the hands of these monstrous men.

“Sometimes. It depends on the degree of illness or the value of that person.  They liked her, she could read and that made her valued. They would give her directions on a map of the mine. She could help the other slaves get things done.”  He finished embarrassed and stepped back among the others.

“Where is this infirmary?” LLasher asked, his voice raspy.

MY HALLOWEEN TREAT – FRESH CONTENT HORROR SHORT STORY! 10/31/2022 — Derek Barton – 2022

ECHOES

JD stretched his arms over his head, his security uniform’s stiff material pulling tight across his shoulders. He was exhausted. Especially since he was coming in to work another twelve-hour shift directly from his second job at Home Depot. It was going to be a long night. He had no idea it would be the longest one of his life.

The bank of television screens mounted on the wall ahead of him showed nine differing camera angles of a mostly empty parking lot. The room lights were dimmed and smoke from his partner’s cigarette drifted high toward the ceiling. JD snapped a glance at the clock, 8:28 PM. Parkerson Mills Mall was closing in almost a half hour, few shoppers roamed about.

“Tom,” he said over his shoulder as he stood. “I’m going across the hall real quick to hit the john, then I’ll do a patrol on the southside, okay?”

JD got only a grunt back in response. Tom Dawson was not the talkative type. He was, however, a heavyset man with a salt-and-pepper receding hairline and a set of luggage-sized bags under his eyes to match his second and third chin.  His eyes remained glued to the monitor in front of him. It was his job to watch the alarm program for all the door readers.

Swiping up a long flashlight resting on the desk, JD walked out.

Their office was nestled – more like stowed out of the way and nearly forgotten about — in a long hallway in the eastern wing of the shopping mall. The air was stale, musty from dirty mop water and humid as the AC was kept on high to save money. Only steps away, a glass door marked the bathroom entrances.

He pushed past the glass door and stepped to the right into the men’s bathroom. After he did his business, he rinsed his hands and splashed a healthy amount of water onto his face. He looked at the rough stubble on his unshaven cheeks and smoothed down a dark blonde duck tail sticking out over his white collar. With disdain, he noted his own smaller bags forming under his blue eyes.

“Gettin’ uglier and older every day, my man,” he muttered to himself.

The stall door behind swung open with a clatter and a tall, white man stepped out. He was dressed in a nice black suit and white button-down shirt with a flat blue tie.

“Aging’s a heartless bitch, ain’t she?” he said. A glint of dark humor in his gray eyes.

JD laughed but had been startled by the man’s sudden appearance. “Yes. Yes.”

He bent down again to splash his face one more time with water when he sensed rather than felt the man sidestep behind him.

“What—”

Thick, clear plastic swept down over his face, even awkwardly, pinning some of his left hand’s fingers to his chin. The plastic stretched tight across his mouth and nose. JD immediately could not breath! He gasped, choked and gagged in reflex, caught in the guy’s vice-like embrace. He swung his right arm in wild arches trying to break free. At that same moment, his eyes locked on the fuzzy image of his attacker in the mirror above the row of sinks. The man’s features were unclear, but a large, toothy smile was spread out on his face. It was sharklike, almost crystal clear. A predator’s grin!

JD slapped then scratched at his face trying to make holes to breathe through, but his struggles faded fast, and his vision tunneled away into a black murky inkiness. As he collapsed on the greasy bathroom floor, he heard deep chuckles followed by a “good boy!”.

****

“…good boy!”

JD jumped awake, tilted back in a padded passenger seat. A car door opened outside next to him as an old woman climbed into her rusting, gold Ford Crown Victoria. “Good boy, Geoffie! Waitin’ on mama,” she said to her small blonde chihuahua bouncing up and down in the seat to greet her.

Another door opened on JD’s left and he jumped again nearly out of his skin. A younger man, cropped brown hair, dressed in a green hoodie and jeans plopped down, sipping on a large fountain drink. “Hey, dude, you should get one of these, they’re half cost today only!”

The man, Chris Gatti, was JD’s best friend, now ongoing for nine years.  He was a few years younger but possessed an old soul with a very generous nature. “I’m serious—” Chris stopped when he saw JD’s terrified expression. “Whoa. What’s wrong?”

JD couldn’t answer. His mind was still absorbing his traumatic attack. How? Why am I here?  

Hot sunlight poured in through the windshield. He could see the skies were the bright, crystalline blue of summer.

“Did you have a nightmare or something?”

“I… uh, a nightmare?” he answered completely at a loss for words. A nightmare though did strike him as a possible answer to the craziness of the encounter. After all, why would anyone attack him? He didn’t do anything to anyone, and no one had any beefs with him that he could recall. And he definitely didn’t recognize the strange man who jumped him at Parkerson’s.

“Yeah, you were snoozing like a baby when I pulled in for gas. I didn’t wanna wake you when I went in.”

JD nodded and a genuine uneasy smile blossomed on his face. “Yeah, must’ve been a bad dream.” But it didn’t feel like any dream. Nothing ever felt so real!

“Tell me, man. Musta been a doozy,” Chris asked as he started his Kia Soul.

“Don’t remember much. Hey, hold up. Do you mind if I do get a drink after all?” He answered, mainly wanting to escape having to relive the ambush.

“Sure thing.”

****

Inside the gas station store, the frigid air chilled him. His clothes were damp from sweat and his exposed skin goosebumped. JD pulled down the rolled-up sleeves of his Tampa Bay Bucs sweatshirt on his arms and headed for the back. The place was cramped with close rows and displays blocking the entrances. A young teenage couple walked past him holding hands, giggling and lost in their own world. Other than the small, Italian man at the register singing along to an old rock tune on the radio, it was quiet.

The lights were amazingly bright to JD and their glare made him squint. In fact, the multitude of items on the shelves were ablaze in what seemed like neon lights and firework colors. He never got migraines, but he had heard that people suffering from them had similar, intense reactions to light. He shook his head, but it didn’t clear up his vision.

He kept his face pointed at his shoes and walked briskly to the soda fountains. His throat was actually sore! I was screaming and gasping for air…

JD reached over for a large size foam cup. The clear plastic dropped down over his face again, cutting off his air and dimming the light.

NO!!

His words – his plea – came out muffled and muted. This time JD wasted no time. He swung around with his arms spread wide and his fingers clawing the air. He wanted to get his hands on the man. Beat the man back, kick the man in revenge and smash his attacker into the ground forever!

JD’s arms knocked over a potato chip rack and his hands only sent a coffee pot to a crashing end upon the tiled floor. The young teen girl squeaked in surprise at the register.

“What’s going on back there? You will pay for anything you’ve broken, I swear it to God!” the clerk exclaimed.

Thinking he might break the stranger’s hold, JD coiled his legs and propelled backward to drive the man into a counter or maybe one of the nearby freezers. The pair plowed into a glass donut enclosure. There was another tinkling explosion of shattered glass as it fell next to where the two wrestled.

JD’s sight again darkened as numbness spread over him. Why is this happening? Who is this? What the fuck does he waaaa…

More deep chuckles followed him into the gloom.

****

“Yo! Are you next? Ya waiting on somethin’ or is the machine down, man?”

JD blinked and he wavered on his feet.

Behind him a pair of strong hands gripped his shoulders. “Hey man, you okay?”

Once more, JD could not answer and looked into the face of an elderly black man that had come through a glass door marked CHANNEL BANK – ATM. “What?” he asked the man still holding him upright.

“You okay, I asked.” Concern creased his wrinkled features. His dark eyes imploring and studying his face.

“Honestly, I don’t know.”

He shrugged free of the man and left the small ATM enclosure. Outside it was cloudy and lightly sprinkling.  A heavily loaded Metro bus hissed as it progressed down Main. Then its breaks whined angerly in protest as it slowed to make its turn down 5th Ave. He shambled toward an old park bench near the curb facing the street.

He plopped down, planted his face in his hands and leaned over his grubby sneakers. It was too much. The pain, the terror, the icy end of it all. The trauma overwhelmed him. He couldn’t stop himself and he sobbed helplessly in his palms.

Moments later, he finally gathered himself and straightened his shoulders, leaning back.

This is like some cheesy horror movie! Only I’m the only one that Michael or Freddie keep going after.

Like in those movies he and his friends saw relentlessly in his teenager years, he realized he needed answers. Needed to research how and why this kept happening. Yet, those answers were most likely only found on the net. He wasn’t going home to his empty apartment, to his laptop. Hell, he never wanted to be alone anywhere again!

There were public laptops at the city center library. He waited nervously for the next bus which would come and get him close to downtown. Traffic and passersby pedestrians kept him company and he was deeply grateful for that.

****

The curser kept blinking and waiting for his keywords.

What do I look for? Do I try to find out who that man is? Do I see if anyone else has been attacked recently?

He stared at the laptop screen in frustration. Half a dozen other users were sitting at the bank of laptops and others walked among the bookshelves or browsed the magazine racks. He never felt so happy to see a crowd. He would have gladly hugged and embraced each person. Tears rimmed his eyes again and threatened to spill down.

JD ignored the emotions and got down to business. He typed “Muggings+white 40s male+plastic bag”. His fingers trembled and he forcefully clasped his hands together in his lap as he waited for the search results.

Several stories appeared but nothing that seemed related to what he was going through.

“C’mon! I know this guy’s done this before. He’s too quick, too practiced to be his first rodeo,” he spoke aloud.

“Strangulations+white male” Maybe I need to be broader and more general.

More articles but nothing specific enough to help.

“Self-defense tactics” JD typed next.

A loud siren, shrieking overhead and down the hallway exits startled him so bad he yelped. Some laughter at his reaction was quickly drowned out by a PA announcement, “CAN EVERYONE QUICKLY BUT ORDERLY EXIT THE BUILDING? THE FIRE ALARM IS ON. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

As everyone gathered their books, backpacks and purses, the announcement was repeated.

JD sighed but wasn’t too upset as he was getting no where fast on the internet. As he followed the nervous crowd marching along the hallway, he tried to decide his next move. Where can I go to get answers? Where will there be a crowd? Who might understand what’s happening? Would a church or maybe a priest have some ideas?

Hands gripped his left arm and yanked him hard into an unlit meeting cubby as he started to pass. He stumbled blindly over a chair and fell hard onto his stomach. His right wrist popped like a gun shot in the interior of the small cubby.

Through gritted teeth, he screamed as the stranger landed on top of his back, “WHY DO YOU KEEP ATTACKING ME? WHY DO YOU WANT TO KILL ME?” Tears burned his eyes and hot pain seared through his arm and broken wrist.

The man’s weight constricted JD’s breathing and movements. Even over the continuous bleating of the fire alarm, he could hear the stranger’s deep chuckles.

“Why do you say I’m trying to kill you?” More mocking laughter followed. “That’s funny! I’m not trying. I AM KILLING YOU! And I’m going to kill you again and again!”

JD stopped his struggles and froze in response to the words.

“Jason, you see, you’ve made someone a very powerful enemy. Seen something or done something you weren’t supposed to, I don’t know. So much an enemy that they’ve paid me a lot of money to wipe you out of existence. Every existence… Every lifetime… Every dimension…”

Plastic wrapped his face again. JD couldn’t fight it. He was paralyzed. As his vision winked out, he understood the meaning of those words. The assassin was snuffing him out one by one.

His murder was infinite.

FRESH STORY CONTENT 10/27/2022 — Derek Barton — Wyvernshield!! – 2022

In spite of the activities they were about to perform, the night was relatively quiet in the compound.  Taliah was in her ceremonial robe, waiting on a Bhik-sunii to retrieve her from her room and escort her to the Ritual Room. She was calm and rested, her thick red hair bound up in a silver brooch.  Her blindfold laid across her lap, she did not like to wear it in the privacy of her room. However, for the Order ceremonies or when she was consulting visitors she always had one to cover the deep groves, the scars cut into her face and of course, the hideous open eye sockets.  Without it, there was always an awkward tension in the air.  She understood that people were thrown off by the mutilation and it made them uncomfortable. Yet she was at peace with all of it. It was the price she paid, the penance for her forced actions on behalf of the Viestrahl which led to much blood spilt.

She wondered what the Blood Seyde would reveal to her tonight.  Normally, she took her cues from nature when to perform the Seyde, a bath in blood. Storms would coalesce and sweep in to their island.  The pounding of the rain, the strafing rains, and the raw energies released by its lightning would charge her power.  

Sometimes with those storms came a mystic messenger, a white cloud-like entity.  These entities wanted her to see their stories, live a moment or day in their lives.  They were her guides through history. Even a king once came to her and confessed to her his greatest sins. These visions had revealed much to her and explained so many mysteries of local lore to her which she shared with Tal Crowan and the Khestal Ezan Order.  

Yet, there were no such storms this evening.  She proposed the idea to Tal and set up the Seyde herself.  A compulsion or maybe it was intuition, but something nagged at her and inspired the idea to try and gain knowledge of the Etohlosii through her visions.  At first, it took some convincing as the procurement of the precious gallons of blood was expensive. In the end, he agreed it may provide a direction.  

The Beleardea were ahead of them and with the Ebon Queen’s backing, they easily blocked all of their other endeavors to learn what was happening behind the Barrier of Storms.  

A memory of crystal water stained red, a fountain of white and silver stone, the horrific vision rose up in Taliah and she shuddered.  It had been a terrorizing, prophetic dream she had before Letandra had been taken by the Crown.  A revealing glimpse into madness and human sacrifice.  The blood in her fountains were human, while the blood Taliah would bathe in was from animals.  A subtle but important difference.

A metal gong was struck and reverberated through the compound. It was time, her escort would arrive soon. 

She pulled up the red and gold blindfold and placed it over her scarred face.  Carefully, she worked herself over to stand near the door.  

Moments later she heard the wooden clogs of the Bhik-sunii girls as they came to her bed chamber.

One gave a soft knock and they came in without a word. She extended her arm then was led through the halls.  

Taliah laid naked inside a silver bathtub, the cold metal chilling her backside as she waited for the ritual to begin.

She smelled a faint wisp of scented smoke coming from several braziers in the corners of the room.  A metallic tinkling sound drifted down to her ears that came from long metal chimes hung from the ceiling in between red wax candles and ruby crystal chandeliers.  

The Bhik-sunii strode up and surrounded the bathtub, presumably with their silver pitchers.  She braced herself and focused her thoughts.

Cam Rhea initiated the special Song of Crossing to deliver her into the In-Between. The In-Between was an enormous intersection of all  existence, where all the planes connected. It was said to be like an emerald sea where nothing physically existed yet everything could be found there too.  She did not understand it nor had she ever seen it with her own eyes, even before she was blind.  

The Song of Crossing and the intricate chants were to guide her to the intersection as well as provide a level of magical and spiritual protection.  There were said to be creatures that could prey upon souls or even capture one in order to replace them in reality. 

“Pa tas bea’tra.  Pa tas bea’tra. Pa tas bea’tra – Keyor!” Speak through the blood.  Speak through the blood.  Speak through the blood — Dead One!  As the girls chanted, they poured the oily liquid contents of the pitchers. Taliah then felt their hands upon her limbs and shoulders keeping her firmly beneath the surface of the warm blood.

She spasmed and her body fought their hold, but in time as always it gave in and went limp. As she entered the Crossing, her body became weightless. Then a fire built inside her, it raged through every cell.  While she still could not see, a picture formed of her surroundings inside her mind.  Every nerve of her body was in direct connection to the In-Between and absorbed every detail in an all encompassing vision.    

Within the In-Between were millions of strands or soul-lines, long, convoluted cables, representing each  person’s life.  They wound together in massive braids, the family blood lines of each generation. It was at this point the guide or the Mystic Messenger would take her to the strand she needed and she would delve into the depths of their lives, living through their eyes or witnessing it in a spirit-form.

When Taliah was new to the role as a Blood Seeress, it was hard to know the limits of what she could do and to understand what she saw. And even though she was more experienced, she still found she had a loose grasp on her power.  It was one of the reasons she was so excited to try this experiment this evening.  She wanted to push the boundaries again and at the same time, she hoped to find more useful answers.

She hesitated opn how to proceed. No “Dead One” tonight for her to rely on so she waited for any sign.  Floating in the Emerald Sea among the multitude of soul-lines made her feel insignificant and at the same time a critical element to all the souls around her.  

Finally she felt the tiniest of vibrations caress her skin.  She pushed herself toward it trying to gain a stronger indication of its location.  Again the sensation of rippling waves tickled her. but it was barely any different than before.  This meant that the soul-line was a distance from her.  It would take some time and a lot of mental energy to find the hidden strand. 

That did not bode well for Taliah.  The longer in the In-Between, the harder it was to extract from it.  As well it meant a more intensive rest would be needed afterward. She hated bed-rest. The fact that the hidden strand was some distance, however, did boost her mood. This was a sign that the event to be witnessed was deep in history.

As she had not felt any other twinges or sensations from other strands, she had to hope that this was the one she needed.  

It took the greater half of the night she estimated to reach the soul-line.  Taliah hoped she was not woken too early.  The Bhik-sunii watched over her physical form in the real world and studied her to see signs of stress.  If they feared she was in danger they had processes to retrieve her soul-line.  They knew she disliked long periods in the mysterious plane, yet they also knew this was an important quest for her. It was a dual test of their wisdom for them and a test of her fortitude.

She trusted their patience would hold them from disrupting her.  

Not waiting any time, she located the strand among several knotted family braids and immediately plunged her essence into the ivory cable.   

****

A set of five pedestals stood before her, four with individual marks and thick moldy tomes.  The room was square with a high arched ceiling.  A trio of sky lights allowed sunrays to pierce the room’s gloomy shadows and encircle the pedastals.  Taliah recognized the pedastals and books but not the location.  She saw a similar set up once in a long ago vision, but that room had been hidden in present day somewhere in the city of Rovmantysa.  The Beleardea had established a chamber, acquired the tomes and used them in their rituals.  

She did not understand why they were here now in front of her.  This room was empty, its walls were only adorned with a symbolic scripting. It was the exact opposite of her vision of the altar for ARa Etohl — that room had been circular, ringed with candles and the walls covered in tapestries showing the Vile Beast, the Three-Horned Snake God.

Staring down at her hands, she recognized that they were too rough and callused to be a woman’s hands.  In the right hand was a torch and the other a dirt-caked hand shovel.  

“Aramon, move in already. I want to see.” A woman’s voice, thick with the Jehahi accent called out behind him.

“Aye.  It’s beautiful.  Jussa like the Shaman said.” The man answered.  Taliah remained inside only as a witness.  She had no power here.  All was displayed to her as if they were actors in a play before her.

The man raised from his crawling position and stood in the room.  His face drawn in rapture and his eyes seem to eat up the writing on the walls.

As the woman came in, Taliah noted her youth first then the fact that her naked torso was tattooed in symbols.  She recognized a few religious symbols but could not remember the meanings.  She was dressed in a long flowing skirt and had a bronze circlet which had delicate chains woven into her hair.  The braid hung down her back to her waist. She carried a backpack and a couple of watersacks on a belt.  Neither she or this Aramon were armed. 

“We don’t have much time.” She tried to spur him into action.  When he remained frozen, she shrugged and crossed over to the first of the pedestals. 

The tome was three handspans wide and bound in gray-scaled leather with golden rings. A glass crystal orb was embedded in the cover.  Without realizing it, she subconsciously rubbed her fingers over the translucent glass.  A high-pitched whine escaped it and filled the chamber for a couple of seconds.  

“Shasha!  What did you do?”  Aramon shouted as spun to look at her. He ran to her side.  The second tome answered in turn with its own pitch, slightly higher.  A hooked staff shown on its cover and was depicted in gold and platinum metal engraving.  The third book, marked by a Silver Crown rang out in an even higher octave.  All four tomes continued to trill and gain in intensity.

“I…I don’t know?”  A tear slipped down her cheek. “But, I think…I think I hear the voice of Yula Do Vras.  It is so beautif–“

“–NO! You’ve only triggered some kind of alarm.  Grab them before…”

A part of the back wall shifted and a square section of sandstone slowly dropped and cascaded into a pile upon the floor. A passage dark and foreboding could be seen as it continued into mysterious shadows. The tomes shrills whines diminished and faded into silence.

The pair stared at each other, neither had an answer or expected this. 

Aramon approached the opening and held up his torch which sputtered on an unseen draft coming from the tunnel.  The flames steadily regained and remained lit on the wooden shaft. Over his shoulder, he commanded again, “Get the books, Shasha. Come!”

“I donna like the looks of that way.  We should go back the ways we came. That way opened for a reason. Who knows what it’s purpose might be. A trap perhaps?”

A whispery voice called out from the tunnel.  It was featherlight and musical.  She was almost certain it was the same sweet voice she had heard before. The words were impossible to make out but they repeated over and over to them.  

Before the pair knew it, they were standing inside another mammoth chamber, their torchlight barely illuminating a quarter of it.  Marble pillars stood on white and black tiled floors. They rose high overhead to an unseen ceiling. Nothing of this place seemed familiar or even possibly connected to the temple they had invaded. The room was manmade but appeared to be nearly empty. Taliah noted that there were rows of wooden benches or pews on either side of an immense aisle. Their sandals made odd thumping sounds as they traveled deeper into the heart of the chamber.

Finally they stood before a raised dais and a wooden altar.  A gray and red cloth carpeted the dais.  

A figure stood waiting behind the altar, silken beige thin wraps covered the figure from head to toe.  The wraps were see-through and haphazard in fashion.  The figure was a collection of bones, not a full skeleton. A chain of black links and sapphire gems was the only decoration upon its neck.

“Come, O Children O Children,”  The figure called out as the skull turned to acknowledge their presence. It had the sweet angelic voice.

“Who are you?  Where are we?”  Challenged Aramon.

“You are in Sanctuary.  You are forever safe.”

Shasha pulled on Aramon’s shoulder.  “I donna like this.  Please, let’s go back the other ways.”

“I want to show you what gifts you hold.  I want you to understand their meaning and their power.”  The wrapped figure said.  It had no real emotion in its words, just a simple statement of desire. It floated closer, ominous and wreathed with ivory light. Breath-taking, towering over them, intimidating all at the same time.

“We donna mean any disgrace to Yula Do Vras. Our…our mother is dying and we needed the bounty for the books to pay for her care.  We see that this was wrong and we’ll replace them.  Please!” Aramon begged.  

“I am not asking to take the books from you.  They shall be forever a part of you. I only want to show you their reason for existence.  You have done Us a great favor, O Children O Children”  The figure rose above them, its light now bathing them.

The siblings whimpered in superstitious fear and dropped to their knees, clasping their hands.  “Please.  PLEASE! Forgive our trespass.  We will return them.  Donna hurt us.”  Shasha ranted as she buried her face into her brother’s shoulder.

“You do not understand… yet,.. how you have done Us the favor.  Now we impart onto you what you have released into the existence again.”  Its skeletal hands came down and rested on their foreheads. The figure’s remnants of skin was mottled gray and with patches of coarse black hairs. Blue veins stood out under the thin, taught skin. Its clinging flesh writhed uncontrollably.

Both Aramon and Shasha shrieked and filled the room with tortured screams.

****

Taliah’s eyes were blind again.  A searing pain filled her. She reflexively flung herself back into reality, crashing out of the silver tub, sprawling like a wild fish upon the floor.  Her hands clutched at the sides of her head as her screams mimicked the pair over and over. Horrific images flooded her mind’s eye. 

The Etohlosii were coming and soon they would release ARa Etohl forever upon the realms. All realms!

The Bhik-sunii swept her up, trying to calm her, but it took hours for her to return to sanity.  She writhed all that time, wrestled in their arms as she cried. They eventually put a leather strip in her mouth to prevent her from biting off her tongue and chewing away her lips.  

All the while, Tal Crowan stood silently watching, pen and parchment in hand. He wrote down her every word. He listened to every muttered phrase or name. Her words began to repeat — he surmised that she was giving him a prophecy, a litany of events that may come, names of those who must live and those who must die or the Corruption of ARa Ehtol would come and end all existence.

CHECK IT! CHECK IT OUT!! — Derek Barton – 2022

Hey Everyone!

We have set up a Kickstarter for our magazine. What’s a Kickstarter? CHECK IT OUT AND SEE WHAT SPECIAL ITEMS/REWARDS/COLLECTIBLES YOU CAN GET BY HELPING US REACH OUR GOAL!

2023 will be a great new year of fresh content and thrilling horror!!!!

. Want to know what YOU get?

Be a part of the team and on board for a great series of chilling stories!!!

New Project for 2023, Ready for it? — Derek Barton – 2022

I am excited to announce MY new venture — I’ve gathered over a dozen horror and crime fiction writers to write unique, short stories which will be issued in beautifully arranged magazine issues.

Every quarter, we are set to release indie-original fiction along with crafted poetry, author-drawn illustrations, picture & author biographies, and in-depth interviews with some of the authors.

Writing Staff: Derek Barton, Alyanna Poe, Chris Pelton, John N. McLean, Albert Moss, Andy Holberry, Jennifer Amato , Adam C Mitchell, Sam Synner, Annmarie McMullin, Jace Killjoy, Steve Cain and Thomas Stewart Copy Editor: Nesa Miller

Soon I will announce our Kickstarter campaign where for a minimal pledge, you will gain access to custom made metal bookmarkers, digital/softcover issues, an exciting Zoom Halloween Party with the Magazine Contributors, t-shirts, bonus story material, and even my Elude Series on Audible!

I will keep you all in the loop on any upcoming details or updates. With success, I hope to extend this project into the following year, maybe going bi-monthly with the issues! And of course, if I’m able to I would love to create the same kind of magazine but for Fantasy & Sci-Fi stories! Time will tell!!