2020 Bio Blog — Derek Barton

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So it has been since 2018 that I’ve done a bio blog about myself. I tried to really find some interesting questions. If there are any questions you might have, feel free to send me any email or leave a comment. I am very open to answering.

 

Base information you may not know:  My real name is Derek Barton (no middle name and not a pen name). I have a half-brother Alec who lives in Florida near my father and my mother lives in our home state of Indiana. I live in Phoenix (since 1996), married to my wife Erika, and have three children (Johnathan 19, Jenna 18, and Jessiena 4). I’m a full-time supervisor of an insurance marketing company. I was born in 1970 and grew up in the 80s (hair bands still rule!)

What shows are you into?  Like my book genres, I tend to like both horror and fantasy shows. So Game of Thrones (except the last season) is my all-time favorite show with Dexter (except for the last season!! C’mon can’t you guys get it together in the end?!)

How often do you play sports? Rarely any more. Would like to get back into racquetball again once we are out of the quarantine.

What skill would you like to master? I would like to also get back into weightlifting again – not only for health reasons, but I found it did help with stress as well.

What do you wish you knew more about? The other skill would be making better book covers designs. I really need to get into a  Photoshop course!

What mystery do you wish you knew the answer to? What are ghosts? Are they really former people and if so, why did they choose to be in this form or choose to stay behind?

What’s your favorite genre of book or movie? Again I like the two genres of horror and fantasy, but this time I would have to say horror more than fantasy. Check out my prior blog on my top favorite horror films! 

What fictional place would you most like to go? If I had the chance, I would find a way to see the future like in Minority Report or some other sci-fi flick like The Fifth Element. I love fantasy but future technology would be awesome to see.

What game or movie universe would you most like to live in? As I stated above, the future would be an amazing time to live in, but if not that then the epic fantasy world of Skyrim would be also a great experience. I’m into the whole magic thing — maybe not out facing dragons by myself like the game, but you get me!

What was the best book or series that you’ve ever read? Stephen King’s The Green Mile Series (they were first published as five small novellas — hmmm does that sound familiar?) would be my first thought. Then of course the whole Game of Thrones Fire & Ice Series. Many others could come up on this list — like R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’urden Book Series which is absolutely phenomenal and filled with characters I could only hope to achieve!

What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years? Writing more and more books and getting better with each one. I don’t  have any reason to stop — my expensive hobby completes a part of me and if there are fans of it too then that is also incredible! The other aspect that I’m looking forward to is seeing my baby girl grow up! Jessiena is such a wonder and fascinates me — I really had no idea what being a parent could be and now I can’t imagine life without her around.

Who’s your go-to band or artist when you can’t decide on something to listen to? I love heavy metal and dubstep (heavy metal techno), but when I need to write I put on classical or epic music. Bands like Godsmack, Audioslave, Stone Sour, Linkin Park, or Deftones would be my answer.

What would be your first question after waking up from being cryogenically frozen for 100 years? Did I get a new body or still stuck with my starter one?!

What is something that a ton of people are obsessed with, but you just don’t get the point of? The Kardashians come first to mind, then I’d say most reality shows especially cooking. If I can’t eat it, I am not spending an hour watching you make it! Don’t taunt the fat guy, he’ll bite!

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it for the first time again?  The Lord of the Rings movies would be great to relive.

What do you have doubts about? I doubt a lot of personal things but my writing of course is always important to me so I want to make it the very best I can. I often wonder what have I missed or how can I make it better.

What would be the scariest monster you could imagine? If you notice and some of you have pointed it out, I have a lot of spiders in my stories. Yeah, tarantulas are definite nightmare material to me. The worst I created so far would be the massive Gray Mother in the story, The Bleeding Crown. 

What challenging thing are you working through these days? I’m working on Evade, my new horror suspense series and trying to tie that all up, but the one that makes me gulp anxiously is the last of the Wyvernshield Series. It has some really big things coming up and even though I think up these things, it’s another to write it down coherently and also make it entertaining. I am excited to get started on the last book yet I dread it! hahaha  Coming in 2021 hopefully!!

When was the last time you changed your opinion/belief about something major? My ideas of politics in general have changed within the last three years. I’m not going to get into it as that is a very volatile subject with people, but I’ll say that I never realized how big an impact politics and government really  do have in your normal day to day life. The decisions other people in charge make can literally mean your life or death indirectly or not. It won’t always work to ignore it and keep your head in the sand.

What’s your best “my coworkers are crazy” story? Once during a company “secret santa gift exchange”, a coworker overhead another lady ask for anything cow-related. She had a collection she wanted to add to. My coworker friend who was friends with her took it upon himself to give her a gift even though she wasn’t in his team exchange. He bought her a real frozen cow tongue! Funny as hell (the look of disgust and shock on her face as she unwrapped it) but sick at the same time!

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions that you did while growing up?  Halloween is a big one of course. Dad always made a big effort to put me in costume and it was a special time for the both of us. The other would be of all things, Easter. I couldn’t wait to find those damn eggs! It was my scavenger hunt (which I seem to really secretly enjoy). Jessiena seems to share my same thoughts on holidays (although “pwesents” from Christmas is starting to edge out all others!)

What’s the weirdest way you have met someone? Well…my wife and I met at a “Lock and Key Event”. A singles thing where men were given keys and women given locks on necklaces. Gee, no symbolism there!  Anyway, we didn’t “click” with our key and lock, but when Erika approached me and chastised me with “You paid $20 just to sit here and not talk to anyone?”, the event didn’t matter anymore… And thus the beatings, I mean, the love began!

If you had to choose one cause to dedicate your life to, what would that cause be?  Fighting for animal rights or protection. I don’t do enough of that — no one can — but it is important to me. Some of the stories of abuse you hear make you wonder how I’m a human and that same person is a human? How can they do such a utterly horrid thing and still be related to me?

Which fictional villain is your favorite? Agent Smith of The Matrix movies was incredibly portrayed by Hugo Weaving. Pinhead from the Hellraiser movies. Then there’s the villains Loki and Thanos of the Marvel movies… so there are a lot out there to choose from. That’s too broad of a category for me to answer.

 

Alright well, I hope that wasn’t too boring and it gives you a little insight to my mind and my life.

Hope everyone is being safe and remaining healthy in this trying time!  Thank you again for all your support!!

Writer Interview by Andrew D. Michaels — Derek Barton – 2019

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My friend and colleague, Andrew D. Michaels, has a running set up to interview writers for his Facebook page.  You guessed it — I am next up on his rotation!

Enjoy!!

Today on the chatbox, we have our own Derek Barton! He’s here talking about his upcoming multiverse and check out his website below for free excerpts and shenanigans!

DB: I am a self-published writer since 2016. My favorite genres that I write in are the same that I love to read: Horror & Fantasy. I tend to blend my work with elements of horror in all that I create. In other words, my epic fantasy has some rather dark elements. I guess you’d say that I am primarily a horror writer.

ADM: That’s awesome! Would you say that not only the horror genre has severely influenced your writing, but any authors in particular?

DB: Like most writers of my generation, I can point to Stephen King’s influence and I do so proudly! He’s a master at creating characters that are so meaningful and powerful that you never forget them. That is one of the key goals I have in my stories. On the other side, fantasy writer Piers Anthony influenced me at first then R. A. Salvatore (of the D&D Forgotten Realms literature). Also, Dean Koontz, J RR Tolkien, and Stephen R Donaldson inspired me. Even to this day, I get inspired by them. Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes got me so excited by crime horror that I wrote my Elude series because of the unique way he twisted real-life with horror factors.

ADM: I can relate to those! So, what was the catalyst in the transition from reader to writer?

DB: I had given up striving/dreaming of being a writer since I was never able to write a full story out. Had tons of half-finished work. Then I learned during the writing of Consequences Within Chaos (my first book) that I was a ‘’plotter’’! So, what that means is that I had to have every detail planned out and couldn’t sit at the computer and just write by the seat of my pants (what’s called a ‘’pantser’’). After learning how to better develop and structure my work, it was easy to see the dream come true and be an actual writer. My good friend, Doug Sanburn, from high school, had belief in me and he was an accomplished, published writer, so I took the leap of faith. And never looked back! In my opinion, this is the greatest time in the ages of man to be a writer. There’s so much reference material and writing craft detailed out there on the net that you can simply watch videos or read articles and find you can do and write anything!

ADM: It’s always good to have someone on the team. Now, you have published many books since then, what was something that you were surprised to learn along the way about the writing itself, or as an author?

DB: Other than how precise and formulaic stories have become in structure and themes. It’s not a bad thing, but it was surprising to see if you knew what to watch for in any story. I think another thing that surprised me especially was the fight scenes. I never anticipated how daunting they could be. You must choreograph everything, everyone and every hit long before you write it out. Too much rides on getting those details right and they can totally throw your story off or derail a great plot. My first battle scene so scared me that I stopped writing for several months before finally braving an attempt. It was stage fright but for writing!

ADM: That sounds like a challenge. Were there any scenes that you were proud of, or perhaps a personal favorite?

DB: Each time you finish a story it becomes your absolute favorite child. Then you write another and that suddenly becomes your favorite. As far as a favorite scene I can’t narrow it down that precise, but Elude, my crime/horror story I cannot help but feel the happiest with. I get excited by it every time I think about it and what happened overall with the storyline.

There’s another crime-horror story I am developing which has a couple common elements with Elude, so it is called Evade. I get literally giddy thinking about its story. Guess that doesn’t really answer your question, but I am just so thrilled and happy with the complete tales I have been able to piece together and share with my fans.

ADM: That’s awesome though. Is Evade the next release we can expect from you? Care to share something about the story for those that aren’t familiar with Elude?

DB: My current schedule for my works in progress go as the third fantasy novel in my Wyvernshield series (the end of the trilogy) then the first Evade, then possibly publication of a web series I am doing called Juxtaposed, a fantasy/dystopian tale. As far as Evade goes, it will be a police drama (the main characters) and it takes place in Philly. My first horror novella, In Four Days, took place in Philly and a character from In Four Days will come back and crossover into Evade. I did the same with Elude where one of the main characters, Detective Ellis, was a character in In Four Days. Essentially Elude and Evade are tied to the horror novella In Four Days.

My fantasy world is connected, and my horror story world is connected. By the way, I put a lot of free excerpts of the books and stories on my website. The first five chapters of Elude #1 were on there for instance. Something fans can take advantage of!

ADM: It sounds like that while each series is separate on its own. But are they are all tangentially connected?

DB: Yes! I think it adds a lot to the back story. I remember that as a fan reader when I found that Cujo, The Eyes of the Dragon, The Dead Zone and The Stand all were connected in subtle ways by Stephen King, it really made a big impact. This was of course before you had the Marvel Universe and things like that. I think King kind of pioneered that front.

ADM: Agreed. So, with that in mind, was there any significance to the titles when you chose them?

DB: Elude and Evade were meant to give you the sense of chase and desperation. An air of frantic suspense. Consequences Within Chaos and The Bleeding Crown which are my two fantasy stories are titled based on the content. In Four Days too could be said to be titled for content as the demon that hunts for lost souls in Philly toys with his victims for four straight days before he takes them. In Evade one of the supposed victims of the demon in In Four Days suddenly shows up on a street corner… and that is all I can hint about that!

ADM: In having multiple series, was the first book more difficult than the others to write or vice versa?

DB: No, I am finding that the end of the series is the challenge! Everyone has “fallen in love” with your world and your characters thus you can’t let them down (aka GAME OF THRONES SYNDROME!). I worried that Elude wasn’t going to live up to expectations, but so far, I have been getting a lot of positive feedback on it. I hope that the third Wyvernshield will have the same result. Right now, I am struggling with the title. It’s either going to be Swimming in the Ashes or Sentinels of the Shield. Then down the road I want to do another whole fantasy trilogy in that same world but with a new set of character/creatures starting in Aberrisc (readers will understand that reference!) versus starting in the sister world of Tayneva like I did with this series. I think since I didn’t get going until I was 40 that all these stories have piled up in me and are dying to get out now! I keep having story ideas come out of nowhere and won’t stop running around in my head until they get released!

ADM: Sounds like you’ve got a lot planned out! So, tell us, is writer’s block something you believe in?

DB: No. But you must know yourself as a writer. Like I said before, I found out that outlines were my lifeline. Without a good outline, I would flounder in my story, get writer’s block or lose interest and story momentum. With the outline, it became technically my first draft. For instance, with Consequences I had a bullet outline that was 70+ pages and 80+ pages for The Bleeding Crown. My fantasy stories are long and involved with several plots, etc. My horror stories tend to have “beat outlines” which are usually less than 20+ pages. They’re complicated tales too, but it’s usually the protagonist versus the villain/monster and how badly the main character is “almost” screwed. In other words, it is like the difference in needed outlines for the movie Jaws vs The Lord of the Rings. Great stories each but Jaws is a bit more cut and dry so to speak.

ADM: Any anticipated release dates coming up?

DB: Unfortunately, no. I try to write daily or work on editing/marketing every day, but I’ve got a new and very involved day job as a marketing supervisor with an insurance company. The change from night shift to day shift has impacted my production heavily. I am working at finding ways to get more done, but my “expensive hobby” doesn’t pay my bills thus the day job has to be in my reality. Right now, 2020 and 2021 will have work produced & published. Elude is almost set to have an audible version in the next month or so! I am excited to hear it. The voice actor, S.W. Salzman is fantastic!! And of course, the voice actress, Laura Richcreek, who did the fantasy novels will be doing the third book when it’s completed. Her talent has no limits!

ADM: Fair enough. That’s exciting for the audio release! Do you attend any writing events like NaNoWriMo or Camp Nano? What has your experience been with these events?

DB: I have participated in Nanowrimo and while I see the appeal and the motivation it can provide, I found it just didn’t work for me, especially schedule-wise. The first year I “won” with Elude but then the following year I tried to write fantasy and my outline was just not complete enough. I don’t think I’ll do it this year, but I haven’t fully decided. I write all the time and the idea of only writing for one or two months in the year kind of blows my mind. My production goals require me to get to it faster I guess is what I am saying. If I didn’t have the extra responsibility of a day job and a family of three children to raise, I would probably be more engaged with it. No one wants to see themselves fall behind and fail.

ADM: I agree. Well Derek, thanks so much for talking with me. It’s been a blast and I’d love to catch your release party! Do you have any parting remarks for the readers?

DB: Thanks again for this great opportunity! Writing is now just a facet of me that won’t stop or go away, so I just want fans to know that I am still writing, still carving out worlds and tales to entertain them. Please be patient with me and I’ll always try to make it worth the wait!

LINKS:

https://authorderekbarton.blog

https://www.facebook.com/NovelistDerekBarton/

ELUDE Ebook Trailer:

https://www.facebook.com/derek.barton.96/videos/10212239066646343/UzpfSTE4NDcwNzY2MzU1MDUyNjM6MjM2NDQ4Njc3NzA5NzU3Nw/

Juxtaposed – The Character Cast — Derek Barton

Juxtaposed 2019JUXTAPOSED is a very complex tale that weaves back and forth among two planes of reality and back and forth among characters with almost the same names.  While it is a daunting storyline it is worth the effort — think of the movie, Inception or the thriller Memento.  They may hurt your head…at first, but once you grasp the concepts you can follow along.

I decided to give you a little cheat sheet.  Shhhhh take it, the Overseer isn’t watching! HA!

Remember there are two worlds and two sets of young men.  One set in the fantasy world of Tayneva at the Temple of Kove, the other set in the Enddawn prison encampment of Kav’zera.

 

alexandar-alexender-2Alexendar — Elexendar (Garrett Hedlund) =

Alexendar of Kove: Considered their leader by the other Bhik-sunii students. Alex strives to be fair and even heroic but does have a curious, rebellious side as well.

Elexendar in Enddawn: Hardened by his childhood experiences among the Yularis rebellion soldiers. He tends to be selfish and even ruthless.

 

thomass-thomess

Thomess — Thomass (Paul Craddock) =

Thomess of Kove: Known to be the most pious and religious among the clerical students. He is overall good-natured and brave.

Thomass in Enddawn: Considered to be the leader among the prisoners due to his officer position and a heroic story of rescuing villagers soon to be executed.

 

romann-romunn-1Romunn — Rovunn (Michael B. Jordan) =

Romunn of Kove: Very loyal to Alexander, considers him his best friend. Also, he’s known as the prankster and joker of the group.

Rovunn in Enddawn: He is often good-spirited and outgoing. Like his counterpart, he is very loyal but to Thomass. His cell tube is next to his best friend, Welleum.

 

Gregge - GreigeGregge — Greige (Alex Wolff) =

Gregge of Kove: The smallest boy in the group as well as the most intelligent. He is often upbeat in spite of the teasing and sometimes bullying by the other boys.

Greige in Enddawn: Still the smallest of the gang, but suffered a horrendous injury upon his capture and arrest. Now blind, he regrets his involvement with the Rebellion.

 

willeum-welleumWilleum — Welleum (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) =

Willeum of Kove:  Often has a negative and pecismistic point of view.  He tends to believe luck, people and everything is against him. Not extremely intelligent and the others just have not had the will to exclude him from their activities.

Welleum in Enddawn: Charismatic and even brave under pressure. He is very well liked by the other boys and relied upon as a trusted member.  Still loyal to the Yularis Movement, he’s looking for a way to escape and bring the others with him.

 

charlse-charellsCharlse — Charells (Will Poulter) =

Charlse of Kove:  He is secretly not welcomed in the group like Willeum, but it is more that they are afraid of what he might do as retaliation for being snubbed.  He is often selfish and greedy, if not outright mean.  The others fear he may even snitch on them if he’s not included.

Charells in Enddawn:  Has been in lockup for seven years and has the record for the longest prison sentence.  This has made him pretty bitter and even evil to some.  No longer hoping to get out, he works to take what he wants or do whatever he can to give the Malatt guards as much grief and trouble possible.

 

Tressmen - ThressdenSuperior Tressmen — Overseer Thressden (Michael Ironside) =

Superior Tressmen of Kove:  A father-figure (no pun intended) to all the clergy of the Temple of Kove.  He has been at the helm of the church for almost eight years. Works extensively to build rapport with the boys to lead them out of mischief. At times his temper has gotten away from him, sometimes a tad zealous in his discipline, but overall he is fair.

Overseer Thressden, Warden of Enddawn:  A militant commander and a former Sergeant-of-arms in the Crest Infantry.  He has carried over his methods for strict discipline and harsh enforcement of the prison rules.  There have never been any escapes under his watch which he boasts often about. He has authorized the Malatt guards to carry weapons and assault if necessary to maintain order and stability in Enddawn.

 

 

Hope this helps paint the picture of the story scenes in your mind easier.  Stay tuned for new installments — Chapters Four: Walking Dreams and Chapter Five:  Waking Nightmares!

 

 

THE THREE-YEAR RIDE! — Derek Barton

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Three years ago, I created this blog and established my site and social media footprint in order to advertise my book and to give my fans a place to reach out to me.  This has been a crazy but fantastic ride!  So thankful to all of you who’ve come along as passengers on my little quest.

Here’s the growth from year one to now:

SUBSCRIBERS:

  • 2019 = 70 WordPress, 11 Email & 488 through Twitter & Facebook.
  • 2016 = 11 Email

VIEWS/VISITORS:

  • 2019 = 4,488 — 2016 = 1603 views
  • 2019 = 2,475 — 2016 = 659 visitors
  • 2019 = 61 — 2016 = 19 different countries

POSTS:

  • 2019 = this is the 115th post!! (26 so far this year)
  • 2016 = 37 posts

GIVEAWAYS:  18 Individual giveaways for Book, Audio, Amazon or Metal Bookmarkers!

 

As you know if you’ve been following my goal blogs, I use a bi-montly process that has actually been quite effective.  Here are the goals made and fulfilled from July, 2018 through June, 2019:

  • Complete the Audiobook for In Four Days. Now out on Amazon, Audible & Kindle! N4D Revamp 2018c
  • Create/organize this year’s 2018 Indie Fantasy Book Giveaway with several other independent authors. Was a decent success — this year’s increase in participation & what we are giving away is a nice testament to that!

2019 Indie Book Giveaway Ad

  • Find at least two places to do a book-signing appearance. Did four book signings but due to finances and low turnout I couldn’t justify doing more…but with several books released now, I will be on the prowl for another couple signing spots this year!  Would also like to get into one or two comic-cons, but cannot promise that due to having to usually register months in advance.
  • Finish editing for Elude #1 & #2.
  • Design the book cover for Elude #1 & #2.
  • Write the end of Elude #3.  Elude Ad 2019The entire series has been completed, book covers designed then redesigned, and soon to be released in audible format by the end of the first quarter next year!!
  • Send out Monthly Newsletters by 15th of the month.  I have been successful with this and plan on continuing.
  • Keep up The Hidden saga on the website every 2 weeks.  Accomplished this and have published the entire series on Amazon & Kindle!cover
  • Start my outline for Book #3 for the Wyvernshield Fantasy series. Still trying to get through this one. Coming up with the battle plans and the intricate plots is a whole lot more complicated than you’d expect! Plus, with this being the finale, I want to do better than “What-did-you-do-to-my-Game-of-Thrones?!”… UGH!!!GoT s8
  • Write up and prepare for writing in the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) Challenge in November — Book #3 will be my focus for NaNoWriMo! (50,000 word count goal!)  I participated in this last November, but my outline had too many holes so it only garnered 26,000 words… However, it’s a good start!
  • Craft a video book trailer for Consequences Within Chaos and The Bleeding Crown.  (Can you say strettcccchhhhh gooooaaalll???)  This will happen — but trying to make Wyvernshield #3 a priority right now.
  • Start another web saga?  May have to have a survey for which genre to pursue — fantasy or horror.  Decided to do a Dystopian/Fantasy saga:  Juxtaposed…  Now working on Chapter Four. JX CH 2
  • Thinking about setting up a service to other authors for possible book cover design.  Maybe…  I did get this off the ground and have had some success doing covers, editing & proofing for other writers. I plan on continuing this as the work has been sporadic and not too overwhelming so far.
  • Begin a four-part guest blog swap with fellow writer Adam Mitchell and complete a Blog Interview with him! (This will be my first ever blog swap and should be a lot of fun!)  This has been a success — our final and fourth blogs are due out this month.  Check out Adam’s here!  For my blogs, click here!

 

Thanks again to all of you for your continued help, support and following me along this bumpy road!  It has been the greatest adventure of my life!!

Anniv Blog v2

 

JUXTAPOSED — CHAPTER THREE — Derek Barton

JX CH 3

CHAPTER THREE — THE DELANN-VAIK:

“It is fine, really. Only eight switches,” Romunn explained.

Alexendar said, “You were limping when you came in.”

He shrugged. “Well, the last switch caught me high on the back of my thigh, that is all.”

Gregge shook his head. “Maybe we should wait for another night. I copied the ritual down so none of the Fremons will miss the book or even know it was gone. I was careful. We do not have to—”

“–No. Come on, he is fine,” Charlse interrupted. “There is a storm brewing in the west, this will cover any noises we make leaving. Romunn, you are up for it, no?”

“Sure. Of course.”

Alexendar blurted, “He should not have hit you so many times. I am going to ta—”

“—NO” all the boys shouted in response.

Romunn said, “I appreciate all of your concern, but this is not needed and certainly speaking to him is not going to help me or you. It is done. Can we get going or what?”

The boys quieted and waited for Alexendar to make the decision. He did not say anything but faced Gregge. “You have your backpack prepped? The Sessnine? The scrollwork?”

Gregge bobbed his head yes. “Thomess mixed up the Sessnine with me today in our room.”

“We need to grab some candles and torches from the Pantry on the way,” Willeum put in. He had been put to that particular task and, of course, this was his way of getting things done.

Frowning but turning away from Willeum, Gregge continued, “I even swiped a few of the Sanctuary Blessing Markers. This is as good as done.” The Markers were white stones purified in holy water by the Fremons and set beside graves of the cemetery grounds.

“Then we will meet in the South Hall entrance a half-bell after Bed Call, agreed?” Alexendar scanned the group. Everyone was eager to do the ritual. Eager to make student history.

The DeLann-Vaik was not an overly complex ritual, but it was shrouded in mystery and taboo. Roughly translated, the ritual’s title was “Link to the Dead” or some said it was “Gate to the Crossover”. They did not care. To the group, this was adventure – speaking to the spirits became an obsessive compulsion. Ever since Gregge came across the obscure passages about the ritual two seasons before, their pursuit to make it happen filled every spare moment between Reciting, Prayer and Dominion Vespers.

“We will be forever whispered about by dozens, no generations of classes after us!” Gregge claimed one night. “No one else has ever done this.”

Romunn agreed and convinced Alexendar. He spoke in a hushed tone but with almost frenzied words. “We have all heard of the Vaik, but only we have found the How to do it. Think about that, Alex! We would be permanently linked to DeLann-Vaik!”

***

As they have planned, the boys all slipped one by one into the dusty corridor a half-bell after they were ordered to bed. Without much said, they followed Alexendar down the passage, descended a set of stairs at the back of the Workshop, and out into the misty night. He made a straight march around a massive stone building, Pavanac’s Canteen, where they ate their meals to a window Thomess left slightly open for them.

Moonlight flickered like a candlewick in wind through the massive cloud cover, making silvery spotlights in the grass. Wind sputtered and raged, but only threatened rain as of yet.

They climbed in and gathered again in the gloom of the shadows.

Alexendar turned and waved them together. They wrapped arms around their shoulders forming a huddle. He whispered, “Willeum, go get the candled and torches now, but make it fast as Old Girdy may be doing a lap or two in here.” Girdy was a fat, aging bulldog owned by the Head Cook. It tended to roam and hunt for spare crumbs on the luncheon floor at night.

“Romunn and Charlse, stay as lookouts and catch up to us. The rest of us will go through the basement and out the Orchard door, alright? Then we will gather the stashes and wait for you there.”

***

In spite of the yellow aura from the fire and the amber-orange light surrounding the bottles of Sessnine, the forest grove was intensely dark around the gang of boys. The slight wind above them ruffled the treetop canopies, but otherwise, the night was as if it was holding its breath.

Gregge worked on setting the last of the white Marker stones in a complex pattern in the dirt surrounding the fire pit. He swiveled to look behind him and counted to himself, crouching next to a circle made of powdered chalk. “Fifteen over and down, thirteen to the east, and four to the west.” He took two more from his leather knapsack and lined them with the last stone, placing them in a diagonal formation.

“There. That is complete.” He stood back up and walked over to Willeum. “You are over here.” He took the boy by the elbow and guided him to a spot inside the chalk ring.

Alexendar smiled, laughing internally. Gregge is not taking any chances with that kid.

“Where do I go?” Thomess asked impatiently.

“Hush.”

“I am here, correct?” Alexendar stated with confidence. He had peeked over Gregge’s shoulder while the boy drew the Vaik’s pattern and copied the ritual words in the Library Hall three days prior.

Gregge ignored him as well and strode over to Charlse. He guided him to a spot opposite Alexender and next to the last of the Marker lines.

“Now the rest of us will form up around the outside ring. Thomess, hand everyone a Sessnine,” Gregge ordered. “Listen! It is important while we recite the Trills, each of you extend your arms out at your sides like this with your fingers pointing to the persons on either side of you.” He lifted his arms out and splayed out his fingers as he wanted them to do.

“Alex, when we hit the highest Trills, step into the triangle at the center, close your eyes and listen. You should only hear the spirits by then, not us if we have done it all correct. Anyone got questions?” He looked around, but all met his gaze with bright-eyed anticipation.

He then nodded satisfied his directions were heard, smiled and uncorked his bottle of Sessnine, starting the DeLann-Vaik. Each of the boys down the line popped the potion bottles and imbued the liquid contents.

Alexendar was the last and his potion contained a combination of the Sessnine and a fine powder of Sage, Rue and Angelica herbs. Gregge and Thomess prepared the combination powder to give Alexendar a “level of extra protection from dark spirits and jinn”. They were, after all, invading the land of the dead and crossed-over.

Alexendar scrunched his face as the bitter and sour concoction hit him. He had never tasted Sessnine. It was a horrid experience. The potion was needed as it magnified their magical energy, draining it from the surrounding wilds around them.

“Ay Bas Chor Doram Escaba,” Charlse sang out, trilling the notes of the last ritual words. The other boys followed suit and filled the grove with impassioned chanting.

Ay Bas Chor Do ram Esca ba  …open to your mind…

Ay Bas Chor Do ram Esca ba Fre dat …open to your message…

Ay Bas Chor Do ram Esca ba Fre dat Gea tav …this is not the end of your tale…

Ay Bas Chor Do ram Esca ba Fre dat Gea tav Moa Morti …speak with the freedom of death…

Electricity prickled the hairs on their necks and arms. Heat boiled in their stomachs from the Sessnine, and the wild birds within the forests chirped and squawked in alarmed response to the magical incantations. Deeper in the woods, a large pack of Wild Tarrabo Dogs howled and broke out in staccato barking.

Sensing the highest Trills, Alexendar stepped into the triangle of stones per Gregge’s instruction and squeezed his eyes shut. This was the craziest stunt he had ever done. The darkest ritual he had ever participated in and by far the most dangerous. They all knew they were going into unexplored territory.

But forget all that now, boyo. You have come this far. Focus and listen, remember? Do not let them down!

He tried to blank out all distracting thoughts and sent out a simple question.

Are you there?

Nothing.

Are you there?

He heard the other boys switch over to the Crossover Ritual Prayer.

Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.
Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.
Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.

A dizzying shift alerted him and made him sick to his stomach. He was now projecting away from his body.

Nothi—

“Who’s there?”

The faint words came to Alexendar. It was not a sensation — he was not hearing the words, but rather he felt them. They bloomed inside his mind, without warning and from no direction. The voice was internal and intimate, not external.

He thought, Spirit tell me your name.

It’s Thomass… Who in the Viles are you?

And the voice actually replied.

My name is Alexendar.

“WHO?”  Thomass exclaimed.

“Pipe down, Thomass! Ya don’t want my company in there, trust it, rat-punk!” A voice shouted somewhere beyond and out of his sight. The harshness and violence implied in the threat startled Alexendar. This new voice was gruff and older. He opened his eyes to a brilliant blue light. Blinking and startled by the piercing illumination, Alexendar asked, What? Where am I?

The air about him was stale and cold. Not a damp chill but rather like the air inside a crypt. He blinked rapidly trying to get his eyes adjusted as he now stood alone in the center of a lit tubelike room. Strips of magical blue light ran from floor to ceiling. There was no more than an arm’s length from wall to wall. A small patch of glass was a handspan over his head. His eyes could only make out more faint sources of bluish light which hung from the ceiling of a narrow hall.

Where are the others?

“Back in their cells probably,” the same fuzzy voice mumbled as if almost asleep.

A patter of boots clunk hard upon a metallic floor. The set of heavy footfalls approached fast to where he stood.

“Who is that?” Alexendar shouted and banged his right fist upon the glass. “Let me out of here!”

“Damn! Thomass, you’re really up to pressing your luck with me, tonight? Gettin’ thrown in the Shaft wasn’t enough?” This was the other voice, Alexendar realized. This was the source that threatened him with harm before.

“Please! Where are the others?” he begged.

A black helmet with a semi-transparent visor appeared in the glass. A gloved hand came up and raised the visor. A face beneath the glass visor was all angry eyes and a matching hateful frown. The man snarled, “You asked for this!”

The lights blinked off in the cylindrical room, followed by loud hissing and popping noises. Volts of electricity shot up Alexendar’s legs and snapped the muscles in his calves and lower back. He could only shriek as he collapsed and writhed upon the small floorboard. The sensation had been short but incredibly intense.

“You still feel like havin’ a chat, Thomass?” the man taunted.

Alexendar was incapacitated but was smart enough to not dare a response even if he had the ability. Tears flowed freely along his cheeks.

Why did he do that? I didn’t do shit! The other voice asked in shock. This time the words were sharp, loud, and focused.

Who are you? Alexendar demanded, scared witless.

Silence.

Are you there?

Am I somehow still dreaming? The voice answered Alexendar this time.

I do not know. I did not think you would dream in the Crossover.

What’s the Crossover? I thought I was in the Shaft.

When were you taken? Maybe we call it something different in our time.

What do you mean? What’s going on? The voice inside grew more terse, anxious.

Calm, spirit. I mean you no harm. My name is Acam Alexendar. I am a Bhik-sunii at the Temple of Kove. What is your name?

This is insane. A gasp escaped his lips. Or is this some trick of the Overseer to get information? Screw off!

Who? Overseer?

Why are you speaking in my head, asshole? Stop messing with my brain!

Alexendar grew very frightened himself. This was not what he thought the Vaik would do. The spirit was confused, not the all-wise as he always assumed. When you die, did you not learn the follies of your life, the answers to what you always sought and never found? This spirit seemed more confused than anything.

Spirit, can you tell me your name?

You want to play this game? Fine! I am Thomass Roan-Vi. Cell 99854-22. Sentenced for treason, incarcerated indefinitely at your fine Enddawn Encampment for the Insurgents here on Kav’zera. What else would you like to know? Shirt and pant sizes? That’s all I have left and all you’re going to get out of me.

Uh…encampment? Treason? Was that why you died?

What? I’m not dead!

Alexendar’s legs straightened and he rose without control. He had not wanted to raise up from the floor. Did the spirit possess his body?

What has happened? Why have you taken over my body, Spirit? I mean, Thomass Roa… Uh… I am sorry. This is too much! I will leave you to your eternal slumber and go back now. Please release me!

Alexendar’s hands rose up on their own accord and felt the features of his face then pressed along his chest and arms.

“Stupid dream! I’m not dead,” a baritone voice cursed aloud in the tube cell. The words this time did not blossom inside Alexendar’s mind but resonated in his ears.

Thomass, are you really a spirit in the Crossover? Alexendar repeated his earlier inquiry. He was starting to believe that Gregge had made a serious mistake and the ritual did not link one with the spirit world.

But if not the dead then who?

You’re trying to speak with the dead? Thomass’ voice bloomed inside once more, obviously hearing Alexendar’s own thoughts.

I thought…well, we thought…that is Gregge, another Acam here at the temple thought he translated a ritual to link us to the other side. Who are you then? Where are you?

There was no further response. Alexendar waited then impatiently started again when Thomass cut him off.

LOOK!

Alexendar then spotted the angry face peering in again through the glass.

Remain completely still and do not lift your head up. He’s waiting for any excuse to shock us again. And it will be even worse and longer. Understand?

Thomass, what hell are you trapped in?

This isn’t hell, it’s prison.

THE 2019 INDIE BOOK GIVEAWAY IS UPON US!! — Derek Barton

2019 Indie Book Giveaway Ad

HEY EVERYONE! IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN!! A SUPER-SIZED INDIE BOOK GIVEAWAY THIS YEAR!!

Check out these amazing eight authors giving away FREE EBOOKS — Doug Sanburn, T.D. Barton, Logan Fox, Susanne Lamdin, Nesa Miller, Andrea Cooper, Adam Mitchell, and Christy Mann!

ONE WINNER will have their choice of a $100 Amazon Gift Card or a Kindle Reader (pictured below!).

2019 Kindle Reader

It’s open for entry from July 5th to July 31st. You get “extra entries” by posting an ad on Facebook or sharing the ad or Tweeting (like Trump) on Twitter!

GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE! 

Bi-Monthly Goals for July & August 2019 — Derek Barton

Blog Goal #1

Well…this has definitely been a challenging yet rewarding year. Unfortunately, events have substantially impacted my writing production.

At the beginning of April, I gave you my goals for April & May.  Now, I won’t go into detail or give any excuses, but me and my family had to face and overcome some serious medical obstacles followed by financial hardships. I was so derailed that I lost most of June as well still working things out.

The dust has settled and overall, we are sitting better than where we even started the year.  However, like any sudden change, it takes time to recover and adapt.

I do want to apologize to you, my core fans, and ask for your forgiveness and patience.

My work schedule has done a 360 degree shift on me and thus, my writing time has been severely compromised. One of my priorities this month will have to be to determine when and where to write. As I have stated in the past that I write mainly after 10 PM when my family goes to bed. Now I am working from 8 AM to 4:30 PM versus 11:30 AM to 8 PM  — not too mention the two hours of driving time… But, I repeat, I am not wanting  to give you excuses, only facts which I’ll have to find a work-around.

I promise you: Writing and developing my collection is too important for me to throw away or forget about. Adjustment, flexibility, good attitude and drive will help me find a path through.

Here were my goals and results from April & May:

  • Complete the outline for the third book in the Wyvernshield Series — partially completed; more chapters to work though.
  • Complete the outline for the new web saga, Juxtaposed — succeeded on this goal, but need to publish the third installment.
  • Complete the outline for the new Evade Series (crime/horror series) — no writing or outlining yet done on this storyline unfortunately.
  • Rework the covers of my books — partial success as I revamped the Elude Series which I’m quite happy with. Still need another artist or somehow figure out what I want for my new covers for the Wyvernshield Series.
  • Begin a four-part guest blog swap with fellow writer Adam Mitchell and complete a Blog Interview with him! — success as I published the interview (see here if you haven’t had a chance to read it) and have done 3 of the 4 guest blogs with him so far.

And by the way…I recently did an in-depth interview with my voice actress, Laura Richcreek on the Wyvernshield Series. That is in the editing stage but soon to be released. STAY TUNED FOR THAT!  It was fun to do and we get into a lot of the minute details and reasons behind the plot twists in the two books>>SPOILERS ALERT<<  

My Goals for July & August:

The last goal blog, I proposed goals and put some dates of completion with them.  This time I’m going to try putting Priority Levels on them — I will work from the top down which will keep me focused on what’s most important for me to complete.

  • Complete the total outline for the third book of the Wyvernshield Series. Highest Priority.
  • Maintain a two-week production of the chapters for the web series, Juxtaposed. Highest Priority.
  • Develop and begin the Evade Series outline.  Medium Priority.
  • Find a cover artist or design the Wyvernshield book covers myself.  Medium Priority.
  • Develop a book trailer for Wyvernshield Series. Lowest Priority (stretch goal).

 

There are many other things I want to do, but time is very limited so I hope these goals can be accomplished. With luck and with the better financial position, I hope to do more appearances, giveaways, and book signings by the end of the year! Thanks for everyone’s support and I appreciate everyone sticking around to see what’s in store for the future.

 

 

JUXTAPOSED: Chapter Two — Derek Barton

JX CH 2

CHAPTER TWO — THE ENDDAWN ENCAMPMENT:

Thomass stretched his neck, staring up into Enddawn’s blackened skylights high overhead. A massive storm crashed and raged over the building, flickers of lightning streaked along the storm’s underbelly.

It’s another record-breaking storm…just like the one on the night she died.

A thunderclap set off a brief spark in his mind’s eye — his sister, running right behind him through gales of pouring rain. The Crest’s raid on his village had already separated them from their father. Her tiny hand ripped violently from his grip. An explosion from a cannon cluster only yards ahead of them had launched the pair to the left and on top of a rubble pile. Moments later, the soldiers found him, semi-conscious, covered in her blood as he lay a few feet below her impaled body. Ppt. PPt. PPt. Phantom drops pooling on his chest.

The faint clatter of hail snapped him back to reality as it bounced off of the skylight glass, almost drowning out Overseer Thressden’s words.

No one here is ever that lucky.

As if he had the same thought, the Overseer of Kav’zera’s prison encampment gripped the microphone stand attached to a gray cabinet. He stood upon a floating metal platform, hovering above the crowd. He angled the mic closer to his face. His voice was a deep bass and a bit on the gritty-side.

“…The incursion into Bre’oal has interrupted our normal supply caravans. I understand that some of you have been harking this as a positive, a victory of sorts for your fellow traitors among the Yularis.” He paused and his eyes scanned the crowd of youths standing in line formation in front of him. Not a single face was raised or a pair of eyes upturned to meet his.

The first rule at Enddawn impressed upon newcomers, normally on the receiving end of an ionized baton, is that no one is ever to look in the face of the Crest Overseer or any of the Malatt guards.

“Meal rations will be reduced to two half-meals per day until further notice. I realize this might seem taxing or harsh to some of you, but in such violent times as these, one must be resolved and steadfast. To be shining examples to those around you who might be seeking direction. Your sacrifices and efforts to make sure the colonists eat before you are recognized by me and the Council. The Crest will always be there — to take responsibility for you. President-General Rhiet may not understand your recent betrayals, but he’s given you this gift of a second chance to join society. You are here to re-educate yourselves and—”

“—that’s hopeless!” Thomass uttered the curse barely hidden in a hacking cough.

Sudden and shock-induced laughter erupted through the crowd of eighteen prisoners. Everyone’s eyes found him as he stood in a tight-knit group of four. He’d only been brought here two months before, but already he’d won the loyalty of many of the ex-patriots.

Realizing what happened, everyone tightly held their breath and waited for a new storm to burst. Thomass leaned and peeked past his closest ally, Rovunn, to the side where the carbon glass reflected the Overseer’s image.

“You’re screwed,” Rovunn whispered. Worry registered in the black boy’s eyes.

Overseer Thressden, thick in a frame which was more iron muscle than any fat, stared in stony silence. His piercing black eyes matched his salt-and-pepper flat-top hair and matching thin goatee. The man made no movement and seemed to be seeing Thomass for the first time ever. Capturing Thomass’ image of stark white hair, heavyset body and crystaline blue eyes.

“Indeed, some of you will never come to appreciate the blessings of the Crest,” Overseer Thressden continued. He then took a deep breath and pressed forward with his speech of prepared propaganda.

Thomass didn’t know if he was spared or if the Overseer hadn’t actually seen him. Either way, he knew his mouth had nearly cost him again.

On the other side of Rovunn, Welleum, a thin boy with shaggy sandy hair, slid his right boot to the side, dragging a parcel of white paper. Rovunn checked to see where the guards were then with care stepped lightly over the paper and slid it to Thomass.

After copying Rovunn’s spot-check of the Malatt, he slowly dropped down, pretending to tie his boot. Lifting his foot, he read:

L.S. 4 HERNANDEZ @ 23
BRB DODGENS?

Using the end of his bootlace which he’d dipped previously into pencil shavings, he marked a Y on the note next to the name Dodgens, the guard who they intended to bribe.

‘Bout time! That cockroach won’t do this again after tonight.

Charells, one of Thomass’ group, was recovering in the infirmary for his stolen food rations. “L.S.” was the abbreviation for “lesson-session” which is what Hernandez was going to get for snitching on Charells to the Malatt.

As Thomass stood, he slid the note with his boot down the line intended for the prisoner Elexendar. The idiot bent down and picked up the paper without thought, reading it before his face. Greige, a dark, olive-skinned boy snatched the paper out of the his hands and ate the note.

“ENOUGH!” The Overseer roared as he swept the hoverplate down right above their bowed heads.

“EXPLAIN — DON’T MAKE ME WAIT!”

Thomass could feel the waves of heat from the plate’s engines. He knew the man was directly over him. His shaking hand came up and swiped nervously at his long bangs.

Before he realized what he did, he looked up at the man. “I, uh, I’m sorry, uh, Overseer, sir. I just ne—”

Intense rolling pain coursed along his left side and down through his boots. The series of electrified stingers gripped the muscles in his calf so sharply his toes even curled by reflex. As he sprawled onto his back in pure agony upon the concrete floor, Thomass could not even remember the rest of what he was going to say.

At the front of the prisoner lines, the Overseer landed his hoverplate. Two sets of hands gripped Thomass’ arms and drug him on his back. The Malatt then pressed his face to the floor before Overseer Thressden as he removed a charged Viperglove from a shelf in the cabinet.

“Prisoner Thomass, why have you stopped answering me?” His fist, wrapped in a red metal gauntlet, rained down and struck between Thomass’ shoulders.

“I asked you for a reason for your lack of engagement.” Another strike landed on his right hand breaking two of the boy’s fingers.

The Overseer coated in a fine sheen of sweat shook his head. “I don’t think you understand the language we speak here.” The fist then cracked the left kneecap.

“You seem unwilling to speak to me. You’ll have some time to think about it in The Shaft.” Thomass didn’t know where the last strike hit him as the metal Viperglove blasted him into unconsciousness.

 

***

 

A set of handcuffs dug deep into Thomass’ wrists, blackened welts formed in a loop. The tips of his boots barely touched the floor as he was suspended from chains in a blue neon-lit shaft.

Voices, muted and slurred, whispered to him. The words chanted in a sing-song tempo.

Open to your Mind, Open to your Message.
This is not the end of your Tale.
Speak with the freedom of Death.

There was an unusual accent, a foreign element to the speech. He was almost entertained by it. A faint smile crept over his lips.

“Who’s there?” Thomass mumbled, his lips cracked and baked by the neon lamps.

Something is wrong!
Who said that?
Did someone follow us?

The voices clashed and clouded together as the whispers were said at the same time.

“Who’s there?” Thomass repeated, a little louder this time.

There was no response and he was met only with silence. However, the pain in his back and hands, especially his right began to speak to him.

So this is what they’re all afraid of? This is The Shaft?

He’d gotten a few worse injuries in some of the Yularis clashes than what the Overseer had done to him, but he doubted he’d see the infirmary soon. Yet when he first came to the Enddawn Encampment, all they talked and gossiped about was what happened in The Shaft. Terrible, nightmarish stories.

Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.
Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.
Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.

Again, the strange voices echoed in the quiet of The Shaft. This time he realized he hadn’t truly heard the words. They rang out in the recesses of his mind.

“Who’s there?”

Suddenly a voice answered inside him, demanding, Spirit tell me your name.

It’s Thomass… Who in the Viles are you?

And the voice actually replied.

My name is Alexendar.

JUXTAPOSED — Chapter One — Derek Barton

JX CH 1

 

Since The Hidden has been finally completed and now out for sale on Amazon and Kindle, I have been thinking about a new series for my blog.  This is a rough draft of Chapter One.  

Series Synopsis:

Parallel realities, Tayneva and Kav’zera, two worlds with vast differences, have become suddenly entwined.

Tayneva — The island nation of Risa is home to the Temple of Kove. Always a place of sanctuary for any in need.  A group of six clergy students find adventure and purpose through an unexpected source.

Kav’zera — The Enddawn Encampment, a military youth prison houses revolutionary agents who rose against The Crest Tyranny.  A group of six rebels may get their one chance at freedom.

Can these two groups of boys learn from one another?  Will they help each other at the risk of their own lives?

 

CHAPTER ONE — TEMPLE OF KOVE:

Alexendar was transfixed, his focus locked ahead, his head and heart conflicted. As a young clergy student, a Bhik-sunii at the Temple of Kove, this was developing into a bad habit for him. Often lost within his inner thoughts and emotional turmoil, the Fathers were noticing Alex’s marks were slipping within the student ranks.

Early morning sunlight warmed the large cathedral and washed over the first four rows of pews.

“Welcome back from your extended holiday break,” Superior Tressmen spoke out from behind a wooden podium, his voice a deep but monotone bass. He was tall and slender beneath ornate tan robes. “We know this is a taxing time of the year, yet we are grateful for all your efforts in your studies. Also, The Fathers and I are aware of the sacrifice you and your families had to undertake to return to the temple. In times as these, we must be resolved and steadfast. To be shining examples to those around the world that look for our direction. With a shielding hand to protect us, our Father, Lord Rhote demands strict observance, yet also he demands the continence of stone in our beliefs and thoughts.”

Alexendar was in the third row by the outside aisle, among five other boys sitting nearest to a row of towering, stained-glass windows. They were all bored, tuning out the lecture. Of the clergy class of eighteen boys that spread out among the cathedral, these six were an especially tight-knit group.

Alex’s hand came up subconsciously and brushed aside his sandy brown mop of long hair. It was blocking his view of the drama unfolding — a silver-furred spider with a red cross down its back crept down a cord of its web, advancing upon a struggling ice-blue fly.

His heart ached to snatch out the poor insect, saving it from a gruesome death in the mandibles of the spider. On the other hand, the spider’s web was hanging in the inside corner of one window frame. Few opportunities to eat had presented itself these last couple days. Alex had noted the spider’s presence one day during the vespers hour the week before.

How do you put more priority on one soul over the other? Its nature and its fate. Yet should I act? Do I have the right to interfere?

Alex winced, groaning softly as the spider wrapped spindle legs about the fly and slowly rotated its victim.

Thomess who sat next to Alex was a heavier boy with stark white hair and round features. With a smirk on his lips, mirth in his eyes, he nudged Romunn who sat on his right with his elbow. He poked a chin toward Alex, both witnessing Alex’s emotional reactions.

Romunn, a dark-skinned youth from a fishing village outside of Rovmantysa, shook his head and whispered, “Such a lost little princess…”

“And me without a lace tissue for all of his tears!” Thomess added.

“Perhaps it is not too late to go to Mending School so he might save all the world one day!”

Alex finally caught wind of the other boys’ taunts, his cheeks darkened. “Shut it!” He punched Thomess in the ribs.

Laughter erupted from the others around them and interrupted the Superior’s lecture. The balding, thin man paused and glared at the group.

Satisfied with his warning, he straightened his shoulders and continued, “Yes, the rest of the world may be obsessed with this new queen in Wyvernshield and what her actions may mean. However, we as emissaries of Rhote must be absolute and without bias. While the armies of the Keliada Allliance or the Rovmantysa Front swirl about in chaos, remember we cannot afford such ties, such luxuries. We are neutral so that there is always in every land, country, and continent a Temple of Sanctuary.”

Romunn leaned over and whispered to Alexendar, “You take everything too serious. We were only poking fun.”

“I know. Sorry.” He shrugged, more embarrassed than before.

Gregge, the shortest boy among the newest Bhik-sunii, sat behind Romunn. He had black hair and olive-toned skin. “We have to go tonight. I swear I have it this time.”

Alex twisted his head slightly to acknowledge the boy and still look like he was paying attention to Superior Tressmen. “I am willing. How about you guys?”

The two eagerly nodded their heads then looked at their remaining conspirators, Willeum and Charlse. Willeum was similar to Alexendar in features but he kept his brown hair short and cropped. Charlse had freckles and spiked red hair.

“Where at?” Willeum asked too loudly.

Shushing him, Charlse smacked the boy in the back of his head.

“ENOUGH!” the Superior bellowed.

The cathedral was immense and elaborate for this was the primary center of worship to Rhote, but the concrete wall of silence which fell upon the Bhik-sunii, made the room grow exponentially.

Not a breath was taken in the expanse of the cathedral. Every back stiffened and every shoulder straightened. The Superior was usually a tolerant man, and many considered him like a father away from home, but there were times another side had surfaced. This provocation revealed that side once more.

“EXPLAIN!”

Again, not a breath was taken.

Superior Tressmen gripped the wood podium, then he snatched up a thick tome of worship in front of him and slammed it immediately down like a clap of thunder.

“EXPLAIN! I AM LISTENING!”

Alex’s hand returned to his forehead and swiped nervously at his long bangs. He shifted in his seat, trying to prepare his words, starting to rise. Thomess’ arm crossed his chest, pressing him down. Then he glanced over at Romunn.

Trembling slightly, Romunn rose from his seat and faced the offended cleric. “Father, I apologize for my behavior. I did not mean any disrespect or to take away from your message for today.”

“What were you doing then, Cam Romunn?” Tressmen’s voice still tinged with fury.

The boy kept his head down. “I found out there is a testing this afternoon which I failed to study properly for over the holiday. I was asking the others what they knew of the lesson.”

“Right.” The Superior’s tone spoke loud and clear he was not believing this story. “Anything else you want to add? Anyone else here wish to elaborate?”

When none of the boys spoke, he noisily gathered his tome again in his arms. “In the future, I expect better use of my time and yours, Cam Romunn. Since you felt obliged to share with everyone and ask of everyone to share in your dilemma, I will ask that everyone share your penance for today by doing an extra three sets of vesper studies.” His words were immediately drowned out in a chorus of groans. “And… Cam Romunn, after completing your testing this afternoon, you have an appointment with me in my study before the dinner hour. We will adjourn now so that you will all have time to thank Cam Romunn and the others…and begin your work on the vespers.”

It was not long before the six youths gathered at their favorite spot of shade from several Okia trees on the temple grounds.

“I cannot believe you did that,” Charlse was marveling at Romunn, shaking his head.

“He would not have had to if you were not all mouth and no brains,” Alex snapped at the redhead.

“It was Willeum who got Superior Tre—”

“—What? No! It was you,” Willeum shouted as he shoved the boy off his feet and into the dirt.

“Hey, guys, stop! If you get caught fighting, then tonight is totally called off,” Thomess exclaimed.

All chatter and the fight ended instantly as all eyes shifted to Gregge. He nodded and answered their unasked question.

“Yes. I found it — The Ritual of Delann-Vaik.” A toothy grin spread across his face. “It has to be the right one. I mean, it says right in its title, The Call Through Death. I mean I might need some help later with some of the translation and gestures, but this will work.”

Alex shook his head. “I know you are the best in the class for the ancient languages and such, but do you really believe you have translated the words right? This will not be like last year?”

Gregge rolled his eyes, thrusting his arms into the air. “When are you going to let that drop? When will I hear the end of it?”

“Look, Gregge,” Charlse growled at him. “You nearly got us all expelled and half the temple garden burnt. We were lucky that rainstorm covered everything up. You have to be sure!”

Romunn laughed, “Hey that fire got us out of graoul soup for a month. I think you should do it again! Gregge, I believe you.”

Everyone laughed as they normally did at Romunn’s jokes.

“I am sorry you have to get the Belt,” Gregge said.

“Just make it worth it tonight.”

Thomess pulled out of his pocket a small brown pouch. “I have some extra oron-root. Anyone want some?”

As they relaxed, sitting on the ground, and sharing the contents of the pouch, Romunn asked quietly, “You guys have to promise you are not going without me. I mean, I may be a little…slow walking tonight after my appointment with Superior Tressmen, but I want to be there.”

Alex who was sitting in his usual spot next to Romunn, put his arm over the boy’s shoulders. “You would never be left behind. You ought to know that by now.”