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!!

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!!

FRESH STORY CONTENT 9/20/2022 — Derek Barton — Wyvernshield!! – 2022

As LLasher steadily made his way to the point where the soldiers had entered, he heard distant horse hooves pounding down the road.  He rotated on his saddle to look behind him.  He spotted another rider, it was Rivyen.
 
After the disastrous events in the castle and they had lost both King Taihven and Princess Letandra, LLasher had left with Letandra’s Aberrisc friends, Scars and Ama’yen.  On board his ship, the Corrta Da’Eale, they had headed out of the bay when they were intercepted by a ship owned by the Khestal Ezan Order.  On it had been Taliah the Blood Seeress and the Order’s Headmaster, Tal Crowan. A small, thin man with long white braided hair and a silvery goatee.
 
After Tal Crowan and Taliah boarded, they convinced LLasher that they would be able to help free Letandra from The Bleeding Crown and restore the balance of the land.  However, their efforts had been stymied by her Barrier of Storms which magically blocked any land and sea entrance as well as any magical efforts.
 
Plus, the new Ebon Queen’s own machinations. She outlawed the Khestal Ezan Order, labeling them a cult of traitors. Then the Beleardea Cult was reinstated and given powerful resources.
 
Rivyen was one of the Khestal Ezan’s strongest assets, a swordsman with his own collection of magical items. He had long platinum blond hair and a cropped brown beard.  Strange rumors said that the man was from another plane of existence.  LLasher only now remembered the two were to rendezvous along the Nestermaryn Forest Road about a mile outside of the port.
 
He stopped his mount and waited. The man caught up with him as LLasher was stepping off his own horse. LLasher said, “You did not have to–“
 
“–I grew concerned since neither you nor the Wyvernguards came to the meet.  Where are they?  Did they get to the courier?”  Rivyen inquired as he dismounted. He was always all business and focused. LLasher admired that the most in the warrior.
 
“Not yet. Inside Port Scescima, Temerryk met up with the Pontiff. I gave chase as did the ex-Wyvernguarrd, but we could not catch them before The Barrier. I ordered the two to follow after.”
 
Rivyen stared at him, his eyes wide as his features began to tighten.  He set his hands at his hips then turned to study the towering clouds.
 
“What is wrong?”
 
“You murdered those men? What were you thinking!” He growled, seething with emotion.
 
LLasher grabbed at his shoulder, turning him about. “What are you babbling about?  They are soldiers.  They know how to prot–“
 
“–YOU DO NOT CARE THAT THEY ARE MEN! YOU LABEL THEM SOLDIERS SO YOU CAN FEEL FREE TO ASK THEM THE IMPOSSIBLE. YOU DO NOT HAVE THE EXPERIENCE OR INSTINCTS TO LEAD MEN!”
 
Taken aback by the sudden flare of rage, LLasher gaped back at him, could not answer him. 
 
Rivyen pressed his lips tight, pulled at his cheeks with both hands and shook his head. 
 
“I…I do not believe they will die,” LLasher stated. “If they are quick and careful, they can slip in, ambush the scout and leave.  The pontiff has surely escaped, but with some luck they can get to Temerryk. Perhaps. Why do you think…What makes you think that they will die?” 
 
“If you were capable of conjuring up that storm, do you think you would stop there?  Or would you put further protection or obstacles to prevent further trespass?  She has blotted out the lands for a reason.  Whatever she–IT is doing in there, The Bleeding Crown does not want anyone to see or know.”
 
“Alright, I see your point, but that does not mean they will be killed.”
 
“No one has ever come out of there! Even as we argue about it, they are surely bleeding, you arrogant ass!”  He launched himself up to his mount and started pulling at the reins.  “Follow!”
 
He left the ex-slaver in the plumes of the canyon’s dust.
 
LLasher was in shock but numbly followed the instruction and climbed up onto his saddle.  He secured and adjusted the hatchet bandolier across his chest.
 
When he caught up with Rivyen, the man was back down on his feet again, crouching beside the boot tracks in the dirt. 
 
“How long have they been in there?” he shouted trying to be heard over the howling fury of the storm.
 
“Not that long, but…I fear you are right as I thought they would be back out by now. I am sorry that I did not think this through.”
 
Rivyen glanced up at him. He gave no words of acceptance but nodded his chin toward the storm.  He was armed in a broadsword and a short sword combination. They did not speak again as they steeled themselves and walked into the high winds.
 
For a few yards, the wind screamed in their ears and battered at their bodies nearly taking them off their feet. Each had to hunch over and walk in an angular fashion.  Bitter chill air enveloped them.  Hard rain mixed with tiny hail balls spattered at their exposed skin.
 
Abruptly, they passed into a calmer region.  It was not the same as the inside eye of a hurricane, but more like if one found a valley that dipped beneath a raging storm between two mountains.  Icy ivory fog obscured everything, but they could hear the roar and fury above and surrounding them.
 
They were in a world of only two colors now, gray and white.  Nothing had any definition or sharp lines.  The two men stepped closer together in order to not lose sight of each other. 
 
Rivyen pointed at the ground where drops of red blood pooled and dribbled along the path.  They began tracking the droplets. 
 
“How far are we from the castle do you think we are?”  LLasher asked.
 
“I cannot tell, but I am more concerned how far away we are to the Wyvernguard men.  We should hear them, no?”
 
“I would dare not to call out.  As you said before, who knows what protections or guards she has out here for any fools such as us.”
 
A shadowy mass appeared and charged out at them.  It was a black horse, wild-eyed and frothing at the mouth.  They jumped to the sides of the path as it raced past.  It was saddled, but blood ran down its left haunch from an arrow protruding from its backside.
 
“That is the courier’s ho–” A scream cut off LLasher’s words.  It was muffled by the fog and distance.  Another closer scream of agony followed then another scream joined the first.
 
“I believe they are coming from this way!”  Rivyen shouted and grabbed at LLasher’s leather vest, hauling him along after him.
 
The road wove ahead and between several piles of rocks and cut logs. The entirety of the lands before the castle appeared to have been flattened and prepped for an oncoming invasion.  Deep trenches were cut parallel to the road and lined with spikes. 
 
LLasher tried to ignore the skulls and half-rotted heads that were impaled on the spikes. His skin crawled as he sensed the dead’s eyes were tracking their steps.  
 
Just past three large piles of boulders, a creature roared in defiance as the two invaded its territory.  It was unlike anything he had seen before.  The winged body was scaled with white, stone-like scales. It was comprised of three heads:  a broad lion’s head surrounded by a massive snake head on its left and on the right shoulder was a horned reptilian head.  The entire beast stood at least fifteen feet at its shoulder.  Under one of its massive paws was the body of a headless soldier. LLasher immediately recognized the Wyvernguard armor, but he was not sure which of the two it belonged to. 
 
How do you send a man to his death and not even know his name? He berated himself.
 
The courier’s parchment bag was pinned under the man’s legs. The two soldiers were able to overtake them at least!
 
“Go for the parcel!  I will keep it occupied. GO!” LLasher exclaimed, charging the beast with his hatchets held high.
 
Seeing the oncoming challenge, the huge beast pounced to the ground, abandoning its victim at the top of the pile.  Its feline body arched and kept low to the earth. A barbed tail swished back and forth in the air.
 
He circled away from the body and tried to keep the beast’s eyes on him as Rivyen crept carefully on the right. 
 
The creature growled and hissed, but it focused upon the glinting steel hatchets.  As it judged him, LLasher tried to determine if the creature itself had any opening or weaknesses.  This was not going to be easy. 
 
Lifting his hatchet high into the air, he cried out and lurched forward, only to feint to the left, testing its reflexes and reactions.  Both the snake head and the lizard’s snout shot out, their jaws snapping and drooling. The beast was very quick and agile.
 
Taking another tactic, this time on the left side, he threw one hatchet at the snake head as he feinted back to the right.  It dodged it easily as LLasher anticipated, but it did not expect the handful of sand he scooped into hand right after his throw.  The particles covered the three heads in a brown shroud. All three screeched as the body reared back trying to get out of the cloud of debris. 
 
He followed and swung in low with a hatchet thrust, straight into the exposed underbelly.  It struck and sank into white skin, but the wound was not deep or even long, but it could be cut. One of the paws scraped the hatchet out as the creature leaped into the air. It was not done with the two of them, but it was taking full advantage of height. 
 
Rivyen joined him with the courier bag in hand. “We have to go now.” 
 
“I am not leaving the other man.”
 
“If you do not go now, you will never leave these men!”
 
“He could be–“
 
Shaking his head vehemently, Rivyen leaned in again.  “I saw other creatures flying in the distance.  It is not alone.”  He pointed at the beast.  “WE cannot take down one of them, let alone four or five.  The other man is not here and no doubt, he has died somewhere else.”
 
“You coward!”
 
Rivyen swirled around, striking LLasher hard in the side of his jaw, knocking him onto his back in the dirt.  He spat at the Camiyaan.  “I did not put these men in here. You did!  I am not afraid of this fight, but there is no honor in dying for no reason and I have too many people counting on me to get things done.  Done right.  Lie there then and let them eat you if your honor dictates that is the right thing, fool.”
 
He marched out of sight as he went back down the road with the parchment bag under one arm.
 
Swallowing his pride and seeing the validity of the words, LLasher quickly got to his feet and ran after him. 
 
Above hidden in the gray blanket of sky, they both heard wings flapping and screeches called out and answered from other beasts in the distance.
 
“Faster!” LLasher urged.
 
The men were near where the Barrier grew furious again when a pair of the three-headed beasts landed heavily in front of them.  Growling and mewling in defiance and anticipation for fresh meat.  Behind the men, out of sight in the fog another pair of answering thuds shook the ground.
 
“Damn thee! No help for it now,” Rivyen cursed.  He tore at his shirt sleeve and ripped it back from his wrist.  On his arm was an inscribed band of bronze.  He placed two fingers on circular patterns.
 
“We have to run off the path.”  LLasher cried out.
 
“No, leaving the path is still certain death.  Give me a moment,” he snapped and closed his eyes.  “Grab my shoulder quickly!”
 
As the first pair of creatures bolted forward, a silvery light bloomed around the men and repelled the animals.
 
“How long can that hold them off?”
 
“I am not done. Do not let go!”
 
Suddenly the scene outside their silvery bubble altered and they stood on the shoreline of the Khestal Ezan Isle. 
 
Rivyen released his fingers and the magic of the bubble dispersed. 
 
“That was a nice trick!”
 
Rivyen shrugged.  “It does not have many charges left.”
 
He wanted to apologize again for bring them into the mess of the Sea of Storms, but instinct told him his words would fall on deaf ears.  The man’s point had been made and Rivyen was not the type to dwell on what could not be changed. 
 
LLasher hoped he would find a way to make it up to him and regain his standing with the man.
 
There is no way to repay those men that he had easily sacrificed.  Whatever they might learn from the parchment’s messages would still pale to the fact that their blood was on his hand. 
 
I have never taken anyone for granted before like that.  What has gotten into me?  Am I changing or am I slipping because of all the failures? 
 
He remained quiet as he followed the planar warrior again as they headed up the beach to the compound’s entrance.  His introspection continued as he analyzed his actions and thoughts.  He wondered if he really was fit to lead anyone anymore. 
 
Look what his help had done for King Taihven, the city of Wyvenshield and the love of his life, Letandra. 
 
His touch seemed to bring ruin.

Blogs, Blogs & More Blogs! — Derek Barton – 2022

This blog will be my 195th blog posting since I created this site back in July of 2016. I am really proud of the body of work. But there’s a big problem with having this many.

How can you know what I’ve written in the past or where to even look? This ARCHIVES section gives you only the amount of blog posts I’ve written in that particular month.

So it took some research, some digging into WordPress’s Help section, followed up with some very quick responses from their Customer Service agents to finally find a way to organize my posts and to provide simple categories for you to read my posts and posts I’ve written years ago.

Here is the new MENU for my blogs and some of the topics you may find interesting. Of course a lot of the posts have #tags for you to search for, but this also gives you a specific place to find blogs you may have interests in.

LATEST Blog — This of course is where you’ll still find my latest, most current blog posts. For instance this months are: * Frest Content 8/11/22 (A new chapter for Wyvernshield) * New Release – The Infernal Eternal (Release notice about my new gamebook)

BLOGS: General — These are blogs about Appearances, Book Releases, Book Giveaways or General Announcements, etc. Examples: * A Humbling Sight (Post about Hometown Library showcase) * New Author Interview (An Interview I did in 2020) * New Avenues To Me (Post about Patreon & Pinterest)

BLOGS: New Content — This category is especially good if you are looking to read any new work – rough drafts for upcoming novels. Examples: * First Sneak Peek of Evade II (Chapter excerpt) * Writing Prompt #4 – Max the Most (A horror short story) * Sneak Preview Chapter from Evade (Chapter excerpt)

BLOGS: Writing Tips — Blogs for other writers who may be interested in learning more about my style and view on word craft. Examples: * Repel the Resistance (How to fight Procrastination) * Immerse Or Die (How to keep readers involved)

BLOGS: Self-publishing — Posts that give insight into Self-publishing manuscripts and what you can anticipate in the complex process. Examples: * Essential Elements to Book Covers * The Art of The Juggle (Tips on Organizing)

BLOGS: Goal Setting — Category describing some methods for making goals and how I did or did not achieve them. Examples: * 2017 Bi-monthly Goals for July & August * 2017 Nanowrimo November & December Bi-monthly Goals (Post about making goals around Nanowrimo Challenge)

BLOGS: Personal — Personal posts that give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of my life. Examples: * Stroke — My Internal/External Ordeal * 2020 Bio Blog (Things about me & who I am)

BLOGS: Book Review — Mostly audiobook reviews and/or occasional movie reviews… Examples: * Audible Book Review of Robert Jordan’s “Eye of the World” * Audible Book Review of Stephen KIng’s “The Outsider”

BLOGS: Guest Posts — A few guest blogs from writer Adam C. Mitchell, crime noir author. * Chandler’s Ten Commandments

I hope this helps you find some old posts you may have liked before and want to reread. Or maybe you’ll find posts you may have missed or posts made before you found my site. Either way, you will discover so many posts on here that have very little views, but I hope you will find very beneficial, enlightening or entertaining!