Friday, March 29, 2013

Administration 2013 Post for Q1

Today is the end of the Chronicles' first quarter for 2013 A.D., and with this one-week interim period I see it necessary to take a moment to post about the status of the Chronicles.

In my everyday life, I am a Master's Candidate at Metropolitan State University. This semester is the end of my time in the program (I hope), so the time I have to spend on this project is severely reduced until I reach the end of this semester, turn in my final Master's Thesis and present my defense before the faculty committee. Fortunately for you, readers, this time end the week of April 30th--five weeks from now--and as such you need not worry about the updates not happening on schedule for much longer.

Given my time constraints, this is what's going to happen. The next serial, as usual, starts next Friday. I will automatically schedule updates at least through the next five weeks, and advancing through to the end if time allows. This will be Quarter 2, going into June; Q3 goes into September, and Q4 to end of the year.

In addition, there will be additional Chronicles output once my academic obligations are fulfilled. The Sword & Laser podcast has an open call for submissions going right now, and I will contribute an original entry to that effort. Another will be done for the Geek Partnership Society Writing Contest. Additional ones will be done as I have time and accurate information to act upon them, such as at Joseph Gorden-Levitt's HitRECord.

Then comes the real project, which is to take a number of these stories serialized here and collect them into a single volume--after a round of revision and editing--that I can then seek funding for via crowd-sourcing sites such as Kickstarter, once I can estimate the budget that I would need to acquire the necessary illustrations, layout and set-up for PDF/Kindle/etc. e-pub formats as well as Print On Demand. (Yes, I am learning from the mistakes of others; I won't even entertain the idea until I have complete manuscript ready to go, so this would be strictly for illustration, layout and other parts that I can't do entirely by myself.)

As for the remainder of 2013's serializations, I will have a new post-Flames story about Ken in Q3 or Q4, so fans of the zombie-eating mutant will wait; the next story will be another look at the Esoteric Engineers and the Sky-Blue Republic, and how they deal with certain kinds of troubles.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Expedition to the Silver Mountain-12

The demon wanted whatever the chamber held, yet the fallen angel that previously occupied it denied that demon access to the chamber. I could not ponder this at the time, as I had to focus upon the ritual, but in retrospect it becomes clear what the situation actually was: the fallen angel sired the demon by way of the cult, likely using one of the many hapless prisoners as the vessel for its seed. We removed the angel, so the demon assumed that the way was clear; it assumed, so I speculate, that we would be gone also. It erred.

Eloc, Gar and Ray now felt the full fury of the demon, unable any further to break contact and regroup. Slowly they fought as good a fighting a retreat as they could, but without mercy the demon smashed away and one by one the men-at-arms and then Eloc’s bodyguard fell before its infernal might. They stabbed it, slashed it, cut it, threw debris at it, and all they did was slow it down. Its endurance let it shrug off wounds that felled the men fighting it, and its determination demonstrated why the savages worshipped it. Nonetheless, it had to die.

The three of them attempted to lead the demon on a circuitous route, knowing that they could not keep it away from the chamber entirely. They blocked off corridors, but it seemed to discern that the barriers were weak and bashed through them instead. They tried to incite the demon to chase them regardless of its desires, but it somehow sensed the chamber’s proximity and declined to do so. With no other options before them, they made their stand at the mouth of the final hallway before the chamber. Eloc, Gar and Ray stood ready to buy time by blood.

Eloc had been in such situations before. He knew that they need only hold until I completed the ritual. What he did not know was how close I was to doing just that, so he made as good a guess as he dare, and placed his trust in me to come to their rescue. This did not comfort Gar or Ray much at all, but they had no choice but to make the best of it. With the demon in sight, they met its charge and entered battle one last time- and as this was the end, no quarter allowed.

The demon, so close to its goal, went berserk and made an all-out attack against them, trusting to its supernatural prowess and endurance to finally smite its mortal enemies dead. The three of them ducked, blocked and moved as best they could in that corridor to avoid its massive club. But, one by one, each took a blow and could barely fight thereafter. When the demon felled Eloc, it moved to kill them all with one sweeping smashing swing. That did not happen.

I completed the ritual, and quickly I rushed to save them. One spell felled it. We survived.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Expedition to the Silver Mountain-11

For this last part, I must rely on Eloc’s report for I focused upon completing the ritual work before me. Eloc took Gar, Ray and the men at his command forward. The plan was to ambush the demon and slay it before it reached me. The objective, therefore, was simple: kill it before it killed me. That you read this letter spoils the question, so I shall instead emphasize how Eloc and his company did the deed. I assure you, My Lords, that Lord Eloc merits consideration for induction into the Order of the Immortals for his actions this time.

Eloc let Ray direct them to the demon’s location, where they set an ambush upon the demon as planned. As expected, this initial encounter did not go as well as the men had hoped; a few of them got slain out of hand in the first push, and a few more died by its hand before they broke contact and began to execute the next phase of the plan. Eloc told me that those yet living held their nerve, with difficulty, and withdrew in good order to the next point where they would do it again.

Ray ensured that they broke contact and got ready, body and soul, for the next attack. They did again achieve surprise on the demon, despite it now being wary of attack, and they fought it again hard and fast. This time they avoided losing any men, but they did not do much harm to it either. With this in mind, Eloc pushed himself and took a risk to wound it about its knees; Gar went with him while Ray distracted the demon, but this proved to be very difficult and before they smote its knees and stunned it both Eloc and Gar took hit by the demon’s giant-sized club. Again, they withdrew in good order.

At the third fallback point Eloc and Gar rallied the men while Ray quickly tended to their wounds, but barely so as Ray’s depths of power now began to run low and he had to reserve what he had left to deal with the demon. The demon again fell into their trap, but he took to the offense right away and Eloc had to quickly seize the initiative to avoid being routed. Nonetheless, several more of the men died in the melee, crushed by the demon’s infernal might as expressed by being crushed by the club in its hands.

If not for a desperate throw of power by Ray, the demon would not have been slowed enough for the men to break contact again and fall back to the next point. This came at a price, and Ray’s used his power reserve to make that happen. It wasn’t that his patron left him, but that his mortal flesh can’t hold that much power without harming him, something that you My Lords understand far too well. As this now left no more resilience amongst the men, yet the demon lives.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Expedition to the Silver Mountain-10

Once the angels ceased fighting, both disappeared and left us to our own devices. I took Ray aside and bade him explain what we just witnessed, and his explanation—that the cult was expendable as there were many like it across the world, such was their order’s accounts—left more questions than answers. At that moment, Eloc reminded me of the demon still out there, and I turned my attention back to more immediate concerns.

At this point I began executing the final phase of the expedition plan. First I contacted both the forward position and the base camp, informing them of our progress. Then I began the task that you, My Lords, put to me: establishing an anchor point. Out came my tools, and with Eloc and his men on guard I began the ritual. The first phase went without incident, but that came with the knowledge that using this much power in such a blatant manner could not be anything but a beacon for the demon to follow to our position. Given previous encounters, we would be foolish not to exploit that fact.

I trusted this task to Eloc and Ray. Ray had expert knowledge of demons, and Eloc’s prowess in war-making needs no explanation. Reinforcing us came Gar and the forward position group. In total, we had three men worth a damn leading a warband of about 40 men-at-arms. I estimated that most of them, even with the best planning and most favorable execution thereof, would die under that thing’s cloven hooves. They were fodder, whether they thought themselves so or not, so all that I expect of them was that they would get in one good strike before being rent asunder by that monster’s might.

The only concern I had was that the demon might again attempt to flank us by bursting forth from some unexpected and unknown space within these ruined halls. When I had a moment to pause, I told Eloc of this concern. Ray then acted, on Eloc’s orders, to ensure that this could not happen within our present position; he went around the room and blessed it such that things of evil could not enter. This forced the demon into a route of our choosing, and we chose a route that we could easily harry it with little or no reprisal.

Well, until it approached the chamber itself, that is. I estimated that, even with the room’s protection by the blessings of the Dawnsman, once I reached the apex of the work the raw power I’d have to handle would overpower any mortal techniques- and thus leave the chamber, as well as myself, vulnerable to attack. My Lords, you now see the situation I faced at the end; I had to do specific work at a specific rate in a specific manner. This was the constant; the variables were all out of my control. I need not tell you, masters, of the terror that being helpless should plans fail mean for us.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Expedition to the Silver Mountain-09

My Lords, what comes next should not surprise you; that you have this letter, and are reading it, should be proof enough to support what I presently state (for I know well your wrath, and am no fool) as being a true and faithful report: we did reach our goal. We expected that demon to attack us once more before we approached the goal, but that did not happen. In retrospect, it was clear as to why, but I did not know for certain until we got there.

We passed the destroyed corpses of several slain predecessors, victims of traps meant to guard the center of the cult’s power from unwanted users. Soon thereafter, we reached the door to our goal; we wasted no time ascertaining that its own wards and traps had long since been exhausted. Apart from the corpses, what remained of them, the walls approaching the door showed signs of charring by fire years before and we all know that the cult’s capacities in the Arts and Sciences were not ours. I suspected, and verified by divination, that this was the case.

Eloc opened the door, with his bodyguard prepared for trouble, only to find something not to our (in retrospect, errant) expectations. This central chamber was a brilliantly-lit chamber, with quite sophisticated architecture meant to channel natural light deep into the mountain- something that we know to be impossible for them. The chamber walls had not the treasures that the others expected—gold, silver, gems, etc.—but instead the treasures that we enlightened ones risk life and limb for: knowledge! On all walls are tomes, scrolls and other volumes filled with what knowledge that they possessed. I confess to a quite audible gasp of amazement as my eyes beheld the sight, untouched, of our enemies’ secrets.

Then came forth the final guardian, and the reason for why the chamber never felt the demon’s presence: an angel, manifest before us as a glorious winged man armed and armored as a warrior. We all were shocked, but I quickly got my wits about me as it quickly explained everything about the cult- its command over the hordes of the Abyss, its knowledge of otherworldly entities and its ability to create so many breeds of monsters out of natural life.

Ray, fearless, called it what it was: a fallen angel. The angel did not deny that accusation. It revealed that it was the cult’s true master, and now it understood why its minions ceased contact with it- and I, being an agent of those responsible for its minions’ destruction, now bore its wrath. Even after all our adventures, Eloc and I did not think ourselves the match of this great and powerful being; Ray did agree, after a fashion, for he cried out in supplication to whatever god his order claims as their patron.

My Lords, Ray’s cries were answered and in a most obvious manner. Crashing through the ceiling came another, similar angel. They fought, and ours won.