Friday, December 14, 2012

Floating Down the Lazy River

And now Henry shows me up on my own blog.

First, I can’t thank Keith here enough for having me on the blog again. Second, If you remember from the last time I was here, I talked about the reason we as writers feel the need to write. In the end, I concluded that it dealt a great deal with connection. Today I’ll be talking about how emotion is key to forming a connection with the reader.

Listen to this song or this one, watching or ignoring the videos as you desire. Don’t just listen, though. Really let yourself open up to the song. If you feel nothing out the other side of the song, that’s fine. I do. And I can only surmise from the popularity and reviews of these songs that I’m not alone.

These are examples of powerful pieces of art that deal with strong, universal emotions. “Hurt” as performed by the man in black, Johnny Cash, is a pitiless self-portrait of reflection and acceptance, of love and loss, of regret. It’s raw emotion bathed in an acid solution of words and electroplated with music. “Over You” is performed by Miranda Lambert and co-written by her husband Blake Shelton. As they say here, the song was written about the loss of Blake’s brother when he was young.

Part of the human condition is working through emotion, and there are few emotions so profound and so sharp as those of loss. The reason the loss hurts so much is because the feeling it’s connected to has left such a big hole. But really, loss is really just one kind of pain and pain is universal. I’d continue with my own words, but I feel that those of Jim Butcher serve far better here:

"We still hadn't learned, though, that growing up is all about getting hurt. And then getting over it. You hurt. You recover. You move on. Odds are pretty good you're just going to get hurt again. But each time, you learn something.
Each time, you come out of it a little stronger, and at some point you realize that there are more flavors of pain than coffee. There's the little empty pain of leaving something behind - graduating, taking the next step forward, walking out of something familiar and safe into the unknown. There's the big, whirling pain of life upending all of your plans and expectations. There's the sharp little pains of failure, and the more obscure aches of successes that didn't give you what you thought they would. There are the vicious, stabbing pains of hopes being torn up. The sweet little pains of finding others, giving them your love, and taking joy in their life they grow and learn. There's the steady pain of empathy that you shrug off so you can stand beside a wounded friend and help them bear their burdens.
And if you're very, very lucky, there are a very few blazing hot little pains you feel when you realized that you are standing in a moment of utter perfection, an instant of triumph, or happiness, or mirth which at the same time cannot possibly last - and yet will remain with you for life.

Everyone is down on pain, because they forget something important about it: Pain is for the living. Only the dead don't feel it.

Pain is a part of life. Sometimes it's a big part, and sometimes it isn't, but either way, it's a part of the big puzzle, the deep music, the great game. Pain does two things: It teaches you, tells you that you're alive. Then it passes away and leaves you changed. It leaves you wiser, sometimes. Sometimes it leaves you stronger. Either way, pain leaves its mark, and everything important that will ever happen to you in life is going to involve it in one degree or another."

It’s not just enough to feel that emotion though. We’re writers. That means we have to make our readers feel that pain. And to feel pain you have to have something invested in the outcome of the story. There’s no best way to get this to happen, though. Pain and all of the emotions it accompanies aren’t part of some technical formula. They start gradually, and you can’t fake them in your story any better than you could truly fake them in life.

As it always is, there is a beginning, a middle, and, inevitably, an end. Here I come full circle to the music from above. Because of the format, those performances don’t have enough time to build that connection in words alone. Yes, the words are central to the building of that emotion and the feelings that the listener feels, but the music is necessary to get you there. If that were a rock track playing behind either of those songs, not only would they feel disjointed because of the disconnect between the vocals and the music, but the visceral pain that those songs evoke would be lost.

We have more time to work on our readers. The oft heard phrase “Write what you know” works well here. It is simpler to take a pain you know, a pain you’ve felt, and put that in words. It may not be easy, but it’s simple. Once you can get that on the page in a way that makes sense and that has your reader absorbed in that experience right alongside your character, it’s a simple thing to use that emotion to manipulate the reader.

And there’s no doubting that is exactly our job as writers. Our goal is to make the beating heart of our reader skip once or twice in surprise, for their eyes to well with tears or the bottom of their stomach to drop out in fear. And maybe, just once or twice, our goal should be for their hearts to soar with joy. Because without pain it’s hard to judge our happiness. But without love, loss is meaningless. If you can find that balance, you will keep your reader coming back every time.

That doesn’t mean you just get to toy with the poor souls though. Denouement is integral part of the story. Just in life as we often look for closer, leaving your reader without any conclusion will make them hate you more surely than a poorly written story. Part of a successful denouement is catharsis, or the purging of emotions. The reader never comes into the story a blank slate and catharsis does not mean that you should let them leave as such, but for every emotion that you made them feel along the way, you should give them an outlet.

You don’t need rainbows and sunshine to satisfy, but the fresh sprout of a flower among the weeds can often engender a connection with the reader more surely than any flowery phrase could ever hope to.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lazy Mode Engaged

Some friends have been kind enough to volunteer some guest posts while I run some routine maintenance on the blog. This one is an entry from a friend we'll call Salem, inspired by little character killer parodies, and will be the first of many such entries from him. We also should hear from good ole Henry around Friday, though I have no idea what he'll be talking about. Anyway, on with the show...


“Where in the hell are we now?”

Lots of stars.

“Looks like a funky bus.”

So many fucking stars.

“Do buses run in space...?” The other four exchanged a nervous glance with each other and moved with obvious trepidation toward Churs, standing calmly by a small circular window. He stepped aside and they saw for themselves the cold lifeless black.

“I’ve got a bad-”

“Don’t you dare...” Ara hissed at Donut and they all fell into silence for a moment before Aethon moved out of the metal box-like space they were crowded in toward a door shaped opening at the far end.

“We should look around. Find out where, or more importantly, when we are.” With that the reserved assassin disappeared through the door- Not two seconds passed and he poked his head out again. “I found a clue.”

They moved through the doorway and came into a small cockpit, two seats at either side by some complex consoles, and two more set before a semicircular window. Outside they saw the most baffling space phenomenon in the history of the universe.


              "Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of
              trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.  Hoping
              to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships,
              the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the
              small planet of Naboo.

              While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this
              alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly
              dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and
              justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict....."

In bright, eye shattering, yellow that scrolled away from them until the words became nothing but yellow specks in the distance.

The revelation and the implications stretched out into silence as each of them came to terms with this information in their own way. A slight sniffle was heard at first, a wet sigh and then they turned and saw that the drunken Scotsman was slumped against the wall, his visor down but his armoured shoulders visibly shaking with uncontrollable emotion.

“WE’RE IN THE PREEEEEEQUEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!” He wailed and fell to his knees as around him random junk broke in a torrent of overly dramatic telekinesis.

Donut crouched down beside him and patted him sympathetically on the shoulder as Sal’s gauntleted fists pounded the floor. Ara sat, deflated, in the pilot seat and Rani took the co-pilots while Aethon folded his arms and leaned against the wall, his hooded head hung in apparent depression.

“Wait..” Churs began and leapt from his seat as the lightning bolt of an epiphany struck.

“There is nothing you can say Rani...” Aethon replied with a sigh but the man would not be deterred, he was grinning now.

“We’re *IN* the Prequels!!” He exclaimed with glee, his repetition of the situation elicited another yelp from Norongachi.

“Just-just...don’t..” It was Ara now and although her pale jaw was set against the grim hand fortune had dealt them her crimson eyes betrayed her feelings.

“You do know what this means?” The man’s gaze swept over them and the first inklings of comprehension began to glimmer in their eyes. Aethon was the first, the edge of his lips pulling up into a smirk, and then Ara soon joined them with a manic grin.

“That-that we’re part of the reason virgins cry themselves to sleep at night?” Sal asked getting himself up onto his knees and lifting his visor to look Rani in the eye.

“Gungans, people!” Churs proclaimed triumphantly.

“Gungans...” Sal repeated with disgust and then got to his feet, his hand vanishing into a compartment in his armour and returning with a flask, which he quickly upended into his mouth.

“Gungans...” You could have melted steel with the single word the redhead spoke.

“Set a course for Naboo!” Rani yelled, in full leadership mode. When his request was met with silence he looked around at his comrades and saw them all exchanging glances.

“No one knows how to fly this thing?” He asked to head shakes and shrugs.

“Maybe if I...” Ara began and tentatively took hold of what looked like a steering yoke in front of her. She gripped it and gave it the most subtle of twists and sure enough the ship began to bank slowly left.

“Hey, theres a planet here!” The others moved over to have a gander and there was a planet, right in front of them. In fact it was so close they could make out continents and even the flicker of city lights. They also saw some oddly shaped donuts, dozens of donuts, all in orbit around the world.

“I guess we found Naboo.”

“Now...” Ara said, her fingers flexing upon the steering controls and that manic grin grew a touch more psychotic. “Someone find me the guns...” Before anyone knew what was happening they were thrown unceremoniously to the floor as the ship surged forward toward the Trade Federation blockade.

“I..hate..that..harlot..” Sal groaned from his upside down position against a bulkhead.

Aethon, as balanced and dexterous as he was, had remained upright and let go of the console that had saved him a fall before storming toward their de facto pilot.

Whatever harsh words that would have fallen from his lips were forgotten and all he could scream was “SHIP!”

“I haven’t figured out how to brea-!!” Her sentence was lost to the sound of explosions and collision, the ship spun on the spot and it's woefully ill equipped crew were thrown like rag dolls.

“If..” Ara coughed as smoke and sparks leapt from the consoles before her. “..anyone makes a crack about women drivers I’ll roast them alive...”

“Wouldn’t dream of it..” Rani responded with a shake of his head, pulling himself upright with the aid of a chair.

“Unknown vessel,” A ghostly voice spoke with a flourish of static from a busted console. “Do you require assistance?”

They all looked at each other, all except Donut who was too busy lamenting the state his hair was in, and shared a moment. It was a moment all Star Wars fans wished for- would kill for.

They had just crashed into Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pics, Therefore it Happened

       A story told entirely in pictures, because I am lazy and the idea amuses me. No context this time, I'll make a separate post for that, just pictures.

And that pretty much sums it up. It's a bit out of order, but you get the general idea.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Another Pointless Distraction

This APD brought to you in full by boredom and procrastination.

We’re going to test drive something new with this entry. Yeah yeah, I know, I test drive new things with every entry and none of them stick. I’m okay with that, and we’re going to be consistent with my chaotic trail of inconsistency. Confused yet? Me too, so on with the show.

Tonight we’re going to have a word-of-the-entry, henceforth known as wote should I ever decide to use it again. Today’s wote is gingerdragonbitch. Yes, one word, because you can’t divide such heinousness into multiple parts for fear that each severed item grow into a new spawn of evil and terror.

A gingerdragonbitch, for those following along at home, is a horror so fearsome that you would rather be subjected to a Twilight marathon alongside Justin Bieber and Rebecca Black then listen to another word from this demonic bitch monster or share her presence for another moment for fear of your soul shriveling away in dread.

According to Google it looks something like this: 

            It’s okay, it scares me, too. I’m guessing that’s its “human form”, or as close to human as such a harbinger of the ginger apocalypse can get.
    Inspiration for tonight’s wote came from the following conversation between her(highly ethical radical) and me(mega evil) -

Her: Nothing much, cept I might kill my stepmother in law.
Me: Stepmother in law. Wow that’s the weirdest spelling of gingerdragonbitch I’ve ever seen.
Her: Lmao! I love that! She’s not a ginger though L
Me: Some people are spiritual gingers.
Her: Lol I didn’t know that.
Me: Anyone can be a ginger as long as they have no soul.
Her: She definitely has no soul.
Me: Thus making her a ginger in spirit.
Her: I understand now.
Me: I do believe the only way to defeat the beast is to kill it with fire and chop off its head(s).
Her: Idk how the rest of the family would take me burning her to death and chopping off her heads
Me: With gratitude and marshmallows.

Oh crap, I should probably mention the girl whom I stole the photo from since I blatantly ignored the distribution clause of the photo and the little © action to post the pic so the least I could do is link to her profile on flickr. Should she follow the link back here and ask me to take it down - well that's one less fright on this blog.

I had another story of recent events, but it's more fun sharing it the same way I disclosed it to 'her'. I'm leaving the majority of this to the imagination, so the only context you need to know is this parting quote was made by me to the local law enforcement.

"Well officers, I was thinking 'gotta pee, gotta pee, gotta pee', then 'The dam has been breached!' and 'Release the Kraken!'"

Thursday, October 25, 2012

So, About that Finale...

            I lied.

            Not intentionally, mind you. This was meant to be my final entry. I was going to call it duck call, because swan song is too pretentious. I was also considering moving to Florida and starting a new page in the proverbial book of life.

            Cept that wouldn’t’ve been a new start, now would it? For me, given my history with the sunshine state, it’d have been more like revisiting old chapters. Sure there are familiar and friendly faces there, which is why I’ll be paying a visit in the very near future, but my role in that scene played out long ago. Florida had its chances to kill me; it tried and failed. I’ll be moving on to my next stop when I’m ready, and it will be a step forward. This is feeling a little heavy so allow me distract you with a picture of one of my oft mentioned tattoos.

There we go, can’t have any of that overrated ‘serious’ stuff on my blog.

            Moving on, not only am I staying where I’m at – visitation aside – I decided not to pull the plug on this little vanity project. It was created to amuse me and it still does, so I think I’ll keep it around until it fails to meet that agenda. The idea of starting and running a blog that actually adheres to some sort of topic or theme has been bouncing around my head but the whim hasn’t built up enough steam to actually act on as of now. ‘Sides, I have a novel to finish. Several novels, in fact, but one step at a time. You have to walk before you can run someone over, after all. Wait, that’s not how that goes. Oh well, you get the idea.

            Oh, and Marie, you remember her right? Of course you do, she’s awesome. In anticipation of her upcoming second book The Game Changer she’s doing yet another one of her giveaways of cool stuffs. I always enjoy these giveaways because it gives me an excuse to spam the contest with entries and I get to exercise my addiction to saying the same thing over and over in amusing repetitions. Plus I get to keep saying the same things in different ways that are funny. If you don’t see what I did there, kindly drop everything and search high and low until you find a sense of humor. Should you come across a wad of hundred dollar bills bound together by a rubber-band in your quest: the rubber-band is mine and I would like it back.

Ha, you didn’t see that one coming, did you? It’s okay, I know you were holding your breath in anxious anticipation of what could possibly follow up on the hakuna. Now you know. It’s matata. It’s funny if you’re drunk, I assure you. Least I’m drunk and I thought it was funny.

            Anyway, the moral of that was to buy Marie’s first book if you haven’t already and you might as well make plans to buy the upcoming one while you’re at it. The link to said giveaway, and even the added bonus of an excerpt was right there, you went right past it.

I have more to say, of course. A metric tonnage of funnage, really. Okay, maybe I don’t. Actually, I really should get back to working on Mystic Realm. Frost said it best: and miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Conclusion Comes a' Creeping

When I sat down at the keyboard, drink in hand, I had every intention of this being my curtain call. Parting is such sweet sorrow and all that jazz – but the Shakespeare quotes will have to wait until the credits roll with the finale that will follow this babble-fest. When logging into the blog I happened to notice my statistics. This will be my forty-first entry. The Geek and Greek Gods of old would have me strung up theatrically by my entrails if I crept this close to the omnipotent forty-two and fell short of that mythical threshold of incomparable epic-ness.  Don’t get me wrong, that would be an amazing way to depart from this scene and this world, but come on. It’s freaking forty-two.  You’re reading the droll dribble of a dialogue of a man with Hakuna Matata etched in ebon immortality into his flesh and the legendary Triforce inscribed on the back of his hand with the invisible ichor of ultraviolet ink. If that isn’t testament enough to the tantalizing appeal to the number that is the answer to life, the universe and everything: I’m wearing Ninja Turtle boxers. Yeah…this forty-two thing has to happen. I have no intention of living to see the age so I can at least achieve the number in this form.
            So, a quick update on what you’ve missed (insert “not you” comment here) since I last sat down long enough to let my fingers seize out letters and punctuation. Since the tattoo referenced in my political rant I’ve increased my ink count by either four or fourteen, depending on your method of measuring what constitutes a single tattoo. The day after the most recent one I was terminated from my place of employment – good thing I got it at a low rate – so the past week has given me an excess of free time that I’m accustomed to. I’ve used the time to do everything from barhopping – and believe me I have a story or two on that front – to working on my car with a smidge of crime fighting and ample applications of Netflix and video games. So, basically I’m making up for all the things I’ve been neglecting.

            Oh, and I might as well get this out there in as straightforward, if not melodramatic, manner as possible: I’m not entirely sure who my friends are these days. Lines have been drawn, loyalties tested, insecurities ran amok and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about a lot of things and a lot people. Of equal importance, I’m not sure how they feel about me. I’ll have to sort out and deal with this conflicting and accursed feelings some other time, as the eye of the storm has already passed me by and the unrelenting wrath of the- ahem- shit storm is back with an agenda of vicious proportions. I’m confident I’ll get through it; I always do. Just a matter of keeping my head above water while watching my back, ducking the drama as I roll with the punches and burying all who oppose me under a barrage of cliché and tired metaphor.

            Let’s see, what else do I have to report? I’m writing again, obviously, or at least trying to. Drinking again, also an obvious observation, but then again not too many people probably know or care when I take breaks from the reality-blurring recreation.  That’s really all I have to say for the moment, since this was an impromptu post to procrastinate the ending by a single entry. It’s been fun, and next time you tune in it will be to say goodbye.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Back by Hesitant Request

             It’s been a while; rest, wicked, etc. I make no excuses. So yeah. . . a farewell to Rani per audience demand. 

            “What - the hell - are you?” Rani panted through the red haze of agony that consumed his senses. His breathing echoed harshly in his ears, a grating rasp that betrayed his exhaustion. The bibliophile gripped the knife’s handle with pained determination. He gritted his teeth bracingly and wrenched the blade free of his torso with a snarl and nearly stumbled under the avalanche of pain that rushed in to fill the gap left by the bloody weapon.

            The owner of the weapon simply smiled in condescending reply and dealt the fallen hero a savage backhand blow across the right side of his face.  Rani collapsed under the force of the blow, slipping on his own blood and crashing to the marble floor. The occupants of the palace watched the display with excited fascination, roaring with merciless glee when the foe in the silver business suit and antiquated bowler hat casually dropped his booted heel down upon Rani’s pale features.

            “I am the end of your meddling.” The man answered, his tone as emotionless and cruel as the cold bite of steel.

            “You and what army?” The bravado of Rani’s defiance was somewhat hindered by the blood that bubbled forth from his mouth in a violent froth as he attempted to rise to face his glacial opponent.

            “Pride goeth before destruction.” Quoth the mysterious enemy, pausing to consult the platinum pocket watch chained to his ornate jacket. He nodded at the time contained within and ended the attempt with an effortless second kick to the side of the shapeshifter’s knee.

            “Annoying clichés come before the time displaced steam punk gets his ass kicked for being in the wrong book at the wrong time.” Rani countered with a grimace as he clutched the injured leg, making no attempt to hide the fact that he was stalling. If he could just keep the flamboyantly dressed warrior for a few more moments, the others would have time to seal off the realm of the dragons’ shame. “Quoting the bible and dressing like a monochrome Dr. Who: someone must be writing about the Puritan apocalypse.”

            The silver clad gentleman frowned in polite confusion at Rani’s babbling, tilting his head slightly as if to consider the words. Clarify returned to his dark gaze and he shrugged lightly before drawing a musket from his coat and taking deliberate aim between Rani’s eyes.

            “You won’t get the last word this time, I’m afraid.” With that proclamation, the interloper glanced down the sight and pulled the trigger with an inanimate lack of regard. True to his prophecy, the sapphire vibrancy abandoned Rani’s gaze before he could utter a response. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Taboo Topic and a Tattoo, too

            Let’s just jump right into this opinionated and brutal mess with a quick show of hands. Who here is sick of hearing and seeing people gripe about the political parties or candidates? Put your hand down: I can’t see you(as far as you know), but I appreciate the honesty. I’ve personally had all I can stand of it, and I will begin taking measures to reduce my exposure. Whether that means blocking the feed of those that think their political views are so brilliant that they must be shared via social network, or simply walking away from any conversation that suffers the misfortune to turn down that bleak path of ignorance and bigotry, I will not tolerate it.

            Put simply: anyone who feels that our current situation is the fault of (Democrats/ Republicans) or (Bush/Obama/Clinton/The Dread Pirate Roberts) is a complete and utter idiot. I don’t care how intelligent you are; you are an idiot if you can’t see past the classist system that is the real reason why nothing constructive occurs in the capitol. When the right hand and the left hand are preoccupied trying to sever each other, what is left to do the heavy lifting that these repairs require?

             This party brainwashing is the discrimination of our generation, and someone needs to confront this modern bigotry. There have always been political divisions, but this is ridiculous. Terms like “liberal” and “conservative” are flung around with contempt in the same tone that racial slurs are uttered by the hateful and close-minded. I have a news flash for everyone that believes their party is the salvation: you’re a fucking moron.

            Yes, I just dropped the big bad F-word into a civil observation of what is wrong with our political system. And it completely destroyed my credibility, transforming this from an intelligent commentary to a vulgar rant. That crass vulgarity is exactly the same as what comes across when men and women start slinging political slurs because the other side has different views.

            In all honesty, what do you expect? The political machine is powered by human nature, and people are going to vote and advocate in their own best interests. The corporate giants, few as they are, see no purpose in lifting the masses of the working class. Those who have money want to keep it, at all costs. Those who don’t have financial resources want those who do to have accountability. Everyone wants the political system to serve them personally, and that goal became impossible once the population exceeded two. So instead of serving the self-centered focus on man, politicians have to lie. They lie to everyone, to convince as many people as possible that their self-absorbed needs are being met. It’s the way the system works; and it’s our fault as much as theirs. If the people could handle the brutal truth then the lies wouldn’t be necessary.

            The reason for the decline in the economy in a nutshell, as I see it, is as follows. The banks made it too easy to buy a house, and we spent money we didn’t have. Whether you want to blame the banks for offering the candy or the people for yielding to the temptation – the true culprit comes to greed across the board. The home buyers should have known better, sure, and most of them probably did. But who among us is strong enough to say no when being offered the American dream on a platter? Lack of restraint on both parts, in my opinion, brought the housing crisis upon us. Jobs were sent overseas because it was cheaper. We did what is in our human nature – we looked out for our own personal best interests and not at the big picture. As long as the East will supply workers for less than what hiring an American will cost, we will continue to outsource jobs. This is also why you’ll never hear of Congress offering to cut their own financial resources to accommodate the budget: they’re too busy looking out for themselves.

            The tl;dr version of this since I’m getting restless and must be mobile soon: the true culprit of this situation is human nature and salvation is impossible until we collectively pull our heads out long enough to see the problem instead of name calling and finger pointing.

Oh, and I got a new tattoo last night. It's the second part of a three-piece chest theme I'm working on.

I had more I wanted to talk about, eventually tying the flaws with the political system into the problem with society itself (basically everyone’s too scared to take responsibility for their actions, thoughts and opinions, which leads to deceit and false representation born of cowardice), but I’d rather be outside now. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Good Riddance

Bad language is bad.

            “Da flying fuck just happened?” Salem demanded incredulously, his voice echoing mockingly within his helmet. The drunkard snatched off the burn scarred armament and flung it down in agitated confusion.

            “Where the hell are we?” Donut added, peering around the expanse of immaculate ivory surrounding them. All around them only whiteness could be seen, unrevealing and unforgiving on the eyes with the intensity of its brightness.

            “Maybe Rani is trying to make some racial statement.” Aethon’s statement lacked conviction, but he managed to force the words through the suffocating constriction of his throat. He alone refused to look around at the monotone scenery. He alone held suspicions about their new locality and why they were there.

            “No way, man, Ray can’t resist laughing at his own jokes.” Ara contributed dryly, her bored gaze sweeping across the emptiness as if expecting to find some clue hidden within the blank canvas. Her search was rewarded with the sight of a form laying in the distance. It was little more than a shadow on what passed as a floor in this bizarre unblemished landscape, but she knew the form of a prone body when she saw one. “Let’s wake him up and ask him. I must’ve kept him up too late last night if he’s sleeping on the job.”

            “Wait –“ Aethon got no further then the single syllable when Blue appeared in front of Ara, obscuring the shape from the crimson vixen’s view. The Canadian shook her head somberly.

            “It’s Pinky. She’s in bad shape.”

            “Well that’s just bloody dandy. Which one of us did Rani-boy give the healing mogo?”
            “None of us, yet. Unless he had it.” Donut answered, peering around Blue to the immobile form in the distance.

            “We’ll have to figure out something else, then. If we’re here, then that means Ray’s not coming back.” Aethon hesitated and had to inhale deeply to steady himself before continuing. “It’s up to us to find a way out of the abyss. His story is over.”

            “But that means…no way. That bastard is too crazy to die.” Wide-eyed with denial, Donut kept shaking his head as if emphasizing every word and supporting his own argument.

            “He can’t be gone. That cheeky little fuck survived too many women to be offed by some piddly storybook dragon. It’ll be Pinky or Ara that do the arse in.”

            “What do we do now? He held the team together; he was the closest thing we had to a leader.” Blue’s tone was soft and sad, leaden with the weight of volumes unsaid. It was so much easier to look ahead when only despair lay behind.

            “We get him back. This story is about us, not some shitty plagiarized storylines and hackneyed writing.  If he can turn into a goddamn gargoyle and give Steven the power to throw destructo-disc some werewolves then we can fucking toggle god mode on and bring him back.” Shemo attempted to support Ara's determined declaration with a smile, but the effort was too much for her and she lowered her head in continue silence. There were no words for her for situations like this.

            “The twah, er, Ara is right. Now run along and check the kitchens for him, lass, the men and Blue will bring back your precious side-action-number-five.” Leave it to Salem to drink away his woes, it was a wonder he managed to remain on his feet as unsteady as his stance was while he downed the contents of flask after flask in an attempt to drown the reality of the situation.

            “Fuck you.” Ara replied automatically, staring down the others as if challenging them to argue with her proposal.

            “Enough. If we’re going to do this we need to move fast. First we find a way to heal Pinky; maybe she can tell us what happened. Then we try to undo it. But don’t get your hopes up. We’re not sure this will work.” And with that simple mini-speech, Aethon stepped into the role of leader of the ragtag group.

            The stakes were higher than ever. The element that managed to simultaneously hold them together and stir them up was gone and their greatest challenge would be getting him back.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Not my world, and mostly not my characters. This time we’re preying on Eragon, I’d say about ¾ of the way through book three. This takes place after the (spoiler) is (spoiled) but before (spoiler) is (spoiled). Vagueness intentional for my own amusement, because this is going to be spoilerific for anyone that hasn’t read the books already.

Aethon and Blue

            “Does it ever bother you that our leader is a ticking time bomb with no sense of self-preservation and a glutton for punishment?” Though Aethon could not see Blue, the winding path of foot prints in the sand betrayed her movement as she made her way back to his position underneath the golden dune.

            Once sheltered from the sun, and the possible gaze of the soldiers camping nearby, Blue resumed visibility. She fired off a quick text to the others from her Blackberry before settling into the awaiting folding chair with a sigh of exasperation.

            “Once you come to the conclusion that he’ll always find a way in and out of trouble with little to no consequences, it’s not a bad source of entertainment. He’s rigged the deck so that he’ll be the one to jump on the grenade should things blow up. Hero or villain, he’s determined to be the star of the show that is his life.” Aethon’s scowl was unseen beneath his cowl as he brushed off the offending grit off his shoulder. The climate there was too hot to accommodate his usual dark armament, and he never felt quite as comfortable in white. It was just too hard to keep things clean when dealing with the taintless color.
            “He can’t be naïve enough to think we’d let be the one to fall on his sword if…when things out of control. Anyway, the runes are ready. We know what to do next.” Blue hesitated, shifting in the chair to cross her legs and fiddling with her watch idly.

            “That we do.” Aethon resisted the palpable urge to fidget as well, but the tension was clear even underneath the armor he must have been boiling in. They were sitting on a shatterpoint, and both could feel the weight of their options bearing down. “I was never much for listening when Rani talked.” The white knight added finally, the pressure evaporating as suddenly as it had formed.

            “Me neither.” With that, Blue muttered something in a language that shouldn’t have been real from a land that wasn’t. The camp near them began to rumble the instant she finished her utterances, and they both stood to see a departing cloud of dust stampeding away from them. When the vibration no longer reverberated through them, the pair looked to each other and nodded.

              “Nap time is over. Time to kill a dragon.”

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Quality Control: Tense Transition.

            And the adventures of literacy police continue. Usual disclaimer applies, albeit to a lesser extent with this as one as it’s mostly a transition arc. Oh, and language in this one is pretty rough – as per a request on behalf of Salem for more realism to the character. This one isn’t for the faint of heart or the easily offended.

            “That’s Mrs. Tart to you, Sally.” The rebuttal had no venom in it, having sprang forth out of reflex more than malevolent design. Ara didn’t even look in the drunkard’s direction as she uttered the reply, her gaze instead digging into the darkness for sights unseen.

            “To bloody hell with your stage name. Save that fecking Shortcake shit for the pole. I’d ask you to put on a show but I doubt you have change for a soddy pound -” 

“That’s what she told Rani.” The Scot appeared to building up the momentum to launch a particularly vindictive rant when Aethon interjected with his own quip.

            “Speak of the devil shagging nancy-boy, where is Ranster and why is the soul-less vixen wearing the man’s clothes? Maybe her’s don’t fit her because her balls finally dropped. The bloody bitch has the nerve to call bullshit on the Destructo-disc, can you believe that? Trick doesn’t appreciate true art; that was damn good work, lad.” Salem refused to look at the target of his tormenting, and instead directed his rant in the general direction of Donut. That turned out to be a poor choice, as Donut bursts into erratic laughter under the combined pressure of Salem’s diatribe and his casual refusal to acknowledge Aralie any further.

            “Tell William Wallace over here that Boba Fett wants his armor back and Drew McIntrye wants his accent back. I took Rai’s clothes to slow him down. The mock suckers must’ve infected him with a vagina, because he is PMS-ing like Braveheart here when he runs out of rum and the porn sites won’t load. Rani sent Shemo to get the other kids; you girls should get back to base so he can yell at me and get it over with.” Without waiting for a response from the trio, Ara settled against the nearest tree and began smoothing out the tangles in her hair while muttering under breath. “Honestly. Grown ass men pining over anime references, it’s almost as bad as a gargoyle running around in Ninja Turtle boxers. Nothing against the turtles, but he knows I like boxer briefs better. How am I going to keep a straight face while a man in cartoon boxers is yelling at me? You can’t write this shit.”

            “Speaking of writing shit – I need to talk to Rani about his script for us. All the good lines are wasted on you two going at it like high school exes.” Aethon faded into the darkness without further commentary or waiting for response. Donut caught his breath and regained his composure before shaking his head wistfully and vanishing in a flash of retina searing light.

            “No one can run men off like a blight stricken tavern wench. Better dead than red, my gran always –“

            “You were just leaving.” Rani interrupted in a guttural growl, the darkness solidifying to form his monstrous outline around twin turquoise orbs shining defiantly in the somber night.

            “Fucking hell I was. I wouldn’t miss Rani’s wrath descending upon the Scarlet Serpent for all the tosh in the Captain’s personal stash. Let’s see you slither your way out of this one, Claptrap.” Salem deliberately ignored the withering glares that tore through the rescinding darkness to bear down upon him ruthlessly as he emptied yet another flask with a prolonged draught. He complemented the drink with a belch that ricocheted off the trees even moments after he vanished in the wake of the Donut and Aethon.

              “You know you can’t slow me down.  I had to deal with the source of this disaster. ” Despite the fact that he was slowly shrinking to resume his human form, Rani’s voice lost none of its edge in the process. Ara found herself thinking she was wrong to underestimate how imposing her partner was – even in eccentric underwear.

             “I hope you take longer with me.” The pyromancer rose to her full height, which wasn’t much at just over five feet, and refused to back down from the waves of anger rolling off of Rani in furious torrents.

            “Sal’s version is the comedy; your comments won’t help you here.”

            “And your’s is the drama. You want to be tragic hero? Too damn bad. I knew what I was doing, and you can’t tell me what to do in this story or any other when it comes to this. You’ll find a way to punish me, I’m sure. Let’s celebrate our progress here; we’re already making a difference.” Ara’s smirk was contagious, though they both knew Rani was not going to forget about the incident so easily. But Rani was a male, after all, and he knew all too well what a good fight did to Ara’s appetite.

            “I want you out of my clothes.”  

            “You first.”

            “Quit projecting us, Salem.” Rani commanded, his voice ringing clear in the budding dawn.

            (Bastard. I’ll remember this in my version.) Though no longer present, Sal’s voice echoed in both their heads in response.

            “You know he’s going to have you die by violent Gungan rape.” Rani stated calmly, easing his cloak off Ara as if he were commenting on the waning darkness.

            “He wouldn’t.” The she-dragon answered, tracing the glyph on Rani’s chest with her finger idly.

            “You’re right; he doesn’t hate Gungans enough to do that to them.”

Sunday, May 13, 2012

TwiBlight - See Spot Die

            Yet again, these are not my toys. I’m just breaking them. All credit (and/or blame) goes to Stephanie Meyer. 

“You blokes think that if I let one of the pups slip past me, it’ll kindly repay the favor by ripping Ara’s throat out?” Sal leaned against the looming birch beside him and pulled a deep draught from his flask while he awaited an answer. Donut snickered and settled in the lee of a towering redwood. Seeing that the other two were content to stop, Aethon simply knelt by the game trail that wound downhill.

            “So are you team Pinky, then?” Donut asked with a chuckle, using the reflective surface of his axe in the moonlight to ensure that his carefully arranged crown of spiked hair hadn’t been disturbed. Salem did a double take, realizing that there was no moonlight. Such a thing was a rarity in the vampire infested area. That was what drew the shoddy sparklers, after all.

            “Nifty trick with the light, but turn it off before you give our locations to the mutt-men. I’m team Don’t-Be-a-Tart. ‘Tleast Pinky gives him something for his trouble and she doesn’t set chaps on fire.” Sal stiffened, appearing to stare attentively in the darkness, before muttering to himself and activating the visor in his helmet. Whatever happened within the confines of his head piece seemed to pacify him, and he sank to sit against the tree.

            “I don’t think that last part is the case anymore. Anyway, in all fairness, he lets them do it to him and she set you on fire for calling her a tart.” Aethon pointed out without conviction, the adjustment of his cowl to keep the pests of the night at bay seeming to be a higher priority than yet another conversation about Rani’s thrice-accursed love life.

            “Twasn’t a tart I called her, lad. Twas a tw…point taken.” If the others hadn’t realized Sal was drunk by this point, the revelation came when he casually tossed aside his now empty flask and produced another one from a compartment within his armor.

            “I don’t get it. I thought Ara was giving it to him. I’m lost.” To punctuate his confusion, Donut conjured an orb of water from the puddle formed from a hollow scoop below them and manipulated it into the shape of a question mark before letting it dissipate and fall back to the hollow.

             “Tis a complicated affair that, and I’m too toshed to explain it now how these different stories work. Rani’s little joke, in his story I become increasingly British with every drink. I’m a freaking Scot, man, a Scot! But bugger if he can be arsed to know the difference, and he’s one to make any comment on holding his liquor like a teetotaler. At least the bloody wanker has the decency to let me insult him and the ginger-devil in his story, though it’d be a snore of a lie if he didn’t.” Donut nodded very slowly, his eyes wide in blatant lack of comprehension of anything the armored drunkard was spouting. The vacant stare weighed little upon Salem as he tilted the visor back and rewarded his own speech with a foundation of amber poison.

            “Was that Gaelic? I don’t speak drunken Scottish, I speak drunken –“
            “Scooby scouts!” Aethon interrupted in a fierce whisper, his slashing hand gesture unseen in the darkness. A moment later the sensual scrapes of metal on leather announced the assassin’s twin black blades being freed of their scabbards to taste the mountain air.

            “Rani-boy’s been mentagrammed; let’s spade and neuter some pets.” Salem announced and leapt to his feet with surprising grace for one with his blood alcohol level.

            “Is that even an international thing?” Aethon wondered aloud as he dashed through the darkness to appear directly in the path of the nearest wolf with his sword extended. The canine’s momentum betrayed it and the beast crashed into the blade with a quick and agonized yelp.

            “Rani doesn’t know, so neither do I.”  

            “So, uh, does anyone how many mutts there are in the books?” Donut called out,  idly adjusting his hair again as a wolf writhed and jerked erratically at his feet. Despite the beast’s violent thrashing, its head remained entombed in a globe of water held together by the youth’s narcissistic will.

            “We’ll stop when there’s nothing left to kill.” Aethon paused to bring his blades up in a cross guard. The tan pelted wolf caught the cross section of the blades in its jaws. With an expert motion from the darkly clad killer, the offending jaws were removed and the monster’s head soon followed in their journey down the slope. “That’s all we need to know.”  He punctuated his statement by shifting on his hill and opening up the throat of a large black wolf as it charged past. The shadow beast collapsed in a heap of fur and blood at Salem’s boots.

            “Much obliged.” Salem dealt the corpse a vindictive kick before focusing on the nearest living wolf. The Scot held up his index and pointer finger together, and made a sudden swiping motion with the two digits. Fur, flesh and bone peeled away as if Sal’s motion directed an obscenely sharp razor, and the top of the canine’s skull was cleaved off cleanly. The drunkard probed the exposed grey matter for a month before reducing it to a gory mess with the hell of his boot.

            “Brights!” Aethon shouted, raising a gauntleted fist to the dark heavens. Donut opened his mouth to question the outburst, but found himself buried in fur when Salem used his telekinetic powers to hurl the midnight wolf at the new recruit. Blinding lightning lanced in serpentine bolts from the cloud laced sky to converge on Aethon’s outstretched hand. The mage extended his other shrouded hand and released the channeled energy in the direction of a tight formation of wolves. A symphony of anguished howls answered his light show from the surviving foe in sharp contrast to the silence and singed fur of those struck.

            “Oh, those brights.” Donut shoved the carcass off of him and continued muttering increasingly dark profanities. He conjured an orb of light in his hand, holding it up to survey the damage. Seeing that he remaining wolves were beginning to recover from the stun of the lightning bursts, Donut concentrated on the luminance until it formed a spinning disc of brilliant radiance.

            “Brights.” Donut added mockingly, unleashing the focused light on the persistant prey. A moment later the three were alone again.

            “Destructo-disc? Are we being serious right now? I call bullshit on that.” Ara challenged, dropping in wearing Rani’s cloak.

            “Oh grand, the strawberry tart is here.” 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Twiblight part two: Sorry Suckers

The victims here belong to Stephanie Meyer, as does the world they inhabit. These are her toys, I'm just breaking them

            “Why isn’t Pinky with us?” Shemo asked mildly, laying on her back by a stream. Rani, kneeling beside her to wash the blood out of her hair, shot Ara a pacifying glance before answering.

            “She actually likes these guys, and her powers haven’t manifested yet.” Shemo nodded and bit back another question with a fleeting look at Ara.

            “Just ask already, Critter Caller, I’ve only set one person on fire for saying something about our situation.” A smirk punctuated Ara’s words, but it was not an expression of reassurance.

            :Two people.” Rani corrected dryly, running gloved fingers through Shemo’s dark locks idly.

            “That doesn’t count; you like the burn.”

            “Are you two…together?” It was a question dampened by nervousness, but not a single word was lost to the night. Silence reigned for a moment, then two. The quiet darkness grew thicker and more pungent, until Rani toppled the muted air after a brief eternity.

            “We’re partners. Each of us is what the other needs us to be; it’s an adaptive system. She has other lives, as do I.”

            “That’s his cliché way of sayng we’re open. It’d kill Rani-boy to be direct when he can sweeten his words with metaphor and analogy until the flowery prose covers the scent of the bullshit and it sounds like he actually knows what he’s talking about.”

            “We’re not here to further our own story.” Rani interrupted testily. “We’re here to sink our claws into some shiny sanguine suckers.” Ara’s eyes lit up at his words, crimson orbs flashing in the darkness.

            “Claws?” She echoed gleefully. Rani’s eyes shifted to turquoise for an instant as he simply nodded in reply.

            “Send the fuzzies swimming, Shemo. The scent of blood should be strong enough to lure them here.” Shemo sat up with a sigh and shook the water from her hair. Shivering slightly and smiling in mild amusement at the way Rani’s now damp cloak clung to him, she muttered something to the rustling night. A moment later, a series of splashes answered her command.

            “They’re on their way, the others intercepted the wolves. Bella’s bedazzled is the fastest; he’ll be here first.” Rani announced, shrugging off his cloak and casually removing his belt.

            “That fact that you know that makes me wonder how you get girls to stick around while you take that belt off.” Ara commented with a bemused smirk, the crimson glow returning to her gaze as she likewise began to shed her clothing.

            “Uh…I don’t think this is a good time for you to-“ Shemo’s words died in her throat as a blur warped the darkness and collided with Rani in a hissing and cursing tumbling of rapidly moving limbs. Blood erupted from Rani’s skull in a terrible foundation under the pressure of a crazed punch from Edward. Eyes alight with frenzy, the Cullen snarled from atop the  fiction fighter and his hand tightened around Rani’s throat with the grip of a steel mangling vice.

            Pale flesh darkened to green while the youth stared definitely at the vampire. Shemo drew in a panicked breath to summon her minions to her when a second blur drove the air from her in cold mist and a blond figure drove her into a tree trunk. The flaming orb Ara summoned in her palm to aid Rani bought her the warning of precious seconds she needed to evade the vampire leader. Carlisle dropped from the massive bough to find only a fledgling flame struggling to life instead of his target. With feline reflex, he turned in time to see the crimson death that awaited him. Sporting the sapphire and ruby scales of her dragon form, Ara closed her powerful jaws around the doctor’s head and removed it bloodlessly with a vicious twist.

            Edward’s bestial hissing and snarling faded to silent confusion as the monster beneath him suddenly lashed out with a muscular, and armed covered in green scales. The force of the blow collapsed the eternal teen’s sternum and sent him crashing noisily into the stream. Dozens of tiny claws latched onto the master of scowls the instant he vanished beneath the dark depths and he did not rise again.

            The gargoyle rolled to his feet in time to meet the next wave of the attackers. Jasper and Emmett converged on Rani without fear or hesitation. Alice hung back for the slightest of moments, but that was enough for Ara to descend upon her before she could join the fray. Shemo screamed a warning as she stumbled away from the ice entombed fragments of Rosalie. Annoyed with losing the element of surprise, Esme threw herself from her perch on the massive boulder at Shemo.

            “I have ice powers. Yay, I win!” Shemo yelled in sheer delight as she easily avoided the corpse of Esme. Ignoring the carnage taking place around her, the youth drew the dagger from her boot and removed the frozen heart of the Cullen matron. She turned, trophy in the air, in time to see Ara rip Alice in half and consume the upper body of the pseudo prophet. Rani drove the edge tip of his right wing into Emmett’s forehead, impaling it before slamming the undead fiend into the boulder Esme had sprang from. The impact reduced the offending skull to a pale pulp and Rani slung the perma-dead at the last of the Cullen family. Jasper avoided the flung body, but not the flaming bout Ara spat in tandem with her partner. Stunned by the severe burns, the blackened youth halted just long enough to be caught in a tug of war as a gargoyle tail wrapped around his throat at the same time the serpentine length of a dragon’s tail snared his torso. After a brief struggle, the head wrenched free and Ara consumed the charred corpse before Rani could growl an objection.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Twiblight - the prologue

            I had so much fun with the last update that I thought I’d make it a series. This one takes place in the Twilight universe, after the events of book two. The victims here belong to Stephanie Meyer, as does the world they inhabit. And that’s all the explanation you get; we’re jumping straight into this.

            The darkness was claustrophobic, threatening to choke me with its smothering pitch. The treacherous sky concealed its stars, making it impossible for me to see anything in the black expanse. My dear Edward would find me, I knew without a doubt, no darkness could cloud his beautiful eyes. He will always find me. My sweet Edward would rescue me.
            “Can we kill her now?” A voice in the darkness, low and light, and laughter followed it. The sick bastard was laughing at my discomfort. Visions of my encounter with James flashed through my mind, giving me something to focus on in the darkness so utter and complete that the bright wings of hope dared not to flutter here.

            “Give her some credit, Donut, this stuff is better than what’s actually written.” Another voice said from the other side of me, as casual as blood flowing from an open wound. He spoke with the authority of a natural leader, his voice dropping off from the height of a man used to being looked up to. More laughter answered this response, as if his bizarre statement was some kind of joke. What was he talking about? Did they kidnap me over some writing they thought I had? That made about as much sense as blush on my albino skin. I had never seen anything written down that was worth anything.

            “Donut is right. Who gets to kill the daft broad?” These guys weren’t vampires, there was no hiss of hunger underlying their words that I heard from the rogues. Nor were they wolves, with pregnant growls always threatening to burst forth from their throats. Could they be human, or some new beautiful killer that stepped out of the legends and into my life. The thought excited me for the briefest and guiltiest of moments, then a flare of sudden blindness wrenched the twisted thought from my terror stricken mind.

            The heat of the blaze singed my hair and I had to twist painfully to see the figure standing over the fire. She had hair almost as red as the flames she seemed to control with her extended palm, and her features held no pity or remorse while she stared down at me lying helpless at her feet. I could feel the bramble beneath me digging in and clawing at me as I writhed against my restraints, but the rough ropes only mauled my wrists and ankles in scathing reply.

            “Rani won’t do it; he only killed Katniss to spite me.” She said with shrill softness. She tilted her slightly to consider the reaction of  a man I hadn’t noticed before, sitting on the other side of the fire on a stump. Craning my neck to the excruciating protest of my spine, I noticed that there were six of them including the girl standing over me and the man on the stump. They were gathered in a crude semi-circle around me, four men and two women.

            “Sal, you have to acknowledge her eventually.” The man on the stump, the same one with leadership pouring out of every syllable, stated with a suppressed yawn.

            “Not if you put Pinky in her place.” He was adorned in dark metals of ebony and crimson, the same man who had called her a broad. A scowl melted across my features at the memory of the insult. Edward would make him eat his words, seasoned with pain and agony.

            A sudden spear of agony stabbed me through the face; I hadn’t seen the other girl even move. The back of her hand struck me again her palm smashed down on my nose. My blood sprouted in a harsh fountain that caught the highlights of her dark hair in its spray. She was marked now; Edward’s treatment of her would be especially heinous.

            “I can’t take any more of her melodramatic bitching. Minions.” The crazy woman spoke the last word louder, as if calling some badly named pet. The darkness surrounding the strange fire rustled and several…somethings surged forth. My entire world became restricted to the blanket of the biting beasts, and the agony of their teeth shredding my ivory skin. I couldn’t even hear my own screams over the deafening agony. I felt my blood abandon me in a terrible cascade and a sudden realization hit me as the pain began to dim. Edward wasn’t going to save me.

            “No, he’s not. And no one is going to save him.” My last thought before the pain – and the world – faded away was that my beloved Cullen would be joining me soon.           

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Fuller Game

Yeah yeah, I’m going to hell for this and this will most likely piss some people off – but I don’t care. For those who haven’t read The Hunger Games, you can find a good review of it here. These characters are, mostly, not of my creation and all credit there goes to Suzanne Collins. The following is my unofficial epilogue to the first book, and completely ignores the second and third book.

                                                            Sudden Death

           No. This can’t be happening. This has to be another nightmare.

            “Katniss!” Peeta screams in my ear, shaking me from my shock. On my other side, I feel Gale’s grip clamp around my wrist and pull me roughly to my feet. Around us I see Haymitch staggering with the desperate aid of a trembling and babbling Effie. A babbling quickly silenced by the throwing bolt that materialized in her throat in a spray of red mist.

            “I called that kill.” A masculine voice complained dryly, seemingly blaring from the dark sky above us. Gale tugged me away from the only source of a light, a torch standing tall and defiant against the darkness atop the hill. A sudden jerk nearly wrenched my shoulder from its socket and Peeta was trying to pull me toward it instead.

            “Then you should have taken it, love.” A sultry voice thick with amusement replied, also amplified and projected from somewhere above.

            “The catnip is mine, Aethon.” The first voice announced, the chilling confidence of his voice freezing my blood. I felt like my heart would burst from the sudden pressure of its pounding in response to the detached air he spoke of killing me. It seemed to have a similar effect on Gale and Peeta, both ceased their tug-of-war to stare at the two figures standing calmly on either side of the torch.

            “I do what I want.” A third voice, also male, answered. This one was different;  in addition to coming from the unseen speakers in the sky, it also emerged from the darkness behind…

            “Gale!” The warning came too late, a darkly dressed figure seemed to stretch into the circle of dim light like a sinister shadow and his black blade slid up Gale’s ribs and into his heart in a clean thrust. Peeta threw himself in front of me as the attacker calmly removed his blade and turned to face us. A fiery orbed flared passed me, singeing hair and cloth as it surged by, and the blaze consumed Peeta before the attacker’s blade could taste his skin.

            Peeta shoved me away with an agonized shout. I turned the stumbling recovery into a run without direction. I had to get away from the funeral pyre, had to get away with the darkly dressed assassin.

            This wasn’t like the games; none of us had a chance. They dropped us on this hill to execute us. I knew this with the same icy certainty that I knew  I had struck a nerve in the capitol. They couldn’t let such a display go unpunished, and they knew better than to give me a fighting chance this time.

            I realized dimly, in some detached rational part of my panic stricken brain, that the only light source was now Peeta’s twitching corpse that I retreated from. One of the figures on the hill had somehow launched the flame from the torch at him.

            “I had that kill.” The third voice complained from the pitch behind me at the same time as his voice thundered from the sky, and a moment later Haymitch let out an anguished groan that sounded oddly deflated.

            “Boys, your complaints are killing me, but they don’t seem to be hurting the chillens here.” How sick did you have to be to sound so entertained at a time like this? These people were sick, clearly a product of Capitol conditioning. This was just a game to them, a hunt like the thousands I’d been on back at District 12. Except I never hunted people. Not until the games.

            “Rani, I hope you sleep with a knife in your hand.” Aethon, the other one called him, replied, this time not near enough to be heard except for skyward broadcast.

            “I do. Ara has a matching blade.” Rani, it must have been, answered with the same dry detachment. It took my brain a second to register the sudden difference in his tone. It was no longer magnified, and yet I heard it clearly. I had less than a second to put two and two together before a leather encased hand constricted around my throat and forced me off my feet. Rani slammed me on my back with another force to knock with wind from me. Judging by the crunching sound I barely registered through the red and black veil of agony, he had also broken several somethings.

            The sky suddenly shirted to brilliance that dwarfed daylight, and I could see nothing past the white spots swarming my vision. When they cleared after an eternal moment of struggling and blinking, I could see the emerald clad figured kneeling beside me with his weight on the hand on my throat. Standing over me was President Snow, a gloating glare dominating his foul features. Behind the president Aethon, and one who had to have been a sapphire cloaked Ara, watched without movement.

            “Wonderful job, well worth every penny for your services. Now finish her.” Just like that, the man sentenced me to death, with the same ease of he would have used ordering from a menu in some overpriced eatery in the Capitol. Or maybe with even more ease, as he might have had more reservations about his meal than about ending my life.

            Rani made no reply, but instead reached around the side of his belt to draw a dark box about the size of my fist. He held up the device and pressed a button with casual disinterest. The top of the device, which I know saw were metallic spikes, erupted into a writhing serpent of electricity. Then, with the same casual ease, he reached out and pressed the crackling weapon against Snow’s leg. A moment later the president was nothing more than a steaming and bloody heap of violent post-mortem convulsions.

            “I called that kill.” Ara complained, echoing Rani’s earlier words.

            “Then you should have taken it, love.” Rani parroted back. He snapped my neck without turning to look at me, and blackness consumed me before I could ever feel the killing motion.