Sunday, April 3, 2011

I'm Back

It’s been months since I blogged about writing my book. I’ve been busy writing. That’s good. I’ve “finished”. Now, I’m in the revision process. It’s an epic fantasy, and I mean EPIC. Thus, books like this take a while and mountains of dedication, love, focus, and precious time. I think I’ll be close to knowing when I’ll be finished-finished this summer.
I’ve still not commited to traditional or self-publishing (via my platform alone). I do need to commit to my platform. I was reminded of this today. Bottomline, it’s a business and I’ll be offering a product. That requires another level of attention from me. If I end up self-publishing, I need a presence on the web. I’ve neglected that in the last few months. Non-traditional means will require a lot of dedication and planning before and after I’ve finished the book. So, I might as well keep this blog (and others) up to date and keep building connections and work on some teasers for the book. Why not?
When I blog I feel like I need to write something grand. This is too much pressure. That feeling has kept me from blogging. In the future I will relax and just keep blogging mainly about my writing and perhaps, about the world of Creed of Kings. I will also write a little bit about the process from a rookie’s point of view. I’ve been writing this book seriously since 2009 and quite a few false starts since 2007.
I love to write about movies, music, and books. So, I’ll do more of that as well. It’s all about art and the human desire to create, right? So why not?
The one thing I won’t do is right long blog entries like this one. It chews up too much time making sure I spelled correctly and did not leave words out etc. I’m just going to forgive myself upfront for that…sorry.
So I look forward to blogging more consistantly.
P.S. You can find me under my alias/pen name Facebook at A. R. Travis the fanpage or Alton Ray Travis the personal page. Or, under my real name Allen Bagby.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Slaving Away in Obscurity

This is not a 'woe is me entry'. I'm very pleased with where I am now regarding the book. Yes, of course I wish I was done. I want to see what happens. When I send it off to an agent, which I've  not even seriously looked for yet, it will probably be rejected. That's normal. I know at that point I will feel the urge to insist that the agent know how much I've put into this, like my blood and soul, that I've rearranged my life, made sacrifices, taken huge chances, endured self doubt and intense ridicule from my own mind. The agent will say, "So what. Everyone says that. The story doesn't move me. Go back to your sales job." I'm braced for that. It's like taking that first downward plunge on the roller coaster. You just have to get it over with and enjoy the ride. Meanwhile, I've need to shave, and shower, my hair is a mess, the coffee is getting cold, and I slave away in obscurity.
This is my unsophisticated writing desk where I've written the bulk of Parts II and III of the epic saga CREED of KINGS. On the wall is a sketch of the temple in which the main female character lives. Below that are character and scene notes.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Resting on top of the Mountain

It's not very far from the Pharaoh to the Promise Land, but the children of Israel wondered in the desert for forty years before they got there. After all I've been through it feels like I'm halfway there but I'm on a mountain top looking further up the trail. The 'mountain' is a completed first rough draft of my book, which I finished on my holiday break. Three years ago I finally got out of Egypt, sat down and started writing this book, seriously, and then I allowed an interruption for a year to take a professional position again, I went back into 'bondage'-it sucked up my intelli-juice for writing. But I got back on track due to some wild wonderful circumstances, some might say the hand of Providence. Friends have asked me repeatedly, when will you be done? If getting to the land of milk and honey was just a walk through the desert I'd have been there years ago. If writing a book was only typing, I'd have been done in a couple of months. I'm still not done-done, of course, but the target is in the cross hairs as never before.

In "the story of the story" of writing the book, I've come to Act III so to speak. The final battle and the view from the Mountain I've wanted for so long. I'm sitting on a a spiral bound stack of the whole thing with edits and revsions in red/blue/black and highlighted ink. I drained a red ink pen doing edits and scribbling revisions in the margins. Now all that work needs to be blended into the book. It's a lot. And, stuff needs to be removed.
I tried to dive right into it but the weight of what I’m about to do overwhelms and intimidates me. It's going to take much more heavy mental lifting to finally get there. I wondered if I have what it takes to do it. I'm going to need to be better than I've ever been. I have to bring my very best game to this. I stared at the blank page for an hour and had to admit to myself that I need a break.

I kept thinking of all the revisions and thematic emphasis, they are huge and must be handled subtly and with nuance....and something else: arrangement. I think I need to arrange events a little differently to increase the emotional impact of the big moments. Also, I've adapted my styling toward the end. Having been impressed with George R. R. Martin's work, I wanted to write in third person limited, each chapter restricted to one character's point of view. However, as I got deeper into story I started feeling/seeing peripheral characters' points of view more clearly, so I started writing those in as well. When I edit and revise I'll include more POVs per chapter. I also developed a better background mythology.
I've been off the internet a lot working. Thus my writer's platform (presence on the web) has suffered, as it will from time to time.. Writing is a writer's number one priority, not his platform. There is a time for everything I need to do under the sun but now is the time to write!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Death and A Moment of Greatness

(I put the video up for the music. WordPress won't allow me to simply upload the music file without prohibitive finger wagging.)
Click it and read as you listen. I tried to time it just right. ;-) 
What if you died today? Perhaps this afternoon… What goes through the mind in that moment, the tire blows, your car careens into the other lane, head on with a bus? You’re gone. The world hiccups and goes on to its destiny.
A writer’s ego is gargantuan. We think our stories and characters are so important that we want as many people as possible to read them, know them. So, naturally, when I thought of my untimely death, I realized my book wouldn’t be finished. Why? According to Murphy’s Law, my book must have been destined to sell twice as much as Harry Potter.
I kept the thought experiment going.
After my funeral, I imagined my friends putting their lives on hold to delve into my laptop and word docs. They sit around drinking coffee and reading deep into twilight, deciphering all my confusing, brilliant, detailed, and scattered notes and thus, being astounded by its greatness, shout in unison. “It would be a crime against humanity not to complete this epic story!” They toast and begin the daunting task. There would be progress and things would look great. Then they find that my notes are lacking in the most important part of the book. “He must’ve never had a chance to jot down his great thoughts on his part.” “Or, the notes were lost in the inferno.” Then they turn to the most creative person in the group. He buries his face in hands. “I can’t do it!” He protests. “A. R. Travis was just too great. It would be blasphemy to assume I could even come close!” They implore, “You must do it. He would want you to!”
He does it. The book is a blockbuster, eclipsing even the Da Vinci Code. Sony buys the movie rights, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Peter Jackson, and Ridley Scott fight for the opportunity to direct it.
At the Academy Awards, the director and screenwriter dedicate their Oscars to me. All the Oscar-winning actors join them on stage, holding back tears. There’s a moment of silence. Then, on the big screen behind them, as the original award winning score by Hans Zimmer plays, there’s an extraordinarily handsome picture of me smiling in the sun on the beach, with a ball cap on, petting my dog.
…and not a dry eye in the house.
To read and watch CREED OF KINGS becomes a rite of passage for a generation and any serious lover of books and movies.
No ego here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Give me a hero worth cheering for... | Creed_of_Kings on Xanga

I love fantasy morality tales written by such authors as Terry Goodkind, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien. They give me someone to cheer for and I love the gritty reality portrayed in Conn Iggulden, Steven Pressfield, and Michael Curtis Ford. They write books that make me think of people battling the cold survival of the fittest ethos in the ancient world.
When I began to discover my writer’s voice, I felt it is most like the prior mentioned authors in purpose, that I ultimately offer hope against stark realities.
Although I enjoy and admire George R. R. Martin’s talent, his towering saga, A Song of Ice and Fire, is too grim for my taste. My writing is about truth existing in spite of our postmodern celestial chaos. Martin’s point, in his current saga, seems to be how hopelessly awful humankind is. Humanity is not perfect indeed. The man can definitely spin a yarn but I found no one I wanted to cheer for in the series, so I dropped it near the end of the Clash of Kings.
We need criticism and self-analysis, true. But I think we want virtuous heroes, too. I venture to say we might be tired of the irony in the anti-hero, it’s becoming cliché, and the tough hottie chick (think the movie SALT) in nearly every action movie these days—a skinny little woman destroying huge muscled guards with a judo chop that would have broken her hand. I roll my eyes. I’m not saying a woman can’t be heroic nor am I saying we need a new Conan but I’m sick of applying our political correctness to stories, and making heroes out of vegetarian Vikings and also the dark fatalism I see in many fantasy tales. A lot of storytelling seems to celebrate going with the flow of chaos that one cannot swim against, thus blow something up to feel significant.
I saw the same thing creeping into my characters early on. Like many new writers, at first, I made the protagonist completely virtuous and the antagonist completely evil. That was a long time ago. I think many writers overcorrect this initial inclination and make their protagonist too flawed, to the point of debauchery being a virtue, and then protest that it’s reality. I saw it this weekend in the Russell Crowe movie The Last Three Days. The story just kept making Crowe’s character more and more flawed, until I thought, the dude’s just an idiot, I’m losing my admiration of him. The writer and director even leave in a loose end (and never resolve it) just so you think he has lost his mind. I just didn’t care near the end. There was some slight resolution to the lose end, but it never got entirely resolved. I think it was on purpose but it was more frustrating that intriguing. The old Si-fi movie, The Time Machine has bit of a loose end. What three books did the protagonist take back to the future that the other characters discovered missing from his library? It’s never answered but you sit and wonder what books would you take to a deserted island. It’s fun to think about. I don’t know if the lack of resolution was intended to be cheap intrigue in the Crowe movie, or if it was incompetence of the modern story teller.
I know a self-published author of an urban fantasy. Before she published, I asked what’s it about, what’s the message? She said it doesn’t have to have a message. You haven’t heard of her.
I'm having a very hard time. Not lacking drive at all... I'm Frodo and Sam on the precipice of Mordor or the Neanderthals questing for fire. Be done by mid-summer (or earlier), that is my goal. But so many vines grow out of an epic 200 thousand word story that need trimming and on top of that weeding. The garden I've raised is a labyrinth. I think this where a lot of writers give up or they continued half-hearted just say they finished. I will strive against this inclination.
I see myself as that guy spinning twelve saucers, swallowing swords, and blowing flames from his mouth. I have energy, that is not the problem. My engine is reved up. I'm in gear but I don't know where to start. Every day I open up the folder and stare at the hugeness, the epic-ness, the wonderful opportunities.
And, It never ceases to surprise me, the things that can distract a writer. The creative flame is like a candle. It's able to start a raging fire or it be blown out by a mere puff of air. There is no magic formula. Just write. That's it. That's the 'magic'.
Sorry, I’ve rambled. A blog entry this long practically insures no comments.
Fresh horses for the men, for “tonight we ride”!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

CREED OF KINGS: Book One Chapter 5 | Creed_of_Kings on Xanga

CREED OF KINGS: Book One Chapter 5 Creed_of_Kings on Xanga

PLEASE EXCUSE this horrible pic. YouTube only gave me three images to pic from. This was the least bad. AND, if you ended up on my Xanga blog's home page, go to the bottom of this page and pause the music.

There is resonance here that won't be felt due to the reader being unaware of the larger scope. There is also foreshadowing for things that happen one hundred pages later. However, this is one scene where there's a tad bit of resolution, one of the few scenes that does not end with a cliff hanger. That's kind of why I chose it. I probably made some typos, It's nearly impossible not to make mistakes.

* * *


Book One

Chapter 5



“Father?” It felt as if he was lying on a sack of potatoes, riding in the back of a cart on his father’s estate. Father’s voice echoed as if he was in the hallway down from Markin’s room. He rubbed his head. It felt as if a woodpile had landed on it.

“The sun rises. Fill your heart with its hope. You have much to do.” His father appeared in the doorway.

Mother must be overseeing breakfast, he thought. The scent was not the aroma to which he was accustomed.

Markin wanted to see the family estate of his childhood. He removed the warm covers, flung his legs over the edge, but dropped feet first into a deep hole and landed on pile of stiff, rotting bodies. He tried to stand, but his head was spinning. He collapsed backward.

“Father?” He shaded his eyes from the sun. The smell of the pit made his mouth erupt vomit. Everything blackened. Father’s voice called out again. “I am here, father…with the dead.”

“Why?” asked father.

Markin felt an ocean of thoughts he couldn’t understand. I don’t know. He rubbed his head again.

“I hoped if you ended up somewhere, you would know why. Leave the dead behind son.”

Markin pried his eyes open. Through the blurred slits, he saw an arm throw an object into the pit. Then he felt a jolt and something hot. His eyes cleared and he saw a dead man’s face frozen in terror looking at him. He pushed him away.

He tried to stand again on the shifting dead. Smoke billowed up from a crevice in the heap of bodies. Still wobbling, he looked up. Another torch fluttered in igniting grimy clothing behind a cluster of lifeless limbs. Another wave of nausea churned. He bent over but only heaved to discover his feet were bare. With each stumbling step, he felt rigid limbs and bloated bellies against his feet as he groped for the wall of the pit. He dug his fingers into the dirt and climbed up the steep slant.

He slid back several times into the pit before hoisting himself out. The cart had topped the hill and was heading down the other side. Markin crawled toward the hill, reached out a hand, tried to yell, but fell over dizzy and exhausted.

“Never give up, son,” His father’s voice retreated into his memory.

He woke up coughing. Smoke, flame, and choking stench belched from the hole. He struggled to his feet and stumbled away. The smoke engulfed him. He swept his hair back to look around and shuddered when he felt the painful lump. He turned and walked out of the stream of smoke. The scene from the pub, the gang of fools, and the old man came flooding back. He pieced the broken memories together.

Where is Mott? How did I…?

He pushed the scene out of his mind and tried to determined his position. Hunched over, he staggered to the edge of a precipice. The Rift Sea cut into the land below. In the valley, retreating shadows uncovered the city Bixle; beyond there sprawled the Midvast westward into the horizon.

His throbbing head interrupted concentration, but he found a path eventually. Barefoot and shirtless he began walking. The forest thickened, the branches joined overhead, and the path took on the feel of a corridor in King Honsa’s palace.

Never give up? he questioned. He laughed without humor and trudged onward thinking of the sequence of misfortune and his stupidity. He had been the guardian of the king. Now, mere weeks later, he traipsed shamed and shirtless on a back road in a nameless wilderness.

His mind wandered back into the king’s kitchen the day he found Mott slicing air with a meat cleaver. Markin propped his shoulder against the entrance, folded his arms, and watched Mott battle some imagined foe.

“Gathishians?” inquired Markin, interrupting the hero.

Startled, Mott turned and carefully placed the cleaver on a table littered with various chunks of meat. He stood stiff, smoothed his stained apron, and pretended to be on the lookout. “Flies.” He averted his eyes and then snickered as he shook his head. “Thought you were the Master of Chefs.” Mott pulled out a chair and placed it before Markin. “You have that look. What’s on your mind?”

Markin sat in the chair and rubbed his face in his hands, then leaned back and shrugged. “I’m going to settle down.”

“And break the hearts of all the ladies of the court?” Mott grinned. “Who will go with me to the house of the goddess?”

Markin smirked, “It’s a whorehouse.”

Mott shrugged and leaned against the table. “Go with me one more time before you go off on this assignment to Roxin.”

“I will, but when I return from the mission, no more.” Markin looked back at the door and leaned closer, “I will find a girl, fall in love, marry, and raise a tribe of offspring.” He smiled and opened his arms wide.

Mott looked at him as if he had dropped rotten egg in an omelet. He turned to the table of meat and resumed chopping. “If that’s what you want…” he shrugged.

“That’s what I want.”

“Then you’re crazy.” He waved at the palace with his meat cleaver with a piece of fat dangling from it. “Give up this?” he shook his head, smacked his lips and frowned. “People would die for what you have.” He went back to chopping harder than usual.

My parents died, thought Markin as reality regained its hold. He looked down the trail while he carried futility’s weight and remembered his long-dead father’s words and repeated them aloud. “Never give up, son. You never know unless you keep going, son. What if you stop here but the answer is around the corner, son? What if the answer is not even there but beyond the next hill, son? Will you stay there, son? Never give up, son. It is not a waste, even if you find the truth at your last breath beyond many hills, son. Son, son, son! Never give up!” Only the trees listened. Markin was not sure if this was mocking his father as he questioned the wisdom of those words.

The bottoms of his trousers were damp from dew and picking up dirt. He bent down to roll them up, then heard the scrape of a sword drawn from a scabbard.

“Turn around slowly,” said a shaky voice.

Only one? Markin’s eyes sought other movement. A Gathishian soldier in light armor, barely more than a boy, fidgeted on his feet, his sword periodically thrusting in Markin’s direction.

“Divisius is scouting already.” Markin read bit of respect on the soldier’s face.

“Who were you talking to?” The soldier’s eyes darted about.

“Trees,” Markin smirked.

The soldier eyed the tattoo. “You’re one of Honsa’s elite?”

He must have been at Honsa’s death. Blood is on his hands. “No it’s fake. I’m an actor.” Markin turned his shoulder. “Come look. You can rub it off.”

The fool took a breath. His sword bounced between alert and curious while he inched toward Markin.

Markin’s stomach churned and his mouth was dry. Closer.

“Step away, soldier!” Patrolling Gathishians came from a trail in the woods behind Markin. The tattoo’s spell lifted from the youth’s eyes and Markin hung his head. The leader ordered spears and arrows trained on Markin. They bound his wrists and led him into the forest.

The Gathishian camp consisted of several tents in a clearing beyond a sparse tree line under a ridge. A man on his knees, bound by the wrists was stretched between two trees and hung there with lifeless rigidity. The torso under his ribcage had been scooped out. Flies swarmed in the maw and on the pile entrials a few feet away. The patrol escorted Markin passsed the butchery and uphill into the camp directly to the largest tent. Markin gulped down the fear. Is this the end? The patrol leader marched inside and returned with a stiff-lipped short man. He folded his arms behind his back, looked at Markin head to toe, walked around him, and stood looking up into Markin’s face. “General,” he spoke loudly at the tent. “I think you will find this interesting.”

Another man snapped the tent cover aside and emerged, taller, bull-necked, and muscled. A jagged scar went from brow ridge to cheek leaving the left eye undamaged.

The patrol snapped to attention. “This had better be import—” Markin’s tattoos froze him. He ordered the patrol away and strode back into the darkness of the tent. The short man held the tent flap open and motioned Markin inside.

He saw a table when his eyes adjusted to the shade inside. On the table sat the sturdy ornate canister containing the message from Honsa to Ledarrin. The seam had pry marks but the lock remained intact. Markin tried not to exaggerate the appearance of calm when he saw it. Things of the king didn’t belong among these barbarians.

“What a surprise.” said the man with the scar, grinning while he circled, hands behind his back clutching one wrist. “You will join us?”

“You will kill me if I don’t.” Markin sensed the man’s heart was a sinkhole.

“Of course.” The short commander smiled.

Markin glanced at the commander. “That limits my options.”

Scar pressed closer. He clenched his jaw so hard, Markin thought the man’s teeth would break. “Divisius will crush Bixle and all the cities along the border. A man like you should not be wasted on the hordes.” Markin felt the man’s breath ruffle his hair.

“Divisius killed my father and my king. I won’t betray them.”

The short commander’s eyes widened. “You have seen the emperor?”

Scar retreated a bit and appeared amused by the commander’s reverence for the Gathishian Emperor.

“I was a boy then. He shames his ancestors. I spit on him.”

The commander drew a knife and pressed the blade to Markin’s throat. “What do you know of my ancestors?”

Markin tightened his lips as he felt the commander’s blade and said, “That you worship their rotting carcasses.”

He felt the commander’s hot breath on his cheek. “We will have fun with you for this blasphemy.”

Scar put a hand on the short man’s shoulder. “Away with your knife.” The commander stepped back. Scar glared at him and tilted his head indicating the exit. The commander pressed his lips, bowed, and left.

Scar glanced at Markin’s tattoos. “Why aren’t you dead? You have already betrayed your king.” His lips snarled into a smile.

Markin hung his head. “It’s over now.” His stomach churned.

“Indeed.” Scar chuckled. “Honsa’s head is an ornament now, along with his sworn protectors, as yours should’ve been.” The man lifted Markin’s chin. Markin got a good look at the uneven scar. “We planted many of them on pikes around the city.” He paused. “I might not want an oathbreaker like you?” He removed his hand, turned away, and looked at corner of the tent. “Fortunately, you have stumbled into our possession. I can make arrangements for you, give you back your honor, and redeem you.”

“Or kill me.”

The words gave Scar pause. He turned and squinted at Markin. “Trust me. I’m not a man of mercy—don’t think I didn’t see you look at it.”

Markin glanced the canister. “Only the receiver can unlock it.”

Scar ignored the words. “We just acquired it.” He spoke while toying with the lock. “Our patrol found it on a beggar.” He paused, looking at Markin. He smiled and continued, “After a bit of sport with him, he led us to it in hopes of mercy.” Scar chuckled. “The warlocks read his entrails. It’s fascinating what they try to learn from the disemboweled.” He sighed with contempt. “It is the Gathishian way.” He moved closer. “I would have used other means.” He stopped close to Markin’s face, “More time consuming, more effective. But, it doesn’t matter. The gods or the ancestors, I care not, have led you to us.”

“You will learn nothing from me.”

“Any fool would know you were taking it to Ledarrin. We know of their friendship.” Scar’s eyes burned when he sliced the words out. “A royal message? A member of Honsa’s guard?” He waved his arm around towards Bixle and the forest. “In the same territory?” He grinned. “That is all I need to know,” he snorted. “Must have been embarrassing for a beggar to steal such a prize from you. You would forfeit you life for such a mistake in my ranks. Perhaps you don’t deserve these markings.” He shook his head at the tattoos of Honsa elite guard. “They will take strips of your skin with those tattoos, then your head. I will take this message to Divisius along with your parts when I return. We knew the count was off in Balazyne.” He paused and then snapped his fingers. “No, I will take you with me and have Divisius’ priests sever your head so it will be fresh. He would enjoy that.” He laughed. “A blacksmith can melt down the lock or one of their magicians can open it.”

Markin interrupted the monologue, “Did others survive?”

Scar seemed to come out of a trance. “By survive, do you mean, flee in fear like you?”

Markin did not answer.

Scar called out to the commander. The short man appeared with soldiers.

“Hold him. I have plans for him.”

Guards jerked Markin’s elbows and led him out of the tent. The soldiers led him out, but on the way they seemed preoccupied. They kept looking in the same direction. Markin followed their gazes, but saw nothing obvious.

“Here it is,” said one. They left the trail, pulling Markin with him. They’re going to beat me, he thought. He began bracing himself. As they wove through the forest, Markin began to discern what looked like a small building in the distance.

“Keep quiet,” ordered one of the soldiers.

Markin beheld something of which he had only seen drawings and statues in Balazyne. When he first saw it, it reminded him of a giant, furry archway. On one side of the arch sat a furry boulder and from that hung a huge snake-like trunk, the sniffing end hovered inches from the ground. At least that is how he drew a lurkadon as a child.

The guards shoved him to the ground. Lying sideways, he tried to make sense of the immensity of this creature. The small building turned out to be a large cart. The lurkadon was reined to it like a horse to a carriage. In the drawings he had seen, they had tusks. This one did not, it must have been a female. He heard what sounded like a little trumpet. A small lurkadon was winding in and around the larger one’s trunk-like legs.

The soldiers were not interested in the lurkadons and kept looking at a large gray boulder, flecked with green moss. Then the boulder moved, sending a sworm of flies up. The soldiers jolted, but did held their ground. The boulder came off the ground supported by thick bowed legs. It wore a torn, soiled loincloth. A yawn exposed canines the size of a man’s thumb. The yawn ended in a deep groan. It leaned forward exhausted and moped along dragging a chain attached to a collar as it walked on all fours. It was the first time Markin had seen an oggrin, a grey skinned humanoid of the forests. It was wide and half as tall as the lurkadon.

“You have it?” one soldier said to the other.

“Hold on.” The other pulled out a purple cloth and waved it at the oggrin. The oggrin hardly regarded them, but the big lurkadon reached out its trunk and pulled the little one close.


“It’s the color they used.” The cloth flapped as the soldier waved it more vigorously.

A trunk-shuddering roar shook Markin’s ears. The oggrin charged, barreling down at them, but was jerked hard and slammed on its back. It squirmed while it tore at the collar. It sprang back up and pounded the ground with its palms, sending puffs of dust from the forest floor as it howled and roared. One hand had three fingers, making it resemble a claw. Two missing fingers were scabbed nubs. Ripples of dust vibrated off the chain while it sagged and tensed with the oggrin’s lunges. It reached out, swatting at the Gathisian soilders. The limbs of the tree chained to the oggrin shook.

A whip cracked. The oggrin cringed. A man emerged from behind the cart. Each time the whip snapped, the oggrin flinched and covered its hand. The man stomped out to the soldiers. The oggrin shied away behind the tree to which it was tethered. Its huge deep-set dark eyes peered out from under its shading palm. It curled an arm around the trunk.

“Will you not give the creature a rest?” yelled the man.

The soldiers were speechless. One had pissed his trousers, the other trembled and paled. They turned around. Markin saw their faces had lost color. As they pulled him up, he noticed the shoulders of the oggrin were heaving. Its head was hidden on the far side of the trunk.

The man pointed his whip at the oggrin. “I will use this whip on next soldier that harasses Lewtic.”

The soldiers scrambled up the incline.

“Don’t forget your weapons, fellas,” Markin said. I’ll need those, he thought.

The man with the whip shouted at the oggrin in guttural toned language. The oggrin could have thrown the man back to the camp, instead it hunkered down, crawled past him, hopped into the back of the cart, and crouched.

The soldiers seemed happy having found weapons, but they only had their swords.

“The bows and quivers, too,” Markin reminded. I’ll also need those, he thought.

The oggrin master released the chain from the tree trunk. The oggrin pull the loosed chain into the cart. The man leaned against the heavy door and, with the help of the oggrin pulling from the inside, the hinges squawked. The oggrin’s eyes stared at Markin until concealed by the swinging door which screeched and thumped closed. The man clamped it shut.

Before the soldiers pointed Markin back up the path, he saw the lurkadon release its little one for play.

They threw him into a narrow fissure of the ridge wall. After he hit the ground, he heard a familiar but cheerless chuckle.

“Humph. Life is strange.”

Markin looked up. “What are you doing here?”

“After you knocked yourself out, a fight started; men were yelling, whores screaming—not in a good way—but I got some good punches in. You’d be proud.” He smiled in reverie, then frowned and rubbed his chin. “Anyway, the bartender threatened to summon his bunch of hooligans to kill us all. Then he threw us out. Before he braced the door, he said he’d drag you out. He never did. I banged on the door. Gave up and slept in the street, thinking I would haul you out in the morning—I think he was uptight about the chair you broke. Morning came. I couldn’t get in, so I went around to the back alley. Somebody was hauling off a heap of what looked to be dead bodies in a cart. I had a hunch you was in or on the pile.”

“I was.”


“Why didn’t you catch them?”

“I was on foot, remember? Our horses were at the hold. I tried to catch up.” Mott held his stomach and rolled his eyes. “Too much to drink.”

Markin affirmed and shivered remembering the death pit.

“I got the horses. A ways out of town I crossed trails with these Gathishians. They figured I was from Balazyne. Ended up here. ‘For questioning’ they said.” Mott grimaced and added, “They got the horses.”

Markin surveyed the cleft then looked at the entrance.

“Still guarded by two I take it.” Mott surmised.

“Yeah. The two that brought me relieved the others. That’ll change. They saw my tattoos.” Markin replied.

“Lost your shirt and sandals.”

“Sword and dagger, too.”

“What happened?”

“I don’t remember. I guess I was on that pile of bodies. Maybe something extra was in my ale.”

“Wouldn’t doubt it. You didn’t make any lifelong friends last night.”

“They threw me in a pit to burn me up with the dead. I was the only one alive. I crawled out. I was making my way back to Bixle when they found me.”

Mott tightened his lips and nodded. “Fires are burning everywhere outside of town. Looks to be a plague. There’s plenty of reasons to leave Bixle.”

“I have a better reason. They have the message.”

Mott’s eyes bulged. “You saw the canister?”

“In the big tent,” Markin nodded toward the camp.

Mott just stammered. “But…how…I…”

“From the thief who stole it from us. He was begging for food. They found it on him—that was him!” Markin recalled the scene coming into the camp.

“Between the trees?”

“We’re not going to end up like that!” Markin blinked his eyes to erase the memory.

“We got to get moving then,” said Mott.

“I almost gave up. My father spoke to me while I was wallowing in a stupor with those dead people. I’m going to get that message back,” Markin said abruptly. “I’m starting to feel better but my stomach’s empty. I’m hungry.”

Mott’s face creased, “Slow down. I’m the one that’s always hungry. You drank enough to float the emperor’s armada last night. Sounds like the something extra didn’t wear off—your father?”

“Don’t remind me.” Markin chinned toward the front of the cave. “We can take the guards easy. Clouds are rolling in, it will be dark soon enough. We’ve got to do this now before they add more guards and they might move the message. We’re leaving for Roxin tonight—with that message.”

Markin drew his legs up and moved his bound wrist forward under his feet. He brought them up and wiggled his fingers. They alternated between chewing the ropes and grinding them on rocks. Markin told Mott of the oggrin and the lurkadon. Mott, being superstitious, believed it was all an omen, whether for good or ill, he did not know; he said, “I’m just a cook after all, not a holy man.” Finally, the bindings came unraveled as they heard distant thunder.

Markin rose. “We’ve got to hurry.”

“Here we go again…” groaned Mott. “Don’t hit your head this time.”

The guards were talking about sneaking into Bixle for some fun when Markin came out of the darkness of the cave and ripped the sword from the guard had urinated in his trousers. The one who had waved the purple cloth gripped the handle on his sword, but before he yanked it out, Markin swung his newly acquired sword side arm and sliced the guard’s throat with the tip. The one deprived of his sword froze, then reached for the missing hilt, but Mott sent him to an unhappy nap with a fist from his beef-chopping arm.

Markin removed the sleeping man’s sandals and tunic. The other guard squirmed. gasping and clutching his throat as life bubbled and wheezed out. He tossed a sword and dagger to Mott who stopped rubbing his knuckles to catch them. Markin collected the impressive bow with a quiver of arrows leaning against rock wall. He started into the forest but halted. Mott stepped over the sleeping guard to follow but bumped into Markin who had paused.

Markin whispered, “We have to kill him, too. He will wake up too soon.” He walked a few paces back, stooped down, and made the guard’s nap permanent with a quick dagger to the heart. He gently, almost reverently, put his palm on the dead man’s forehead. Markin implored under his breath, “It had to be.”

Mott nodded grimly.

They crept alongside the wall of rock and vanished into the forest that encircled the camp. He was sure guards would spot them soon, limiting the time needed to get to the message.

“You saw the horses, right?” Markin whispered.


“If you can’t find ours, steal two of them, stampede the rest. Then ride into the middle of camp where that big tent is.” He pointed. “I will meet you there.”

“Sounds easy,” Mott whispered and then disappeared into the darkness. Markin shook his head at the sarcasm. He’s just a cook, Markin reminded himself.

In the darkness, he was just another figure going about the business of the camp; he walked as casually as possible. The audacity of his plan filled him with fear and elation, but his face remained expressionless. Only confidence remained as he approached the tent, as if in a dream, and methodically pulled the bolt from the quiver. Never give up. He paused for a moment to fire the arrow. Lightning flashed and as the thunder sounded, the arrow went straight into the throat of the lone guard in front of the big tent. The guard clutched the shaft, sunk to his knees, and then crumpled--his armor sounding a faint clunk against the ground. Markin dropped the bow and quiver, stooped and mercifully ended the guard’s struggle with a swift stroke of the dagger. Suspecting the tent’s occupants heard the commotion, Markin rolled through the entrance. As predicted, someone was there, when the flap fluttered. The short commander swung his sword high and as expected, embedded the blade into the post. The commander jerked once to free the sword but it was all the time Markin needed.

The man barely got out cry for help before Markin’s dagger went to hilt under the rib cage to the heart. He fell forward against Markin, staring up and hanging on as his life drained out. He weakened, let go, and dropped.

No need for caution anymore. Though the commander’s cry had been weak, Markin, certain someone heard it, turned to the table to secure the bow and dagger.

The message canister was gone.

He swatted blankets, armor, and maps aside looking desperately. The tent flap opened.

“What’s the—you!” Scar dropped the cannister and drew his sword, a brilliant flash compared to bronze sword Markin wielded.

Scar was in the early autumn of his years, but that did not inhibit the fluidness of the movements that declared many had died on his blade. Scar lunged, but Markin dodged the arching strike. Scar’s skill was great, his rage greater. He kept his balance and roared, launching a backhanded swipe. Markin ducked under the taller man’s swipe. The sword swooshed over his head and nearly scalped him. Without the expected contact with Markin’s neck, the anger in Scar’s swing caused him to stumble and crash into a cot.

Markin glanced down. The canister rested at his feet. Scar recovered and began to turn; Markin seized the canister and scrambled out of the tent. You better be here Mott or we’re dead.

As he quickly picked up the bow and quiver, he thought he heard the rumble of thunder while he secured the weapons, but, it was horses running, many horses; stampeding through camp as lightning flashed, Markin grinned. Mott had done his work. Perfect. He glanced back just in time to see Scar winding up, raising his sword in the air.

Markin could only turn, but turning with a flash, he raised the only thing he had, the canister, to block Scar’s downward arc. He caught the full power of the strike directly on the lock. Sparks flew as the skies roared. The canister was shaken from his grip. Stunned, they both stared at it.

Markin jerked his sword out and struck out but Scar easily parried his attempt to end the fight. Their swords clanged over the message. The sword Markin took from the guard was no where near as stout as Scar’s. The weaker sword sheared off. Markin, backed away stumbling, but gained his balance. With a useless sword handle in his grip, he stared back at Scar. Scar kept his sword up while leaning to pick up the canister. It was damaged. Markin heard the cylinder squeak. For the time it takes for a grain of sand to fall in the hourglass, Scar glanced down to grip the canister. “No!” shouted Markin, flinging his stunted sword in desperation. The hilt smacked Scar above the ear with a thumping slice and glanced off.

Scar screamed, dropped his sword and the canister. He clutched his head and squirmed on the ground. Markin kicked him in the gut, sending him back a few feet, and grabbed the canister and the stout sword. When lightning flashed, he saw blood flowing from between Scar’s fingers. Kill him! Markin thought as he gritted his teeth. But he turned to see Mott towering over him on horseback. He handed the canister up. “Hold it tight. It’s broken.” Markin gripped the sword handle and looked at Scar.

“What are you doing!” shouted Mott. “We must ride, now!”

Gathishians in various states of undress were running toward them. Markin tore himself away and leaped on the horse. He glanced back to see Scar holding his head looking for his sword.

“Let’s go!” shouted Mott. An arrow flew by his head as lightning lit up the sky.

Markin scrambled up the horse and he in Mott tore the camp like demons.

They escaped as big drops of rain splashed on their faces. By the time they reached the edge of the forest, a downpour had extinguished many of the campfires. He and Mott disappeared into the gloom of the trees as Gathishians shouted cries of vengeance. Mott was laughing. Markin was thrilled having seized the chance to fulfill his oath. He felt sticky blood on his hands but the rain was washing it away. He had fought many times as King Honsa’s bodyguard. In all that time, he had injured many but only killed two men. He had killed twice that many in this one night—and now he was also a horse thief but he would not be an oath-breaker. They were soon lost in the darkness, but the sun would rise again. He had the message.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Fragment of the CREED | Creed_of_Kings on Xanga

It's like pulling a leaf from a forest or spilling a drop of blood from a self-inflicted wound. But, I will post a sample of the epic saga CREED OF KINGS that I've been writing later tonight or tomorrow. No one has read this fragment, not even my test readers. Not even my editor has seen it. This tiny fragment of the CREED focuses on the main female character. 

I may do something like this with each major character. <<< please visit my other blogs.