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Ripple Effect


rf4-anak-krakatoa

The star-speckled ocean above my canoe that morning glittered, and I read it as the world bidding me farewell.  I say morning, but it may as well have been night, the deep kind of night, where the rest of the world slumbered and only the predators walked, listened, and honed. My body, cleansed of every mote of energy, lay empty in that wooden bed, and I floated, drifted, and swayed upon a lazy borderless field of water that would, in a celestial understanding of minutes, become my burial chamber.

How many of them waited for my end? How many of them circled, fins sneaking through the water’s edge, and sniffed at me, listened for my breathing, my heartbeat to stop? I wondered if they salivated.

Yet, when the flash of red boomed from behind me, it was the same rocking sound which tore me from my glum graffitied graveyard of depraved thoughts of termination. I turned. The backdrop of an island, a greyed triangled shade against the morning curtain, growing brighter ever by painful degree. The smoke of the comet’s trail striking from land, or a volcano, or a smoke mountain. What did it matter?

My ribs cracked as I sat up and found, with lazy hand and weary fingers, the long cold blade of my travels. I grasped it and my lungs found a vibrancy to its touch.

Another crack from the grey and I stood. The back water rippled against the skin of my canoe and my legs screamed against my command for them to balance my erect body. My fingers now strong around the hilt of my blade, and I almost felt the fins in the water (I knew they were there) recede, regather themselves.

A final roar from the grey shade of land and I breathed deep. My legs obeyed, and I leapt into the waters below the starry gleam of early morning. Land or not, this would be my own ripple effect.

Thanks to Phutureprimitive for the inspiration.

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Chuck’s Writing Plan


LP: Chuck, the mic is yours.

Chuck: Thank you, LP. Hey, wow, nice place you got here.

LP: Yeah, thanks. It’s really coming along. If you want I can show you the upstairs, or the back yard. Get you a glass of ~ (watches Chuck remove revolver from hip holster and wave it erratically while clearing his voice into the mic.  LP runs away).

Chuck looks around, lights ciggy with revolver replica and begins.

———

HOW TO PUSH PAST THE BULLSHIT AND WRITE THAT GODDAMN NOVEL: A VERY SIMPLE NO-FUCKERY WRITING PLAN TO GET SHIT DONE

Life will never be kind to the writer. Particularly those who stay at home. You go to a full-time job outside the house, everyone gives you a wide berth to let you do what you need to do. Stay at home to write a book and everybody interrupts you like all you’re doing is watching a Teen Mom marathon on MTV while chowing down on pizza-flavored Combos and Haagen-Daaz.

Life intrudes upon you. It kicks down the door and stomps all over a writer’s practical aspirations to write. Kids. Dogs. A full-time job. A part-time job. Cleaning. Cooking. Pubic grooming. Xenomorph invasion. Hallucinations. Masturbation. LIQUOR AND MONKEY WRESTLING.

As your shoulders bear the burden of carrying the multiple shit-sacks of life’s daily ordureoutput, it gets easier and easier to push writing aside: “I’ll do that tomorrow,” you say, and next thing you know you’re in diapers once more, this time at an old folks’ home gumming chocolate pudding topped with a skin so thick you need scissors to cut it. Procrastination is the affirmation of an unpleasant and unwelcome but all-too-easy status quo. You merely need todo nothing and yet at the same time feel productive because you’ve promised no really I’ll pinky swear to put down some words tomorrow. You know what I want to say to that?

Tomorrow can guzzle a bucket of vulture barf.

Yesterday’s gone the way of the dodo. You have one day, and it is today.

Your promises are as hollow as a cheap-ass dollar-store chocolate Easter Bunny.

I’m going to give you literally no excuse at all to write and finish that novel. You know the one. The one that lives in your head and your heart but not on the page. The one you always say, “I’m going to write that book someday.” The one you talk about. But not the one you write. The one that makes you blah blah blah “aspiring” rather than the “real deal.” I’m going to give you a prescription for a writing plan that is simple, straightforward, and contains zero heinous fuckery. It’s so easy, a determined ten-year-old could do it. You will have no excuse. None. Zip.

Fuck-all.

Because if you come back to me and say, “I can’t do that,” you might as well have told me, “I can’t pick myself up out of this pile of mule poop I accidentally rolled in. I’m literally just bound to lay here in this once-warm now-cold heap of mule turds. Forever. Until I die. I have no self-capability and I am less motivated than your average sea cucumber. Please kick dirt on me, and if the word writer ever comes out of my mouth again, just slap my face.”

Further, if someone tells you they aren’t able to write a novel — “I don’t have time! My life is too busy!” — just send them a link to this post with my blessing.

Ready? Here’s the rules:

THE BIG 350

You’re going to write and finish the first draft of a novel in one year’s time.

You are going to do this by writing five days out of the week, or 260 days out of the year.

You are going to write 350 words on each of those 260 days.

That means, at the end of one year, you will have written 91,000 words.

More than enough for an average novel length.

To be clear, 350 words? Not a lot. At this point in your reading, this post is already 500 words long. You can sneeze 350 words. It’s like a word appetizer every day. Some days it’ll take you 15 minutes, other days two hours — but you’re going to commit to those 350 words every day, whether you type them out, or scrawl them in a notebook, or chisel them into the wall of your prison cell. You will carve these words out of the time you are given.

You get 24 hours a day. As do I. As do we all.

Grab a little time to write a little bit every day.

THE GOAL

The goal is not to write a masterpiece. It’s not to sprint. This ain’t NaNoWriMo. The goal is to finish a novel despite a life that seems hell-bent to let you do no such thing. It is you snatching snippets of word count from the air and smooshing them together until they form a cohesive (if not coherent) whole. It assumes a “slow and steady wins the race” approach to this book.

A finished first draft. That is the brass ring, the crown jewels, the Cup of the Dead Hippie God.

THE OTHER RULES

No other rules exist. Next question.

THINGS TO CONSIDER

Wanna do an outline? Great, go for it. Edit as you go or all in one lump? I don’t give a monkey’s poop-caked paw how you approach it. Do as you like. Just hit your target of 350 words per day.

Let me say that again: Just hit your target. Don’t turn off your targeting computer. Don’t listen to that weird old man. Use your targeting computer, Luke. The Force is some flimsy hoo-haw made by a bunch of loveless space cenobites. No, not those cenobites, goddamnit you’re confusing your movies. Stop fiddling with that ornate-looking puzzle box. CRIMINY.

Wrote more than your allotted and expected count in one day? Fuck yeah. High-five. Fist-bump. Slap-and-tickle. Give unto yourself the pleasures of the flesh and celebrate that you’re this much closer to the end goal. Didn’t write today? Well, goddamnit. Fine. Guess what? It’s only 350 words. Cram it into tomorrow’s word-hole. That’s still only 700 words. It’s not even a 1000 words. Some writers write that much before they wake up in the morning.

Make a spreadsheet if you have to. Track your 350 words per day (you’ll probably end up writing more than that consistently and hitting your tally quicker, particularly with a spreadsheet to remind you — you will discover it’s actually hard to stop at 350 words).

The word count is small enough and steady enough where you can comfortably fuck doubt right in the ear. You’re creeping through the draft like a burglar. One step at a time. Relax. Breathe. Like that one fish says to that other fish in the movie about all the fucking fish: Just keep swimming. Or for a differnt metaphor, you know how you eat an elephant? ONE BITE AT A TIME.

CONTAINS ZERO FUCKERY

This is easy! You can do this! You can do better than this! This is a plan on par with, “Do one push-up every day.” This is, “Don’t pee on the salad bar.” This is a bare minimum, common denominator, common sense, zero fuckery writing plan. You can’t do this, you don’t want to be a writer. You don’t get to be a writer. Not least of all because you can’t carve just a little bit of fat from your day to sizzle up 350 words in your story-skillet.

Lend this plan a little bit of your time.

Give this plan a little bit of your effort.

And in one year’s time, you will have a novel.

It won’t be a masterpiece.

It will need editing.

But it’ll be a first draft of something real.

Something many so-called “writers” never achieve.

One year.

Weekends off.

Just 350 words for 260 days.

Shut up and write.

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Faëryn’s Journal (day 80) : Encounters


When the party moved, it did so without notice from Heineken. Okies was also there the evening before. He joined in some of the festivities, but only in face, and only for a few points of conversation. Then he was gone again, and none of us knew what to make of him. Was he a man, a wizard, a daemon, angel? I simply had to touch my back and my side to be reminded of his generosity. He told me I was needed, and my being here with this party, I hoped, showed him that I had made an effort to recognize his actions and his good favor.

The only thing we remembered is that we went to bed the night before and when we woke up, it was upon the fragrant soil of our own world, bless the Forest Queen – Mieliekki. We were close to town and we showed up at the assigned location, with a considerable amount of unpleasant words from the humans of my party, save Dolan, who seemed lost in his own smiles upward, soaking up the world around him, giving thanks to his own god.

The caravan accepted us and didn’t ask questions as to the arrangements of our group. It simply trusted us to work as the unit which we acted to be. Malcer handled the pleasantries of the conversation with the other humans of the town and the rest of them didn’t speak. Some of the those who were responsible for the travel arrangements looked shocked when first setting their eyes upon the dragonborn, but she made no attempt to explain.

And within several long minutes, the caravan set out for their town of destination, Greenest, and we took our own positions around it.

The sun grew higher in the clear sky that Spring morning, and the first day passed smoothly. We had five more, and each of us that night prayed in our own way for an equally smooth day from then on.

But Malcer even said it himself, “Wizards are a fickle bunch,” he said. “Their water’s are never smooth the whole way across.”

images

An orc raid two nights later proved his words true, and I felt myself become jittered. At first sight, my insides rattled with the fire of an angry wind through a burning forest. I went out under the full moon and the scattered eyes of Father Nature to commune with my kind. I walked on my own terms, in my own direction.

…and when I saw them, I saw the red flush of my heart wanting to rip every one of them into pools of their own filth. Yet, the smaller of voices within me reminded me of where I was and with whom I was now considered brother.

I raced back to the caravan and in a yelling whisper, woke up the rest of the party.

“Orcs! Three hundred yards west. We must get positions. Positions!” I ran around flustered and with Elvin haste, something I knew the humans of the party found perhaps a respectable trait. But if ego existed, I wanted to save it for the sheen of my arrow tips.

They surrounded us with their ugly grunts and foul smells well before we saw their lazy fat forms.

The party spread out and one by one, we watched them fall around the caravan. Tom Cullen took the brunt of the screams from inside the caravan, ensuring the screams stayed within the confinement of the walls.

“Shut up and stay there!” He insisted, pointing the sharp tip of his waist knife at two of those inside. They closed the wooden curtains and he slammed his knife into curtains, nailing it to the frame of the caravan. In a turn he turned and threw another knife into the throat of an oncoming fire orc.

The orc loosed a wail as the silver blade whipped into his neck as a thick dark blue spouted from his throat.

As he went to reclaim his blade I was atop the caravan with small but steady steps of the ranger my father trained. Yet, dismally I fired my weapons, and as my enemies moved, many of my points were lost in the tall crass and dirt patches of the caravan’s camp site. On one occasion, I was reaching back into my quiver when the damning point of an orcan staff slammed into my shoulder. I was flung from my position and landed hard on the packed earth.

Thank Mielekki I was able to roll under the wheels with my small form, allowing the air to slowly gather anew in my lungs.

The process was slow, but we made it out alive, as we did in the next few days, following orders of some, asking directions of others. We were a party of assistance, and each of us did his best in his own capacity to provide for the survival of the whole. We didn’t know one another well, but we knew collectively that were we to lose one member of the group, our successes would be many times lower in future opportunities.

DnD, Uncategorized

Faëryn’s Journal (79) – Day IV: The Makings of a Party


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The opulence of the castle’s interior held its radiance as I trailed the wizard’s quiet steps. White walls shot into the sky of its insides, far outside the scope of my vision. I could not help but feel out of place here in these halls; my level of comfort had long been part of the body that was the forest, the trees, and the spirits within them. Although I was the guest here, my body was not right.

The echoes which drifted back to us were those of our footfalls, and they were more whispers than anything else – almost phantasms of sound playing games with my Elvin sense of reality. They existed only if I seemed to imagine them, and when they were not, I questioned whether I imagined them at all.

Upon my travels through the towns of men, I had learned of the word ‘chandelier’ – an arrangement of lights hanging from somewhere above. I did not know the reason for this ceremony, nor why the arrangement of the lights never followed any sort of specific pattern. At first sight, I remember feeling almost afraid. The only reason for such a gathering of luminescence in the High Forest was generally a fire, and one that bright was cause for alarm. Yet those in the world below were mere flickers of a candle compared to those hanging above us as we walked the halls in this place of sorcery. I looked upon them at first with awe in their arrangement. Stagnant glimmering things, they reminded me of the fireflies of my home – giddy spirits of flight and whimsy, which hummed through environments of positivity and celebration. But these were all clustered together, and they changed color, dimming from hue to hue in a progress I could not follow.

But they were floating. The lights were not made in the cities of man, but from some other ethereal material. They were simply hovering fountains of flowing light – and I was there as audience, captivated by their glimmer, their changing color, and their glittered mystical showers.

“My friend.” Heinekin was smiling in the glow of his long untarnished robe. I noticed I had stopped following him and had been led astray by the show of lights off to one of the two sides. Heiniken stood at the other side of a small stone bridge, under which flowed a calming white stream, the extremities I did not attempt to discover. I shook myself away and made my way across the bridge, rejoining my guide.

Several turns and archways later, we entered a room occupied by four others. “Here we are,” Heiniken said, stopping and turning to welcome me to pass him on the way inside. He gestured to an open seat at a short table made of red oak. The light caught the surface and it glimmered as I approached. I noticed the others standing in my periphery. They had risen as we came in. I made cursory eye contact, and brought my eyes back to the glitter-clad stone floor. I took my seat before I allowed my head to swivel in surveying of those seated around me.

“You sure that’s your seat?”

I looked up to the gentle growl of a voice. A swirl of fright rolled through me. Sitting across from me was a ~

KIra

“Dragon!” I yelled and the lightening of my reactions thrust me backwards. My seat dropped and my body slammed upon the unforgiving stone. I rose in a flash to my feet, the string of my bow pulled, but my hands shaking with the unsure arrow. Three trials later, just as I had the bow and arrow placed at the ready, they flung from my hands. They moved through the air, separated and lay lightly upon the oaken surface of the communal table.

“It’s not often that guests break my furniture during their first day here,” Heiniken said.

I looked up at him. His demeanor was wizardly – calm, implacable, and I was unsure as to how to read it. Some chuckles came from the table, then I looked down to find the wooden chair now in small jagged wooden pieces across the stone.

“Oh great Mielikki, dear, I’m so very ~”

He chuckled and I watched then each piece, great and small, reform and connect, and the chair in seconds was again standing just as I had found it when I walked in. “Now, shall we try again?” he asked. “Kira, since you’ve already initiated contact, perhaps you should begin.”

The dragon thing cleared its throat and stood. Its frame actually lowered as it stood erect. It’s scaly skin was a beautiful reddish orange, and its eyes were of the same color, but richer and clear.

“I’m Kira, and you needn’t fear me devouring you whole. I am a dragon, yes, but not a full dragon. Not exactly,” she said. “I’m Dragonborn. It should be enough for now that I tell you this much – that I won’t kill you. I’m new here as well.” She gestured to everyone around the table with a nod. “Everyone is.” There was a pause then and I wasn’t sure if she sighed then or was unsure as to what to say to me next. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance,” she said. She grunted and sat back down in her seat. It seemed that it was more the case that she sat ‘up’ in her seat, but perhaps it was a strange ritual of her culture to which I was simply unfamiliar. I was weary of such things; I have never seen those of this creature’s features. The others were human-looking and I felt more accommodated to their ways, but I took my time looking at the draonborn, not knowing what at all to expect from her.

The others went around the table introducing themselves. From the dragonborn there was Tom Cullen, a younger nondescript human. He seemed to me like a farm worker, one closer to nature, from the way he dressed. But it was his behavior that was the most unnerving. I have only found humans to be those I am unable to read. I’ve gotten better with my experience, although most of it has been at a distance. My interaction with them has not always been the most intentional. But this one made my insides strange, turning, different.

He spoke quietly with his eyes down, not to any one of us directly. efusing to focus on those who would listen to his words. His hands fidgeted with something as he spoke. I spotted it instantly as currency, human coin. His hand twirled it back and forth across his knuckles. But the coin moved seemingly without his conscious effort. He looked up and met my eyes once. He made a quick assessment of my face as his fingers allowed quick tickling of the round ounce of silver. He brought his knuckles together and the coin flipped back and forth from one hand to the next.

He straightened then, and smirked. He brought his hands up to his face, begging my eyes to watch. “Did you know that the skin,” he whispered. “Makes the best of masks.” In a fluttering of his fingers, he turned his hands back to me, showing palm and his hand’s obverse. The coin was gone.

“Malcer,” said the man next to him. His voice was grumpy and sounded like the grinding roots of dying elms. A wilted denim hat sat plopped upon the silver tufts which hung upon a young man’s face. His drab traveling robe in need of a good river wash spoke of a man who had known more of the road away from the city of man than the city itself.

“Faëryn of the High Forest,” I said. My voice low with my slight bow.

He grunted. “Been around there a few times in the last hundred years or so. I remember sharing a cup of cinnamon oak wine with your kind once. I was young then, helped out an Elvin friend with some issues with the leaves of the Grandfather Tree.”

I heard my home on this man’s lips and placed my hands together in an Elvin butterfly salute. “Your travels warm the land of my home,” I nodded slightly in the respectful gesture of this man I had never met.

He grunted again, “Cute little fella’” he said. “I was sorry to hear about what happened to your home. And your father.”

Fire grew within me.

“And I don’t think you had a chance to get out of it, if that makes any sense. You or your family.”

“How do you speak of my father like you knew him?” My reaction was swift, but caused by something that still played me like an elm flute.

The man shook his head and looked around the table briefly. “Heineken, I have reason to believe that not all present are understanding of the workings of a wizard.”

The wizard of the castle addressed me then, calmly. “No need to be so hasty for answers, my dear Sylvan. All in good time.” He handed the voice over to the last member of the table other than me, a burly tree of a man who greeted me only with the smiles of the sun. A light from above shone upon him, taking my focus off Malcer, his denim hat falling into the shadows. Heineken’s house was an animal under its master’s control.

“Blessings young traveler,” he said, his arms opening as he leaned in. Without the slightest hesitation his oaken arms crunched me into him and I was clung to his body with force. I yelped a bit and the pressure vanished as he pulled back and held me by the shoulders. “Oh Sweet Lathander, are you all right?! What’s wrong?”

“Elves,” Heineken cut in, “Mr. Thresh, are not accustomed to the necessities of physical touch as you are.”

The man turned back to me and guffawed. “Ha! Well, you have my apologies, young friend. I am Dolan Thresh.” He held a hand out, realizing it would be more accommodating greeting for my kind. Abashedly, I bowed my head and offered the butterfly greeting of my people with my introduction.

“It is by the grace of Lathander the Bright that we have shared this path. You have my sword, my blood, and my heart.”

There was an exhaustive sigh across the table. “Can we sort of push things along, please.” Tom Cullen was looking at Heineken pleadingly.

“Wizards, Mr. Cullen, are often want to enjoy a bit of human spirit,” said our host, graceful. “But yes,” he addressed the party as a whole, “we may continue after we hear from you, Faëryn.”

My words were few, but I stuck to the topic that I knew, wanting only to give the basics of who I was and the story of my arrival.

~

         “And now that you all are here, here is my task for you. Collectively, I’d like you to ensure the safe journey of a particular caravan. There is a family of royalty who needs to make their destination. They happen to be passing through some lands that are rather dangerous.” He looked around the table. “Their survival is something I am asking you to protect.”

“We were brought to you great castle in the sky so that you could tell us to protect people down below to get from one point to another?” Kira’s voice expressed another flavor of dissatisfaction. “I’m sorry,” she said, getting up from the table, the height of her form dropping a bit when she stood. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather just be on my way. Forgive me if I was expecting something a bit more of an adventure.”

“Please,” the great wizard said, raising his hand to her. Kira’s body lifted and was reset into her seat at the table. “Do sit down.”

When she was seated again, Malcer’s voice came through, his head shaking a bit. “The ways of the wizard; they never understand.”

“I beg you all to be patient,” Heineken said. “I am not finished addressing you.

“Let us begin here,” he said. He made another slight motion with both of his hands and, together, we were wrapped with beautiful green traveling capes clasped in front of us with a shiny golden broach – a serpentine beast eating its own tail. The end of its tail carried three small red stones, a deep velvet green one sparked in its eyes. It clasped in front, and each of us, I noticed, felt them, touched them, wanted to understand them.

“You are henceforth to be known as the Clan of the Mist, an explanation to which I am cannot now reveal. This broach is your symbol of unity, your safe ground, your bastion of community and trust. The caravan is your current task, not the full adventure to which I am asking you to commit. I am sending you forth, in no uncertain terms, into an unknowable future of both glory and misery. You will find yourselves risking all in search of your own personal glories, and with great reward, as natural law has it, comes the greatest of risks. From outside the circles of these trials, this very adventure own vision, both Death and Eternity will be watching. I have selected you for a grand and thematic journey, and it has taken me a good deal of strain upon my patience. But I am quite confident that I have chosen with an adequate degree of sapience.”

He looked over to Kira and gestured with an open hand. “Yes, my dear Dragonborn. Should you choose to leave now, and return the sanctity of your mundane life of prize fighting for survival, I will allow you to do so. You’ll not be asked for anything further, you will return to your life, and you will not hear from me again. This I leave as your choice.”

Heineken stopped then and waited, looking at her.

Kira said nothing.

“But should you choose to say,” he looked then at all of us. “I will accept this as your final formal declaration of acceptance, and there will no longer be an option to turn back…ever.”

None of us said anything.

“Well then!” Heineken smiled and opened his palms. There was a renewed light which shone then upon the entire table. “It pleases me to have you! Let this be your welcome from me and the entirety of my cloud home. You will stay for the evening and your entertainment and meal will be grand. You will leave at first light, and it will be as a party in whole.”

We dined, and some of us even laughed, we got to know each other a bit. There were words spoken, and in our own ways, we were still ourselves, yet we also knew that we had given ourselves to Heineken and this party. And the next day we would find out a small part of what that meant.

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Acid God – 100 Word Challenge


Chuck’s challenge this week is to run for 100 words – no more. Now, I pass it on to you, the intrepid writers out there. 100 words. No more.

~lp

giphy

“Just shut up and drink it,” Drake said, pointing at the glass filled with green liquid on the wooden table.

“No,” I said. “It looks disgusting. Besides, I’m Jewish. I don’t drink non-kosher shit like that.”

“Fine, then just picture it made with holy water and Body of Christ,” he said. “There’s something you’re not telling me, and I need to know.”

“Doesn’t work like that,” I said. I paused and rethought. “Fine. You wanna know?”

I tipped the drink back and spat it in his face.

Drake’s face smoked melted. He howled in pain.

“I’m a god,” I said.

DnD

Faëryn’s Journal – Day IV


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The mists, silky and playful, gathered and passed as I made my way up the stone steps to the towering double doors of the castle in the clouds. They gave way without my beckoning, and with heavy creaks, granted my entrance and bade my welcome.

The hall before me was grand and well-lighted, the limits of its interior extending well beyond any structure of man I had ever encountered, and my Elvin ears found only the pleasant sounds of the near silence therein. I walked in a bit deeper into the hall, my head turning quickly with keen interest at the decorations upon the towering walls and the curious celestial colors which glimmered from one second to the next.

I walked upon a stone floor, unworldly in its cleanliness, my range boots, feeling quite out of place, noticing first the space around me. It was a forest of stone, extending the breadth of almost twenty oaks to my left and right. Yet, it was not completely barren. Standing sentry upon each wall were a selection of statues, grandiose in their stature, Each poised in a resonant and beautiful gold, standing atop its own solitary earthen platform. Five of them stood equidistant on each wall, frozen in different positions, which seemed to me that it suited them, somehow.

I walked over to the left side of the great room. My breath was shallow as I wanted to keep my ears open. I did not want to offend, though I realized I was there as a guest. Yet stepping through the house of a host was certainly a gift granted by Mielikki, Queet of the Forest, and my Guide Spirit, and I knew respect was to be shown here. I said silent thanks to her as I made my steps quiet as I made my way to the left side of the hall, closing the distance between me and the towering guards. I admired the craftsmanship of the metal and curious, hearing nothing around, I came to one I was drawn to, a man of the forest, it seemed.

His face was natural and strong, and reminded me of the green elves from of my home. He stood tall in the Sylvan garb that he was carved in. Only those familiar to my home could know the detail with which we wore our earth colors. Though the statue was all gold, it was clear that the artisan had experience with my kind. He held two swords, both hanging downward in the traditional stance of forgiveness and leniency. It was a hero it seemed, this person. Yet the figure did not bring to mind any character from the legends I had grown up with. I reached out to touch the boot of the figure atop the platform.

“It’s the only Sylvan in my collection.” I spun with blades aloft at the ready, finding before me a human man, senescent, dressed in a white robe and a warming white, both matching his hair and his beard. He met my reaction with a chuckle.

“There is no need for combat here, my Sylvan friend. You are in protective hands in my home.” Hands clasped, he walked closer and stood beside me looking up at the figure. “He was one of my closest comrades from below,” he said warmly. “Led me through incredibly dense war-torn jungles and more than a few uncivilized pockets of the breathing world,” he said. He paused and there was a reverence to the seconds that passed then.

“The world would do well to know more about the Sylvan,” he said turning to me. Then, back to the statues on our side and those across from us. He gestured to the large open space, the castle in its entirety. “You are welcome to my home, young traveller.”

I re-sheathed my swords swiftly and bowed. “My many thanks for your welcome, my host,” I said, losing the formalities of my Sylvan background. “I’m ~”

“Faëryn,” he said, turning back to me with a smile. “Yes, I know. There are few things left in this existence that I’m ignorant of, and should any of those show up at my castle, I’ll just keep my doors locked.” He laughed and gestured further into the castle.

“My name is Heineken, and this is my home. Come,” he said. “it’s time for you to meet the rest in your party. I have words to deliver to all of you.” He took several steps, and then stopped. He turned back to the elf upon the pedestal. I watched him regard the idol with sympathy, love, and a nod of acceptance.

Heineken closed his eyes in what must have been a silent prayer. Seconds later he turned back to the hallway and was ahead of me. I followed, fully trusting this man.