Thursday, July 28, 2011

Comin' Right Up!

Well, you voted, I listened, and it looks like the next part to Sheaf will be next!  I'll start writing it tonight, and have it up sometime tomorrow (unless horrible things happen).

Thanks for voting!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

I'm a big fan of some democracy, so I've decided to throw some decision-making in the hands of you, the readers.  What's the next story I'm going to be working on?

Results (As of 12:33am Central)
Carrion:  2
Censorless: 1
The Quest: 1
Sheaf: 6
Something New:2

Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Story of Lyra Swiftfist, Part Four

This is Part Four of a story created by guest writer Beth Stoneman.  Part Three can be found here.

The journey to the monastery took months, and felt as though we'd traveled across the world to our destination—but at the end of the trip, it was not the monastery that amazed me. The monastery was nestled in a corner of a grand city the men called Onegas, the capitol city of the Vigilant Empire.

I'd never been to an Imperial city, and I remember wondering if they were all like this. It seemed to stretch on forever, in a never-ending sea of marketplaces, temples, and magnificent houses. There were stations at many corners that the brothers explained were 'teleportation stations', where you could purchase inner-city instant transportation, but we used none of them, my companions preferring to demonstrate as much of the massive city to me as possible. As a result, a third of the journey seemed to have consisted of merely navigating the city to the tucked-away corner in which the monastery sat.

The building was modest, but large enough to harbor a host of people training in unarmed combat. The men that recruited me told me about other monasteries and other ways of training, ways of life. The building before me was nothing like what they described, but it looked much more like something I could live with. They showed me to my room, where I set my belongings that I had carried with me from Alcarinore, and then gave me a tour. There were many fighting rooms, but equally many meditation rooms. Whole galleries were dedicated to leaders of the Order that had accomplished great feats, and others were dedicated to magical garb that were described as granting brilliant abilities to their wearers. I never saw a suit of armor in the whole place, and there were very few weapons. The only weapons I saw were strange weapons I'd never seen before – sharp disks that, when thrown, could pierce most anything, simple long sticks, curved blades, and other stranger weapons. The whole place was beautiful inside, though much of my awe was inspired by the novelty of it all.

After my tour, I went back to my room. It was austere, but much better than anything I'd ever lived with. The best part was the plush bed for me to sleep on – a luxury with which I'd never been endowed.
Training was rigorous, but I learned much that I would never before have had access to. I asked my teachers to help me learn to make peace with my suffering, and I had food every day. The food was the best part. It was delicious, and I had never felt more strong. The monks gave me enough to sustain me, which was more than ever. I remember marveling at the fact that, apparently, being fed this often was not odd to everyone else.

Years passed of happiness and hard work. I had little time for play, but this was the first time I'd felt like I had a family since my parents passed. I'd made friends in the slums, yes, but I never felt like I belonged there without my parents to guide me. Here was a place with comfortable accommodations and enough food that the familiar starving sensation was a thing of the past.

I did find time to myself, however, which I usually spent getting to know the other monks. There was one man I related to really well, Brother Alec, whom I spent the majority of my time with. He was kind, if a bit coarse, and a skilled fighter. He often fought upside-down, choosing to adapt some of the combat maneuvers we learned to a more risky style that looked more impressive and was harder to evade. I sparred with him and helped him with his adapted maneuvers—I still remember the week I had bruises all the way up one of my arms. He was gentle with me, however, only wishing to help condition my bones, never to actually harm me.

We spent most of our time together, wandering the grounds and enjoying the beauty of some of the gardens. I connected with him on a deeper, more profound level than I did with anyone else. Our connection was almost spiritual; therefore, when I finally admitted to myself that I'd fallen in love, I'm sure it would not have been a surprise to anyone that saw us together. Those were the best years of my life, even though we hid it from everyone. Alec made me happier than I had ever been. I'd never known such kindness except as a small child, but those days seemed long gone. He was everything to me at that time in my life, and sparring with him helped me further advance my training. He was both a lover and a best friend, when I'd never even had a friend before.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sheaf, Part Four

Note:  This is Part Four of the story.  Part Three can be found here.

I wasn't entirely certain where I was going, but it didn't seem to matter at the time.  I merely needed to move, to seek out something...not new, but new to me.  It was more difficult than you might think, however.  I'd enter towns miles away that the human Joseff had never even thought to travel near, but only to remember only a few short moments later that I had been there, in fact, in my thirtieth incarnation, or my fifth, or any other of my iterations.  It was quite frustrating, because, especially during the beginning period of my transformation, my full memories as Sheath were not available to me, only surfacing at times that sometimes seemed incredibly random.

Sheaf paused, reading the small sign above the door, labeling the building as 'The Last Cow'.  He nodded to himself, grateful to find a tavern after days of hard marching on the road.  He gripped the hilt of Veracity, just in case, and entered the pub.

The Last Cow was kept quite dim inside, with each of the windows heavily shuttered, and the only light coming from old-fashioned torches on the walls.  Still, the room seemed cool, somehow, and was a welcome relief from the oppressive, smothering heat outside.

He took a seat at the bar.  "An ale, please," he called to the barman, reaching into his purse for some copper and throwing it on the table.  Not for the first time, he was glad that he had been able to convince the morticians to release to him all of the former Sheaf's belongings, including his considerable carrying money--had he been forced to rely fully on Joseff's personal wealth...well, it was really good that he hadn't been forced to rely fully on Joseff's personal wealth.  He nodded at the barman as the tankard of ale was slid to him, and took a large drink of the cold, refreshing bevarage.

"Interesting contrast, isn't it?" he heard a female voice say, and he turned to see a small woman slide in the seat next to him.  She was rather pretty, in a stern kind of way, with her brown hair pulled into a tight bun, and a pair of square spectacles perched on her pert nose.

"What's that?"  he asked.

"The contrast this little tavern offers.  In an age of engineering wonders, we see that The Last Cow has rebelled against the ideas of sunrods, powered lights, or any other form of technological lighting, utilizing only torches for illumination.  However, by some feat of magic or technology, they are able to keep the room completely cool and comfortable on one of the hottest days of the year."

Sheaf took another long drink.  "There's a flaw in your argument, ma'am."

"Oh?  And what would that be?"

"You seem to think that the use of torches are the equivalent of the use of a barbarian's club, completely lacking in refinement and intelligence.  On the contrary, the harnessing of fire is arguably the first technological advancement ever made by the sentient species."

She smiled, then, and Sheaf realized that he once again had the body of a very young man, and that logic and reason are oft-times no match for instinct and desire.  "The scholarly type?" she asked, "I do love an intelligent man."

"Oh, I don't know how much of a scholar I am," Sheaf said, wondering if he was able to blush, and knowing that he should know.

She laughed, and the strange holy symbol she wore around her neck sparkled in the torchlight as her head tilted back.  "All the same, it's an absolute pleasure to meet you.  My name is Karin."

"Well met," he said, returning the smile.  He glanced at the holy symbol she wore, which featured a pair of wickedly sharp -looking calipers, and felt the mental twitch that told him that he should know what that was.  "I'm unfamiliar with that symbol," he said, gesturing to it.

"Oh, this?" she picked up the symbol and fingered it reverently.  "I am a cleric of a god of science.  It's little known, but very important."

"Oh?  What's his name?"

She looked at him for a moment, as if pondering, before she shrugged.  "As far as I know, it doesn't have a name.  If it does, it's reserved for far more important beings than I to know about."

She didn't seem to be lying, but all the same, Sheaf felt like she was hiding something.  Still, her personal religious allegiances weren't any real concern of his, and it wasn't as if her symbol sported the skull and scythe of Nerull.

"Hey, why don't you take a walk?" he heard a gruff voice say behind him.  He turned to see a large, heavyset man with the muscles and callused hands of a farmer behind him, sporting a thick, wild beard and a balding head.

"I'm sorry?" Sheaf asked.

"The lady, here, is out of your league.  Take a walk.  I'd like to have a chat with her."

Sheaf glanced at Karin, who had her brows furrowed.  "Sorry, friend, but she doesn't much seem as though she wants to chat with you."

Even as the large fist smashed into the side of his face, Sheaf thought, I really should have seen that coming.  But it had happened so fast that there was no time to react, no time to prepare, just time to be thrown out of his chair and land on the peculiarly cold floor.  He stood, the edges of his vision turning red.  "Sybgib lufecrof!" he yelled, throwing his hand forward.  A giant, shining blue hand materialized before him, speeding towards the man and lifting him off his feet, before slamming him into the wall behind him.

A group of people at a table near where the assailant was now pinned all stood.  "Did you see what he did to Raph?" one of them said, and they all began approaching menacingly, each adding his own threat to a nearly indecipherable din.  A few of them looked at least apprehensive, but there were still six of them.

No matter, Sheaf thought, and he threw his hand before him again.  "Sygib lutecraft!"

Nothing happened.  Well, nothing happened that he wanted to happen.  The only real result was that the three members of the group approaching began to smile, apparently seeing no more danger, and the group as a whole picked up speed.

Thinking quickly, Sheaf drew Veracity, twirling it expertly in his hand before casually slashing the chair he stood next to.  The paper-thin blade sliced through the wood like a hot knife goes through butter, and the pieces of the chair fell to the ground.

"Do we really want to do this?" Sheaf asked.  "I don't know how fast the coffin-maker in this town is."

It turned out that no, they didn't really want to do this.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Carrion, Part Two

Note:  This is Part Two of the story.  Part One can be found here.

A wise man is good.  A wise teacher is better.  A wise student is best.  --Davin Swiftfist

Naomi grit her teeth and winced as a particularly sharp pain moved through her head, as if a shard of glass was slowly pushing it's way through her brain.  The reins fell from her hand as she reached up to grasp her forehead, a slight gasp of pain escaping from her lips.

"Whoa," she heard Quarian say to his horse, before she felt his reassuring palm on her shoulder.  "Are you all right, Naomi?" he asked, the concern evident in his voice.

Quarian Moonbreeze was one of those people that couldn't just leave something be.  The elf looked at all the problems in the world as personal affairs, wrongs that he had to personally set right, like an old hero from one of the songs he sang so often.  Often, his sense of pure, unadulterated goodness was endearing, and his exuberance sometimes made her feel as if maybe the five of them really were heroes, righting wrongs in a world desperately seeking saviors.  Other times, like now, after a night of little sleep and with the knowledge that there was absolutely nothing he could do to help (and he should know it), it was merely annoying.

"I'm fine," she said, opening her eyes to meet his concerned gaze.  "It's just a headache."

He nodded, a pure, honest sympathy in his eyes, and she sighed, feeling ashamed at her annoyance.  "Let's get going, Quar.  I'll be all right."  She took the reins again and clicked at her horse, urging him forward once more.

They rode on at a leisurely pace, giving their horses a break.  They'd been on the road for well over two weeks, and they hadn't seen any Imperial Wardens in a period well longer than that.  If trouble were to break out in the rocky wilderness they rode through, it would certainly be best if the mounts weren't already exhausted.

"How much longer to a town, Quar?"  Zedar, asked, urging his steed even with the party leader.

"I'm not sure," the elf replied, twisting in the saddle to pull a map case out of his pack.  He unrolled it and stared at it for a few moments.  "We're nearing Sindesta.  Elven town."

"The forest proper is at least a day's ride away," Zedar said, shading his eyes with the palm of his hand and peering at the landscape.  "Looks more like two."

"I'd say it's maybe a day's ride once we're inside.  So that leave's us two to four days until we see civilization again."

"I don't know how civilized it's going to be.  We're in the middle of nowhere."

"I, for one, have had quite enough of what you consider civilization, Zedar," Sev'tai said from behind Naomi.  She twisted around to see a sneer on his well-tanned face.  "Prostitutes.  Gambling.  Stone and smoke and not even the slightest hint of respect for the natural, real world."

"Yeah...." Zedar said, wistfully, "Sounds good, doesn't it?"

"No, it doesn't sound good, you--"

"Okay, okay," Quarian said, raising his hands in the air, the map waving in the wind like the flag to some strange country.  "First of all, it's a proper Elven city.  Elven.  As in, I hate to disappoint, but I daresay you'll see few prostitutes, and even less stone."

"Much more sensible."

"Second of all, I haven't had a proper bathing in over a week, so at this point I'd consider a deep well and a bale of soft hay to sleep in civilization."  He rolled up the map and shoved it back in it's case before stuffing it back in his bag.  He began to twist the guitar firmly strapped on his back around, asking, "Anyone have a request?"

"Not now," Naomi hissed, her face alert.  The road they were riding on led through the lush green hills of the region, avoiding the large rocky deposits that populated the landscape.  Her eyes darted back and forth, taking in the lay of the land, the small herd of cows that could barely be seen to the far East of the road, the single hawk soaring high in the air.  Then, she slowly and quietly slid her rapier free from her sheath.  "We're not alone."

Sunday, July 03, 2011

A Thousand Apologies

I'm out of town for a bit, helping a friend, and I'll have little to no Internet access for roughly two weeks.  Unfortunately, that means no new posts during that time.  Don't worry, regular posts well continue ASAP :D

©2011 Cerebral Vomit DESIGNED BY JAY DAVIS