Mar. 21st, 2016

grayfoxblog: painting of a gryphon backlit by the sun (Default)
The more I start working on my creative projects seriously, the more I've become aware of my tendency to hop around from project to project as the mood strikes me.

I've heard some people equate this to bipolar tendencies. Personally I think that's going a little far (real bipolar is quite serious, and it's always bad juju to diagnose yourself!), but I can understand the sentiment. Sometimes the creative juices just flow from me, and it almost feels like I'm in a higher state of consciousness where all the words and plot arcs and the character concepts fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Other times getting the words down is like pulling teeth. I can't think of anything.

I've heard one way to overcome this is to just force yourself to write every single day. But personally? I project-hop. The answers will come to me eventually, and I'd rather be doing something productive and fun to me while waiting for those ideas to coalesce.

So where have I been? I've been in the midst of a project bounce. I've recently gained developer status over at Tamriel Rebuilt after a few months of waiting for approval on my showcase, and now that I'm clear to write and implement quests, that's what I'm doing! This in turn got me to pick up Skyrim again and start in earnest on hashing out an idea I've had for a follower mod. My follower's probably in a releasable form now, but I want to see his questline to a more acceptable stage of completion before I release my alpha. It's been fun and fulfilling work, and I just hope I get to share it all soon!

But I must eventually turn back to Shadows and to Lives of the Saints as well. With 'Saints more closely related to my current projects, I keep coming up with all sorts of ideas I want to put into the novel, and am having a hard time narrowing it down! I've been debating letting go of having the chapters be in a logical order at this point, and to just write as the ideas occur. Worry about sewing it all together later.

But I wouldn't want to make it too confusing for my readers. The struggle goes on! Lives of the Saints is next on my list for a project bounce, and then I really must get back to Shadows. Last I checked I had 32 downloads, which was amazing, but no reviews yet. Perhaps they're waiting for a more completed version before they cast judgement.

Must bounce!
grayfoxblog: painting of a gryphon backlit by the sun (Default)
"Is that it?" Azzir hissed. They had traveled for several days through featureless desert, the landscape only broken here and there by a rising dune or an outcropping of rock. Now they huddled just under the crest of one such dune, squinting down at the landscape below. The moon was dim, and the dunes looked like the blue folds of a bedsheet, stained by something darker in their rumpled center.

Drai didn't answer Azzir for a long time. He had been chewing on a stick of hinterweed thoughtfully for the past hour. Azzir was annoyed. The Sandwalker impressed on Azzir that he wasn't to use the hinterweed within days travel of Shuluk Kar, but clearly the warning didn't apply to himself.

Suddenly Drai's eyes flared and he spat out the stick. "Yes," he said. "That is Shuluk Kar."

"Let's get closer," said Azzir, and he wriggled over the crest of the dune and down it. The night was very quiet; no wind was blowing. But as they drew closer to the bantam grove, he heard a high whistling, like grass stems rubbing together.

"Friend Azzir must be careful," said Drai. His voice was thick, perhaps with fear, or perhaps he got a mouthful of sand, Azzir thought.

"It's just folktales!" Azzir snapped, more to reassure himself than to convince Drai.

The blot on the landscape had grown and taken form. Yucca rose against the dark sky like thin fingers. One began swaying in an ecstasy of convulsion, and Azzir stopped short. Drai bumped into him. Slowly, the branches turned to their customary stillness, and both relaxed.

"Just an animal," said Azzir, and he didn't bother raising his voice for Drai this time.

Bantam was a strange name for the groves, Azzir thought as he walked further in. Yucca grew around the dwellings of his people sometimes, but these were the biggest yucca he had ever seen. They rose over his head by several arm lengths, the masses of spikes on the end of each branch spreading more than three handspans each. "Nothing small about it at all," Azzir mumbled as he stopped to examine the bark of one.

"They are called bantam for that they are smaller than forest." Azzir jumped as Drai loomed up beside him.

In his surprise, Azzir forgot to snap at him. "What is a forest?"

"Groves like these that go for miles. Brownskins have them. I have never seen one." Drai gingerly reached out to touch the bark of the yucca. "There is much life here."

"Well, I haven't seen any sign of your Lurid, or your heshti. Nothing out here to be afraid of at all, in fact!" Azzir laughed, but it sounded thin and echoed back to him eerily. He snapped his teeth together in chagrin.

In reply, Drai snapped off a piece of the yucca's bark and held it up to the moonlight. Azzir shivered, for something crawling on it, a beetle or a centipede.

"Someone ought to cut that thing down," he muttered. "It's infested!"

"No," said Drai. "Creatures live in these like you live in stone. They are not heshti, though they gather where heshti have been."

"Is there one nearby now?" Azzir asked. "A heshti?"

Drai was silent for a long time, turning his head this way and that. "Shuluk Kar not growing much this time of year. Heshti have no bodies to steal. You cannot hear them, Friend Azzir?"

Azzir swallowed a lump in his throat, and stood still. The soft whistling had become a constant buzzing, rising and falling without rhythm. "That...noise? That's them?"

"If you had hinterweed, you would see them. Be glad. They are terrible!"

Drai spoke no more, but turned for a clearing in the grove, carefully placing his mocassins on the sand so that he made no sound. Azzir followed, and waited until they were a fair distance from the leaning yucca before speaking. He was feeling much better now that he was away from the humming.

"Is that what I'm supposed to fight? Buzzing things I can't see? Huh, it's quieter here, isn't it?"

Drai didn't answer, digging his hand deep into the sand. The sand swiftly filled in the hole he dug, but soon Drai struck wet sand, and his hands came up glistening with moisture. "Lurid is in all things, Azzir. Like this water. When it leaves a place, it takes its sickness with it, but it takes something else, too. Something vital."

Azzir sat down beside him. "Okay. That's a neat trick. I've seen others get water out of oases like that before."

Drai pressed down in the sand until water filled the hole. "Re'Sheek knows this about Lurid, but he gathers the power to him without heed for consequences. He is bitter, angry at gods. They drove him from paradise when he was just a spirit, and he wants revenge."

"I thought Re'Sheek had been mortal once. Like the Greatmother, only...bad."

Drai stared at Azzir steadily. "That is what I try to say, you do not see? All is bad. All is good. Greatmother, Re'Sheek, the Lurid. Cycle of spirits and life and changing into the other. When you fight Re'Sheek, you must also fight you."

The buzzing from the yucca got louder. Azzir sat upright, looking about anxiously. "Drai," he suddenly asked. "You don't think those buzzy spirits could possess us, do you? Turn us into heshti?"

Drai continued eying him. "You understand now?"

"You mean they could?" Azzir's voice crawled up an octave. "Then why under the burning sun are we just sitting here? Like dumb yez!"

Drai eye's glinted. "Is good practice, like Friend Azzir wanted."

"Drai, I have no idea where to even begin. Even with ones as weak as these are!"

Drai's eyes abruptly darkened and he sat back. "Then perhaps you are not Wanderer."

"I am too! The prophecy fits! Or well enough. But what you're asking is...is...for someone who's a mystical shaman sort! I'm just a nobleman's son. I can put a sword through a chest, but not through thin air!"

Drai suddenly seized Azzir's hand and gripped it tight. "I did not want to put you in this state. But if you are Wanderer, you must act. You must understand!"

"Stop! What are you--"

In one quick movement, Drai pulled his knife and slashed Azzir up the arm, from wrist to elbow. Azzir cried out and tried to pull away, but Drai had clamped down like a vise. Mulching something from his pouch, he pressed it in the wound.

"Drai, stop!"

The world flipped over. Azzir could no longer see the other degonti. Or rather, he could no longer make out Drai's face. A shadow had come between them. Other shadows flickered about in the darkn. The buzzing grew to a loud hissing, and then to what almost seemed words.

Azzir stared around him. There were creatures in the yucca, but some didn't seem like animals, or at least, not entirely. Some were monstrous, with tentacles and sores covering their hide. Others looked much too intelligent to be a mere animal, like a cross between a degonti and some other creature. Still others sprouted what looked like broad-bladed yucca spikes from their manes and tails, their faces made of bundles of artfully arranged sticks instead of flesh.

Drai's voice came to him, though it was distant, like from across a canyon. And though he did not notice it then, Azzir remembered later that Drai's harsh accent was no longer discernable. "Your enemy does not all have the same face, Ba'malra. The Wanderer must choose which is it. Your champion is not who you'd expect. If you want to succeed, you must solve this puzzle."

The shadowy creatures began to crawl towards them some gibbering in delight, others halting, cautious and curious.

"You mean some of these aren't Lurid monsters?" he asked Drai.

"All of them are, but some are not sick with it," answered Drai.

"Bloody unhelpful," muttered Azzir. He stood, and was glad to find he could keep his balance just fine. The heshti spirits jumped back at his approach, babbling in alarm.

Azzir mopped his hair back from his forehead. "Yes, well, if I am going to get used to fighting heshti, then I should start now." He examined the heshti, most of which were already beginning to lose interest and retreat back to the yucca. He picked out a particularly slimy looking one, a wolf with a spray of vine-like appendages coming from its shoulders.

"You, then," said Azzir. "You are one disgusting beast. I'll start with putting you down."

He lunged for it, pulling his sword from his waist. The wolf's tentacles flared in a halo around its head, then shot forward, grasping Azzir. The vines burned! The wolf sprung at him, knocking him over, hot breath on his skin.

Choking, Azzir thrust his blade at it wildly. He could dimly hear Drai in the background, chanting or shouting something. The wolf heshti's snapped together inches from his face, as one of its vines wrapped around his throat. The world darkened, and Azzir lost grip of his sword.

"Drai, help me!"

The shadowy world turned brown and green. He was sinking beneath dirt, the wet clumping sort of dirt that farmers liked to use in their gardens. Everything smelled of spice and rot, but it wasn't an offensive odor, instead tangy and warm. Above him, far away, was the blue of the sky and the waving of something, not quite like yucca, but taller and greener.

"Kashablak!" came a strangely accented voice. "This one's my friend. Leave him alone!"

The vine around his neck eased, and Azzir thrashed his way out of returning darkness. His bleeding arm was burning, but his breath felt clearer. He opened his eyes to see the fat moon overhead, shining on empty sand. The bantam grove and the creatures were nowhere to be seen.

Drai stood up from where he had been leaning over a fire. The flames were quite large, and Azzir wondered how long he had been out cold. "That was very foolish, Degonti of the Stone," Drai scolded, kneeling besides him. "You could have been killed, or turned. Never rush into battle with heshti. Not for any reason!"

"I have to learn how to fight them," said Azzir groggily. "You said yourself these were the weak ones."

"It was foolish!" snapped Drai, and pointed down at Azzir's wrist. Like seedlings, a row of tiny green leaves had sprouted along the closed wound on Azzir's arm.

"I'll pull them out. It's not that bad." But Azzir's voice was shaking. He looked up at Drai apologetically. "I don't feel any different at all. Am I?"

Drai relented and handed Azzir a knife. "No. You were but close. Heshti don't kill with teeth and blades, Friend Azzir. They join, and you forget who you are."

Azzir ripped the seedlings out, taking a layer of dead skin with them. He felt no pain, and was reassured when bright red blood welled up in the tiny holes left behind. "By Her Consort, this isn't natural!"

Drai snorted sardonically. "That is the unbalance. Plants growing on things before they are full dead. Beasts mixing with those not their kind. The more Re'Sheek uses Lurid, the more we see it. These bantam groves are worst, for they have much life to twist."

"Your prophecies," said Azzir. "Maybe we're just rushing into this too quickly, like you said. We have to stop and think and follow your prophecies."

"Young mulusdar learns from his scars," said Drai with a chuckle. He blinked thoughtfully. "The Wanderer chooses the way. Perhaps means you must figure it out yourself."

Azzir groaned. "I have chosen. I choose that heshti are nasty little buggers and need to be culled. But I don't know how. You're a Sandwalker. You deal with these things all the time in the deep desert. How do your people kill them?"

"We kill them, but they return. You cannot use my way, Friend Azzir; they will only come back. As Wanderer, you must find way that ends heshti for good." Drai went silent again, thoughtful. "The next part in prophecy goes, 'the Wanderer goads the kings to fight'. Some say he finds certain champion to fight for him, a seed of Re'Vekraa."

"I think I've had enough of seeds," said Azzir, picking at his arm again.

Drai gazed at him with sympathy. "Like Lurid, heshti can be both bad and good, Degonti of the Stone. But the Wanderer must choose. You must learn to be discerning."

"Right now, I choose to sleep," grumbled Azzir. "I would choose also to drown myself in the smoke of hinterweed, but I know you won't allow it. Look, we can figure this out in the morning." He turned over, pounding the sand into a softer pillow. "Goad kings! I don't know any kings. Unless you count aristocrats like my father, and they fight among themselves enough as it is!"

"You are good at goading," murmured Drai, but Azzir slipped into sleep too fast to reply to the sarcastic remark.
grayfoxblog: painting of a gryphon backlit by the sun (Default)
There was nothing but the pain now. The thirst in his throat had faded, then the aches of body. His leg burned, and Kevaar slipped in and out of unconsciousness.

Voices spoke around him, and he would sometimes come flailing awake to find he was alone. Except for the small rodent. The more violently he thrashed, the more worried it looked, until Kevaar thought he must have chased it away...

******

"It is ill," I said, trying to puturgency in my words. Across from me, Deritakt only rolled his great golden eyes, and whuffed a breath over me that smelled of dreamflowers.

"You've been dipping with the humans," I snarled in sudden anger. "Clouding your mind with their weed! But you won't let me help this degonti I found out in the desert? They're almost the same species!"

"Humans and degonti are only animals, Kemekien," said the old khurarl with a sigh. He scratched his cheek languidly with his thumb talon. "You have to let nature take its course. You wouldn't want to upset the Balance now, would you?"

"Spirits hang the Balance!" I snapped, but I wondered again why this had me so upset in the first place. It was hard sometimes to tell that the creature I had found was even in pain. Degonti were not like the humans--the brownskins as they call them, whose expressions bloomed on their faces at the slightest complaint or joy--but they were not as inexpressive as us khurarl either. Like the degonti, we had not evolved to be social creatures.

That's what the Elders would say at any rate, whenever they argued for not getting involved in the affairs of the outside world. We hadn't evolved for it. We weren't meant to. I always wondered then how the elders would explain how the khurarl had taken to living in such large colonies, if we weren't meant to help each other out.

"It's just one degonti," I said, dragging my mind back to the argument. "No worse than those felines Rositarien has been trying to domesticate. And they're a whole lot smarter, too."

"Kemekien, you drive me to distraction!" grumbled Deritakt, and he rose from his place and hid his head in his wings, pretending to preen their insides. He continued, gesturing to me with a flap of his wing's phalanges. "But if you insist, then by all means, bring the creature here. But you are responsible to its grooming and feeding and cleaning up its leavings, and good luck if it manages to escape!"

"Oh, it won't be that hard," I said. "Degonti are smarter than you think."

"Yuvain said that about coyotes too, and look at what happened to him."

"Well, maybe if he hadn't turned himself into a mulusdar right outside their den, he'd still have all his limbs!" I snapped. "Look, I'll be careful, Deritakt. I won't even show it my true form. I'll just be a...a yez or something. Or one of it's own kind. It should respond well to that."

"The degonti are dangerous in more ways than just their physical makeup," Deritakt explained impatiently. "I should not say this, but the Elders are getting increasingly concerned with them. They think we would drive them from the desert."

"Cull an entire species?" I asked, aghast. So much for not messing with the Balance. "Why?"

"Because of what they stir up, the powers they meddle in. Rot has crept back into the bantam groves and Old Tyr believes these degonti are somehow responsible. You bring one back here, and who knows what will happen."

"Then I won't bring it back here," I said. "I'll just heal it, and then return it to its own kind. Surely that's nothing terrible?"

Deritakt grumbled and rolled back and forth. His scales made an awful screeching noise against the rock of his lair. I knew he was just doing it for show, and had already made up his mind long ago. I lashed my tail in impatience, but forced a human-like grin on my snout.

"Fine!" Deritakt finally snapped in climax. He threw his wings in the air, looking ever so much as a human throwing up his arms in disgust. "Drag it out by its ruff and fix its owie-boo-boo's. Just don't blame me if trouble comes from it."

"Oh, I won't," I said, bouncing on my feet now that I had something to do. "You won't even notice I did anything, uncle. I'll be back before dark!"

"Yes, well, we'll see," said Deritakt, bringing up his long neck, crest puffing out as he watched me launch from the hill, spreading my wings. "Youngsters get into so much trouble they don't even know when they're out of it."

***

Light fell across his head, and he heard the rumblings of a deep voice, like out of a dream. The Other had been speaking before, but quickly hushed with a scream of agony and rage.

Or perhaps the scream was his own? Kevaar felt himself dragged and lifted, and the pain seared all reason from his mind. Wind roared in his ears, and when he woke up again, he was far away from the little hole in the rock he had climbed into.

He was far away from anything he recognized.

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grayfoxblog: painting of a gryphon backlit by the sun (Default)
Gray Fox

March 2016

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