Artless Halloween

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 31 2012

So I’d like to open by saying that I’d intended to include art with this entry, but it appears that the bizarre failure of my laptop over a month ago now is going to plague me for the rest of the life of the computer. Had to get a new user profile because the old one will no longer log in, and apparently my tablet doesn’t work with the new profile. So no drawings from me anymore.

It’s probably fixable, but I’ve already exhausted the options I know how to do and have other things to spend my time on–which is where this update was going after the art anyway.

Two of my stories have been published in Super Flash Fiction, and I encourage you to head on over and check that out if you haven’t already. Subscribe for future issues or even submit your own dynamic stories or artwork.

The bigger news is that I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month starting tomorrow (November 1)! I’m officially in this year, and I’m going to finally finish a novel! Sign up if it interests you, or just cheer me on/pester me about my progress! The goal is 50,000 words by the end of the month.

It’s likely to consume my free time in November, though I’ll try to keep updating this site–though you can expect most if not all of my posts to be NaNoWriMo related.

And that’s it from me for now! Happy Halloween, and sorry about the lack of artwork… Wait… Maybe I can fake something even without my tablet…

Haha! How’s that for drawing with a mouse in Paint?

 

Happy Halloween!

Diabolical Deeds Wrap Up

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 29 2012

Well, that’s the end of ‘Timony’s Diabolical Deeds Challenge, hopefully the tales were enjoyed here and on the other participating sites–but in the event that you missed it get over to ‘Timony’s site and check out the prompts and participants.

‘Timony Souler – Our Challenge host, and the one who will always be significant to my online writing persona because of challenges like 7 Sins and 7 Virtues that got me started on Flash Fiction in the first place. Undaunted by stringent word counts and difficult/obscure word prompts, ‘Timony delivers strong sensory fiction on a consistent basis–when not waylaid by real world demands. My favorite of her contributions to her own challenge this time was Day Two’s “The Promotion” because sometimes it’s just nice to observe a demon who really values their work.

Lisa McCourt Hollar- Host of the #55WordChallenge, and incredibly vivid writer whose horror stories actually scare me in spite of just being words on a page (or screen), which is an accomplishment because I normally refrain from delving into the genre deeply enough to be affected like that–her words and characters pull me in even when I’m wary of what they’ll reveal. It was her second entry, “Dangerous Games”, that I’m going with as my favorite in this challenge because on top of her usual richness of characterization and setting, there’s a little something sexy there too.

Meg McNulty- A writer I met early in my flash-ficiton experience and regular for ‘Timony Challenges, Meg brings a richness of history and context to her writing that is absolutely compelling. Her second entry, “The Cave”, is especially good this time around because of the balance of fantasy and horror that make it feel like anything could happen.

Jeffrey Hollar- Another longtime contributor to ‘Timony’s Challenges, and another impeccable horror writer–he can almost always capture the dark in life or in people in a way that will turn the stomach or make the skin crawl, but when he feels like it can deliver real fun, whimsy and comedy as well. And, surprise surprise, it was the second entry again that most captivated me. How did everyone else do such a good job with Calu? “A Night Out” really provided a setting and characters I’d love to see more of, even casually with no particular plot line.

Mark Ethridge- A regular on the Flash Fiction scene, this is his first ‘Timony Challenge. His words are poetic and invitingly original, and this time around I think he really gained steam as he worked his way through the challenge. My favorite entry was actually his 4th Entry, “Sthenno”, but a lot of that is favoritism for the strong female lead and Greek mythology, I would argue that his final entry was even stronger.

Stacy Bennet-Hoyt- Another regular from the Flash Fiction circuit, yet newcomer to the ‘Timony scene. Sort of a hidden character since she missed the sign-up deadline but participated anyway, and delivered her usual flash brilliance and power with each entry. Choosing a favorite among such strong entries was hard, but I’m ever so slightly favoring her 2nd Entry, “Calu”, because she gets the sexiness that others captured and also taught me a new word I intend to start making use of.

 

And to my knowledge that’s all the entries. If I missed anyone, let me know and I’ll remedy that.

 

Diabolical Deeds 5: Zagan

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 26 2012

[Previous Deed]

Zagan

Scooping her satiny black cat into her arms, the girl let out a relieved sigh. With Stheno unconscious they were finally together and safe again. Scratching the back of her cat’s head, the girl turned out to grin at the zoic wonders of the cedar forest.

Her reverie was cut short upon noticing the great winged bull winking at them. Her cat tried to wriggle out of her arms—but she held him tight.

“You ought to be ashamed, Blackie! The spiritual zymosis he started you on is what turned you into a cat in the first place!”

 

 

 

And that wraps up ‘Timony’s Diabolical Deeds Challenge. Probably not my best showing in a ‘Timony Challenge, but you can look forward to my summary of the rest of the field on Monday–which altogether should make for some good seasonal reading. Feel free to check out the links to the other participants ahead of time, over at ‘Timony’s Site.

Diabolical Deeds 4: Stheno

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 25 2012

[previous Deed]

Stheno

With Humbaba dispatched, the girl was upset to find her cat had run off during the fracas. She didn’t have to go far, however, to hear a sibilant voice sussurate dire promises pertaining to lunch. A scaly gorgon held the helpless feline pinned with brass claws, and lowered her grinning face of sharp fangs wreathed in writhing red vipers to biting range.

“Unhand my kitty!”

“Of course, I’d be pleased to switch up for something more substantial.”

The gorgon released her saccadic snack and faced the girl, who pushed up her sleeves and went to work.

Diabolical Deeds 3: Humbaba

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 24 2012

[previous Deed]

Humbaba

She had to shade her eyes, raising an arm against the heavenly brilliance of the cedar forest. How strange a thing the sun seemed, after even a brief time in the chthonic depths.

A feline yowl brought surging habromania that turned the girl’s hair and eyes golden. Then she saw the lion-headed behemoth menacing her poor cat!

“To enter the forest of the Herrenvolk is verboten!”

The giant breathed a torrent of flame and, more terrifying to his victim, raised floodwaters with his roar.

“Get away from my kitty!” The girl suffused her palms with death’s dark glow.

Diabolical Deeds 2: Calu

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 23 2012

[see previous Deed here]

Calu

The girl was seized by a sudden cacaesthesia. Something was watching her. Something with feral yellow eyes.

Fists dripping blood, she proceeded into the caliginous depths of the underworld—senses alert for her lost cat as well as her mysterious stalker. Once the flicker of the fire lake was behind her, her stalker revealed himself.

“How dare you trespass in my domain?” The man-wolf snarled.

The girl’s bouncy hair and remorseless eyes shifted to the fiery hue of the lake, “I’m looking for my kitty. Have you seen him?”

The demon’s tail dropped between his legs and he pointed ahead.

Diabolical Deeds 1: Ammut

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 22 2012

Okay, choking on the digital dust here–but maybe the latest ‘Timony Challenge will be enough to get the site back up and producing again (though all of the old greats like Niar Saga and Lost Girls’ Society have remained available). Without further ado, I give you the first of the Diabolical Deeds.

Ammut

Plummeting through the achroous void, the girl wrinkled her nose at dry sulfurous air thrashing her pigtails and cloak. She would have avoided this smoking rift in the earth, if it hadn’t opened underneath her cat.

A crimson glow broke the tedium of her descent, finally revealing ground below. The adactylous creature lumbering alongside the lake of fire looked like a cross between a hippo and a lion, with the head of a crocodile.

Braced on stumpy limbs, the creature opened its jaws to receive the girl.

Eyes narrowed, the girl pulled her fist back for impact. “Where’s my kitty!?”

 

 

 

And of course you can check out the prompts and link collection to other participants over at ‘Timony’s Site.

Tuesday Tales 61 WINNER

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 10 2012

Tuesday Tale Judging

I’m no good at promoting competitions, so I’m pretty happy with the turn out for this week with that in mind. We had some strong entries and several that were real pleasures to read. Since as part of my judging process I take notes on all of the entries, and as a writer I value feedback on my own work, I’m going to share my notes here on my site though I’m sure the official post over at Glitterword will be significantly abbreviated.

Judge’s Notes

Robin Abess (@Angelique_Rider) – Showtime – Something about the word “pitchman” really satisfies me, it says so much about the character and the scene in very little space. Definitely got a grim smile from me at the end. Darned pitchmen.

Rebekah Postupak (@Postupak) – Another excellent hook, you had me smiling and hungry for more in the first sentence of self appraisal. A great cautionary tale, but I’m not entirely sure I understood what happened. My impression, which I’m mostly sure is right, is that the dragon was turned into a human retaining only the draconic tail. Loved your dragon either way.

Ryan Strohman (@rastrohman) – Definitely got a hardboiled detective vibe from your 100 words, with the narrator who knows better and gets in trouble anyway. I like the attention to the shoes and the fact that you incorporated the secret word into the whole concept of the piece rather than just a throw away sentence. Unfortunately something about this piece doesn’t pop for me, and I can’t figure out what.

RRKovar (@rrkovar) – Crossroads – Great voice on your characters, and definitely a sweet way for a witch to get info as long as he does in fact manage to hang on to his soul. You have me curious about the larger story this snippet comes from. For consistency I would have appreciated more alliteration from the demon though, and there may be some grammatical trouble in the first line? I’m not great with grammar myself, but ‘Demon tongue twisted like her tattoo vines.’ doesn’t quite make sense to me.

Lisa McCourt Hollar (@jezri1) – Blind Date – Great immersion in the moment, and coming from you I was expecting some extraordinary twist by the end, and I actually think I was  a little disappointed not to get it. The word count is extremely limiting, but I still feel there could have been more of a story or point to this one. As is I felt like this would be excellent characterization for a longer piece.

Karen Valenzuela (@VictoriaNoir89) – The Cellist – Great period assassination. The disconnect of never getting any names or motives in connection with the murder is highlighted by using The Cellist as your title, first words and protagonist. It really makes me want to know more, which keeps the story in my mind long after I’ve finished reading as well as coming back to comb for additional clues… Though, I don’t think you used either of the prompts, so I think that’s a disqualification…

Nick Johns (@nickjohns999) – Mr Dark’s Designs – Egh, very visceral beginning. Something about bloody finger nails really hits me, so that’s a strong hook. You follow up with great sensory details like the ‘sewer sweat reek’. Really intrigued by the whole setup of paltering away curse marks onto others… It’s fascinating and compelling. Great entry, and very tempting for an honorable mention, but I think I’m deducting a few points for the Wednesday submission.

Honorable Mention

Alissa (@lissajean7) – I love how you started at the bottom of the picture, the shoes, and worked your way up to the art. Can totally buy the character who would rather be barefoot, and you present both the fancy shoe and art scenes in ways that I can strongly relate to. Bonus points for using more than one of the definitions.
Your attention to details and double usage of palter are what snagged you the honorable mention.

 

Winner

Rakel’ Sampson (@SampsonWriter) – Ooo, very nice! Your first sentence hooked me perfectly, I had to know more about whether she would live up to or defy the picture she presented—and what a pretty package for Vengeance! Whether super-hero or fantasy, this is absolutely in my genre, and is a completely told tale in merely 100 words.
You’re the clear winner in my book for such an elegantly constructed piece that fully incorporates both prompts and within the limited word count hit so many of the right buttons for my personal tastes.

*-Winning Entry-*

She looked the picture of innocence; blonde curls and open green eyes. Then his eyes trailed downward, lighting on the artwork of vines and flowers adorning her legs. What a mystery, he thought as they ate dinner.
On the dark walk home he made his move. Before he got a good grip on her thigh, something grabbed his wrist.
“Careful. The more you struggle the tighter my vines get,” she hissed.
“Easy. I wasn’t going hurt you,” he paltered. Then his eyes widened as the tendrils reached his neck. “What are you?” he choked out.
She leaned in close. “Vengeance.”

*- -*

So get onto Twitter, Google, Facebook or whatever you use and spread the good news of winner @SampsonWriter and honorable mention @lissajean7 for all to know their glory.

You can read the other entries at http://glitterword.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/tuesdaytales-61-palter/

Melody’s Diary 10

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Sep 14 2012

Dear Diary,

I woke up in terrible pain today. One of those mechanical assassins like attacked me out in the room with the platforms stabbed me while I was sleeping. I guess we should have shut the doors before going to sleep–but at least Jack didn’t get hurt! There were three of them this time, but once everyone was awake they didn’t really stand a chance against us and I was able to heal all of us with the Hymn of Healing.

I really like how quickly my energy recovers these days, though Jack says that even he’s never met anyone whose energy comes back as quickly as mine… So it’s probably because of who I am and so I have to keep it secret. We’re really all so much more powerful now, Terra with her fire sword and Nova with her bite and just so much battle experience–it actually feels like we’re helping Jack now instead of just being protected by him.

Figuring out the best way back across the platforms was tricky, though eventually we settled on Terra carrying me–she’s a lot stronger than she looks! There were a lot more of the mechanical bugs to deal with, but the others are still so much faster and stronger than me I didn’t actually get to see most of them.

The next interesting room was filled with water just parted in a center aisle, with mechanical crocodiles or alligators in it–I forgot to pay attention to the tips of their snouts! We decided to get through quickly and not risk something happening, so Terra and Jack jumped the whole distance! Nova carried me and ran as fast as she could, so we actually beat Terra and Jack to the other side! All together it was rather uneventful.

The next chamber had an octogonal pillar with a creepy red eye that gave me a bad feeling, so we skirted it and nothing happened! It led to a room with a big floating crystal and two giant Treasure Chests. Jack says this place is real, but hasn’t been for very long, and is suspicious of the amount of sense it makes for a haunting phenomenon. Almost like a single greater will was shaping it all. I opened one of the treasure chests and got the key for this floor, while Terra discovered the other chest had already been looted.

Because of concerns for the haunted lava ceiling, Nova and I waited outside while Jack and Terra took the floating crystal–though it turns out even that was safe! Sometimes I guess adventuring isn’t so bad, though today’s wake-up call is a lot of points against adventuring.

Terra couldn’t leave the eye on the pedestal alone on our next pass through that room–Jack stood nearby while Terra poked it, jumped up and down on it and generally tried to make it do something. Nova and I waited at the exit near the water hall in case we needed to run. In the end it didn’t respond to Terra, but when we all tried to leave it turned into a big robot that Nova and Jack were able to hurt, but Terra’s flying execution was what shut it down for good.

Then we had to go back to the floor with all the lava–that big monster was scary even to Jack! We tried to skirt the edges while the guardian tromped around in the lava but in the middle of passing a hall full of mechanical bugs it smashed its head through and knocked Nova out! We managed to recover and beat the bugs then dashed for the far end of the hall without any further attacks by the guardian. What made him attack the first time? I thought for sure I was stuck on the far end away from everyone else.

The bugs still seemed pretty harmless, even against an unconscious Nova. There was a room at the end of the hallway with a huge blue cloak that let the wearer teleport–just themselves–when they channeled spiritual energy through it. Since Terra already had a tiara that did that she gave me the cloak. Now that my energy comes back so easily maybe I’ll be able to make use of it.

Stairs led down into the lava the guardian was roaming in, but we decided to check out the opposite hall on this floor. Sneaking over there we found a bunch of bugs who didn’t notice us. Terra decided to unleash her fire sword on all of them while the rest of us checked out the room on this side. Before we had time to do much though, the bugs apparently found Terra and injected some sort of searing debilitating poison–the first time they actually hurt anyone and it was serious!

Once we took care of that and got the last key we took it back to the room with all the water and the combination of keys let Terra drain the water! Suspecting what it might have done we went back to the middle floor, where all of the lava had turned to stone! The guardian was still roaming around in there though–I didn’t think the Lost Lullaby would work on a mechanical thing, but Terra and Nova convinced me to try it.

The guardian got mad and smashed its head through to attack us, but Nova pulled me to safety! I felt something in the resonance of the song, so I kept trying and actually made it go to sleep! I was suspicious so I hid back in the moving room while the others went to finish it off, but it turns out the Lost Lullaby really worked and they had no problems!

We got the last of the secrets of the last technology, I took the guardian’s eye that Terra didn’t destroy, and we took the chest to cover that there had been anything there. From there we made peace with the snake village and confirmed the human village’s acceptance of the terms! I was so excited! Though Sylvester said it was good I didn’t show that in the snake village.

So the power of love and life triumph again! I hope the sages will be able to help Tiffany, and then we really need to find John.

I have words for him.

-M

Melody’s Diary 09

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Sep 04 2012

Dear Diary,

Wow… So much has happened. I can’t tell if I’m still broken or not, but I’m tired. Not like my body or mind are tired, more like my soul is. It’s weird, and if I wasn’t so tired I think I’d probably be worried about it.

I didn’t have any reason to think that the snake people would accept peace with the villagers, but I knew I had to try. It was really scary, and also sad. I knew I had to have some sort of plan, so I was going to try appealing to them without appearing weak–but I was ready to use the Lost Lullaby to put them all to sleep and kill them all if I had to. It was really sickening to think about, but I suppose it would be respectful of their culture at least…

Unfortunately gathering information in town about the snake-peoples’ culture didn’t go very well, no one knew much that seemed useful for suing for peace. Tiffany was pretty sick from her drinking, and apparently climbed up to Jack’s window in the night and saw that he sleeps in the nude! Why didn’t I think of that? Though I suppose I’m still pretty bad at climbing… I would like to see Jack naked though…

Rose says that Jack had a big fight with a woman recently! So apparently he at least was taken, though he seemed really depressed when he came down for breakfast and totally not himself. I wonder who she is? What did they fight about? How did they meet and how long have they known each other? I tried to let Jack know I was there for him, but I don’t think I did any good. I never had to deal with anything like this in the Temple, and I hate to think I did it wrong when Jack needed someone!

When Rose found out I was planning on confronting the lizard people she chastised me that it was disrespectful of me to make decisions for my friends. I think she was sort of confused, but maybe it’s because it was early. I wasn’t making a decision for anyone else, I just knew what I had to do. So I was ready to do what I decided to do regardless of what anyone else chose to do–though I’ll admit the riskiness of it did have me kind of worried if we were going to all put ourselves in danger before accomplishing the mission we were sent for.

Not long after Jack left this huge heavily armed lizard man with an eye-patch came looking for us! His name is Sylvester and apparently he is the greatest warrior of the lizard tribe! And he wants peace too! He loves fighting, it sounds like fighting is a religious experience for him–sort of like singing for me. The way he describes it I actually feel like I can relate, even though I could never feel that way about hurting people myself.

But Sylvester was tired of all his friends dying–which I think is a very good reason to prefer peace over war–and had finally decided that peace would be best. He could take us to argue for peace to the Chief and Elder of his tribe, but had no direct decision making power himself. Obviously Nova, Terra and even Rose wanted to go along with me–though I felt pretty bad for Tiffany who got dragged along by the Girl Code, even though she obviously didn’t want to go. I’m not sure why she’s forcing herself to go on adventures, there are so many better ways to see the world.

I tried to get as much information from Sylvester as possible on how to talk to and make a good impression with his people, but I guess what we were trying was unprecedented enough there was no real precedent. He recommended we wear as little as possible and present ourselves as warriors though. Stripping down to my underwear was sort of exciting, though I think Rose enjoyed it the most. As for being a warrior, that was sort of what I was afraid I’d have to do. I just don’t like hurting people enough to get into that mindset.

I do like Sylvester though. His passion and intellect are really inspiring, even if those traits apparently aren’t valued by his culture. Maybe some sort of organized competitive sport would give the snake people a better outlet for their intense physicality.

The village was heavily fortified and guarded out in the middle of the desert, and obviously Sylvester had quite a reputation as the guards of his own village were scared of him. We were presented as his prisoners, which I wasn’t sure how that would impact our bargaining position, but apparently we were just supposed to play it like we’d come in of our own free will–which technically we did. It seemed like a pretty rough crowd over all, and I just can’t help wondering if they’d be happier if they could somehow turn their attention from destruction to creation.

The Chief was a warrior somewhat less impressive than Sylvester, and the Elder was a beautiful old naga! She was one of those blind seers who Maester Forte had told me about too.

My TASK training actually came in handy for making a good impression as I spoke for our party–though I really wish Nova, Terra or Rose would have said more. I didn’t know how to talk to these people or even what they could possibly want that we could offer them in place of the nihilistic mission they were currently pursuing. It was taking everything I had just to present myself as a fighter instead of a lover, and in the end I don’t think I really got through to them much. How do you negotiate with someone whose only desire is to kill their perceived enemies? Why couldn’t more of them value their own people the way Sylvester does?

We ended up retiring to Sylvester’s tent for an intermission as the negotiations began to break down. Their tribe apparently struggled with abstract concepts such as numbers and currency, so they’d been taken advantage of by merchants in the desert before and were as a result very wary of bargaining of any kind.

Somehow we managed to rally and turn the lizard folks’ opinion back to our favor and then present the option for them to control monster populations around the human village in exchange for the items they currently took in raids–thereby continuing their current living, utilizing their warrior talents but preserving the lives of people on both sides of the issue. I wasn’t sure if they’d go for it, since Sylvester was the only one who’d shown any appreciation for life over death, but I guess we convinced them! They apparently did want to live more than they wanted to kill, and so did approve of an option to live with less death! I was so excited, I knew that the snakefolk were people too and it felt so good to actually get through to them!

Of course, the Elder called for a test of our worthiness to seal the pact–that we bring back evidence of slaying the guardian on the lowest level of the dungeon we were going to anyway! That wouldn’t be any problem, since Nova and Terra are really good at exploring dungeons. The only potential complication on the lizard side was their interest in learning Tiffany’s knife technique, which we couldn’t quite claim Tiffany had down yet–let alone well enough to teach it.

The next hurdle was convincing the villagers to accept the negotiation we’d made without them. Fortunately the mayor appreciated the benefit of saving lives at the cost of the goods currently being stolen anyway and was prepared to argue for it at the next town meeting. After a night’s rest we were to head to the ruin and things were finally looking up!

Then Rose woke us up the next day with news that Jack had dropped out of communication. He was missing. I felt like it was my fault for not knowing what to say to him the day before! I hated delaying the mission we were sent on further, but Jack was much more important to me…

We headed into the desert in the direction Jack had followed John, but encountered an old gypsy woman named Esmerelda with a huge pack. She was tiny, especially next to her pack, and somewhat creepy. We asked about Jack, but she didn’t have any information–though she could relate to our quest for a man. She offered a magic feather that would let us find what we were searching for, but it cost a lot more money than I had–and all my gold is still back at TASK.

I guess Terra already had a feather like that though, so she just bought some chocolate covered fireflies and we used Terra’s feather to find Jack. All this heat seems really hard on Nova, and probably me too though I’ve been too focused on what I’ve been doing to really notice. Maybe I just have heat exhaustion? No, I think it is something else.

Putting all my heart into wishing for Jack, I released the feather and we followed it north. It skirted the village and took the easiest path to the ruin! Nova found the lever to open the cave, Rose decided to wait outside and we all headed in. It was much cooler inside the cave, which I know Nova liked. The cave was dark and musty, then melted eerily into perfectly worked stone in a way that seemed decidedly supernatural.

Actually, the ruin itself seemed an awful lot like Alishtor’s castle. Following the sounds of running water we found a huge chamber with platforms suspended above water where John was holding a shepherd’s crook like the one in Nova, Terra and my nightmare. I had a really bad feeling about it, but it was too late to back out. John still seemed perfectly pleasant, but I couldn’t shake the ominous feeling I had about him–made much worse by that staff.

He explained it was an artifact that helped you get what you wanted, which that alone sounds dangerously vague, and obviously he intended to use it in the memorial to his friend that I’m really beginning to suspect is Alishtor. I tried to convince him to be careful with the artifact, but it was pretty obvious his mind was made up one way or another and he was telling us any more than he already had.

Tiffany was entranced by the staff and got into a whisper conversation with John, where all I could over hear was him asking her what she wanted. I didn’t know what to do, and felt so powerless with just this shapeless dread clouding my thoughts. Something was wrong, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I pray John isn’t making the same stupid mistakes as Alishtor, but it also seems like that would be too much to ask for at this point. We asked him about Jack, but he said he hadn’t seen him.

Once John was gone Tiffany attacked Nova with her daggers, so Nova had to sit on her to restrain her. I tried the Hymn of Healing and the Dynamic De Capo Aria, but none of my songs seemed to have the power to undo whatever John had done to Tiffany. Nova and Terra had her restrained with no difficulty, and even attempted tickle torture to get her to confess what was wrong, but to no avail. Finally I let out that dark thing that had been growing in my chest since Alishtor’s castle. I took control of Tiffany’s body and mind with a new song… The Marionette’s March.

I got Tiffany to tell us how John had promised her power and the ability to be awesome and go on adventures with him in exchange for killing us. Since I didn’t know how long my control over Tiffany would last we escorted her out of the cave and I had her let Rose tie her up. We tried to work out a solution to the problem, and hit one! Love! Love is much more powerful than any artifact or twisted ambition, and so Tiffany’s love for Jack was enough to break her from John’s control–or so we thought.

Thinking Tiffany was okay again, and with her promise not to cause any more trouble, we went back into the ruin. The next room we checked had a massive gladiator with a golden key, who Nova hit so hard he dropped his key and was reeling–giving us a chance to escape with the key into the hall! Though Tiffany decided to stay and finish him off, which I guess is okay since he was just a statue, though it would have been kind of fun to get away without destroying him.

Something’s changed in me. My spiritual energy that I spend when I sing comes back so much more quickly now than ever before. I can’t explain it, I feel like my soul has wings! Singing has always stirred my soul, but now when I stop singing it feels like some sort of transcendent experience as well. Maybe inner peace?

The next room had a sofa with a vanity, in the mirror of which we got to witness the ghost murder of the woman who had been sitting there by some madman. I hate haunted places, the stories behind them are so sad. There has to be some cure for all this senseless violence, pain and hatred. Is it something I could ever fix with my song? I’d pay any cost to myself if only I could heal the world.

There was another ghostly dining hall, but these ones were less aggressive and with no exorcism skills between the four of us we decided to leave them be. The next room we explored was more of a problem. The ghost knights there were strong opponents, though Terra and Nova were well positioned to take them on with me supporting. Nova got the first one, and I distracted the next with my ball so Terra could cripple him. Then both of Tiffany’s daggers sank into my back.

Why didn’t I see that coming? Of course we hadn’t cured her, John was Alishtor’s researcher and had an artifact of unknown power. We should have left Tiffany tied up until we could get a Sage to help her. I’m so sorry everyone. I should have had my spirit shield up. I should have done better.

I woke up to the taste of chocolate with Nova sitting on Tiffany again and Terra fighting the last two knights by herself. I started on the Hymn of Healing immediately, but things had gone pretty badly wrong at that point. Nova had to go back in to help Terra finish the fight, so with my shield up this time I told Tiffany what she did was wrong. She ran away, but we couldn’t leave her loose, so after finishing the fight we searched for her.

Terra and I found her in the room with the vanity while an agitated Nova continued banging around the ruin. Poor Nova, this seems really hard on her–and Terra got hurt worse than she had to because I couldn’t take care of myself again. I’m so sorry everyone.

Tiffany emerged from under the vanity when she thought we had gone, and I put her to sleep with the Lost Lullaby. I’m sorry Tiffany, I’ll do my best to find some way of helping you. I still like pretty clothes, but I suppose I shouldn’t wear them on adventures. Another outfit ruined.

Leaving Tiffany bound in Rose’s custody for the long haul this time, we returned to the ruin. So many dilapidated rooms and halls, haunting presences and mysteries fill this place. It’s almost too much to mention here. Nova’s handling the ghosts here much better than at Alishtor’s Castle I think, though they really aren’t any threat to us, we’ve gotten so powerful. I guess that’s kind of fun, though it’s important to remain humble. There’s always something more powerful.

We found a room with buttons on a pedestal that moved up and down to different floors according to the buttons pressed, some jester ghosts that weren’t as fun as they should have been–I used the Marionette’s March to make them dance, I… I think I like this new power too much, it isn’t a natural ability. I should be careful not to hurt anyone with it. It’s, sort of addicting.

After sending the ghosts on to their final rest, we found a cylindrical key which seemed to go with a device in the large chamber with all the water. We needed two more such keys to activate it though, and decided to search the other two floors the rising and falling room accessed.

The first one down was way too hot with cave walls again, metal doors and barred windows, and a big metal monster like a giant lizard walking around in the lava in the center of the area. In deference to Nova we decided to explore the lower level before dealing with that.

There was a room with platforms obscured by water where I got a sense we needed to go left. Navigating the water and the platforms and the drop-offs proved hard for Nova, especially since she was having to carry or throw me too, though Terra got around with little difficulty. The things that attacked us here were all mechanical in nature, including a sort of assassin that kept disappearing and stabbing at my shield–until he finally broke through! Nova and Terra rallied to save me, while I continued to heal our wounds with the Hymn and sustain my damaged shield.

More climbing and struggling to navigate the platforms–I really hate adventuring, I don’t understand why Tiffany would choose to do this. I feel a responsibility to do so, but if I could just settle down in a small village with Jack… Well, I’d rather have friends and security than excitement and struggle.

Then we found some sort of laundry room where Jack was encased in a block of ice! I thawed him out with the Dynamic De Capo Aria and just collapsed with relief that he was okay! I wanted to faint after we finished negotiating with the snakefolk, but I very nearly did once Jack was okay again.

Gods, if I can have one selfish wish I want to see Jack happy. Please.

-M