Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

Diabolical Deeds 2: Calu

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 23 2012

[see previous Deed here]


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.


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.

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.


Melody’s Diary 08

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Jun 29 2012

Dear Diary,

I, I’m not sure I like it at TASK… Maybe Nova and Terra can do the same job as Jack, but it just doesn’t feel right for me. Also it seems like maybe TASK knows way too much, across too broad a spectrum–like maybe they should be several separate organizations? They certainly seem to share information internally like a bunch of separate organizations.

I don’t know, it’s just all so confusing I guess. Oh, I’m also keeping a Journal for TASK now that I’m a Researcher–I think I’ll just give them the facts-only-version of what I tell you, without the analysis of myself and others. Maybe the stuff about myself is important to learning Song Magic, but I don’t really want to volunteer it.

The night before our first day Nova, Terra and I all had this terrible nightmare. We were in a field with lights like in Taragosh’s clearing, then this man on the horizon with one glowing red eye lifted a shepherd’s staff and summoned three of the gargoyles and a whole lot of gargites like we fought in Taragosh’s clearing… Like, way too many of them. I put all but one of the gargoyles to sleep with the Lost Lullaby, but even that one was too powerful for Nova and Terra to defeat, and then he did that thing where they destroy all their friends and bring them back fresh, and next this big vile red dragon came out of a portal in the sky and swooped down to eat us and we woke up!

I didn’t like that dream. But I especially don’t like that I think it was probably more of a vision or prophetic dream or something. I think the guy with the red eye is Alishtor’s Researcher, and now I’m worried he might have the same issues his Sage had.

In the hallway on our way to breakfast we met another new-recruit of TASK whose name turned out to be Tiffany–though she didn’t tell us that at the time. She’s got a headband and wild hair that sort of matches her personality. She was pretty insistent that we try the waffles at breakfast, but I really wasn’t hungry enough for waffles–those are sort of a once-a-week thing for me. If that.

The hogling chef in the kitchen is nice and reminds me a little of Cooky back at the Temple. I was a little surprised with how impressive the building looked to learn that their kitchen was fairly average. Terra had a big mouse the chef had caught in the strawberry jam, Nova had some chocolate bread that smelled wonderful, and the chef did his best to make a mixed berry parfait for me–though they didn’t have much in the way of fruit and the jam was sort of weird. Not weird like I got the same container as the mouse, just, not very normal for a parfait… Still, it was a good breakfast.

Orientation was in a large auditorium, and Dr. Zjavont was the one giving it! I guess he’s our Sage for now because he knows us best. So, Yay Science! He told us about how we’d have three days of tests to establish what our course in TASK would look like, and told us a lot about what the organization is–basically a reaction against any limited definition of humanity, or people-ness since they also help hoglings, scarecrows and even simians… I don’t like simians, I mean, I guess… Well, they’re pretty scary.

With the size of the auditorium I thought there might be a lot of new Researchers, but I guess it’s just Terra, Nova, Tiffany and I. Also, apparently Tiffany and Dr. Zjavont don’t get along–and not just because she doesn’t have patience for science. Then because I’m capable of Song Magic I guess I’m going to have special sessions with the Sage researching Song Magic.

Charlie went to find Gokasan to confer with him about the current situation–I really hope he has a good answer that will minimize any suffering caused by Alishtor’s actions. Jack is away on a mission to find Alishtor’s Researcher. I missed him a lot already, but after our dream I was actually really worried to imagine Jack looking for the Researcher by himself. Jack promised he wouldn’t die again, but Alishtor’s Researcher should actually be more dangerous than Alishtor was himself. I don’t know where that puts him in relation to the Man in the Red Robes, but after our dream I’m really worried about it.

Also, why doesn’t anyone even know what Alishtor’s Researcher looks like? I know TASK is a big organization, but given the kind of knowledge they deal with that just seems irresponsible to have such a loose grasp of who’s in the organization and who isn’t. It seems TASK is led by a Council of Five Sages, and apparently Barrister is the sixth Sage!

They’ve positioned themselves as Arbiters of knowledge, with a lot of checks and balances on that knowledge. I understand that the wrong information in the wrong hands is extremely dangerous–case in point being Alishtor. But he WAS a member of TASK. In fact he was a Sage! I feel like a more open system would work better. Who really has the right to decide what other people are or are not allowed to know anyway? I think that if everyone had access to all information, even the dangerous knowledge, then we could all keep each other in check as a community.

Would Alishtor have been as costly to stop if we’d all known what he knew from the start? I don’t think so.

Oh, and I guess Terra, Nova and I are specialized in exorcism, so our first mission is an excavation of ancient ruins with a mild ghost infestation. Nova wasn’t too happy about that, but I guess it is sort of what I joined TASK for… Kind of. Though I don’t think this is one of the breaches Alishtor made.

I know I have my doubts about my place in TASK, and I’m not sure Terra or Nova are particularly committed to it either. Tiffany on the other hand seems really excited, when she isn’t sleeping on her feet. I guess she escaped what she considered a dull farm life and is really excited about mastering special powers. I think it would be nice to live on a farm, getting to be outside and enjoy all the fresh air, and the company of the animals, and just living freely and simply. Nurturing life.

After the orientation Nova, Terra and I went to the gym to work out. On the way we met a Sage with brown hair and big glasses named Argentino! He’s the Song Magic Sage! He talked a lot about how amazing Song Magic is, and the sorts of amazing things I’ll be able to do with it if I continue on the current path. Raising the dead, reversing the degradation of age, regenerating lost limbs, all the sorts of things I heard the priests whisper about back at the Temple of the Consecrated Choir. I think he was talking about The Song of Life–only, I’m starting to get the feeling there’s another Song… One I don’t think I want to know.

The Hymn of Healing and Dynamic De Capo Aria are different from The Lost Lullaby in a way I can’t really explain. The priests and in particular Maester Forte taught me the Hymn of Healing, I just sort of made up the Lost Lullaby. There’s this thing in my chest that feels both tempting and wrong at the same time, and it feels more closely related to the Lost Lullaby than the Hymn of Healing or Dynamic De Capo Aria. It’s been there since sometime after our battle with Alishtor and the Man in the Red Robes.

Why did the Simians attack our temple?

Anyway, Argentino is capable of Song Magic himself! So I’m not the only one who can use it! I wonder if Maester Forte could use it too? Though if he could, why wouldn’t he ever demonstrate it to me? Argentino taught me some cool sub-vocalization techniques and showed me how to manipulate water with multi-tonal singing. He says it’s staggeringly amazing that I can use Song Magic, so I guess we’re still really rare even if I’m not the only one.
Terra doesn’t seem to like Argentino for some reason–but I’m really excited to meet someone else who can use Song Magic.

We learned a little more about our first mission. We’re apparently retrieving an ancient magic from the ruins used by an advanced civilization to launch projectiles from a metal barrel sort of like a crossbow. It was used to conquer much of the world, and a rather nasty tribe of lizard people in the area mean to reclaim the method when the ghostly activity subsides during the equinox. Since we’re not as superstitious as the lizard folk we’ll go in before the equinox and get the magic before them.

Then we heard that Barrister is currently away on a diplomatic mission to deal with some disgruntled royalty that TASK has to buy off with knowledge from time to time.

Our training in TASK began with a simple Will application. Dr. Zjavont shot us with cushioned cross-bow bolts, and we were supposed to manipulate reality with our Will to cause the bolt to miss. We opened with meditation, so I used the meditation hum I learned at the temple to help everyone get into it–Tiffany in particular seemed unfamiliar with meditation, or wound too tight to do it just then anyway.
It turns out we were learning in the Spiritual Practice Room! A whole room with an Energy restoring circle in the floor! The Spiritual Practice Room is now my favorite room in TASK! What would have been a draining meditation elsewhere was a breeze in the Spiritual Practice Room!

Then it was time to actually test the technique. I volunteered to go first, and was able to force the bolt off course with my Will… Only, the technique spends spiritual energy, and I do more than enough of that already. I don’t think this technique will be very helpful for me. I need ways to generate more Energy, not more ways to spend it! If only I could get some sort of reserve of additional energy or something!

Dr. Zjavont then proceeded to shoot Tiffany repeatedly, which didn’t seem very nice. She was really struggling with the technique, but I guess it was worth it because she was really excited when she finally got it.

Then it came time for Terra and Nova to try the technique–only their combat reflexes were so good it was really hard for Dr. Zjavont to hit them in general. By the time he fitted a scope to the crossbow and they were actively trying NOT to dodge he started shooting them like he’d been shooting Tiffany, though eventually they were able to cause the bolt to miss instead of dodging themselves… I’m not sure how useful a technique it is for them either though, because with their level of combat skill it doesn’t seem like the degree of spiritual influence the technique provides is very likely to be significant.

After that it was time for our testing to determine our areas of focus in TASK. I went first and did a bunch of vocal exercises just like back at the Temple. I guess I still need to work on volume… Though I’m not sure why? I can be heard just fine even over long distances. I hope they’re not hoping for me to sing so loud it hurts people…

Terra went next and they worked on escalating her already impressive jumping ability toward outright flight! That would be so amazing if Terra learned to fly! I’ve never seen a flying fox before! Nova worked on her super strength, lifting weights that even some of the people at TASK hadn’t realized were actually for use!

Then we finally got to see what Tiffany’s power was! She can generate pink lightning and crystalize it into a blade! Only, when she tries to split the blade–which looks possible–she has trouble controlling it and I guess the spare tends to go flying and stick in Dr. Zjavont’s arm. So that’s why they didn’t get along so well… What’re the odds on hitting his other arm like that? Especially after he taught us the technique to make things miss us?

Dr. Zjavont had other business to attend to after that, so he put on a bat mask and left. We got underway ourselves, with Rose providing transportation again. Tiffany and Rose seem to get along really well–I think they think sort of alike.

When we got to the town it was pretty heavily battle damaged. I guess they never bothered to name their town, though some of the youth refer to it as the Middle of Nowhere–even though it’s really close to the coast. The ruins are North East of the town past some awkward trees resembling a werewolf, unmentionables, and an Indian head respectively. The battle damage on the town is apparently a result of an ancestral feud that had been bred into the neighboring lizardfolk with no clear indicator of what started it.

Wait… Near the coast… Are we near the ocean?! Ooo! I have to go see it when we’re done! We’re close!

Apparently I reminded the old man who greeted us of his daughter and he was very friendly and helpful… Then I saw the blacksmith! He was fairly nondescript with brown hair and an eye-patch over the eye that glowed red on the figure in our dream! That seemed very suspicious to me, so I did some digging.

I guess his name is Jack, though he isn’t as cool as the real Jack. He’s lived in town for thirty-three years, which admittedly doesn’t sound like it would describe a Researcher for TASK. He pooped on the Indian Head Tree as a boy, and tried repeatedly to sleep with the old man’s daughter–and got caned just as many times. The old man says his daughter is loose, but not that loose… I’m not sure I’m as flattered about reminding him of her anymore. I’m not loose!

Then blacksmith Jack developed a fascination with staves–like the figure in our dream had! He married a hot red head, and has been the village weapon smith for ten years. Then the old man’s daughter showed up after he got off on a tangent about his wife and politely escorted him away.

I decided to spy on the blacksmith while Nova and Terra were buying weapons from him to see if I could learn anything. If he’s the figure from our dream I’d really like to figure that out before he hurts anyone. A slow witted and inept hogling who called everyone Larry entered the weapon shop to buy some gauntlets for punching out ‘Larry’. He returned home with the gauntlets in tow to apparently inflict injury on himself…

That’s when John arrived! He was an elegantly dressed but similarly nondescript brunette to blacksmith Jack, who also covered the eye that glowed red on the figure in our dream! If the figure had been closer I’d know what he looked like, but as is he really could be almost anyone!

John’s a traveler, which lines up more with being a Researcher for TASK… Are we allowed to talk about TASK? I wish I’d thought to ask that before we left. It would have made checking John out much easier if I could have just asked him if he was a member of TASK. Maybe I can? Secrets are so confusing. I’m not supposed to tell anyone I’m the Songstress, but if others are capable of Song Magic then I’m still allowed to use mine, right?

Anyway, John told us the armorer is a bit of an enchanter if we want nicer equipment–though I left my gold from Alishtor’s castle back at TASK. It’s so heavy! John doesn’t stop by the town often but seems well ingratiated with the community. He let us know not to take the cheapest deal at the Inn, but to favor the middle option. Also he was able to guess what Nova and I wanted to drink! I’d never even had the Virgin Strawberry Daiquiri Charlie recommended before! How did John know to about it? If it’s that obvious I’m less happy about the Pink Lotus Rose got me.

John shared that he was named for his uncle, who was a doctor. He also told us about the town’s feud with the lizards–and how a couple villagers recently disappeared to be experimented on! Apparently Psion and Golem came from this village! So then, Emperor Regal was one of the lizard folk! The lizard folk believe they were wronged, and have the philosophy to “Leave no trace of your enemies.” There has to be some way to make peace here, but it doesn’t sound easy.

Just as John was leaving, screaming lizard raiders with scythes attacked the town! I tried to talk them down, but they were very crude and both they and Terra and Nova seemed bristling for a fight… As a last ditch attempt at deescalation I used the Lost Lullaby to put all but one of them to sleep–not doing bad on my effectiveness there, but I’d like to get all of my targets one of these times. Terra rushed into battle with the last one, and John crushed the lizard man with some sort of air distorting force effect! So he’s got the power to possibly be a TASK Researcher too.

That didn’t really line up with my idea of disarming them and trying again to talk things out–but John says their scythes are forged and enchanted to kill in a single blow–and I would rather the lizard die than Terra. It’s so frustrating! They didn’t want to listen to me at all!

I guess a towns person named Jimmy tried begging the lizard folk to stop their hostilities, and they ate him! Is that what’s going to happen when I ask them? Blacksmith Jack is a survivor of the counter raid on the lizards after that. Even the old man says that we can’t make peace with the lizard folk… So I left the lizards to the townspeople… Blacksmith Jack slit their throats then burned the bodies. Apparently the funeral pyre is considered an honorable warrior’s death, and so there won’t be reprisals from the lizard folk for the loss of the raiding party.

I basically murdered those lizard men! They were completely helpless because of my song, and because I thought it was easier to let them die than work to find a solution that benefited everyone! I’m such a horrible person! And then we just went to the bar like it was nothing but mindless monsters we’d disposed of, or tormented ghosts we’d freed from suffering!

Turns out Tiffany is only 15, and she went to the bar to get drunk! I guess that’s her choice… But it seems like a really bad idea. I could tell it tasted just as bad to her as it did to me, and then after the third one she seemed really off balance, and then was finally sick… Why would anyone do that to themselves intentionally? I looks terrible! But, I guess it’s not really my business what other people do to themselves…

John opened up a little more, telling us how a friend of his died recently. His friend used to get an Old Fashioned to drink at this bar, and Beef Wellington is apparently John’s drink there–though it doesn’t look anything like the Beef Wellington the High Priest liked to eat. John says his friend died in construction, and he just wanted to make things right. I wanted to ask him if his friend was Alishtor, but construction does seem like a bit of a stretch… Though maybe from Alishtor’s perspective his business wasn’t really destruction–only I think he knew it was because he mostly talked about what he was taking out of the picture, hell and the gods.

Then John had to leave. I was too dispirited to really dig any further into my suspicions that he might be Alishtor’s Researcher… The way I failed those lizard men, just feels so inexcusable. I hate myself right now. It’s so strange, I’ve never, EVER, felt hate before… But this whole stupid feud and intolerance and violence… My heart is full of hate, and it’s making me sick! But I can’t afford to let it out, because if I were to actually direct the hate at someone or something else that’s the only thing I could imagine being worse than feeling it in the first place… So I hate myself.

In the past whenever I’ve felt bad I’ve been able to cheer myself up by singing. So I went to the town center and sang with all my heart. Most of the village came to listen, so I wove the Hymn of Healing in under the song to cure their hurts. I sang of faith, and hope and all the things that used to comfort me. Please, gods, don’t let me lose my way like Alishtor or the Man in the Red Robes.

The villagers figured out I was the one healing them, I was kind of hoping they’d chalk it up to the power of positive thinking and good attitude… It turns out that Jimmy was their pastor. Faith and spirituality have been low in the village since his death, and they don’t have a doctor so some of the injuries get pretty serious with no one to treat them.

Then an old woman started calling for me to kill the lizard folk with my songs. She wants a killing song… And the worst of it is, I think I… I think that… I can. Why are there songs that can hurt people? It just seems so wrong! Even the other townspeople wanted me to stay with them forever, and I can’t do that… I’ve got too many other responsibilities around the world, plus I’d hate to put them in greater danger like I apparently did the Temple of the Consecrated Choir.

I have to stop this feud with the lizard people. I’m going to go to the lizard village and find some way to stop this before we go… I wonder if we can send the relic back with Rose? We should probably take care of it first, and we can’t risk it falling into the lizard folks’ hands… But I don’t think Nova and Terra would let me go alone, and I’m so confused right now I don’t know if I’d want them to or not.

Then as the sun was setting Jack arrived! I feel so much better knowing Jack’s okay, but I’m also ashamed for him to see me like this, and embarrassed about what I said the last time I saw him. We did tell Jack about our dream though, and he told us it was a shamanic dream–which is very significant. I also gave him detailed descriptions of blacksmith Jack and John, and the reasons I had to suspect each of them of being the man in our dream and/or Alishtor’s Researcher.

I don’t know what’s going to happen, or what exactly I should be doing here, but I know I’ve got to try my hardest. I can’t give up!



The Succubus’ Harem: Prologue

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Jun 15 2012

So as a little something different (yes I found an opportunity to get online after all!) I thought maybe I’d share some really rough flash fictions that are coming to mind as I play Rage of Bahamut. No sooner had I deleted Zombie Jombie from my phone (see the My Phone Monday of this week) than I discovered Rage of Bahamut, which seems to be everything I expect Zombie Jombie wanted to be. Collectable Card game for the iPhone and Android, which is fun and addicting–and very deserving of its own more positive review one of these days.

Anyway, I’ve been so inspired playing it that I’m just naturally developing characters based on my cards blending them with the storyline from the game–so obviously I could never actually publish these with large elements not being original to me, but this seems like a good forum for a sort of ‘fan fiction’.

The story is titled “The Succubus’ Harem”








A clawed hand breaks the surface of the rain soaked field. Fresh dirt erupts in a muddy fountain as the hand’s owner emerges from the loam. The sudden disturbance and wash of tangy earth scent interrupts a pair of worgs from wrestling over the leg of an unfortunate traveler.

Mud and dirt tumble from the ribcage of the mysterious figure. Age has picked clean flesh and organs. Though yellowed, the bones seem preserved by unnatural power. Only the metal scales of an armored skirt remain of any clothing the figure may have once had, and those are corroded and falling apart.

The skeleton’s ragged blackened blade is in little better condition than its mail skirt, yet proves sufficient to lop the head from the shoulders of the first curious wolf-like creature. The second howls in fury and lunges for the skeleton’s boney throat, only to share the fate of the first worg.

Blood running from its blade, the skeleton turns its face to the roiling clouds and releases an ear splitting wail of rage. Pain. Hatred. Thirst.




If you have a smartphone (both iPhone and Android supported) then Rage of Bahamut is a free download and even if you decide it isn’t your thing you could help me a lot by playing through the tutorial and entering the code lrq89881 at the end. On the other hand if electronic collectible fantasy card games that you can kill some free time with while enjoying a lot of the best of the fantasy genre does sound good to you, that same code will start you off with an impressive 100,000 extra Rupies (as in you will not have money issues) and an Angelic Knight rare card–and still help me.

They do a good job with getting you to promote them by offering excellent incentives to do so–but for fantasy fans with smartphones I’m inclined to say it is VERY worth it. Of course, you can also potentially get the gist of my impressions of the game just by reading my flash fiction on the subject–which may be the new Friday Feature.

Dice Games June 8

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Jun 08 2012



“It’s incredible…” Belle turned slowly, still unable to take in the enormity of the surrounding library on her second pass.

“You like it?” the Beast’s face split into the sharp-toothed grin she now found strangely endearing. “There’s something more.”

Before she could question what could possibly be more than the most exquisite collection thick, pristine tomes Belle had ever seen, she felt the handle of a golden mirror pressed into her hand. The craftsmanship was finer even than the other treasures in the castle. Seeing her reflection, however, thrust the lady’s brief euphoria under a sudden weight of empty longing.

Mostly the beauty looked the same, but parting her red lips revealed her ever sharpening teeth. The hand holding the mirror bore claws which both excited and frightened her. More changes lay invisible within her, rendering the woman in the reflection a stranger to herself.

“Think about your father while you look in the mirror,” the Beast stepped against Belle’s back, steadying her small hand with his own massive one and looking over her shoulder. “It will show him to you.”

“I can see Papa?” Belle looked back to the terrible head resting on her shoulder, her longing finally escaping her eyes as tears.

The Beast simply nodded. Swallowing, Belle allowed herself to think about her father for the first time in what felt like ages. The surface of the mirror seemed to ripple, and the reflection was replaced by a dark image.

Her portly old Papa was struggling against another storm! But he wasn’t alone; there was a taller man with him. Broad muscles pressed against a red tunic, their owner striding against the storm with an impervious swagger. Gaston.

The sight of the amorous egomaniac was enough to turn Belle’s stomach—which had become very hard to do lately. Full nausea hit as Belle saw they had all the village men behind them, and her father was gesticulating toward the edifice connecting their world to the Beast’s castle.

A rumbling growl that shook Belle’s bones showed the Beast’s displeasure.

“They’re coming here!” Belle spun to face the Beast.

“They’ll live only long enough to regret it if they do.”

Belle shrank from his cold statement of fact. Not a threat, nor promise of action, but unbiased observation of truth.

“What have you done?”

“Thrown down a little rose seed,” he turned the mirror back to Belle. “The plants of this world, are often more deadly than the animals.”

Cold dread clutched in Belle’s chest as she watched her father, Gaston, and the villagers charge through the wall of water made when lightning struck the monolith. Dropping the mirror into Beast’s hand, Belle sprinted for the basement. She’d get there even if she had to smash down the door.

Screams and the hot coppery scent of blood washed up from the dungeons before Belle could reach them. Rounding the last twisting staircase the girl witnessed a jungle of thorny vines twisting and slithering over the stone floor—hungrily rushing toward the delicious wash of human blood.

Belle’s sympathetic heart beat great surges of adrenaline into her system as she saw the thorns lash about, bind and drain the men of their vital fluids. Her mouth watered reflexively. Blood gorged buds burst from the vines before blossoming into obscenely crimson flowers. The scent of blood was rapidly being subsumed into the sweet perfume of the carnivorous blooms.

Finally she spied her Papa, fallen anemically by the now silent edifice. Leaping down into the lethal mass of vines, Belle relied on sharpened instinct and heightened reflexes to reach her Papa’s side and sever the thorns constricting him with her elegant claws.

As the rose bush closed around the girl and her father, she desperately sought a means of egress able to accommodate both of them. Gaston’s desiccated husk tumbled down to her side, a look of dumb shock frozen on his face. In little better position herself, Belle still considered that worth a grim chuckle.

“Up here! Jump!” The Beast’s roar called Belle’s attention to where he hung from the ceiling, hind-claws dug into the stone.

Belle responded with her own sharp-toothed grin before catapulting up into her Beast’s arms, her father in her own. Papa would just have to get used to this world as she had.

And Beast would have to get used to having a live-in in-law.


–Prompt 1: KILLER PLANTS!!!–


And that’s the second Dice Games. Feel free to check out the other entries by following the link collection over at our lovely host ‘Timony Souler’s site. I’ll be swinging by and seeing the rest of the field this weekend myself and then posting my post-competition summary later.


Dice Games June 6

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Jun 06 2012



“You’re not eating,” the Beast rumbled.

Belle’s eyes remained unfocused on some point between her plate and the Beast. She wasn’t sure if the steaming meat before her was moving, and she didn’t want to know. The heady vapor from her dinner made her feel faint more so than her hunger.

The Beast had no reservations about shoveling its dinner into its macabre maw. Yet its fiery eyes never left the simple village girl. It’d taken away the dress she arrived in and provided her with something far more elegant. And revealing.

This dress didn’t rest on her like wool or cotton, instead following her body and movements like a part of her. The gown was sinuous and alien, feeling cold and slick on her bare skin.

The Beast’s voice interrupted Belle’s thoughts, “You will need your strength. We mate again tonight.”

Belle retched. No matter how her stomach turned or her throat clenched she couldn’t vomit. She hadn’t eaten anything since coming to this strange world. Shame burned through her veins as the Beast watched her dispassionately. She couldn’t even throw up. Instead she cried.

She couldn’t stay here. Death would be better. The way to the edifice was solidly locked with little hope for getting out that way. Her best chance would be escape through the fairy-tale forest surrounding the castle.

“Eat!” Belle’s thoughts were interrupted again as she felt claws close around the back of her head and shove her face down into her plate.

A squishy impact prompted the spray of hot blood from her dinner over Belle’s countenance. Trembling she felt the heat of her food against her face. Yielding. Fresh. Her stomach shot another hungry gurgle to her beleaguered brain. With the Beast’s claws pressing her down, Belle resigned. Closing her eyes she opened her mouth and began to eat.

After everything she’d been through, the meat was so good. Rich. Satisfying. It filled her with energy and took the edge off her pain—physical and mental.

Once the Beast was satisfied, it released her and stalked away up the stairs. Belle knew she had to follow. The first time the monster took her, it felt like it was murdering her. This time she didn’t feel it as much. Belle’s mind was on escape. After the thing was done it would return to its chamber to sleep, and she could slip out the front gate.

The young woman waited in darkness for an hour after the Beast left her to be sure it had time to fall asleep. Having a plan in mind and some food in her stomach gave her renewed strength and energy. She was ready. Somewhere outside this lonely castle she would find freedom or death. She would not return.

Soon she was striding purposefully out into the overcast shadows of the forest, her alien gown slipping about her confidently. Her senses were vigilant for signs she had been found out. The further she got from the castle, the more she smiled. Belle felt dangerous.

A sequence of howls and snarls reminded Belle of her fear as the forest shadows seemed to part for new monstrosities all around her. The creatures seemed to be horse sized wolves wearing their skeletons on the outside—their eyes blue and cold.

“It seems, I found death…” Belle lowered her head and prayed it would be quick.

Tortured howls of rage and pain assaulted Belle’s ears, only to be sundered by a thunderous roar too familiar. Looking up she saw the Beast lunge into the midst of the wolves and begin rending them with claws and fangs. The first he pulled apart like a rag doll, spraying viscera over the trees and painting Belle with hot blood.

Blood like at dinner. Belle felt her fingers twitch and looked to see elegant black claws where her finger nails had been that morning. Watching the Beast quarter another boney wolf, Belle raised a claw to her lips and licked it. It seemed sharp. What’s more, her teeth seemed sharper than before as well. Could she ever do what the Beast was doing?

Not this time. No creatures were left living, save the Beast and Belle. He turned his fiery eyes back to her. Not angry she’d run. Relieved she was okay? Belle crept to his side and laid her head against his heaving chest. Wrapping one of his great arms around her, she began to lick the blood from his claws reverently.

Maybe there was something there.



-Prompt 2: Write a love story. Blood and gore is mandatory-

Dice Games – June 4

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Jun 04 2012

The wet scent of mud was Belle’s first warning she’d arrived, and didn’t register in time to keep her from sliding down the incline. She stopped when one foot sank into the slope with a squelching sound. Her lantern proved woefully unable to pierce the torrential rain, and the rumbling clouds obscuring the stars drowned out all other sound.

“Papa!” the brunette screamed down into the pit where she could just make out her father’s discovery. “Papa! We have to go inside!”

A large clod of mud separated from the base of the strange circular monolith at the center of the pit. Only once he removed his goggles could Belle even recognize the eyes of her mud-coated father.

“Belle?! What are you doing here?”

“I came to get you, Papa! You shouldn’t be out in this storm!”

“But I think I’ve figured it out! It needs energy!” her rotund father bellowed excitedly and glanced between Belle and the strange archway.

A flash of lightning provided the illumination Belle’s lantern could not. She looked in horror at the mess of wires and cables now attached to the edifice. They all led up to an antenna reaching shakily for the sky as thunder pealed all around.

“Papa! Get away—“ Belle was blown from her feet and back into the muddy incline before she could finish.

A sharp odor gave way to the insistent mud as lights danced behind the village girl’s dazzled eyes. Her father’s inventions had a way of blowing up in both their faces, particularly his, but something about this discovery was different. Belle’s body ached and her tired mind just wanted to sink back into the mud and sleep, yet she forced herself out and blinked to try and see through the rain.

The lantern had tumbled to the bottom of the pit, extinguished and broken. But she could still see. An intense blue glow came from a watery wall that had filled in the space within the ancient circle. Her father was hopping and slipping excitedly in the rainwater flooding his excavation. He was gesturing toward the liquid wall and babbling excitedly. Belle realized her ears were ringing and placed her hands over them delicately.

She closed her eyes to collect her thoughts, and that second was enough for her father to disappear. A clutching dread filled her chest. Her old Papa couldn’t have escaped the excavation so quickly, and as she saw it there was only one place he could have gone. Slipping, tumbling and finally crawling, she made her way to the awful wall of water.

One breath. Two. Belle stood and squared her shoulders.

“I’m coming, Papa.”

She slipped through the veil deceptively easily, and then her world was ripped away from her. Vertigo. Terrible cold. Impact?

The next thing Belle was aware of she was lying on a rough stone floor, encased in rimed dirt. She could barely shiver with the frozen earth so thick on her body. Then she saw It. A terrible monstrosity, equal parts reptile and amphibian with hellish curving horns and a lashing tail—yet the Beast stood on two legs like a man.

“P-please, I didn’t know!” the old inventor quavered. “I didn’t know what it would do!”

“And that’s an excuse for invading my privacy?” The Beast could talk, and its voice reminded Belle of thunder.

It had her father by his throat against the bars of the cell containing them along with a monolith like the one at the excavation. Belle forgot the cold and caked soil and leapt to her feet.

“Let my father go!”

Obliging with lightning speed the Beast dropped the old man and brought its burning beady eyes within a foot of Belle’s own brown ones. Its breath was fetid and its muscles rippled with an aura of power.

“No! Belle!” Her Papa reached feebly after the Beast. “Please, do whatever you want to me, but let my daughter go!”

The Beasts face split into a nightmarish grin Belle was sure included more than one row of fangs.

“This one is female?”

Belle felt her knees buckle under the monster’s gaze, and was only somewhat relieved to be caught by a wall as she fell backwards.

“I can return your father safely home, if you agree to mate with me.”

“Don’t do it, Belle!”

“Otherwise, you both die.”

Tears ran down Belle’s cheeks as she nodded and wished her father had never found that horrible monolith.



–Prompt 5: Belle (Beauty & the Beast), a stargate, an awkward situation–

Hopefully I managed to provide a suitably awkward situation for the prompt, had trouble pulling this all together–but over the rest of this week you should be treated to more of this story with my Wednesday and Friday posts. You can check out the Challenge and other participants over at ‘Timony’s Blog.

Changed World

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
May 18 2012

Just a quick Forecast this Friday, but I’ll throw in free that there will be no Forecast next Friday, because I’ll be out of town.

The journeys of the heroes chronicled in Niar Saga marked the end of what quickly came to be known as The Age of Cataclysm, a period of 100 years in which much was lost, from obscure knowledge to entire peoples and kingdoms. The most widely felt loss was that of the Holy Kingdom of Kakarus, and its prestigious orders of Demon Hunters.

Even as the worst seemed passed, and The Age of Cataclysm at an end, further loss was in store for the world. The twin powers of Magic and Miracle, the rare but powerful forces which have shaped Niar throughout history are now fading from the world. Less than a generation has passed since the end of The Age of Cataclysm, but already people are once more looking fearfully to the shadows–wondering if some new evil were to rise whether there would be any way to turn it back with the old powers weakened as they are.

The King of Landis, Cortez, believes he has found a viable solution in an esoteric blade art known as Sword Dancing. Though Sword Dancers come almost exclusively from the bloodlines of a few distinguished families, in a world of waning Miracles and Magic the at times seemingly supernatural blade-technique may be Niar’s best light against the darkness.

Melody’s Diary 07

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
May 07 2012

Dear Diary,

Poor Alishtor, I don’t think he was really bad–he was just very sad and confused. He let his pain control him and forgot that it’s possible to love. I guess that’s what happened with the Man in the Red Robes too. I hope I don’t end up like that.

Alishtor caught us in a magic trap that kept us from moving, so that gave us lots of time to talk. I really think I almost got through to him, but he was so blinded by his pain he refused to accept salvation. If at the end of time there are any souls still in Hell I believe it will be because they couldn’t accept entrance into heaven, and not because it wasn’t offered. Though that is terribly sad to think about.

Alishtor was trying to complete the Man in the Red Robes’ mission to eliminate the presence of the gods and merge Heaven, Hell and Earth into a single tortured reality–that just wouldn’t be as bad as Hell. The Man in the Red Robes was doing it because his wife was sent to Hell for sleeping with another man, which I don’t feel like that could be the entire story. Alishtor was doing it because his friend was in Hell for reasons he refused to divulge. They both supposedly tried everything to secure the salvation of their loved ones, but I wish he would have let me pray for them. Whether either of them ever had real faith, it was pretty obvious they didn’t by the time I knew anything about them. You have to believe in the gods before they can help you.

Oh, and apparently the reason Alishtor needed to sacrifice Charlie for his ritual is because Charlie’s master, Gokasan, is the exorcist who stopped the Man in the Red Robes 400 years ago! I guess if you have silver dragon blood in you, you live forever! So Jack’s going to live forever? I don’t even know what to think about that! Forever is a long time.

Alishtor did make a lot of interesting points though. Apparently a type of medicinal fungus has been propagated by spreading on the bodies of zombies! In fact, it’s used in the Medicinal Chocolate that Nova loves so much! I didn’t know any good ever came from the undead. So I guess Alishtor’s right that all things return to nature, and nothing unnatural remains so for long. Of course, my real issue with his merging of the three worlds is that it would be unholy–and that concern remains. Though it’s very interesting that it does seem possible to be unholy without being unnatural! I always thought anything unholy was also unnatural by default.

I guess Jack got tired of listening to Alishtor (and I think Alishtor was getting pretty annoyed with me, deep down I think he knew I was right that what he was doing was wrong and that there was a better way) so Jack shifted into his tiger mode and broke Alishtor’s magic trap. But then before we could fight things got all weird and we were transported to another space!

The scholarly man’s ghost was there, but now his eyes and glasses glowed with whitish purple flames. They’d be kind of pretty, except he definitely fit the unhappy ghost pattern. I guess that’s what happens to people who are slain by the dagger. It’s really a terrible thing! Of course we had to fight him, and his eye lasers were really deadly! Terra and Nova both went down, but Nova was able to revive Terra before going down and I was able to heal everyone with the Hymn of Healing.

Jack defeated the ghost and the ghost’s spectacles were left behind! Apparently they make whoever wears them invisible! Which seems kind of strange for spectacles, but I guess they are ghost spectacles. We went back to reality long enough to confuse Alishtor before we were pulled to another space to face the ghost of the exorcist’s wife.

She was a much stronger fighter, sort of the opposite of when they were alive, and dressed in red malevolence trimmed with gold love–the love was I think the real source of her power, and the malevolence just misdirected it. She had some really nasty daggers and could make them rain out of the sky! She was tough to fight, but everyone ganged up on her and Jack brought her down.

Terra got the glasses–I thought they might be useful since being invisible sounded safe, but it turns out they take a lot of spiritual energy and I already spend more than enough of that on my songs, and my amulet uses some too. So Nova got the ebony and silver daggers the ghost-wife left behind, and orchestrated a little reunion between the glasses and the daggers that seemed nice. Once that was done, Nova ate the daggers and her teeth sort of sparkled after that. I used the Dynamic De Capo Aria to restore everyone’s energy except Jack, since he didn’t need any.

This time we returned to Alishtor’s chamber to fight him. He summoned a bunch of gelatinous scarecrows and plant creatures. They were easy for Jack to kill, and with some effort Charlie beat one too. Then Terra just jumped over all of them to fight Alishtor by herself! Alishtor caught Terra’s wrist and then there was a flash of red light! He transformed into the Man in the Red Robes and knocked Terra out!

I kept everyone alive with the Hymn of Healing while Jack fought the Man in the Red Robes to protect Terra, and Nova and Charlie finished off the last of the minions. Unlike Alishtor, the Man in the Red Robes actually seemed to be as good as Jack! Actually, unlike anything we’ve seen so far, at least since I’ve been with them. The Man in the Red Robes kept making these big whirlwinds of lightning that dealt way more damage than I could possibly heal with the Hymn–in fact he was the one who killed the last two scarecrows. The Lightning had a big area, so I was the only one not getting hit.

Lucky, I guess, there’s no way my Force Field from the amulet could have stopped that. Even Nova couldn’t take that kind of damage and Charlie went down too–only Jack was able to keep fighting and he was badly hurt. Really badly hurt. I thought I’d lost Terra for a moment, but then her life force suddenly re-surged like she was refusing to die. Then Jack’s Sage, Barrister, showed up! He pushed a helix of energy into the ground that sprung up around the Man in the Red Robes and restrained him, giving me time to heal everybody more! Charlie was able to get back to his feet and Jack was looking better again.

The Man in the Red Robes broke out of Barrister’s restraints too soon though, and knocked Charlie back out. Barrister aided my healing efforts with some sort of dragon prayer that seemed much more powerful than my Hymn! Why is the Hymn of Healing so weak? Maester Forte and the priests made it sound like such a big deal that I could sing it, and it wasn’t even as strong then as it is now. Seems to me like there are plenty of people with much more powerful abilities than my Song Magic.

Nova got back up too, but really Jack had been the only one able to even hit the Man in the Red Robes this whole time, and even he was only damaging the robes themselves slightly. But they’d worked the Man back into a corner, and Nova toppled a bookshelf onto him! All his fancy defenses didn’t do as much about a big shelf of heavy tomes falling on him–though he was still up and fighting.

Basically it was still a fight between Jack and the Man in the Red Robes. Then the Man in the Red Robes finally seriously bloodied Jack, it looked like Jack was going to go down and we might lose! But Jack kept standing and responded in kind, finally really damaging the Man in the Red Robes! Nova surged with all her strength to help Jack, and finally got her own powerful bite in–though the Man in the Red Robes still defended against her next attack.

Barrister noticed how much energy I was spending on the Hymn of Healing and so grabbed me by the head and transferred a lot of his own energy into me! It was definitely as powerful as the Dynamic De Capo Aria. I could keep singing a lot longer thanks to that, but my songs still weren’t powerful enough to compensate for the damage the Man in the Red Robes was doing! Then Barrister started cheer-leading and I followed his movements while singing. I managed to get Charlie back on his feet again.

Then the Man in the Red Robes stabbed Jack and Jack fell! The Man in the Red Robes finished Jack off by stabbing him through the neck! If my heart was broken from losing Maester Forte and the priests, and the fight with Alishtor’s gargoyle, this finally shattered all the little pieces that were left into dust. I don’t know how I managed to keep singing the Hymn of Healing, I guess I knew I couldn’t give up yet. Jack had done so much, and if I could keep everyone else alive they might find some way to finish things.

Sure enough, Charlie did charge in to avenge Jack and in that moment seemed as cool as Jack always was. He broke the Man in the Red Robes with his bare hands, reverting him back to Alishtor–who Charlie tossed aside. Everyone was conscious again, I’d managed to save everyone with my song. Everyone except the one who meant the most to me. Charlie and Barrister were so upset at Jack’s death, and it was my fault again because I couldn’t heal him fast enough.

I couldn’t let it end like that. So I poured my life force into the Dynamic De Capo Aria again and tried to give it directly to Jack. Barrister figured out what I was doing and used his dragon prayer again to help and it worked! Jack was back, but still dying. I switched back to the Hymn of Healing and managed to get everyone back to full strength. I think I may have had some energy left, thanks to Barrister, because I didn’t pass out. But I didn’t feel like I had anything left.

Everyone crowded around Jack, they were so happy to have him back. I really wished I could join them, but I didn’t want to get in the way. There’s no way Jack could feel the same way about me that I do about him. After what he’d been through, Charlie and Barrister were the ones he needed to have close to him. Why do I always feel broken after these big fights? Will I ever get used to them? Or will there ever be a point where I can’t break any further? I never even got hit in that whole fight, but I think I hurt worse than I did from that treasure trap.

Soon the entire castle had faded away and we were back outside in a field where Rose drove up to meet us. The energy circle was still where the bad scientist’s lab had been and I managed to crawl back to it, while Nova dug around in the bushes for her treasure chest and golden shield. I think some of Terra’s fur has gotten darker too, she’s got a whole new vitality to her since surviving the Man in the Red Robes’ onslaught–she also seems a little edgier than before.

Apparently Alishtor’s ritual was partially successful in creating breaches where the worlds are merged. Until I figure out what I am supposed to be doing I guess I should try and fix those areas before too many people suffer because of them. I hope that means I get to continue traveling with my new friends. I don’t want to be alone ever again.

The whole carriage ride back to TASK it was hard to really say anything or engage with the others. My only thought, screaming through my head, was how much I loved Jack and I really wanted to tell him, but it didn’t seem like the right time or place–only after he actually died briefly back in the castle now it seemed like there might not be an unlimited amount of time to tell him. Barrister ordered Jack to get one of Dr. Zjavont’s clones when we got back to TASK, but I get the impression Jack feels the same way about those creepy things as I do.

Barrister increased the magic in my throwing ball to be more accurate, and Charlie recommended that I try a drink called a Virgin Strawberry Daiquiri. Rose was really mad. I love strawberries, so if there’s no alcohol that could be really good. Barrister promised Nova a swimming pool of chocolate when we got back to TASK, and invited all of us to join TASK. They even have a Sage researching Song Magic, who might be my best chance at figuring out my destiny. Though I don’t want obligations to TASK to get in the way of my responsibilities as the Songstress–even if I don’t really understand what those are. I HAVE to do something to make Maester Forte and the priests’ sacrifice on my behalf worthwhile!

I gave the damaged book and scrolls to Barrister, who was able to repair them! Well, the first page anyway–and I think he’ll get through to the others. It has all kinds of fascinating information on the gods that has been lost to the world since the Man in the Red Robes’ ill-conceived initial attempt to merge the worlds! I think Barrister will be able to restore the rest in time too.

Also Nova, Terra and I all seem to have ghostly armor now! Barrister was able to make it appear and says we all have special powers–and I don’t think he was talking about my Song Magic, even though I’m pretty sure that’s the only thing even remotely special about me. Anyway we all decided to join TASK, with Nova and Terra haggling for food as their main condition for accepting the offer. I hope I get to learn new songs and what to do with them.

TASK Headquarters is an amazing five story building! I’ve never seen anything like it, though it sort of reminds me of a magic library! I followed Jack around after we got to TASK and eventually managed to catch him alone. I hugged him and told him I didn’t want him to die again, and he patted me on the head like some sort of kid or animal.

I told him that I loved him–which felt good at first, but then I kept talking, and Jack didn’t say anything, and I couldn’t look at him and finally I had to run away. I wish I wasn’t such a coward, but someone as amazing as Jack, there’s no way he could ever love me back. I’m just a singing doll. As long as I can heal people with my songs, that’s really the only thing I’m good for. I can’t help wishing that I could just be me, be a real person, follow my wishes.

But I know that’s terrible and selfish of me. I have a special power, and even if it doesn’t seem that great compared to what other people, or even just magic chocolate, can do–mine comes with a responsibility. I won’t shirk my duty, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned since leaving the temple, it’s that pain comes and goes. It’s like the waves Maester Forte told me water makes on the sea, always changing, always coming and going. I wish I could have seen the sea with Maester Forte, he made it sound so beautiful and peaceful. I’ll get there someday, and I’ll sing a song for Maester Forte.

For now I have to pray for Alishtor, Alishtor’s friend, the Man in the Red Robes, and the Man in the Red Robes’ wife, and all the people they hurt too. I pray that they can find peace and accept and be accepted into Heaven. It’s not exactly what the priests taught, but I really believe with all my heart that Heaven was meant for everyone–and Hell is only for the people who aren’t ready to accept Heaven, something they inflict on themselves but can rise above.