Poems in Fiction—Worldbuilding—Ethereal Seals Poetry: Eulogies of Deliverance

Poetry triggers interesting reactions from readers. Not only is it a jump from storytelling long-form, but it invites rhythm, a detail of creativity not seen elsewhere in the story. I always found poetry bits to be fascinating—or tedious if they were too long and poorly done—in a story.

My theory is the poetry activates different parts of the brain. It’s nothing short of refreshing and invigorating, particularly when changing back to the storytelling prose. Used right, poetry adds many things to a manuscript, such as:

  • worldbuilding
  • insights into the protagonists; their reactions, views, and inner struggles
  • gives readers’ a “break” from long-form prose
  • invites higher details of creativity
  • perfect medium for foreshadowing, adding tension, among other plot devices

A fantasy without poetry feels dry and incomplete. If looking to spruce up a fantasy world, try incorporating some poems. This isn’t to say that sci-fi or contemporary fiction can’t have songs.

Be creative.

Stretch the mind and unite it with the heart, the soul. RhymeZone and Hemingway are great tools for poetry. Also read other forms of poetry to get inspired. Shakespeare is always a good choice, but try genres that reflect what type of poetry. Check out this post on Haiku, a form of East Asian poetry. Yes, there are myriad ways to express a poem, and the strength of poetry is only limited by one’s imagination.

Here’s some poetry from my WIP, Ethereal Seals. The poems are songs given by priests to the dead and dying to ease their passing. For more information on life and death on Atlas, view my post on Life and Death in a Fantasy Universe. Enjoy! 🙂


Deliverance Eulogy I

Rest easy, my brothers, my sisters

For many starturns, you endured the pain of Umbra’s blisters

May the Earthmother protect your spirits unto the Celestial Heavens

So that you too may meet the divine Seven

Oh, how we wail at the torment you received

And in our hearts, we are all so grieved

Rest easy, my brothers, my sisters,

For it will not be long, and you will be at peace

Deliverance Eulogy I I

My brothers, my sisters; we wail for your loss

Though the Shadow is gone, victory comes with its cost

Our tears shall forever water these sands

Hearken our words, the divine hymn we place unto your hands

Find your Deliverance unto the Celestial Heavens

So that you, too, shall unite with the Seven

Be blessed in the higher planes

Where, for eternity, you shall reign

Aspectä rey’lief, departed souls, departed knyghts

For we bless you with this song, an eulogy of the Aspects’ might


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, thanks for reading.
—Ed R. White

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Writing Log 7/7/21

Short post today. It’s been another busy month for me. Between balancing my meditations, workouts, day job, reading and writing, the days speed by. Ethereal Seals takes another step towards series completion.

Cover Artist Get!

In the interest of book presentation, I’ve secured a cover artist for book one of the series. The price should run about $350. This package includes an e-book cover, print cover with spine and back, and additional goodies like possible social media kits. I’ve spoken with the artist at length, and she has a good feel for what I’m looking for. Sending her the mock cover and sketches of Pepper, I’m confident she’ll come up with a solid product.

To be honest, I’m not ready for print publication, but my intuition tells me to go for the print package should I ever need it. My brother works for a book supplier, and I have ties with a retail company. Having my own marketing podium with Ethereal Seals would be an excellent step forward. I have tools like Mailchimp and Buffer to help me promote my brand online when the time comes to advertise.

Writing Progress

Progress of book two’s manuscript has slowed considerably. I’ve been stuck on the final chapters for weeks, and not due to laziness or procrastination. I’ve written at least three whole revisions of the final battle. Progress is slow but sure. At times, it feels like I’m slogging through a swamp, and then some. Finishing all the character arcs and vetting plot holes, inconsistencies, etc. is a nightmare for me during the final showdown scenes. I’ve also adjusted book one’s story to have it flow better.

Thankfully, I’m almost done. It should be fun to do a couple revision passes—especially for the final chapters—before I open the doors to beta readers and have the manuscript torn to pieces again.

After book two, I may take a break and work on Tempest of the Dragon or Muffins and Magic for a spell. I’ve also plans to go on some meditation retreats and hikes. Whether this will be in New York or elsewhere, I haven’t decided.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for further updates!


Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, reflective essays, and short stories not seen on my blog. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader.
—Ed R. White

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Hard Magic, Soft Magic: How to Use Them in Creative Fiction

Magic—a word tossed around by authors and wordsmiths for decades. Magic is an abstract phenomenon with incredible potential, and such power usually comes with a cost. As a widespread tool in worldbuilding, when misused, it can wreck havoc on a story, figuratively and literally.

Magic in Creative Fiction

Your ability to solve problems with magic in a satisfying way is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.

—Sanderson’s Law One

As shown in Brandon Sanderson’s 2020 lecture, there exists two types of magic in fiction: hard and soft.

Hard and Soft magic

Hard magic is where the laws, definitions, and limitations of the magic are explained. The reader is aware of what the magic can do. This makes the magic more predictable and better for solving problems or establishing structure in a world without reducing tension. It forces more work onto the intelligence of a magic user.

Soft magic is when the magic has unknown costs, outcomes, or limitations. Whimsical, a soft magic can do anything the author wants. Soft magic runs the risk of reducing tension, whereas it can be a solution to almost everything unless a specified cost or risk is explained. A user of soft magic has few limits.

Then there is hybrid magic, which combines the two. While this category has the best of both worlds, it requires the most worldbuilding and planning. An author needs the whimsical nature of soft magic with a severe enough cost/limitation of hard magic. A hybrid magic needs to be interesting, supportive to the story, and comprehensive to the reader.

Examples of Hard and Soft Magic

Gandalf from LoTR is more of a soft magic user. He can accomplish almost anything he sets his mind to without much consequence. Yet he cannot be everywhere at once, nor can he defeat a whole army—let alone Sauron—by himself.

Frodo’s ring has the ability to destroy Sauron if discarded into Mt. Doom. To do this, Frodo must suffer, bearing the ring as a burden than a magical artifact. The ring has a set cost and magical ability for Frodo: turning invisible at the risk of his own sanity, or being detected by Sauron.

Do you see how the cost, the price involved, makes Frodo’s arc more interesting?

The Price of Magic

Flaws and limitations are more interesting than powers.

—Sanderson’s Law Two

A limited resource or consequence for using magic is vital for most magic systems. Adding additional penalties will increase the depth to how and why a character uses magic; it may test their integrity if the use of magic brings immoral or disastrous results.

Rand al Thor from Wheel of Time, who runs the risk of going insane every time he taps into his magic. While WoT’s Source magic is still whimsical in nature, it evokes a gamble with every use.

Next consider Raistlin Majere from the Dragonlance series. Raistlin’s magic is more restricted in its use, and his frail body collapses into a fit of debilitating coughs whenever he expends himself.

Consequences of magic use, particularly severe ones, aren’t always necessary, but they can help. No matter what magical system you choose, bring a detail of tension along with it if possible, even if it’s only a minor one rather than none at all. 

More is Not Always Better

Before adding something new to your magic or setting, see if you can instead expand what you have.

—Sanderson Law Three

While having a fancy magic system rich in lore is nice, sometimes the simpler the magic the better. It can be easy to lose readers or yourself in the depth of it all. Sanderson suggests expanding first on what you have, before adding in anything new. The more variables added, the more complicated things become. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What principles are essential to my magical system?
  • What can I remove/condense for simplicity?
  • What are the costs of my magic? How do they play into character motives, tension, worldbuilding, and plot?
  • Is the magic simple enough to understand? Complex enough to make it interesting?

Case Study: Ethereal Seals

Shifting

The magic in my world, Ethereal Seals, is called Shifting. While Shifting draws lifeforce from the Shifter’s spine, crystals mitigate this. Instead, crystals take the brunt of the stress. Any Elemental spirits alive within the gemstone experience incredible agony.

Imagine being trapped in a prison your whole life, strapped to a generator like a battery?

This adds a moral dilemma to using crystal technology. The protagonist, Pepper Slyhart, realizes this, and her perspective of crystals changes through the story.

Vir’gol Pacts

A Shifter can insert powerful crystals into artifacts called vir’gols . Upon interfacing, the vir’gol can draw upon the crystal like a battery and funnel the Shifter’s spells. Much like a wand.

Most vir’gols have sapience, which allows them to speak freely. They can also do telepathy with their masters. Once a crystal is removed, drained of ether, or damaged beyond repair, the vir’gol loses its awareness. It dies.

The connection between Shifter and vir’gol is called a Pact. A Shifter makes a Pact after inserting the crystal and activating the device. An oath is spoken, binding the Shifter to the weapon (and therefore the crystal) until the oath is fulfilled.

Some Shifters form a Pact subconsciously, only to later realize and strengthen it. To break a Pact isn’t easy. It causes emotional upheaval in the Shifter, besides nausea, lightheadedness, and confusion. The vir’gol is also disrupted and its crystal damaged.

Conclusion

Magic is a fascinating concept to writers and readers. As a powerful tool for worldbuilding, and when supportive of the characters and plot, magic can help a story shine.

Peace be with you, and thanks for reading.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader.
—Ed R. White

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Creative Writing Exercise—Depression

We’ve all been there. Isolated, confused, bored, discouraged. Depression is a common hurdle we as humans face. Yet, there is little more satisfying than conquering that malaise. The spirit of victory fills our souls, driving us to new horizons; for as we sink to the depths of hell, we can only rise to the heights of the stars.

That said, a character enduring depression garners zealous interest and support from the reader. The misery of the character is relatable, gripping, and strengthens the story—if written well.

What is Depression?

According to the Emotional Thesaurus, depression is a state of withdrawal, sorrow, and reduced vitality. An individual may look gaunt, sunken, weary, or psychologically imbalanced. Eating or social misbehavior are common, as are feelings of pessimism. Other symptoms include:

  • lethargy, saggy posture, unkempt appearance, frequent crying
  • a vacant stare, no energy or motivation, an aged face, insomnia
  • nightmares, disease, poor concentration, shallow breathing
  • panic attacks, chest pain, numbness, sluggish speech, thoughts of suicide

Life becomes a chore, a swamp to wade through. A depressed person sees little joy or purpose in living. While depression is a normal, and even healthy response to severe loss or daunting challenges in life, if it lingers, it can fester upon the soul as any wound can. Modern terminology coins this clinical depression.

Writing Depression Into Characters

While depression is horrible in real-life, it serves as an excellent tool in writing. Depression provides tension, character development, and trials for the protagonist to overcome. Many known protagonists like Frodo, Harry Potter, Eragon, Batman, and Jon Snow suffered this ailment. It’s also seen in many prominent figures in history: Jesus, Gandhi, Buddha, and several others. Once one’s inner demons are vanquished, the true hero emerges. See my post on the Hero’s Journey for more on this.

When describing your protagonist’s depression, have the reader feel the visceral sorrow, anger, and loneliness that is crushing upon the hero. Depression needn’t be sudden, it is often slow and gradual, like a disease that smolders upon the soul. Drive the hero to the brink, the “all is lost” point. Drill surprise and suspense into your reader, and they will all-too-eagerly read on.

Depression can also nurture grudges between other characters and breed new tension. It will challenge the hero’s morals. It will pull them closer to the antagonist’s ways; attempting to kill the hero’s spirit in the righteous sense.

Coping Mechanisms for the Hero

Some heroes will, instead of dealing with depression, mask it with peculiar techniques. They may try to block it out entirely, using a costume, armor, new personalities, new home, or a new profession. They are hiding from what they know still festers in their hearts. Eventually, the issue rises to the surface, forcing the protagonist to evolve or suffer.

If the latter, heroes go through a much longer ordeal, witnessing the Inner Hell over and over through their own thoughts and actions. Or that of others reflected back at them. This Hell can be a persistent, helpful tool for the plot and character arc. It allows for deep, inner exposition, the kinds you wouldn’t ordinarily find.

As writers, our job is to weave together that inner journey for our protagonists. To help them grow. Let me repeat myself: there’s nothing more satisfying to a reader than watching a sympathetic underdog rise from the dregs of hellish depression.

Uses of Depression

  • drives the plot and character development
  • provides tension and challenge
  • enables rich exposition
  • relatable to readers

Case Study—Pepper Slyhart

I enjoy tearing my protagonists down, ripping apart their hearts, and leaving their souls in shreds. Then I resurrect them in newfound glory. My own protagonist, Pepper Slyhart, makes an excellent example of this. As a half-dragon, despised by society, Pepper deals with a lot of shit from her countrymen. She is spat on, ridiculed, threatened, and attacked. It’s little wonder she has depressive episodes.

In the early parts of Blade of Dragons, Pepper is your token underdog, a farm girl with little hope in life. She looks up to her father, a role model. It takes a terror event and the words of a wiseman to encourage her to undergo the journey, as most heroes are reluctant to take.

Later, Pepper suffers horrible nightmares, the kind that can kill you in the waking world. She also experiences some setbacks in her quest. Depressed, alone, she engages in deep self-analysis of herself, her values, and why she still pushes forward. Scenes like these remind the reader of a character’s direction using depression as the fulcrum. It humanizes Pepper, despite the magical abilities she may have. Despite the fact she’s a half-dragon.

Confused and alone, Pepper is driven to the brink of madness by the Dragonsoul, threatening to take over her body. To defeat the spirit of the hero.

To date, Pepper has been my most dramatic protagonist to write. They say that each character is a piece of the author, and if so, she is a facet of my own inner demons. One day I intend to defeat them and fortify my spirit, as Pepper will succeed against hers.

Peace be with you, and thanks for reading.


Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, reflective essays, and short stories not seen on my blog. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader.
—Ed R. White

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October Surprises!

Hey, it’s Ed White, how’s it going? Staying safe I hope? I’ve been a busy-bee working on my manuscript, and I have some splendid news to share, plus free reads from a fellow blogger.

  • When it comes to writing fiction, a map is always handy. In this article, I present a tutorial on how to get started in GIMP and enhance your novel. Or, for those not artistically inclined, you can use a software called Inkarnate to make your maps too!
  • November is NaNoWriMO month! Here are some tips and tricks that should help you if you’re brave enough to take on the challenge.
  • I had the pleasure of working with a fellow blogger and writer on the use of Kindle Create. If you missed it, I highly recommend checking out this article right now! It has a simple rundown of what Kindle Create does and how to use it.
  • My notes on Brandon Sanderson’s 2020 Lecture notes are still raking in the views. Be sure to check it out!
  • I recently did a book review on a non-fiction piece about foraging. I also included a bit about foraging and herbs in Ethereal Seals. Here’s another article on geology and gemstone technology for my world.
  • There are Fall designs and sweaters on Flux’s Esoteric Store of Art right now! Use code FLUX2012 to get 10% off.
  • I finished my beta swap with a co-writer, and her feedback was amazing! I can only say Blade of Dragons is much better now. That said, I know what to change and where to polish, bringing the manuscript that much closer to publication.
  • You can check out my beta partner, Rebecca Alasdair, at her website: https://rebeccaalasdair.com/. Her upcoming fantasy novel is called Graceborn.
  • I’ve been doing some additional revision passes on my manuscript for Blade of Dragons. The story has changed over the past few months, but it’s reading better and better! I truly feel it is nearing completion. At around 130,000 words, this science fantasy is loaded with world building and intricate character arcs.
  • Watching Pepper Slyhart grow as a character has been very fulfilling as a writer and artist. I look forward to developing her further in the sequels. She has been like a daughter to me, a character I will always cherish and reflect on.

Lastly, blogger and writer Richie Billing is spreading the word on free reads for New Adult fantasy. Just click the images below to start reading. I know you’ll love these stories!

Thanks for stopping by!


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Business Promotional ideas for Blade of Dragons

Hello, my readers, short post today. I had some interesting ideas to share with you today regarding my WIP, Blade of Dragons. As the manuscript reaches completion, I’ve been toying with the cover art a bit. Once I find a professional cover artist, I imagine it will look much better, but for now, I’m figuring out what I want.

I’ve brainstormed some nifty ideas to promote my novel. This post is mainly me organizing my thoughts and should give you an idea of where I’m headed.

Book Promotion

My main promotion will be either one or multiple short stories, free to read on this blog and elsewhere. The short stories will be preludes to the story to introduce readers to my world. Social Media advertising will be a thing, especially through Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and others.

Readers subscribed to my Mailchimp listing will receive free poetry filled with plot and character lore. Moreover, I’ll send PDF copies of the prologue stories upon publishing my novel.

Pricing

The book will be available on Amazon for around $3.99 to 4.99. I didn’t want to make it too expensive, but at the same time it is a 130,000 word story. I am considering Kindle Unlimited too, which makes the book free for Kindle subscribers.

Goodreads

Blade of Dragons will have its own Goodreads page, where I will convene with readers about story feedback, ideas for further installments, and gathering new fans of the series. It’s also a nice spot to make connections with readers and authors.

Betareader Invites

I am still looking for a few more readers on Betareader.io to polish my manuscript. If you’re interested, sign up and complete a brief survey to get started. Thanks a bunch!

Story Description

Whimsical Magic. Arcane Technology. Romance.

Can Pepper Slyhart use her father’s sword, a weapon with unfathomable power, to save her planet? With her childhood friend, Tarie, Pepper embarks on a dire quest. She enters a war against a dark goddess that has scoured grasslands, scorched forests, and devoured great cities.

Pepper unravels the terrible price of her sentient blade, a connection to the Ethereal Seals Gate, which powers technology and sustains her planet.
But her half-dragon heritage seeks to betray Pepper, and Tarie may be the only one who can save her.

Are they able to fight a war on both fronts, or will the Shadow claim their souls?

—”Exciting, hard-hitting, and exotic. Blade of Dragons is an action-packed adventure filled with vivid storytelling and a strong heroine that will hold you spellbound from start to finish.”

That’s all for now, my readers. Thanks again for tuning in and I’ll see you next time!


I’m merging my blog with Mailchimp (still in testing). I plan to send out blog news, book promotions, and free gifts once I get it up and running! 🙂

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Chapter 1 Excerpt from Blade of Dragons

 

EtherealSeals_BookCoverVersC

Hello, all! I’m getting ready to advertise my upcoming book, Blade of Dragons! Below is an excerpt from chapter 1 of the current manuscript. It’s undergone many changes in the past couple months after several revision passes and feedback from betas.

I’m excited that this project is finally reaching the next stage of its evolution, as I’ll be looking for an agent and maybe a cover artist within the next several months—provided that the Coronavirus situation has stabilized. I am looking for one more beta reader, if possible—let me know if you’re interested.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the excerpt. I do hope you enjoy it!


 

Blinking at the brilliance of the Twins, Pepper tilted her chin up to bathe in the sunlight if only to forget her troubles. Curling her toes in the dirt, she allowed the earth to swallow her feet. The grasslands stretched into the horizon like a blanket of green along the Fertile Crescent, heightening her comfort. In the distance, a few egg-shaped barns situated next to her pyramidal house, set with gemstone spires. Winterwall lay along the horizon, its snowy peaks piercing the sky.

With the drone of insects in her ears, she closed her eyes briefly to allow a breeze to rustle her hair—the familiar smell of manure on the wind. The climate was humid but balanced with a gentle breeze—typical Springcrest weather.

Pepper dug into her pocket and withdrew a golden coin. Along the penny’s worn edges was the depiction of a gauntlet shrouded in vines. Underneath the design was curvy Atläsian cuneiform.

It was the Slyhart family emblem. Pepper rarely went anywhere without it, and in some ways, it was a reminder of who she was—a Slyhart, not some animal or pariah. She placed the coin to the ground.

“Check for messages,” she said.

The penny flashed in response. “Checking etheric archives now, please wait,” it whirred.

From the coin, a light shot up a few inches high. The image of her father appeared with his red hair tied in a long ponytail. He was indeed athletic and tall, a splitting image of Pepper. A red goatee jutted from his chin, and he wore a blue jacket with a sword strapped to his undershirt, a pistol at his belt.

A second image appeared—her mother, in a silver dress and a green braid. She bore a stubby tail and pointed ears like Pepper, but had the addition of leathery wings behind her that the latter lacked. She frowned and hugged the redheaded man. “We hope this message reaches you well, dear. We’ll be home soon. There’s extra food and a month’s worth of melkä coins if you need it. Please promise to stay out of trouble and watch over the farm.”

“Your mom and I will be home as soon as we can,” the man promised. “It’ll be safer if you remain home. We’ll see you soon.”

He smiled as his silhouette wavered with the woman.

Pepper sighed and her shoulders sagged. That was the third message this month. The farm needed daily attention—and Pepper had promised her parents that she’d do it. She was never one to break a promise.

Putting the coin away, she whispered to herself, “Don’t worry, mom, dad. I’ll take good care of the farm.”

From her other pocket, she pulled out a fist-sized crystal of aquamarine. The stone, cold and jagged, shimmered like water. She whispered a mantra, and mist spouted from the stone, drenching the rows of crops around her.

Smiling, she spread her arms while the droplets of cool water covered her body. The crystal shrieked with a flash upon completion. You could never have enough water for your farm—and only a hundred more plots to go for the day. She rolled her eyes and shifted her shoulders, eager to complete her chores for the day.

“I see you’re still enjoying the farm, Pepper Slyhart,” said a soft voice.

She turned her head and her jaw dropped…


 

Writing, Book Reviews, and Reflections of the Self—a Spring Time Revelation

woman reading a book

Hello to all my lovely readers. 🙂

It’s been a steady month, working on my blog, doing book reviews, and revising my manuscript for Dragonsblade. I would like to thank all my alpha and beta readers—for all the feedback you’ve given me so far.

My WIP: Dragonsblade

Dragonsblade has progressed much in this past month alone. As I improve the story, I’m growing closer to my characters, particularly Pepper Slyhart and Tarie Beyworth. I’ve learned so much about POV depth alone—very exciting!

I’m always looking for more readers. If you’re interested, contact me via this site or check me out at www.betareader.io. My beta book cover has a big green gem on it. Thanks.

An Interesting Perspective on Writing

The other day, I ran across an article by a fellow blogger. She talks about the craft of writing and how we can use it in unique ways. I’d highly recommend checking it out here. Her blog is equally fantastic and has plenty to offer on the fundamentals for writers.

Book Review: The Faded Sun

A few weeks ago, I finished a sci-fi trilogy called The Faded Sun. I did a book review on it here if you’re curious. The books do a great job describing alien cultures, and I found the relationship between the main characters to be cute; the prose was a bit dry though, and the characterization was subpar.

I have more fantasy and sci-fi book reviews in the works. Stay tuned for more. 😛

Introductions of a Novel: Essential Tips, Tricks, and More

My article on false starts, introductions, and more contains vital information on writing the beginning of a novel. I suggest you check it out if you’re a writer. It has some nifty tips and amusing allegories.


That’s all for now, my dear readers—thanks for stopping by. I hope you’re having a lovely spring and be sure to enjoy the weather before it gets too hot. Cheers. 😀

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Dreams of the Scarlet Swordswoman #8

person sky silhouette night

Here’ some more creative writing from a dream segment in my upcoming book, Ethereal Seals: Dragonsblade. I had fun writing this part of Pepper’s dreams. It’s more philosophical and spiritual if anything. In the meanwhile, I’ve been super busy writing, rewriting, and revising the book segments from the feedback I get. Any feedback in the comments here is also appreciative. Thanks.

Alternatively, you can check me out at betareader.io. Also stop by my creative Twitch channel for gaming, writing, and artwork.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this little tidbit and thanks for reading! 🙂

 


Pepper woke with a start, beholding an ocean of stars. The blackness of space drew her in, stealing her breath. Each star twinkled like facets of a white gemstone out of her reach. A chill ran up her spine at the view of the vast cosmos. Comets, nebulae, and multiverses spiraled around her.

“What is this?” she said with her brows arched.

A tusked bear materialized before her, its body muscular yet aged, golden fur tingled with gray. Licking its paws, the beast marked her cheek with its mitt before walking away. She shouted the bear’s name, her hand outstretched, but he did not heed it. With a howl, the animal vanished into stardust.

Confused, she paced forward on an invisible floor, each step echoing around her. A comet crashed into a small star with a massive explosion, scattering the remains like children’s toy blocks. Pepper gasped and shielded her face, but the shockwaves passed through her harmlessly.

Pepper opened her eyes. Instead of a destroyed moon, crystalline dust scattered around her vicinity. Then the cosmic sand shimmered, coming together at a point. A small flame developed, growing larger.

She stared at the sight, her jaw slack, as the flame grew beyond her line of sight. It was now a star, too massive for her to gauge. Then smaller particles of dirt came, rotating around the star like a solar system.

“Are those planets? What’s going on? Where am I?”

She tried to turn away from the awesome sight, but couldn’t. Countless universes flashed before her eyes: death and birth; an endless cycle of life and transmutation—of alchemy. She saw the future and the past, meshed together. Images of herself flashed before her eyes. She saw herself as a different, but a familiar person—a female soldier. Another vision came, as an old man; others like animals, insects, plants, and even stars. She became it all, merging with the universe.

“Please stop, whatever you are,” Pepper cried, vaguely aware of her body. She grunted and flailed her arms against the cosmic seduction.

The frequency of visions increased, hundreds flashing before her eyes each second.

“No more, please!” she begged, falling to what she assumed were her knees.

The visions ceased as abruptly as they began, leaving Pepper in the bleakness of space. The sensation choked her, robbing what residue of Creation still lingered within her entity. She hugged herself and sobbed, now empty and alone—a nothingness.

Then, she saw it.

A cluster of multiverses, each shaped like gemstones, condensed into a sphere of white plasma. Around the anomaly, arms of multihued light rotated like rings. She couldn’t count how many limbs the thing had, nor how large it was—size was meaningless—only marveled at the magnificence of what she witnessed.

“The Ethereal Seals?” she said, confused about how she knew it was Gate. She glanced down at a jade sword she held. “It must be my connection to the Gate through my sword.”

She looked up. The Gate flashed and released shockwaves of warm electricity that sent pleasure through Pepper’s body, a sensation she could only describe as divine—not fit for mortal comprehension. The smell of lavender wafted in the air, on her taste buds. Her fingers stroked the tips of the Gate. It was soft and tender.

“What do you want from me?”

The Gate flashed again and vanished, leaving her in the void of space. She then noticed a blond youth—alone in the darkness as she—not more than a few yards away. The young man shivered violently, unable to obtain the heat he sought.

A small girl appeared next to Pepper. The newcomer bore jade twintails down her shoulders and clothed in a silver dress. Her earrings were the shape of swords, and her silver eyes equally as sharp. Her hands curved to a single point, the flesh like metal.

“Master, please go to him,” the little girl pleaded, clasping her bladed hands. She took a knee, gesturing to the youth.

“Dwyrm?” said Pepper, examining the girl, who remained bowed.

Pepper approached the youth on the horizon. Her hand caressed his face, felt the cold sweat on his body, and smelled the herbal aroma of his hair. The touch was like a jolt of electricity through her arm. A warmth grew in his body, and he smiled, his eyes closed, as he cuddled with her. She dug her fingers into his robes, savoring his embrace, a smile on her lips. For a few precious moments, nothing else mattered to the girl.

She was complete and one with Creation once more.

The red girl paused as an ominous shadow formed behind the youth. The image of a black dragon roared and seized the man, drawing him away from Pepper’s grasp. She cried in vain, watching the towering dragon devour him amidst his screams of agony. Fire flared in her spine. She bent double and moaned in pain as darkness engulfed her.

 

 

Dreams of the Scarlet Swordswoman #7

She held a demonic weapon in her hand—a monster, a work of evil. Pepper buried the sword in the dirt, broke it, and threw it away. Still, the fiend would not leave. She ran from the weapon, hearing the laughter of the sword claw at her soul.

Destroyed taverns and churches fell behind her, with misshapen demons and soldiers in pursuit. She came to a cliff side and screamed an unsaid name, lifting her hands. The horrors closed around her; at the front of the demons was the dark twin again. She carried a blade likened to a dragon tooth, its length vibrating with power and tearing at space like a vacuum.

The sinister double raised the weapon to strike. The red girl shrank back against the crag as her death approached, screaming the silent name again. The bone stopped inches before its target, and the villain gave a start before the appearance of a newcomer.

A handsome youth had appeared by Pepper’s side with a jade sword raised. While short of stature, his hair was like a waterfall of gold that stretched down his spine. His vest and pants sparkled with gemstones, like a torch of white flame.

Pepper’s twin growled like a wild beast. She backed up before his radiance.

“You shan’t touch her!” the youth cried, pointing his sword out in challenge, his brows furrowed.

The doppelganger roared and swung her bone of fire. The youth caught the blade, deflecting each follow up like a professional swordfighter. Sparks flew from the clash, the heavens trembled, and the earth shook. The antagonist found herself pushed back again.

“You cannot protect her forever, foolish elf. I, Tiamat, shall have her body and mind eventually. You will see.” With a hiss, Tiamat vanished into smoke, and with her, the rest of her lackeys.

Pepper sighed with relief, her hand at her breast. She regarded her savior, who turned to face her. He seemed familiar, but Pepper couldn’t remember his name, like a splinter lost in the deep recesses of her mind.

“Thank you,” she said, bowing. She hesitated and gasped, noticing she wore a long ball gown. Her mouth parted, fingers caressing each ruby, shining like specks of magma. The fabric was soft like silk, interlaced with tiny jewels.

She looked up at the youth, her brows arched in confusion.

He smiled, gently taking her silk glove, his lips pressed on one of her knuckles. “It’s my pleasure, milady. In exchange, could I ask you for one dance?”

“A dance?” she said, blinking. “Okay.”

He nodded and turned towards the cliff face. Heedlessly, he walked off the edge, still holding her hand. She followed behind him, her feet stepping on air as if it were stone. The gray sky turned sunny, and the milieu smelled of honey and perfume. The sunlight reflected off her dress, the fabric shimmering like diamonds cast in the lava of her hair.

Her heart raced, lips curled into a smile as her body tingled with warmth from his strong grip. He gently took her into a waltz, spinning her around, hands at her hips.

Pepper’s eyes never left his when she faced him. She felt the warmth on her cheeks, the passion in her body surging like wildfire for this mysterious man. Who was he?

He paused, holding Pepper close to his face, his lashes grazing hers. He kissed her on the lips, slowly, deeply. She moaned with the experience of his mouth—wet and soft against hers, so comfortable and exquisite.

He pulled back and frowned, hands at her shoulders. “Pepper, you need to wake up.”

“What?”

“Wake up, please. Everyone is worried.”

He released her and she fell from the sky—her invisible floor had vanished. She screamed as she descended towards the black ocean below. The light of the heavens vanished.

Then, everything fractured like glass.