November 23, 2004

Ghostknight: Resurrection - Excerpt 7 (late middle - just before excerpt 4)

The village lay just as the tinker had described it, empty of all human life. It appeared the villagers had just left their buildings without looking back. Several of the houses had open doors. In other places the beds were rumpled and unmade as if the owners had risen from them and just walked out of their houses.
“That may very well be just what happened,” said Brom when Obern made this observation. “Possession would do that, but the entire village? I don’t know what sort of creature could do such a thing on such a scale. No struggle, just gone.”
The village itself was surrounded by hard packed earth, but inspection around its borders turned up a large number of human tracks heading into the forest.
“Keep your swords loose, gentlemen,” said Brom. We are following these.”

November 22, 2004

Ghosknight: Resurrection - Excerpt 6 (transition point between beginning and middle)

P. watched the road from above. The two ghostknights rounded the bend just when he expected them. George and Ishra, he had served with them briefly on his first tour of the Barrowastes. They were both solid men, good fighters, and effective ghostknights, if a bit unimaginative. He nodded at the ghostly form of Liam who slid onto the road behind the ghostknights. They sensed something amiss almost immediately.
As they turned to face the threat, Liam changed. P. could not tell what the ghostknights actually saw, but it terrified them. They ran towards the ford as hard as they could. Liam kept pace behind them. P. waited until they had disappeared, then walked north to the bank of the river. He signaled to R.
The fire ghast stood on the far side of the river where the stream narrowed. Earlier, before leaving for the second ambush, K. had used his wraithly chill to freeze this section of the river. A wall of water was building up behind the narrow opening, just beginning to spill over the sides and back into its proper channel.
At P.’s signal, R. spread flames across the surface of the ice wall. In moments it cracked. Chunks of ice and an enormous mass of water surged downstream. If the timing was right, the two ghostknights would reach the ford just before the water. If they got there too soon, Liam would hold them there with an illusion on the other bank. George and Ishra were good ghostknights, but P. suspected Liam’s illusions would put even Mabel to shame. They would be enough to put George and Ishra where P. wanted them to be.

November 19, 2004

Ghostknight: Resurrection - Excerpt 5 (beginning)

“Right then, here’s how it works. I’m a ghostknight. You’re ghostknights, too, now that Mabel’s deflowered you. I’m a higher ranking ghostknight, but don’t ask me what my actual rank is because it changes. Technically, I’m a warden, but that doesn’t really mean much. The whole ranking thing is screwed up. The short version is that the Grandmaster sits at the top. There are a few guys just below him, like Brom and Obern. Then there are patrol leaders. I’m one of those. Everyone else is effectively the same rank. Brom is kind of a higher rank than Obern, unless they’re facing fiends, in which case Obern is more experienced and he takes command. That’s kind of how the whole thing works. I’m guessing you two were army rats before you became fish, right? So this must sound like the absolute worst way to run an army. It would be, except the ghostknights are not an army, we’re ghostknights. There’s no other way to explain it, but it does seem to work. Right now you just need to know a few things. First, you guys are going to have that fresh fish smell about you for a while so you’re kind of the bottom of the barrel until that wears off. The next thing to know is that if your current officer tells you to listen to someone else, then that person is your new officer. Right now, Brom is your officer. Tomorrow or the day after, he’ll probably give you another assignment. That’s likely to be one of two things, a patrol or an action team.”

November 16, 2004

Ghostknight: Resurrection - Excerpt 4 (late middle, almost beginning of the end)

Brom watched the bodies of the zombies pile up on the far side of the stone wall, their corpses adding to the obstacle’s effectiveness. The archers were still largely unnecessary, but in a few moments he would need them to cover the reinforcements. The men on the front lines were beginning to tire. A few had fallen where the press was greatest but the medics had dragged them to the safety of the farmhouse ruins. Other knights had stepped in and the zombies had not yet broken the plane of the old stone wall. It would happen. Five hundred zombies were too many to fight on such a front. After enough had been met, and the bulk of their numbers arrived, Brom would need to draw his men back into the greater security of the old foundations.
A scout stationed at their rear called Brom’s attention. “There’s a man heading this way, a ghostknight.”
The soldier approached their fortifications from the rear. It was one of the men Brom had sent with Ethan to seek the figure on the hill. He saluted, “Sir, the fire knight is controlling the zombies. I tried to warn the rear guard, but they got cut off before I could get there. You have zombies flanking you now. You’ll be surrounded soon.”

November 14, 2004

Ghostknight: Resurrection - Excerpt 3 (just prior to climactic end scene)

Brom could hear the clash of swords, the scream and howl of battle issuing from the floor below, but the tower room was silent. As hard as he listened, he could hear nothing louder than the sounds from the stairwell. He continued on as silently as he could, knowing that silence was futile against P. His passage was made more difficult by the memories it awoke.
The last time Brom had been in this tower, the battle to reach the top had been fierce but Brom’s men had been cleaning up the battle already fought by P. Here in this doorway Brom had found L.’s corpse being hacked apart by the skeletons driven mad by their master’s destruction. Here in the antechamber is where L. had lain P.’s body, is where L. had fallen defending his general’s corpse. Brom had wept then for the fall of the two heroes, his two friends.
Now, his sorrow warred with his rage and Brom did not know what to feel. They should have torn this tower down. Then he would not have to be facing his old companions here, would not have to see new ones die here. Brom shook his head, if not here it would have been somewhere else. If P. had not returned from the dead. . . but P. had returned and now Brom had to face him, here in this tower where Brom had failed him once before.
The Witch-King’s chambers were through the next door. There were no other rooms. P. was there, had to be there. It was where they had found the smoldering body of the Witch-King. P.’s blood was still on his claws. It was where P. would be waiting for him. Brom opened the door and stepped through.

November 11, 2004

Ghostknight: Resurrection - Excerpt 2 (beginning)

P. crept through the halls, the first guard was not far away and P. had not yet regained his former stealth. He suspected bitterly that he never would. His actions were more powerful than ever but his soul was no longer bound tightly to his body. It had been removed and replaced and no longer fit quite right. He had lost the fine control necessary for silent motion. He could be quiet, but that was not enough when one was dealing with Ghostknights. The increased strength and his new abilities almost made up for the loss, almost.
The first guard heard him when he was still three steps away. P. was certain he would not have gotten even that close if the Ghostknights had placed more experienced guards at his tomb. The man turned at the noise, his hand on the hilt of his sword, but he never drew his weapon.
He just stared at P., his mouth open in shock and horror. P. was filled with loathing for the man, disgust at the terror evident on his face. This ghostknight had everything P. had left behind. P. reached out and took it from him. He could see the faint shimmer of the man’s soul as it flickered in fear. Without thinking about the action, he stretched his hand out to the stuttering soldier, grabbed the shimmering soul, and pulled it from his body. The man’s face lost its terror and the body collapsed. P. regarded the soul in his hand calmly. It twisted and screamed in a voice no mortal could hear. It continued to writhe until P. drew the Krymmon and cut it in half. The faint halves of the soul wailed and then dissipated under a wind P. could not feel.

November 09, 2004

Ghostknight: Resurrection - part 1 (very beginning)

The tomb held but a single flaw, although it was not one its designers could have prevented. The flaw was not in the construction or the materials used. The tomb was fashioned of the finest marble by the finest craftsman. The man whose body rested on the stone bier in the center of the main chamber was a hero, a true hero, and the empire he served treated him as well in death as they had in life. His tomb served as a monument as well as a crypt. The design was sound, the materials only the finest. Every consideration was taken to ensure that his enemies would not be able to enter. This was no small feat. The man had been a Ghostknight, one of the finest, and his enemies were numerous and nefarious.
Four of his lieutenants had died with him and all four were buried in the same tomb, although his crypt was by far the largest. The lights that burned perpetually in each room were in fact powerful enchantments, designed to prevent evil from gaining entrance. Where the light shone, no creature of evil could stand. The walls were warded, as were the ceilings and the floors. The doors held their own wards. There were no windows. The bars on the doors and their complicated locking devices were designed to foil human enemies.
Two guards were present as well, young Ghostknights honored to serve in the tomb of their order’s greatest champion and the four heroes who had stood at his side. The two Ghostknight guards were charged with protecting the tomb and guiding the few guests who chose to pay their respects. They were good at their jobs, if inexperienced. The few threats that manifested themselves the guards dispatched with ease. Only once did they fail to notice an intruder, a vampire who stood at the edge of the clearing and watched the tomb silently, as vampires do most things, for a long time. He had no malicious intention and left without being noticed or attempting to enter the sacred grounds. For that oversight, the guards could be forgiven. The flaw was not with them.
The flaw was not in the wards upon the walls, nor in the enchanted lights set above each bier. There were no imperfections in the complicated sigils, no scratches marred the silver inlay of the protective circles. Each rune was scripted with care by men of power and they made no mistakes. The locks were complex, sturdy, and strong. The guards were observant, able, and devoted. The flaw was not in the tomb, nor in those who watched over it. The flaw was in the hero.

November 07, 2004


“You could ask me what name I gave to the first color, the one that ran and hid when I formed the others. You could ask me what words I will speak when I unmake the world. You could ask me how to name stone or rock, or how to hear the river speak. You could ask me who first sang to me the song I teach the newborn birds and who will someday sing a better one. You could ask to read a page in the Book of Names or to be allowed to chew a leaf from the Tree of Life. You could have asked any question, any boon, and I would have granted you an answer. But not that one, love. I cannot answer that one.”
“You cannot draw me into false regret, Maki. You knew what question I would ask when you offered the boon. I will not second guess myself.”
“Perhaps. You could, of course, withdraw the question and ask another.”
“Nevertheless the question stands. It is the one to which I desire an answer.”
“I will not give you that answer.”
“Then you must tell me who can. By the compact, if you cannot fulfill the boon you have offered you must direct me to one who can. So tell me.”
“Ah, that I could answer. But I choose not to.”
“You choose? You choose not to? That is not the way this works. You owe me at least that much.”
“Oh no, love. I owe you much less than that. But still, I will offer you more than I owe. Despite your insolence. I will give you a name, although he can answer none of the questions you can ask. If you ask him a question he can answer, it will put you one step closer to your goal. Do you consent to receive this name?”
“Yes, Maki. I accept your wisdom. Forgive this one for doubting you.”

Maki said nothing, only nodded her head. Then she gave the man a name and the man trembled to hear it.

November 04, 2004


Harold left his office and wandered down the hall. George’s door was open, but George only nodded when Harold greeted him and immediately returned to his computer. So Harold walked on. Nancy and Denise were standing at the cooler. He heard Denise’s high giggle before he rounded the corner but when he spoke to them she was somber. They answered his questions simply then both took long drinks of water. Harold walked away. Behind him Denise began to giggle again. Taylor did not even answer Harold’s hello. The Cubicle triplets all looked at him, then looked away when he waved. Mabel stopped him before he reached the elevators, said hello, and asked him how he was doing. Harold began to feel better. But Mabel did not answer when he returned the question, only wished him a good day, glanced at the Cubicle triplets with some significance Harold could not identify, and left him standing in the middle of the hallway. Harold got in an elevator. It was empty. He picked a button and slowly began to sink towards the ground floor.

Night Ride

Night slid past the windows outside. Tree trunks beat a staccato pattern against the occasional flash of a streetlight or the burst and roar of another car passing in the opposite direction. The driver had long ago turned off the radio and, before even that, established his complete indifference to his passenger’s presence. The man in the back was left with nothing to do but watch the scenery in silence and count the street signs he could not read. Soon even this distraction was gone, and shortly after so were the street lights. They encountered no further cars. The passenger’s world shrank to the interior of the car and the globe of light projected by the car’s headlights. To the sides of the car, he was aware of the rushing mass of trees squeezing tighter and tighter like the press of rock in a mountain tunnel or the narrowing crack of a river canyon. The whir of pavement became the hiss of gravel but the passenger guessed, correctly, that this did not signify an end to the journey. That would not be arriving for quite some time.

November 01, 2004

Small Cities are the Easiest Fish

Small cities are the easiest fish. It’s because they think they’re big cities. Towns aren’t afraid to ask for help, aren’t afraid to show a little distrust. A small town sees a thing like a nice new piece of bait and they’ll start to ask questions. Sooner or later they’ll see the hook, then they’ll see the line and follow it back to the fisherman. After that it never goes well for the fisherman. Small cities, though, they’re so afraid of being thought provincial or rustic that they’ll swim grinning into every trap you set out. Big cities just laugh and crush the traps, take the bait and leave the hook alone. Then you’re out some expensive bait. That’s not so bad, but there are things in big cities that think the fisherman would be more tasty than the bait. So stick with the small cities, the ones that want desperately not to be towns. They’re the easiest fish to catch.