October Newsletter Fiction Preview + Draft Sent our for Critique

So . . . I’m going to be about a month late on this newsletter. My goal is to have updates about my life and writing sent out every quarter as a kind of supplement to the posts I do here on the blog. I’m hoping to have things like sales and special offers (when I finally have some published works) and info about new releases. But I’m hoping the real drive will be exclusive fiction which I’ll write every quarter that will be for members of the newsletter only (if any of that sounds cool please sign up for my newsletter)

But this month, it didn’t quite go as planned. Publishing Narmer and The God Beast and the promotion I did for it took up a considerable amount of my time. I did manage to hack out a zero-draft during a writing retreat I did during Labor Day weekend, but with Pitchwars and other stuff I had not completed much by my October 1st deadline.

So, my new goal is to push the newsletter on October 31st, and have exclusive fiction for subscribers at that point. So far that seems to be going well. I finished my first draft and sent it away to be critiqued this coming Monday. Once that feedback has come through, I can make any tweaks before the 31st deadline.

Then it’s November which is a whole other thing I gotta figure out . . .

Anyway, I thought it might be cool to see a little of what I’ve been working on, and so I’ve posted the first part of the story, Boutilier House, for y’all to read and enjoy. The rest will be sent out with the newsletter on Oct 31st (so sign up!)


Boutilier House

The first thing about Boutilier House which set Adam on edge were the locks. There were none.

For a house — no a palace — such as this, Adam had suspected that every porcelain dish in the China cabinets, or any gilded vase along the entry table might somehow prove under lock and key. Perhaps even the guest book was bolted upon its wood and silver pedestal.

But it was simply not the case.

Adam might have nicked the polished gold nightjars roosting on the table runner as easy as removing candy from its wrapper. In his youth, perhaps he might have, just because he could. 

But Mr. Cunningham had not sent him here for larks. 

No, the prize Adam was to take with him when he left was far more valuable than a few gold trinkets.    

And so it was that the full seven seconds it took Mathieu to respond to his comment about the locks was actually the third thing which set Adam on edge.

“Oh, there are locks Adam — May I call you Adam?” Mathieu said abruptly.

“Oh, um. Of course.” 

Mathieu’s light-blue eyes seemed to brighten slightly as he visibly committed the name to memory. “My father thought of everything when designing the house. Why carry with you a cumbersome ring of keys — which might get lost or stolen — when the house can recognize you and welcome you inside simply by the touch of your hand upon the doorknob?”

Adam had no argument there. It was truly remarkable.

Before coming to clerk for Mr. Cunningham, Adam had fancied himself something of amateur engineer, tinkering here and there as each new trend caught his attention.

But Boutilier’s work simply defied understanding.

“But surely it can’t remember everyone,” Adam pressed. “Or what if it does remember a past tenet and accidentally lets them in while another guest is here. If the system is mechanical surely there is a way to override — ”

Mathieu held up one finger.

“You must trust us, Adam. Relax. The system works and it has never been wrong. Father has seen to everything.”

Mathieu turned slightly so that his body no longer impeded entry into the house. He gestured invitingly at the large greeting area, flanked by two enormous wooden staircases which bent around and behind a door on the first story.

“Come,” he said simply. “Let me show you around.” 

As they walked, Adam could see doorways leading to the different wings of the house along the left and right walls of the entryway, but Mathieu lead him through a center door instead.

“In here is the dining area.”

Mathieu gestured to a long and narrow room, with an equally long and slightly narrower wooden table. Cabinets lined each of the walls, filled with glass and porcelain in every shape and size of plate or cup Adam could imagine. Those automated doors must work well indeed if nothing had been taken.

“Simply let the house know what you would like to eat, and it will be served upon your request,” said Mathieu as they left the dining area, and went back the way they’d come. He picked a staircase and began climbing. 

“The master bedroom will be through that center door. The bath is at the end of the hall on your right.”

Mathieu continued to lead Adam through the house, mixing in bits of the Boutilier’s family history with the amenities Adam could expect from his stay in the mansion. Apparently, this had been Gregoire Boutilier’s first house upon coming to the new world. He’d lived there with his three children, Roseline, Joel, and Isabelle.  

But it wasn’t long before Adam began listening with only half an ear. The house was large, yes, and clearly furnished with the highest quality of accommodations, but aside from the locks, displayed nothing of the marvel Mr. Cunningham had described when they’d met for dinner last week.

Nothing that would warrant the abrupt separation from his wife and toddling daughter.

Adam felt his jaw clench as he remembered Helen’s reddened, tear-filled stare through their apartment’s front window. Lexy cried in her arms and Helen soothed her half-heartedly.

All of the arguments Adam had constructed while at dinner with Helen’s father had seemed to mean little when held up against Lexy’s anxiety at their separation, and Helen’s pleas for rest and relief at the end of a long day.

Mr. Cunningham had sent a nanny of course, to help out while Adam was away, but even Adam knew it would not be the same as having both parents at home with their child. Adam speculated briefly what discovery he might make here that might possibly absolve him his absence. 

Nothing came to mind.

Suddenly Adam had very little patience for the number of threads woven into the master bedroom’s sheets or knowing the exact temperature of his bath water when he washed.        

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Adam finally cut Mathieu off. “All of this is very nice. Really top notch. But this is a bit of a business retreat. Is there somewhere I can work? Without being disturbed by the servants that is.” 

Mathieu got that look again, the one in which he appeared to be staring at something far off in the distance. 

“Servants? . . . Work? Ah!” Mathieu said at last. “You must mean the library. Magnificent. One of my favorite parts of the house. My own father spent many of his nights there working on his inventions. Would you like to go there now?”

“Please.”

Mathieu led Adam through a series of twists and turns which did not seem to match any layout Adam had built in his mind of Boutilier’s house, and arrived at the library within a few minutes, though the tour before that had seemed to take much longer.

It seemed nice, a large open room with a domed ceiling that reached several stories. Bookshelves climbing three of the four walls and packed full of books and mechanical devices.

The fourth wall sported two massive windows which must let in plenty of light during the morning and afternoon. 

Adam looked around, judging its fit. That table over there could serve as a workbench. Maybe the chest of drawers which seemed to be a card catalog could contain screws and nuts, bolts and small glassware. 

It would do.

He’d get his project done and then go home to Helen and Lexy before they even processed he was gone.

“Thank you, Mathieu. I think we’re quite finished with the tour now.”

“Of course, sir,” Mathieu said, courteous as ever. “If you need anything, simply ask and the house will provide. 

“You keep saying that . . . Never mind. Where are the switches for these lamps? I should like to get to work immediately, but it will be dark soon.”

Mathieu paused in his way before answering. “Ah! Sorry Adam. I’ve been remiss in my duties. You simply say the house’s name and the house will listen. Normally we would say Boutilier, but we’ve taken into account your English sensibilities, so we’ve asked the house to respond to the English equivalent. Go ahead and give it a shot. All you need do is say the name and ask for what you want.” 

“Butler . . .” Adam tried cautiously. “Please turn on the library’s lights for me.” 

Adams heart felt like it had stopped beating in his chest. 

The library’s lights came on dimly and got slowly brighter until they were bright enough to read by. 

Mr. Cunningham had been right. There was something worth discovering in this house after all. It might even be enough to absolve him.


Anyway, that was the first part of my (hopefully spooky) story. The rest will be released along with the newsletter on October 31st so be sure to sign up!

Please leave any feedback in the comments. See you next time!

ICYMI: Narmer and the God Beast Live on Amazon!

Well, the title pretty much says it all, but I’ll still put a little bit of text here because I’d like to reward you for the click.

Monday saw the release of the first story in my ‘Egypt and Dinosaurs’ universe. Narmer and the God Beast tells the tale of a boy and his dragon, only that boy is a young king Narmer, the first Pharaoh of Egypt, and the dragon is a 30 ton dinosaur (paralititan stromeri, the Tidal Giant, to be precise). Together they can unite Egypt, but first they must endure and overcome Narmer’s brother Bahek’s cruelty . . .

I had an amazing cover done by Lee Eschliman, and have been ranting on all month about my influences for the short story and how the idea came to be. You can see the list of posts here:

Finally, if you’ve liked anything you’ve seen on this page so far and are hoping for more of this kind of thing in your life, I recommend signing up for my newsletter. It gives you access to exclusive fiction, special offers, and updates about my general life and nonsense (here’s a sample newsletter). Just for signing up I’ll send you an email with the very first story I ever wrote about a Warlock Doctor.

Anyway, thanks all for reading. This has been something I’ve waited so long to share with everyone, and a bit of a wild ride to get to this moment. I’m so thankful I was able to do this at all, and I’m hopeful there will be so much more where this came from (read as sequels and a novel! Lol).

As always, please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading all this and I’ll see you next time!

From the Primordial Ooze: The Genesis of an Idea

In Ancient Egyptian myth, it was thought that the world rose up from the primordial waters of chaos, in the form of a mound or pyramid (known as the Benben). From here the sun rose up next, thus creating the sun god (Ra or Khepri depending), and thus allowing other gods, people, and wildlife to form upon the mound (world).

With just four more days until the release of Narmer and The God Beast, I thought it might be fun to go over NATGB’s own creation story . . . how did this somewhat crazy idea rise up from the chaos.

Full disclosure: I’m not the only person in the world to think about dinosaurs roaming Ancient Egypt. I’m not even the first.

According to World News Daily Report (who’s slogan btw is literally: “Where Facts don’t Matter”), a Dr. Nabir Ibn Al-Sammud, “…one Egyptology’s most eminent figures”, has found a series of stone palettes that prove dinosaurs helped build the pyramids. Ancient Egyptians supposedly tamed “beastly creatures” of “enormous size” which were “tamed and used to carry the large limestone blocks that compose the pyramids.”

Wut?

If this sounds ludicrous, and patently false, it’s because obviously it is. We’ve got the last dinosaurs going extinct 65 million years ago, and the first humans emerging in Africa 2 million years ago. In my mind, there seems to be no chance the two could have lived together.

However, if you’re still not convinced, No It Is Not has done a full take-down article, explaining that Nabir Ibn Al-Sammud is not even a real archeologist, and that the image of him next to a dinosaur carving is a doctored image of Dr. Don Patton, an avid creationist.

What’s perhaps the best part about all of this, is that there is so much misinformation around this one crazy idea, that even when articles try to prove it false, they still make mistakes. For instance, the blog for Michigan State’s ANP364: Pseudoarchaeology class (which I would soooo take) posted the article: Did Dinosaurs Build the Pyramids? NO! in which they give reasons for why the idea may have come about (long necked creatures on the Narmer Palette), and decrying it as “pseudo archeological insanity” (which it is). They continue on to discuss Serpopards (which I should really find a way to incorporate in my setting), and then state that despite everything they have mentioned earlier, Egypt and Dinosaurs do have a connection.

What could it be? Well apparently, “In 2014 a small raptor skeleton was uncovered in a small section deep within The Great Pyramid of Giza.” But check the date on the article they cited (the one I just linked) . . .

April 1st 2014 . . .

Are there any holidays on that day which might make us doubt the validity of something published online? The article cites a French archaeologist Avril Sap, of which I could not find any other publications for except another Egyptian Streets article about ‘Extraterrestrial Activity’ Discovered in King Tutankhamun’s Tomb . . . also published April 1st (of 2016).

I think someone is having a bit of fun 🙂

So what do we do in the face of such blind misinformation and conspiracy?

Join in obviously. (I mean heck The Dinosaur Lords exists)

Write a short story about the friendship of Narmer and his Paralititan companion, and their first step together in conquering the Two Lands and uniting this Great Egypt. Begin studying hieroglyphs in your spare time. Read about Bahariya Oasis and the dinosaurs which where discovered there back in the early 1900s and then again in the late 90s. Play a lot of Assassin’s Creed Origins and wish the next boss fight was against Spinosaurus. Post about influences on your blog. Write a novel . . .

Like the Benben mound which rose up out of the primordial ooze, this one idea has risen up from the chaos of the internet, and inspired an entire world of myth and stories I’m just brimming to tell. But it all started here, with a simple conspiracy about Narmer and his God Beast.

Thanks for reading this somewhat wild ride of a blog post. What’s the craziest conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard? Where was the most surprising place you heard is touted as fact? Please leave your answers in the comments. I’m sure there’s all kinds of stuff I haven’t even hit the surface of.


Still here? Awesome. I hope you enjoyed From the Primordial Ooze: The Genesis of an Idea. You’ve pretty much just witnessed the creation of Narmer and the God Beast. I revealed the story’s amazing cover art and blurb a few weeks ago, illustrated for me by Lee Eschliman and I’ll continue to be putting out posts about my influences for this story all month until the story’s official launch on October 4th. If you like anything you’ve seen so far, you can head over to Amazon and preorder it now.

If you want more of my writing, please check out my fiction page, or consider signing up for my newsletter at https://jdweber.news/EgyptAndDinos. It will give you access to exclusive fiction, special offers, and just my general life and nonsense (here’s a sample newsletter). Just for signing up I’ll send you an email with the very first story I ever wrote about a Warlock Doctor.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to see you around here more!

Narmer And the God Beast Cover Reveal!

As I alluded to in my July Newsletter, I have worked up a short story in my ‘Egypt and Dinosaurs’ setting. It is called Narmer and the God Beast. As I so eloquently put it then:

“I even paid for a cover and everything . . . “

https://alligatorsandaneurysms.wordpress.com/2021/07/02/july-newsletter-new-fiction-master-of-secrets/

Well, that cover is here. It was created by illustrator Lee Eschliman who is absolutely fantastic. You can take a look at his other work on instagram. Lee’s artwork has been in my life since I can remember. One of his logos graced the deck of my very first skateboard (if you can believe I used to skate) and he’s influenced several of my hobbies overs the years. I was absolutely ecstatic that he was willing to craft the cover for my story. It turned out simply amazing.

Anywho, without further ado, here’s the cover for Narmer and the God Beast (and the back cover blurb to pique your interest):

Had I anything in my heart but hate for my brother and pity for myself . . .

I may have suspected I was about to meet a god.”

Broken and bleeding into the cool Nile waters – shattered by his brother’s cruelty – young Narmer pays the crocodile no heed as it enters the stream. Let it come.

But the hunter swims on, and only then does Narmer know its aim, the defenseless god-beast drinking and playing up-river.

Dinosaurs will again roam the desert sands, uniting the disparate Two Lands into one great Egypt, if Narmer can drive off the crocodile, if he can endure his brother’s malice.

If he can save this sacred creature and be saved by it . . .


So, there you have it. Narmer and the God Beast is officially announced. The launch on Amazon will take place on October 4th, but you can also preorder it now. I’m going to be doing a series of posts this month about my influences for the story and how it came together so stay tuned for those. Some stories and teasers in this world have already been posted on this blog so look for them on my fiction page.

And finally, you can just follow my progress on things and get quarterly updates and new fiction by subscribing to my newsletter at https://jdweber.news/EgyptAndDinos. For signing up, I’ll send you a copy of the first story I every wrote about a warlock doctor.

See you next time!

*Update 9/14 – I’ve begun posting some of the “influence” posts I mentioned before. Here’s what I’ve completed so far:

#Smaugust Day 27: RESCUE!

Hey all,

It’s Friday so I’ve written another snippet of fiction inspired by the #Smaugust tag on social media. Not sure what that is? Well it’s essentially a portmanteau of the words Smaug (the dragon from The Hobbit) and the word for the eighth month of the year (my fav month for reasons not related to dragons) August.

Artists all around the internet come up with lists of themes which they then use as prompts for their dragon artwork. I’ve pretty much been fascinated by this for quite a while now, but can’t draw worth a damn, and so I decided to try and write some fiction based off the prompts. I’ve posted the list of prompts I’ve been using just below this text (I’ve completed short piece’s already for LEGEND, FOREST, and HYBRID). Today’s word is RESCUE and it’s the last piece I’ll be doing for this year. Hopefully it’s an awesome one.

Like pretty much every one of these I attempted, I did not really land on a completed piece. I’m hoping each of these snippets will go into a larger short story (or possibly novella) which sat gathering dust on my hard drive for a really long time. Trying to write for this event has really inspired me to get back in this world, but I keep feeling like I never actually get to the dragons. Oh well . . . practice makes perfect.

Lastly, since this is supposed to be a drawing event, I found some fun tips on how to draw dragons. The first was 8 Pro Tips For Drawing Dragons by creativbloq.com. The second was put out by Adobe and called How To Draw a Dragon. Both of these were so inspiring that I actually decided to attempt #Smaugust more properly and create an image for my story and the prompt RESCUE.

It’s not great, but I think for me it’s pretty darn good. Anyway, enjoy the story (and artwork) below.


Rescue

When Galleed finally makes contact, I’m halfway into his Stack, and it’s giving me some weird mix between tingly-itchy-numb and I-just-felt-every-grain-of-this-wooden-table. My limbs feel like they’re jumbled in a heap on the other side of the room, but at the same time I’ve never had more control of them in my life. There’s so much magic sung into the god’s iron that my gauntleted hand could probably catch a fly by its wing without bending the tip.

It makes me want to run and fight and do everything all at once. Instead, I pace with worry, and I don’t know whether I’m worried about Galleed or if I’m worried this feeling might end.

Of course, Galleed has told me about the sensation before – how men spend months wearing a single piece of their armor at a time in order to acclimate themselves – how after a lifetime spent wearing the suits, he still feels a bit of a rush when attaching the final piece.

It’s hard to focus on the words writing themselves on the parchment I have spread across the worktable. They might as well be written in a foreign language for all I can make of their meaning. Galleed’s handwriting is abysmal when using Crotania’s finest implements, and now it’s clear to me he’s forming the glyphs with a badly broken stick and mud.

But by the will of some god neither of us have ever prayed to, but who must want our little drama to continue for another act, the words resolve into sentences.

Caught. Prison on north cliff. Beast coming. Now or never. Use the suit.

I run my hand through my hair and feel a sharp pain on my scalp as I accidently rip free a lock of my curling hair. The suit’s magic regenerates the brown coil within an instant and I curse, chiding myself for a fool and for wasting some healing. 

I sigh and shape my response in glyphs with my finger atop the parchment:

On my way . . .

But it’s a lie.

I can’t save Galleed.

I don’t know how. I’ve run through every strategy we talked through during our plans, simulated every outcome. There are half-finished notes covering every surface of the shop, but none of them are a formula which balances on both ends. Not one contains a solution.

And of course, the reason for it is simple. Galleed. He’s on the wrong side of the equal sign.

My job was to build the weapons and the suit. A Full Stack with custom magic abilities, and an easily used keyword interface.

His job was to use the suit and slay a god damned dragon.

But now all of that has changed. After failing to fight off all the hybrid dragonkin in Failmor Forest, we each triggered our portal which only led to two destinations. Home to the shop, and to the base of our quarry’s hoard, The Secluded Mountain.

My portal didn’t work, and so Galleed pushed me through his. But they were only designed to transfer one person and so it closed after I came through leaving him in the Hybrid’s clutches. Miraculously, Galleed managed to trigger the portal to Secluded Mountain instead, jumping quite literally from the boiling kettle into the crackling fire.

But its only fate deferred.

Even if we’re generous, and I claim a tenth of the ability Galleed possesses, it is not enough to battle the dragon. Not enough to do so and win.

My first thought was that perhaps we did not need to. The suit has wings and uses magic to fly. All I need do was swoop in, grab Galleed and fly off, savior to a Crotanian prince.  

This is still my current strategy, but of course, we’ve run into the same problem that got us into this mess. The suit is only designed for one person. Galleed. It won’t fly with two, not enough magic.

I continue pacing but the giddiness I felt before is wearing off – oh I still want to leap tall buildings but there’s something else too – replaced by a kind of resignation.

Fate deferred.

I can still save Galleed, but it will require me to get the variables back on the right side of the equation. Galleed back in the suit making his escape, me left behind rent by tooth and claw . . .


Welp. That’s it . . . That’s all I wrote. Hope you enjoyed the snippet (sorry it ended on a bit of a downer but obvi it’s gonna turn around I just haven’t written that part yet).

If you liked anything about what you saw here, I have more fiction to read, and a newsletter which you can subscribe to. It basically lets you know more about what I’m up to, and how different projects are going.

Anywho, this has been a wild ride. See you next week!

#Smaugust Day 20: HYBRID

It’s a Friday in August so I guess that means I have another #Smaugust post for y’all. What’s a Smaugust? Well, apparently it’s the word you get when you combine the words August and Smaug, the main antagonist in Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

I got a little curious about the history of this event and was able to find that the Brush Warriors have done some sleuthing in their post: Smaugust — Drawing Challenge. Apparently it was started in 2016 by and artist named Katie Croonenberghs, aka Kamakru and Oh My Gawd, her artwork is absolutely beautiful.

Anyway, you may have noticed that I’m not an artist. I can’t draw to save my life, but I still think this is a fun and cool event, so I’ve decided to adapt it to my own purposes . . . writing fiction. I don’t have the bandwidth right now to write new fiction everyday, but every Friday has been pleasantly doable. You can see the list of prompts I’m using in the image below, and check out my two previous entries for the prompts LEGEND, and FOREST.

That’s pretty much all you need to know about that. Let’s get to the fiction. Today’s prompt is HYBRID. Enjoy!


High Breed

After Galleed had finished drying out, and I’d finished writing up my notes from our encounter with the Gorgusa, we decided we must continue testing the Full Stack’s features – after all, the test had revealed valuable flaws in both our methods and assumptions – though we both agreed that perhaps another look at those assumptions was needed before we reached Failmor’s southern edge, and the home of the Blensdcale.

Several long and expensive afternoons spent in The Capital’s premier library, The Anathenaeum, had given us nearly a thousand reports of encounters with our next quarry, some benign, but most disastrous. We poured through those accounts all over again while ambling down the slowest route to the southern edge, hoping to find some sliver of information we’d missed in our original search.  

Neither Galleed nor I had admitted it to each other yet, but we’d both been shaken among those ancient ruins and roving tupelo. Our first test, and we’d nearly failed. Our first bet, and we’d nearly lost it all.

We were determined not to make the same mistake twice, and so we worked.

But as the wind grew colder, and the hills began to climb, Galleed and I were no closer to the certainty of our next victory.

Most of the encounters we’d read which involved the Blensdcale had been taken from a single source – a chronicle so-to-speak – of a nomadic people who’d travelled to every corner of Failmor’s wood, and beyond.

They seemed to be a curious and detail-oriented people, which naturally I appreciated, and their runes and speech had been adopted as keywords for one the King’s infantry units to trigger the offensive magic sung into their armor and weaponry. The unit had guarded young Galleed for nearly a quarter of his life before being sent to the front to fight Severants.

He knew the runes almost better than I did. It had been the most logical account to base our hypotheses.

But in light of our last failure, the texted seemed bungling and amateur. It was seemingly filled with discrepancies and contradictions. Even within the same account, written by the same author, one stanza would describe the terror of beholding the dragonkin’s breath as it set its prey aflame. While in the next stanza it would describe the same breath as freezing a second man where he stood.

Having just been turned to stone by our last challenge, Galleed did not seem very keen on any interpretation of the runes involving the words freeze, frozen, or frost. I could not say that I blamed him, but I also could not ignore the meaning either, for perhaps the very same reason Galleed wanted to pass it by.

Whatever the truth of the account was, neither of us could divine it. It simply made no sense.

This was not the only mystery that our newly found caution had revealed to us. One grouping of runes stood out to us now as particularly strange and we spent nearly our entire journey trying to puzzle it out. Back in the Anathenaeum, the words seemed to translate literally to ‘High’ and ‘Breed’, which we had taken as simply a descriptor of the dragon’s status as an apex predator.

But Galleed pointed out the way in which the accounts expressed awe at the dragonkin’s majesty and nobility, as well as fear of their cruelty. Many of the accounts might have sold back in Crotania’s capital as romances in which star-crossed lovers were exiled to the far reaches of Failmor for their forbidden coupling.

And through it all, the High Breed, the High Breed, as if referring to some kind of lineage.

Of course, it was only when we finally reached the foot of the Blensdcale’s territory and saw the charred remains of a great pine encased in slick but never melting ice that we realized how we’d missed the forest for the trees. It was only after we were deep with the creature’s clutches that the meaning of those strange runes became clear.

Not ‘High Breed’ as we’d though but one simpler and more accurate concept.

Hybrid . . .


This prompt actually turned out to be way more fun than I anticipated. When I first looked at it, I hadn’t even the slightest clue what to write for it, nor how it would fit with the other pieces I’ve done so far, and the larger story I have planned for these snippets. But I’m happy to say I persevered and am pretty happy with what eventually came through.

I’m particularly proud of The Anathenaeum which is (to me) a sort of funny and ironic portmanteau (please try to guess what words it combines in the comments!). I’m kind of embarrassed by Blensdcale but I’m terrible at coming up with names for things (feel free to bash me in the comments for that one yeesh).

Anyway, I think that’s all I have for now. I hope you enjoyed High Breed. If you’re at all interested in reading more of my writing, or what goes into these stories, I’ve started a newsletter (which is hopefully released quarterly) so people can get a more “behind the scenes” look of what I’m doing and what’s going on in my world. Please consider subscribing. Just for signing up, I’ll email you the first story I ever wrote, about a Warlock Doctor. Fun times. Thanks again!

See you next time!

#Smaugust Day 13: FOREST

Hey all!

I’m back this week with another 500ish words inspired by #Smaugust prompts (you can see last week’s entry: LEGEND). If you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, it’s essentially a list of prompts which artists use to inspire their artwork around the dragon theme. It’s in August and Smaug is a dragon so there you go. I don’t draw at all, but decided to still participate in the art form I do perform (hack it up at): writing.

I’ve been using these posts to replace my Friday posts which are sometimes fiction I write, and sometimes other stuff. I’m guessing there will be 4 of these altogether. The list of prompts I’m using is:

I think this week, I hit the prompt a little better. I’m still trying to write text that I could us in a WIP I had shelved for years and years so I think that is making my route to the prompt a little circuitous but I’m not worried. This is supposed to be fun. Anywho, enough of me babbling, let’s get to it!


Failmor Woods

At a certain point, all of the stories and hearsay, the theories and thought experiments; all the lines and ink on parchment are nothing but a pile of animal skin. It’s not a suit of armor. It’s not a sword or a bow, or a phrase in some dead language that will push forth the light when it seems that all is dark.  

It’s a hope and a dream and perhaps even the thing that you’re most proud of in the whole kingdom of Crotania, but it isn’t what you set out to do. It isn’t a Full Stack.

Not yet.

Not until you actually build it.

As much as I would like to credit for the method of our madness, the initial strategy came from Galleed. My employer is the type of person whose entire ideology centers around fucking up fast and often and managing to survive even the dumbest maneuvers by having an excess of time, money, and all the entitled confidence that those things can buy. It wasn’t until the end of all this that I realized that he was rich in two other resources as well:

Bravery and Kindness.

Despite that I had considered him to have more moxie than sense, even Galleed knew that we only had one chance to slay our dragon and that if we failed, no amount of money nor any brilliant procedure from the king’s physicians would get us back together again. We needed to be sure that we could do the things we imagined we could. We needed a proving ground.

So Galleed suggested we test the suit’s different functions – individually and together – before we spent any of his hard-earned allowance singing magic into meteor iron. He suggested we build the pieces fast and cheap so that we’d know the flaws in our system before we found ourselves wedged inside the dragon’s maw. He suggested we hunt smaller prey until the only foe left unchallenged was our nemesis itself. He suggested Failmor Woods.

Failmor was no stranger to men and women looking to make a name or fortune or both. It knew intimately the weaknesses of humanity’s frail existence, and it was said to have an evil for every infirmity.

We knew even the bravest man would stop dead in his tracks, quivering in fear from little more than a drowsy glance from our dragon’s sleepy gaze. We had our defense well in hand, but why take the risk? The statued ruins of the ancient Gorgusa, hidden among the swimming tupelo of eastern Failmor were said to be inhabited by a race of dragonkin which sinks its prey below the depths the instant its quarry comes beneath their gaze.

Should our defense fail, it’s a touch easier to survive drowning than instant death.

Galleed assured me he’s an excellent swimmer, even under the most terrifying circumstances, but still I rigged bladders of air to his cuirass which – though a trace uncomfortable – would keep him afloat no matter the state of his courage.   

Now our dragon’s fiery breath was another matter altogether, one for which we hoped Failmor might provide us a solution instead of another test for our ingenuity . . .


Hey again, I hope you enjoyed Failmor Woods. If you’re at all interested in reading more of my writing, or what goes into these stories, I’ve started a newsletter (which is hopefully released quarterly) so people can get a more “behind the scenes” look of what I’m doing and what’s going on in my world. Please consider subscribing. Just for signing up, I’ll email you the first story I ever wrote, about a Warlock Doctor. Fun times. Thanks again!

See you next time!

#smaugust day 5: LEGEND

Ok, so I didn’t have any essays or book tags or anything ready for this Friday, so I decided to wing it (lol).

There’s a challenge going on right now on instagram, in which artists are encouraged to draw or illustrate some kind of dragon based on a series of thirty one-word prompts which change each day. Everyday, they post their work which corresponds to the day’s prompt and then use the hashtag #Smaugust so that it all collects in the feed. I’ve always thought this was a cool idea (and am totally jealous my art form isn’t more visual) and I generally try to write 500 words a day, so I decided to write my 500 words about a dragon, using the prompt.

There are tons and tons of prompt lists out there, but this is the one I used:

Anyway, here’s what I came up with . . .


Surprising literally no one (except maybe my new employer Galleed), there’s a venerable host of people and things you need to consider when attempting to slay a dragon.

With the myriad of different species, and more than two myriad of legends surrounding everything we know about the creatures, you can’t simply leave your house one morning, find yourself in the beast’s lair the day after, and hope to be back home again when the sun sets that third day.

Despite what the stories say, it just doesn’t happen. Long before you start forging swords or enchanting rings, you have a divine mandate to research your target up front and pull free the glimmering truth from the murk of roiling legend.

Or at least that’s what my old boss Romney had come back spouting after a week at the most recent MERLIN convention.

Galleed is obviously not big on mandates, whether they be divine, earthly or hellish – I believe his official position is “They put the archaic in arcane!” which I have not yet had the heart to tell him is the exact opposite of how that etymology works – so convincing him that we should start “hunting our quarry” with a series of interviews in the bucolic countryside was naturally met with some resistance.   

And quite a bit of snark regarding the in-EFF-able Virtues of Cowardice . . . How I should in fact “EFF” those virtues, and how “for Augustine’s sake!” nobody starts a quest with a series interviews!

I reminded him that we weren’t going on a quest like Augustine and all the others which was exactly the reason he’d hired me in the first place. I also told him that if we took twenty percent more time and effort now to do this research correctly, we could avoid mistakes which would cost upwards of eighty percent of those same resources later . . . and likely kill us.

He looked at me then as if balancing some unknowable scale within his mind and said, “Romney brought those figures back from MERLIN too, did he?” and when I nodded affirmation continued with “Fine go and interview torch bearers” – “Stakeholders” I corrected – “Whatever! Just be back in a month. I want anvils ringing and mages chanting in one month!”

I gave him a smile and a slight bob of my head, which he’d always been generous in accepting as a bow, then left him to whatever activities a prince of Crotania might revel in on a warm night in the capital.

I’ll admit that as I walked those streets that same evening, my worn and ugly leather boots seemed as light as the yellow-orange wisps of cloud, moving with a smooth and easy brilliance across the sky, while the sun warmed their bellies with its last brilliant rays.

Galleed was right. The world was full of opportunity and changing every day. We weren’t like our mothers and fathers, practicing the same old crafts of war and politicking, spending hour after hour moving pieces in a chess game that nobody could ever win.

We were onto something new, and bold, and by Josef Augustine, it was going to work!

Imagine my disappointment when I reached the bucolic countryside – in the middle of a rainstorm — to find that there was little if any beauty to be found, and perhaps even less concrete information about our quarry than the stories we’d all learned as children . . .


This . . . didn’t quite turn out the way I thought it would. First, I’m realizing that the prompt is for day five while technically the post is live on day six. Second, I originally wanted to focus solely on the dragon, and create a legend surrounding it . . . but then I thought it could fit in with another story I started years ago but never finished and so I started writing that story again. The legend of the dragon is coming, but I didn’t quite get to it which I think means I missed my target. There’s kind of some bits about how dragons ARE legendary . . . Right? Eh oh well. Hopefully it was entertaining to some degree.

Please let me know what you think! Of the story? Of the challenge? Should I try to do more of these? Let me know in the comments and thanks for being here and reading this.

July Newsletter + New Fiction: Master of Secrets

So this post is a little wonky (and looonnngg oops), but basically, I have a newsletter which I’m going to put out quarterly. I’ve copied the July letter into a post so folks can see an example of what they’d get by signing up. Mostly it’s updates about my life and writing which I might not post on the blog. Also, each quarter I’m going to try to include a new piece of fiction, that is exclusive to the newsletter. This month’s piece is Master of Secrets which I’ll explain more about in the letter.

**Please also note that if you sign up, you’ll immediately receive the first piece of fiction I ever wrote about a Warlock Doctor. It’s kinda fun I think.

Anyway, here it is! Enjoy!


Hi all,

Welcome to my quarterly newsletter. You’re probably here because you clicked the subscribe link on my blog. I hope you did that because you’re interested in keeping up with me ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak. If not, please feel free to unsubscribe.

Still here? Awesome! So basically what you’ve signed up for by getting this newsletter, is MORE access to my random thoughts which might at first seem a little scary (unsubscribe is still just a click away), but you will also get quarterly updates on different writing projects I’m working on, how the process is going, sneak peeks and exclusive content. Ya know standard newsletter stuff. Hope it lives up to the hype! Read on to find out . . .

Announcements:

This section is pretty self-explanatory. In it I’ll cover anything that I feel needs to be announced. Right now (7/2/2021) things are chugging along pretty well but everything should be business as usual for a while. Some things are in the works which will get announced soon, but those announcements will likely be sent out over the blog, not exclusive to the newsletter (sorry).

Writing:

Another self-explanatory section. Here I’ll go over any writing projects I’m working on and what I feel my accomplishments during the quarter have been. Right now, those projects are mostly Blogging on A&A, and my novel (and associated short fiction).

Blogging on A&A:

It’s been almost five months since I reintroduced myself to blogging with I’m Baaaackkkk!, and I think it is going pretty well? I’ve certainly been enjoying it. Since my return, I’ve been trying to post book reviews on Wednesdays and short fiction and miscellaneous posts on Fridays. I’ve done 17 reviews, mostly about Hugo Award finalists, and 9 pieces of my own original flash fiction. It’s been a wild ride.

Also, during May, I participated in #WyrdAndWonder, a month-long celebration of the Fantasy genre. The post I’m most proud of is #MapMonday: Using Emerging Tech for Fictional Maps, but there’s a lot of fun posts for it, so be sure to check out my #WyrdAndWonder Wrap Up Post.

#JurassicJune was kind of a bust for me, but I did read and review a great book called Why Dinosaurs Matter by Kenneth Lacovara, and did a fun Jurassic Park Book Tag.

Two more posts I’ll mention because I enjoyed writing them are Ancient Egyptian Doggos! and On the Scholomance as a Twisted, Evil Eudaimonia Machine.

Ancient Egypt and Dinosaurs:

I won’t say a ton about this right now, as almost everything in this category is still a work in progress but considering this quarter’s “exclusive fiction” is a random scene in-world, y’all gonna know about it. The premise is simple (but hopefully fun and unique): What if there were Dinosaurs in Ancient Egypt?

I’ve written a short story in this world called Narmer and the God-Beast which I’m going to publish on Amazon. I even paid for a cover and everything, which is like 88% done and I’m sooo excited to show it because it looks great even now but it’s not done. Expect more on that coming soon!

I’ve also written a novel in this setting which will be torn to shreds, critiqued in July. I’m hoping to pitch this more traditionally once I have feedback and have done rewrites. It’s been a ton of work, and will probably be a ton more, but I’m already pretty proud of it, so hopefully I’m not delusional, and it’s alright. Look for more on this coming soon . . . but not that soon.

Finally, I’ve been working on a companion piece to the novel tentatively called The Ore of Ra Nt-ka, which will follow a merchant, Beqsu, through a similar track as the MC’s in the novel, but with different goals and motivations. I’ve posted teaser of this piece on the blog as Beqsu Takes a Leap.

Ultimately, it’s just an alternate perspective. I decided to do this because I wanted to spend more time in the world before diving into a sequel (too much work lol), and thought it might be cool to try to get it on Kindle Vella which will be live in late July. I can already tell I will not be able to make this deadline but am still going to pursue the piece and see what comes of it.

The ‘exclusive’ fiction at the bottom of this post, Master of Secrets, is a deleted scene from that work in progress. You’ve seen a preview of it on the blog as well. I hope you like it!    

Convention stuff:

Not much happening in convention world. I reserved a room for Discon III at the OMNI. I’m really looking forward to this con as I’ve never been to a Worldcon before, and am not sure how many others I’ll be able to go to (traveling to them is usually cost prohibitive). But that’s not until December so I probably won’t have much to say about it until then. But get hype! It should be fun.

Random:

Usually, I might write something here that’s been on my mind lately, about any topic, but I think this post has gone on long enough already. Future me will do better . . .

Besides, I just want you to read the fiction!  

Newsletter Exclusive Fiction:

Master of Secrets

By JD Weber

Khueninput looked into the glowing red eyes of the god-beast before her and wondered if the Lord of the Sacred Land really still protected her, or if she was being a fool to keep the dead priest’s body hidden.

Quite a bit of rumor and myth surrounded the legendary creature which stood snarling and hissing in her face, and she was horrified to say that every terrifying story she’d heard about Ra Pt-r appeared to be true.

This one stood roughly the height of a man, and walked on two sturdy legs, its head and torso leaning forward, while its tail stretched out behind it. The beast had two forelimbs which protruded from shoulders barely distinguishable from its thickly muscled neck.

But mostly she focused on its jaws, which were filled with an innumerable array of jagged teeth. Sickle shaped claws tapped ominously on the sandstone floor.

Khueninput clenched her fists and decided to direct her outrage to the very-much-still-living priest who controlled the creature.

“It does not matter how many godlings demand entrance to the embalming chamber, Ra Nt-Ka’s authority does not supersede that of The Great God Anubis. None can enter while he is here.”

The man before her curled his lips into a leer and simply raised his eyebrows as if to say “Oh really?” 

Khueninput did not let her fear of the creature weaken her stern gaze, much. If the god-beast wanted inside the embalming chamber there was little she could do to stop it. Better shore up her position before the priest grew tired of playing with her, and let the beast loose.

“A blind man can see that Ra Pt-r is controlled by your red magic. If you release it, it will not be the godling who must recite the confessions before The Court of Ahseer. Do you think the Scales of Anubis will balance for you when you’ve broken the Jackal’s own laws? None can enter while he works. None but the dead can know his mysteries.”

“There is one who may enter,” said the priest looking amused. “Hery Sesheta, the Master of Secrets.”

Real anger flared in Khueninput’s gaze now. “That is no longer my rank within his cult Setek Peribsen.”

“A shame,” the priest said with a feinted nonchalance, as if the temple storeroom where out of Bahriyan wine, and he’d have to drink something else of lower quality.

Ra Pt-r crouched as if to strike.

“Do not go against him Setek Peribsen” said Khueninput, in a hiss that would have made a cobra proud, despite her desperation. “You will not survive it. He is the Dog that Devours Millions.”

“I’m here by Chaotic God’s own decree!” burst the priest. “You do not think the Great God Set will protect me from the whims of his own son? A child no less? You truly believe your dog will be able to stand against The God of Storms himself?”

“Anubis is also known as He Who Eats his Father.”

She let the silence fall heavy between them.

The priest’s face did change, if only briefly.

So he’s heard that name as well, perhaps there is some truth to it then . . .

“Fine!” He said finally. “Let the dog play with his bones. Your only delaying the inevitable. That man was in league with The Assassin, and he will answer for it. Set will have his vengeance.”

“Then he’ll have to seek it in the Duat.” Khueninput replied cooly.

The priest was all bark now.

He huffed and made a show of whirling his black and gold vestments, as he tried to storm out the mortuary. Ra Pt-r looked at her with an almost pleading eye before stalking slowly behind him, chittering softly.

Khueninput sagged against the door behind her, her breath escaping in a long and ragged gasp. She realized with quite a bit of detachment, that her hands were shaking. She was still fighting for control of them when she felt more than heard, a voice call out from inside the embalming chamber.

You may enter . . .   

Khueninput’s heart leapt in her chest. Could it be? The Lord of the Sacred Land had just asked — no ordered her — to come into the sanctuary and share in the Mysteries of the Sky, Earth and Netherworld. He had not done so since . . .

She did not allow herself to think about the last time he had allowed her anywhere near an embalmer’s bench. She might never allow herself to think of that day again.

But neither would she allow herself to ignore his command.

She fumbled at the door, unable to work the latch correctly when suddenly, the door disappeared, a simple archway now before her.

The Keeper of Keys.

The Opener of the Ways.

She entered slowly, keeping her head bowed in respect to the great deity, but she could not help but scan the embalming chamber in search of the jackal god.

She saw much before she found him.

The room was dimly lit, shadowed so that Khueninput could just make out the shelves of herbs and animal fat used for embalming. Alabaster jars — each carved to resemble a different son of the falcon god Horus — waited to be filled on the workbench nearby. A small vat of natron salt had been rolled in, and several spoons, knives, a chisel, and spatula, rested on its unopened lid. Only the heap of linen seemed to have been disturbed by the god in his work.

It did not feel right.

The priest, Ra Nefer-Ab, or the beauty of Ra, lay wrapped and shrouded in long strips of linen on a large stone pedestal. His posture seemed tense, somehow rigid as if trying to break free of the binding of the cloth. He was contorted ever so slightly so that his face peered up at the Jackal God looming over him, and though she could not see his face, Khueninput would have guessed the man in pain.

For his part, The Lord of the Sacred Land looked just as she remembered him. In this form, he had the body of a man but wore the head of a jackal. He wore a simple white skirt which contrasted sharply with the onyx coloring of his skin. Around his neck he wore a linen scarf adorned with a double fillet of blue lotus and cornflowers woven upon strips of pith, twisted in a bow at the back of his neck. Small veins of gold pierced the dim along his arms and chest, stress fractures, as if his shape were ready to burst from the pressure of his holy blood and power as a god. Sandaled feet revealed silver toenails and when the god turned to finally acknowledge her, he looked upon Khueninput with eyes inlaid with gold, calcite, and obsidian.

Not for the first time Khueninput felt her heart drop out of her chest, and her pulse begin to race. Sweat beaded upon her brow, and her pupils dilated more than the darkness of the room should allow. To look upon the Great God Anubis was to look upon death itself.

It was to look upon eternity.

Anubis motioned for her to join him at the pedestal and then turned back to the priest lying upon it.

Khueninput heard the man’s voice in her mind as it had been during life, though his lips did not move to speak.

“Please,” Ra Nefer-Ab said. “I have not uttered lies.”

He who Sits Upon the Coffin nodded.

“I have not uttered curses.”

The jackal god nodded again.

“I have made none to weep”

Khueninput sucked in her breath in surprise as she put the pieces of the room’s puzzle together, as she realized what felt off about the scene. None of the herbs on their shelves had been removed, and the canopic jars had remained empty. The natron’s lid had not been removed and the tools were still dry and sterile. The process of embalming took seventy days of painstaking ritual and work to prepare the body for its journey through the Duat, and yet before her was a completed mummy, lying before Anubis and —

Answering the Negative Confessions . . . 

“I have not worked witchcraft” Ra Nefer-Ab continued.

The Jackal God reared back slightly and tilted his head to one side, as if trying to identify some unknown sound in the distance.

You aided the Chaotic god. Used his magic.

Ra Nefer-Ab’s voice was pleading. “I was possessed Great One! The Chaotic god forced the enchantment.”

The Great God Ahseer will not care whether you were forced, his hatred for Set is too strong. If you held his magic, Ahseer will condemn you.

“But the other Gods.” Ra Nefer-Ab begged. “Surely they can be persuaded.”

Anubis thought for a moment and then nodded for the priest to continue.

“I have not attacked any man.”

You killed two soldiers in Set’s temple . . .

Ra Nefer-Ab’s voice sounded as if his body were wracked with sobs though it lie motionless on the bench. “Please. I am not a man of deceit.”

Anubis looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding.

It is true, you are not, but as you are you will not pass The Court of God’s judgment. Take this.

Anubis opened his jet black palm to reveal a small nugget of gold, carved and shaped into the form of a scarab.

Swallow this before you speak false, and Khepri will protect your heart.

“OH! Thank you!” Ra Nefer-Ab cried. “Thank you.”

Anubis reached behind him for the embalmer’s tools and selected a golden adze Khueninput had not seen when entering. The Jackal God touched the adze to the mummy’s lips and light began to shine forth from the priest’s body. It swirled and roiled until finally it had collected into the shape of a bird with Ra Nefer-ab’s countenance. The golden scarab hung from a small chain around its neck. The priest’s Ba nodded once to the Lord of the Sacred Land and then flew towards the archway through which Khueninput had entered. She saw now that it did not lead out into the streets of Edfu, but into a shimmering field.

The Jackal cleared his throat and Khueninput turned quickly back to him in surprise, remembered who she stood before, and then dropped to the sandstone floor in a bow. With her head still lowered to the floor, the Great God spoke.

Outside, in the face of Ra Pt-r, you held your ground. Loyal, after all this time.

Yes Great One. Always,” she said, and realized that she must mean it. To speak something in The Two Lands was to make it true.

She had not looked up at the Great God when she spoke, but at her words, the shadow looming over her seemed to move. She lifted her gaze slowly and found the god’s hand proffered out to her, palm open as it had been with the priest only moments before.

A golden scarab rested in his palm.

Now it was her turn to rear back slightly in confusion.

“Great one I cannot take this, I’m not worthy of it.” She held his crystalline gaze as long as she dared, but then lowered her eyes as he wrapped her palm around the amulet.

Then find someone who is. I have faith that when you do, you will no longer need its protection.

She raised her eyes again, wanting to ask what the Lord of the Sacred Land could possibly mean by such an order, but he was gone.

Khueninput startled as a knock came at the door to the embalming chamber. The door, not the archway which had only moments ago lead unto a paradise which she could only presume had been The Fields of Aaru.

Khueninput got up off the floor, and steeled herself, expecting Set’s priest to have returned. But when she opened the door, she found a young woman in a white robe standing before her, a jackal-head mask tucked neatly under one arm.

She was one of the lower priests, ranked as W’b or maybe not yet initiated into the earliest rites.

“Are you ready Hery Sesheta? Your boat to Hardai is nearly ready to leave.” Khueninput blanched slightly at the use of her old title, but the woman did not seem to notice. She just continued on in a perky voice as if she were about to visit the market to shop for some new jewel.

“I can walk with you to the docks if you like.”

Khueninput looked at the women suspiciously for a moment, feeling the weight of the gold scarab in her palm.

Would it really be that easy?

No she decided, and told the priestess to go onward without her. She would catch up soon.

Khueninput took inventory of the things she’d need for her journey home, and quickly gathered them to her person. She elected to wear what little jewelry she had instead of packing it, and then found another W’b priest to take her luggage to the docks.

It felt strange leaving the priest’s mummy on the stone slab alone, but the other priests of his order, and whatever family he had near the temple would come soon to seal him in his tomb. She had done her job, and should be on her way to the docks.

She walked out into Ra’s light and couldn’t help but feel a bit giddy as she walked the thoroughfare to the docks.

Anubis, Lord of the Sacred Land, was giving her a second chance . . .

It was nearly impossible not to skip her step with excitement.

As she walked, she noticed the young woman from before, lingering near a merchant’s stall, eying his wares, but not daring to approach. When the woman caught site of Khueninput approaching, she quickly scurried off in the direction of the docks.

This only brought the merchant’s attention onto Khueninput, and he began lavishly heaping praise upon her beauty, complementing the jewelry she already wore, but also adding how much better she would look with one of his pieces resting gently around her neck.

She laughed slightly and was about to continue on, when she noticed he also had jars of incense to sell, and wax candles, always a commodity in the Great Jackal’s temple, or any other god’s shrine.

She knew the ship was supposed to leave soon, but she could not help but approach the merchant’s tent. He seemed slightly stunned at first that he’d actually managed to hook a customer, but he recovered quickly enough and began pull forth some of his finer wares for her to peruse. After he’d set out the leopard’s skin, and giraffe’s tails he began to launch back into his pitch.

Khueninput held up a hand to stall him.

She hefted a jar of incense, feeling its weight in her palms and judging it to be similar to that of the golden scarab within her pocket.

“Made with cypress?” she asked raising the jar of incense to her nose to smell.

“No Hery Sesheta. Pine resin.”

The merchant had a small scale on the table as well, and she placed the jar on one of its plates, declaring her intent to purchase. The merchant rubbed his hands together eagerly and began adding weight in Deben to the other side. He added many more than needed to balance the scale, and yet the jar remained firmly rooted against the merchant’s table.

“Your weights are false. I’ve already weighed the jar in my palm, will you not even try to hide your lies?”

But Khueninput found herself smiling.

This man would surely need the scarab’s protection when he finally went before the gods, perhaps she should give the amulet to him.

But that couldn’t be what the Jackal god had meant with his order could it? Simply give the amulet to some wretched street merchant who probably had cheated his own grandmother before coming to Egypt.

Khueninput thought of the Great God weighing Ra Nefer-Ab’s answers as he pleaded on the stone slab. If the man had been against Set, perhaps he was indeed a worthy spirit after all. Anubis had seemed to consider more than the literal interpretation of the man’s confessions, he’d considered the intent of the words behind them. He had protected a man who’s intent sought peace and order over the chaos of Set’s reign even though he’d needed to kill to do so.

Khueninput eyed the traveling merchant as he left her side to hawk his wears at another potential customer — somewhat rude but certainly not damning — walking by, and weighed scales in her own head.

Unfortunately, the man who’d come to hear the merchant happened to be none other than Setek Peribsen. His captive god-beast looking plaintively onward with glowing red eyes.  

“I saw him Neb,” the merchant said when Setek Peribsen finally reached the stall.

“Well? Tell me! Which way has he gone?” Setek Peribsen did not seem to notice Khueninput yet, focused as he was on the Chaotic God’s command to find this . . . Assassin.

“It all happened so fast, I can hardly remember.”

“Perhaps north?” the merchant continued looking past the great temple as if he might still be able to catch sight of the man in flight.

The priest’s hand moved to cover his mouth, but Khueninput could still see his eyes shrink with a kind of shrewdness as they searched his countenance. All the merchant’s wares may as well have been more sand among the dunes for all the interest anyone payed them now.

“I remember you,” the priest said, removing his hand to reveal a set jaw and stern bearing. “Beqsu, from back at the monument. Of course it would be you who I must bargain with. What’s your price.”

“It should not be hard to pay. It is only what you already owe.”

“Hah! What I owe. Perhaps I could give the eggs of Hunta Ari Pet back to you.”

Khueninput could feel herself startle at the mention of such a valuable item, but she quickly schooled her gaze.

The priest of the Chaotic God continued. “But then scales would again be unbalanced, and it is your life that would be required to balance them. Luckily I have Ra Pt-r here to collect the toll. Tell me which way he went.”

Khueninput felt herself beginning to shake with rage. She’d been on the other side of Ra Pt-r’s gaze, understood the terror the merchant must be feeling. To threaten someone in this manner, to control the god-beast as he did . . .

It was an abomination.

But with Ra Pt-r poised to strike, there was little she could to on exact revenge upon Setek Peribsen, nor should harming him be her purpose here. She thought of the god she served, his likeness perched atop a coffin, loyal to the dead inside. She thought of Anubis handing the golden scarab to Ra Nefer-Ab, and later to herself, protecting them from the judgment of Ahseer, and the jaws of The Devourer Ammit.   

The words left her mouth before she could think. “The man you seek went south.”

The merchant turned to glare at her, and she could tell by his expression that she’d guessed correctly. She glared back at this Beqsu. “Tell him the rest. You have nothing more with which to leverage the scales.”

The merchant looked as if he might burst he held in so much pent up anger, but eventually he sighed and the anger flowed out of him with the escape of his breath.

“He fell from the sky like the God’s ore itself and landed in the reflecting pool. When he emerged from the waters he fled south, heading towards Nile.”

Setek Peribsen looked thoughtful again, raising his hand to his chin. He turned to Khueninput. “The Chaotic God has blessed me,” he said finally. “I’ll admit that after our dealings outside the embalming chamber, I’m surprised you’ve come to my aid.”

Khueninput smiled. “You’ve not reached Aaru yet Setek Peribsen. The water from the reflecting pool must have cleared your fugitive’s scent. That is why Ra Pt-r couldn’t track him. You’ve been searching too long. He must be half way to Nubia by now if he managed to catch a boat heading that way. 

“It will break the god-beasts to try and catch him now.” Khueninput believed that this notion did not upset Setek Peribsen very much. He almost looked excited by it.

“Perhaps I can ease your journey,” Khueninput continued. “I have a ship which has not yet left the docks. I could send it south along The Great River if I had cause.”

That shrewd look came over the priest’s face. “And what is your price?”

“Give me the Hunta Ari Pet eggs and you can have the ship and everything on it. Send it whichever way you choose.”

Setek Peribsen considered for a moment.

He would be a fool not to take the deal. The sky lizard’s eggs were worth their weight — or perhaps considerably more if measured by the merchant’s false scales — in gold, but they did not come close to the price of ship. And it would certainly shorten The Assassin’s lead on the Chaotic God’s agents.

“And what need do you have for them. I pray you’re not simply going to turn them over to this vagrant.” He motioned towards Beqsu.

“I will do with them as the Lord of the Sacred Land commands me.”

Setek Peribsen did not seem appeased by this answer — a fact that probably gave Khueninput too much satisfaction — but he could not see the trick within her words and so he begrudgingly brought a linen satchel forth and handed them over. Khueninput handed over the deed to the ship, and smiled as she watched both priest and Ra Nt-ka disappear towards the docks.

“What is this?” said the merchant, unable to restrain himself any longer. “Some kind of revenge because I cheated you? Those eggs are mine!”

Khueninput looked over to him.

“You should not have cheated me merchant, but no this is not revenge.”

“Then what? Cruelty?”

Khueninput sighed. “No. Not cruelty either. If we’re counting, I believe I just saved your life from that god-beast.”

Beqsu began to look indignant so Khueninput quickly continued. “Listen. In the short time I’ve known you, you’ve tried to cheat me, and scam a priest of the Chaotic God Set. You claim these eggs are yours, but you neglect the fact that to come by them, you must have stolen them from godlings in the first place, or at the very least traded with someone who did, which will not be better in the eyes of Ahseer.”

The look that came over Beqsu’s face at her words filled Khueninput with some measure of hope and affirmed her resolve.

Grief.

“I was not always like this,” Beqsu said. “In Nubia, it was not like it is here in The Two Lands. It seems like every day I must commit some crime in order to survive. What you saw today was not even the worst of it. It does not bother me anymore.”

“Well at least repay your debt to me. I’ve saved your life.” Khueninput said. “Come with me to Hardai. Spend some time in the City of the Dog, I think you’ll find it is never too late to turn things around.”

“I thank you, Hery Sesheta, for saving my life from the god-beast but I’ve come too far. Any debt I owe you is not so great as what you’re asking me to do.”

Khueninput held forth the patted the satchel at her waist.

“Come with me. Try. If we fail, these eggs are yours.”

Beqsu looked thoughtful for a moment and then smile came across his face. “Fine.” he said then laughed “What is one more trial? Perhaps you will save me after all.”

Khueninput looked the merchant in the eye, a smile forming on her own lips.

Perhaps you will save me as well . . .


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Thanks so much for reading. Leave any comments you feel in the comments section. Until next time . . .

Newsletter Exclusive Fiction Preview Sent in to Writing Group for Critique!

Hey all, no book tags, book reviews, articles on random topics, or complete fiction to post on the blog today, but I did manage to finish the first draft of this quarter’s newsletter exclusive fiction. As the title suggests, I’ve sent it off to my writing group and will be getting feedback on Monday. Fingers crossed they enjoy it. You can look at a little preview in the image below:

Anywho, please let me know what you’re thinking so far in the comments. Also, this piece ties in with a larger narrative I’m working on for Kindle Vella. If your interested in that, you can check out my WIP tease: Beqsu takes a Leap.

Until next time . . .


Hey again! If somehow this tiny tease of my WIP, and general update as to my writing life happened capture your interest, please consider subscribing to my newsletter. I’ll do a post every quarter (expect the first one July 1st!) that fills you in completely on what I’ve been up to and send you the first story I ever wrote, about a Warlock Doctor. Or, check out my other fiction I’ve posted here on A&A. 

Thanks for stopping by, and see you next time!