Longest Night Tales: Cera

With Winter Solstice right around the corner, I thought I’d share some fun world building stuff I wrote forever ago. Not all of the characters will be familiar yet, but I thought a look into serpent tradition from various perspectives might be fun to read anyways. So Happy Whatever, have a present! Finally, we hear from Cera, a very young modern day serpent.

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Longest Night Tales: Seth

With Winter Solstice right around the corner, I thought I’d share some fun world building stuff I wrote forever ago. Not all of the characters will be familiar yet, but I thought a look into serpent tradition from various perspectives might be fun to read anyways. So Happy Whatever, have a present! Gather round and listen to Seth’s version of the tale.

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Longest Night Tales: Kairag

With Winter Solstice right around the corner, I thought I’d share some fun world building stuff I wrote forever ago. Not all of the characters will be familiar yet, but I thought a look into serpent tradition from various perspectives might be fun to read anyways. So Happy Whatever, have a present! First up is Kairag, an old friend of Kain’s.

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Teaser: What dreams may come

The work on Asylum is making slow but steady progress, albeit in a backwards sort of way. As previously mentioned, I’m looking for beta readers for a small back story piece, taking place a couple thousand years before the events of Asylum. (Random, I know, but some important things happened back then that I simply have to figure out before I can move forward. I’ve been faking it til now, but I can’t anymore. Can’t be helped.) So I thought I’d share the opening, tentatively called “What Dreams May Come”. Let me know what you guys think!

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Call for beta readers

As previously mentioned, I’m working on Asylum edits and backstories, and I’m in need of some volunteers. I have a lovely reader for proofreading, but I’m also looking for someone less familiar with the rules and lore of Asylum’s universe. The piece I’m working on plays with some legendary figures, and I’d like a reader who can tell me if I’m taking too much for granted. I know who all these people are, now I just have to make sure the readers will.
Currently, there’s no deadline or set pace, so if you’d like a sneak peak into the next Asylum-verse story,  drop me a line! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Chapter 14, part 3

Kain watched the serpent fall as still as only a serpent could. But this stillness… It held notes of the dark ice of night, an element no serpent of spark and fire should be able to touch.

His lips twisted in a grimace. It was perverse what the Dai twisted their people into. Taking what the Gods had formed and blaspheming it to their own purpose, or worse, simply playing to see what they could get away with before Nature called their broken forms home. A cobra of fire with a heart of ice – even if Dev hadn’t said a word, he would have known the Dai’s influence.

Naj let himself fall automatically into the motions of his memories. He would not let himself rise from this place, lest the terror and passion of the now taint his thoughts. Li’Daea’s light had no place here, and the hawk burned with it. She had rekindled fire long forgotten in himself, but he did trust their use now. Later, he would walk in the light. Later, he would dance and laugh and sing with this hawk who swayed like a serpent. It was not lost on him that he, a serpent twice marked by Li’Daea’s fire, was asking the cold god of the griffics to help him free a raptor, so that she might dance again with Li’Daea’s light. Naj had no power here, no right to ask this, but it seemed the Dark God was willing to hear his plea in exchange for the many years this fire-blessed cobra had served in the name of night.

Naj opened his eyes and turned a gaze unseeing on the outside world. His vision swam with silver, lines of power tracing this way and that. He could see the echo of Nica’s performance earlier, the storm and the vines still hanging like ghosts in the air. Fainter lines traced other powers that had been used on this stage again and again.

They were almost invisible in the glare of the active spell that enveloped Nica.

Spidery threads crisscrossed her here and there, tainted with shadows of smoke. He let his eyes slide over them, not focusing on any one thing in particular, just letting the sight of it wash over him to see if any patterns presented themselves. One thread shone in particular, weaving itself in and out of the cocoon, only to exit it and shoot off into the ether. Farther from the cocoon, it dimmed and faded, lost in the darkness outside the glare of the body of the spell. Naj stepped toward it, letting it run just above his hands, examining it, but not touching it himself.

Echoes of the reality within Nica’s mind pushed at him, danced at the edges of his vision, called to him with screams and sobs and pleading, but he paid it no mind. If he’d focused on it, he could have shifted his vision to see into the prison her mind had become, possibly directly from her point of view, though most likely as a spectator, but it would have done no good. There was no precious clue to be learned from witnessing that, only distraction. Nica was fire to his soul, he needed ice. He needed cold, calculated distance, and he needed to hurry. The power the dark god had lent him would only last so long without a power source, and even as bountiful as his overfilled energy was, he was running out of time.

He turned his attention more directly on the single thread that disappeared into the nothingness. He could trace it back, but he had the feeling of enormous distance as he stared in the direction it had left, and he knew he had not the strength of soul to make that journey. Nor the time. Clearly, he was become more the child of Li’Daea if his thoughts kept returning to the passage of time in the outside world. The il’m was quiet, nothingness, eternity. Il’Dao was ageless and a thousand years was but a moment to the Dark God. But Naj didn’t have the strength of a thousand years to draw on. He was fading fast, whispers of his true serpent self showing through. In emotionless determination, Naj did what he knew needed to be done without giving his more passionate self a chance to object.

Naj reached outside him, seizing whatever power he found there. Most of the souls he touched were too young to be of any consequence, some almost weak enough to not even been felt. He reached out and brushed a mind cool and distant, and left a hook there to draw on if needed. It was not exactly what he was seeking, but if he needed still more power, he would need it with a quickness, so he made his plans now and laid them to wait.

Nat had barely closed the door to the downstairs when a mind brushed hers. She fell back against the door, eyes closing at the intrusion. Before she could protest, there was a small tug and it was gone again.

Her breath came quick and shallow, her amber eyes opening to stare at the stage curtains. Marie had said Naj and Kain had been fighting – was that what she was feeling? Surely not, she couldn’t fathom anyone being able to stand up to Kain. He might downplay himself, but she knew he was a force to be reckoned with.

And whatever she’d just felt had not been the big cat.

Which meant it must be Naj, but that… That alien brush had hardly felt like the serpent.

She pushed off the door, determined to find out what was happening. When she pushed aside the curtain though, she stopped cold, a gasp on her lips.

Naj brushed another power that wavered and flux, strong, but too inconstant to be of any use to him. This soul did not sit still, it would take more energy than it was worth to try and pin them down. He passed it by.

Most of his awareness, however, was drawn in by one shining soul.

There was heat, there was passion there, but it lay like a shimmering heatwave over layer upon layer of unyielding stone. The core of this power was immense, unmoving, and dark. Most importantly there was weight. This was a soul that understood the press of ages, and a soul whose song sang of power and untold strength. This was the power he needed, and he claimed it without a thought.

Diving back beneath the surface into the depths of his mind, he drug the powers he’d claimed with him. Later, his serpent’s soul would mourn for what he’d done to his friends. Later, he would apologize and face the shame of it, accepting if they chose to exile him from their nest. Even in raptor society, where much was excused in the name of power, what he was doing was done only in the most dire of circumstances, but the quiet part of him agreed that these were indeed those circumstances. But the serpent in him was too passionate to ever excuse the crimes he was committing against his fellow dancers. To invade another’s soul, to violate them in a way that mere physical rape never could – well, he’d deal with that after they’d saved Nica.

He returned to the place where he could see the demon’s magic, and reached out again until he found the singular thread. Armed with real power backing him up, he examined the thread to see what it would tell him. He reached out with a tendril of power, taking special care not to actually touch it himself, and sent a probing thought into it.

It dissolved like a wisp of smoke.

He stood, confused for a moment that such a thing would occur. He had felt the immeasurable power as he’d examine the line before, this should not have been a thing so easily broken. The demon that spun this was far beyond Naj’s skill and power level, and yet this single thread had dissolved at the slightest touch.

As his thoughts moved from line to cocoon, the power chased the dissolving spell through the many layers of illusions heaped upon it. It would have taken lifetimes to unravel if he’d had to have started from the main weaving. They had all been unspeakably lucky that Naj, with his years of study in demon magic, had been the first to make the attempt. Like spider silk, the web would have simply ensnared any attempts to probe it directly. Those desperate to assist Nica would have strengthened the demon’s hold, adding mortal power to the demonic aura that held her. Each hand would have made the spell more solid, more real, until an actual web of lies had bound her so thoroughly it would never be broken.

But to a demon, or those versed in them, the signature had been clear. The thread to unwind the spell had shone bright and clear against the chaos, but Naj had expected it to take much more effort to untwist. This…

This almost called to mind the practice of his earliest days, when demons who worked willingly along side the Dai had made weavings so simple that even the children they taught could unwind them. It was… well, almost insulting to be offered such a spell now. It was negligible, like an after thought. What had the demon meant by it?

But there was no time to consider it. Like the thread that had tied it to its master, the strings of the cocoon were unraveling and dissolving. Satisfied that the work he had been called to do was complete, the borrowed power of Il’Dao abandoned him, and Naj found himself sucked back to the here and now with frightening speed.

He gasped as his soul slammed back into his body, physically reeling at the force with which he hit. Instantly, his mind processed that he had been sitting still and cross legged at Nica’s side, breathless and unmoving. The power of the dark god had sustained him, as it did any raptor drawing on magics for extended periods of time. But as soon as that power had abandoned him, his soul rushed back to his body to nourish it. Naj felt gray at the edges of his vision, and more drained than he had the first time he’d been with Nica this morning, but as long as he held perfectly still he would not crumble. His heart beat frantically to pump oxygen back into his starved chest and limbs, the beginnings of dizziness and nausea curling around his brain. Before slipping into unconsciousness a thousand thoughts reeled through his mind as his soul caught up with him. What have I done. How long was I gone. I’m sorry, I’m sorry oh Nine Gods forgive me my friends forgive me but most importantly Is Nica ok?


As you may have noticed, today is not Asylum’s normal update day. That’s because, as of today, Asylum is on hiatus.

I’ve spent the past month trying to figure out how I want to do this, and I feel this is the best way. I’m about 10 chapters in to a revision of a Asylum that’s more streamlined, better paced, more in character, and much more coherent. Publishing Asylum to in an online format was always meant to be something that kept me interested in the project, and it has done just that. So much so, that my interest in continuing Asylum as moved beyond the scope of a web novel.

I want to get Asylum properly polished, trimmed, and in its best format. After working with this blog, I really believe this (new, streamlined version) is something I can query with, and I’m going to do just that.

I’ll keep this blog updated with progress reports, one liners, further tidbits of interests, and calls for beta readers. If you love Asylum and want to see where it’s going, hit me up. I am always looking for a fresh pair of eyes to go over my work.

It’s been fun. I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. Asylum has come so far, and has farther still to go. Thank you all for your support. I can’t wait to meet you all at future book signings!

Happy Reading!

-R

Chapter 14, part 2

Once past the ward, Kain’s thoughts flared wide, seeking Naj out. He followed the serpent onto the stage, slowing as he moved the curtain aside. There had been a tickle, something other than Naj for just a moment…

His eyes widened, taking in the sight of Nica motionless on the floor. Her eyes were open and unseeing. Her fingers were curled on themselves, limbs askew as if she’d simply fallen where she’d stood.

Over her stood Naj, a small smile flickering on his face as he knelt to touch the blood seeping from her mouth.

He’d need a tie back to this world, something to help him break back through the illusion. There wasn’t much strong enough here to help Naj keep his sense of self, but he’d rather take that risk than a misaligned spell with no name.

A familiar aura had appeared at his back as he’d been lost in studying the illusion. He’d ignored it until now, but as he pulled himself back into the space beyond the empty, he spoke to Kain without looking up.

I’m going to need a tether.”

Kain closed his eyes against the sight, willing his heart to slow. Something wasn’t right here. Other than the obvious, what he was seeing wasn’t right. This was too obvious, too…

Too unbelievable.

The moment he thought it, he felt the shift. He heard Naj’s voice and opened his eyes to find the serpent standing at the edge of an empty stage. His expression was hard and he was staring at the stage as if there were something there that he would see if he only stared hard enough.

Kain could feel it too, something was pushing an illusion at them.

A tether – where’s Nica?”

He had a feeling he already knew the answer, but he didn’t understand how or what was happening within the empty stage.

Naj snapped in frustration. “Questions later. Just hold this.” He lashed a strand of power in Kain’s direction and dove beneath the icy waters of power swirling in his mind.

Azriel watched the pair of men talking at the edge of the stage, pulling his glove through his bare hand over and over as he thought.

He’d hoped that the larger of the two would have bought into that simple illusion, a fight between them would have given him a little more time with his lovely little hawk.

His green gaze fell to the woman at his feet and he smiled affectionately. Not that he wasn’t enjoying every moment they were currently getting to spend together. Something about the way his shadows crawled through her skin… Her eyes were wide, and his shadows gathered there to make them completely black. He liked that better than the golden hazel her eyes had held before. This made her look… Well, like something of his.

He knelt, running a bare hand over her heart, tracing a symbol there with the shadows that flowed freely between his skin and hers. Oh, but she was a fierce one. Even trapped in her own mind, playing with a mere shadow of himself… She was delicious. Her fear tremulous and hard won, trickling down the tether that currently bound them together.

Some people wept fear so freely it was almost cloying. This one… She didn’t fear for herself – or at least, she hadn’t at first. No, her fear was something unto a delicacy.

He hummed softly as his shadow found a particularly good sore spot to press. He could hear her mental shriek as she finally gave in… His eyes closed, savoring it.

A push against his barrier interrupted and he stood with a sigh. All good things must come to an end, but she’d served her purpose… And there was no telling how long it would take them to break his hold with how many layers of shadow he’d cocooned her mind in.

And Devin would know he’d been here, which had been his intent all along.

With a last smile at the hawk whose pale skin now writhed with his darkness, he vanished, leaving only his calling card behind.

Air! Need air! Can’t breathe! Can’t move! Fear! TerrorterrorterrrorpanicAIR!!!

Naj staggered until the assault when the barrier abruptly fell. He hadn’t broken it, it has simply vanished. The false emptiness of the stage was immediately surging with feeling, a suffocating wash of sensation.

But, even so, it was… muted. Naj could still think past it, which meant it was only an echo, the lingering ghost of a moment past. Not too long passed, but as Naj sucked in careful breaths of air to chase the panic away, he realized the feeling was already shifting.

The emotion felt oily, slick, and it left an ugly film across his aura. Mentally, he tried to slough it off, but it only coagulated into a thicker sludge. Naj pushed against it, and it thickened still, so he let it go, and went serpent still, listening.

Nica’s screams rang out, but with that same echoey quality as the panic from before. There were too many of them, layered back on themselves again and again, and laced with grim, stony silence, a determination not to scream, not to give in—it was maddening. Naj willed himself not to hear, closed his eyes even as spectral images began to form around him, and dove deeper.

A growl trickled from Kain as the power hit him, but he held it, rooting it to only a part of his aura. They were going to have a talk after this though.

Thin white bands appeared on his wrists and Kain took a deep breath, forming a fist with one hand.

There was a soft pop as the illusion broke, Nica and Naj coming visible. It mirrored what he’d seen before, but this Naj was more concerned, and Nica…

It caught his breath in his throat. Her tanned skin was pale and black lines flowed along it. Her eyes were wide and dark, for a moment he’d thought the sockets empty.

What bothered him most though, was the faint echo of her mind, buried somewhere within her. She was in pain and afraid.

Nica’s eyes blinked open slowly, wincing as she registered tight pain in her arms. When her vision came back into focus, she realized she was in the main room of the club. She stood on stage… Except stood wasn’t the right word. Her feet barely touched the floor enough for her toes to taker her weight. Her arms were bound above her head, the rope vanishing up to where the rafters should be. Here there was nothing but darkness and she suddenly remembered Az.

Her gaze flickered around the room, her body twisting on the rope where her feet barely met the ground. Her senses strained, trying to figure out what had happened after he touched her, all she remembered was the cool chill of his touch, an ice that burned, and a strange slithering sensation on her skin… Into her skin.

This wasn’t really the club, there were minor differences, like the lack of ceiling and walls. The bar was there, but there was only one table with a single chair before the stage.

The biggest difference was that here, the room was deafeningly silent. There was nothing to listen for, no matter how hard she strained – no thrum of electricity, no whisper of insect activity, even her own breathing, which should be fast and harsh from fighting back the panic, was lacking.

When Az suddenly stepped into her line of vision, she jerked back, crying out silently as the rope pulled her back into position before him.

He smiled. In other circumstances, he would be considered a beautiful man. Black, stylish cut hair and green eyes that glittered with mirth, full lips… He was still dressed to the nines as when she had last seen him. As she watched, he crossed the room to the table and chair, setting down a small briefcase she had somehow missed.

When he turned to regard her, she was glad for the silence, at least she would be spared something in all of this. Then he parted his lips and spoke. His voice drifted across the room and slid against her skin with its softness. “I trust you understand what’s happening.”

She shivered and pulled back involuntarily. The quiet nature of his voice gave it an intimacy that caused her more pain than a slap would have. It was melodic, pleasant… And so contrary to what she knew was going to happen.

As Az continued to speak in that haunting tone, he began to undress. First his gloves, then his coat and tie, before beginning to unbutton his shirt. “This isn’t personal, little bird. For what it’s worth, I actually do hope you survive this. It will make it… That much more satisfying to me if you do. I hate it when my pets give in too easily.” He gave her body a thorough glance over and she realized that she was completely bare to his view. “Of course, I recognize that you’re already weakened, which curbs what I can do… But I promise we’ll still have some fun.” As he reached the last of his buttons, he removed the shirt, but nothing else.

Any relief she might have felt at him not continuing to undress faded rapidly as he unclicked the latch on his briefcase and brought his first tool to the light.

Naj slammed back into his skull, panting from the memory. Illusion? It had to be. Nica hadn’t been separated from them for that long… But demonkin weren’t bound by the mundane laws of the mortal plane. Though he shuddered to think it, Nica could have lived a thousand lifetimes by now, locked in the prison of her mind.

He knew none of this was real, but it was a fine point to mince. Bodies healed much faster than the mind, and the mental damage being inflicted was very, very real. In his experience, it was actually harder to heal memories that your body told you never happened, to the point that the mind would inflict phantom pains to realign the boy with its perceptions. No, physically real or not, Nica was being tortured, and Naj had to break it. Without the protection of frail flesh, the mind could be tormented for far, far longer.

He closed his eyes and took a deep, centering breath, drawing in on himself, shutting out illusory distractions. Sharing Nica’s mental landscape wouldn’t help him free her of it. There would be no convenient clue, no shining weak point to attack—her prison would soundly secure, and any hope offered therein would be false, only meant to tease.

In the inky stillness of his soul, there was ice, and he would use it. He touched the pure power within him, and realized it was a dull echo of what had been with his master provided the true connection to Il’Dao. Naj was a serpent, a cobra even, and the heart of his soul was fire. But in this place that he went to for strength, there was still the channel that housed the power as it passed through him. Ghosts of it remained, like a song hangs in the air long after the dancers have fallen into repose.

It was enough. He could use it.