Dear Diary…foes and fortunes Part 1

ALERT: May Contain Spoilers for the Adventure: “Against the Cult of the Reptile God”

Far above where the sun shone, dawn broke. Lancell and Nori the spider were moving again, and seemed none the worse for spending the night paralyzed. Even Ezekiel had color in his face again, so we headed out in our usual battle formation.

Down the hall, about the turn where Ezekiel was attacked before, the lizardmen (trogs) suddenly melted out of the shadows and fell upon us.

We must have startled them as much as they surprised us – that, or they were consumed with hatred to hit us – because two of them cut down their companions in front of them before we could even engage.

Nori pounced and sank her fangs into one of the stinking creatures, while Mikael leaned against the wall of the passage, clearly trying not to hurl.

I launched my arrow while Raven darted forward and did one of his Monk-ish palm-punches, stunning the trog.

The luck didn’t stay on our side, though. Nori was felled to the ground with a stone ax, and I…sort of…grazed Mikael’s arm with an arrow.

Lancell was dropping trogs left and right, while Ezekiel soaked up punishment until he was leveled to the ground.

I tell you it was my bow, but somehow it slipped from my hand and came back to whack me in the eye. My next shot finally flew true, though, and nailed a trog through the throat… The enemy was defeated.

We bound up out our fallen companions (Raven had also gotten a bad hit on the head – maybe he should let his hair grow out for a cushion…) and Ezekiel quaffed a potion. He also read one of his healing scrolls over Nori, and she popped up, fighting fit again…but then she ran up to the ceiling and sulked there for a bit.

The large room where the trogs had hung out (I counted seven while Lancell was searching them) had a couple doorways along one wall.

Ezekiel investigated the first doorway, and gulped.

When he called over the druid and me, we both stared. The whole of the small sideroom was coated with eggs – eggs as long as both my hands held side-by-side. Through their translucent sides, we could see tiny troglings, curled up and waiting to hatch.

Ezekiel and Lancell talked it over briefly. Lancell said he had no problem destroying the eggs, and I see his point. The surrounding countryside couldn’t handle a thousand vicious, carnivorous lizardlings…that also have a racial hatred of humans.

So we spent a few tiresome hours smashing eggs.

Finally done, we poked our noses into the second side room – and almost screamed.

These eggs were much smaller – only the size of one hand – but there were at least twice as many. Some of them were close to hatching, and we could see the coils of the baby snakes inside.

We decided to search for an easier way to destroy them, and continued on.

For some inexplicable reason, Ezekiel started digging at the end of the large chamber – but good for us he did. He dug out several large leather sacks, and on examining them turned up a mass of platinum, gems, gold, and silver!

We loaded it up in the bag of holding and Raven’s pockets (since he’s not exactly combat fit right now) and continued on.

We chose a branch of the further passageway, and as we made our way down it we could hear a…”barking” noise.

Did not like the idea of a giant, poisonous dog dropping down on our heads…

Around a turn of the passage, we could see some kind of bipedal lizard, about the size of a large dog. He growled and barked and snapped his huge teeth and us, but he was chained to the north wall and couldn’t quite reach us.

Although Mikael obviously wanted to try making friends with it, we slipped past – hugging the south wall where it couldn’t reach us.

Beyond that was a boat on the shore of a lake – just as the prisoners we rescued had described to us. We got in the boat and paddled off, pretty sure what we would find.

Sure enough, when our lights fell on the opposite shore, it was Explictika Defilas’ official seat of power…complete with her rotting, headless corpse.

We landed and dug around under her. Apparently all we had left behind was the silver pieces, so we loaded that up and decided to return to the VIP quarters on the floor above to unburden ourselves. Treasure ain’t easy to lug around, after all.


To start at the beginning, click here.

Find the previous entry here.

“Transmutation of Shadow” Chapter 1

"Transmutation of Shadow" Chapter 1 — Kimia WoodCheck out the first chapter of my upcoming action-adventure Transmutation of Shadow! Meet Eric Kedzierski, psionic human and assassin extraordinaire…and, yes, his last name is very “long, ugly, and Polish” (his words).

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Business As Usual

In which I kill somebody.

I eyed the two-lane country road, twenty yards below me.

“Target is four minutes out,” came Oscar’s voice through the plug in my ear.

“Roger,” I said, low toned.

Combat mics are designed to pick up soft voices. Of course, I was the only human being in about two miles of the spot. I’d made sure of that when I first arrived.

I double-checked my handiwork on the tree. It was already dead, leaning slightly toward the incline and the road. A storm had recently passed through, as the lightening-scorched poplar a hundred feet to my right showed, so the set-up was more believable.

I had weakened the base of the dead tree with a focused energy lance, and now all it would need was a concentrated mental shove. The age of the tree, and the lightening in the area, would both discourage anyone from analyzing for psionic scorches.

“Target three minutes out,” said Oscar.

I knelt at the base of my tree, the better to see the road through a gap in the foliage. My form-hugging combat suit protected my knees from the damp grass.

“Any word on the escort?” I asked.

“Armored SUV, three bodyguards, one driver,” said Oscar, from the data pulled up on his computer screen in the command center at Langley. “Chase vehicle about eight minutes behind, looks like, so you’ll have to hustle.”

I nodded to myself. The branches I had tossed onto the curve of the road fifty yards away would look like storm debris, and would make the car slow down.

“Three bodyguards,” I muttered. “Oil sheiks are paranoid, huh?”

“I think anybody who makes it onto our list is paranoid,” Oscar answered. “After all, it’s not just the United States he’s ticked off over the years. I’m sure there are some rival oil kings who’ve lost minions or trade deals to him. Maybe he’s responsible for that ambassador we lost in the Middle East. I don’t know; they don’t tell me these things.”

I adjusted my goggles, switching to thermal vision to make sure no stray cars were coming. The last thing I needed at the moment was a civilian blundering in to the set-up.

“Not my problem. I don’t make the big decisions,” I said.

My handler of many years said nothing. It’d been a standing inside joke between us: we don’t get paid enough to decide who should die. That’s for the bureaucrats who run the Agency to do. Got a complaint? Go talk to Congress.

Car engine. With a directed psionic ping, I received feedback in one of my goggles for movement telemetry.

Sure enough, they were moving around the corner. They slowed at the tree branches, and lumbered carefully around the curve.

“American car,” I whispered to Oscar.

“Huh?”

“It’s a GMC. Are you sure –?”

“Look, the spooks have been tracking them for weeks. Yes, it’s the right car. Go for it!”

The SUV cautiously picked up speed. The driver was being careful, given the hilly terrain.

Digital overlays in my goggles gave me the timing. With all the technology, this job was hardly a challenge —

I lanced the tree, giving it an energized shove with my hand for good measure. The tree crashed into the road, and the SUV plowed into it, squealing as the driver tried to apply the brakes.

As I sprinted down the hill from my hiding place, I was already feeling out the lock. Very standard stuff…I mean, couldn’t a corrupt Arab tyrant invest in a little more complicated door lock?

At the touch of my finger, an electrical pulse overrode the car’s computer, and I yanked the rear door open.

My other hand cracked the top on the vial, and nonlethal gas blew into the car. My glance flitted between the unconscious faces

“Target ID?” I hissed, checking with another psionic pulse that every heart was beating.

“Guy in the middle. Chase car is picking up speed; hurry.”

“Did you do a biometric –”

“It’s the guy in the middle, Shadow! I know my job.”

Holding my breath, I leaned into the car and un-clicked his seat belt. Touching – Ruthless Oil Despot was imitating American culture, with a very nice tailored suit.

With an energized heave, I flung him through the windshield. A psionic pulse, and my Heads Up Display flashed a confirmed death.

I relocked the door and sprinted back up the hill. There was nothing left to do. The tree left no traces. The car lock was un-breached.

And there were no collateral deaths.

“All right, Shadow. HUD says we’ve got a confirmed target elimination.”

I started the hike back to my car, pulled off the road and hidden on the other side of the hill. As I forged deeper into the trees, I heard the chase car’s engine purring around the corner.

“I guess the Middle East will be safer, now,” I said. “Though I can’t help wondering that they’d stage his death on American soil.”

Oscar said nothing for a moment. “Politics isn’t my game,” he said at last. “Especially foreign politics. It’s not our problem.”

Again, I nodded to myself, raising my goggles to see the variegated greenery around me unobstructed. A chipmunk popped its head out of a fallen log, stared at me, and ducked back in again.

With thermal vision, I’d be able to see his heat signature. But what would be the fun of that?

Besides, sometimes chipmunks and I both had to hide.


"Transmutation of Shadow" Chapter 1 — Kimia WoodKimia Wood was raised by an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella, Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing exploits!

Dear Diary…a cakewalk – NOT!

ALERT: May Contain Spoilers for the Adventure: “Against the Cult of the Reptile God”

We left the chunks of ivory with Kelsier for him to get appraised and sold off. He’ll leave our shares with Olwin at the Slumbering Serpent — we wanted to get an early start in the morning.

We also hired a cart with detachable wheels that should make lugging treasure through the swamp easier.

When we reached the swamp I was happy to see the trail seemed less traveled than before. Apparently we’ve cut down on the traffic! Maybe without E.D. goading them on, the trog population will keep to themselves.

****

The 15th day of Wielsan we returned to the dyke that surrounded the dungeon opening. It seemed less oppressive than when we first encountered it, now that we knew a little more what to expect…and now that the Big Bad was dead.

Descending the stairs was much easier than before, since the rope was still hanging there that we had used to climb up. So we reached the bottom without incident and Ezekiel and Lancell – both with magically shining shields – took the lead.

We started in the room where the frogs had been. Hardly anything was left of their bodies, but Mikael borrowed one of the bones to prod the water as he explored – like Lancell was doing with one of the guards’ spears.

Once slimed, twice shy.

Looking around the room, my torchlight reflecting off the water’s surface, I noticed that the north wall looked different from the rest of the room.

Lancell prodded it and found the dirt to be rather loose, so Raven ran and got some shovels from the tool room we’d discovered earlier. A team effort with the shovels revealed a small room with three chests on a wooden platform (to keep them out of the mud).

We remembered looting some keys off the Evil Cleric from downstairs, so after digging to the very bottom of my pack, I found them and we tried them on the chests (after Raven checked them for traps).

No traps, but when we unlocked them, we found a whole pile of coins – and some gems! We put the most expensive coins, and the gems, into the bag of holding, leaving the rest to carry out when we’re ready to leave. It’s not that far from the exit.

Wading through the water (that rose almost to the waist!) we explored through a second doorway to the south. Down this corridor, several of the wall supports had given way, flooding the tunnel with mud three feet deep!

At the end of this passage, Lancell forced open a door to discover a room filled with shallow water…and skeletons.

The dead kind. All ages, from the size of them, and some mossy with age. I lost count at twenty.

We figured these must be the remains of those who wouldn’t be charmed by Explictika Defilas.

Ezekiel said a few fitting words, committing their souls to Ao. He says that when we’re finished here, he wants to collapse this end of the tunnel, so that nothing and no one disturbs these poor souls’ bones.

Exploring the rest of this level, we returned to a door we’d ignored previously – it has a big X burned into the surface. On forcing it open, we found ourselves in a chapel-like area, with a high ceiling and four support pillars. A passage led south, filled with deep mud.

We had hardly taken a step forward when the air filled with an unearthly singing…I tell you, it made my head spin. We advanced toward the southern exit, and that’s when she struck – the ugly, woman-like thing with clawed feet, huge, vulture-like wings, and pointed teeth.

She struck Lancell, while all the time this crazy, penetrating music (I can’t quite call it a song) kept going on.

I nailed her with an arrow, and then Lancell took her down.

On examining the body, Ezekiel said, “Yes, that’s a harpy.”

I almost didn’t make it through the mud in the passage beyond. Kelsier is so glad he didn’t come this time, because I’m pretty sure I would have drowned if Mikael and Lancell hadn’t pulled me out.

Anyway, on the other side were four more pillars, connected at five and ten feet by “branches.” Far away, in the tall ceiling, we could just see a hole up there.

Something glinted in the light at the top of the supports, so Raven took his Monk skills and scrambled right up there.

He started pitching down jewelry down to us – there was a ruby necklace that looked especially nice.

I wondered who the harpy could be preying on way out here in a desolate dungeon, but Ezekiel and Lancell pointed out she could have been living off of E.D.’s followers…which would explain why they put a huge X on her door.

With that dealt with, we returned to the main corridor (and I have mud all the way up to my neck) and explored some more passages south of the underground lake. (There were still crocodiles in the lake, but they were ignoring us, so we ignored them.)

We found a little dead end that smelled strongly of weasel. Someone found a coin in the corner, and the next thing you know we’re digging in the dirt along the wall, turning up gold and silver coins.

I never knew a weasel that liked coins. I have so much to learn.

Having exhausted all the passages on the upper level, we headed down the stairs (past the truly nauseating stench of the lizardmen corpses – and you thought they smelled bad while alive!)

In a small, narrow tunnel, Lancell got jumped by the biggest, hairiest spider you’ve ever seen!

Mikael hurried forward and started soothing it, waving his hands with druid magic. The spider twitched, and chirped, and stopped attacking, watching Mikael with all eight of its eyes.

While we waited for him to finish his spell, the temperature dropped.

I turned around and spotted two figures lumbering toward us, groaning. I nailed one of them before Ezekiel pulled out his holy sheep toy and shooed them away.

I dropped the wounded ghoul as they were retreated, but the second one got away. That’s the disappointing part about “Turn Undead.” He assures me that one day he’ll be able to disintegrate ghouls just like he does zombies and stuff.

Ezekiel said we might as well continue on, leaving Lancell to protect Mikael while he finished romancing his spider.

Down the narrow, twisty passage we went – Ezekiel, Raven, Elwyn – passing a little room on the way littered with bones.

Evil monsters are so untidy.

As we approached a turn and a fork, suddenly a wicker basket flew through the air, nailed Ezekiel in the head, and dropped an enormous snake all over him.

“Get back! Retreat” Ezekiel shouted at us, cradling a snake bite and he retreated in defensive mode.

Beyond him, I could hear the guttural snaps and snarls of trog voices. Raven told me there were at least eight.

I tried to shoot an arrow at the snake as we were retreating, but it’s hard to walk backwards over uneven mud in the dark and shoot at the same time. So I kinda sorta plugged Ezekiel in the back – but fortunately it glanced off his magic chainmail.

We came to a split in the passage, so I side-stepped down the fork to get a shot at the snake (which must have been really made, because it was still chasing Ezekiel). Just about then, Lancell and Mikael and the spider all joined us, so we all got blows in and finally killed the giant snake.

“You don’t look so good,” said Lancell, and Laid Hands On Ezekiel.

I borrowed Raven’s dagger, and slashed the snake bite, winding a tourniquet to keep the poison from spreading. It might be too late, of course, but we can try our best.

“I think I’d better rest for a while,” said Ezekiel, so we all went back to the dead-end chamber where we found the spider (Mikael says her name is “Nori”) and holed up.

****

Hours passed, and Ezekiel still looked pretty green.

A second huge, hairy spider came to the door and attacked. While we were fighting it off (by “we” I mean everybody else) Ezekiel took out his scroll of Cure Light Wounds and mumbled the words to cast it on himself.

He looked a little more pink than green, and I changed his bandage.

Nori took the clean-up upon herself, and munched away at the dead spider.

About the time she finished, the strangest sound came down the corridor toward us. Like…hundreds of little feet crawling along the walls.

When the beastie came into sight – brr, it makes my skin crawl to think of it even now! It had eight long tentacles on its “face,” followed by a long, trailing, multi-legged caterpillar body.

“Carrion Crawler,” spat Lancell as he moved forward to attack.

I’m sorry I called Nori ugly earlier because she pounced on that sucker and did her new best friend proud! Ezekiel, of course, was huddled in the corner, nursing his sick head, so the rest of us were in charge of killing it…without getting hit by those flailing, monstrous tentacles!

One of those smacked Lancell, and his body stiffened, frozen in place.

Looking at the beastly thing, I decided that behind the head – the long body – should be more susceptible. Raven must have figured that way, too, because he dodged the lashing tentacles and tried to drive his dagger into the soft underbelly.

I think that’s about when Nori squeaked and dropped to the floor, legs rigid with paralysis.

Mikael whipped out his magic horn that’s supposed to summon barbarians to help him. When he said the magic word and blew it…a cloud of bubbles surrounded him.

Well, anyway.

We’d gotten a few good hits on the creepy-crawly – it was bleeding with drippy, disgusting ichor. I got one last arrow into its hide, and its squealed and ran away across the ceiling.

It’d better just not come back, that’s all I’m saying. That thing makes my hair stand up, and I wish we could have finished it off.

Lancell and Nori seemed to be breathing just fine, but they couldn’t move. So we laid them down in the back of the cave with Ezekiel and prepared to stand watch all night, the three of us.

Once, some trogs walked by – I could smell them! – but thanks to Ehlonna and Ao and all the other nice gods, they just kept on walking.

Oh, and another party of ghouls found us, but Ezekiel turned them and I got an arrow in one as it was shuffling away.

They just better knock that off, is all I’m saying. On the one hand, this explains why not everybody goes around to collect the amazing loot in dungeons, but on the other hand there are a whole lot of weird things out there ready to instantly kill you and I’m really thinking I have a whole list of things to ask my Ranger master about if I ever live to see him again.

To Buy:

  • anti-poison/anti-venom (for any and every kind of poison or venom; if it exists, Ezekiel will run into it)
  • Something to keep from getting charmed (ear-plugs?? amulet? adoptive elf godmother?)
  • traps for blocking passageways and slowing down creatures (ask Master)
  • oh, and arrows. Lots more arrows
  • also, also, something to deal with paralysis??

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“Caesar III”

"Caesar III" — Kimia Wood — civilization simulator This civilization simulator has been one of my favorite games since childhood. The only trouble with playing it is that it will be an automatic three-hour sink every time I open the program.

The Mechanics of an Empire

Caesar III puts you in the role of a governor building a town from scratch. Your manager on behalf of the Emperor rates your performance based on population, crime rate, revenue, cultural attainments, etc.

As is typical for a city-simulation game, you are the Supreme Tyrant of your town. You must provide food and housing for your citizens, make sure they can get to the buildings that need employees, balance your building needs with tax income, and more.

Bread for the Masses

The food system is especially complex, requiring much concentration and study to perfect. Farms (which require labor) will produce food, which is delivered to granaries (which require labor). From there, it is distributed to markets (which require labor), which send “market ladies” out to distribute food directly to people’s homes. In especially complex cities, a market lady might take a wrong turn, leaving people down the dead end to starve until she figures it out.

And there is no way to control the way the people walk. They travel the roads of your city, randomly deciding which branch to take at each crossroad, and returning to their starting building once they “run out of food” or get tired.

All this careful finagling is perfect for sucking in hours of the player’s time. After all, figuring out how the system works and what you need to tweak to get it to function is all part of the fun!

If you happen to have a “warehouse” near your farms (designed to hold other things like pottery and furniture – oh, yes, you have to provide those, too) the warehouse might accidentally collect the food intended for the granary (in case you want to sell food to traders, you see) and this means the market workers can’t access it from the granary!

(Did I mention farms can only be built on land that’s arable?)

Imperial Combat

This is not a fighting game, although it includes limited mechanics for warfare. Some of the areas you will be assigned to are threatened by “savages” who will attack your town! (It’s even possible to face Carthaginians on elephants!)

If your town is in a dangerous area, you will have the ability to build military structures. These include walls and gatehouses, plus barracks for housing legions of soldiers (spearmen, legionaries, or horsemen).

I preferred playing maps that were “moderately” dangerous, so I could build gates to contain my populace (building a gatehouse across the road keeps people from wandering down its full length) and hosting soldiers to help put down potential riots (if you keep your citizens stuffed and entertained, they’ll pay their taxes and behave. Ignore their demands, and they’ll get vocal and torch-wielding about it).

Variation of Terrain

Caesar III adds variety by offering you assignments in different parts of the empire. For instance, you might take a post in the wilds of Britannia, where the grass is lush and green, and the groundwater easy to tap. (You must build fountains to give your people water, supplied by the famous Roman aqueducts.)

"Caesar III" — Kimia Wood — civilization simulatorBut perhaps you will be sent to North Africa, where the pale sand is dotted with shrubs and bushes, and water is harder to provide. You’ll also have to use your farmland very wisely, as farms can only be built where crops will grow. Of course, working out the geometry for maximum farm-age is part of the fun!

In some areas, you are provided with lots of coastline, and expected to feed your people with fishing wharves. Sometimes there are even “primitive” natives, who must be pacified with a missionary post (teaching Latin and civilizing through education, of course!).

Other Obstacles

Oh, yeah, your buildings can collapse or burn down if they’re not maintained."Caesar III" — Kimia Wood — civilization simulator

Your people are really demanding, and no sooner do you give them pottery and oil than they want furniture and wine! (Just click on the houses, or on the crowds walking the streets, and they’ll tell you exactly what they think!)

Also, sometimes wild animals will run around the map and stand right where you want to put a building!

Your Imperial Boss

You may have the ultimate authority and responsibility over the people and buildings in your city…but Rome has ultimate authority over you!

Caesar gives you money to get you started, and might send you loans to get you out of trouble should you need it… But he also has demands to make.

It’s not unheard of for him to demand 20 units of oil, or pottery, or another commodity. Then you have to order your warehouses to stockpile this item, and hope you gather enough before the deadline.

Don’t keep the Emperor waiting.

The “God” Mechanic

There are even more things to worry about as you try to build your city! Five Roman gods (Mars, Venus, Ceres, Mercury, and Neptune) will want temples and festivals in their honor. Your citizens are also happy to be able to pay their respects, and will want access to several different nearby temples so they can cover all their bases.

"Caesar III" — Kimia Wood — civilization simulatorHosting festivals entertains your people, and flatters the gods. In return, the deities might bless your crops, or send a protecting spirit to kill your attacking enemies.

But if you should ignore them for too long…or – heaven forbid – give some other god more temples than they have…! Oh, they will make their wrath known!

Fortunately, you can turn “gods’ effects” off on the difficulty screen. I usually played with this “off” unless I had all the gods fat and happy.

Educational Content

So, Caesar III is a great way to burn the extra hours in your life. It’s even fun to tweak the systems in your city and gradually afford bigger and better buildings (I have yet to have a city that could support a hippodrome, but I’ve dreamt of it). Building your first colosseum, of course, always sparks a cut scene celebrating your promotion from “village” to “city”!

But educational content?

Back in my younger days playing this, I discovered a little question mark box in the corner of whatever dialogue screen you were in. Clicking this button opened a whole new world.

If you were interacting with a house, the ?-button would give you information about the Roman homes and the differences between simple terra cotta “casas” and the multi-story “insulae” (which are more like apartment complexes).

If you were interacting with the colosseum or theater, you could learn about entertainment in ancient Rome. The warehouse might tell you about ancient trade routes. The granary, food supply.

Believe it or not, at the age of twelve I spent a lot of my play time reading these little informational items, digging through to learn how each element of the game connected with the real Rome.

Educational games don’t have to be bright and colorful, or feature singing animals. All you need is a curious kid, and something that connects the game world with real life.

Rule the Empire!

To be perfectly and completely honest, I haven’t played this game out to the bitter end. Part of the reason is that it’s addictive (I’ll just build one more clinic…just wait until a few more people immigrate…ooh, a little more money and I can build this thing right over here…) Like a jigsaw or cross-word puzzle, each missing piece (say, a neighborhood that wants pottery) connects with several other pieces (like clay pits that need workers to run them) and each right answer is dependent on several others (like figuring out how you’ll feed the neighborhood that’s tucked in the corner by the clay pits to supply workers to the clay pits).

It might be more fun for those who enjoy attention-to-detail and obsess over the connection of many moving parts…while those who need a faster pace or more instantaneous affirmation might get bored.

But if you’re up for a challenge, have plenty of free time (like, HOURS of free time), and wouldn’t mind learning about the ancient Roman Empire…then I highly recommend Caesar III!


Caesar III is available for Windows from GoG.com, optimized for modern computers.

used Crossover to play this version on my Mac, and it works fine.

Also available on Steam for Windows (be aware Steam DRM-locks their software).

Find on Amazon as a digital download (for Windows), or in disk form.

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s mailing list for updates!

Dear Diary…mopping up

ALERT: May Contain Spoilers for the Adventure: “Against the Cult of the Reptile God”

We ain’t very sneaky.

After leaving the elves’ house, we sauntered down to the Golden Grain Inn. Ezekiel bought himself some wine and talked to the innkeeper (Bertram) while Raven and I examined the fireplace (strangely fire-less) and the other two spread out through the common room.

The blacksmith’s son had told us about a secret signal the cultists used to identify each other – putting your palm to your forehead – so Ezekiel did that to the innkeeper.

Innkeeper excused himself, conferred with his cook, and went back behind the bar.

Ezekiel and Lancell hired a room for the night and went upstairs with the innkeeper while Raven and I pretended not to know them and tried talking to one of the men drinking at a table.

The man said that the GG wasn’t as good as the other inn (poor food and lousy prices) but he was kind of in the habit of coming here. He also seemed scared off once I started talking; Kelsier would have done a much better job.

Well, Ezie and Lancell came back downstairs, so Raven and I casually left. We grouped up out of sight around the weaver’s shop, and hashed out plans.

Ezekiel and Lancell had been busy. Once left alone in their room, they discovered a secret door that led into a passage that led into all the other guest rooms (no way to open the doors from those rooms – it was simply a route from their room to the others).

They also found a footlocker that fit the key we looted off of Derrick the Assassin. That had a load of platinum and gold, so I guess Derrick wasn’t doing too bad for himself. Wonder where he’s gotten to by now…

Anyway, we wondered whether Bertram the Innkeeper thinks Ezekiel is Derrick’s replacement, since he made the secret hand gesture, as so he put him in Derrick’s old room (that has secret access to all the other guests).

We decided to send in someone as bait, to see 1) if someone tries to kidnap them in the night, or 2) if Ezekiel is expected to kidnap them.

Lancell didn’t want it to be Raven, because putting a Monk of Merikka in there might complicate things – and I pointed out that I’d been seen hanging out with the monk.

So we picked Mikael, since he’s skinny and looks less threatening than some.

Ezekiel headed in to explain that his “goody-two-shoes” paladin friend preferred to stay at the Slumbering Serpent, and to have dinner.

The three rest of us sorted out our observation posts to keep an eye on all the visible exits, and towards sundown Mikael headed into the inn.

I told them both to scream if they need help. Mikael gave me a dirty look.

****

Well, that was disappointing.

Apparently everybody had a quiet night. When Mikael and Ezekiel joined us after breakfast, they said nothing exciting or disturbing had happened at all.

Well, except that when Ezekiel peeked through the secret door to check on Mikael, Mikael poked him with his staff.

Nobody was kidnapped, and from what we can tell, nobody tried to kidnap anybody.

Group decision is to head to the mayor’s and talk things over with him.

****

Mayor Zacharius has confirmed Dorian and Lluwelin’s story that they were his investigative agents.

He listened to the failure of our trap/experiment at the Golden Grain, and asked to have the head of Explictika Deflias to put on a pike in town. We theorized that seeing this evidence will encourage everyone that the cult is well and truly dead. Those who were afraid can be comforted…and perhaps those who are just acting as they were expected to act can be reassured that the ground-rules have changed, and they can return to “normal.” (Note that Ezekiel made the secret cult gesture to Bertram – not the other way around.)

Oh, yes – Mayor Zacharius was also very worried that the village’s militia is in sad shape at the moment. The constable has resigned, after his participation in the cult, and a lot of the townspeople are gone altogether.

He asked if we would stay on for a while and help defend Orlane from bandits. Lancell volunteered to do his part until the people were in better shape to defend themselves, and Ezekiel piped right up and suggested we write to our friends from Ertuli and see if they’d like to settle here, to bring the population up and such.

(I lived in Ertuli longer than he did. There’s a lot of ancestral land back there. I don’t know. I do feel bad that we didn’t get answers to our goblin/bugbear problems. And if they can’t go back because of the invaders, they’ll need some place to live. Orlane is nice and all, but it’s not the mountains of home. Anyway, Ezekiel’s going to write and let them know.)

When we took our leave of the mayor, we remembered that Kelsier was planning to leave for Hochoch this morning. So we sent Raven ahead (because he’s really fast) to have Kelsier wait a bit, while we headed to the jeweler in town to appraise our jewelry and gems.

[long list of numbers and figures]

We went back to the Slumbering Serpent, where we found Kelsier surrounded by a huge meal and a crowd of rapt listeners. Apparently he was telling how Ezekiel got killed…and making it sound really interesting.

He joined us upstairs after his meal, and we divvied up our treasure. We’ll convert a lot of the gold/coins into gems so they’re easier to carry…

[several pages of numbers and calculations]

Okay, so looks like we’ll all get 50 gold pieces, plus 1,160 gp worth of gems/jewelry. We’ll make a trip to Ramne’s hut to give Jill her share, and we made sure to pay the faithful Olwin for the use of his room(s).

Ezekiel dashed out some letters on behalf of all of us (that is, the three of us from Ertuli) and asked Kelsier to deliver them when he goes to Hochoch.

Oh, yes. We mentioned returning to Hochoch while talking with the mayor, and how it would take three weeks to get there…but he said it was three days. Apparently we got a little lost when we took three weeks to get here…but a trip of three days is much less formidable that we had feared.

(When he asked how that happened, I pointed at Lancell – because he was navigating at the time, and not me! How was I to know he was leading us wrong when I’d never been here before?)

****

While we were having supper, who should come in to the Slumbering Serpent than Bertram Bezuwell, from the Golden Grain. (People have been dropping in all evening to thank us for killing the evil snake lady – apparently the mayor stuck her head at the crossroads by his house.)

Bertram came over to us (looking a little sheepish, but then so did I) and asked Ezekiel, “So, did I pass?”

Apparently Ezekiel really freaked him out when he did that palm-to-the-forehead gesture, and he (Bertram) didn’t know what to do. But now he’s been reassured that everything’s back to normal (and that we’re not enemies)…and he asked us to take a look in his cellar, because there was something down there he wasn’t equipped to deal with.

Well, we’d been warned by others about his basement, so this sounded like exactly the kind of thing we should deal with.

Kelsier came with us and we followed the innkeeper back to the Golden Grain, into the kitchen, and down stairs into the cellar.

At the back of the cellar was a secret door that led to a room with rows of benches. He said they used it “for meetings” (again looking embarrassed).

At the end of that room was a sturdy barred door.

Lancell said we’d take it from here, and Bertram went back upstairs while we opened the door.

Beyond, narrow, twisty passages wound back into the darkness. Ezekiel led the way with Lancell and his shield of perpetual light while I lit my torch (I guess this is why you sleep in your gear, so that you’re never without something you might need).

Really cold down there. We came to a junction and picked one tunnel, trying to stay close in the five-foot-wide passage. Mikael’s so tall, he had to walk along with his shoulders hunched so he wouldn’t bang his head.

Around a corner, a huge snake dropped down onto Ezekiel. It was hard to see from way back in the line, but I think he warded it off with his shield.

Mikael cast Faery Fire on it, while Ezekiel and Lancell tried to hit it. Raven zipped past us in a flash of robes, and swung at it with his monk hand gestures.

It was pretty slippery for being so big. Even when Kelsier ducked forward and stabbed at it with his magic short sword (bonus against scaly things) he couldn’t hit it.

Finally, Mikael got in a bone-jarring whack with his staff, and I stabbed it with my sword…but by then it had bitten Ezekiel and started winding around him.

By the time we killed it, he was white-faced and blue around the lips. When we hacked the snake body off him, I had to give him one of the healing potions from his belt (glad he thought to label them after we identified them…it’d be really embarrassing to give your dying comrade a love potion by mistake).

With Ezekiel back on his feet, we continued on – except that Lancell took the light-giving shield and went in front. It was still unnaturally cold.

Entering another little room or side-passage, Lancell said, “Eek! Undead!”

Ezekiel whipped out his sheep toy holy symbol, and whatever was in there groaned unhappily and turned around.

This room was much more suited to marksmanship, so while the melee fighters were attacking the backs of the three ghouls, I tried shooting them (made my second shot – shadows are tricky things).

Mikael cast Faery Fire again, and Raven went to work with his dagger. Even with all that, it was way harder to kill three retreating and cowering ghouls than you might think.

I guess we can just be glad they weren’t attacking back.

With them dead (y’know, extra dead) the temperature started returning to normal. We explored the rest of the tunnels but didn’t find anything except a huge ivory statue of Her.

Lancell said it was made from at least three chunks of ivory, and weighed 800 pounds if it weighed an ounce. Especially given the cramped conditions, there was no way we were getting it out in one piece…and Raven’s always in favor of smashing statues of the snake lady.

So Ezekiel used his mace and broke it into more manageable chunks, and we packed those out. I suppose we’ll have to sell them and divide that money, too! (No more math! I refuse!)

Bertram seemed very relieved when we emerged, and expressed thanks that we had gotten rid of everything we could find down there (he said his memory was foggy, so he wasn’t sure exactly what-all was down there, and kept the door barred on principle).

We said he could set his mind at rest, and hopefully this would improve his professional reputation.

With that final mystery solved, we can get a good night’s rest at the SS. Tomorrow, we head back to Explictika’s lair – the Mud Pit – to clear out any remaining monsters and made sure there are no remaining prisoners to be rescued.

After all, we’ve already been gone almost a week, and we don’t want any poor townspeople starving or being eaten before we can get back.

Hopefully Olwin will let us leave our chest here again, because I’m not keen on lugging around all my treasure, even though it’s not all gold anymore. Especially if we have to lug Ezekiel’s body on the way back again, you know what I’m sayin’?


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“Shadow”—A Christian Jason Bourne?

What makes my written work stand out from others in the genre?

"Shadow"—A Christian Jason Bourne? — Kimia Wood

Image credit: imdb.com

Ha ha! That implies that I’ve actually read books in my genre…or that I know what genre I’m writing in…

But seriously, my latest work (Transmutation of Shadow) is an action-packed secret agent mystery…sort of in the vein of Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity…or the movie The Matrix (no, really, a beta reader said it reminded him of The Matrix…yas!)

And yet it’s different. How is it different? How have I made this genre my own? If you love running-and-gunning spies, but also want to train your palate with clean, uplifting books, read on:

Action and Adventure

Books in this genre are usually full of fight scenes and dramatic chases…and Shadow is no exception!

A quick pace follows our hero through the pages, as he hides under the radar, running from people he used to call friends. I’m no Tom Clancy, but I managed to slip in some cool spy maneuvers (like switching clothes and cars repeatedly!).

How is my writing different?

Mr. Ludlum’s fight scenes can be a little…bone-jarring. While I don’t try to gloss over the bloody realism of combat, I also don’t dwell on it. My story doesn’t need it. In the words of one critiquer, I handle everything from death to violence with “grace and elegance”.

Let’s face it: my main character is an assassin. His government pays him to “eliminate” undesirable elements…AKA to murder people.

I think this is one of the things that made my parents leery when I first started writing it – but they both agree that I’ve dealt with the subject with maturity (but not gratuity) and cheerfulness (but not glorification).

Language

Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Alistair MacLean, and others in their genre are prone to “spicy words.” Let’s face it: in the world of soldiers and spies, terrorists and mafia dons, you won’t catch many people saying, “Good golly, Miss Molly!” when they stub their toe.

I’m from a different culture.

To be specific, the homeschooling, church-y culture where “Jeez” is too strong, and “Good grief gravy!” is for when you’re really, truly frustrated.

I gotta snicker a little here, because this is an area where my first line of beta readers really raked me over the coals.

“He can’t say ‘shucks’! He’s in the Army Special Forces, for crying out loud. If the guys in boot camp caught him saying ‘shucks’ they would beat him up!”

So…I took advantage of the glorious tool of obfuscation, and peppered the manuscript with “I swore” or “I muttered a curse.”

Realism + opaque writing = something you can give your teen without blushing!

Sex

Robert Ludlum is especially bad this way, but Tom Clancy also doesn’t shy from a sex scene or two.

What about the Kimia Wood books?

Hmm, yeah, there is none.

My character doesn’t even have a girlfriend. And if he did, I have a moral compunction against including any illicit material. Just check out my full-fledged rant against romance fiction. After frothing at the mouth about characters sniffing each other like wild dogs, the last thing I’m going to do is give my book a steamy scene.

While I tend to associate the tag “clean” with sickly sweet little Amish romances or quirky romantic mysteries with brightly-colored covers, I can’t deny the strict reading of the label applies to my own work. If you’re not “dirty,” you’re probably “clean.”

Tone"Shadow"—A Christian Jason Bourne? — Kimia Wood

Alistair MacLean’s work are tense, but largely upbeat and empowering adventures. Tom Clancy’s are highly technical, with tension slowly and deliberately constructed from all sides.

Robert Ludlum stares deep into the abyss, and his work is accordingly heavy on the gritty realism of his topic. And Larry Correia, while he sprinkles humor and cool world-building throughout his books, knows how to ratchet the tension up to eleven and just keep cranking.

How am I the same but different?

"Shadow"—A Christian Jason Bourne? — Kimia Wood

Image from Pixabay

My book has been compared to The Matrix and Equilibrium. While I’m thrilled that my fight scenes evoked these same emotions, the tone of these movies is not what I was going for…nor (I think) what I achieved.

Both these movies have greyscale palates, with lots of dark costumes, rainy sets, and oppressive atmospheres.

While my protagonist is in a lot of danger (and goes through some pretty rough experiences) I wanted to stay upbeat and hopeful (with, dare I say, touches of humor?).

This isn’t your fluffy-creampuffs read…but it isn’t a GRIMDARK where you’ll leave the story feeling dirty and depressed. We put the “fun” in “run for your life”!

Theology

The best books show an honest picture of human nature, perhaps draw images from it to help us understand ourselves…and perhaps even say something profound about the universe.

Some authors (like Ian Fleming) simply provide some wish-fulfillment and let the audience have an exciting adventure. Others (like Robert Ludlum) paint vivid, honest pictures of humanity and the societies we build.

How do my works compare?

Transmutation of Shadow is fun, sure. A romp that lets us run for our lives, hide in plain sight, and experience the thrill of daring escapes all from the comfort of our reading chair.

But I tried to go deeper. As I’ve gotten older, and my writing has grown, I’ve decided “I don’t want to be room noise” – I want to say something worth saying.

As I let my conscientious Christian worldview inform my story-craft, I can deliver a story that’s about much more than a psionic assassin solving the mystery about himself…I tell a story about a killer forced to confront his own actions, to stop passing the buck, forced to find redemption.

Which only comes from Jesus.

As impressive as Clancy, Ludlum, and MacLean are, that’s a story I’ve never seen them tell.

Decide for Yourself!

Transmutation of Shadow is currently out with critique readers, but I plan to publish it some time this year. Stand by, and you can read this exciting science fiction/spy thriller with a humble yet determined protagonist for yourself!


"Shadow"—A Christian Jason Bourne? — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures – including WHEN SHADOW PUBLISHES!

Dear Diary…detective work

The Cleric of Velnius took his leave and left to attend to his rainstorm or something, so we all made our own signs of respect and thanked him.

We took the chance to ask Cleric Abramo what had happened to him, and after dismissing the newbie monks, he explained.

Apparently it was Misha, his lovely female cleric assistant, who got him involved (y’know, the one whose chainmail I’m wearing…). She asked him to go talk to some of the people at the Golden Grain, and he went with her, wanting to impress her and be nice. Well, turns out his drink was drugged or something, and the last he remembered was being tied up.

They took him off to the mud pit, and Explictika did her foul magic on him. When he came back, he was forced – compelled by the magic! – to do terrible things that he didn’t want to do.

As he talked, he kept dropping his head, very embarrassed. I whispered to Ezekiel to tell him I’m glad we didn’t kill him, and Abramo returned the sentiment.

We asked him for leads in cleaning up the rest of the town. Sounds like the big trouble is at the Golden Grain Inn…though we’ll talk to the rest of the town just to be safe.

The GG, the blacksmith, the carpenter, and the constable were all part of the group – but the mayor told us the constable had resigned, and of course Master Ramne got the blacksmith back to his temperamental self.

As we discussed what to do from here, Kelsier said that this had been fun and all, but he really wasn’t keen on heading back to the waist-high mud (and I couldn’t really blame him). We technically brought him to help us find a gnome, but we haven’t found him yet – and so it’s perfectly reasonable for him to return to Hochoch with his magical dagger.

Somewhere in this part of the conversation, Ezekiel let slip that Kelsier’s a Thief! Apparently they’d had a conversation earlier that we didn’t hear! And here I just assumed all Halflings were good at locks and traps and stuff when all the time he’s been quietly dual-classing Fighter/Thief.

You can see why he’d play up the racial stereotypes, though.

Jill spoke up, twirling a lock of hair around her finger, and said she’d really been struck by what Ramne said…when the turtle bit her, as she was lying there in the mud, she heard him yell, “She was like an apprentice to me!” as he hurled the lightening bolt at the turtle.

Long and short of it, she wants to go ask if he would take her on and explain some of the stuff that she doesn’t understand yet.

So the five of us headed off to interview the townspeople, while our two companions made arrangements for their own futures.

Oh, yes! Before we left, Abramo fetched his armor (he’d been sitting there in his robes) and said that while he was under the spell, he never took the armor off, night or day, and always kept his mace by him – it was kind of a mania – and now, just the thought of it makes his skin crawl. If his armor can be useful in protecting “Brother Heironeous” as we fight whatever is infesting Homlet, he would be grateful.

And Ezekiel, of course, said he would be honored (and didn’t bother to explain he served Ao even though he’s wearing the colors of Heironeous) and thanked Abramo for the armor.

We made our gestures of respect and left, heading south to begin our investigations.

We stopped at the blacksmith’s first, where Ezekiel chatted with one of the sons, who was working out front in the shop.

While they talked, Raven and I got curious about the broken-down inn that stood opposite. It had obviously been boarded up for at least a year, but as I started checking it out, I found footprints – LIZARDMEN footprints – that couldn’t be more than a few days old.

I followed them around to a blank spot on the wall, but obviously there must be a secret door there, so I called Raven over to try his monk-y skills on it (and yes, that sounded better in my head).

Raven pretty much just pushed the wall, and the secret door slid aside. Ezekiel (who had caught up with us by now) took his magically shining shield and headed in first.

I lit a torch, and in the dual lights we could see the place was totally trashed. A big fight happened some time ago…but what happened to the bodies?

We found a cellar door and headed down. In the large room below were a number of crates, all containing fully disgusting foodstuffs.

Ezekiel opened one of the two doors at the end of the room, and cried out as something attacked him. Turns out it was lizardmen – but they were the exact black-grey of the room behind.

When I finally got close enough to use my sword, I got one good blow in that almost crippled one of them…but after that they warded me off with their little bucklers and I really need to practice more.

Ezekiel got scratched once, but after Mikael cast Faery Fire, Raven punched one of them with a special Monk maneuver that made it snort and blink and stand there.

After killing the three lizardlings, we could examine the room they were in. Seemed to be a tool closet, without much to distinguish it.

Mikael, however, found a crate behind the door that contained a sack. And when he opened the sack – whew, a pile of coins and gems! Those lizardmen weren’t so badly off…

The second room contained crates, every one of them packed with fuzzy, blue-green fruit.

Raven said they were just exotic peaches. I said he could try one first.

When he returned to the main room, Raven asked us to give him a boost to the second floor. The stairs were all broken down, but he is a Monk.

We gave him a boost, and Mikael handed my torch up to him. He investigated for a while, and returned with a backpack, and satchel, and a sack.

On handing these down and rejoining us, he said, “The whole place is covered in dust. It looks like the people were disturbed suddenly, because they left all their stuff behind.”

Indeed, there was a sack of copper pieces, a footlocker with gold (he left the locker itself) a satchel full of bottles, and a backpack packed with small clothes. When we went out into the light, I was pretty sure they weren’t children’s clothes, but I’m not exactly an expert.

Ezekiel checked out the bottles, and figured they were just traveling salesman bottles – y’know, rheumatism and stuff, maybe the odd rat poison.

A young man came out of the house opposite where we stood.

“You weren’t in the Foamy Mug, were you?” he asked. “It’s not safe in there?”

“Why isn’t it safe?”

“Well, the trogs don’t make it safe. And the stairs are broken and stuff.”

Well, maybe we could’ve done a better job pouncing on this, but we did get out of him that the inn was attacked about a year, year-and-a-half ago…the town discovered all the inhabitants killed, along with the lizardmen/trogs who had apparently killed them. The townspeople buried them, and never found out what it was all about.

The man thought he remembered a gnome, and said that “the blacksmith had his sword” or something like that.

He also warned us very strongly against the Golden Grain Inn. (Guess where we’re headed?)

The carpenter’s house and shop was next on the road. We didn’t have much of a conversation…when Ezekiel told him that we’d found his kids, and left them with the mayor for safe-keeping, he ran inside, shouting for his wife, and the two of them took off to see the mayor.

Natural parental feeling is a good sign.

Next stop was the tailor. He seemed almost petrified, and only talked to us through the window. He was able to identify the clothes in the pack as gnomish – in fact, from the Starkmounds Gnomes – and Ezekiel promised to return in the morning with a project for him.

Maybe he can help get the mud off our trousers…although if we’re just heading back to the Mud Pit, there’s not much point in doing that now.

Had a brief conversation with a chicken farmer. He seems “normal” as far as it goes.

When we approached the small, neat house near the mayor’s, Lancell suggested we talk to these guys, too.

So we went and knocked on the door.

When we explained that we had killed the evil snake-lady responsible for “changing” the townspeople, the man smiled and said he was glad to hear it, and frankly he was a friend of the mayor who had been invited here to investigate the goings-on, but they hadn’t gotten as far as they’d liked.

That’s about when I noticed his elf ears.

I was trying not to stare when he and his companion invited us in (Dorian and Lluwelin, respectively), and Ezekiel showed off Explictika’s head. (Really, if he wants to keep this up, we should pickle it so it doesn’t start smelling any worse.)

Dorian and Lluwelin say they were getting ready to leave in a couple days, since the town seemed to have returned to normal. The shopkeeper, like the tailor, has been terrified of the GG since the change-back…but the strangest thing is that the blacksmith and his sons were returned to “normal” several days before anyone else –!

Whereupon we explained that that was thanks to Ramne the hermit. Dorian was very excited to learn what spell Ramne used to dispell the charm, but Lluwelin shushed him.

According to them, the chief players at the Golden Grain were the innkeeper (Bertram Bezuwell), the cook, and a shifty character (obviously Derrick, who hasn’t been around since we thrashed him at the temple and sent him off).

Misha (the lady cleric at the temple) had served here about five years before the trouble all started. So maybe even she wasn’t “bad” to start with, and just got roped in. Like Abramo apparently got roped in.

Of course, some people are more “willing” to be roped in than others… We have to investigate the innkeeper and see what else might be afoot there.

The lizardmen/trogs returned to the dilapidated inn for some reason. Bertram and his cook might not have a self-important naga to deliver people to, but that doesn’t mean they’re upstanding citizens now.

Must investigate to make sure Orlane is good and truly safe now.

(Caught Raven watching them closely. They seem to be playing on the level, but we can always check their story with the mayor (Zacharius) if we want.)

Guess where we’re going next? Yes, the pit of Orlane infamy…


To start at the beginning, click here.

Find the previous entry here.

“Time and Again” by Richard Elkins

"Time and Again" by Richard Elkins — Kimia Wood — missionary Missionary autobiographies are one of those things. Memoirs aren’t really my cup of tea, so you can understand why I might approach Time and Again: God’s Sovereignty in the Lives of Two Bible Translators in the Philippines with trepidation.

But…my grandparents gave me the book, it’s written by and about a good friend of theirs, and, well, is it really that bad to sit and listen to the “old folks” tell some stories?

No. It is not that bad!

Quick-Reading

The whole book is pretty slim, which encourages reading. Each chapter or anecdote is usually pretty short, making it less of a commitment to “just read one story”.

And best of all, this is not a “kitchen sink” type of autobiography, where every memorable event from third grade onward is recounted. This book has an explicit purpose, stated in the sub-title…

Witness to God

The theme running throughout the pages is the provision of God and work of God in the lives of the Elkins. As missionaries and Bible translators living deep in the unreached Philippine jungle (living in thatched houses; learning the natives’ customs and trying to follow them; learning new languages and creating dictionaries, then New Testaments, for them), the Elkins had many opportunities to see God’s hand at work in direct or indirect ways.

The most touching account is where Mr. Elkins describes visiting a tribe deep in the forest – a tribe that could only be reached by a three-day hike over the mountains.

When he shared the gospel with them – comforting their fears about God’s judgement and sharing the joy of forgiveness in Jesus Christ – I had tears in my eyes.

[I said,] “Those first ancestors of ours, Adan and Eba, disobeyed, and we, like them, have also disobeyed [God].”

The datu [tribal leader] nodded. “That is true. I wonder why we always seem to do what is wrong and not what is right?”

“I have read in [God’s] Book that one day he is going to punish the people in the world who have disobeyed him.”

“We know about that, too, and it frightens us.” He thought for a moment. “You know, you Americans live way out on the edge of the earth, and we Matigsalug people live right here in the center. When [God] comes to punish, he will get to you first. Will you come quickly here and tell us so we can get ready?”

I looked into his eyes. “That’s the very reason why we came.”

Fear leaped into his face. “You mean that [God] is right now on his way to punish us?”

“No, I have better news than that. [God] has a “big breath” (great love) for all people. So he sent someone special to rescue us so we will never be punished.…”

Missionary Life

If you’ve never been exposed to tales of the missionary life, this is a good short-and-sweet introduction. Find out about the “good old days” when multi-day hikes through rugged terrain, native-built houses without plumbing, and short-wave radio communication were the norm.

In one chapter, Mr. Elkins describes how they rushed their son to medical treatment via porter, then truck…and God provided every step of the way.

Or how about when their native translation assistant chose to help finish preparing the Bible, instead of fencing off his field? His crop was destroyed by wild pigs, but he praised God as God provided over and above what he expected.

A Testimony

This would be an excellent book for introducing your children to the lifestyles and challenges of missionaries, with stories that emphasize at every point the power of God in the every-day…and how even the “super-obedient missionary saints” need the strength of Jesus to obey, to learn, and to overcome their own selfishness and arrogance.

In fact, it could be a useful book for anyone.


Time and Again is available on Amazon, at Barnes&Noble, Kobo, and the Book Depository (free worldwide shipping).

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

Dear Diary…the things Ezekiel takes in stride

Last night Lancell woke me up and said there was something outside the door. I gathered my bow and positioned myself, just in case, but thankfully it went away after a while.

In the morning, we gathered our gear – and Raven slung Ezekiel’s body over his back – and we headed out.

Something had eaten the bodies of the claw-claw-bite things…and something had also left a million little footprints in the mud by the door.

I don’t remember ever seeing prints like that before, but I’m so glad Lancell didn’t open the door last night.

We led our civilians to the staircase that led to freedom. I think everybody was glad to see honest-to-goodness sunlight filtered down the length of the stairs.

Kelsier took a rope and tied it at the top of the stairs to give us something to hold on to, but it didn’t reach the last ten feet of staircase.

Mikael lost his footing and wiped out…and when I tried to give him a hand, I went down, too – splat. At least we didn’t hurt ourselves, and eventually reached the swamp topside.

Ramne pointed out a route of heavy traffic leading over the dikes that kept back the water – and he pointed out that there was only one such route. We deduce that no other village was roped into the Explictika cult, yet, which I guess is good since it means we nipped it before it spread.

The swamp was slow going, what with the luggage and helping the civilians keep up (and the thigh-high water and mud). Kelsier, as always, was a trooper, and carried his new magical short sword above his head where it wouldn’t get messed up.

There is one crazy thing that happened (Jill probably wouldn’t call it crazy).

I saw this small hill moving towards us, and eventually realized it was a giant turtle instead. I pointed it out to everybody just in time for it to charge it and chomp Jill.

Man, turtles have some mean jaws on them! I mean, they don’t even have teeth – just little beaks – but it drew blood and tossed Jill down into the mud, flopping in unconsciousness.

Lancell leaped forward and hacked at it, while Raven dropped Ezekiel – slop – in the mud and tried a monk-ish punch. Mikael threw his Faery Fire, and as Kelsier launched his arrow (and I readied mine) I could see a gleaming, sparkly outline of the turtle and its weak points – like my mind was narrowing with a hunter’s instinct on my target.

I didn’t get to loose the shot, though, because Ramne waved his hands and babbled some funny words, and hurled a lightening bolt through our midst at the creature.

I think my hair stood up for a second, and the turtle croaked and growled and flailed and died.

“That was amazing!” screamed the little boy. (I’m still not sure Raven should have shown him Explictika’s severed head.)

I hopped through the mud and stopped Jill’s bleeding. Lancell Laid Hands on her, but she was still in a bad way. That must have been one vicious turtle.

When she finally opened her eyes, Ramne gave her the last swallow of his magic healing potion.

Mikael really wanted to skin the turtle (I admit, that shell was pretty impressively huge) but we decided we couldn’t afford the delay. Maybe we’ll get another chance sometime.

Reached the edge of the swamp by sundown. It’s so nice to be camping on dry ground, with the open breezes above us and the night sounds around us. I know I said the Dim Forest was creepy, but after nearly a week underground, it’s practically homey.

If nothing else dramatic happens, we’ll reach Orlane in a couple of days.

****

Actually three days, which is not bad given how weighed down we were.

As we entered the outskirts and the temple came into view, we could see a heavy rainstorm over the temple. Like, only over the temple. In fact, the path from the gates was a full-blown stream, running downhill to join the river.

“Well, well,” said Raven. “I sense Velnius.”

“Who?” asked those of us who didn’t know.

“Velnius – a god of storms and rain, and cousin to Merikka. His clerics have a way of butting in where they’re not wanted.”

Clerics do that sometimes.

Well, it seemed there had been some excitement while we were gone. We headed to the Slumbering Serpent to meet up with Olwin and the mayor before we decided our next move.

Our rescued prisoners were glad to be home – except for the kids, who were a little nervous about what their parents would be like (the parents hadn’t been quite themselves after meeting Her). We left them with Olwin to take care of (and to talk with their parents) and told the mayor of our success (and showed off the head of course. The little boy wanted to see it once more before he left).

The mayor told us a Cleric of Velnius had arrived two days before, and taken responsibility for the temple. Apparently it’d been raining there almost ever since.

We stashed most of our treasure in our room upstairs (which Olwin had faithfully saved for us) and prepared to go to the temple (because what else?).

Master Ramne cast a “floating disk” spell so we could carry Ezekiel in a little more dignity, then bid farewell. He’s going home. We thanked him, of course, and I said that if he changed his mind about some treasure to let us know.

The mayor hadn’t seen Abramo since we left, but who knew what he had been up to?

We reached the temple gates. They were swinging free on their hinges, while just over the threshold a heavy rain was still falling.

I wasn’t eager to charge into a Cleric battle, but what else was there to do? The answer to the mystery lay ahead.

We ducked through the rain, pushing Ezekiel along on his floating hearse, and through the open doors of the temple. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining inside – although everything did look dampish and freshly scrubbed.

We advanced into the sanctuary.

In front of the statue of Merikka sat an old man in robes that made me think of the sky – of storms and sunshine and clear days and wind. On his right sat Abramo on some kind of stool (not wearing armor, and not attacking us – so far so good). On his left sat a number of monks of Merikka.

Anyone will tell you I can blather with the best of them, but there was something about the powers involved here – and the interaction of deities – that made me feel a little nervous and awed.

I forget who broke the silence first, but the Cleric of Velnius (yes, Raven was right) welcomed us and congratulated us on our good work. He explained that he’d cleared out the torture chamber and the dead bodies (ahem – we had been a little careless with our dead bodies) and we showed him Explictika’s head (again, I don’t see the appeal of her – alive or dead).

It seems “Brother Abramo” is not totally himself…but he is on the way there, and working on penance. (So, sorry, Kelsier – we don’t get to kill him and take his stuff.)

Then the Cleric of Velnius waved his hands at Ezekiel…and Ezekiel twitched…and promptly rolled off the disk.

He came up shouting (because of course Ezekiel does): “That was my sword wound, you spawn of a scaly earthworm –”

And then he realized where he was and bowed to the Cleric and thanked him.

The Cleric told us a long story about some Temple of Elemental Evil…and as he talked, he held his hands toward Ezekiel and I could tell there was magic happening. He said it was destroyed by an alliance of kings and paladins (sounds like the kind of thing my dad would be into) but that there were still people interested in worshiping the forces of Chaotic Evil, and that they had maybe set up shop in a village called Homlet.

“Now you owe us,” said the Cleric to Ezekiel. “And I charge you, and those who are bound to you, to visit the village of Homlet and deal with this cult of Elemental Evil.”

“Thank you for all your help,” said Ezekiel with another bow. “I understand. My mentor was also under a geas.”

Trust Ezekiel to take an enchantment in stride! Right after coming back to life, no less.

Well, with the solemn stuff out of the way, we asked the Cleric’s help in identifying some of the magic items we looted.

He explained that Mikael’s new horn is a “Brass Horn of Valhalla” and will summon barbarians to fight for him (has to be blown by a spell-caster, so it works out that we gave it to Mikael).

Ezekiel started rooting through Kelsier’s bag and thoroughly examined all the potions. I’m not sure he really knows what all of them are, but he was happy to tell us what he thought they were. Because that’s Ezekiel all over.

Well. He’s back. Large as life. And as soon as we mop up the problems for the people of Orlane, he’s magic-bound to go do the same thing for the people of Homlet.

And, well, I’ll go with him, of course. He needs someone around to pull his fat out of the fire (Raven snickered really hard at that and started complaining about his shoulders). And that’s what this whole adventuring thing is about – helping people and stomping evil. What else would I do…take the Love Potion and go off to try my luck?

Ha ha. I’m not my brother Reginald. Ah, the troubles that Father and Alpheus had to pull Reginald out of.

I am not like that. I’m going to be more like Father and Alpheus. A hero.

(I’ll probably also die horribly and young, but there you go.)


To start at the beginning, click here.

Dear Diary…the sweet part of adventuring

Took a few deep breaths. Felt a little better.

Kelsier was busily rooting through the pile of treasure, so I pulled myself together and went to help him.

Kelsier, of course, had found the bag of holding, so he started shoveling platinum coins into it – since it made the most sense to carry out the most expensive stuff.

He found a pair of boots in my size and tossed them over. Mikael found some kind of brass horn, while Lancell brought over a whole pile of jewelry to carry in the bag.

After lots of discussion, we sorted out who should carry what. Jill stripped off Ezekiel’s armor so that Raven could carry his body more easily…meanwhile, I chopped off Explictika Defilas’ head and slipped it into a sack. Some of the guys want a souvenir to prove we did the job. I just hope that poison doesn’t leak through the bag.

We loaded up all the items into the bag of holding, and crammed our pockets with gold coins. Looks like we could come out of this adventure pretty well – those of us who are alive, of course.

We returned to the prisoners’ room and unlocked them. I had looted the keys off Ezekiel that he looted off the evil cleric, and it didn’t take me too many tries to unlock the cages.

The prisoners were very excited to hear we had killed the Big Bad. The little boy asked if she went squish.

We led them through the tunnels and back upstairs (they’re kinda starved and weak and slow, but that was okay since we were all loaded down with treasure and Ezekiel) until we got to the lake with the boat. (Thank goodness the lizardmen we killed hadn’t come back or something weird!)

We ferried across in two trips. When my group reached the shore (after Lancell’s group) they were just finishing off a zombie.

Once safely in the VIP quarters, we barred the door after us and bundled Ezekiel into one of the back bedrooms where we didn’t have to look at him and be depressed. Jill got out her magic books, and started studying Detect Magic, so we could find out if our newly looted items were special in any way.

Well, it was only mid-morning (it’s amazing what happens in a short amount of time!) so I started preparing lunch for our rescued prisoners.

Call it a couple hours later when the temperature suddenly dropped.

“Master Ramne, what’s this?” I asked.

He didn’t seem to know specifically, but we all figured it was nothing good. That’s when something started scratching at the door.

“What’s that? Is it cool?” yelled the little boy, charging forward.

I yelped and jumped between him and the door. Between me and the merchant we rescued, we got him to go into the back room to “defend the women” (the farmer’s wife and the little girl).

Those of us with actual fighting capacity lined up behind the door, while Jill took her books and a torch and retreated to a back bedroom, grumbling.

“Who goes out there?” shouted Lancell, because the scratching was still there.

Nothing in the corridor made a reply – unless you count scrabbling even harder on the door. In fact, a splinter flaked off the wood, and a clawed fingernail showed from beyond.

We convinced Lancell to throw the door open…to reveal three vaguely humanoid shapes with vicious claws and gaping mouths.

They pounced at Lancell while Kelsier and I launched arrows. Fortunately, the dripping teeth missed their mark, but he got badly mauled. Raven darted forward and stabbed with one of his daggers while Lancell beheaded one of the beasties.

Mikael waved his hands and cast his sparkly Faery Fire, and Ramne launched a magic missile past his friends into the corridor.

As Kelsier dropped the last creature with an arrow, I twirled my bow in my hands. Apparently I used up all my skill on the Evil Snake Lady, because now I was being nothing but moral support. (Thought about waving Ezekiel’s sheep toy at them, but I’m sure that wouldn’t work for me.)

With the beasties dead, the temperature slowly returned to normal. Raven kicked one sprawled limb away from the threshold and bolted the door firmly shut again.

Lancell “Laid Hands On” himself, and I gave him the last healing potion from the Temple of Merikka.

Later that afternoon, Jill reappeared and cast Detect Magic. So we pulled a table out and laid out our loot.

  • bracelet and ruby ring (not magical)
  • boots (yes, magical somehow – everyone agreed I should keep them)
  • six potions (magical…but doing what, we don’t know)
  • the brass horn – magical (gave it to Mikael since he ought to have some magical prize, and besides maybe he can use it)
  • two ivory tubes or cylinders – magical (Kelsier figured out they were like puzzle boxes, and cracked them open – discovered a scroll in each one. One scroll looks arcane-ish, so Jill can have it…in fact, she can have the other one, too, since it looks Cleric-ish but our Cleric is DEAD)
  • two other rings are magical. Master Ramne took a look at them, and said one was a Ring of Protection (so we gave it to Raven). The other…Well, he made a little grunt or chuckle of pleasure and said, “This is something I’ve been looking for a long time. It’s a Ring of Free Action, and as one gets older and the joints stop working…you see…If you would let this be my share of the treasure, I would count myself satisfied.”

Tomorrow morning we set out to return to Orlane, escorting our rescued prisoners and lugging the treasure that we can carry (and Ezekiel, of course. Not sure what we can do for him, but the least we owe him is to try).

It’ll be good to see the sunshine again.


To start at the beginning, click here.

Find the previous entry here.