Jark

We meet Jark early in book 1 of the Icor Tales, but the big secret is that I wrote an unpublished book called Jark about fifteen years ago, so the character has been brewing.

Jark is inspired by Marvin the paranoid android in Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy. Also he has a little C3PO thrown in, especially in his light tone of speech. He also has a little of Star Trek’s Data. There is one scene that reveals he is capable of being a love bot (ala Futurama)

My philosophy, which is revealed in more detail in Book 3, is that, of course, Robots are conscious. Book 3, Dragons Awake, deals with John Searle’s Chinese Box and its inevitable conclusion that all existence is conscious.

The Chinese Room Argument is Flawed!

The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time Series

It was many moons ago I read this series. I both loved and hated it. Jordan provided some great world building, and constructed a series of protagonists that I was happy to inhabit. The big bad antagonist was never described in detail. His powers, his desires, his arc were never clear, which made him both ominous and frustrating.

One of the problems with magic is that it is the ultimate Deus ex machina. No matter how bad the situation, the hero can suddenly delve a hidden depth and hey presto the good guy wins, and the bad guy loses. I’ve always hated this and as a result put very firm limits on the power of magic in the world of icor. For example, the readers are informed that the icor cannot kill monster X, or character Y, then that is going to be iron clad… another path to resolution must be found.

I heartily recommend the Amazon version of the Wheel of Time… I know I know, it has been panned by some, but I loved it… and the visuals of magic was just as I imagine the magic of icor, the way it seeped out of the rocks and the air… exactly as I wrote it in the Icor Tales. I hope they don’t cancel it. The things I love always seem to get cancelled. This is one reason I love writing a fantasy series … no one can cancel it but me… even if no one is reading it, I can still keep writing it. I will keep writing even if I am the only person reading what I write. I wrote my first book when I was 7yo… and it was hundreds of pages. I tore it up after it was panned. The first book I wrote and kept was called Jark, and one day I will rewrite it to make it publishable.

New Plans for the Icor Tales

I had originally planned for a five book series… but I have fallen in love with these characters and just don’t want to let them go. The solution is a number of stand alone books set in the Icor Tales world and with the same characters.

I also have the outline for a book called the Fall of the Ancients, that describes the calamities that caused Violet to release icor into the world, and the resulting carnage.

Finally I have a Jark centered adventure planned.

After Uther, I will immediately write the final one of the five book series. This should be complete before the end of 2022. Then I will start on the stand alone books.

Big Battles Coming Soon

Mary

“You don’t know what it is like to have someone take your body against your will,” Mary said without taking her eyes away from the fire. “I am changed from what I was. I will never be …” she shook here head. “… I will never be who I was.”

“You were raped?” asked El looking at her carefully.

Mary did not answer straight away.  She kept staring at the fire. She took two deep breaths and let them out raggedly as if the air escaped against her will. “No… well, not exactly. I was hungry, my mother was hungry and sick, and my younger siblings were all dependent on me… and a man offered me money… three gold pieces. It seemed like a fortune. How could I just let my mother die from hunger?  I took the damn money.  I put it in my purse and in one motion he pulled my dress up and off me.  It was like a little magic trick.  One moment I was a human and the next I was … what… I don’t know…something less than human. My instinct was to grab for my dress, but then I realized that he was now allowed … access to me. He could do what he wanted. I felt goosebumps over every inch of my body. I flinched against his every touch… which he noticed, and it seemed to excite him.”

El rested her hand on Mary’s shoulder. “You don’t have to talk about this. It is the past. That part of your life is gone.”

Mary put her hand on El’s. “Some stains can never be washed away.”

“You did what you had to.”

“For three years I made good money. The medicine and food I gave my mother allowed her to recover.  My young brothers were able to be apprenticed.  One day I came home to find the whole family and a priest waiting for me.  They confronted me about my profession and declared me to be evil. They whipped my back to shreds, shaved my hair, and evicted me, and though I barely had eighteen winters I was declared vagrant and evicted from town.”

El did not speak.  She soaked the dagger in the poison.

Mary kept her eyes on the fire. “I briefly tried to ply my trade to the incoming wagons on the south shivy road, but my torn clothes and scarred skin repulsed my prospective clients. I headed south with no plan but to find water and beg for food. My clothes were rags. I must have smelled like a corpse, and I was riddled with disease.”

“Then you met Sam.”

“Then I met Sam.”

Mary closed her eyes. “I had been alone for a year, getting weaker and sicker. I had found a small stream to drink from and was bathing the sores that had erupted on my wounds, when I heard him walk behind me. He offered me food. I offered him my body. He refused, then he raised his staff … which I thought was just a stick until I saw the orb at the top glow. I flinched from him, then felt warmth flood my body.  All my pain just left me.  My muscles were strong again. I stood up straight for the first time since my back had been flayed.”

El examined the poison drenched dagger, sheathed it and handed it to Mary.

Mary took it. “The woman that was him, gave me her cloak. They gave me three gold coins, apologized that they had an urgent matter to attend to and they left. It was an unforgiveable act of kindness… unforgiveable.”

El nodded. “I understand.”  She stood and walked to the window.  “Sam and the princess will be leaving the pauper’s hospital in about thirty minutes. He will recognize you and allow you to hug him.  That will get you within his icor shield.”

Mary examined the dagger and snarled. “He will not survive the day. I swear it.”

Violet and Female Wizards

[Big spoiler alert if you haven’t read book 1 of The Icor Tales]

“They Came by Night” introduces readers to Violet, the creator of the singularity and Icor (Intelligent Cloud of Robots). She is an odd character, and has morphed from my original conception of her.

She’s obviously very smart, and in ancient times she was in high tech, specializing in artificial intelligence, but I would not say she is a genius. Her invention of the singularity was almost an accident.

When the reader encounters her she is over fifteen hundred years old, keeping her body at an age that feels the most comfortable to her. She never shows any interest in men or women so her sexuality is undeclared as yet. She has witnessed society revert to a medieval style culture with a reasserted patriarchy. There was probably a time when she fought against the building of a male dominated society but she appears to have shrugged it off and given up the fight.

For fifteen hundred years she fought to make the world a utopia, but the innate character of mankind rebelled against paradise. I imagine that she fought thousands of battles trying to create a stable world where people could live in peace and finally she arrived at the conclusion that the struggle was futile and that violence just begets violence. She has given up, retired and living the simple life, gardening and farming.

In order to retire she decided she needed to hand over her power to someone smarter, stronger and with more willpower than herself. So she made a son…. or more accurately she ordered the icor to make one for her. The icor generated the seed, the DNA, and she carried it to term. She loved and spoiled her son, Bestich. At an early age Bestich realized that he was going to be given god-like powers, and this may have encouraged the growth of his ego. He was smart, the icor was programmed to obey him and he wanted all the power he could get. There is an unwritten story I have in mind where as a young teen he is rejected by a girl, and tries to use the icor to over power her free will and that would be the moment that set him on his dark path.

Violet disguises herself as a man, with the aid of icor, and some props. The Golden Wizard, is a character she has created that the man’s world she lives in will take seriously. The book seller, is her character that can educate the next generation of leaders.

Three Icor Tales Books Published and One Coming

They Came By Night: Book 1 of the Icor Tales

1500 years after the fall of the ancients with their science a medieval style civilization has arisen amid a new power made possible by the last invention of science… magic. Swept away into a world at war, Sam finds himself wounded and rescued by an odd looking metallic creature who rebuilds Sam’s body.

See on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08XPVY9R7

Listen on Audible – https://www.audible.com/pd/They-Came-by-Night-Audiobook/B097XTSP1R

In the Hall of the Ancients: Book 2 of the Icor Tales

New evils arise to join old ones. New wars must be fought. New alliances must be made. New kinds of magical creatures join forces to support or to oppose the destruction of humanity.

See on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B095RZ9FF7

Available on audible any moment now…

Dragons Awake : Book 3 of the Icor Tales

The great barrier has fallen, and now Bestich is ready to deliver his death blow to the tribes of man aided by his large armies, crimson wizards, one hundred dragons and the miles long. Magic itself has turned on mankind.
See on amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0999S821M

Uther: Book 4 of the Icor Tales

Coming in 2022

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The Deleted First Chapter

I was advised to delete this first chapter from They Came by Night, because it was too bloody and might be off putting to some readers.

Aravand, Northman Warrior

Zenfield Border Territory

Aravand watched the mile long caravan winding its way through the narrow mountain canyon trail. He closed his eyes to mute the screams he always heard in his mind before a slaughter. Today I will create more nightmares for myself, he thought. How many young men must I strike down? How many mothers will look up to the Goddess and curse me for what I do today?

The enemy had celebrated late into the previous night and as a result had languished in the morning before beginning the final trek to the safety of the mighty fort, they called Uther’s Bane. They will never reach the warm embrace of Uther, thought Aravand. I will free their slaves, I will rob them of their loot, I will find the slaver they call captain and … Aravand’s thoughts were interrupted by the sight of the slaver himself, clad in plate armor, riding a tall grey horse. It is as if my thoughts summoned him.

Aravand stood, grabbed his black flag, and waved it. He watched his men spring to life. Some blew horns.  A group of ten men pushed against a mighty boulder that had been preselected and loosened. It careened down the hill smashing into the caravan dividing the rearguard from the middle guard. Further down the mountain he knew his formations from the Tornith tribe were dividing the middle guard from the vanguard.

Then all the Northmen stood and began shooting arrows at the trapped marauders below. The Southerners were well disciplined when they had room for their formations. Aravand had long admired their cohesive tactics and hoped to emulate them among his own men, but they resisted importing such dishonorable Southern methods.

Screams of men, and animals echoed through the canyon walls. Aravand curled his lip with disgust. His eyes were focused on the plate clad captain who was trying to get his men to put up a shield wall. Well, that won’t do. He waved his flag again and the men pushed more boulders down onto their enemy.

His right hand pulled his battle ax from his back sling, and he pulled his short sword with his left. “Charge!” he screamed and began to run down the hill eager to be at the fore of his men. The nascent formations of Southerners were disrupted when Aravand barreled into them.

To Aravand, it almost seemed like he was watching himself from above as he waded into his enemy. His first kill was an old, seasoned warrior who raised a sword but had not the strength to parry Aravand’s blow.  The ax cleaved the man’s neck. A young man no more than twenty winters old stood and stared at Aravand without even raising his shield or his weapon. Aravand watched as his short sword thrust up into the man’s throat, twisted and withdrew in time to block a loosely held spear which fell from its holder’s hands.

“I yield,” shouted the spear holder. He had red hair, perhaps a mix of Northern and Southern blood. He even had four tattoos on his knuckles that were traditional in the North. Each one represented one of his children. He was a father of four.  Aravand’s short sword thrust into the spearman’s screaming mouth. Fight for the South die like a Southerner.

Finally, Aravand reached the captain whose private guards were falling rapidly. Goddess, let me be the one to kill him. Calmly Aravand assessed the captain’s armor. It was expensive looking but flawed. The captain was too fat and had loosened the armor’s articulation to make it more comfortable. This meant there were gaps at his shoulders and at his elbows. He was wearing no chain under at his neck. That’s a fundamental flaw. He has become careless and arrogant from having too much success raiding the North. There were two guards between Aravand and the captain. He knew he could deal with them, but it would take time, and his good friend Bern was almost upon the captain. I must have the kill myself. The two guards approached him swords raised tentatively.

Aravand threw his ax. It sailed over the guards’ heads. Time seemed to slow down. Aravand watched the ax and out of his peripheral vision watched the guards launch themselves at him. While he was dodging the guards blows, he watched the ax decapitate the captain.The deed is done… and I feel nothing. Aravand’s short sword dispatched the two guards. Did I really expect my hollowed heart to fill with the death of my father’s killer? The goddess does not reward a murderous rage such as mine. He looked around at the bodies of the men he had killed. The spearman’s dead eyes were looking right at him in shock and naïve condemnation. We shall meet again yielding man, and little man, and old man, and steady guards… we shall meet in my nightmares for all my years in this cursed realm. I will listen to your wives’ wail, your children bawl and your mothers’ scream. That is the price the goddess sends me every night to taunt me for my sins.

Quick Update

I finished my fourth rewrite of Dragons Awake : Book 3 of the Icor Tales. It has been shipped to the editors. I should get it back on 31st for some final tweaks before being uploaded on November 12th and released November 16th.

It is available for pre-order on Amazon here – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0999S821M

I have finished an outline for a non sequenced book in the Icor Tales world, and then there will be two more sequenced books following Sam and friends in 2022.

Two new antagonists are introduced in Dragons Awake. They will both play a big part in the next two Sam & Friends based books.

The non sequenced book is The Fall of the Ancients. I am considering making it a permafree book. It should be ready in March 2022.

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Writing the final chapter of Book 3

(NO SPOILERS)

The pacing definitely became problematic in the closing scenes of Book 3 Dragons Awake. Too many things happening too quickly, such that the reader’s head would be spinning. I ignored the problem for now and will need the help of a great editor to pace it better.

There are a bunch of twists and turns and my beta readers will need to help me out to determine if they’re too obvious or too obfuscated. I am almost ready for the beta reading process.

My best guess is I will finish writing the first draft this weekend. It is by far the most complex, most action filled book of the series so far. I am so glad I took five days away to outline the next book in the Icor Tales world, which is a stand alone novel set during the fall of the ancients. The book is unnamed at the moment but in my notes I call it “MS and BS”. It does feature Violet. Events from this next book are mentioned in Book 3.

I got my first one star review this month which is a right of passage for every author.

hungarian horntail dragon at universal studios
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

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Dragons vs Crimson Wizards

Crimson Wizards

The third book in the Icor Tales Series “Dragons Awake” has … you guessed it dragons… and a lot of them… a heck of a lot of them. It also has crimson wizards, which we meet in Book 2 : “In the Hall of the Ancients”. It’s not really a spoiler to say they meet. Sometimes they work together and sometimes they are enemies.

Dragons awake features a confrontation where crimson wizards, with their endless shields and streams of fire, battle almost indestructible dragons with their enormous strength, claws and fire. Who will win? Well that would be a spoiler.

Introducing Phillipa

I don’t have an artists render of Phillipa yet but this is my inspiration …

Phillipa

The plan was to escape the town tonight.  She had buried supplies outside the city gates.  She knew where to rendezvous with the rebels.  She had discreetly sold all she could not carry.  For the next twelve hours she just had to pretend to be another manic supporter of Mott, Bestich and the menzach.  Mott had sent his wizard’s flame into countless numbers of the faithless. 

There are two parts to me now, thought Phillipa, as she sat upon the cart.  There is the part that lives in this world, and sits here and smiles, and laughs and watches the butchers.  Then there is the part that watches the other part with horror.  It scorns me. It flinches in horror while I laugh at another execution.  That part of me will always stand in judgement over the coward that wants to survive.  What is so good about seeing another sunrise?  I have not been brave these past few days… but tonight I will be.

              She continued knitting as the man screamed and begged as he was dragged to the cart.  Phillipa threw her head back to show how hard she was laughing.  Goddess forgive me.  I threw myself on my knees to worship Bestich as soon as his crimson wizards were reborn.  The victim locked eyes with her.  It was Araman, the man who made cider, elderberry wine and gooseberry jam.  He would sharpen knives and sell pins and now he was being lashed to the wheel of a cart.

              “Please, I thought he was dead,” said Araman.  “I worship Bestich now. I will be loyal.”

              Mott’s icor enhanced voice responded. “Sweet summer friend. You took the blessings of Bestich’s harvest.  You took the safety and security Bestich gifted you but when our wise and loving lord gave you the slightest test of your faith, you spurned him for the false prophets and promises of the rebels.  Let your bones serve to cushion the cart.  As they break at least they serve to comfort the loyal passengers of Bestich’s chariot.

              Phillipa closed her eyes momentarily — just a brief second to shelter against the horror, before again being immersed in her reality, not just witnessing but participating in the subjugation of those who had dared to dream to be free.

              She was surrounded by flags, black circles on a red background, the flags of Bestich’s Merconia.  Flags are excuses for inhumanity, she thought.  The more someone waves the flag of their nation, the more they hate the people of that nation.  They hide their resentments, bitterness, and vile intent behind shows of patriotism.  They disconnect the people of a nation from the idea of the nation, and then they can unleash their most bestial impulses on the people; waving the glorious flag, beating their chests in the certain knowledge that their rapes, their tortures, and their executions are noble and just. Never trust a man waving a flag.  There is no flag imbued with indulgences for the murder of innocents.

              The cart was now adorned with sixteen traitors to Merconia who had dared to speak for freedom from fear, and the menzach, and all the odious apparatus of subjugation.  Phillip beamed a manic smile at Mott, praying the smile did not freeze and falter, and praying that her name would not be pricked on the scrolls before she had time to flee.  Night can’t come too soon, she thought.

              The cart jerked into motion as the horses strained to pull the uneven wheels.  The screams from the victims tied to the wheels startled the normally laid back shire horses; one reared up a little, just a couple of feet in the air, but then it pulled forward.  More screams. She could hear the crunching sound as the cart began to crush the victims’ bones.  A spray of blood hit her face.  Her smile froze and tears came to her eyes.  She looked urgently to see if Mott had noticed. He was busy scanning the crowds for signs of anyone who showed a lack of enthusiasm. She smiled just before his gaze met hers.  She knew better than to wipe the blood from her face, instead she licked her lips as if savoring the taste.  Mott’s reptilian smile was her response and her reward.

              Later she stood before her wash bowl looking at the black flakes of dried blood on her face.  The black badge of cowardice.  She plunged her face in the bowl and kept it there as long as she could, impotently trying to bury her shame in watery grave.  She pulled her head up and gasped for air.  Her shame had not lessened.  She opened her eyes and stared at her reflection.  There were still black flakes on her face.  She rubbed them, but they did not come off.  Freckles?  Did I always have this many?  She shook her head and threw the bowl of water out into the street gutter.  It was dark but the swathe of stars in the sky looked like frothy river.

              Time to go.

              She looked around furtively; there were no watchmen in sight.  She reentered her home and went to Elijah’s bed.  He was sleeping soundly.  She pulled back the covers and with a practiced hand she turned the sheet he was sleeping in into a sling holding Elijah.  She wrapped the sling around her stomach so she could carry him with ease.  Quickly she grabbed her arrow, quiver, backpack, wine bladder and water bladder.  The moment of no return was upon her.  A weight settled on her shoulders. I am making a decision here that could cost me everything, including the life of Elijah.  Am I doing the right thing? She closed the door of her home for the last time and leant her head against it.  She kissed the door.  Goodbye home, you saw me give birth thrice, raise my boys and lose two of them.  Now I take the last of my blood before Bestich’s minions take him too.

Preparing for the final battle

Book 3 “Dragons Awake” is big, its complicated and its bloody. It is full of fantastical creatures: vampires, trolls, demons, 103 dragons, pixies, clones and the Beast with its drones.

My outline and background document is now 30k words.

I am about to start writing the campaign in Merconia section so I wrote a background doc with Bestich’s rise to power, including a scene which I will make into a freebie for my newsletter subscribers. Arden will get his own novella too, perhaps as a stand alone freebie.

I have a release date in November, which will take a lot of hard work to achieve. (I will make it tho).

A little glimpse of Book 3

Tao decided he would simply not go.  It was stupid to walk towards dragons.  The appropriate direction, where dragons were concerned, was away. 

Walk the other way

Behind the New Cover

I got some feedback that the cover was not on genre. People thought it might be a horror book. The new cover is more representative of the book which features some epic battles, and the “Dragon’s run” is a pivotal moment in the story line. Hopefully the new cover appeals more to my audience.

Jark has no Pinocchio Complex

Sam’s face felt warm. “Are you trying to be human?”

Jark’s eyes flickered blue. “Good heavens no. Humans are smelly, dim witted, and cruel. The young ones are insanely incapable, then they become hormone enraged monkeys, they get a few years pretending to know what they’re doing and then their knees go and they creak around groaning in pain for the remainder of their pathetic existence. Becoming a human would be an immense step down for me. Emulating a human can be useful though… and I do wish to understand them better. I just wish humans would stop killing me, dismantling me and putting me back together… it’s irritating.”

Excerpt From Book 3: The Dragons Awake

[Minor Spoiler Alert]

The Beast

The Beast’s Realm

Tao Yuanming

The Beast needs to be fed, thought Tao Yuanming.

He sniffed the Chrysanthemums by the eastern fence and looked up leisurely upon the southern mountains.  The garden was perfect, as usual, each plant was blooming as per his orders.  Each grain of sand was groomed to perfection.  The blood from the patio had been cleaned and no trace left behind.

A brief shadow flitted over him and so he lifted his gaze to the sky.  The clouds offended him. They were all free spirits with no balance, no purpose, and no control.  One of them must have impertinently passed briefly before the sun.  He snarled as he saw one that resembled a dragon.  There is no one to punish for the haphazard clouds.  He took a deep breath.  I shall have to tolerate the imperfection of the heavens. His thoughts turned to the disappointing harvest and the subsequent punishments he had made. 

The Beast must be fed.  It is important that people know there is a price to pay for substandard work, he thought.  If a farm produces one percent less rice this year, then next year it may produce two percent less and before long there is anarchyThe Beast must be fed.

He watched a new clone emerge from the palace escorted by two guards. It had the usual confusion on its face.  Tao had long ago concluded that the cloning process must introduce a weakness into the copied mind.  His scientists had disagreed with him, until he had encouraged them to change their view, just before they moved to the belly of the Beast.  The clone was wearing a pristine black Tang suit.  There were tears streaming down its face.  Tao examined it.  It’s face, he knew, was identical to his own, except it was reddened from sobbing.  He compared it to the faces of the guards, they were almost identical except the guards faces had aged.  One of the guards even showed a little grey hair.

The clone was crying uncontrollably.  Tao put a hand on its cheeks.  “I am going to call you Larry Fong the third.  What do you think of that?”

The clone kept crying.  It irritated Tao.

“Ugh, just go.  You know what you’re supposed to do.”

I gave it orders before it existed.  Yields must go up by two percent.  He made a dismissive wave with his hand.  Seriously I don’t ask much.

              The new clone was escorted out of the palace grounds, to spend its life farming.  Tao then noticed two red suited gate guards approaching. Hmm that is very unusual.  They were very aged.  Tao realized he really needed to clone some replacements and add the old ones to the Beast.

              The two guards saluted and one spoke.  “There is a visitor at the gate who wishes an audience with your excellency.”  The expression on the guard’s face was of complete serenity, as if nothing was unusual.

              A visitor? From where? How?

              “Hmm, it has been over a thousand years since I had a visitor.  How did he arrive at our gate?”

              The guard maintained his serene expression.  “He arrived on a dragon, your excellency.”

              Tao smiled.  “I suppose it is an old woman in a gold robe.”

              “It is a man, your excellency,” said the guard.

Tao’s smile broadened.  “An old man with a long beard, wearing a gold robe?” he asked knowingly.

“No, your excellency; it is a rotund man with no beard, wearing a red fur lined jacket and cummerbund.”

              Really? That is a surprise.  “Well show him to me.  I shall meet with him below the empty scales.”

              Tao shooed the guards away with a gesture and walked to the west side of the courtyard where there stood three golden scales.  The scales were twenty strides high and forty strides wide.  In the center there was a long seat and a table.

              “Tea for two,” he said to a clone-servant, who then scurried away.

              Tao looked to the sky again and frowned.  I do not like the unexpected, and yet I find myself almost excited to have an unexpected visitor.  I like the enigma of it; the impossibility of it.  No one in my realm has escaped my tender care, and the barrier most firmly prevents any entrance or exit.  If any man were somehow to enter my realm, then they’d be insane to come here of all places unless they wish to end themselves.

              The guards escorted a portly middle-aged man, wearing very ornate clothing.  Tao closed his eyes so he could concentrate on his senses.  His mind’s eye saw the icor chambers buried within the man, and two on a necklace on his chest.  More on his fingers, worn as rings, and a final one in the form of a short staff.  The man was standing in front of him, but Tao kept his eyes closed so he could look within the man.  He is not a chosen… ahhh he is a champion. Siva.

              Tao opened his eyes, tilted his head and raised an eyebrow.

              “My name is Bestich,” said the man.   He was brimming with excitement which irritated Tao.  Bestich was smiling more broadly than anyone Tao had seen in over fifteen hundred years. 

              Tao gestured to a seat by his side.  “Please sit.  I believe I knew your mother young Bestich.” Bestich nodded and sat. 

              “My mother told me of your last meeting; it sounded quite acrimonious.”

              Tao nodded.  “She survived, which was quite astonishing really.  Her use of crows…” He saw a clone arriving with a tea service.  “Let us have tea, shall we?”

The clone began preparing a white porcelain tea set.  “You do not come on her orders, do you.”  It was a statement, not a question. The clone rinsed the cups in steaming water.  Tao noticed Bestich’s smile falter a fraction.    The clone put leaves into the pot and moved them with chopsticks.  He then poured boiling water into the pot, gently cradled and swirled it before pouring the water into a wide bowl.  He then refilled the teapot, covered it and stood back.

“My mother and I have had a falling out,” said Bestich.

Tao frowned.  “Ah yes, I did hear about that.  You tried to kill her twice, didn’t you?”

“Three times,” said Bestich.

“Mothers can be difficult,” said Tao sympathetically.  The clone poured the tea into a large fair cup, shook it and then put it into teacups.  Tao picked up one of the cups and offered it to Bestich with both hands. 

Bestich took the cup, sniffed the tea, sipped it and smiled. “Wonderful,” he said.  “I expect your mother has been much less trouble since she entered the belly of the Beast.”

Tao chuckled.  “Indeed.”

“The Beast has been idle for too long,” said Bestich.

“Ah, we arrive at the purpose of your visit,” said Tao.

              Bestich took a big gulp of tea and winced.  “I have altered the barrier, making it possible for the Beast to venture forth,” he said.

              “I am aware,” Tao said.  “I am not foolish; I know a trap when I see one.  If the Beast takes over the realms of Pixous, Augmentous and Non Augmentous, then you will have control of the icor, and I, the Beast and all of this world, save for the Hall of the Ancients, will be under your power.”

              “I have a solution in mind,” said Bestich and gently bit his lower lip.

              “I thought you might,” said Tao taking a small sip of tea.  “I am an empty cup.”

              Bestich nodded. “Create a fresh clone, have him come with me and I will make him Yuang’s champion.  The Beast can then consume all of humanity, save the sleepers, and the icor will be divided.  You can then merge with the clone, and you will control Yuang icor.”

              Tao closed his eyes.  He listened to Bestich’s heart. He tasted the air and pulled in the icor that was seeping from Bestich.  There is no deceit in this sweet innocent child.  “I see two problems: how will you make my clone into Yuang’s champion, and how will we coexist in a world without humanity? We would surely find ourselves plotting against each other immediately.”

              Bestich grinned.  “The clone you create will ingratiate himself to Sam, the naïve simpleton currently gilded and gelded under Yuang’s yoke.  I will help with that ingratiation.  Then a worshiper of mine will poison the simpleton in such a way that he will look dead.  His companions will bury him, and your clone will sneak back to his burial site and as the boy dies for real, your clone will be the only one nearby capable of inheriting the title.”

              Tao took a sip of tea and then placed his cup down.  “If Yuang’s champion is poisoned, he will just heal himself, and if he is already unconscious then one of his companions will heal him.”

              Bestich looked around.  “Do you have scones?”

              Tao looked to a clone and nodded to indicate that scones should be provided.

              “With strawberry jam and clotted cream please,” said Bestich to the clone who had just begun to walk away.  Bestich poured himself another cup of tea.  “This is really good.  Green tea is my second favorite brew.”

              Tao looked on patiently and without expression.

              “The icor was very resistant to me but with Ethan’s help we found… a loophole.” Bestich gave a small smile, which Tao interpreted as a look of pride.   “I call it ‘wizard’s bane’, a poisonous plant that would produce nausea followed by death.”  Bestich looked excited, like a boy with a new toy.  “Normally if a wizard was poisoned with it, they would heal themselves.  With a few code alterations, I made it so the healing icor magnifies the effect of the poison.  When Sam’s companions attempt to heal him, they will only make things worse.   The icor will not allow the poison to kill him… but his friends will bury him, and that will kill him.  I have tested it on one of my crimson wizards.  It was most effective.  He died in his grave from suffocation, despite being quite adept at healing.  It took quite some time for him die.”

              Tao gave a slow nod, a hmm-not-bad expression.  “I have always believed that I am the true champion of Yuang.  My purpose is, of course, perfect Karmic balance.  My citizens in the belly of the Beast have no positive or negative experiences.  They do no good, they do no harm.  It is only when they leave the Beast that their Karmic balance sheet becomes indebted.”

              “So Yuang will choose you, I mean your clone, as its champion when the boy dies,” said Bestich.  “He will be close; he will have balance.”

              Tao showed no expression, but he felt excitement at the prospect of finally completing the Beast’s manifest destiny.  “How about the coexistence conundrum?  How do we avoid becoming enemies after the devouring?”

              “Simple; I will ascend.”

              There was a long silence as Tao contemplated Bestich’s words.  Ascension requires restricted technology, but with humanity out of the equation, there would be no need for the restrictions, so Bestich could indeed be augmented with enough processing power to ascend, just as the hyper augmented and the singularity did during the fall of the ancients. Bestich, the last human would ascend and leave the Earth to the Beast, and manifest destiny would be complete.

              A clone arrived with the scones.

              “I accept your proposal,” said Tao.

Deleted Excerpt from Book 3

The First Demon Encountered

[This is from Rose’s perspective]

It was heart warming to see how concerned those left on the other side of the barrier were.  They think we are too young and inexperienced to make it on our own.  It is kind of sweet really…

              She realized their expressions looked almost panicking. They were looking up the valley. She turned and saw a group of thirty men running towards them.  They were all wearing heavy green cloaks with large hoods, so their faces were hard to see.

              “Sam, some people have come to say hello,” she said.

              Yurkin chuckled.  “I think they’ve come for a snack.”

              “He’s right,” said Sam.  “Remember there are vampires and demons on this side of the barrier,”

              She then realized the men were moving remarkably fast; faster than a human could run.  Some were using their hands to run; almost like beasts.  She realized she was about to be attacked. They all pounced at the same time.  Their trajectory would have fallen on top of the three except Sam had an icor shield up.  They slammed against it.  They seemed enraged and clawed at the shield; saliva dripped from their fangs. 

              Their robes protect them from the sun, Rose thought.

              Sam grimaced, as if the effort of the shield was too much for him.  “They’re doing something to my shield.  It’s that one…”  Sam pointed to the biggest of them.  “He’s not a vampire; he’s something else.”

              “A demon,” said Rose. “Are they fire proof?”

              Rose could see Sam look to the ground for a moment, in thought, then he seemed to make a decision.  He looked up, tightened his grip on the staff and brough it before him.  Fire erupted from his hands and tore into their attackers.   Their clothes all caught fire, exposing them to the sun.  The vampires then exploded.  The demon howled.  It sounded like it was almost speaking.  Its blackening face pressed harder against the shield and then it turned to ash. 

              “Did it say something?” asked Sam.

              “I think it said welcome to Augmentous,” said Yurkin with a smile.

              Yurkin did not appear to be phased at all by the situation. It actually looked like he enjoyed the encounter.               “It makes sense that they might see anyone coming from the Non Augmentous realm as easy pickings… easy food, I guess,” said Rose.

“The Demon stopped my fire. I had to use the staff,” said Sam.

So magic is not going to be an effective weapon against them.

“How long will it take for your staff to recharge?”