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Work In Progress #3: Troll War #3 (July 8-12)

July 13, 2024 — Owen Tyme

This is part three of my series on my work in progress novel, Troll War, which centers around a kingdom of trolls going to war with a kingdom of dwarves, all because a pair of corrupt nobles from a third kingdom were bored and curious to see which race would come out on top.

You can read a short description of Troll War to learn more or you can read short summaries of each day's writing, on Mastodon. This series can be read via this link, though it will be in reverse chronological order, from newest to oldest.

Writing this week revolved around completion of Part One, 'Setting the Stage', and the start of Part Two, 'The Players'.

Chapter 10: Discovery

I renamed this chapter and the old title, 'Exile' was used for chapter 10.

As Illa and Kadrek spend the day out on the town for the first time since their stay in the hospital, King Windmaker marches his personal guards and a full regiment of soldiers back into the city of Wind Hammer, with the recently captured trolls as prisoners of war. The intent is to house them in a prison inside the city.

The King and his personal guard break off and march their war-riders back into the palace, leaving one of the great doors to the palace open, symbolizing the fact the King is in, but the kingdom is still at war.

Meanwhile, the captured trolls are marched through the city, right past Illa and Kadrek. They see Illa and call out to her, begging her to save them, but their guards mistake their cries for prayers to a troll god. Kadrek, on the other hand, takes note of where they were all looking, right at Illa.

She comes clean and even fights past the instinct to keep the ancient secret of the trolls, telling him she's a troll woman. She apologizes for lying to him, having kept it going so long only because she feared for her life. He forgives her on the spot. Next, he asks her to promise she'll never lie to him again and in exchange, he promises to always stand beside her.

Chapter 11: Exile

Illa agrees to Kadrek's reasonable demand and gives him her word.

Kadrek does what he feels is right, taking her straight to the King, that she might offer information of value in exchange for her life.

The throne room is cleared of even the King's personal guard and Illa starts by prostrating herself before the King, saying she's a female troll, once more struggling with instinct just to speak. The King doesn't believe her, so he orders her to look him in the eye as she speaks.

He doesn't believe her, because everyone on their world knows the troll race was literally last in line when looks were handed out.

Getting angry, Illa introduces herself properly and a hint of her old pride rises to the surface, that she might speak with the tone of royalty. She explains her lineage and relationship to the current Queen of the trolls, her sister, Nepita.

Next, she tells the secret tale of Segawa, the Goddess of Beauty, who's always depicted veiled, because she's said to be so beautiful that any who looked upon her would instantly die, even other gods. Unknown to mortals, Segawa was married to the blind troll god, Benni. Unable to see his wife, he was safe to spend extended periods in her company, unaffected by her power.

Coming upon the scene of the newly-made trolls and seeing their ugliness, a result of the other gods selfishly giving all of their beauty to their own mortal creations, on top of noting the terrible curse the gods had placed on the trolls because their mere appearance offended them (trolls burn as easily as dry wood), she took pity on the first female troll, gifting the ugly creature with her own, divine beauty. In turn, she took the troll's ugliness for her own.

Angry with the other gods, Segawa threw off her veil and showed them her face for the first time, using it to shame them for their selfish actions. Ashamed at what they'd done, they kept the secret to themselves. Bothered by her own appearance, Segawa put her veil back on and told only the high priests of her church, though the trolls also knew everything.

King Windmaker asks for proof and Illa cuts her own finger off, allowing the King to watch her grow a replacement.

Convinced, the King asks where her loyalties lie and she says her loyalty is to Kadrek, promising to tell all, if the King will spare her life and allow her to stay by Kadrek's side.

The King is silent for a long time, deep in thought, so Illa begins totll more, but the King silences her, because he realizes her secrets will do the opposite of what she intends. Instead of giving the dwarves an advantage, if word got back to the trolls that they knew the deepest secrets of troll-kind, the war will become a holy war.

He wants the information, but not at the price of upsetting the trolls so badly that they'll never stop fighting until one kingdom or the other is destroyed. After all, the standing policy of the trolls was to kill anyone that learned the facts about their women, which had been the case so long it was actually instinct.

The rest of the court is brought back in and the three of them portray a bit of theater. The King pretends to believe nothing Illa has said and also pretends he's infuriated to have caught her in a lie. The guards try to seize her, but Kadrek stands in their way, shouting that he'll spit in his father's eye and fight the royal guard, armed with only a pocket knife.

The King gives Kadrek the choice to stay in the kingdom or be banished with Illa. Kadrek decides to go with her, so the King offers to marry them first, because it's the only way he might witness the event. They agree, so he has his dead wife's ring resized for Illa and does the same with the old wedding band from his own finger, for Kadrek. He marries them on the spot, then gives Kadrek a pouch of gold and two hours to purchase supplies for the road, suggesting they travel north, to Oswil, because they'll be welcome there.

When they're gone, the King orders the room cleared again, so he can be alone with his grief.

Chapter 12: Upping the Ante

Queen Nepita receives a message from King Windmaker, delivered by a captured troll he released to carry it.

The message is simple: for every dwarf that dies by a troll's hand, one-hundred trolls will burn to death.

Nepita is amused by his bravado and vows to show her counterpart what happens to brave men in her kingdom.

She walks to the work room of the biomancers, where abominations are being surgically assembled from parts obtained from troll men. The current subject is a bloated, three armed troll, who's in the process of having a fourth arm grafted onto his body, a difficult process that requires four surgeons working in unison. He's not bloated with fat, but with transplanted muscle.

Nepita demands a status report and they tell her fifty-seven abominations are ready.

This was done in editing an earlier chapter, but I went back and added a scene were Kina and Aketa reported to Nepita. For Aketa's failures, she was assigned to become an abomination.

The biomancers inform Nepita that Aketa has requested to have her body implanted inside the captured war-rider, that she might become an abomination of steel, rather than flesh. Nepita agrees and they inform her that Yera (The attendant of Nepita's Grandmother) has offered to enchant the war-rider to be self-heating, so it will never need fuel, claiming she's unlocked the secrets of dwarf runes.

Nepita is surprised, because Yera hasn't spoken in more than a decade, but she sees the utility of such work and agrees.

A new scene begins with King Windmaker standing on the wall of an abandoned castle far to the south of his kingdom, where a prosperous human farming kingdom once was. The land was abandoned, due to a volcanic eruption, which has steadily continued from time to time for more than a hundred years.

Opposite him, on the other side of the castle's gate, the lieutenant of a squad of fresh soldiers stands. Both of them hold enchanted lassos woven from mythril wire.

Down in the castle courtyard, most of the squad waits, mounted on fire-dogs. Fire-dogs are four-legged, steam powered machines that serve Fortune Fields much like firetrucks in modern times. Each has a big water tank on its back, while the soldiers sit on the neck, controlling the movements of the dogs with stirrup-like controls, while the ears of the dogs are handles to control the direction their heads point. There's an elbow-activated button on the water tank, behind the driver, which activated the water pump, allowing the dog to spray water from its mouth.

Another soldier on fire-dog comes into view over the horizon, screaming and cursing, because an angry fire elemental is hot on his heels! It's shaped like a stag, with blue flames for head and body and orange flame for legs and antlers.

The fleeing soldier passes through the ruined castle walls and out the back, while the King and Lietenant whirl their lassos, each getting a good hold of an antler! The elemental is held in place, while the fire-dogs spray it, shrinking it until it's only six inches tall!

The fleeing soldier comes around to face its backside and all of the fire-dogs are used to effectively pen the beast in with walls of splattering water.

The dwarf that lured the creature hops down and pulls an enchanted, mythril jar from his coat, complete with a screw-top lid. The lassos are released and the stag frees itself, while the dwarf sets the jar on it's side, saying, “Me brought ye some coal to eat!”

The elemental, desperate for any fuel it might use to regain its former size, enters the jar and the lid is screwed on, capturing it.

The King accepts the jar and looks through the air holes in the top, pleased the crazy plan worked.

The elemental will be handed off to dwarves with good animal skills, for taming, and will eventually be used as the power source for a new type of war-rider, a fire-breathing demon-rider.

One weapon isn't enough, however, so there's many more elementals to capture...

Part Two: The Players

Chapter 12 marks the end of Part One, which was all about setting the war in motion.

Part Two is about setting the rest of the story's plot in motion, starting with introducing some new characters (adventurers) and giving the human/elf kingdom of Oswil a reason to involve itself in the war.

The idea is to introduce a group of adventurers and then send them to both sides of the war, to make peace. This will consist of an alien anthropologist that has his own reasons to make peace (odd-ball with unusual abilities), a gunfighter/retired army sergeant (leader), Illa (glass-cannon/witch), Kadrek (fighter and negotiator) and an Oswil Army corporal.

There will also be a squad of soldiers, but their purpose in the story will be to die and demonstrate when the crap has hit the fan.

Three years pass between parts, giving the simmering war time to reach a full boil...

Chapter 13: One Last Miracle

This chapter introduces Brosla Ghinead, an alien anthropologist living on the planet, who's been studying magic for thirty years. He looks at least vaguely human, but a little on the tall side, with skin just a little too red (like a sunburn) and overly-sharp teeth, which he hides with something akin to dentures. He's a Vokosian, a technologically advanced, space-faring race with a a large empire.

He's woken in the night by a message from space that came marked with government codes at the highest level of authority. The source of the message is the captain of the last remaining ship, coming from a man that claims to have been the commander of Vokosian Empire's military.

The message details a war that happened in Brosla's absence, in which a machine intelligence became a self-replicating scourge on the galaxy. The galaxy fought back and managed to press the machines back to their own system, at which point the captain tried to make peace.

He laments the fact the galaxy needed a butcher and he chose to be a peacemaker.

The machines backed down and they eventually made trade agreements, to share scientific progress, but that was just a ploy. The machines got the Vokosians to replace all of their reactors with safer models that included safety features. No sign of trickery was found and the new design got used everywhere.

They only discovered the trick when a radiation pulse from the machines shut down every reactor in the empire, aside from more antiquated designs, resulting in more than a thousand worlds falling in a single day!

The lone captain escaped in his antique, personal ship and ran. Eventually he found records of Brosla's research on the strange planet and set a course, thinking magic might be the miracle his people desperately need.

The captain urges Brosla to get the locals organized to defend their world, because the machines will come, sooner or later. He also claims he will arrive at the planet in a little over three months time.

Brosla gathers his things and heads out, intent on speaking with the King of Oswil as soon as possible.

The intent of this character is that he'll become a part of the adventuring party

Chapter 14: Rock and a Hard Place

Jane "Sureshot" Stanton is a retired Oswil Army Sergeant and sharpshooter. She has a very old west, gunfighter look to her, since that's the theme I'm associating with Oswil.

She wears a long, leather coat, cowboy hat and cowboy boots.

She wears an enchanted katana on her back (she's the world's equivalent to half-Japanese), which is an old family heirloom.

On her hips are a pair of Scott and Walcott copies of the Cobb Single Action Army revolver. Even better, S&W employ a dwarf smith, who enhances some of their work with dwarf runes, so her pistols are enchanted.

I'm intentionally drawing parallels to Smith and Wesson, plus Colt, since named firearm manufacturers are very much a part of the old west. I don't want to use the real world names, because the world I'm writing isn't our world, at all, though it does have many similarities, especially among humans.

Sureshot is at a remote town on the frontier, near Utros, named Ruby Canyon. The town is half in and half out of the canyon mouth.

As she walks the town and talks with the mayor about the job she came to do, involving shooting a bunch of goblins, she notices an excess of dwarves around the place, counting seventeen at a glance.

She raises her concern with the mayor, who also finds it odd.

Getting a nasty suspicion, she asks when they last saw a goblin. He tells her four days.

She tells him her honest opinion: Ruby Canyon is caught between dwarf and troll armies, but she's interrupted by the sound of gunfire.

Hours pass and the battle ends with a town full of dead dwarves and a handful of dwarves burning trolls, to make sure they won't regenerate. Many of the dwarves were killed with extremely precise shots to the right eye, because the trolls had a sharpshooter with them that was showing off. This is a little foreshadowing for later chapters, in which I intend to pit Sureshot against the troll responsible, in a contest of sniper vs. sniper. The troll sniper is probably Anji, but I haven't made up my mind yet.

Sureshot demands to speak with the commanding officer of the dwarf soldiers, but he's dead and so are the rest of their leaders.

Chapter 15: Royal Decree

Sureshot sends word to the King of Oswil via telegraph crystal, a one-inch, flat, square variation of a crystal ball coated in a magical, moss-derived chemical that glows when tapped or when hit by the same frequency of light it emits. Such devices come in linked pairs that glow at both ends when tapped. They're used for long-range communication in Oswil, using Moss Code, which is their name for their equivalent to Morse Code.

The King responds with a request for her immediate presence, so she rides as fast as she can for the capitol.

Sadly, that's as far as I got, but my plan for the rest of the chapter is for Surshot to report to the King, while Brosla waits for his turn to speak. Hearing the King's decree that men will be sent to seek peace between the dwarves and trolls, Brosla will probably reveal himself as an alien, telll his tale and volunteer to go on the peace mission. The king will assign a squad of soldiers and temporarily reactivate Sureshot's rank as Sergeant (likely against her will), so she can take command.

There might be a visit to a fortune-telling witch on the way out of town, who will cryptically prod them to go visit Kadrek and Illa, because they're essential to the success of the mission, on top of being main characters.

Tags: writing, work-in-progress, rumors-of-war

On the Nature of Magic

July 10, 2024 — Owen Tyme

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

― Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible

We gaze with wonder at the stars of the night sky and most everyone has no idea the effect they're having, just by looking.

Quantum physics includes some peculiar concepts that most people never manage to wrap their brains around: Heisenburg's Uncertainty Principle and the Observer Effect.

The following summary is probably a little off, but should serve to help me make my point. To the physicists reading my words: sorry, but I'm not one of you and my understanding is certainly flawed. Please forgive my errors.

To summarize, the state of any given particle is undefined until measured and the only conclusions that can be drawn without measurement are all a matter of what the particle is most likely to be doing, but until that measurement is made, the particle is actually doing all of the things it could possibly be doing, at the same time. When the particle is measured, it stops doing all that freaky, simultaneous stuff and suddenly pretends it was following one path all along, but only so long as it's being measured.

I take it on faith that the mathematics say it's true and I've seen some tricky little experiments that prove it. Look up a Youtube video on the double-slit experiment if you want your mind blown.

That's the Observer Effect at work: as far as I'm aware, in quantum physics, any form of intelligence (seems to require life, as well) simply looking at the environment around it causes the universe to change, setting itself down a particular path and all things are in flux until we look at them.

Nothing is concrete until we make it so, just by using our senses. I once read that astronomers observing the stars with ever finer instruments have hypothetically shortened their lifespans, simply by forcing them to take on a particular state. That's why I say people have no idea what they're doing to the stars.

However, please don't feel bad about it. That's just the nature of life and the universe.

What About the Magic?

Ah, the question has finally arisen in your mind, yes? Why did I bring this up and what does it have to do with magic?

I've never gotten a clear explanation of the Observer Effect and its cause. As far as I know, no one understands why it happens, only knowing that it does.

So, deep down, at a fundamental level, the universe does this mysterious, dare I say it, magical thing, which has no explanation. The very foundation of reality and everything in it stands on this strange thing that happens, just because an observer shapes the universe merely by existing.

Arthur C. Clark spoke well when he said this: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

I daresay that reality itself is magic and science may be an illusion the universe made up on the fly, just because we were looking too close.

The trouble in all of this is that we can't even arrive at a concrete, definitive explanation of what intelligence actually is, except in self-referential terms. So it also is with life. These concepts go round in circles, referring only to themselves and each other. At the end of the day, all we can really and truly say is that we know them when we see them.

Please trust me when I say this, because I studied both subjects in college, discovering a deep, philosophical hole in our knowledge that has no concrete answer.

To my mind, anything that cannot be defined or explained is magic. Period. Plain and simple. Perhaps this is not your definition, but it is mine.

To summarize, here's the magical things we've covered so far: quantum physics, observers, intelligence and perhaps even the spark of life itself.

All of science stands on these inexplicable, magical things, so in a way, science is also magic.

Science Fiction

No matter how obsessed the writer may be with scientific accuracy, sooner or later, every science fiction story comes down to the same issue, right at the level of the story's bones: the tale can't be told without relying on magic.

Ah, but in my mind I can hear a thousand sci-fi fans screaming the same thing at me: the defining quality of sci-fi that sets it apart from fantasy is that there is no magic!

Unpopular though my opinion may be, I've got to break it to you: rubber science, no matter how concrete and well-researched, is based on the same leap of faith that magic is, because it is fundamentally the same thing.

Again, science is magic.


Fantasy, on the other hand, embraces that bendy, wobbly concept and thrusts it to the forefront. Some writers use it a lot and some use it a little, but at the end of the day, you can't have fantasy without at least a pinch of magic.

A Writer's Definition of Magic

So, let's look at the two sides of this coin in terms of definitions, like a dictionary, but let's do so from the perspective of a writer.

  • Rubber Science: A plot device
  • Magic: A plot device

So, if both come out to equal the same thing, it implies they really are the same thing, does it not? Everything else is just window dressing and descriptive detail.

Science Fantasy

In the end, I've chosen to boldly go where few choose to tread: I freely mix science fiction and fantasy in what I call 'science fantasy'. I like to pit the usual elements of the two against each other, because it makes for a striking and new take on the older genres. I find the combination fresh with endless possibilities.

To me, this is extremely freeing and my imagination runs where it chooses, resulting in wizards and witches with magic blaster guns, flying around in star ships that have the usual kind of rubber-science bells and whistles like force fields and teleporters, but instead of hand-waving the science, a wizard did it by integrating his love of magic and technology into one convenient package.

I just don't comprehend the purpose of putting some rigid, unbending line down the center of my brain, arbitrarily deciding that fantasy and science fiction are separate, never the twain shall meet. I balk at the limitation, because they're the same, dang thing!

However, I'm not alone in this. Other writers have done it, but most of the time, they insist their work is science fiction.

The most prominent example I can think of is Star Wars. George Lucas used a sci-fi theme to tell fantasy stories and successfully sold that little, white lie to millions (maybe billions?) under the heading of science-fiction. The science in Star Wars is heavily hand-waved and rubber as can be. The Force is just magic with a sci-fi themed wrapper (psychic powers!) and just like fantasy, there's a lot of sword fighting, even though perfectly reasonable laser-like guns exist. Robots replace golems, aliens replace monsters and crystal balls become computers to make something that would normally be called fantasy, if there weren't space ships in it. Heck, even laser guns are analogous to a wizard's magic wand.

Why is space travel almost exclusively pigeonholed as sci-fi? Hasn't anyone heard of Spelljammer?

What Changed Me?

I used to play Dungeons and Dragons a lot and as a Dungeon Master, I was always drawn to unique settings and adventures to run. The unusual is what I craved.

Two particular publications caught my eye: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and Tale of the Comet.

I never had a chance to run the first in a serious fashion, just because it was too old and my access to it at the time was limited, since my brother owned and somewhat jealously guarded it. The second was my own discovery, just sitting on the shelf of a party supplies store that I entered in search of unnaturally large balloons for a college class (3 footers).

Tale of the Comet captured my attention in a way that nothing in Dungeons and Dragons ever had before. Magic vs. technology, wizards fighting robots, an AI scourge on the galaxy that needed to be put down and an opportunity for magic to save the day where technology had failed. It also captured the imagination of my players and every time I used it, the gaming table was electrified with excitement.

In short, it was a magical experience for us, especially me. Everyone saw how unique the setting was and wanted to see more.

It didn't happen consciously, but that's when I finally realized science fiction and fantasy were the same, a pair of twins separated at birth and raised without knowledge of each other, though they got along famously when they finally met.

Tale of the Comet changed me forever and is responsible for the writer I am today. Without it, I would probably never have had the audacity to unchain my imagination. Without that setting showing me the possibilities, I might never have written about an electrical engineer crash-landing on a planet that gave him magic powers, nor would I have written about his son, Levi Jacobs.


Magic is real.

It's found in the heart of the laws of physics, the very core of the human brain and inside every living thing. Seeing anything is magic, because the mere act of observing changes everything.

I'm in awe of the grand design of the universe and our place in it as the observers and shapers of all we touch, taste, smell, hear and see.

I'm grateful my eyes are open to this fact, glad to know science and magic are so much alike. It fills my mind with ever-changing possibilities.

Who knows if the magic underpinning the universe will ever be understood? I, for one, hope that mystery is never revealed by science, because if it is, it will destroy that last bit of wonder and leave people thinking our own existence is nothing but a cheap trick. It would be like pulling the curtain back, only to reveal everything was based on a bunch of squirrels running on a hamster wheel; novel and amusing perhaps, but mundane.

Without a little magic, there is no imagination. Without something we can't understand, there would be no striving for something new. Without the touch of mystery pervading the entire universe, it would be a cheap, boring existence, gray and lifeless to the core.

I need to stare at the stars in awe. I need the mysteries to excite my mind with their possibilities. I need the magic of existence.

Magic is all around us and the best magic of all is the human mind.

Tags: writing

Work in Progress #2: Troll War #2 (July 1-5)

July 06, 2024 — Owen Tyme

This is part two of my series on my work in progress novel, Troll War, which centers around a kingdom of trolls going to war with a kingdom of dwarves, all because a pair of corrupt nobles from a third kingdom were bored and curious to see which race would come out on top.

You can read a short description of Troll War to learn more or you can read short summaries of each day's writing, on Mastodon. This series can be read via this link, though it will be in reverse chronological order, from newest to oldest.

Writing was fun this week, with a fair amount of action as the fighting between the dwarves and trolls heated up, followed by the start of a little romantic subplot that will be rather important to later chapters. I also planted some important seeds for later plot points.

Chapter 5: The Bleeding Mother

I renamed Chapter 5 based on what I wrote on Monday (July 1).

Anji, the troll Weapon Master, and Nepita's sister, Illa, a powerful witch, lurk in the forest on the other side of Razorpoint Ridge, while Illa practices an ancient troll song, titled Flowing Stone. The song is extremely complex, but holds the power to wake the earth itself. She completes the work and masters the difficult pronunciation.

As dawn comes, the trolls prepare to attack and Illa starts the magical song. It normally requires a soprano, an alto and a tenor, all working together, taking turns to sing the song, but Illa is able to sing all of it, except the deepest notes at the very beginning. Anji, as a natural tenor, helps her sing that portion and then leads the army to attack Razorpoint Refuge.

The song describes the earth as a pregnant mother, giving birth to her child (ash and smoke), effectively comparing lava to blood. The song-based spell causes lava to pour into the deep coal mines of the dwarf fort, effectively filling it up from the inside, while frightened dwarves flee, most of them killed by the catastrophe!

King Windmaker, of the dwarves, is horrified to see his fears come to fruition as the seemingly impregnable fortress falls to magic, just as a screaming army of trolls comes around the ridge to attack!

At the same time, Illa passes out, because she misjudged the energy requirements of the spell, having gone far beyond her personal limits. Fortunately, that means that instead of turning the whole mountain into an active volcano, it stops at just producing a large pool of lava spilling out of the fort's front gates.

Chapter 6: Withermine

Chapter 7 was actually written first, because inspiration struck me regarding the conclusion of the conflict at Razorpoint Refuge, but I often switch back and forth to different locations in my writing and I'll try to keep things simple on this blog by going in story order, here.

Most of the chapter follows Captain Shatterhand, the female dwarf officer in charge of the war-riders headed for Withermine.

Her unit is lost in fog that's settled in around the remote mining village and she's convinced they've been going in circles for hours on end.

There's a brief internal monologue about the swamp, which is filled with mythril deposits. This section is designed to aid the reader's understanding of dwarven enchantment techniques and why mythril is so important to them.

Mythril acts as a natural magical purifier/concentrator, taking in the raw magic of the air, only to release it in a more pure and reactive form. Magic effectively pools around it, building up over time until someone comes near, at which point the magic responds to their thoughts, producing randomized, chaotic spell-like bursts the dwarves call 'mythril surges'.

Dwarven enchantments normally consist of a small amount of mythril (an ounce or two) to serve as a power source for the magic, combined with dwarven runes, which act like an analog to an electrical circuit, transforming the raw magic the mythril produces into a more controlled, useful form. Dwarven runes are effectively another form of natural magic, but they require the skill of an exceptional smith to do anything on their own. An exceptional smith working with mythril can produce very powerful results, that var in direct proportion to how much mythril is used.

Shatterhand wishes their compasses would work, but one of the natural side effects of uncontrolled mythril makes compass needles spin.

She stops at some trees to determine north from the moss on the trunks, but there's moss on all sides. However, she does see a wither-like blight in the leaves of the tree, marking their proximity to Withermine, because the trees are sick with toxic mythril poisoning.

One of her men, who has an excellent sense of direction, volunteers his opinion they should take a sharp turn left. For lack of any better idea, she puts the dwarf in the lead.

Meanwhile, the trolls waiting to ambush Withermine have been camping on a large island near their target. Their leader, Aketa, hears the dwarven war-riders approaching, because the legs of them splash rather loudly.

She wakes her sister, Kina, ordering the woman to mask their presence with an illusion, while the trolls all press themselves into the rocks of the island. Aketa takes position on a high rock, to give herself a good view, while Kina sings, causing them to visually meld into the rocks, masked with mental trickery. Her singing comes to resemble a natural wind blowing through rocks, but since there's no wind, it sounds eerie and ghost-like.

Hearing the song and mistaking it for something caused by a mythril surge, Shatterhand advises her men to keep their thoughts focused on the mundane, to avoid danger, because the form of a surge is only limited by the imagination.

Shatterhand spots the island and cautiously marches her men and their war-riders onto it, finding some half-rotted bedding scattered about (the bedding of just the troll leaders, because most of the men have been doing without). After a brief discussion, the dwarves conclude some adventurers likely got lost in the swamp and used the island as a temporary refuge, before dying off to the dangers of the place.

Shatterhand orders her men to inspect their war-riders for damage, while she spends her time tying to use the island to figure out which way north is, because though the island is on her map, she still isn't sure which way to go.

Kina turns her song into a lullaby, putting the dwarves to sleep, while Aketa stalks Shatterhand. There's a brief fight in which Shatterhand refuses to back down and Aketa cuts the dwarf's throat. While Shatterhand struggles to breathe in her dying moments, Aketa telepathically enters her mind, stealing knowledge of both Shatterhand's orders and how to drive a war-rider.

Withermine is wiped out with ease (off-screen, so to speak, since it doesn't really matter) and the trolls decide to use the war-riders to fool King Windmaker into trusting them. They head off to Flintbrook, where the dwarves are planning to rendezvous before heading into troll lands, to assault the Utros palace.

Chapter 7: Hired Assassin

The battle at Razorpoint Ridge is short, but intense.

King Windmaker initially struggles against the trolls, because there's thousands of them that swarm him en-masse, trying to climb all over his war-rider! He spins in place, flinging them off, just in time for Anji to land on top of his war machine. He tries to swat her with his war-rider's ax, but she's too fast, using her sickles to hook the sides of the rear hatch.

She uses her weapons to cut through the latch holding it closed and then flips her way onto the hatch like a ninja! At the same time, King Windmaker snatches an ax off the wall of the cockpit and whirls around, aiming to cut her down! Her wickedly-sharp sickles cut the head of the ax free, followed by cutting the handle from the shaft, leaving the king effectively unarmed.

She places her weapons to his throat and the king feigns surrender. He knows what she doesn't, however: her sickles are dwarf made and in fact, his very own creations, which he gave to the troll king as a gesture of peace. Dwarf made enchanted weapons normally will not harm the smith that made them, nor will they harm the king of the dwarves, so he punches Anji as hard as he can, shattering her nose!

She reacts by trying to cut his throat, but the sickles lose their sharpness, unable to do more than merely bruise him! Anji starts to fall back, but the King refuses to let her escape, grabbing both of her wrists, using them to haul her in close, for a devastating head-butt that cracks her skull!

The King thinks Anji is a hired assassin, based on her attire and figure. She wears blood-red clothing and armor, which marks her as a member of the Sanguine Sisterhood, a notorious band of supposedly human women that work as expensive hired killers. However, he doesn't know the full truth; the Sanguine Sisterhood have always been troll women.

He decides to offer her payment, putting a bounty on the head of the troll king, Shengis, literally offering both a hefty sum of gold and enchanted weaponry to the assassin that produces the troll's head.

Anji agrees and King Windmaker tosses her broken body to the ground, with little expectation she'll survive her wounds, because he thinks she's human.

The battle is finished, with the troll army wiped out, but the victory is pyrrhic, since no one from the fort survived the melee.

Anji drags herself home, discovering along the way that the dwarves have found and captured Illa, though they actually think she was a prisoner of the trolls that were guarding her in her sleep.

Chapter 8: False Riders

King Windmaker and his men lurk in the ruins of Flinrbrook, horrified by the message the trolls left him, spelled out with dwarf corpses: THE PRICE IS TEN-FOLD!

He knows the troll policy of responding with ten-fold force to any offense and even has no issue with it, knowing the enemies of Utros to the west, consisting of goblins and dark fairies, need a harsh hand, just to bring them to the negotiating table.

However, he doesn't understand the message, because he knows of no offense deserving of troll retribution, convinced the war began as a misunderstanding, though he knows it's already too late to stop the fighting.

As he's puzzled about the message, Aketa's troll-driven war-riders arrive, marching as if on parade in a city, rather than a more natural marching gait useful for crossing the wilderness, which makes no sense. In addition, their leader is singing a dwarven song of triumph, leaving him wondering if they're drunk.

Putting the pieces together in his mind, he screams for his men to plug their ears and attack, leading to a desperate melee between war machines!

King Windomaker seeks the enemy leader in the midst of the brawl, eventually spotting the silver decorations of Captain Shatterhand's personal war-rider.

He shield-rushes her from behind, damaging her escape hatch and they both go down. Getting a war-rider on its feet after a fall isn't easy and King Windmaker is the only one to have mastered performing an acrobatic stand in one, getting his war machine back on its feet nearly instantly, while Aketa is forced to move more slowly.

Halfway through raising her war-rider's torso, the king's ax smashes through her window, while she dodges, inside her cockpit! The ax smashes through the cockpit and into the steam chamber, below, releasing super-heated steam that burns every inch of Aketa's body!

Knowing she'll never heal properly, due to the weakness of trolls to being burned, she goes all-in on a suicide attack, using the King's backward yank of his ax to free it as the means to launch herself at his cockpit window, aiming her sword for his eye!

She smashes through the glass, but her weapon betrays her, pulling to one side of its own accord! She lands on the King, who head-butts her, cracking her skull, before he grabs her sword and beheads her!

He kicks her body out the window and then sets his war-rider to slowly turn in place, holding Aketa's head up for all to see as he shows the trolls he's taken their leader's head and demands their surrender.

They back down and the battle is won.

Kina watches the battle via a telescope while she hides with the remainder of the troll forces (there weren't enough war-riders for all of them).

While the dwarves are distracted with their prisoners, Kina retrieves her sister and holds the head in place, so Aketa doesn't actually die. In wasn't sisterly love that motivated her, but rather duty to the Queen.

Aketa is carried back by the men and Kina drives their only remaining war-rider back to the Utros mountains, so they can report on the unexpected capabilities of the dwarves and give her the captured war machine, for study.

Chapter 9: The Icy Maiden

Illa wakes in a dwarf hospital in the palace of their capital city, Wind Hammer. Kadrek is in the bed beside her own and is totally infatuated with her, because she's very attractive.

Knowing she's too weak to get home on her own, she plays the femme fatale and leans into his attraction, pretending to be the daughter of a human gunsmith, who was killed by the trolls. She hopes to recover her strength and then magically brainwash Kadrek, that he might carry supplies for her on the way home, ultimately planning to give him to Nepita as a hostage.

The dwarf reminds Illa of her first love, who was murdered by Nepita for being a rather out-spoken male (at great risk to his life, he pursued Illa, rather than the other way around).

Over the course of days, they speak at length, the friendship between them grows and Illa starts to lose herself to the role she's taken on, because Kadrek really has grown to love her and she's begun to feel the same.

Kadrek has the healers take them to the surface in wheelchairs and there, he gets on his feet. It's obvious that standing on his injured feet is like walking on daggers for him. He flexes his muscles in the sun and Illa's heart beats faster!

Illa mentally reminds herself in a somewhat shaky fashion, He’s a means to an end. He’s a means to an end! My gosh, he’s an attractive means to an end!

Seeing her expression, he winks and flexes his bicep, showing off. She finds her will weakening, but dredges up some pride in her trollish heritage to fight back with, reminding herself that she's of royal blood, sister to the Queen and the greatest witch Utros has seen in five-hundred years.

Kadrek asks her if she wants to dance and Illa is overcome by the romance of it: he's in serious pain, but still wants to dance with her!

In one final attempt to cling to her cold, icy heart, she (truthfully) tells him she's too weak to stand.

He offers to support both their weight and the last of the ice in Illa's heart melts, allowing a metaphorical avalanche of released ice and water to bury her trollish pride, once and for all, falling head over heels for the charming dwarf.

She agrees and Kadrek picks her up, supporting her weight, despite his injured feet, seemingly oblivious to the pain, because he's holding the woman he loves as he slowly bobs from foot to foot.

Illa makes up her mind to tell him the truth, but knows the time isn't right. She fears it's too soon and she'll be killed for who she really is. She leans into her feelings and pushes their relationship forward by kissing Kadrek as passionately as she knows how, because she needs him to fall head over heels for her.

Chapter 10: Exile

Finally well enough to leave the hospital, Illa is put in a cottage on the palace grounds set aside for elf visitors. The interior is decorated with wood furniture carved with leafy patterns. The bed has green sheets and pillows. Light streams in through a colorful, stained-glass window.

She sits on the edge of the bed, wearing a blue, silk dress the same shade as her eyes, which was originally made for a dwarf, though it was expertly cut down to fit her very slender frame by the palace seamstress. Her legs are a little long for it, leaving it hanging at mid-calf height, but that's just fine, because that's the current fashion among human women. Her hair is tied back with a matching scarf.

Kadrek arrives, dressed in a red tunic and matching felt hat, with a shiny, mythril belt buckle that emanates heavy magic.

The plan is for the two of them to spend a day walking around town, because they're both finally well enough for it.

That's as far as I got for the week, but I know how the chapter will end. The King has returned to the city with troll prisoners, who will recognize Illa and try to get her to help them, blowing her cover.

Kadrek will defend Illa with his life, taking up arms against the King's men. The two of them will be captured and hauled before the King, who will hear their stories. Illa will finally come clean and Kadrek will continue to stand with her.

Unable to bring himself to kill his son's beloved, the King will instead disown Kadrek, marry them on the spot, then exile them from the kingdom, likely giving Kadrek the parting gift of a fat purse filled with gold, that they might make their way to Oswil, where they're sure to be accepted.

Tags: writing, work-in-progress, rumors-of-war

Work in Progress #1: Troll War #1 (June 21-28)

June 29, 2024 — Owen Tyme

Eight days ago, I started work on one of my many planned novels, Troll War

For a while now, I've been thinking it might be fun to write a little something about each day's writing, as a sort of journal of my work in progress.

I'll be doing this on Mastodon for daily posts and on this blog for more in-depth information every weekend.

To start the ball rolling, I've been posting my daily updates on Mastodon all week:

These are each short, normally detailing one chapter, because that's roughly my minimum average output. From time to time I may post twice in a day, if I've done things that need to be broken up.

The rest of this post will be my first weekly update.

Basics of the Setting

Troll War takes place in a galaxy not unlike our own, on a world similar to Earth, though with the addition of magic. It won't play too big a part in the novel, but there's a whole galaxy of sci-fi wonders out there, including an AI species that's consuming the resources of the galaxy to spread like a plague, but that won't become a big part of the story until book 2, AI War.

The series is titled Rumors of War.

This as yet unnamed world (the inhabitants probably call their planet some uncreative translation of the word 'dirt', just like we do) includes a variety of fantasy races. So far, I've only mentioned humans, elves, dwarves, trolls, gnomes, goblins and dark fairies (but this implies the inclusion of light fairies). The other races will likely play a part in book 3, Magic War.

As for technological level, I'm intentionally breaking with tradition and not using a medieval setting, placing the people of the various races collectively somewhat beyond the Victorian-era of technology, with a fantastic flare, but only when considered as a homogeneous people, which they most certainly are not.


The dwarves have advanced steam technology and metallurgy, including vehicles and trains of all kind, but have stuck by their old melee weapons, shields and armor, because the best firearms they've managed on their own are muskets, though they don't know the secret to making black powder or gunpowder, getting that from humans. Their axes do include one-shot muskets, however, in place of the ax handle.

Dwarves don't use magic directly, but their best craftsmen are somewhat mysteriously able to craft magic items and their magic is always of the best quality. They do this by starting with magical materials they've dug from the ground, such as mythril.


The humans are most advanced in firearms and the family of Lady Gunn (see below) are the principle inventors of guns. In particular, repeating pistols and rifles will play a part in battle later in the book, once things really get going.


Elves mostly eschew technology in favor of magic, but they have nothing against purchasing technological items from other races, if they find them useful. This may change over time or it may not. I'm undecided, but the local elves in the book are very much linked to the humans, since they're governed by the same king.


Trolls are surprisingly advanced in medicine, because they have the advantage of being able to experiment with bodies that rapidly regenerate and the real truth is that their doctors (if you could call them that!) are able to produce frightening abominations of biology that would terrify even modern men, shaping the bodies of trolls until they become something new and horrifying.

It isn't uncommon for a troll to reattach severed limbs and with the assistance of another, they can reattach a severed head.

It isn't obvious to an outsider, but troll women look just like human women, aside from being exceptionally attractive, with starkly-white hair.

Troll women are all effectively witches, with a style of music-based magic unique to them. They prefer, but are not limited to mental magic, with a heavy emphasis on telepathy. Illusions come almost as easy to them.

Trolls strongly believe that might makes right. They're secretly ruled by their women, because their magic makes them believe they're superior to men and the men have never been strong enough to resist.

Notable Kingdoms

Oswil is the human/elf kingdom, to the north of the main trade road. The southern end of the kingdom is human land and the north end is elf land, though they all live under the rule of a human king.

To the southwest of Oswil is Utros, the troll kingdom, which is outwardly ruled by King Shengis, though he's actually a puppet of the troll Queen, Nepita. Utros is mostly in the mountains and the land is rich with iron.

To the southeast of Oswil is Fortune Fields, the dwarf kingdom, which is mostly a large, open plain, though there are swamps and mountains on the western edge. The land is rich with copper, iron, silver and gold.

The three kingdoms form the primary setting of Troll War.


The majority of the prologue was written as a result of some inspiration about five months ago and on Friday of last week (the 21st), I did some clean-up work and then finished it.

This initial scene takes place in a tavern on the southern outskirts of the human kingdom of Oswil, which hosts bare knuckle matches with very few rules.

On this particular day, a human noblewoman, Lady Gunn, has been invited to join another noble, an elf wizard named Lord Rolar. Lady Gunn isn't pleased by how dirty the tavern is, but she's pleased by the fine wine her companion offers her and a match between a dwarf and a troll begins.

Dwarves are well-known for how sturdy they are, on top of being incredibly stubborn. Their fighting spirit is second to none and getting a dwarf to back down is next to impossible. This particular dwarf is used to slowly wearing his opponents down by having far greater endurance, on top of being able to punch like a fully-loaded mine cart.

Trolls, on the other hand, have the wondrous power to regenerate from most any wound, a power they use to out-last most any opponent they might face in battle. This particular troll is used to taking hits and growing back, outlasting his opponents though masochism and an incredible tolerance for pain.

Lady Gunn is soon drawn into the fight, selecting the dwarf as her choice of champion to cheer for.

The one-on-one fight rages for six hours, until the dwarf is exhausted, but still standing and the troll is on his feet, but he's begun to exhaust his body's resources useful for regeneration, starting to lose his edge though hunger.

The tiny thought I had in the back of my mind for this is that each time a troll heals, they become slightly more hungry. While they're able to recycle damaged cells and restore their bodies, there's a lasting cost in the form of a metabolic price that must be paid to activate the magic used for this.

Both combatants are at the end of their rope, breathing heavily and the troll isn't regenerating anymore, because he's too hungry. They nod to each other with mutual respect.

The dwarf asks, "Shall we end this by putting everything we've got into one last exchange?"

The troll agrees and they both abandon defense, charging each other for one, final strike! The troll dies as a result and the dwarf is briefly praised as the winner, but just as he starts a speech about his victory, he falls dead, min-sentence.

Seeing the results, Lord Rolar asks, "To the south of Oswil, we have two nations, Fortune Fields and Utros, ruled by dwarves and trolls, respectively. After this evening's spectacle, can you imagine what might happen if circumstances conspired to send them to war?"

Lady Gunn proposes they settle the question with their usual bet at stake: thirty silver pieces.

Chapter 1: Don't Kill the Messenger!

Nepita, Queen of the Trolls sits upon her throne in the great hall of Utros, surrounded by the women of her court, feeling bored.

He thoughts are interrupted by a nervous boy entering the room, carrying a message from the troll king, Shengis, claiming an elf has been captured entering the kingdom.

Nepita invited the boy to come closer and realizes she's looking at her own son, who she handed off to her mate to raise, once he was weaned. She feels a strangely sudden sense of attachment to the fourteen year old boy and grants him the title of 'Prince', similar to the way she granted her mate the title of 'King'. She orders her right-hand woman, Anji, the Weapon Master, to take the boy away for training, then orders her sister, Illa, to test the boy for magic potential, which flies in the face of tradition.

Nepita silences the resulting argument with a thunderous shout and then orders the room cleared. She may have a sentimental side, but Nepita is also unpredictable and beyond deadly. She respected by the entire court due to the way she broke every bone in her grandmother's body, to gain the throne. She's also well-known for revisiting any offense ten-fold, which is her standing international policy.

Raising her voice in song, Nepita touches the mind of her mate, Shengis, that she might use him like a puppet.

Through his eyes, she observes the elf prisoner, who explains his presence by offering up a journal taken from an ill-fated party of dwarves that had been on a spying mission inside troll lands.

It is hinted, but not spelled out that this elf is Lord Rolar, last seenin the prologue.

Nepita speed-reads the journal and is both furious with the dwarves and eager for war, because it will interrupt her boredom.

Disconnecting her mind from Shengis, she calls Anji back into the room, giving orders for the coming conflict.

Chapter 2: Disturbing the Peace

King Gorgo Windmaker, the Tenth, King of the kingdom of Fortune Fields, receives a guest.

Lady Gunn hands over a journal she claims was captured from trolls, which details their spying operation and observations of the dwarf kingdom.

King Windmaker values his profitable business relationship and even friendship with the trolls, despite their obvious differences, but he can't ignore the journal, so he sends his son, Prince Kadrek, as an envoy to Utros, to seek a peaceful conclusion to the conflict.

The price has an eerie journey up the canyon leading to the palace of Utros, until he hears singing that absolutely entrances him, drawing him every forward, until he lays eyes on four troll women. He stares at them in a trace as his men are slaughtered, but just as he's about to be killed, their leader, Anji, recognizes him, having sen the Prince though her mate's eyes.

She orders the prince stripped, shaved and his memory of troll women wiped, then sends him on ahead, for interrogation. The Prince is put to sleep by a magic lullaby.

Chapter 3: Declaration of War

When Kadrek wakes, he faces Shengis and Nepita looks on him through her mate's eyes.

He explains his presence and begs for peace, but neither of the troll rulers believes him, thinking his father sent him under false pretenses.

They hear him out, then give him an ultimatum to deliver, before giving him the night to rest, because eh it's a long, naked, barefoot run back to the palace of Fortune Fields, which he should make sure he hurries to complete, because he has limited time to warn his father before two more villages are destroyed (he's informed of the plan to destroy Flintbrook; see next paragraph).

While the prince sleeps, Anji and her army arrive at the smallest dwarf village along the border to Utros, Flintbrook. They slaughter every dwarf they find, not even sparing the children, and arrange the bodies to spell out a horrifying message: THE PRICE IS TEN-FOLD! They leave no stone of the village standing on another, using bursts of magic to level every structure they find.

At dawn, the prince is released and he runs the entire way, leaving his feet a bleeding mess. He collapses in the throne room and tells his father he must immediately respond with his acceptance of the destruction of Flintbrook or be prepared to lose Withermine and Razorpoint Refuge, followed by all-out war.

Last of all, he warns his father the soldiers should plug their ears and not listen to the singing, before he passes out.

Chapter 4: War Machine

Furious, King Windmaker shouts, "By Nobris, ye don't shave a dwarf's beard!"

Here's a helpful quote from what I've written, to explain:

Nobris was the god of dwarves, industry and beards, who was widely believed to have gifted the dwarf race with their talent for mining and crafting. According to legend, he’d also given them their beards, which grew thicker and longer than the hair of women. To a dwarf, their very beard was a sacred, god-given gift and shaving it off was said to be an affront to Nobris, whom they praised more than any other god. In short, the trolls hadn’t just shamed the prince, but they’d also insulted Nobris.

Kadrek is carried off by the healers, while the King erupts in orders to prepare his kingdom for war. In particular, he orders his war-riders gathered at the west gate, then makes his way to the back of a statue set behind his throne, climbing a ladder to the platform, which allows access to the interior of the statue, which is filled with buttons, levers and other controls. He opens the shutters covering the windshield of the definitely-not-a-statue, allowing more light in, then shuts the back hatch.

He activates the steam engine in the belly of his war-rider, which is actually a huge, steam-powered mech shaped like a giant dwarf armed with an ax and shield. Likewise, the war-riders occupied by his royal guardsmen come to life and they march down the hall, though a huge pair of brass-shod doors.

They emerge on the main street of the royal city and every dwarf witnesses the huge machines in motion, coming to the same conclusion: the kingdom is at war. The workers on their way home from work turn around to volunteer for another shift, while the busy streets are soon cleared, as every man, woman and child among the dwarves sets out to contribute to the war effort, as one lone street vendor, who used to be a royal guardsman sheds a tear for the looming future and the loss of peace, likely with the only joy being the joy of fighting.

Chapter 5: Bloody Razor

I didn't get very far on this chapter, doing little more than writing descriptions as King Windmaker's war-riders gather, then set out, one two companies off to Withermine, while he takes another two off to Razorpoint Refuge.

Razonpoint Refuge is a fort built at the deepest portion of a crescent-shaped mountain named Razorpoint Ridge. The interior of Razorpoint Ridge faces into Fortune Fields and is topped with razor-sharp obsidian, while the prevailing wind blows right into it. The top is high enough that it touches and shaves the bottom off of clouds, causing the land beneath to often fill with fog, incidentally watering the crops for the dwarves living there.

Not only is it fruitful land, but also extremely defensible, so the King's father built a fort there, using the excuse of defending the nearby trade road, to the north, to justify putting a fort so close to troll lands.

King Windmaker splits his force in two, placing them near each tip of the crescent, that they might use a pincer attack when the trolls inevitably come.

Depite the fact backup is on the way, the King worries: Razorpoint Refuge is an impenetrable fortress, impossible to take by force, and yet, the trolls openly declared it as one of their first targets in the war, as if it were a place of weakness. He can't help but wonder what they know that he doesn't.

The answer will become clear on Monday, when I resume writing, but I'm leaning toward it being a matter of troll women and their magic. On the other hand, the trolls have no idea the dwarven war-riders even exist, so it should be a really fun opening battle for the war, with unexpected outcomes on both sides. However, unless I change the chapter title, the battle is going to be bloody.

Tags: writing, work-in-progress, rumors-of-war

More Short Stories

June 26, 2024 — Owen Tyme

After spending an inordinate amount of time fiddling with the details, including small adjustments to CSS files to allow for the posting of properly-formatted prose on my website, I've posted a pair of my old short stories from the days when I put my work up on Wattpad.

The first of these is Community Service Fairy Godmother and the second is Sweet Surrender, which will become the next two entries in my Short of Tyme series. You can find links to their pages there or click on the titles, below.

Neither has cover art at the moment, because I don't wish to re-use their old AI-generated cover art. They'll get another pass of editing sometime before they get new covers illustrated by Ryan Johnson, the artist I work with. As soon as both tasks are done, they'll be published in the usual fashion.

I should soon be posting more stories, because I have more to share, but for now, I hope you'll enjoy these little gems.

Community Service Fairy Godmother

Seeing systemic injustice in the laws established by the Queen of the Fairies, may she reign forever, Sophorica breaks them to draw attention to their absurdity, literally painting New York City red. After all, if the only crime is to be caught and any offense can be forgiven simply by being sneaky, then the law itself can only be considered a cruel joke.

Her crime is expunged from history and the human race is none the wiser, but the Queen, may she reign forever, sentences Sophorica to perform one act of community service in the human realm for each human witness. This service takes the form of granting wishes to human children as their fairy godmother, until they're happy.

However, the awful truth is that granting wishes rarely brings happiness, forcing Sophorica to learn as much as she can about her charges, that she might get them to wish for what they really need, rather than what they want.

Will Sophorica find a way to free herself from the twisted, unjust punishment wrought by the Queen, may she reign forever, successfully demonstrating the flaws in fairy law or will she be forever banished to the human world as a Fairy Godmother?

Sweet Surrender

In this trio of linked tales, learn what happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object.

In the first tale, a priestess to the god of empathy never wanted to involve herself in politics, but when her king seeks riches from the kingdom at the expense of the common man, she's forced to put herself directly in the path of the King's armies, who are under strict orders to turn her away, even if it means killing her. Unfortunately for them, they didn't count on the pain they inflict on her reflecting back!

In the second tale, nobles discuss Aaron Kozinski, an amazing guard that never fails in his duty, no matter how bleak the situation, all in exchange for a little money, that he might eat and pay rent. He stands guard in horrendous weather and even repels assassins, preventing them from coming anywhere near his employer, all without complaint.

In the concluding tale, the two are manipulated into conflict by a mysterious man that hopes they'll destroy each other.

Will the priestess learn enough about Aaron to ease his pain or will she be overwhelmed by his hopelessly broken heart?

Tags: short-story, writing, publishing

Shame On Me, I Guess, Part III

June 15, 2024 — Owen Tyme

Despite my earlier posts regarding how much I dislike the social-media-platform-that-shall-remain-nameless, I got used to using it as an additional platform on which to toot my horn and gain some fans.

I had hoped to reach a larger audience, but now regret my choice to use that website for more than just an experiment.

What Happened?

I released Demon for President!, which is a political satire piece, in which a demon runs for President of the United States.

I posted about it a few times via a science-fiction and fantasy group that I'd taken a liking to, which requires manual approval for all posts before they're shown publicly. The group admin had no issue with what I was doing and approved. He often hit like on my posts in the past, as well. Not that one, but political satire isn't everyone's cup of tea, so fair enough.

Then yesterday, the social-media-platform-that-shall-remain-nameless pulled every last one of my posts to the group over a supposed rule violation for "fraud and deceptive practices". The group admin was absolutely mystified by this, because he knew as well as I that I wasn't deceiving anyone. Any human being that read my posts would have come to the same conclusion.

The software (probably AI) that the social-media-platform-that-shall-remain-nameless uses to moderate literally cannot tell the difference between language related to selling a political satire book and an attempt to get people to vote for a non-existent demon that's running for president.

The absurdity of this is actually quite astonishing to me.

Based on the message that was shoved in my face over this unjust enforcement of their rules, they literally claim the rules for their website are not just enforced by software, but that no human being was even involved in checking the software's work. I have no option to appeal and no opportunity to seek for this to be made right.

In short, they must have fired their human moderators and replaced them with software as a result of their worship of the almighty dollar and desire to cut costs all the way to the bone.

Yes, companies exist to make a profit, but long-term profits have never been found by tying up the end-user, so they can't resist (monopolistic practices), dropping drawers and squatting down on the end user's face (disrespecting the user), followed by defecating into their screaming, open mouth (expecting them to take whatever is dished out, no matter how vile).

That is a disgusting state of affairs, which can only lead to further injustice and it's simply bad business. Period.

It's also a matter of squashing people's right to voice themselves. Yeah, I know, the first amendment doesn't apply, because they own the website, not the government, but squashing people's rights has never been a good business decision in the long run, because the users will leave like rats bailing from a sinking ship, sooner or later.

What Now?

I will never use the social-media-platform-that-shall-remain-nameless again, not even for an experiment. My page there will remain up for another month or two, just to give the people I'm leaving behind a chance to see what happened and point the way to greener pastures.

I doubt they'll follow, but I'll at least have the satisfaction of knowing I've done the right thing by trying to raise the warning flag.


Mastodon is a wonderful social media platform that I can't praise enough, which mimics the interface of the social-media-platform-formerly-known-as-twitter. I've been welcomed by the people that use it, the platform itself treats me with respect and the rules for the server I use are really quite short and straight to the point. I've been using it about the same amount of time as the social-media-platform-that-shall-remain-nameless, but I've had far more success there.

Here's my Mastodon profile, in case you're interested.

I've also recently discovered Lemmy, which is a decentralized forum system that operates similar to Mastodon, based on the same underlying technology (ActivityPub). I'll probably be using this in the future, but I've also been considering using Reddit, because it has a larger user-base.

Pulling Back the Curtain...

The social-media-platform-that-shall-remain-nameless is Facebook, by the way. It's been said before and I'm sure it will be said many times more, but the company isn't worth trusting. Their business practices are atrocious and the only reason they haven't failed is because they're so huge, with so many users, no one can stand the idea of leaving their family and friends behind, even though they'd like to stop using that website.

My suggestion: it's time to walk away. Sometimes, you just have to cross the bridge and then burn it down before the vicious wolves nipping at your heels can reach you.

I should have stuck to my original opinion and never bothered with Facebook, but that's where the people are and I was just trying to promote my novels.

From now on, I'll remember this lesson and hopefully this article series won't get a fourth entry, because that really would be embarrassing for me. "Shame on me", indeed.

What I'll be Doing

Facebook effectively tried to censor one of my books, so would anyone be interested in reading "The Novel Facebook Tried to Silence!" Somehow, I suspect that's a line that will sell books...

Evidence and What I Left Behind

I wish I had screenshots of the posts Facebook removed, but I've got nothing left of most of them due to Facebook wiping them out.

Facebook wiped out at least three promotional group posts (once again, I remind you that these required admin approval to be shown) related to Demon for President!. First was a short post with just the cover and a description of the book, mostly word for word copied from the back cover text, along with the book's cover

Second, I used my ad flyer, which shows off the Republican and Democrat personas of the villain of the book, along with I believe more or less the same text as the previous post. I may have added a little blurb to describe the series, but I'm not sure.

Last of all was a post offering free Ebooks in exchange for honest reviews. It was only tangentially related to Demon for President!, in that it displayed the cover of it.

There was no act of fraud and no intent to deceive anyone in any of this, despite Facebook's unjust claims of such. I was just trying to promote my most recently published novel and get some much-needed reviews, as any self-published author would.

Post #1: Reconstructed Book Announcement

This is as close as I can get to the original text of the post I made announcing the publishing of Demon for President!. I can't guarantee the text is 100% as it was, but this should be quite close, because most of it was a copy+paste from the same sources and it was just a re-arranged and expanded version of one of my Mastodon posts:

Book #3 of Ashen Blades, Demon for President! is now available for pre-order, coming to online bookstores June 10, 2024:

When a snake demon in an expensive, tailored suit takes an irreverent stab at American Presidential politics, the Hunter is literally forced to take a stab at him, to save the USA from getting a Demon for President!

The Hunter’s demonic arch-nemesis, Vogerath, returns to Earth once more, but this time, he’s running for President of the United States, on the 2024 ballot! Worse yet, the demon’s unique power to be in multiple places at once allows him to convincingly pretend to be identical twins, running as both a Republican and Democrat!

The other candidates all drop out of the race under mysterious circumstances and with his best competition being himself, he’s practically assured a win!

Soon, the American people are lapping up the snake-in-a-suit’s every word as if it were ambrosia, calling out his name at every turn, magically charmed to believe he’s the best thing since sliced bread, despite the checkered, criminal history of his “family.”

Hard pressed to get rid of him, the half-demon Hunter and her allies kill him repeatedly, but he pops back up like a bad weed, making all of his appointments on time, photogenically kissing babies, cutting the ribbons of stores and donating laundered blood-money to charitable causes.

Will the hunter manage to end the demon’s presidential campaign before election day? If she doesn’t, the USA may just get a Demon for President! Buy this book today and find out for yourself!

Post #2: The Flyer

Days later, I finally came up with a proper flyer for the book, along with some ad text I was happy with. I can't recall the text for this one, but I think it was nearly identical to the previous post, because I was rather tired at the time and in a lazy mood. I think it was posted on June 8th, but it might have been the 9th. I'm not sure.

Post #3: The Review Request

I'm lucky I saved the text of the last of my censored posts, because I intended to use it elsewhere (and yes, that giveaway code is still good):

FREE Ebooks! Use the code 'P6YFQ' via this link to get free Ebooks of my novels:

If you use this code, then please write an honest review as soon as you've read each book. The truth is I really do need the reviews, just to prime the pump a bit. After all, almost no one will take a chance on a book with no reviews.

Please post reviews to the sites you usually buy from, because most online book sellers, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble, will allow you to post a review without making a purchase.

All of my currently published novels are available to you, including Troll Song, Forgotten Legends, The Third Wish, She Hunts Demons, She Goes to War and Demon for President! My always free short stories are also available, including Emergent Consequences and She Goes to Summer Camp. So, yes, my entire catalog of works are free to you through June 30th, after which the code expires.

Here are some examples of sites on which you can write reviews (each link should point to a list of my published works):

What the Admin Posted

You can find the post from the admin of the group here:

And because I want as much of the evidence out of Facebook's hands as possible, here's a screenshot of the message, including the screenshot he posted and was confused over, along with my comment:

Note the other comment: another witness of the awful over-reaching of the rules, along with willful ignorance of other infractions.

To summarize: no one asked for this unjust enforcement of rules, no one is happy about it and even the admin of the group is mystified about why it happened!

What the Admin Asked Me

The admin also reached out to me. Here's a screenshot of our brief conversation on the matter:

At the time he reached out, I was only aware my review request post had been taken down (I suspected it was because of the use of "we" in the image), but after answering him I dug a little deeper, finding three or possibly four of my posts were gone, all related to the political satire piece, so I think that was the real cause.

Post #4: The Goodbye Post From My Facebook Page

Finally, here's a quote from my last post on Facebook, for the sake of preservation, in case it gets censored just like my group posts about my novel:

I'm done with this social media platform. I don't like the way they enforce their rules (all done with software, with no human to review what the software does, plus no one can appeal to a human over unjust rule enforcement by that software).

They've unjustly applied their rules to me on multiple occasions, sometimes due to over-zealous software that can't grasp the subtleties of human communication and other times because of a literal bug in their software that got me slapped with rule violations for an ad I didn't even run, the form for which was auto-populated by their own software.

Yes, I'm serious: the software filled the form and then punished me for the content of it, before I could even change it. I'm tired of how broken this website is. Period. So, I won't be posting here anymore. I'll leave the page up for now, to get the word out, but when I'm ready (probably in a month or two), it will come down.

If you still want to follow my work on a social media platform, try my Mastodon profile, which is where I'm most active:

Alternatively, you can bookmark my website and visit from time to time, because I update it often: My website includes a blog you can subscribe to with an RSS reader:

Finally, if you just want to chat with me, my E-mail address has always been public:

Good luck to all of you that are staying behind. I'm sure the rule-enforcement bots are coming for you next, since we apparently live in a dystopian future ruled by robots.

Final Thoughts

Sorry this post is far longer than my typical blog entry, but I wanted to both express my feelings and set aside some evidence of Facebook's shameful behavior for the sake of warning others.

I hope you learned something of value from my experience, because perhaps that would make it all worth it.

Tags: social-media, social-media-platform-that-shall-remain-nameless

New Release: Demon for President!

June 10, 2024 — Owen Tyme

I'm delighted to announce the release of a new book! The third volume of Ashen Blades, Demon for President! is now available as an Ebook!

The Hunter's demonic arch-nemesis, Vogerath, returns to Earth once more, but this time, he's running for President of the United States, on the 2024 ballot! Worse yet, the demon’s unique power to be in multiple places at once allows him to convincingly pretend to be identical twins, running as both a Republican and Democrat!

The other candidates all drop out of the race under mysterious circumstances and with his best competition being himself, he's practically assured a win!

Soon, the American people are lapping up the snake-in-a-suit’s every word as if it were ambrosia, calling out his name at every turn, magically charmed to believe he’s the best thing since sliced bread, despite the checkered, criminal history of his “family.”

Hard pressed to get rid of him, the half-demon Hunter and her allies kill him repeatedly, but he pops back up like a bad weed, making all of his appointments on time, photogenically kissing babies, cutting the ribbons of stores and donating laundered blood-money to charitable causes.

Will the hunter manage to end the demon's presidential campaign before election day? If she doesn’t, the USA may just get a Demon for President! Buy this book today and find out for yourself!

There's also a promotional page for this book, which includes links to political pins you can buy.

Tags: ashen-blades, novel, publishing

Stickers of the Hunter

June 03, 2024 — Owen Tyme

Ryan Johnson, the artist that does my book covers, sometimes also does little tie-in products that can be picked up from his store page, like the prototype sticker imaged here, which he kindly sent to me so I could see how they'd turn out.

The currently sold version omits the text and just shows the Hunter/Little Miss Secret/LMS.

Personally, I hope to see other artistic tie-ins to my work in the future. I even get a little money from each sale, since they're based on my writing.

Tags: ashen-blades