Tag Archives: Creative Writing

A Writing Problem I’m Struggling With

A few of you longer term readers MAY recall I keep threatening to get the reboot of my Witchfire series underway. One of the problems I’ve run into is that instead of just doing a cancel and start all over at the beginning (like Television and movies do), I wanted to add a twist and create a situation where our heroine ends up back at day 1 via unintended time travel, and has the opportunity to correct some of her mistakes of the past few months of story time.

Part of me is iffy on the whole idea in the first place. About a year and a half ago I wrote a post on using time travel creatively in fiction instead of using it as a get out of jail free card for bad writing (among other things). It feels like I *am* using it as an easy out to fix what I didn’t like about the first nine chapters though. At the same time, I can add a few other unique and exciting twists that will keep the reboot from becoming the same old “let’s go back in time and fix things” cliche.

The bigger stumbling block for me is the temporal mechanics involved; ie ‘the how it works’ aspects that keep the plot device believable for readers and workable for the writer. Here’s the options I’ve explored:

The standard comic book situation where there just can be multiple versions of characters working side by side. Witchfire is a little overpowered vs the other characters to start with, and two of her could make the story really unbalanced. Multiple iterations of more than one character could get confusing for readers also, so I don’t see this as a viable option.

Two easy options around this would be something like ‘Back to the Future’ or ‘Quantum Leap’, where a character passes out when confronted with their future self, OR is whisked off to some ‘waiting room’. Taking the original out of the picture leaves that character NOT experiencing the events that the future version did though. THEN the future version doesn’t have those events / memories to draw upon anymore. In short, it works if the traveler is only going to be there briefly. Long term, we get plot holes.

I could make the original nine chapters a dream that Witchfire recalls as she goes forward, but let’s face it, THAT has been the ultimate writing cliche and cop out since the resolution of the “Who Shot JR” thing back in the 1980s version of Dallas. I just couldn’t do that without hating myself, lol.

NEVER do this to your readers!

The closest thing I’ve come to finding a workable option is that if a time traveler comes face to face with their past self, the two beings merge into one. This eliminates the writer being saddled with multiple incarnations of the same character running around together, and by extension makes the story easier to follow for the reader.

It’s convenient, but still feels slightly… contrived(?) to me. There’s also the question of do the characters simply un-merge when / IF the time traveler goes back to the future (as opposed to just waiting for time to catch up to the point they traveled). Easy enough to say yes, but does the earlier version retain the later version’s memories and skills that may have been learned? They did essentially share a mind and body after all.

These MAY seem like minor points or questions on the surface, but we’re talking about a plot device that will set the tone early, and may flavor various events as the story progresses. Getting everything correct and coherent is going to be HUGE in how readable the story is.

SO, is there an option I left out? A way to put a little polish on the “merger” idea that might make it feel less awkward? Let me know.

Ever Wonder What Happened to Harry Potter?

Oh sure, you got that brief blurb at the end of Deathly Hollows where he’s sending the kid to Hogwart’s, but what REALLY happened to him? I’ve got the scoop!

After Harry graduated, he tried to pursue a boring 9 to 5 job in the mundane world but quickly bored of it. He traveled to Vegas and quickly became THE act to see on the strip with his magic.

Unfortunately, his unbelievable and unequaled act also earned him the jealous wrath of Penn and Teller, and a few other stage magicians. A vicious smear campaign on social media and elsewhere led to Harry being ran out of town on a rail.

He took the remainder of his savings and settled into small town Tennessee where he opened a couple of gas stations with convenience stores. He’s lived there quietly ever since. His stores are super popular, as they always seem to have everything in stock, and his gas prices have been described as magically, almost unbelievably low. 😉

And now you know the rest of the story…

Some Conan Era Creative Writing

This is actually two shorter stories from my days playing Conan: Exiles. It’s a survival game set in Conan’s Hyborian Age of roughly 10,000 BC. Tyche, the protagonist was exiled from her homeland of Aquilonia for following Derketo, a goddess of life, death and fertility worshiped in Stygia (and elsewhere). Initially, she was conscripted into the army as a scout but her commander later framed her for other crimes and tied them to her still following Derketo instead of the Aquillonian god Mitra.

At that point she was banished to a forsaken land near Stygia known as the Exiled Lands. The area is surrounded by a magical force field and a dark corruption taints the land as well.

Tyche managed to thrive however. She gathered followers, collected slaves and even built a temple to Derketo, and met other priestesses exiled there as well. At the time of the story, Tyche had recently finished repelling an attack on her temple by fanatical followers of Set called the Djeret, and had returned to exploring the area’s ancient ruins for a means of escape. Hopefully that removes any remaining “White Room Syndrome” after trying to rework the story for non-players.

Shattered Faith

Tyche approached her lovingly crafted temple to Derketo with a weary pace.  The young, curvaceous Aquilonian exile paused to admire it’s craftsmanship.  The building was as grand as any seen outside of a major capital and featured intricate ancient Greek-like Aquilonian design in spite of Derketo being largely considered a Stygian goddess.  Tyche was proud of her efforts, and those of her followers and thralls in building it

Tyche pushed open the heavy hardwood doors and entered the temple after a long journey through the Unnamed City’s ruins.  Her research there had been invaluable, but the battles against the undead and giant “dragons” had left her exhausted, and a bit the worse for wear.  She looked up as she crossed the threshold and saw bodies strewn about the temple floor; her dancers and assistant priestess all dead with their throats cut.

Tyche dropped the large sack she had slung over her shoulder, momentarily stunned in disbelief.

“No…” was all she could say before taking her spear in both hands and sprinting up the stairs to the upper levels.  The scene was similar on the artisan’s working level on the second floor.  Some of them were missing however.  Tyche wondered if they were killed elsewhere, fled, or part of whatever conspiracy caused this.

Tyche ran up to the next level, where all her research was kept.  There, perched on the middle of the painstaking recreation of the mystical map room that Tyche had built, was the Setite assassin Nefu’ani that Tyche had recently beaten and enslaved, and Tyche’s favored thrall Ciona.  Ciona was bound and gagged with cuts and bruises all over her tall, muscular yet feminine body.  Around Ciona were multiple explosives, which Nefu’ani was tinkering with.

“Oh good, you’ve come home to die with your accursed temple.” Nefu’ani said with a vemonous tone and a sadistic smirk.

“DUST!” Tyche screamed.  “I will kill you for this disobedience.”  “Slowly… and… painfully”.

“I am Dust no more.” Nefu’ani snapped glibly.  “I admit to my shame that you had broken me utterly, but glorious Set restored my will and has shown me the path to redemption.  I will carry your shameful label of Dust never again.”

“Your ‘redemption’ will be nothing more than joining your lover’s fool corpse on the roof as food for the crows.” Tyche snapped bitterly.

“We will see who lays bloodied at whose feet.” Nefu’ani snarled. 

So saying, Nefu’ani flung her dagger at Tyche; a perfect throw heading straight for her center line.  Tyche dropped her spear, and caught the dagger, clapping her hands together and catching it by the flats of the blade.

Nefu’ani snarled and charged in, Khopesh overhead ready to strike.  Before she could get close however, Tyche rolled her foot across the top of the spear on the ground, it’s momentum rolling it onto the top of Tyche’s foot.  She promptly kicked it upwards into her left hand and thrust it into Nefu’ani’s abdomen.

Nefu’ani immediately was stopped dead in her tracks as she was impaled on the spear.  The Khopesh fell from her hand and she coughed up a bit of blood as she struggled to speak.

Tyche stared murderously at her.  Releasing the spear, she spun around and brought the dagger, now in her right hand, across Nefu’ani’s throat.  “No more words for you.” Tyche snarled, kicking Nefu’ani backwards onto her back.

Tyche ran over to Ciona and cut her bonds, then pulled her close and held her.  “It’s over my pet.” Tyche whispered.  “Nobody will ever hurt you again, I promise.”

Tyche helped Ciona slowly to her feet, and they began walking slowly towards the stairs leading downward.  Tyche draped one of Ciona’s arms over her own shoulder, and wrapped an arm around Ciona’s waist to support the woman.

They got half way to the stairway, and Tyche paused, looking back.  The map room had been a bit of a risky gamble, given the way it’s magical energy, affected the environment of the Exiled Lands.  She had strictly forbidden it’s use by anyone.  It was strictly intended as a research project; an opportunity to study and find a way to overcome the dark corruptions that had taken over such devices, and the land itself.  Knowledge was power; that had always been her guiding belief.

Tyche glanced over at the explosives around the room.  Nefu’ani had placed them well.  If they had been ignited, they would have destroyed all the key structural supports and brought the entire temple down

“I’ll have to disassemble those quickly”, Tyche muttered.  “First, I’m going to take care of you though.” Tyche said to Ciona with a warm smile before giving her a soft kiss on the forehead.

They started walking again but both saw a strange light from behind them.  They turned to see the explosives bathed in an eerie lavender light, and the fuses, now somehow much shorter, ignite.

“NO!” Tyche screamed.

“RUN MISTRESS!”, Ciona screamed, pushing Tyche down the stairs.  Tyche tumbled head over heel until she hit the landing at the corner of the temple.

Before she could do anything, there was a deafening roar, then everything went black.

Tyche began to slowly regain consciousness and moaned loudly.  She hurt everywhere, and felt as if she was being crushed.  Her ears were ringing and she couldn’t hear anything.

“Ciona!” she cried out.  “Where are you?”

Tyche’s vision came back into focus and she could see she was pinned beneath two large pieces of stone rubble.  She struggled to move the large chunk of stone on her chest.  It wouldn’t budge in the slightest.  Tyche closed her eyes and focused.  Her entire body began to glow with spiritual energy and she pushed the large block off of her.  Exhausted by the effort, she collapsed back against the pile of rubble.

Amplifying her strength that way, particularly to that degree, was extremely draining and something she could only do for very brief periods of time.  Still, once again, her training had saved her life.

After a minute or so, Tyche had caught her breath.  She sat up and looked at the slab of stone pinning her legs.  She tried to squirm out from underneath it, which only resulted in an agonizing shooting pain racing up her left leg.

Broken, gods damned it, she cursed to herself.

Tyche tried to lift the stone but couldn’t get good leverage on it.  It was barely one quarter the size of the larger stone, but she was in bad shape.  She found the remains of a building timber barely within reach.  After a few moments of fighting to reach it, she got a grip on it and wedged it under the stone on her legs.  It took a few tries, but Tyche finally got it positioned correctly and used it as a lever to lift the stone enough to slide out from underneath it.

She tried to stagger to her feet but her left leg was badly broken and unwilling to support any weight.  Tyche estimated that she had a few broken ribs as well, judging from her shortness of breath and the stabbing pain in her right side.  She was covered in bruises and lacerations as well, and still wasn’t able to hear anything beyond the ringing in her ears.

She crawled around the rubble, getting more cut up by the jagged marble remnants.  Eventually she found a couple of pieces of wood and the remains of a banner.  She used them to make a splint for her left leg, and then wrapped her ribs with the remaining portion of the banner.

Propping herself up on a branch that she used as a makeshift crutch, Tyche began scrambling about the rubble as best she could, searching for Ciona.  She called out for her repeatedly, desperately scanning the rubble for any signs of movement.  After two hours of searching and fighting through the pain, all Tyche found was Nefu’ani’s battered body, lying near the center of the temple’s remains, and, oddly enough, the severed head of the statue of Derketo from the temple’s altar.

Tyche let out a long stream of obscenities as tears rolled down her cheeks.  She used her good leg to kick Nefu’ani’s corpse repeatedly.

The eyes of the severed head of Derketo’s statue began to glow in the same eerie lavender color that Tyche has seen earlier.

*Next time, perhaps you’ll learn to show my enemies no mercy, a booming female voice said in Tyche’s head.*  It was the same domineering female voice that Tyche had heard when she was crucified and left here to die.

.

“You!”  “You did this?!?” Tyche demanded.  “How could you?!?”  “For a decade I’ve been your most loyal servant!”

*YOU will not question nor make demands of me, foolish child, Derketo snapped.  You have a great purpose among my children, but you are still weak and flawed…  You need to be properly tempered like any steel, lest you become brittle and useless.*

“So I’m just some tool to you?” Tyche snarled defiantly.  “I’ve given you everything and it’s still not enough!”  “You took Amoli from me, my love and teacher…  drove her who knows where, IF she’s even still alive.”  “My family denounced me, as did the Priests of Mitra.”  “Even after they beat me for days and scarred my back, I wouldn’t renounce you.”  “When I was forced into the Aquilonian military as punishment, I used every art that was unveiled to me to be the best scout in the army and quietly spread your word.”  “Instead of being rewarding my efforts, you took a husband away from me, and had me left here by my own people, betrayed to die.”

SILENCE! Derketo commanded.  You have a temple to rebuild and work to do.

“I WILL NOT BE SILENT!” Tyche screamed as tears of rage flowed down her face.  She hadn’t cried once since she was a child.  Even when Amoli was driven from Shamar, Tyche had stayed strong.  “I built your damned temple as you commanded.”  “I made it a monument to your glory.”  “My thanks was to be forced to defend the temple alone against overwhelming odds, with NO help from you.” 

“I was violated for hours before exhausting and overcoming them, all because you were offended that I let one of them touch your damnable altar during their attack?!?”  “Now you ruined everything I built in your name, took the one last thing I treasured in this world, and expect me to just obediently put it back together for you??”  “GO TO GEHENNA!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. 

She pulled the amulet of Derketo from her neck, breaking the chain, and flung it at the statue head.  Afterwards, she let out a primal scream at the top of her lungs and fired a bolt of magical energy from her hand at the statue head, shattering it.

Tyche sobbed uncontrollably and began staggering Northward…

One quick note here; the story was created to explain dismantling Tyche’s temple in the game. While it was a masterpiece, there were building issues in the game that would cause server instability and we all had to trim the construction WAY back. Because, you know… why fix bugs when you can make the players suffer instead? Kinda like the issues around the California fires. Thanks FunCom, LOL.

This next piece happens a few weeks later. Tyche has moved northwards in the Exiled lands and built a small cabin in the woods there. The other characters discussed are fellow Priestesses of Derketo. Salome is also Ember and the Storm Caller (both nicknames for her).

A VISIT…

Tyche sat on the edge of her bed, absently sipping a mug of mead while staring into the nearby fireplace.  Darkness was beginning to fall outside the small stone cabin she’d managed to construct herself in the Northern wilderness.  The work had been difficult with her broken leg and ribs, but she managed.  The fog had hidden her work for days as well.

She’d originally imagined herself alone in the area.  Scouting the area proved otherwise and had turned up a logging camp a moderate distance away.  Tyche discovered it was run by the mysterious stranger that had left the large donation of materials for the temple.  Watching him, she thought the donations were odd now, since he didn’t seem particularly religious.  She settled on the belief he was simply being helpful regardless of his personal beliefs.

She wasn’t certain if he’d seen her scouting either.  Her splint made her movement annoyingly awkward and clumsy.  She was fairly certain he’d found her cabin.  Thus far however, he’d respected her privacy, for which she was grateful.

Outside, the wind was picking up.  Tyche shivered and pulled the blanket tighter around her.

Amazing how quickly I lost my tolerance for colder weather, living in that heat, Tyche mused silently.  She looked out the small window.  I wonder if another rainstorm is coming…  Probably not.  The air is always more humid when rain is imminent.

Tyche noticed a slight gleam of light, perhaps from a shielded lantern, and heard light footsteps on the steps.

If they’re raiders, they’re certainly careless ones, Tyche thought.  She started to reach for her axe, on the wall mounted weapon rack behind her.  No wait…  I only hear two sets of footsteps, Tyche thought as she listened carefully.  Both walking awkwardly and one using a walking stick of some sort.  Lost travelers perhaps.  Grabbing her makeshift crutch in the other hand, she fought her way to her feet and hobbled to the door just as there was a knock at it.

Tyche removed the bar on the door and put it next to the door.  She undid the latch and opened it door a crack.  On the porch were two women wrapped in cloaks against the evening chill.  Their faces were partially obscured by the hoods of their cloaks, but the one closest looked young; perhaps Tyche’s age.  She was clearly the worse for wear from whatever journey she was on though.  Her stance indicated both injury and fatigue.

Behind her, an elderly woman with darker skin was leaning on a walking stick.  The woman looked almost ancient, aside from her actual eyes, which held an odd youthfulness yet deep wisdom at the same time.

Unbeknownst to Tyche, at this point a sphere of magical energy had appeared in the center chamber of New Amaranth’s temple, giving the sisters there a view of what was transpiring.

“Can I help you?” Tyche asked with a hint of suspicion.  “You must be lost to be so far in the wilderness this late in the evening.”

“Mistress…  Is… is it really you?” came a hauntingly familiar voice from beneath the hood of the first cloak.

Tyche’s eyes went wide and her heart jumped a beat.  The dagger she had in her left hand hidden behind the door fell from her hand. 

“C… Ciona?” Tyche asked, her voice trembling. 

The hooded figure nodded weakly, light glinting off of tears under her hood.

Tyche slowly opened the door the rest of the way and slowly reached out, pulling the woman’s hood back.  Ciona smiled weakly back at Tyche as the hood came off.

“H… how…” Tyche stammered, her eyes tearing up.

Ciona stood there, her jaw trembling and uncertain what to say.  Her eyes desperately searched Tyche’s face for some sign of approval.

“I thought you were dead.” Tyche exclaimed, throwing her arms around Ciona and hugging her tightly.  “I missed you terribly.”

Ciona let out an audible sigh of relief and held Tyche tightly.

After a couple of moments, they felt eyes on them and broke them embrace.  Both of them quickly remembering the old woman who was traveling with Ciona.

“She… brought me to you, mistress.” Ciona said humbly.

Tyche was uncertain what to make of all of this.  She managed to stammer a “thank you”, then glanced at both of them.  “You must both be cold and tired.”  “Please, come inside.” Tyche scanned the twilight shrouded landscape cautiously.  “These woods can be dangerous at night.”

Tyche ushered the two in and then shut and barred the door behind them.  “We’ll be safe enough now…” Tyche said with a hint of a smile.  She glanced at the old woman, who had made herself at home, moving a stool to the edge of the fireplace removing her cloak and sitting down near the fire.

“You… seem familiar.” Tyche said, studying her.  “Do I know you?”

The old woman chuckled.  “I’ve been around a long time, deary.” She remarked casually. “I doubt I travel in circles as exciting as yours however.”  She motioned to Tyche’s broken leg and the bandages around her waist.  “Woods… didn’t seem THAT dangerous…” she added.

Tyche sighed and turned her attention to Ciona, caressing her shoulders.  “Long story.” Tyche said in an abrupt tone.  “…Ancient history too.” 

Tyche kissed Ciona on the cheek and sat her down in front of the fire then draped a blanket over her shoulders and gave Ciona the tankard of mead that she had been nursing prior to their arrival.  Ciona, nuzzled Tyche’s cheek during the kiss and then watched the exchange between the two women uneasily.

“Not so ancient that those injuries have healed.” The old woman observed.  “…or the scars on the inside, judging from the tone of your voice.”

“What would you know about it?” Tyche snapped defensively.

“You learn a great deal about the human heart when you’ve been around as long as I have.” The old woman replied with a knowing smile.  “I could see some of that pain disappear when you saw her, for example.” The old woman said, gesturing to Ciona.  In the meantime, Ciona had fallen asleep sitting there in front of the fire and was slightly slumped over.

Tyche lowered Ciona onto her back and put a pillow under her head, then made sure she was covered. 

“I didn’t see enough disappear to believe you’re truly in love with her either.” The old woman said pointedly.  “You care for her, feel responsible for her… but you’re not in love with her.”  The old woman paused a moment, as if letting that observation sink in.  “She worships you however.” she continued.  “If you’ll permit an old woman, that doesn’t seem fair or healthy to either of you.”

Tyche paused.  She was tempted momentarily to lash out and tell the woman to mind her own business.  Perhaps it was the lack of human contact for over a week, perhaps it was the turmoil over seeing Ciona alive again…  Tyche felt the need to unburden herself though.

“I…” she paused for several moments.  “When I first saw Ciona, she was strong, vibrant, breathtaking…” Tyche began.  “I acted selfishly and captured her and broke her.”  “It was amazing at first.”  “I had come to rely on her for things also.”  Tyche paused again and let out a pained sigh.  “She’s not the same though.”  “Her spirit is broken and she’s so full of self-doubt and neediness.”  “She’s dying inside, I can’t give her what she truly needs, and yet I feel responsible for her.”

“Sounds like you need to make adjustments to your relationship then, deary.” the old woman replied.

“An interesting euphemism for ending it and being alone in the world again.” Tyche said dejectedly.

“Youngsters…” so full of determination but so lacking in vison.” The old woman chuckled.  “Adjust doesn’t mean end, child.” she continued.  “You should look for an option that allows you to have your companionship, and gives her enough freedom to regain her inner strength.”

Tyche nodded understandingly.  “Yes… you’re right.”  “If only it were so simple to figure out how exactly to do that.”

The elderly woman snickered slightly.  “I’m sure you’ll manage.”  I doubt you want some old woman telling you how to live your life anyway, hmmm?”

Tyche nodded slowly, lost in thought.  “Yeah… that hasn’t worked out so well for me in the past.”

The old woman nodded.  “That…” she pointed at Tyche’s leg, “how that happened, hmm?”

Tyche paused and then poured a cup of tea for the old woman.  “Here…  you must be cold and thirsty after your journey.”

“Thank you, dear.” The woman replied, sipping on the tea.  “That doesn’t answer the question though.”

“I… really don’t want to talk about it.” Tyche replied, trying not to sound too rude.  She glanced over at the sleeping Ciona.  “Where did you find her?” Tyche asked, trying to change the subject.

“Out near an obelisk at the far end of these accursed lands.” The old woman replied absently.  “She was unconscious and covered with cuts and burns.”

“An obelisk…” Tyche mused.  “It must have been the map room.”  She sighed.  “I thought I had it locked down.”  She looked at the old woman.  “I’m grateful you found her and brought her back to me though.”

“Hmph…” the old woman grumbled.  “Playing with map rooms, were you?”  “Dangerous, those things are.”  “They’re corrupted with dark magicks and feed the darkness upon this land.”

“So I’ve been told.” Tyche replied flatly.  “I was trying to find a way to either remove the corruption and make them safe again, or somehow turn them against the darkness.”

The old woman chuckled.  “Ambitious one, aren’t you?”  “Much like the storm caller, in your own way.”  She sighed.  “Still, there’s little chance of accomplishing what you seek, at least without the five artifacts that are required to unlock the bracelets.”  “It’s all connected, child.”

“A fresh set of eyes never hurts.” Tyche replied.  “At least as long as I’m cautious.”

The old woman laughed this time.  “Cautious eh?”  “Yet you talk about weaponizing the matrix against the darkness.”  “Are you indeed like the storm caller?”  “Would you destroy this land and every living thing within it to destroy the darkness?”

“If I was left with no other option, and doing so meant saving far more lives than it cost, yes…  as a last resort, I would.” Tyche replied matter-of-factly.

“Coldly pragmatic, and ambitious.” The old woman remarked.  “Quite a bit in common in deed.”  “Yet both of you never consider that you may not see all that you need in order to make proper choices.”

“I’m human, I don’t pretend otherwise.” Tyche replied, a bit defensive at this point.  “I try to be thorough in my analysis of situations however.”

The old woman nodded thoughtfully.  “Unlike the storm caller, hmm?”  “Too convinced of her infallibility and knowledge, that one…”

“You presume to know an awful lot about us.” Tcyhe replied.

“As said my dear, I’ve been around these lands a long, long time…” the old woman replied.  “Long before Thoth Amon began his unholy work here.”

“If you’ve been spying that long, you should be slower to judge Ember.” Tyche said defensively.  “She’s been through a tremendous amount…”  “I don’t condone all she’s done, but I understand the whys, and the pain that’s colored her decisions.”

“When decisions have the consequences that hers can have, one must be careful to make sure to set aside their biases and explore all options.” The old woman retorted.

“Yes, it’s all so easy…” Tyche said with a bit of contempt.  “Just think more, oh and trust to the gods to look out for us as well.” Tyche let out a derisive snort.  “They always answer our prayers and protect us.”

“It’s sometimes a wonder the gods answer prayers at all when people carry such attitudes so often.” The old woman said in a slightly derisive tone.

“By all means, enlighten me on the nature of faith then.” Tyche replied bitterly.

“You want the opinion of an old woman after refusing to listen to your god, eh?” the old woman chuckled amusedly at the perceived irony.  “Very well, listen and I will tell you what an old woman has learned over many years:”

“Think of the relationship between the gods and mortals as akin to parent and child.” The old woman continued gently.  “They can tell you what to do when your faith is young, and hope you follow.”  “At some point however, a child has to grow, to learn to walk on their own.”  “As a follower, you are most useful and grow the most as a being, when you can walk without one of them holding your hand.”  “Yes, that means sometimes watching you fall, skin your knee and suffer the consequences of your actions.”  “Such is the nature of growth, and the universe however.”  “If actions had no consequences, mortals would run amok, and gods would spend all their time cleaning up the results of those actions.”  “It would be a downward spiral of entropy and chaos.”

“Even if gods wanted that path… their power is vast, but not unlimited.” The old woman continued.  “They still do what they can to mitigate the consequences of mortals’ actions, such as with the temple’s destruction.”  “None the less, much of what you blame on the gods is, in fact, man’s inhumanity to man.”  “Either that or faith without works to aid the gods in aiding you.”

Tyche nodded quietly, her arms crossed in front of her.  “An interesting theory.” She replied.

“I suspect we could discuss various points of your life, and discover where things might have been different were different choices made.” the old woman said in a scholarly tone.  “That, perhaps is something best left for introspection however.”  “Think of it as a chance to grow your ability to see things with fresh eyes.” She added with a slight smirk.

“Fresh eyes wouldn’t change the fact that my own goddess destroyed her own temple and tried to kill me in the process.

“So sure of that, are you?” the old woman replied bluntly.  “Even after what I already showed you regarding your limited perceptions?”  “Very well, then let me show you the folly of insisting one has absolute knowledge when they have only partially seen.”

“Again, truth is subjective when one only sees a partial picture.” The old woman said, with a slightly sterner tone.  “More so when one lets their pain and biases blind them as well.”  “A concept you should be very familiar with, given the people that have crossed your path since you arrived here.”

Tyche nodded slowly.  It was clear she was listening but still skeptical.

“That still doesn’t explain why she destroyed her own temple” she replied.  “I slaved for weeks, to the point of exhaustion and illness… all to honor her and the sacred vow I made.”

“And then you let your focus and training slip.” The old woman replied calmly.  “You forgot to keep the Djeret filth under close watch, and you grew complacent.”  “That aside from the fact that such a dangerous and irredeemable creature should have been slain for the greater good.”

“So, it’s MY fault she ignited those explosives?” Tyche retorted, her anger again rising.

The old woman scowled at Tyche and then waved her hand.  A circle of magical energy appeared and showed Nefu’ani cutting her palm with a dagger and then bleeding a little on each bomb.

“Those explosives were enchanted with Djeret blood magic, prideful child.” The old woman said.  “Your enemy wanted to make certain that even if she perished, her revenge would be complete.”  “Something you would have discovered easily had you remembered your priorities.”  The old woman motioned towards the sleeping Ciona with her head.  “This one was in no immediate danger from her injuries.”  “You should have dealt with the threat first, then tended to your play thing.”

Tyche looked down, a guilty look on her face.  “I… I’ve been so lonely, I… couldn’t handle the thought of any more loss.”

“So you’ve said…” the old woman replied.  “And yet you still haven’t even fully realized how she was restored to you.”

The scene continued to play, and as the fuses burned down rapidly.  Suddenly they were engulfed in the lavender energy that Tyche recalled, and the fuses slowed to a crawl.  Then Ciona shoved Tyche down the stairs, trying to save her.  Immediately afterwards, Ciona was engulfed in the lavender energy and pulled through the map room.  Then the images faded away completely.

“I… still don’t understand.” Tyche said quietly.  Her tone was both humbled and sorrowful.  “If she could do that much, why not just put out the bombs?”

The old woman sighed softly.  “That… is the problem with mortals.” she said flatly.  “No matter how much a god might do, it’s not enough.”   “…Or you waiver the other way and think you have to do it all yourself either to prove yourself, or because they are uncaring.”  “Again, it has to do with actions having consequences and even gods having limits to their power.”

“You’ve given me a great deal to dwell on.” Tyche said with a guilty sigh.  “It certainly appears I’ve been a petulant fool.”  “Derketo and the Sisterhood probably wouldn’t even want me back after my blasphemy and folly.”

“I imagine the gods are used to the short-sightedness of mortals.” The old woman replied with a slight chuckle.  “Likewise, I’m certain all of your sisters have had their own struggles with faith.”

“Not Amrita.” Tyche replied pitifully.  “He faith is unshakable.”  “I wish I could be more like her in that regard.”

“And yet you’ve heard her say that she has difficulty communing with the dark lady.” The old woman replied.  “Such acts require faith in one’s self as well.” She continued in a knowing tone.

“I’ve seen nothing to indicate any doubt there.” Tyche replied, curious.

“You never would with her though, would you?” the old woman asked knowingly.

“Beyond her admission of difficulty communicating?”  “No.” Tyche replied.  She’s too dedicated for that.

The old woman nodded slowly.  “You are correct, and insightful… for a youngling.”

Tyche looked up thoughtfully.  “You seem to know a great deal.”  “What more can you tell me about Ember?” she asked.

“Hmmm, precious little that you don’t already know, child.” The old woman replied.  “Much more than that, you should hear from her herself.”  “She was not always as she was.”  “She has allowed herself to become a woman consumed by guilt, pain and yes, even anger.”  “She blames both herself and Derketo for the past and present.”  “Her heart is closed off, and needs somebody to help her open it again.”

“So, you believe it’s possible to break through her shell of pain as well then…” Tyche asked.  “That there is a good and caring woman beneath it?”

“It is indeed possible.” The old woman answered, placing careful accent on the last word.  “There are never guarantees where mortal pride and pain is concerned however.”  “But there is a strong, noble woman full of hope, determination and love deep within her.”  “She just needs to believe that it’s safe for that woman to show herself to the world.”

“Now that your eyes and heart are open, perhaps I can impart some much-needed information to you and your sisters as well.” The old woman said in an almost testing tone.

“By all means, if you have such information, I’m eager to hear it.” Tyche replied earnestly.

“Very well…” the old woman replied.  “Listen well.”  “Your sisters and you are not here in this land by Derketo’s doing, and only minor carelessness can be blamed on you.” The old woman said.  “None the less, your presence is a tool that is desperately needed here.”  “The Storm Caller spoke the truth, at least as best she could see it, regarding the taint on this land.”

Tyche bit her lower lip pensively and nodded, a slight sigh escaping her.

“Your sisters seemed to instinctively know that the energy here needed balancing by compassion and love.” The old woman said.  “They are on the correct path, restoring ruins and trying to aid other exiles.”

“What more must be done?” Tyche asked.

“Good, you begin to see…” the old woman replied.  “The presence that taints this land is dark beyond measure and ancient even to the gods.”  “Salome is correct in that it cannot be destroyed… yet”.  “For the time being, it can only be contained.”  “The temple, as all such buildings are, was a focus of positive spiritual energy.”  “That energy helps hold the darkness at bay.”

“I think I understand…” Tyche replied.

“The nature of this land limits the ability of even the gods to act in a more direct manner.” The old woman continued.  “A hasty move by even one of them could have dark consequences for this land and the world beyond.”

“But mortals can move about with less notice by this… entity” Tyche started.  “…and by things such as the temple, we can create a… net of positive energy to keep this thing locked away.”

“Very good…” the old woman said.  “Your insight serves you well.”  “No doubt that is part of why Derketo permitted you to be matron of your own temple.”  The old woman paused for a moment before continuing.  “A council of gods was arranged recently.”  “gods normally with no reason to ally have come together…”  “Derketo, Jhebbel Sag, Mitra, and others, even Yog…”  “They see the danger of this horror escaping.”  “Only Crom has refused to respond to the other gods.” 

“If many of the gods have allied against this threat, how can we fail?” Tyche asked.

“Because one refuses to cooperate, and actively works against us all.” The old woman replied.  She paused for a moment.  “Set, and his fool lacky Thoth Amon, idiotically believe they can control or ally with this evil.”

“Are they insane?” Tyche asked, shocked.

“Mad with power.” The old woman replied in a grim tone.  “They believe that, failing the first two possibilities, that the evil and those allied against it will destroy each other.”

“Leaving them to pick up the pieces and rebuild the work in their image.” Tyche interjected with a sigh.  “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised…”  “Much of the darkness across this land was caused by Set’s worship.”

“Indeed.” The old woman replied.  “The key will be the temples and altars.”  “Any altar, or indeed any thing built for the greater good will be used as a conduit for the gods’ combined energies to weave a web of mystical energy and repair the spiritual barriers between the mortal world and the home realm of this evil.”

“If… we can create a strong enough web of energy, then what?” Tyche asked.

“That… remains to be seen.” The old woman replied.  “The results that achieves… how successful it is or isn’t, will determine what options are available at that point.”  “This is not the first time the gods fought this evil.”  “Last time, they were only able to seal it away in a sort of hibernation… and Set stood with them that day.”

“Doesn’t sound good for our side.” Tyche replied.

“Do not despair.” The old woman replied.  “The potential of mortals is vast.”  “It’s why the gods nurture mortals and try to guide their path.”

Tyche nodded slowly, trying to take all of this in.

“I don’t know what use I can be in such a situation.” Tyche lamented.  “I… mean, Armita and Ember are both high priestesses.”  “I’ve been a devoted follower for a decade, but was a priestess only a brief time.”

“You have knowledge equal to many who call themselves a high priestess.” The old woman replied knowingly.  “Humility serves one well, but not when it crosses to martyred self-doubt.” 

Tyche looked down pondering everything she’d learned and wondering how to repair what everything.  After several moments of introspection, she finally had to ask.  “How do you know all of this?” she asked, puzzled.  She looked up, waiting for an answer, but as she did, the old woman was gone.  Tyche glanced at the still barred door and then back at the empty chair.  She saw something on the chair and walked over, picking it up.  She held it up to the light to discover it was the amulet of Derketo that Amoli  had given her over a decade ago…  the same one that she’d flung at the shattered statue in the temple ruins.

Tyche let out a pained sigh and looked at Ciona, then sat down next to her and rested Ciona’s head in her lap.  So much to absorb…  So many angry, flawed presumptions to undo… Tyche thought.  I don’t know where to begin, or how to undo it all…

Tyche sighed and began meditating while softly stroking Ciona’s hair.

Yes, for anybody who actually read instead of just hitting the like button, I wove some real life opinions on faith into that second part and craftily hid them as fiction and relating to a mythology only found in stories. I’m evil like that. 😀