Maps in Fantasy Fiction: Tips and Tricks

Crafting a map for a fictional universe can be a handy resource for readers. Not every fiction has a cartographic reference, nor is it a requirement for good work. However, when done correctly, a map benefits both author and reader.

In this article, I’ll give an example of how I create my maps. You can take what you find appropriate and apply it to your projects. Hopefully, this tutorial will get you started. It may be a bit complicated and technical but bear with me.

Setting Up

You can use whatever media you want to design your map. I use a free program called GIMP. Set your image borders appropriately, and use a DPI of 300×300, in case you ever print out the map. Search under advanced settings for this feature.

Layer 1: The Background

When you have your blank canvas set up, first address the background. My personal preference is a basic fill tool. Your mileage may vary, depending on what kind of background your story needs. Most maps are continents, so they require an ocean or blue background.

Something like this:

AtlasMapTutorial1

I did a fill command in GIMP for the ocean backdrop here, then added some darker shades to indicate ocean depth.

Layer 2: Landmass

The next layer I work on is the outline and general fill of the land. Choose a yellow, peach, or brown color that resembles dirt or clay—or do whatever you want of course—for the land color.

AtlasMapTutorial2

You can use a pathing or pencil tool to create the black outline of the land, as shown, then use the fill tool. Most land isn’t perfect or smooth. Go for jagged edges along coasts or coves to simulate water erosion. You can also get creative and design fragment islands.

Layer 3: Land Color/Features

With the general land layer in place, you can focus on the more detailed facets of your map. Color coding. This step can be done in several ways, but in my example, I use pure color to indicate trees and mountains.

AtlasMapTutorial3

I used a light green to represent grasslands, dark green for forests, blue for lakes and rivers, brown for mountains areas, and white-brown for snow. Select all of layer 2 with a wand tool, so you don’t create color outside the landmass.

For the water masses, I went back to layer 2 and erased parts of it. Doing this allowed layer 1 to fill in where lakes and rivers lie.

Layer 4: Additional Land Details

This is another optional and flexible step, depending on what you want for your map. I added redundant mountain figures and then floating islands here. This gave the map more depth.

AtlasMapTutorial4

Here’s a tip: create one mountain figure and then use the clone stamp tool to easily replicate it. This makes it a lot easier! 🙂

Layer 5: Landmarks

Now that you have your land finished, it’s time to add landmarks! What do I mean? Cities, castles, special areas, and so forth. No, you don’t have to draw an entire castle—use symbols to represent them.

AtlasMapTutorial5

I used simple dots with minor details. You can certainly be creative with this and draw one small castle—then, using the clone stamp tool, replicate it wherever.

Layer 6: Map Legend

Every map needs a legend—a reference to tell readers what your landmarks mean. A north arrow or distance bar is also handy. You can make one yourself, or download a free-stock photo.

AtlasMapTutorial6

Position your legend so that it doesn’t overlap over map details. Choose a location where there is a lot of “empty space”; this will add visual balance to your map.

Layer 7: Captions

You need captions that specify major or minor points on the map. Include text for your legend, a title, and any additional information a reader should know. A small bit about who authored the map is also good.

AtlasMapTutorial7

In this example, broader or more critical areas have a larger font size, while minor or smaller areas have a lower font size. If I were to do this over again, I’d probably make the font size for cities a bit larger, but at the same time, I don’t want to crowd the other map details with text. On an ebook or actual copy, the text would scale larger, but in the thumbnail here, it’s smaller.

Also consider using New Times Roman, or Courier. You want text that is easy to read, not necessarily fancy ones like I tried above.

Try adding in a background behind certain captions to improve readability. Don’t make it too sharp, just enough to accentuate the caption’s letters. Notice the difference below:

Layer 8: Border Details

Try adding in some special effects to your borders. This will help your map stand out! Maybe mist or fading out of the ocean. I went with scroll parchment.

Other Things to Consider

You could also add in fantasy details like sea dragons swimming in the ocean, or maybe other mythic creatures that add an “ancient” feeling to your map. Clouds with shadows are nice too. Go wild! Remember, this is your map and fictional world.

Creating maps is a fun activity that adds important detail to your story. A map can be a wide variety of things—and the example above is just a few of them. Remember, there are thousands of ways to design a map, and it doesn’t have to be perfect.

I hope this article has helped get you started with the map making process. Cheers. 🙂


Interested in joining a Mailchimp community? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on the project, Ethereal Seals.

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Reflections on Pepper Slyhart, my OC

Hello, my readers, to another installation, this one about my main character, Pepper Slyhart. My post will break down Pepper’s character, her progression over the years, and what made her into what she is today.

Pepper is the main protagonist of my upcoming fantasy series, Ethereal Seals. She’s a hotheaded young lady with a sword, which instructs her on her journey. As a half-dragon hybrid, society shuns Pepper for her half-breed blood. She must conquer her own fears and insecurities to save Atlas.

What Are Her Flaws?

Pepper is prone to anger, and emotions often sway her judgment. She sometimes acts before she thinks, leading to dire, or even hilarious, situations in the story. Because she compares herself to her hero father, Pepper has self-esteem issues.

Due to a childhood accident, Pepper has difficulties flying through the air, while other characters take it for granted. Her ability with magic is subpar, considered novice-level.

What Are Her Strengths?

Taught by her war hero father, Pepper is familiar with swordplay and crystalsmithing. She is resilient against hardship and has excellent problem-solving skills. With her athletic physique, Pepper is agile, able to dart around as a blur.

Unfortunately, her perseverance can also be a double-edged sword, as she may push herself too hard or demand too much of herself. With her half-dragon nature, Pepper can regenerate from cuts and bruises. Upon command, fire and ice can shoot from her lips, decimating foes.

The Early Days

My very first sketch of Pepper circa high school

In high school, I had this idea for a hotheaded, weapon-swinging heroine. Back then, Pepper was called Amelia, named off a childhood character. I took her on various adventures on roleplaying forums, where I met some lifelong friends. At the time, my series was called Ethereal Sages, and to be blunt, it was a horrid mess of adolescent passions. For more info on my writing journey, check out my article here.

Anyway, it wasn’t until grad school that I decided to refine my series into something more professional. Enter Pepper Slyhart.

The Writing Begins

As I started with Ethereal Series, Pepper was a very underdeveloped character. She was a whiny brat without much sympathy for others besides her best friend, Tarie Beyworth. Her story arc was simplistic and lacked the finer points of any good story.

Years later, Pepper now had a love interest (subplot), she had a magical affliction (another subplot), and her spirit had entwined with the planet as a whole.

Overall, it was the conflict, the various problems and flaws she had, which made Pepper interesting. No longer a whiny brat, her character developed new depth, a more human and relatable character.

At the time, I had also picked sketching back up, some of it digital, to flesh out Pepper’s concepts.

Tweaking and Polishing

It has been an experience, watching Pepper grow. I’ve never had children, but if I ever do, I’ll know what it feels like. Pepper continues to level up by the month as I receive more beta feedback, and the process is ever so satisfying.

I can’t help but feel parental pride in my heart, if that’s what it is, as I’ve helped grow this character. Pepper is like a daughter to me. I’ve been with her through all the pain, pleasure, and confusion she’s experienced. She’s become a huge part of my life, years I will never regret.

Although I have multiple books planned for Ethereal Seals, followed by additional arcs, her universe will eventually be put to rest. It will be a sad moment in my life, but one I will also look back fondly upon.

I thank the Creator for gifting me this creative ability, to construct and refine fantastic characters like Pepper Slyhart. Not everyone will like her, but I’m confident she will have a dedicated fanbase one day. Thanks again for reading!


I’m currently expanding my platform onto Mailchimp to develop a mailing community. Members will receive free poetry, short stories, and other gifts once Mailchimp is up and running. 

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Chapter 1 Excerpt from Blade of Dragons

 

EtherealSeals_BookCoverVersC

Hello, all! I’m getting ready to advertise my upcoming book, Blade of Dragons! Below is an excerpt from chapter 1 of the current manuscript. It’s undergone many changes in the past couple months after several revision passes and feedback from betas.

I’m excited that this project is finally reaching the next stage of its evolution, as I’ll be looking for an agent and maybe a cover artist within the next several months—provided that the Coronavirus situation has stabilized. I am looking for one more beta reader, if possible—let me know if you’re interested.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the excerpt. I do hope you enjoy it!


 

Blinking at the brilliance of the Twins, Pepper tilted her chin up to bathe in the sunlight if only to forget her troubles. Curling her toes in the dirt, she allowed the earth to swallow her feet. The grasslands stretched into the horizon like a blanket of green along the Fertile Crescent, heightening her comfort. In the distance, a few egg-shaped barns situated next to her pyramidal house, set with gemstone spires. Winterwall lay along the horizon, its snowy peaks piercing the sky.

With the drone of insects in her ears, she closed her eyes briefly to allow a breeze to rustle her hair—the familiar smell of manure on the wind. The climate was humid but balanced with a gentle breeze—typical Springcrest weather.

Pepper dug into her pocket and withdrew a golden coin. Along the penny’s worn edges was the depiction of a gauntlet shrouded in vines. Underneath the design was curvy Atläsian cuneiform.

It was the Slyhart family emblem. Pepper rarely went anywhere without it, and in some ways, it was a reminder of who she was—a Slyhart, not some animal or pariah. She placed the coin to the ground.

“Check for messages,” she said.

The penny flashed in response. “Checking etheric archives now, please wait,” it whirred.

From the coin, a light shot up a few inches high. The image of her father appeared with his red hair tied in a long ponytail. He was indeed athletic and tall, a splitting image of Pepper. A red goatee jutted from his chin, and he wore a blue jacket with a sword strapped to his undershirt, a pistol at his belt.

A second image appeared—her mother, in a silver dress and a green braid. She bore a stubby tail and pointed ears like Pepper, but had the addition of leathery wings behind her that the latter lacked. She frowned and hugged the redheaded man. “We hope this message reaches you well, dear. We’ll be home soon. There’s extra food and a month’s worth of melkä coins if you need it. Please promise to stay out of trouble and watch over the farm.”

“Your mom and I will be home as soon as we can,” the man promised. “It’ll be safer if you remain home. We’ll see you soon.”

He smiled as his silhouette wavered with the woman.

Pepper sighed and her shoulders sagged. That was the third message this month. The farm needed daily attention—and Pepper had promised her parents that she’d do it. She was never one to break a promise.

Putting the coin away, she whispered to herself, “Don’t worry, mom, dad. I’ll take good care of the farm.”

From her other pocket, she pulled out a fist-sized crystal of aquamarine. The stone, cold and jagged, shimmered like water. She whispered a mantra, and mist spouted from the stone, drenching the rows of crops around her.

Smiling, she spread her arms while the droplets of cool water covered her body. The crystal shrieked with a flash upon completion. You could never have enough water for your farm—and only a hundred more plots to go for the day. She rolled her eyes and shifted her shoulders, eager to complete her chores for the day.

“I see you’re still enjoying the farm, Pepper Slyhart,” said a soft voice.

She turned her head and her jaw dropped…


 

The Ballad of Atläs

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Atläs, mother of all
Throughout the years watched us grow tall
For many years, Tiamat ruled this land
Her draconic legacies spread like sand
In the heavens, a star shone
Sending chaos onto Tiamat’s throne
Long we have witnessed the ravages of war
Of demons, giants, ogres, and more
We plenty have much to repair
Lest calamity once more brings her care
The Gate will see us through
Or break us until we relearn what we knew
Guide us, divine Aspects; show us the way
For only through ourselves will harmony stay
Plenty would Ronald’s avatar wail
But to observe the strength of Tiamat’s renewed tail
Still, she claws at hearts with her call
Through mortals, dragons, and bastards most of all
Now darkness gathers around, priming for evil to rebound
Yet a hero may rise to meet the temptress
To foil curse, shadow, pride; strong yet relentless
A divine blade will shine free
Guiding the hero towards destiny’s tree
Guide us, holy Aspects; brighten the past
For only through peace, will the future last
—Lily Hymnfoot

Ethereal Seals Front Page Redesign!

(This is a replica of my newly designed front page. It serves as a reflective essay and cataloging exercise. I talk about my WIPs, objectives of this blog, and other goodies. I hope you find this post engaging and informative. Thanks for reading.)


 

EdWhite_BusinessCard

Hello, my name is Ed White. I’m an aspiring writer and graphic designer, developing my skills for a host of writing and art projects. I’ve been a designer all my life, and I regularly strive to improve myself through the feedback of my community.

Below, I’ll discuss what projects I’m working on as well as what you can expect from this website.

—Introduction—

 My Goals

As a student of the quill and brush, I enjoy exposing myself to new media every day. These include books, movies, video games, and real-life scenarios. I’m currently working on two manuscripts:

  1. Dragonsblade—a high fantasy novel, part of a series
  2. Tempest of the Dragon—a historical fantasy novel set in ancient Japan

I’m also working on a few short stories with the writing groups in my area. I plan to publish these creative works in the future and share my stories with the world.

What You Can Expect Here

Here’s what you can find on this blog:

  • Writing tips
  • Short stories
  • Digital art
  • Rough manuscript tidbits
  • Reflective essays
  • Anything else I think of as I go along

—Book I: Dragonsblade—

Here I’ll discuss my primary writing projects, beginning with an overview of the WIP and a synopsis.

History

Dragonsblade was my first major writing project. It started as an idea between friends in high school. Over the years, the story and characters evolved into a detailed manuscript spanning several books.

About Dragonsblade

The first book is a 130,000-word manuscript. Catering to fantasy and sci-fi readers alike, this high fantasy novel incorporates a combination of creative and spiritual elements that are seen in books like Eragon and Star Wars.

Synopsis

Pepper Slyhart, a reviled—yet innocent—half-dragon in the world of Atlas, believes she’s worth more than what her gender or race suggests. She finds her dreary life shattered during a casual day with her friend and clergyman, Tarie Beyworth.

Through the will of a hermit named Razaeroth, Pepper inherits her father’s old sword. Pepper learns of a clan of druid fanatics, bent on overthrowing Atlas’ decaying empire for the sake of civilization. She vows to stop the druids and save Atlas as a knight blessed by the gods.

#fantasy #highfantasy #sciencefiction #romance #adventure #spirituality

—Book II: Tempest of the Dragon—

Tempest of the Dragon is currently an alpha manuscript and still in development. I intend to work on this book earnestly once Dragonsblade is published.

History

I have always been a fan of Japanese works—anime, manga, and historical facets of Japanese culture. Tempest of the Dragon is my creative passion using that intrigue for Japan, particularly the mythology.

About Tempest of the Dragon

Because the manuscript is unfinished, I can only give estimates about the book. I am aiming for a 100,000 to 120,000-word range. The story will cater to fantasy and historical readers. There will be hints of romance and spiritual concepts as subplots.

Synopsis

Kyosenko, a samurai outcast in Japan, discovers his destiny with a girl named Mina, a cursed Black Dragon in disguise. He vows to protect the ensorcelled girl with his life,  venturing with her across ancient Japan—to a place where Mina may find salvation for Japan. But there is another threat, an organization that wishes to capture Mina and abuse her arcane powers—the Kaji Clan.

#fantasy #romance #adventure #historicalfiction #spirituality

—Other Works I’ve Published—

America’s Emerging Poets 2018 New York & New Jersey

There are few places as attuned to language as New York and New Jersey. Two perpetually groundbreaking states, they’re home to major industries, high culture, and a level of diversity unlike anywhere in the world. Their residents speak in countless languages, but the same gritty pride rolls off every tongue, especially in poetry. And in America’s Emerging Poets 2018: New York and New Jersey, 70+ up-and-coming poets have their own chance to shine.

Covering a wide array of topics ranging from love and heartbreak, family and friendship, the inherent beauty of nature, and so much more, these young talents will amaze you. Containing one poem per poet, this anthology is a compelling introduction to the great wordsmiths of tomorrow.

#poetry #nature #family #romance

America’s Emerging Poets 2019 New York & New Jersey

In New York, history comes alive. The cascading waters of Niagara Falls and the verdant Catskill Mountains exemplify nature’s beauty, while the bustling metropolis of New York City pulsates with the hopes and dreams of eight million residents. In the Empire State, poets have the world in their hands.

And in New York’s Best Emerging Poets 2019, 50 up-and-coming poets have the chance to share their own worlds. Covering a wide array of topics ranging from love and heartbreak, family and friendship, the inherent beauty of nature, and so much more, these young talents will amaze you. Containing one poem per poet, this anthology is a compelling introduction to the great wordsmiths of tomorrow.

#poetry #nature #family #romance

—Thanks for Reading—

On a final note, I would like to thank you for visiting my webpage. I hope you enjoy the content produced here. I cherish any feedback and support from my viewer base, be they comments, likes, or sharing my blog to others.

Click that follow button below to keep in touch with updates. Cheers.

SEO Articles, Poetry, Book Reviews, and Other Goodies

gold pen on journal book

Hello, everyone. It’s been a busy summer for me; between working on the family garden, editing my manuscript, reading,  family business, and working with beta readers—I’ve been swamped with work. I also have a prospective job at a local store starting soon—they support local writers and it could be a major stepping stone for me.

SEO Articles

And how has your summer been, my lovely readers? Long, lazy days or full schedules? If you get the time, check out my recent post on writing SEO articles. It’s a fantastic read if you’re a blogger yourself or write articles for a living. Who knows, you might pick up a tip or two that you didn’t know. 🙂

Blogging Tips

Speaking of blogging here’s a post from a fellow blogger—what to blog about for unpublished authors. It’s a nifty post and definitely worthwhile to check out.

Artwork on Patreon

I’ve been working on artwork for my book cover and original characters. My new Patreon page is in the works and will feature some cool content related to my upcoming book: Dragonsblade. Subscribe if you’d like to support me. Thanks.

Book Review: Dream Waters

I did a book review of Dream Waters, a paranormal romance novel with fantasy elements, set in the present day. The author is a local writer where I live—she writes good work, so please check out her novel. Thanks.

Poetry Publication!

Lastly, my poem was selected out of a pool of candidates for publication by ZPublishing again! I’ll have a link to the product page when it becomes available. Exciting times! 😀


That’s all for now. Stay cool in this hot weather, my readers. Cheers.

 

Writing, Book Reviews, and Reflections of the Self—a Spring Time Revelation

woman reading a book

Hello to all my lovely readers. 🙂

It’s been a steady month, working on my blog, doing book reviews, and revising my manuscript for Dragonsblade. I would like to thank all my alpha and beta readers—for all the feedback you’ve given me so far.

My WIP: Dragonsblade

Dragonsblade has progressed much in this past month alone. As I improve the story, I’m growing closer to my characters, particularly Pepper Slyhart and Tarie Beyworth. I’ve learned so much about POV depth alone—very exciting!

I’m always looking for more readers. If you’re interested, contact me via this site or check me out at www.betareader.io. My beta book cover has a big green gem on it. Thanks.

An Interesting Perspective on Writing

The other day, I ran across an article by a fellow blogger. She talks about the craft of writing and how we can use it in unique ways. I’d highly recommend checking it out here. Her blog is equally fantastic and has plenty to offer on the fundamentals for writers.

Book Review: The Faded Sun

A few weeks ago, I finished a sci-fi trilogy called The Faded Sun. I did a book review on it here if you’re curious. The books do a great job describing alien cultures, and I found the relationship between the main characters to be cute; the prose was a bit dry though, and the characterization was subpar.

I have more fantasy and sci-fi book reviews in the works. Stay tuned for more. 😛

Introductions of a Novel: Essential Tips, Tricks, and More

My article on false starts, introductions, and more contains vital information on writing the beginning of a novel. I suggest you check it out if you’re a writer. It has some nifty tips and amusing allegories.


That’s all for now, my dear readers—thanks for stopping by. I hope you’re having a lovely spring and be sure to enjoy the weather before it gets too hot. Cheers. 😀

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Dreams of the Scarlet Swordswoman #8

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Here’ some more creative writing from a dream segment in my upcoming book, Ethereal Seals: Dragonsblade. I had fun writing this part of Pepper’s dreams. It’s more philosophical and spiritual if anything. In the meanwhile, I’ve been super busy writing, rewriting, and revising the book segments from the feedback I get. Any feedback in the comments here is also appreciative. Thanks.

Alternatively, you can check me out at betareader.io. Also stop by my creative Twitch channel for gaming, writing, and artwork.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this little tidbit and thanks for reading! 🙂

 


Pepper woke with a start, beholding an ocean of stars. The blackness of space drew her in, stealing her breath. Each star twinkled like facets of a white gemstone out of her reach. A chill ran up her spine at the view of the vast cosmos. Comets, nebulae, and multiverses spiraled around her.

“What is this?” she said with her brows arched.

A tusked bear materialized before her, its body muscular yet aged, golden fur tingled with gray. Licking its paws, the beast marked her cheek with its mitt before walking away. She shouted the bear’s name, her hand outstretched, but he did not heed it. With a howl, the animal vanished into stardust.

Confused, she paced forward on an invisible floor, each step echoing around her. A comet crashed into a small star with a massive explosion, scattering the remains like children’s toy blocks. Pepper gasped and shielded her face, but the shockwaves passed through her harmlessly.

Pepper opened her eyes. Instead of a destroyed moon, crystalline dust scattered around her vicinity. Then the cosmic sand shimmered, coming together at a point. A small flame developed, growing larger.

She stared at the sight, her jaw slack, as the flame grew beyond her line of sight. It was now a star, too massive for her to gauge. Then smaller particles of dirt came, rotating around the star like a solar system.

“Are those planets? What’s going on? Where am I?”

She tried to turn away from the awesome sight, but couldn’t. Countless universes flashed before her eyes: death and birth; an endless cycle of life and transmutation—of alchemy. She saw the future and the past, meshed together. Images of herself flashed before her eyes. She saw herself as a different, but a familiar person—a female soldier. Another vision came, as an old man; others like animals, insects, plants, and even stars. She became it all, merging with the universe.

“Please stop, whatever you are,” Pepper cried, vaguely aware of her body. She grunted and flailed her arms against the cosmic seduction.

The frequency of visions increased, hundreds flashing before her eyes each second.

“No more, please!” she begged, falling to what she assumed were her knees.

The visions ceased as abruptly as they began, leaving Pepper in the bleakness of space. The sensation choked her, robbing what residue of Creation still lingered within her entity. She hugged herself and sobbed, now empty and alone—a nothingness.

Then, she saw it.

A cluster of multiverses, each shaped like gemstones, condensed into a sphere of white plasma. Around the anomaly, arms of multihued light rotated like rings. She couldn’t count how many limbs the thing had, nor how large it was—size was meaningless—only marveled at the magnificence of what she witnessed.

“The Ethereal Seals?” she said, confused about how she knew it was Gate. She glanced down at a jade sword she held. “It must be my connection to the Gate through my sword.”

She looked up. The Gate flashed and released shockwaves of warm electricity that sent pleasure through Pepper’s body, a sensation she could only describe as divine—not fit for mortal comprehension. The smell of lavender wafted in the air, on her taste buds. Her fingers stroked the tips of the Gate. It was soft and tender.

“What do you want from me?”

The Gate flashed again and vanished, leaving her in the void of space. She then noticed a blond youth—alone in the darkness as she—not more than a few yards away. The young man shivered violently, unable to obtain the heat he sought.

A small girl appeared next to Pepper. The newcomer bore jade twintails down her shoulders and clothed in a silver dress. Her earrings were the shape of swords, and her silver eyes equally as sharp. Her hands curved to a single point, the flesh like metal.

“Master, please go to him,” the little girl pleaded, clasping her bladed hands. She took a knee, gesturing to the youth.

“Dwyrm?” said Pepper, examining the girl, who remained bowed.

Pepper approached the youth on the horizon. Her hand caressed his face, felt the cold sweat on his body, and smelled the herbal aroma of his hair. The touch was like a jolt of electricity through her arm. A warmth grew in his body, and he smiled, his eyes closed, as he cuddled with her. She dug her fingers into his robes, savoring his embrace, a smile on her lips. For a few precious moments, nothing else mattered to the girl.

She was complete and one with Creation once more.

The red girl paused as an ominous shadow formed behind the youth. The image of a black dragon roared and seized the man, drawing him away from Pepper’s grasp. She cried in vain, watching the towering dragon devour him amidst his screams of agony. Fire flared in her spine. She bent double and moaned in pain as darkness engulfed her.

 

 

Dreams of the Scarlet Swordswoman #7

She held a demonic weapon in her hand—a monster, a work of evil. Pepper buried the sword in the dirt, broke it, and threw it away. Still, the fiend would not leave. She ran from the weapon, hearing the laughter of the sword claw at her soul.

Destroyed taverns and churches fell behind her, with misshapen demons and soldiers in pursuit. She came to a cliff side and screamed an unsaid name, lifting her hands. The horrors closed around her; at the front of the demons was the dark twin again. She carried a blade likened to a dragon tooth, its length vibrating with power and tearing at space like a vacuum.

The sinister double raised the weapon to strike. The red girl shrank back against the crag as her death approached, screaming the silent name again. The bone stopped inches before its target, and the villain gave a start before the appearance of a newcomer.

A handsome youth had appeared by Pepper’s side with a jade sword raised. While short of stature, his hair was like a waterfall of gold that stretched down his spine. His vest and pants sparkled with gemstones, like a torch of white flame.

Pepper’s twin growled like a wild beast. She backed up before his radiance.

“You shan’t touch her!” the youth cried, pointing his sword out in challenge, his brows furrowed.

The doppelganger roared and swung her bone of fire. The youth caught the blade, deflecting each follow up like a professional swordfighter. Sparks flew from the clash, the heavens trembled, and the earth shook. The antagonist found herself pushed back again.

“You cannot protect her forever, foolish elf. I, Tiamat, shall have her body and mind eventually. You will see.” With a hiss, Tiamat vanished into smoke, and with her, the rest of her lackeys.

Pepper sighed with relief, her hand at her breast. She regarded her savior, who turned to face her. He seemed familiar, but Pepper couldn’t remember his name, like a splinter lost in the deep recesses of her mind.

“Thank you,” she said, bowing. She hesitated and gasped, noticing she wore a long ball gown. Her mouth parted, fingers caressing each ruby, shining like specks of magma. The fabric was soft like silk, interlaced with tiny jewels.

She looked up at the youth, her brows arched in confusion.

He smiled, gently taking her silk glove, his lips pressed on one of her knuckles. “It’s my pleasure, milady. In exchange, could I ask you for one dance?”

“A dance?” she said, blinking. “Okay.”

He nodded and turned towards the cliff face. Heedlessly, he walked off the edge, still holding her hand. She followed behind him, her feet stepping on air as if it were stone. The gray sky turned sunny, and the milieu smelled of honey and perfume. The sunlight reflected off her dress, the fabric shimmering like diamonds cast in the lava of her hair.

Her heart raced, lips curled into a smile as her body tingled with warmth from his strong grip. He gently took her into a waltz, spinning her around, hands at her hips.

Pepper’s eyes never left his when she faced him. She felt the warmth on her cheeks, the passion in her body surging like wildfire for this mysterious man. Who was he?

He paused, holding Pepper close to his face, his lashes grazing hers. He kissed her on the lips, slowly, deeply. She moaned with the experience of his mouth—wet and soft against hers, so comfortable and exquisite.

He pulled back and frowned, hands at her shoulders. “Pepper, you need to wake up.”

“What?”

“Wake up, please. Everyone is worried.”

He released her and she fell from the sky—her invisible floor had vanished. She screamed as she descended towards the black ocean below. The light of the heavens vanished.

Then, everything fractured like glass.

Update and Dragonsword Chapter 1 Sample

Hello all. It’s been a busy month with Christmas on the horizon and NaNoWriMo a few weeks past. I’ve spent time on some poetry for an ebook and hours on my beta manuscript. The manuscript is for the first book of my series Ethereal Seals. I renamed the first installation to Dragonsword to better fit the context.

Lots of edits, fixes, and enhancements transpired over the past several months. Right now, I’m seeking an editor and beta readers. If you’d like to become a beta reader, please contact me through this blog or at my email energyflux2012@gmail.com. Thanks.

Without further ado, here’s an up-to-date sample of the book’s first chapter. Enjoy and let me know what you think. 🙂


Death wafted in the air. Shadows crept around the ancient blade. The sword’s destination was a red-haired woman with a weapon of fire and ice. Two armored knights, one a dark twin of the other, created a crescendo of intensity within their shadowy arena. Sparks flew, and the earth trembled. The redhead missed her mark, and the dark twin found its own.

The defeated girl fell to her knees. She retreated into silence before the enemy’s blade finished its job.

#

The girl opened her eyes. She regarded the legendary sword in her left palm, the weapon now only a stick. Through extensive use, the practice sword was little more than a wooden splinter. She tossed the makeshift sword away and sighed. Dirt mounds next stole her attention. She stood and brushed the dirt off her tan work clothes. “Enough daydreaming and swordplay for the day; it’s time to get back to work.”

The girl picked up a fist-sized crystal of aquamarine where the dark twin had once been. The stone’s surface reflected faint images, the illusion faded.

Pepper yawned and stretched her tall body. The light from the Twins, two stars of the sky, outlined her athletic figure. She winced at the view of midday and combed her hair, running fingers through strands of red. When her hand reached the knot of her ponytail, the redhead withdrew her hand. The girl’s tanned and freckled complexion radiated a youthful look, no more than twenty-three. She shielded her vision from the bright rays of midday, noticing air vessels gliding through the sky. Further still, she observed three moons. One of the moons emitted commercial flashes of activity.

She curled her bare toes in the dirt, feeling the earth swallow her flesh. Her gaze turned to the sloping leas. Distant snowy mountains and thickets stretched into the horizon. The sound of insects tickled her ears. She closed her eyes and allowed a gust to rustle her hair. The air proved humid but balanced with a gentle wind—typical weather.

“That dream was surreal, fighting with a shadow duplicate. Maybe someday I’ll get a chance to explore the world again and figure out what to do with my life.” She frowned. “Yeah right, maybe when I learn how to fly properly.”

Pepper dug into her pocket and withdrew a coin of gold. Despite the penny’s worn edges, the depiction of a gauntlet shrouded in vines shone clear as day. Underneath the design, curvy Atlasian cuneiform, engraved with a master smith’s arm. “The Slyhart family emblem,” Pepper said. She smiled and squeezed the coin before it fell to the ground.

The bauble flashed and light shot up a few inches high. The image of a man with red hair and a long ponytail emerged. He wore a blue jacket with a sword strapped to his undershirt. A red goatee jutted with a bold flair.

“You’ll get your chance at adventure, Pepper,” he said. “Life isn’t easy for everyone, especially us. Treasure it like I treasure your mom.” He fiddled with outstretched arms, as if for a weapon. “When we get back from this war, I’ll have some stories to share. We’ll take some epic voyages too like we used to—hoo-hah!”

A second image appeared of a short woman in a silver dress and a green braid. She bore a stubby tail and pointed ears. A pair of leathery wings folded behind her. She frowned and hugged the man in the blue jacket. “We hope this message reaches you well, dear. We love you very much.” Pepper rolled her eyes. “There’s extra food in the shed and a month’s worth of gold if you need it. Please promise to stay out of trouble. Don’t forget to water the fields.”

“We’ll have these demonic invaders routed by month’s end,” the red man averred. “We’re sorry about the delay, Pepper, but we’ll be home as soon as we can.” He clenched a raised fist as his silhouette wavered with the green-haired woman.

The vision vanished and the coin’s light dulled. Pepper pocketed the coin. She hesitated and brought a hand to her rear. At the base of her spine, there was a stubby tail of scales. It twitched at her touch.

“A tail but no wings,” she said, with a sigh. “Yes mom, I’m right on it.”

She regarded the water crystal in her other hand. Her grip on the stone tightened. Mist spouted from the rock, drenching the rows of crops around her. The crystal shrieked with a flash of light as it finished.

I miss them more than I thought I would. That’s the third message this month.

“I see you still enjoy the farm plots, Miss Pepper Slyhart,” said a calm, masculine voice.

Pepper turned to the voice. Her jaw dropped.

She smiled and ran towards a youthful and slender man of white robes who had approached her from the far road. His blond hair flowed down his back like a stream of gold, broken by a pair of pointed ears. His appearance suggested him in his early twenties as she. He was half a head shorter than she was. The youth carried an oaken staff tipped with crystal and some prayer beads. Vir’gol, they were called, or conduits for divine miracles.

“Sal’av, Tarie Beyworth,” she said. “I wondered when I would see you again.” The redhead and the monk exchanged bows and clasped their hands sideways—a native sign of Atlasian greeting.

“Sal’av, Miss Slyhart,” Tarie said with a smile.

She glanced over his robes and paused on a symbol of a flame imprinted onto the center of his habit. Herbs and medicinal bags hung at his sash. “How are you, my friend? I see—like most elves—you still haven’t grown a beard.”

“Elves don’t grow facial hair,” he laughed, “you know that. Besides, you should use our official name, not the archaic one. The world calls us Nymphians now.” He paused and smiled. “Besides, you Hyerians—you humans—are the ones with all the fur on your faces.”

“I’m just teasing. What news do you have of your abbey and the rest of the world?”

The monk stroked his elfin chin and grinned. “Well, affairs around the planet keep my church busy enough. One involves a clan of brigands and cultists causing mischief in several cities.” He hesitated. “I’d wager our planet Atlas still recovers from the war from years ago, let alone the previous conflicts.”

Pepper clenched her fists. “Those damn Elemental invaders. If they hadn’t shown up, we wouldn’t be in such a state.” She punched at a nearby bale of hay. It scattered over the vicinity. She exhaled to relax. “Now we have these Nog’roth demons plaguing our planet again. What I wouldn’t give to enter the Royal Guard and show them what for.”

Tarie gave a start. “I-I understand your frustration, Miss Slyhart. Maybe someday the Royal Guard at Midvale will accept your application as a knight. Though, I remember you’ve tried applying ten times already.”

“I suppose I can only keep trying, as depressing as it is for me.” She kicked at a rock. “I know I’m worth more. Maybe it’s because my mother is a Dragonite. That makes me half-dragon and half-Hyer.”

“Pureblood Dragonites are formidable,” Tarie said, “what with their supernatural strength. I’ve seen them spew fire and ice from their breath, even half-bloods can do it.

“For all that’s worth, I can’t do any of that. Here I’m stuck defending the farm plots from hill bears, crag wolves, and heavens know what else. My father was a renowned war hero who taught me swordplay and for what? How did it come to this?”

Tarie frowned and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Not many know of your dragon heritage. Thank the divine Aspects too. They say there’s a terrible curse, in which dragons trade their sanity for power.” He grimaced. “Anyway, you’d sooner be imprisoned rather than denied employment in the guard for your genetics.”

“Society doesn’t condemn us half-breeds without cause, but they sure keep us on a tight leash.”

“Take heart, Miss Slyhart. Good things come to those who are patient. If there’s anything my church or I can do, please feel free to ask.”

She smiled. “I appreciate the concern Beyworth, but maybe I’m not cut out for guard duty. I do well as a farmer anyway.” She paused. “It’s been months since I’ve seen my parents. I hope they’re okay.

“I had this nasty dream last night,” she said with a pout. “Honestly, I’ve had it on a routine basis. In my dream, I face off against this shadow variant of myself. This evil duplicate kills me. She’s always two steps ahead of me.” She leaned up, hands behind her head. “I don’t understand it—and the dreams are painful…too painful for a normal dream.”

“You’ve had a lot on your mind. I do believe some food and time off the farm may help you consider the idea better. It’ll be on the church.” He winked.

“You’re serious? You’ve been so busy with the abbey, and I wondered if you—” She hesitated. “I mean, that sounds fine with me, Beyworth. Let me grab a couple of things at my house first.”

She ran towards her conical residence. An oaken barn stood next to the egg-shaped house. Bars bolted the shed’s door, but with the metal rusted and bent from use. A brick chimney opened towards the far end of the estate where a smithy stood. The glimpse of an anvil, a rack of hammers, and metal tools caught the corner of Tarie’s eye.

“Okay,” said he, “I’ll take in the scenery here while you prepare.” The Nymph found a pile of hay for rest. He smiled at the sky and white clouds.

He perked up when his ears twitched at the sound of approaching footsteps. Pepper now dressed in long emerald skirts, guillotined with white and opal gemstones. Her earrings glinted in the afternoon sunlight, a match for her scarlet hair. The fragrance of herbs wafted into Tarie’s nostrils. He stood speechless and slack-jawed, the image of the young woman a stark contrast to the dirty farmer. He cleared his throat. “T-that green dress looks exceptional on you, Miss Slyhart,” he stuttered. “The place I have in mind shouldn’t be too far.”

Pepper blushed at his compliment. “I’m guessing Traveler’s Rest.” She smirked, hands akimbo. “Judging by that astonished smile, I’m right, aren’t I?”

“Yes, Traveler’s Rest is a small local town, but it has its share of marvels and plentiful commodities.”

“How should we get there? My parents took the family’s ship.”

Tarie pointed above. “I take it you still remember the art of flight?”

Pepper bit her tongue and glared at the sky. “I was never good at flying, but I do recollect the basics. Can we try something safer like riding an airship?”

“Ships cost a fortune unless you work for the Grust Cartel; a bunch of greedy and corrupt merchants they are.”

“True, we’d be lucky to rent a small shuttle for the day selling my whole farm. I have a Yazell ostrich mount I use for business trips.”

“That wouldn’t be fun,” he teased. “Come on; I’ll guide you through it. Ships and Yazell are better for long-distance travel anyway. Traveler’s Rest isn’t too far.”

“Frankly, I’ve only practiced Atlasian telepathy from time to time, but with my reclusive and dutiful life, I rarely get many chances to leave the farm.” She sighed and shrugged her shoulders. “My parents never taught me the basics of flying for fear of me traveling abroad with my genetics, I think. They wanted to keep me around the Crescent until I was ready, and I had the habit of going off on little adventures when I could. The one time I did try an extensive flight trip as a child I ended up in a coma for a week.” She cringed. “It’s been years since I attempted it and the idea makes me uneasy.”

I’ll keep an eye out for you. You can fly close to me,” Tarie said telepathically. The voice echoed in her mind and filled her cells with a warm tingle. “Be sure to ease into it,” he added, switching back to vocal speak. “Remember to first still your mind and then visualize a sphere of force around your body. The air of the Ether should surround you like a bubble.”

“Fine, I’ll give it a shot again,” she telegraphed. “You go first.”

Tarie nodded and kicked off from the ground. His blond locks flowed like gold curtains in the breeze. Tarie gazed down.

With several breaths, Pepper shut her eyes and wrung her hands. The air churned about, swirling against her flesh. Pepper heard a popping noise as gravity weakened. The refreshing breeze of weightlessness filled her being, fed from the ether traveling through her spine.

“Heavens, it has been a while,” she said, lifting into the air, albeit unsteadily.

They set out towards a town spotted miles away. The air invigorated their bodies with the smell of fresh pollen and foliage. Beautiful was the countryside of Atlas, with its mass of levitating islands, each with a share of waterfalls. Flowering groves and forests littered the landscape. Snowy mountain ranges reared on the horizon like sentinels safeguarding the Fertile Crescent.

Pepper regarded a herd of animals fifty feet below her. The creatures bore mats of fur like a bear, streaked with brown and black. Their muzzles and round ears twitched at the two flyers several yards above. One of the bears gave a screeching moan. It flourished its boney tusks at the aerial intruders.

“Look Beyworth, a herd of Grasnouts. Good thing we’re out of their reach. My farm owns a few docile breeds. They’re like a tusked hill bear.” Pepper smacked her lips. “I can still taste their delicious milk.”

“Grasnouts are a dangerous animal,” Tarie said with an uneasy chuckle. “They’re increasingly rare nowadays though.”

“What do you think of Grasnout milk, Tarie?”

He shrugged. “Unfortunately, the abbey only offers the staple water and fruit. It’s part of living a simple life for the divine Aspects.”

“That sounds boring,” Pepper argued.

“Perhaps, but I still—watch it, you’re floundering in the air—appreciate the simple lifestyle of my abbey. The church has done a lot of charity and missionary work, not to mention the refuges from the late wars they took in. I was also—” He stopped.

“You were what?”

“I—it’s nothing,” Tarie added hastily.

 


Thanks for reading. Hit that follow button if you like what you see. I’ve recently published poetry in an ebook, presented by ZPublishing. Here’s the link to their site. Be sure to check it out, as I get a commission on any sales. Thanks for the support, you guys. 🙂

http://www.zpublishinghouse.com?rfsn=2072883.91d12f