SIGN UP FOR THE JA PITTS NEWSLETTER
FOR UPCOMING EVENTS AND SPECIAL OFFERS

Archive for the ‘Dear Father Mulcahy’ Category

Cleric Journal Book Seven: Wrap Up

I hope episode one hundred and twelve gave you adequate closure for this book.  I really enjoyed writing Merric Worldbreaker’s adventures as a pirate of sorts.  Now that he has recovered a crucial book needed on his quest, what is next for our intrepid adventurer.

In this season, not only did Merric grow in power, enabling him to raise the dead for the first time, but he also met a few more of those who he considers deities.  At least these are folks who he can draw power on.

I go out of my way to make the gods as close to human as I can.  If you’ve read from the beginning, you’ll know that nearly all the gods were wiped out when the first Merric started his revolution by killing the Emperor of the Bountiful Kingdom, and had his co-conspirators wipe out the Hallowed Fortress, where the major gods had their primary place of worship.

Of the gods that have risen since, or managed to somehow survive, most are new to the job and finding their own way as often as not.  I want them to have the same needs and wants, fears and foibles as the rest of the world’s population.

There is still much to discover for our hero.  What happened during his most recent two-year absence?  Where is Lilith and where is she raising a rebellion?  What about Wizards Tim and Rufus weasel gnome?  How are things playing out on the Forsaken Isle, the continent where Merric was born, and where he started this vital and sometimes meandering quest to save the known world?

I’ll be taking a hiatus from the Cleric Journal for a while.  I need to do the final edits on the new Sarah Beauhall book, find a cover artist, get the novel formatted appropriately, and eventually publish the book solo.  It’s a new step for me, and I have a bit of trepidation about the entire process.

Of course, many have gone before me, so I’m hoping I can pick the brains of a few of my friends in this endeavor.  I’m definitely thinking e-book and trade paper.  We’ll see how things shake out.

Then, when this is done, I must return to the epic science fiction thriller I’ve toyed with for several years.  It’s burning in my brain and I need to get back to it.  I’m 30k words into the draft, but need to do some additional outlining to keep things straight.  I may need to do some additional research on blood borne pathogens and disease vectors before I’m through.  That’s daunting, but I’ll muddle through somehow.

Finally, if you didn’t catch that from a few weeks back, I took what I consider the first book of the Cleric Journal and did a major edit pass on it, adding nearly 20k words.  I think it’s much stronger with all the requisite things that make it a novel.  I’ve kept the epistolary aspect of the book, but needed to have a clear plot line running through the book.

It’s been a busy year so far, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Thanks for following along.  I’ll announce when I start Cleric Journal book eight.  I need to think about the next phase of his adventure.  Where should I drag the boy this next time?  Let me know your thoughts, if you are so inclined.

All my best,

John

Cleric Journal Book Seven: Day One Hundred and Twelve

 

 

I flipped through the pages of The Esoteric Tome of the Latus Rectum and could not make heads nor tails of most of what was written inside.  Even when the words were in a language I understood, which wasn’t often, I could not understand what it was telling me.  We sailed for two days, clear days with a steady wind and calm seas.  If the weather were any more perfect, we’d be thinking about going to full battle readiness because nothing this good lasts for long.

During daylight hours, I tended to a few minor activities like checking on the recovering wounded and healing them as I thought best for each condition.  I said prayers with any who wanted to join, but despite the half a dozen requests, I would not perform any of the sacred rites with anyone.  I wanted to remain focused on my research.

The book did eventually relinquish a few secrets to me before we reached Liz’s archipelago.  Again, this came through with the help of several different translators who felt the need to write in the margins.

I had the second book, the journal that Phineas had kept in his deepening madness and by comparing handwriting, and certain similar phrases I was able to begin the tedious process of translating the diagrams and hypothesis presented in the slim tome.

The note in a hand other than Phineas’s states:  The latus rectum of a conic section is the chord through a focus parallel to the conic section directrix.  I need one of the wizards to help interpret this but I have a growing sense of unease about the intent and purpose of these diagrams.

I think, Father Mulcahy, that you or Brother Durham may know more about this than I fully realized.  Several pages after this diagram, I found three more that I know I’ve seen drawn on the walls in the holy sanctum.  I’ll draw them here as well, for confirmation.

The directrix of a conic section is the line which, together with the point known as the focus, serves to define a conic section as the locus of points whose distance from the focus is proportional to the horizontal distance from the directrix, with r being the constant of proportionality. If the ratio r=1, the conic is a parabola, if r<1, it is an ellipse, and if r>1, it is a hyperbola.

These are words I’ve heard before.  In my very first journal, back when Liz and I were new friends, and the world still held nothing but promise and hope to me, we came upon a great summoning perpetrated by the Children of Apophis.  Their high priest said words similar to these as they opened a portal into the seven hells and loosed a demon horde.

I closed the book, wrapped it in the cloth once more, and tucked it into the bottom of my pack.  Whatever wizard researched these formulae, they were either learning how to open a portal to other planes, or perhaps, they were trying to discover how to close a portal that has been opened.

This had been one of the three artifacts the Skyfell expedition had been carrying when my young rebel parents seized their ship.  Wizard Tim had been on the original expedition that recovered this book from some dire wasteland beyond my travels.  Why my father took it into the uncharted sea, I may never know.  He is most likely lost to the depths, or marooned on one of the innumerable islands that dot this portion of the vast unknown.

The sun was setting when I stood and looked out over the prow of the ship.  My mind frothed with unanswered questions.  This tome had a part in my final quest.  That much is clear to me.  The content here, the possibilities, and the ramifications of this type of knowledge spreading gives me chills.

Is some knowledge too dangerous?  Yet, our order, Father Mulcahy, isn’t that our exact mission, to preserve knowledge from the time before the great catastrophe?  Isn’t that why I found myself so confused as a lad about who we truly worshipped?

It isn’t because I am ignorant, as Brother Durhan would try to convince me, rather it is because we did have trappings and relics from many, many gods.  It is our holy mission to preserve those gods who survived the purge when Merric Worldslayer brought down the mighty emperor of the house Ertyndail?

Do you even know what gods survive?  Or are you and the others persevering on hope and ignorance?   I rummaged around in my pack, seeking the red gem, the one that Wizard Tim had tied to me back in the beginning.  I know if I hold it in my hand and add a touch of the divine, that I will be able to contact him.  I don’t know if he can teleport this distance, but he could come to me, talk with me about the book, and the ramifications of all the pieces of my life that are only now falling into place.

Tim serves himself, that much I’ve always known.  When my goals and his align, he is an ally, but there have been few times when he acted out of altruism.  And to be honest, I have no idea of the true tangle of his webs.  He is associated with the Aethermancer Illitharad, I know that as fact, but who benefits more from that relationship?

In my naiveté, I may have overlooked connections and situations because I wanted desperately to see the positive, to find the good in everyone.  This line of thinking makes my head pound.  Either I trust my friends, or I don’t.  If I start second guessing every decision, I will find myself quickly going mad.

The stone was warm in my hand.  It would be so easy to slip a tiny thread of power into it and make that connection.  Yet, I held back.  If I opened this particular door, I may very well disappear again, and I could not stand that.  I wanted to be with Liz; wanted to fix what I could, and find our way back to a form of normal, for whatever that is worth.

I let the stone fall back into my pack and stood again, leaning against the prow.  Another few hours and we’d be at the archipelago and I’d be with Liz, for good or ill.

I’ve left friends and lovers in my wake as I pursue my quest.  Right now, Liz is the most important thing to me, more important than even my quest, if you can believe it.  What is the point of saving the world if you lose those that you love?

A canopy of stars unfolded above me as the night crept over the sea.  Dorn tells me we should reach Liz just after dawn.  So, I will stand here and watch the horizon, sending forth all the love I have.

I just hope she’s open to receiving it.

Cleric Journal Book Seven: Day One Hundred and Eleven

 

 

Angelo asked to stay on the island, to create a port here, and start a village for any who wanted to stay with him.  He plans to fix the Raging Bull a little at a time, but mainly use the great ship to protect the island from any who would challenge him.

When Phineas, Audrey, Gracie, and Barnaby heard about the new colony being started, they were torn.  Phineas had a mind to return to Skyfell and present a thesis on time magic.  He said he wanted to take Audrey out to the finest restaurants and show her that the time spent on the island wasn’t a total waste.

She said he was a fool, and that she’d be happy anywhere he was.

In the end, the four of them decided to stay and help Angelo.  Of the conscripts, twenty agreed to stay as well, glad to give up the sea for a life on land.

And just like that, as the gibbous moon rose above the horizon, Bob and I were saying our good-byes once more.  He would go with Borcus on the Waverunner.   Gobbledygook was going to stay at the island, repairing the Battle Toad and helping get the colony established.  She said they needed a strong croaker contingency if they wanted to survive.  She was also interested in the temple, and investigating She Who Rules the Waves.  Each to their own.

The new captain of the xebec Tempest, is a croaker named Warble.  He offered Jorge Dunwater a place on his ship, which surprised the old veteran.  He refused at first, but after a bit of a chat, he accepted.

“Time to make up for my sins,” he offered before he shook the croaker’s outstretched hand.

The significance of this is amazing, Father.  The Hand of the One True God are xenophobes by writ.  They espouse that there are none equal but humans.  All others are beneath the true race.  For Jorge to accept his new commission under Warble, gives me hope for the future.

We stocked up on various fruits and nuts from the island, mainly foraged with the help of Emad and Scrabble.  All the ships restocked their fresh water and went their separate ways.  Bob has an army to get back to.  He needs to recover from the loss he’d suffered at the Hand of the One True God.  Old One Eye rescuing him is not likely a regular occurrence, though I think the crotchety god was glad for the company, at least for a little while.

Scrabble and I had a hard decision to make.  His people had been wiped out, but the island remained his home.  I sat with him, explaining how I was leaving on the ship, and going to find Liz and her new friends.  He seemed to understand everything I told him, and he really thought about his decision.  In the end, I am happy to report that he decided to go with me on the boat.  He and I have shared a lot of pain together.  The fact he made me laugh went a long way to sealing my decision.  I think he expected to be too lonely here without the rest of his people.  We are his new people and the crew was joyous about the decision.  Especially Dorn, whom Scrabble had taken a shine to.

And just like that, with the rising of a new day, we sailed out of the bay and onward to find Liz.  It felt like a lifetime since I’d seen her last.  I just hope she’d processed her anger enough to allow me a chance to redeem myself in her eyes.

I recall Old One Eye’s exact heading, but Dorn scoffed when I asked her if she needed reminding.

“We’d nearly made it there with the ravagers onboard in any case,” she said, shaking her head at the irony of the world.  “They’d only killed one or two of those of us that remained on the boat, and the rest did as we were told.  That is until Borcus and his lot came over the horizon.  Half of the ravagers had been reveling in the ale they found in the hold, so that helped a bit as well.”  She leaned toward me and whispered.  “Your old dwarf god put that ale in our hold, I can guarantee you.  We’d been dead out of anything more powerful than water for a long while.  Once the leader of those animals saw the Leaping Tadpole and Battle Toad approaching, they tried to kill a bunch of us.  That’s when the captain managed to free herself from the irons they had her clapped in.  She’d been chained to the main mast for going on two days, where they taunted her.  How she got out of those irons, I can’t rightly say.  But once she killed a few of the worst ones, the rest were no problem.  You should’ve seen the captain.  She was a mad woman.  Killed seven men on her own with a broken cutlass and a boarding hook.  It was glorious.  I’d been chained near the wheel since they didn’t have a navigator worth his salt.  I saw the whole thing.  Once she fought herself to the lower levels and began freeing the remainder of our crew, Borcus and Gobbledygook were busy taking out that other ship.  They scuttled her.  I don’t know what they found onboard, and they would never say.  But we cheered when that boat burned.”

Turns out the ravagers were heading to an archipelago where they had once had a base.  That island chain is where Liz and her people now resided.  Once they’d rid themselves of the ravagers, and joined up with the other two ships, they turned the Rasa back and headed here to look for survivors.  The rest, you know.

I stood on the prow of the ship with Scrabble squealing and capering with Dorn back near the wheel.  The spray that filled the air seemed to wash away the last of the crazy from the Isle of Time.

Liz wait for me to return.  I can feel it in my bones.  Losing the rings had been a blessing.

I was lost in thoughts of her when Scrabble leapt onto me and scrambled up my body.  I hadn’t even set down my pack when I boarded, just walked to the prow and watched the sea unfold in front of me.

It wasn’t until I realized that Scrabble wasn’t visiting as much as looting, that I shrugged off the pack and set in on the deck at my feet.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

Scrabble popped out from amidst the detritus and screamed triumphantly.  It was the book he’d stolen from Phineas.

I’d given it a cursory glance at the time, but had been preoccupied with other things.  He thrust it at me over and over until I took it from him and sat on the deck with it in my lap.

From the moment, I turned aside the cloth wrapping that had covered it, I forgot to breathe.  Somehow in all this chaos, this was the book I needed.  This was the very thing my father had gone off to find twenty plus years ago.  I’d hoped to find it with him, instead I found my friend here who proved invaluable in more than one way.

The writing on the first page was difficult to read, mainly because it was written in a language I did not know.  Luckily, some student or scribe had written a translation in the margin: The Esoteric Tome of the Latus Rectum.

Cleric Journal Book Seven: Day One Hundred and Ten

 

 

There was another surprise awaiting me when She Who Rules the Waves sent word back.  Around the south side of the island, between here and the next one over, floated seven ships.  They were just off-shore, an easy row boat trip from dry land, and they were in perfect condition.

My mending had reached as far out as the wrecks in the saragossa.  Imagine my glee as I took a hand-picked crew out to examine our finds.  Seven ships, along with the three that had come here to find me, and the Hand ship we’d commandeered, we now had more ships than we had crew to manage.  Even with those who had been freed from the Galleon.

Of the new ones there were two carracks, two xebecs, two galleys and a caravel.

Adeline was mesmerized at the state of them.  Each appeared as if they’d just been made.  Even the carvings on the wood shone without grime or salt build up.

“These are beautiful,” she said as we climbed on board the caravel.

It was smaller than the Rasa, but more maneuverable, if you can imagine it.  Now that I say it, I don’t know if you have any real understanding of sailing ships, Father Mulcahy.  Have you ever been on the open sea?

For the rest of the day, Adeline ferried crews out to the ships and sailed them into the bay where the Rasa was anchored.

“With a castle nearby, fresh water, plentiful game and plenty of woods, we can make this a regular base of operations,” she said.

I squinted, thinking.  I had lifted the curse, and the shark wives seem to have either all been killed, or moved on to fresh hunting grounds.  She even liked my idea of a watch tower with a ballista on top to overlook the bay.

We laid plans for fortifying this island and spent the majority of the day culling the prisoners.  Any who could or would join our ranks, we accepted, with a bit of help from shrewd observation and a little divine weaving.  Dorn could spot a liar at thirty paces, and I had the ability to create a circle within which no one could tell a lie.

Of the eighty-two prisoners, sixty-eight not only volunteered to join us, but seemed relieved to be out from under the Hand’s thumb.  As I said, many of them were kids and young adults who had been conscripted against their will.

When we had those who would join us separated, news began to spread about the deeds of some of the crew; hideous murderers and torturers; vile individuals of all stripes.  Eighteen were confirmed by more than one source, and Adeline suggested we feed them to the sharks.

Three tried to make a break for it, knocking over one of those on guard duty, and stealing her cutlass.  Before they could use it, they were cut down by crossbows.  The rest went to their knees, arms behind their heads.  They were experts at this, having commanded many to do the same.

I gave them a choice, these fifteen murderers and thieves.  They could choose the rope, the sharks, or exile.  Fourteen took exile without hesitation, but the fifteenth chose the rope.  Adeline hung him herself while others watched.  I sent three boats full of armed men and women with the remaining fourteen and left the on the island with the cannibals.  I let them take daggers and a skin of water each, with the admonishment if they ever left that island, they would be hunted down and killed.

I didn’t watch the hanging — wish it hadn’t come to that, but I’m not the supreme leader of anyone.  I have no authority to dictate how each should feel.  Anger is a powerful force, one reason I try to keep it at bay.

Around dusk, Bob came back with Old One Eye.  Neither of the other gods returned to us.  We three went to the Rasa and found Bob’s and my armor exactly where we’d left it in the trunks near our hammocks.  This proved a greater relief than I had anticipated.  Bob said a prayer, thanking his mistress Kithri for his life and the gifts she bestowed upon him.  Then he asked her to accept his support of Old One Eye.  This made the old god maudlin for a time.

He caught us both off guard by suggesting he take the rings from us.  You recall the ones Thunder Jack had given us, to seal the bond between us?  Old One Eye said while the rings were powerful artifacts, that they would prove to be problematic in the long run.  The positive aspects were frequently overshadowed by the negative aspects of their magic.

We talked about it and agreed in the end.  We needed no rings to define our love.  That would not be tarnished by time or distance.

After the full fall of night, he took the rings from us.  There was a moment of dizziness as they slipped off our fingers, but we both agreed we felt lighter without them.  Old One Eye said we were a new generation, with an unusual view of the world that he hoped would prevent us from repeating the sins of our forefathers.  Then he blessed the both of us, called us faithful stewards, and faded out of this world.  At first, I thought he’d died or something, but Bob assured me that he could feel the god’s presence.  To be sure, I called the divine, seeking out his specific threads and found them stronger than they had been since I’d added him to my pantheon.

In the end, we divided the Hand conscripts across five ships.  Angelo took over the galleon, which he dubbed the Raging Bull.  He actually said that with a straight face, and I didn’t challenge him.

Emad got his own ship, with a few folks from the Leaping Tadpole and Battle Toad to help the new crew to get acclimated.  He chose one of the xebecs as he had the most experience with the Rasa.  Borcus gave the Leaping Tadpole to his second in command and took the remaining xebec as his own.  Again, crew was divvied up to make an adequate contingent to sail the ships.

Two carracks, and two galleys were left in the bay.  The would be for when Adeline or one of the other captains had enough crew to split across more ships.  She had a mind to build a full navy and challenge the Hand fleet everywhere she could find them.

Cleric Journal Book Seven: Day One Hundred and Nine

 

 

I walked north around the island, climbing to a point overlooking the burning Hand ship.  Not directly overhead, for sure, but I had a better vantage point than those on the other ships had.  I was just thinking that this would be a great place for a catapult.  From here I could totally control the entire lagoon.   Not that we were staying here.  We needed to get on with our quest.

Our ships swung around and began to drag people out of the water as fast as they could.  If they lived, and did not fight them, they were brought on board.  If they fought, they were thrown back to the sharks.  Not many fought back at that point.

The captain of the Hand ship ran up the white flag when it became apparent that the fire raged between him and his stores of pitch.  By the time they got that put out, his ship would be a total loss.  Whatever other faults he had, he was not suicidal.

Borcus, bless his heart, took a crew onto the burning ship and forced the surviving Hand people out into their long boats, while he sent his people below to free the slaves and prisoners that were always there.

I stood on the overlook, watching this all unfold, wondering how fragile these great ships of war actually were.  Faith is the mainstay of anyone willing to sail the uncharted seas, I can tell you.

“Hey,” I called out to no one in particular.  “That ship is burning.  Likely a lot of innocents are going to burn to death if things aren’t brought under control.”

No one responded, so I rolled my eyes.  “That water fountain thing was pretty cool,” I said.  Again, the gods had all wandered off in different directions, and none of the seemed to be paying any attention to me.  So, I took matters into my own hand.  Again.

Pulling cool threads from the furthest end of my reach, I wove a patch that reminded me of a rainy day.  Usually I used this to insure we had potable water for drinking, but in this case, I deluged the ship with as much water as I could muster.

The captain of the Hand ship began shouting and calling from the lifeboat he and a dozen of his men now floated in.  With the fire knocked back on his ship, he sounded like he wanted to rally his troops.

Borcus shot him with a crossbow, and the raging man fell over the side of his boat, where he was set upon by a swarm of smaller sharks.  I gauged their true size based on the fins.  I’m sure their teeth were sharp enough.

It took another two hours to beat out the fire, corral the prisoners, and free those from below decks.  Boarding ships was second nature to the pirating crews I associated with.  Better to capture a ship and increase the compliment, rather than scuttling a worthy vessel.  I won’t pretend they didn’t scuttle a ship now and again.  The general theme held, however.

Seven longboats made their way over the reef to the shore.  None of these individuals had weapons, but there were seventy or so men and women among those survivors.  There were another twelve that had been picked up out of the water.  The three ships sent troops ashore to help keep the prisoners under control.

I walked among them, triaging the wounded into groups.  Those that could wait, I sent with the general prisoners.  Minor cuts and abrasions could wait.  There were a few who died before I could get to them, but the first several I healed had been on the cusp themselves.

The more I healed them, the angrier I got.  These were kids, most of them.  My age or younger.  Oh, there were some grizzled veterans mixed in, but for the most part, I was thinking conscripts from outlying villages, or the poor and desolate who had no other choices.

One of the older veterans, weaponless and hobbled by a shark bite that I’d managed to staunch, began to order his troops around, getting those who were not too wounded to help the others.  I let him.  He reminded me of the old hob sergeant I knew from the Night Wing Legion.

Angelo took one of the boats with Emad and a handful of others to go out and inspect the galleon.  He was agitated for some reason, so I didn’t stop him.  I had my hand full as it was.

Adeline took the Rasa out to scout, making sure this ship was alone.  The Battle Toad had dropped anchor while the crew there began to replace the rigging as best they could.  The Leaping Tadpole had run alongside the galleon and was ferrying off prisoners, and cargo, unless my quick glances were incorrect.  Looting was part of the game.

Not that any of this was child’s play.

As the sun moved across the sky, we began to get the prisoners organized into groups and moved to various spots along the beach.  No more than ten to a group.  We couldn’t tie them all up, didn’t have enough rope, and to be honest, most of them were just happy to be alive.

Several of them tried to escape early on, but they were brought down by crossbows.  This put the fear into the rest of them.  Before we were all settled, two of our crew had been shanked, with one dying.  The attacker there died at Dorn’s hand.  The old navigator was wicked with a boning knife.

I began to interview the veterans as I found them, each giving me quotes from scripture, admonishment of my pending damnation, or sullen silences.  It wasn’t until I got back to that first sergeant that I got some cooperation.  Not all who serve in an army buy into the politics of those who pull the strings.  Sometimes you just keep your head down and follow orders.  If things get too uncomfortable, there was always wine and women to dull the guilt.

At least, that’s how Jorge Dunwater explained it as I examined the shark bite on his left leg later that afternoon.  Guilt I understood.  Serving people who kept slaves, raped and pillaged, that I will never understand.

Cleric Journal Book Seven: Day One Hundred and Eight

 

 

We scattered.  Luckily, while the shot was targeted accurately, the range was not adequate.  The fiery pitch splashed down in the water a dozen strides beyond dry sand and steam rose while it frothed and boiled.  At least it wasn’t Greek Fire.  That stuff burned on top of the water.  This pitch would grow inert quick enough.

The gods were picking themselves up with more than a bit of indignity.  She Who Rules the Waves appeared to be the most put out, as her seafoam and shell accoutrement was jostled violently when she dove away, revealing certain assets that the rest of us could only appreciate from afar.

“Looks like first shot to me,” I said, not bothering to turn away.  I’ve seen beautiful women, bedded some, worshiped with more.  Not that I didn’t appreciate how handsome she was, rather I just wasn’t in the mood to care.  My friends were in danger and I needed to do something.  “Is it in your natures to let such a provocation go unanswered?”

“We can’t interfere,” She Who Rules the Waves said, the once laughter a hallow echo in her voice.  “Indirect help is one thing.  Direct intervention always upsets things in ways none of us want to deal with.  Again.”

Thunder Jack blushed at her words and looked away.

It was Old One Eye who clarified things.  “His interference with the rings is what opened him to the attack by he you name Devil Pete.  They have a long history together.  There is taint in this young whelp that festers, a doorway into his soul.”

Thunder Jack opened his mouth to say something, but stopped himself.  Instead he lowered his head, tucked his arms in his armpits, and walked away.  He did not argue the point.

She Who Rules the Waves did not follow him.  Funny enough, it was Raucous that hurried after him, following him into the woods.  Why not, after all they had spent a day and a night exploring the insides of each other’s mouths with their respective tongues.  Not that there was anything wrong with that.

He didn’t look defeated, more sullen.  An air of remorse and embarrassment followed him as he disappeared.  He seemed more a moody teenager than a god.

“How old is he?” I asked as Raucous caught up to him and took his hand.  Just before they disappeared, she had her head on his shoulder, and her arm around his waist.

She Who Rules the Waves shrugged and looked out to the ships, ignoring the whole thing.  Did gods get jealous?  Okay, stupid question.  I can’t believe I even wrote it.  What I meant, to be more accurate, was are the gods monogamous, or possessive of their lovers?  She Who Rules the Waves and Thunder Jack were lovers, right?

I glanced at Old One Eye and he twisted his mouth into a sideways frown.  He didn’t understand much here either.

“Depends on the context,” he said, sort of answering my question.  “He’s been a god for tens of thousands of years.  Longer than your favorite bread maker, Kithri.”

I thought about it.  “How old was he when he ascended?”

No one answered right away.  I’d just about given it up as a rhetorical question, when Bob chimed in.  “He was forty-nine when he ascended.  Third child of a piteous ruler with a kingdom destroyed and a people scattered on anything that could float.”

The others turned to look at Bob who continued.  “He fought the two-headed dragon of the Black Isle, killing it with these,” he held up the hammers he’d been given.  “After that, he hunted down and slew three demons, rescuing many who had been made prisoner in the cataclysm.  Unfortunately, most of those he freed were not dwarves, not his people.  He had not come of age according to our customs.”

I appreciated the information, and for the gods, I don’t reckon they cared a whit.  By custom, and based on life-span, he is actually slightly younger than I am.  Not in true years, of course.  Interesting.  That began to explain a few things.

“About those ships,” I said, going back to the original subject.  “My dear sea god, beauty of foam and wave, how is it that you raised that wall of coral to cut of pursuit?”

She looked at me and blinked.  “Coral grows naturally, sometimes faster, some slower.  If my actions impeded that ship’s progress, it was purely unintentional.”

I know my eyebrows disappeared into my hairline at those words, and she blew me a kiss before turning and walking toward the sea.

Old One Eye shrugged.  “I gave you free ale, unlimited, and you dumped it out.  Not sure what else I can do to help.”

He wasn’t being facetious or anything.   Bob actually looked embarrassed by the response.  After a breath, he turned to follow the old god northward along the edge of the jungle.

Which left me standing in the middle of the beach, alone, without a plan.

Where are Emad, Dorn, Scrabble, and Angelo?

I dropped my pack in the sand at my feet, rotated my neck to relieve the tension, and began to walk to the shore line.

It was only then I realized how refreshed I felt.  Power stood ready at my fingertips, the weaves of my gods burgeoning.

Ships are wood.  Those jerks like to play with fire.  I thought perhaps I’d try my column of flame thingy I’d cast previously.

The enemy ship may not be the one Angelo commanded, but I’d examined one exactly like it back when we’d first come to this island.  There were fore and aft onagers, each throwing burning pitch.  That meant they had a store of pitch to load and light before firing it.

I took up the symbol for Thunder Jack, felt his need to prove himself, recognizing it for the first time, and called down fire.

They couldn’t directly interfere, but as burning men and women began to jump into the ocean, I saw the tell-tell fins of feeding sharks.

Definitely not direct intervention.  Only indirect for these folks.

Cleric Journal Book Seven: Day One Hundred and Seven

 

 

I find it ironic how success or failure can often hinge upon one specific individual.  In this case, Angelo.  When I burst into the castle the others were still reveling.  I shouted and cajoled, but it wasn’t until I emptied Old One Eye’s pitcher of beer on the stone floor of the kitchen would anyone listen.

They were all drunk.  Every last one of them.  Raucous staggered out in the yard to throw up, and Emad followed behind her.  I needed these people clear headed, so I did what I always do.  I improvised.

Alcohol is a poison, so I treated it as such.  Despite how tired I was, I thought a little help could boost my abilities.  I’d gotten more power by joining hands with other cleric’s in the past, what happened if I created a chain with three gods?

Thunder Jack and She Who Rules the Waves were already holding hands.  If I had two of my own, it may have proven easier.  As it was, asking Old One Eye to hold Thunder Jack’s hand was a non-starter, and asking him to hold the sea god’s hand may start a fight with Thunder Jack.

Finally, I had a stroke of brilliance.

“Group hug!” I shouted.

Angelo lurched to his feet and staggered over to us, going down to one knee so he could hug the littler people.  Raucous and Emad stumbled back into the room and threw themselves against the backs of those who were already in the hugging formation.

I got one hand on Thunder Jack, and pressed the stump of my other arm against Old One Eye.  It would have to do.

The thread I wove came from those in the room, and while I can’t really smell the divine, I caught a whiff of sour ale in the weaving.

I cast a group cleanse spell, ridding each of them of poison.  One moment people were laughing and crying, telling each other how amazing they were, or how they’d be best friends forever.

The next moment, people were backing up, straightening their clothing (apparently there was a bit of groping going on as well).  Raucous winked at me as she pulled her hands up into the air, a sign of feigned innocence.

The sobriety did not suit them all well.  Old One Eye, in particular, was quite cross when he saw his pitcher upside down on the hearth.  Apparently, the pitcher would always refill as long as it never ran dry.

Oops.

I may be why we can’t have nice things.

Once I was able to shout them down this time, I explained about the ships, and the pending conflict.  I mentioned the man-of-war to Angelo and he looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

“My ship was holed, stuck on the reef, with plague running through the crew.  Are you sure it’s not another ship?”

I shrugged.  “Let’s quibble over details later.  Can the lot of you come to the beach with me?

Though they grumbled, they agreed.  Well, most of them.

Barnaby and Gracie stayed behind at Audrey’s request.  Phineas had decided to leave this island once and for all, now that Audrey had returned to him, but he wanted to pack a few things to take with them when they joined us.

When I said a few things, I literally meant everything.  But that comes later.

Most of us moved at a quick pace back to the beach.  When we broke out of the jungle, Angelo swore, while Raucous and Emad shouted with joy.  Those two ran across the beach to where Dorn waited with Scrabble.  Their jumping and whoops of joy started the little guy, and he scampered away from the lunatics.  Emad swept Dorn up in his arms and planted a big kiss on the old woman, who threw her arms around him and wrestled him to the ground where she became the aggressor in the lip lock.  Raucous laughed at them all the while.  Their ship had returned, and some of their friends had come through alive, what better way to rejoice.

Bob grinned from ear-to-ear when he saw the ships, though he was excited, he pulled Old One Eye to the side and put their heads together in deep conversation.

She Who Rules the Waves walked out onto the sand and waved her hand at the sea.  As we watched, a reef rose between the galleon and the ships of my allies.  All three smaller ships had been rowing away from the larger ship, any chance of parlay having obviously failed.  The Battle Toad had a torn sail on her main mast, and most of her rigging was burning.  The crew was working to put the fires out, but on a ship, that was always a tricky proposition.

Again, She Who Rules the Waves made a motion and a great spout of water rose up and doused the burning ship.  Not a single crew member was washed overboard.  She had a lot of control.

“That’s not my ship,” Angelo called, walking toward me.  He had been further down the beach, eyeing the larger ship.  When he got within conversation distance, he turned and looked back toward the lagoon, shading his eyes.  “I’ve seen a similar ship before, several years ago.  I believe it belongs to a group calling themselves the Hand of the One True God.

I must’ve growled, because he turned to me.  “You know them?”

I nodded.  “We don’t get along.”

He chuckled.  “They tried to assert themselves into our lands, but our people rebuffed their declarations and their threats.”

“Wise move,” I said, motioning for him to follow me.  We approached the sea god, but waved Bob and Old One Eye over to join us.

“What’s the chance any of you can just sink that ship?” I asked the crowd.  “Anyone?”

Thunder Jack was the first to reply.  “When you use the word can, the answer is likely yes.”

He grinned at me, and I heard a distinct but in that answer.

“What you should be asking, is either, should we sink her, or what’s the cost to sink her.”

I growled again and Old One Eye burst out laughing.

“This is my domain,” She Who Rules the Waves informed us.  “I believe there are enough ship wrecks and lost souls around the waters of this island.  Why don’t we attempt to parlay?”

“Gee,” I groused.  “Why didn’t I think of that.”

We walked down to the shoreline.

“This should go well,” I offered and Bob rolled his eyes.

The others looked quite pleased with themselves.

Then the great ship sent a burning ball of pitch toward the beach, with remarkable accuracy, to where we stood.  That’s when the smiles faded.

Cleric Journal Book Seven: Day One Hundred and Six

 

 

I have never felt so absolutely drained.  It’s like a cloud had settled over my mind.  Perhaps I have overtaxed my divine powers.  Only time will tell.  I walked on to the standing stones, Scrabble chattering away as we made our way through the jungle.

“Let’s go down to the beach.”

Scrabble pranced on my shoulder, and I took that as a yes.

We covered the distance from the standing stones to beach without difficulty.  While there was not a true path, I could see where we, and perhaps others, had gone before.  When we came out of the shadow of the trees and looked out over the beach several things became immediately apparent.  I had not come this far, physically, since I mended the castle and the standing stones temple.

The beach stretched beyond my vision to either side, curling around the island and being lost in the shadow of the jungle to north and south.  The three blackened remnants of the bonfires remained, but otherwise the beach was pristine.  The two small boats I had attempted to fix were gone, which was a disappointment.  There were no footprints on the beach, which surprised me.  Honestly, I don’t know if the wind and rain could’ve obliterated the churn of battle or the back-and-forth of me burning the dead.  The white sand shone in the light of the day and I really wanted another beer.  The lagoon was beautiful, and I thought it would be marvelous to just sit with my toes in the sand, a shade overhead, and a cold beer in my hand.

I was mesmerized, and beyond exhausted.  That is my only excuse for missing the other changes.  Scrabble noted them right off, but didn’t get agitated about things until I sat on the sand.

There were three ships at anchor out beyond the reef.  One was a xebec, like the Tabula Rasa.  The second was a galley crawling with croakers, and the third was a carrack.  I knew at least two of these ships, I realized.  The galley was the Leaping Tadpole, captained by a croaker named Borcus.  Or had been the last time I saw that ship.  Borcus was large for a croaker, with a quick wit, and a ruthless streak when it came to the Hand of the One True God.  I remember his black and green mottling, and the way spots the size of my palm ran along either side of his face, and down his neck.  His crew has won the Leaping Tadpole from the Hand,

The Carrack was the Battle Toad, captained by one Gobbledygook.  She was smaller than Borcus, but craftier.  Her coloring ran to tans and yellows with four green slashes across her back, like claw marks.  Her crew was a mix of croakers, hobs and humans.  Leastwise, that’s what I recalled.

The final ship, the Xebec was furling their sails, and had the sweeps out, moving toward the island.

That’s when I realized something else.  The wrecks and shoals were gone.

“Holy cats,” I said to Scrabble who patted me on the cheek.  “Just how far out did my mending go?”

He made a quiet comment I could not understand and we watched the boats with open mouths.

The Xebec was the Tabula Rasa.  I sat down quickly in a near faint.  They had been taken by pirates and cannibals.  What in the name of all the gods had transpired.

The Rasa put in anchor on the far side of the reef and a small skiff was launched.  I couldn’t see who exactly was on it, because my eyes were watering too much.  It wasn’t until they had cleared the reef and were making their way to the beach that I saw who was there: Adeline, and her navigator, Dorn were in the prow.  Behind her several others rowed.

After a bit, I managed to climb to my feet and walk down to the shore where I stood while they closed the final distance.  I am not ashamed to say I wept, the tears rolling down into my beard.  It was still mostly singed, but it would grow back in.

Adeline leapt from the boat and ran through the surf toward me.  I went down to meet her and she threw herself in my arm.  Hugs are one of the few times where I deeply missing the second arm.  Oh, the upper arm still exists, and can sort of add to a hug, but without the rest of it, I always feel awkward, like I’m spinning in circles.

She sobbed against my chest, muttering and cursing, but clinging to me like we may drown otherwise.  Dorn climbed out of the boat with the help of one of the rowers and I recognized him as one of the original crew.  She stood on the sand and watched us, her arms crossed, and a look of wonder on her face.

“How in the seven hells did you survive, boy?” she said when she approached.  Adeline just squeezed me tighter.

Scrabble chattered in my ear for a moment, then bounded off Adeline and landed on Dorn’s shoulder.  The old woman seemed to be expecting it and turned slightly to give him a solid landing.

“That’s Scrabble,” I said, and the old woman laughed.

While the others were putting in anchor, a huge ship came around the end of the island from the north.  I recognized it as the galleon that had been stuck out on the reefs.

They had not been kind to us the first time we passed them, so I stiffened.  I guessed that Angelo was their captain, but I didn’t want another battle.

Adeline felt me stiffen and pulled away, turning to look in the direction I gazed.

“Is that the ship that tried to board us?” she asked.

“Oh, yeah.”

She cupped her hand around her mouth and called out to one of the new boats that was heading to shore from the Leaping Tadpole.

General alarm.

One of them waved, signaling that they had understood the message and turned to warn the ships.

“I think their captain is a friend of mind,” I said.  “Can you do something about holding off a battle while I run fetch him?”

Adeline rolled her eyes.  “You are nothing but trouble,” she said, kissing me on the cheek.  “I’ll delay things here.  Don’t dawdle.”

She walked down to the shore, barking orders at the crew of her skiff and they made ready to return to the Rasa.

Dorn stayed on shore with Scrabble, the two of them carrying on some form of conversation.  I have no idea if either understood the other, but that wasn’t holding them back.

I turned and ran back into the jungle.  Time to fetch Angelo and the others.  We just found our ticket off this island, and I’d love for it to happen without bloodshed.

Funny how far away the castle felt all of a sudden.

Cleric Journal Book Seven: Day One Hundred and Five

 

 

As I walked into the dining hall, I had a thought.  Barnaby seemed the more stable of the two.  His emotions had been more logical, whereas Gracie had thrown a meat cleaver at my head.  Perhaps I’d start with Barnaby.

I repeated the process of examining him with the green sight, and finding that silver thread that connected his spirit to this mortal coil.  Either I was just better, this second time around, or Barnaby had more inclination to come back.

His thread pulsed when I touched it with the spectral right hand, and almost instantly, Barnaby’s spirit hove into view before me.  The others began to crowd into the dining room to watch, though I wasn’t sure if anyone but me could see him.  After all, I was the one holding his spirit thread.

“I can restore your life, if that is something you desire.”

He didn’t hesitate.  I stepped back as his spirit flew forward and reunited with his body like a happy child jumping into a comfortable bed after a long day.

Okay, the metaphor may not be the greatest, but this was a first for me.  Part of the ritual consumed the ruby.  I held it against his forehead and it crumbled to powder and was absorbed into his flesh.  His spirit wiggled around inside the body like a person trying on a new set of clothing, and the ruby dust suffused throughout his flesh, repairing wounds and returning him to life with a rosy flush to his pale and cold skin.

When I pulled my spectral hand away from his life thread his physical form sat bolt upright and he gasped.  Everyone in the room cheered.

Bob and Angelo helped Barnaby off the table and into one of the chairs where he breathed in awkward gasps.

“Just breathe, slowly,” Bob suggested, and Barnaby nodded.

Old One Eye appeared at his side after a moment and handed the startled halfling a mug of ale.  I glanced into the kitchen.  The foaming pitcher sat on the table, sweat glistening off the crockery.  It was nicely chilled.

“You have work to do,” he said to me, winking.  “But maybe afterward, you can have a wee sip.”

I smiled and nodded.  Then I turned my attention back to Barnaby who had just drained off the last of the mug of ale.  He let out a great roaring belch, and fell back against the chair, spent.  He was alive and all the parts seemed to work so far.

I turned back to the table and looked down at Gracie again.  If she woke and Barnaby was alive, perhaps she’d be less confused and angry.

I repeated the ritual as I had before, only this time with the ruby.  Finding her life thread was not as easy as Barnaby’s which made me question whether or not she was interested in returning from beyond.

The thread throbbed when I touched it with my spirit hand, and she did not appear.  I called down the line and waited.  Slowly, reluctantly, her spirit appeared at the far edge of my perception.

“Why do you call me?” she asked.

“I have it within my power to restore you to the life you once lead.  Barnaby lives, as does Phineas.”

She moved closer at these words, but stood off, skittish.

“Phineas lives?” she asked.

I nodded.  “And Audrey has returned.”

This drove her back a step.  Was she afraid of Audrey?

“Does this news startle you?”

“She has been gone so long,” she whispered, edging closer to me.  “Phineas loved her with all his heart.  Her disappearing broke his mind.”

I’d figured most of this out already.  Nothing was fun and happy around here.

“There has been a curse on this island for a long time.  It is gone now.”

She edged slightly closer.

“What of Barnaby?” she asked, and this time instead of fear I saw worry and anxiety in her face.  Does she love him and fear to lose him, or is she tired of him?

“Barnaby has been revived just moments ago.  He is very glad to be alive, and wants you to come back as well.  Do you want to be with him?”

She nodded ever so slightly, a furtive movement that surprised me.  She was normally so brash and spirited.

“He is a kind man.  Gentle with my moods, and…” she paused, gliding closer.  “He makes me laugh.”

“There is definitely not enough laughter in the world,” I replied.

She looked back over her shoulder, a debate raging in her head.  Finally, she turned to me and sighed, “Do you think he would marry me, if I came back?”

That wasn’t exactly what I thought she’d ask, but I had a strong recollection of her desire to have children.

“You are both healed of whatever malady that had afflicted you.  I believe Barnaby would very much like to marry you, maybe have some children.”

That appeared to be the magic word.  She turned back to face me, eschewing whatever was drawing her beyond.  Her life thread grew thicker, more robust.

“Yes, please.”

When she gasped back to life, I stepped aside, allowing Barnaby to help her down from the table.  They held on another for a long time, sobbing into each other’s arms and making all sorts of promises that I wasn’t sure either of them could fulfill.  It was an emotional time, but people are who they are.  They may change over time, but no one becomes a new person overnight.

Old One Eye pulled me aside and put a frothing mug of ale in my hand.  “You’ve earned this, lad.  That was some fancy work you did there.”

I drank deeply and watched as my latest charges rejoiced at their new-found lives.

Phineas came down from the tower and they had a celebration worthy of these old halls.  Old One Eye provided the ale to get things started, but before long She Who Rules the Waves came in with Thunder Jack at her side.

She produced a basket of crabs and fish the likes I’d never seen.  Soon the kitchen was a madhouse of cooking and drinking that chased away the last of the hidden horrors, the half-remembered time anomalies, and the desperate fear that had permeated this place for so long.

My heart understood the joy, and was glad of it, but there was no song in me just yet.  Liz was days away, even if we had a ship.  Lilith was off on some tom-fool adventure of her own, and my quest seemed so far from over.

I walked out of the kitchen and into the yard.  Scrabble leapt down from the roof of the stable and nattered away as I walked out of the castle grounds.

Cleric Journal Book Seven: Day One Hundred and Four

 

 

That pitcher was pretty handy.  If I had Kithri’s basket with unending bread and honey to go along with this pitcher, I’d just settle down and open a tavern somewhere and live the life of leisure.  Okay, maybe that was the ale talking.  If I didn’t finish this quest, the world as we know it would and there’d be no one alive to come to a tavern.

I woke with those thoughts in my head, a head that throbbed with each beat of my heart.  How much beer did I actually consume?  I sat up, bleary-eyed and saw that Old One Eye and Bob both slept with their heads on the table as well.  They both breathed, so I didn’t feel too worried at the moment.  Scrabble wasn’t on my shoulder, so seems he found our drinking to excess less to his liking than ours.

The smell of rot hit me when I stood, and I lurched out the back door to lean against the outer wall and vomit.  Quite a lot, actually.  I don’t recall the last time I ate anything, but I had more than my fair share of ale.  When the heaves stopped, I stumbled forward a bit further and leaned against the wall, this time to piss.

I was sufficiently alert to lean with my feet far enough back not to splash on myself.  That’s about as far as I’d go with my wherewithal.  When a whistle cut across me I stupidly turned, streaming piss across the wall and grounds, to find Audrey walking toward me.

I’m not a shy individual, but she didn’t seem comfortable with my current situation, so I stepped back to the side with my back to her and finished my business.  I don’t know who grew more impatient, her or me.  I can only explain the total volume I disgorged by the fact it was essentially holy ale.  I didn’t think I’d ever stop.

But eventually, I did, much to everyone’s relief.  Once I had rearranged my small clothes and breeches, I stepped back around the wall and smiled at Audrey who had not moved.

“Old One Eye says you can bring Gracie and Barnaby back.  Is that true?”

I shrugged.  “I’ve never tried.  Why don’t we give it a shot?”  I noticed her hair was matted with sweat.  “Who have you been sparring with?”

Angelo came around the corner with Raucous following along behind.

“Your friend Raucous there is wicked with a blade,” Audrey said.   “And Angelo has got a reach that makes it nearly impossible to land a blow.”

The other two greeted me, and I saw that while Raucous wore sparring gear, and was herself drenched in sweat, Angelo looked fresh as if he’d just woken.

“I’ll see about some food, shall I?” Angelo said with a grin.  “Leave you little people to your tasks.”

He actually winked at me as he turned and went back toward the front of the castle.  The kitchen was this way, so I was unsure where he was going.

By the time we all filed back into the kitchen — Audrey and Raucous piling their wooden swords and shields against the hearth — Bob and Old One Eye were just rising.  When Bob made a lurching step toward the door, we all cleared a path.  I’d just done that dance.

I didn’t wait around to hear him retching.  I went into the dining hall and looked at the two bodies.  Neither were evil people, but neither had they been particularly kind.  Well, Barnaby perhaps.  Using the green sight, I examined them both and saw how the wounds had been inflicted, and how they had each died.  I’d never really examined the dead like this before and it was not a pleasant experience.

The blood had long dried, and their bodies had given up their rigor mortis by this time so I could move them about.  Each had been struck from behind.  I lay my hand on Gracie and felt for her spirit.  It wasn’t something I’d ever done before, though I’ve fought spirits.  After a bit of searching, I found a thin silver thread that ran from her corporeal form out.  Out where, I could not identify.  It just stretched beyond.  I felt shock in the death here.  She had been caught unaware.  At the moment of death, I saw in my mind’s eye, that it had been Thunder Jack controlled by Devil Pete, as I had suspected.

The pity was I hadn’t actually killed the fiend, just banished him from this plane.  No telling how long it would take him to return, but mark my words, he would return.

I sent a call out along that silver thread, a gentle summons that would show a way back to this place, but not one that compelled the spirit with force.  It was almost like fishing.  The line was baited and in the water, all I had to do was wait patiently for a response.

Only, I realized, I didn’t actually have any bait.  Something prevented the summons from working.  Some missing component.  I thought back to all I’d learned with the wizards, and thought about the first time I’d seen Wizard Tim investigate my items, attempting to discern if any had magical properties, and what they could be.  In those cases, we had to sacrifice a pearl for each telling.

I pulled back from Gracie and went to my pack which lay on the floor next to the place we’d been drinking.  I rummaged inside, running my hands over each of the gems, large and small, that filled the bottom.  Each felt wrong for my needs.  I sat back with a huff and Old One Eye shook his head.

“You need something pure, something that will entice the spirit back and heal the body at the same time.”

He led me back to the princess’s bedroom where Phineas had slept, and rifled the dresser until he came upon a pair of ruby earrings with stones the size of the nail on my pinky finger.

The second the jewelry hit my hand, I knew it was the right thing.  It’s hard to decipher the appropriate material components when you’ve not had formal training.

I hugged Old One Eye, which startled him, then ran back into the dining room.  Two rubies, two dead to raise.  I totally had this.