The Challenge of Malediction

:  curse, execration<the maledictions of great poets, whose hate confers an unwelcome immortality — John Buchan>


Middle English malediccioun, from Late Latin malediction-, maledictio, from maledictus (past participle ofmaledicere to curse) + Latin -ion-, -io -ion

First Known Use: 14th century

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Scars of the Sundering – Malediction

Edits are back for book 1 of the Scars of the Sundering trilogy, Malediction! Cover art is finished! The new map is finished! All that remains is incorporating some Beta Reader feedback and doing a final revision pass.

That means that I will have print copies to sell at Gen Con at the end of the month! Official, that’s Thursday, July 30th 2015. In the meantime, here’s the cover art, by Lily Yang.

Malediction Cover art - medium

Since the character went to new places and I fleshed the world out more than I had in The Foundation of Drak-Anor series, I decided to have the map updated, as well. Anna B. Meyer did a fantastic job updating the look of the World of Calliome!


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Scars of the Sundering – MALEDICTION – Preview 5

Finally, we conclude Chapter 1 of Scars of the Sundering, book one: Malediction with our fifth preview. Good thing May has five Fridays! It’s almost as though I planned the whole thing.

SoS Malediction

Pancras realized Kale was in trouble when he caught a glimpse of the little drak dangling by his ankle but knew if he broke his concentration to help his friend, the magic he manipulated to seal the rift would be ruined and he would have to start over.

He repeated the words, over and over, pouring every bit of arcane energy he could gather into the rift. “Stenee pyealee, stenee pyealee.” He wasn’t sure the ritual would work. His experience with magical portals was limited to his knowledge of the portal in Drak-Anor. With the help of Delilah, he spent the last several years studying it off and on, and though he never tried to close it, he was confident he knew the theory behind the process, a theory he had, until now, not tested.

Kale sailed past him through the air and into the rift. Pancras’s heart skipped a beat, and it took all his effort to concentrate on the task at hand. If Kale was inside the rift when he sealed it, he would be trapped in the elemental chaos for eternity. He knew, however, leaving the rift open was far more dangerous to more than just one drak. It pained him to admit it, but closing the rift was worth the life of one drak or even all three of them.

The air crackled as lighting arced across the room. The kaleidoscopic colors gave Pancras a headache. He saw no sign of Kale but noticed Edric struggling with a veritable forest of toothed, suckered tentacles. Pancras felt the portal weakening. Its connection with the Mortal Realm was tenuous, at best, and with the magic he weaved around it, that connection weakened further.

As the wispy tendrils of shadowy smoke coalesced into a familiar, frightening demonic form, Pancras redoubled his efforts and ended the ritual. “STENEE PYEALEE!”

Splurrrt-woosh! Air rushed past them as the rift contracted, and then a sucking sound, reminiscent of viscous goo squirting from a wine skin, filled the room. Pancras felt something slam into him, driving the breath from his lungs. There was a flash of light, and then all was still. Edric’s sword clanged on the ground as the tentacles he fought vanished. The closing rift bisected the bloodmaw: the part in the rift gone, and the part still in this world mortally wounded. It slithered out of the hole in the ceiling and crashed to the floor with a grotesque, wet plop.

As he tried to catch his breath, Pancras fell to his knees. Smokey tendrils wafted from his limbs, growing more and more nebulous until they vanished completely. He no longer saw the shadow demon, but that was no guarantee he eliminated the threat. The dwarf was behind him, getting to his feet. He couldn’t see the drak. “Kale?” Pancras’s voice was hoarse and raspy.


Pancras walked around the bloodmaw’s carcass to find Kale curled up against the wall. The drak held his head and moaned. Kneeling down next to him, the minotaur put his hand on Kale’s shoulder. The drak’s scales felt hot, feverish, and uncomfortable to touch.

“Kale? Can you move?”

“Can I?” Kale lifted his head as if lead weights were attached to his skull. His eyes seemed different to Pancras, though they had not changed their outward appearance. “Yes, but I don’t want to. I hurt, Pancras. I feel like I’m burning up from the inside out.”

“It’ll pass.” He helped Kale to his feet. I hope.

“What now?” Edric poked at the remains of the bloodmaw with his sword. The angular blade sank into the carcass like a knife into a quivering pile of jelly. He grimaced and yanked it out, shaking slime off it.

Pancras looked around the room. There was still no sign of the shadow demon. “Let’s try to head back to Ironkrag. You dwarves can probably deal with any remaining beasties down here. I recommend collapsing these caverns entirely.” He figured the dwarves would ignore his advice, but he gave it anyway.

“They sent me down here to get rid of me. I’ll bet they never thought I’d come back.”

“Why is the room all twisty?” Kale held his head and staggered as he walked. Pancras reached under his arm and picked him up and was surprised how light the he was, given his propensity for ale.

“If nothing else, you have quite a tale to tell.”


The three made their way up the twisting tunnel back into the main chamber where Pancras destroyed the ghouls. The cavern was quiet and still, with only the phosphorescent glow of fungus providing light. Nothing stirred, not even cave rats, and by comparison to the cacophony in the cave earlier, to Pancras’s ears their breathing was deafening.

Kale’s body cooled, and by the time they returned to the tunnel leading to Ironkrag, he demanded he be allowed to walk on his own.

“I can walk! You can’t carry me into Ironkrag. We’d never live it down!”

Pancras lowered Kale to the ground before the drak squirmed out of his arms and fell. He kept a close eye on him, though, unsure of whether the effects of the chaos rift were permanent.

He took a deep breath as he saw the area of darkness at the end of the tunnel. “Let’s just get this report to the dwarves over with. Then we can go home.”

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Scars of the Sundering – MALEDICTION – Preview 4

Today is part four in my series of previews of Scars of the Sundering, book one: Malediction. As with the other previews, this scene follows immediately after the previous scenes posted.

SoS Malediction

As Kale listened to the minotaur’s chanting, he wished his sister could be with them. Deli would burninate anything that attacked us right now! He flipped one of his daggers in the air, catching it by the handle.

Edric gripped the hilt of his sword with nervous energy. The dwarf muttered to himself. “Should’ve stayed at the pub. Never deal with this stuff at the bottom of a bottle. Warm beds, happy whores, maybe get a job, pay off my debts, but not this. Never this.”

The air crackled with energy. Kale looked around the room. The walls seemed to undulate and pulse, but he wasn’t sure if that was an effect of the energy in the air or if the walls actually moved. What little he understood about raw chaos made him wish Pancras would hurry.

Something squished between his toes. Kale looked down to see the floor oozing up around his feet. Yelping, he danced around, shaking the goo off them. One of the walls erupted in a shower of blood and ichor, swirling toward the rift like a tornado.

“You have to stop him, Kale.”

Kale stopped and gasped when he saw who spoke. It was his twin sister, Delilah. Her crimson and ebony scales glinted in the sickly light of the rift. She leaned on her skull-topped staff and flashed her eyes at him, smiling.

“Come, Kale,” Delilah held her arm out for him. “Let’s leave this nasty place. Come away with me.”

Kale looked back at Pancras. The necromancer gave no indication he saw or heard her. It sounds like Deli… but it doesn’t. He walked toward her. She put her arm around him and hugged him close, her muzzle tickling his ear.

“It ain’t real!”

Deli jerked back as Edric pulled on her arm, hacking at it with his sword. She squealed as the dwarf sliced through skin and bone, black ichor spewing from the ragged stump.

“Deli!” Kale lunged toward Edric.

The dwarf caught Kale’s arm just as the drak stabbed at him with a dagger. “I told you, it ain’t real. Look!”

Kale’s attention wavered just enough for him to see Delilah dissolve into a tentacle that retracted into the wall. He shuddered and pushed Edric away. Two more tentacles shot out of the wall headed for Pancras. With a shout, Kale leapt toward them, slashing with his daggers.

Tentacles from the ceiling snagged Edric. The dwarf cursed and slashed at them with his sword. Each slash met with a splash of ichor, like grease bursting from plump sausages. One of the tentacles wrapped around Kale’s ankle, dragging him into the air.

Slashing at the tentacle which held him, Kale felt his dagger draw a line of burning fire across his leg. He cursed at his clumsiness and then screamed when the tentacle flicked him like a bit of mud on a shoe. He sailed through the air into the rift.

Kale’s world burst into flashes of green, yellow, and silver. He spun, wheeling through eternity in a realm where up and down were the same as left and right. He could see the flavor of ripe apples and roasted meat. Opening his mouth to cry out, Kale found he could only smell the sound of Pancras’s chanting.

Through to the other side of the rift he sailed, and as he crashed into a metallic wall, Kale’s world went dark.

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Scars of the Sundering – MALEDICTION – Preview 3

Today is part 3 in my series previewing Scars of the Sundering, book one: Malediction. This scene follows immediately after the previous two.

SoS Malediction

Pancras willed his legs to carry him forward. Destroying the undead was easy. He simply recalled the energy used to create them. It gave him the boost he needed to erect the shield in time, but the shadow demon was strong, and the impact leeched much of that energy away. He was lucky he could use the demon’s own shadow to step through and avoid its next charge.

His cleverness did not come without cost, though. Pancras, tired and hungry, felt as though his last sleep and meal were weeks ago, though, in reality, they were but a few hours past. Magic taxed the weilder, particularly when fighting such a strong foe and using different effects so quickly and close together.

A shadow demon, a chaos rift, a bloodmaw. I hope those hairy little cretins appreciate this. No wonder the Seer-King didn’t send his own dwarves down here. I’ll bet the old bastard suspected something like this and asked for Sarvesh’s help because he views us as more expendable.

“How in the name of Pacha’s blue bollocks are we going to destroy those things?” Edric jogged to keep up with Pancras. The minotaur slowed his pace.

“That is a very good question.” One for which I do not have an answer. I can seal the rift… if we can find it.

The three skirted the edge of the bloodmaw’s pit. Pancras heard the shadow demon scrambling against the sides, howling and roaring. He hoped the downward-pointing teeth hindered its progress long enough for them to find something, anything useful.

He stumbled over a boulder, sending a cave rat scurrying for cover. Pancras saw a glint of metal up ahead. He surged forward. The metal was part of a digging apparatus, unattended, yet churning away at the rock. Locked into place the digging bit spun fruitlessly above dirt just out of reach as it had for ages. It appeared to be dwarven in make but was a style he had never seen.

Edric ran up to it. “Wow, this thing is old. There are a few of these back in the city, but we don’t use them anymore.” He ran his hands along the machine. “These date back to before The Sundering.”

“Wow.” Kale’s wide eyes gleamed like a child experiencing the wonder of the first snowfall. “How does it work?”

Edric climbed up on it. “I’m not sure. These are from before my time. The controls don’t look that different than some of the machines we have now. Well, except it feels different, if that makes sense? Can you feel it?”

Pancras reached out and placed his hand on the machine. He felt arcane energy running through it. “The magic is old. How do the ones you have currently work?”

“There’s a bunch of springs, clockwork gears, that sort of thing. I think they draw power from the Soul Forge, but I don’t really know about that kind of thing.” Edric pulled a lever. The machine lurched forward, spewing bits of rock and dirt. It left a gouge in the ground. Edric pulled another lever and the machine turned toward the bloodmaw pit. It chewed its way forward.

Edric jumped off the top of the machine. “Seems a shame to waste such fine craftsmanship, but I suppose it might do some damage if we let that beastie chew on it a bit, eh?”

Pancras nodded. “I’m sure it will buy us some time. I’m sure that shadow demon won’t be pleased when a giant dwarven machine falls on its head.”

Kale tugged at Pancras’s sleeve. “I don’t know. My daggers went right through it like it wasn’t even there. Look! There’s another tunnel behind the machine!”

The phosphorescent fungus covering the cavern walls and ceiling seemed to lead toward the tunnel Kale found. They spiraled into the tunnel, making it appear like a whirlpool dragged them deeper underground.

Pancras led Edric and Kale down the tunnel as it curved and descended. The weight of the earth above them pressed in all around them. The ground shook, and they heard high-pitched wailing.

Edric looked up at Pancras and grinned. “I’m guessing that bloodmaw beast didn’t like the meal I gave it.”

Dirt fell from the ceiling and smacked Pancras in the head. He shook it off and continued forward. The ground beneath his hooves became harder. He tapped his hoof against the ground. The surface felt like metal.

“Eww! Pancras, the wall is furry!” Kale recoiled from the wall, bumping into his friend. The minotaur stumbled into the opposite wall with a squish.

He pulled away, bits of the wall sticking to his robes. “We’re close to the rift. See its effect on the environment?”

The tunnel grew brighter as they followed it, until they found themselves standing in small chamber, which at its center stood a glowing slash. Closer inspection revealed it was a pulsing, writhing river of light, swirling, coruscating, and hovering about a drak’s height from the floor.

The floor beneath the rift bubbled and churned, as though the metal were boiling, but he did not feel any heat from the molten metal. Pancras found it difficult to look directly at it, though he felt it tugging and pulling at his eyes. Dozens of shadowy tendrils rose like smoke out of the fissure and pierced the ceiling of the chamber. A thick fleshy column descended from the ceiling into the heart of the pulsing light.

“There! The bloodmaw is still connected to the rift.” Pancras stood before the swirling miasma and gathered threads of magical energy. He spread his arms, looking over his shoulder at Kale and Edric. “I’m going to close it. Whatever happens, you have to make sure nothing interrupts me.”

Kale drew two daggers. “What happens to the bloodmaw if you close the rift while it’s still in it?”

“It might be cut in half. It might be ejected all together.”

“Ejected?” Edric stood next to Kale, his sword ready. “On our side or the other?”

“Yes.” Pancras moved his hands in the complex patterns of the ritual required. Sealing the rift should be like sealing any other magical portal… I just hope I have strength enough left to do it. He chanted under his breath, allowing the volume of his voice to rise with the power of the magic. “Stenee pyealee, stenee pyealee…”

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Scars of the Sundering – MALEDICTION – Preview 2

Today is the second preview I’m offering of Scars of the Sundering, book one: Malediction. It follows immediately after the scene I previewed last week.

SoS Malediction

“What is that?” Kale bumped into Pancras as he looked down the pit. With a gasp the minotaur grabbed him and backpedaled. The drak saw spikes and a nasty-looking red morass at the bottom of the pit. He grasped Kale’s bandoleer and dragged him away from the edge.


“What?” Kale looked up at Pancras. He’d never heard of a bloodmaw before.

Pancras shook his head. “It is a beast born of chaos. It should not be in this world.”

Edric looked over the edge. “That thing’s making the ghouls?” The clicking noise echoed up the bloodmaw’s pit.

“No, no,” Pancras shook his head again. “I don’t think so. It can corrupt though, corrupt and devour. When the world was sundered, the shards of Calliome were surrounded by elemental chaos. Scholars called it The Maelstrom. Those rifts were all sealed with the healing of the world, but as with all grievous wounds, some of the scars festered and allowed bits of chaos to seep through, much like the portal to the Fae Realm in Drak-Anor. They allow what’s on the other side passage to our world. This chaos beast”—He gestured to the bloodmaw’s pit—”Must have come through one of those festering sores.”

“How does it make that sound?” Kale noticed movement in the corner of his eye. Dozens of ghouls shuffled toward them out of the darkness. Twisted and deformed, they were hunched over, their knuckles touching the ground. Dirty, elongated nails now served as cruel talons. He identified ghouls that were once dwarves, draks, and even minotaurs and humans. He tapped Pancras on the hand.

“We have company.”

The dwarf spun around, his sword at the ready. Pancras turned to regard the ghoul horde. “Aita’s bloody bones!”

Ghouls closed in from all sides, moving toward them with deliberate purpose. Kale drew a second dagger and crouched into a combat stance. “Why aren’t they attacking?”

The glow on the tips of Pancras’s horns grew brighter and greener. “They are being controlled.”

“Indeed.” A mellifluous, malicious voice answered. Kale did not recognize the language it spoke and was puzzled he understood it. The air around them grew ranker and as cold as the deep of winter as a shadow rose from behind the pack of ghouls surrounding them. “Welcome, Necromancer. Come to join my ever-growing army?” Kale shuddered, his stomach twisting in knots. Every fiber of his being screamed for him to run and hide from or cower in fear at this twisted abomination in the shadow as his brain told him to stand fast and help Pancras.

The minotaur stepped forward, interposing himself between Kale and the shadow. “We come to destroy it.”

The shadow laughed. “The three of you? You would make fine additions, despite your foolishness.” The shadow moved forward, revealing its true form: that of a slime-covered beast. Shadows cloaked it like billowy clouds of soot and ash. Kale found himself instinctively shrinking from it, though he did not recognize its form. Its slavering maw snapped, and hissing at the three, it bared its teeth.

Pancras stood his ground. The green glow at the tips of his horns flared.

Kale squinted to shield his eyes as Pancras threw open his arms and chanted. “Aita pairnei piso tee dyaenamee pou eiche klapei.

The shadow growled and charged the minotaur. Kale leapt forward, throwing his dagger at it and drawing two more from his bandoleer before touching down. The thrown daggers punched holes through the shadow, holes which sealed themselves with a hiss and puff of greasy smoke.

Ypoloipo, nekrees psychees. Peegainete sto aionio yeapno sas!”

A burst of emerald flame cascaded across the ranks of ghouls. They screeched and clawed at their skin as it burst it flames, consuming the horde in brilliant green fire. Edric stood at the edge of the bloodmaw pit. Kale noticed the dwarf’s legs trembling, but he held his ground, as did Pancras.

The minotaur’s horns continued to glow. “Aspida tou ravematos.” The shadow slammed to a stop inches from Pancras’s face. Kale noticed a thin shell surrounding his friend. Colors played across its surface, like a bubble of soap in a wash basin and then vanished as through the bubble popped.

Stepping back, the shadow shook itself and growled. It swiped at Edric, as one might swat a fly, but the dwarf dove to the side, rolling into a crouch, his sword at the ready.

“You are a worthy opponent, Necromancer. You speak with the voice of Aita. A pity. You could be so much more than you are.” The shadow beast’s sugary tone crawled under Kale’s skin. He shivered, feeling the desperate need for a bath.

“What I am is enough for me.”

Kale readied his daggers for another throw. For all the good it will do. The shadow beast lunged forward attempting to drive Pancras backward over the edge.

Skia veema.” The minotaur vanished just as the beast reached him. Unable to stop its momentum, it tumbled over the edge of the pit. Pancras reappeared next to Kale and listened as the beast howled in rage at the ruse.

“Fooled by a childhood trick.” Pancras tugged at Kale’s bandoleer and gestured at Edric. “Come, we must find a way to seal the rift before it climbs out. The bloodmaw won’t devour that thing. They’re probably working together.”

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Scars of the Sundering – MALEDICTION – Preview 1

Today is the first in a series of blog posts previewing my upcoming novel, Malediction. I’ll be previewing one scene from the first chapter each Friday in May.

Malediction is book one in the Scars of the Sundering trilogy. My initial plan was to have all three novels debut at Gen Con, but various delays around Christmas made it more realistic to debut book one at ConQuesT 46 and book two at Gen Con. Further medical-related delays have pushed that back and I do not think Malediction will be ready for ConQuesT. I refuse to release something that isn’t the best work I can produce at the time, so I will officially debut Malediction at Gen Con, though you will likely be able to purchase it online before then.

I apologize in advance for WordPress formatting. I loathe spaces in between paragraphs in fiction, but it’s easier than manually indenting the first line of each paragraph since WordPress ignores most of my formatting. Anyway, on with the show.

SoS Malediction

The minotaur stopped at the edge of the hole, a great pit that seemed to lead to the center of the world. It seemed to swallow up what little light existed in the tunnel and threatened to swallow him as well. He rubbed his right horn, the gilded tip cool against his fingers. Kale walked up to him and kicked a stone into the hole. It clattered against the sides as it fell. He searched for an alternate route, but decided descending the hole was the only way forward.

“Come on, Pancras!” The diminutive lizard-like creature, said to be descended from dragons, gestured for his friend to follow him. The minotaur sighed, running his hoof along the edge of the precipice and watched as the black- and red-striped drak jumped into the void. Behind Kale, Pancras knocked some rubble into the unnaturally dark pit. “It’s not that deep! You were right!” Kale’s voice echoed up from below.

Pancras suspected the darkness was magical in nature. Dwarven lights illuminated the tunnels of the city, powered by their Soul Forge. Normally, they illuminated some part of dark pits such as the one before him. Pancras shook his head. Sometimes I think Kale is braver than he is smart.

Just as he was about to jump, he started at the scraping of a boot behind him. He smoothed the front of his gold-trimmed violet robes and turned around to face the hairy beast behind him.

The dwarf’s face contorted as he winced “I’m Edric. I’ve been ordered to go with you.” He ran his fingers through the frayed braids of his beard. Obvious that Edric had not groomed himself in days, Pancras wrinkled his nose at the pervasive odor of stale ale, which clung to the dwarf. Pancras intended that he and Kale would handle whatever they encountered, but if the dwarves sent a helper, he would put the dwarf to work. The smelly bugger can distract the ghouls at least. He nodded and pointed toward the darkness. “Fine. Get in then.”

Edric seemed taken aback. “That hole? Why in the name of Adranus’s beard would I do that?” He peered over the edge into the blackness, running his fingers through his scraggly beard. “What’s down there?”

Pancras sighed. “Did they not tell you why we’re here?”

The dwarf shook his head. “Nah. They don’t tell us much when we’re being punished. You fellas are from Drak-Anor, right? I figured you being here with us dwarves was your punishment for something or other, and I got stuck here with you.”

I suppose being here is a punishment of sorts. “Lord Sarvesh asked Kale and I to help your Seer-King with this ghoul problem as a gesture of goodwill.”

“Ghouls?” Edric stepped away from the hole. “I heard about some problems down here, but nobody mentioned ghouls. I don’t mess with no undead beasties.”

“Well, that’s the job.” He grabbed Edric. The dwarf squirmed and thrashed, but Pancras held him at arm’s length and tossed him down the hole. He took a deep breath and jumped in after the dwarf. Darkness enveloped him for a brief moment.

Unprepared for the impact of hooves to ground, Pancras collapsed onto his knees. Kale, busy helping Edric to his feet, shook the dwarf off his arm and rushed over to assist him. The minotaur waved off the diminutive drak. There wasn’t much Kale could do to help him up anyway since the drak stood only as high as Pancras’s waist.

“When did we get a dwarf?”

“He showed up just after you jumped down the hole. Ordered to help us.” Pancras was glad Sarvesh required his closest advisors to learn Dwarvish. Before Ironkrag and Drak-Anor worked out a peace agreement, communication between minotaurs, draks, and dwarves often relied on tedious relays between translators.

“Help us, huh?” Kale offered a clawed hand to the dwarf. “I’m Kale.”

The dwarf stared at the proffered hand as if it might bite him and shook it with obvious reluctance. “Edric.”

Immediately, Pancras noticed the darkness covered only the hole, now above them, a void in the rocky ceiling. Hmm. It is indeed magical. They stood in a rough-hewn tunnel, wide enough for only two to stand side-by-side, and the minotaur crouched, lest the tips of his horns scrape the ceiling.

Edric examined the walls. He rubbed a gloved hand on them and shook his head. “This is not dwarven work. Look at these markings.” He pointed to a pattern on the wall. “This tunnel was dug by claws.”

“Dug? So the ghouls come in from outside Ironkrag?” Kale regarded the area to which Edric called attention and then looked up at Pancras.

“So we have ghouls coming in from outside. Ghouls of goblin, drak, oroq, and dwarven origins, yes?” Pancras ticked his fingers as he recited the names.

“That’s what Sarvesh said.” Kale drew one of the many daggers from his bandolier. “But where do they come from? The dwarf ghouls, I mean. Dwarves turn to stone when they’re dead, right?”

Edric nodded. “Yes. Fuel for the Soul Forge. I have never heard of a dwarf being so afflicted.” He looked back at the black hole above them. “I wish I’d repaid that bastard moneylender now. They sent me here to get rid of me.”

Kale grinned and raised himself on tip-toes to put his arm around the dwarf’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. Pancras and I have some experience with this. Ghouls are nothing.”

The dwarf pulled away from Kale. “It ain’t the ghouls I’m worried about. It’s what’s making them.”

Pancras nodded, chewing his upper lip. “Edric speaks wisely. A vampire could do this. Perhaps a necromancer. There older and fouler things that could so corrupt a dwarf, as well. The ghouls are a symptom of the problem. Our true foe is much more dangerous than a pack of mindless flesh-eaters.”

A clicking sound from the darkness ahead interrupted his musings. Though a variety of creatures made their homes in the dark places of the world, Pancras was not familiar with any that made such a distinctive sound.

Kale dropped to a fighting stance as he peered ahead. “What’s that?”

Pancras glanced over at Edric. The dwarf shook his head and shrugged. The minotaur drew magical energies to him, preparing them for use on whatever lay in the darkness. The tips of his horns glowed with emerald light as the swirling tendrils of aether converged.

He nodded. “Let’s move forward then.”

Edric drew his sword, a short and angular weapon designed more for chopping and slashing and typical of the type of brute-force weaponry dwarves preferred, and positioned himself next to Kale as they crept forward. The light from the magical foci on Pancras’s horns illuminated the walls. Accustomed to living underground, he noticed the air in this tunnel seemed unusually oppressive and thick.

The tunnel descended as they moved forward. The subtle downward slope became more pronounced the further from Ironkrag they explored. Pancras sniffed the air, recognizing the faint stench of decay. The clicking in the distance continued, growing louder.

“This is worse than Deep Road patrol.” Edric held up his hand and stopped. “Feel that?”

Pancras and Kale stopped. The minotaur felt nothing out of the ordinary. The clicking sound and stench still grew louder and stronger. “What?”

“Vibrations. In the stone. Feels like machinery ahead.”

Kale nodded and looked up at his friend. “Hey, maybe it’s not such a bad idea to have a dwarf along after all, huh?”

Pancras frowned. “I never said it was.”

“Where do you suppose this tunnel goes, anyway?” Kale peered forward into the darkness. “We’ve walked a ways already, and we’re going deeper and deeper. I’ll bet we’re already below Deep Road.”

The underground thoroughfare connected most of the dwarven cities, from Dwegerthon in the Iron Gate Mountains to Ironkrag and Korbaddan in the Dragon Spine mountains in the northwest. Though he was unsure how far under the mountain it extended, he agreed Kale was probably correct.

“Let’s keep going.” He gestured for Kale and Edric to lead the way, while he concentrated on keeping his magic at the ready. He cursed himself for not bringing Kale’s sister along. She was a powerful sorceress and was more adept at combat sorcery.

The tunnel continued its descent and turned sharply before it opened into a cavern. The misty glow of phosphorescent moss covering the distant ceiling gave the appearance of purple clouds in an impossibly dark sky. The clicking echoed throughout the chasm.

“Whew! I thought something stank.” Kale waved his hand in front of his snout. “It reeks in here.”

“Oh.” Edric sniffed the air. “I thought that was the two of you!”

“Ghouls are close.” Pancras pushed past his smaller companions. “Be on your guard.”

As they moved deeper into the cavern, the minotaur felt the ground vibrating through his hooves. Ahead, he saw a shadowed recess in the floor. He walked toward it and realized it was a vertical shaft in the floor of the cavern. Boulders big enough to house drak families dotted the chamber, but a clear path led to the hole. He walked to the edge and peered into the hollow.

Downward pointing spikes lined the sides of the pit. He saw something churning at the bottom, almost like an undulating pool of blood. The red glow from the bottom permeated the sides, creeping up almost like ivy, yet it moved in a way that suggested thought, purpose.

It was then Pancras realized: the spikes were teeth.

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World of Calliome – updated!

For Scars of the Sundering, I decided to update the world map. Sure, I could be cheap and just include the same map I used in Wings of Twilight and Iron Fist of the Oroqs, but Scars of the Sundering spans most of Andelosia (that’s the continent you can see on the existing map), so the world is more detailed than it was when I had Jonathan Roberts draw that map.

Anna B. Meyer has been commissioned to update the map. I wanted to go with a different style this time, and I really love the World of Greyhawk maps she recreated. The World of Greyhawk (one of the first settings for Dungeons & Dragons) was the first fantasy world I really got to know, so it holds a special place in my heart.

I’d like to share with you the annotated map I provided to her. One of my goals is to make the new map more accurate (with regards to distances). I deliberately left the scale vague in the first two books, but it seems more important now, particularly since I establish that the continent is large enough that the people of the north are darker skinned, living in a near sub-tropical environment and people in the south are pale southerns similar to Scandinavians.

Who knows? The full-size version of this map might even have some heraldry on it!

Calliome Annotated

If you’re a “purist” however, take heart: the landmass isn’t going to change significantly, this is an update, not a re-envisioning.

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VFF Banner for webThanks to everyone who came out to my event at Indy Reads Books this past weekend, despite the crummy weather. The staff was helpful and friendly, and I appreciate the support of everyone who came out to hear me read an excerpt from Zack Jackson & The Hives of Valtra or to get books signed.

My next local event will be Gen Con (Jul. 30th – Aug. 2nd), but before then I’ll be at ConQuesT in Kansas City (May 22 – May 24). I was hoping to debut book one of Scars of the Sundering, Malediction, there, but due to illness-related delays, I don’t think that will happen. Meanwhile, I’m over 30,000 words into the first draft of book three, Salvation (Lament sits, patiently awaiting the completion of Malediction).

I’ll have some art from Scars of the Sundering to show off in the coming weeks, and I’ll be posting snippets from the first chapter, as well.

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One Quarter into the Experiment & Upcoming Book Signing

VFF Banner for webBack in January, I pulled the entire Zack Jackson series from all sales channels except and made them all exclusive to that platform. In that time, my sales have actually increased. I can’t really claim it’s because of that, since sales increased across all titles, and my fantasy series is not exclusive to Amazon. One thing that I can attribute to the change in my strategy, is that I am actually get borrows through Kindle Unlimited now. Even though every book I’ve ever released has been exclusive to Amazon for the first 90 days of its release cycle, this is the first time I’ve started seeing borrows.

I don’t know why that is. I did monkey with my keywords a bit, and I suspect that is the reason. I can’t prove it, however.

In other news, I will be appearing at Indy Reads Books on April 19th! I’ll have copies of all five of my novels for sale and will be reading from my upcoming novel Malediction, the first novel in the Scars of the Sundering trilogy. I’ve never done a reading before and I’m a little nervous about picking a piece of this novel to read. Hopefully, I’ll actually have an audience.

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