thinkinglazy

Aspiring author and random thinker

Book of Kayal: Strength of Unity (ed2) Now Available on Amazon

Chapter 1: Assigned to Utyirth (Ed 3.2)

Here is a second run-through the first chapter (what I call ed 3.2). It’s a bit of a read and I would appreciate any comments.

Chapter 1: Assigned to Utyirth

‘It is an honor to be sent on such an endeavor by our Lord Demigod Emperor, an honor only exceeded by death during this endeavor.’ Philosophical Lessons from Utyirth (Volume I: Captain).

1

Ganis walked back and forth on the deck of the Siren’s Tear, the Sennan vessel which would take her to the distant lands of Utyirth, where she was told the notorious rebel Naa’tas escaped to. She would join nine other Parthans, people from the western reaches of the Nosgardian Empire, in this perilous journey, as she was told by her master, Lord Asclepius of Katabasis Keep.

A cool wind breezed through her blond hair, braided into one thick bundle and held together with a long black leather strap wrapped around it. It was a practical choice for anyone who intended on keeping their hair long while on the front; although she never cared much for wearing it down regardless of how many compliments it brought her.

Why did Lord Asclepius send me here? Ganis thought, her black eyes wandering with fiery anger, haphazardly looking at whatever met their path.

Commodore Habitus shouted commands at his crew, “Stock these crates here…Make certain we have replenished our stocks of heaven’s weed” – his favored pipe stuffing – “and enough rom” – his favored drink – “to last us for twice the journey we plan.” He kept shouting commands to his crew with impossible vigor – of which all seemed to Ganis trivial, never a command to prepare the ship itself for sail.

And Ganis continued to walk back and forth. She cared little for the blue sky above her or the calm seas embracing the Siren’s Tear, reflecting the flight of seagulls gliding in the air. It was, by all means, a beautiful day for anyone who took the time to enjoy it.

A Red Parthan Ona, the most well trained and seasoned warriors the Nosgardian Empire had to offer, would be her new troop, the only link she would have to Nosgard, her home, once they reached the shores of Utyirth.

The Demigod Emperor Servak himself commanded that they discard all things Nosgardian before their arrival – their weapons, armor and all crafts imperial – for it would do little good saved to aid in identifying them in an environment of which they knew nothing.

Utyirth was but recently discovered when a Sennan vessel was lost at sea for many crescents, yet the Cult of Naa’tas – the rebels who rose against the Nosgardian Empire during the events of the recent Ancient’s War, the very first test of the Demigod Emperor Servak’s worth – somehow knew of it.

Against all odds the Emperor managed to keep the people of Nosgard unified against the mighty threat of the Ancients, but the few who doubted his claim escaped his attention, and the Cult of Naa’tas was formed.

After the Ancient’s War ended, the Emperor’s spies, known to a few as the Guild, were freed to investigate and eliminate the rebels. They were all but destroyed. Naa’tas, the leader of the rebellion, escaped to Utyirth with a handful of mercenaries and loyalists.

When Naa’tas eluded all attempts by the Emperor’s forces – the warden order of the Silver Stags, the Emperor’s law enforcers the Peacekeeper Core, and the notorious Guild of spies and assassins – Prince Iolcus, the once-kingdom of Partha’s leader, promised that his First Ona, the very best soldiers Partha had to offer, would be able to bring him Naa’tas, dead or alive.

Yet these events alone would not make Ganis, a servant of the necromancer Lord Asclepius, join the First Ona, for she was not one of them in training or by blood.

A Parthan Ona, always ten, was a selected group of proven warriors who spent enough time together that their minds melded into one. The Red Onas, the very best of them all, were capable of fighting truly as one. Some said that a Red Ona took a life of its own at the expense of ten, but few saw just how deadly a Parthan Ona was and lived to tell the tale.

Ganis had never trained with a Parthan Ona, even though she was defeated by them in the Second Civil War of Man – where she supported the very same Council the Demigod Servak, before he became Emperor, fought against. Her servitude to Lord Asclepius was the Emperor’s punishment for her actions, and Asclepius saw it fitting that she should be sent to Utyirth under Captain Pertinax the Second’s command, the Ona’s leader.

If only I died back then, Ganis thought, boots beating mercilessly on the ironwood deck of the Siren’s Tear. She often thought of how simpler it would have been if she died during the Second Civil War, as an officer in the Peacekeeper Core. Perhaps, she would think, there would be some afterlife awaiting me. The thought never lasted, no matter how bleak things seemed to be.

But now she was not regretful of her past, just angry at being sent away like a common servant by a man she was forced to call ‘Master’, an act she always found demeaning, but could do little to avoid without suffering from an even more demeaning punishment.

Another reason for Ganis’ anger was her ignorance about those she would join on their mission. She knew that they were nine others, two Turians, Ninazu the Alchemist and Sigurd Ironskin, and the rest Parthans, Captain Pertinax the Second, Hephaestion the Scholar, Thalia the Artisan, Priestess Eirene, Monolos the Beasthandler and the Twin Spies Percival and Dindrane. They were many names to remember.

The Turians she previously met were all of incredible determination, a truly proud and capable nomadic people long separated from their lands, and she could but feel humbled by their deeds of which she heard.

Lord Asclepius, she recently discovered, was also a Turian, although he came from a different age and few living Turians would consider him anything other than a relic from the past. His knowledge of necromancy gave him an unusually extended lifespan – a gift he bestowed on Ganis as a reward for her sacrifice during the Ancient’s War, even though she thought it a curse.

She also knew, rather thought she knew, that the Parthans would not accept her as one of them, not with the stance she took against them during the Second Civil War, and before she could see to the Emperor’s mission it was necessary to gain their trust, all while hiding her Dark Gift and the extent of her abilities.

Consumed by her thoughts, Ganis barely noticed the ship setting sail. The Parthans had arrived without her even noticing. They must have discarded their Parthan attire already, she thought. It was time for subterfuge.

2

Everyone aboard the Siren’s Tear was preoccupied with his own habit or duties. Ganis deemed the confusion an opportunity to get acquainted with her new companions. In spite of her objection to being sent away from Katabasis Keep, she knew that the voyage would be even more unpleasant alone.

Like a chain, an Ona was as capable as its weakest link, Ganis had learned, studying the Parthans once during her service in the Peacekeeper Core and once more under the mentorship of Asclepius. To her, being the weakest member of the Ona would be unacceptable. And not to be the weakest required her not only to be strong, but also to be in harmony with them. She would need to belong.

To Ganis, it seemed reasonable to start her introduction with the leader of the group, Pertinax the Second, whom she identified by overhearing some sailors speak. Standing on the edge of the ship’s bow in an attempt to get a better view of the sculpted Siren serving as the ship’s figurehead made the tall white-haired man easy to find.

Once Ganis approached him, Pertinax requested her to hold his hand and secure him if he lost his footing during his acrobatics. She agreed and held his hand, watching as he clumsily hung on the vessel’s grey wood. Once the air started striking his grease-covered hair, running its perfection, he quickly returned and produced a wooden comb from within his cloak.

“Thank you,” Pertinax said, combing his straight white hair. His brown eyes stared directly into Ganis’, attempting to burn an image of her in his mind.

Ganis nodded. “I just wanted to introduce myself.”

“You are Ganis, Asclepius’ companion and former Protector Commander of the Peacekeeper Core. You were captured by the Demigod Emperor Servak, Pax bless him, and sentenced to serve the released Necromancer Asclepius as punishment for aiding the Council during the Second Civil War. Although you were directly assigned to Asclepius, your second and main task was to spy on him…” Pertinax continued to flawlessly recited Ganis’ known history. Once he finished combing his hair, Pertinax stowed his comb back into the pocket of his grey cloak from which it came and continued, “I know who you are. The real question is: do you know who I am?”

“Other than being my leader and serving Servak, I know nothing of you.” Ganis was shocked by her Commander’s assiduousness. She judged that he might be a peculiar fellow from his appearance, but her assessment was far from accurate to the level of his peculiarity.

“As a comrade and a member of our Ona, I believe it important for you to know about me as much as I know about you. My story began forty years ago when I taught at the Parthan School of Knowledge. Signs of the First Civil War started worrying many of the scholars and thus, by their council, the leaders started reacting to those worrying signs.

“I was young at the time, and felt obliged to do more for my kingdom and king. Fueled by youthful passion, I volunteered to join the Parthan forces and was immediately assigned as an officer to serve in a fighting Parthan division.

“My rune-bearing capabilities and education made me privy to the best training and care, thus I was assigned to a high-ranking unit. Once my loyalties were certain and my training complete, I was carved with the same runes Parthan Protectors were required to bare, unless they had already undergone the ritual before they joined the force, of course.

“Shortly after I started my military career, the Civil War of Man broke and my duties were multiplied. Although the Parthans had the best trained and equipped soldiers, we were overwhelmed by a far larger force with far more resources.

“It was not long until the casualties started piling up and we were forced to retreat to a defensive position. With all our prosperity and military might, we were incapable of fighting the world on our own. Once we were driven into our lands, the combined kingdoms of men built a wall around Partha to imprison us, cutting us off from most of our lands and the outside world.

“We then fell into a godless darkness. This, my friend, was when I met Lyra and the Demigod Emperor Servak, Pax bless him. They showed us the path to salvation and peace, the Path of Pax.” Pertinax looked above him and gazed towards the endless blue skies.

“How did you get to be in Lyra’s Ona?”

Pertinax lowered his eyes and looked straight into Ganis’, saying, “Pax led me to her. All I had to do was simply follow the path he set me on. Tell me, Ganis, is there a deity you believe in?”

“No,” Ganis responded adamantly. She had long lost the little faith she had with the last of her dead men. “I do not believe that sins and virtues affect the path our spirits tread once freed from our physical realm. I know that there is no reward for the just, nor is there punishment awaiting the wrongful. Once we die, we just seize to exist and rejoin the earth once again. I believe, Captain, that the Gods have abandoned our kind long ago.”

Pertinax smiled and patted Ganis’ shoulder. “Perhaps one day I could convince you of Pax‘s existence and show you the degree of his involvement. I have told you enough of my past for you to know who I am. The details, however, will have to wait for another time.” Pertinax walked away from Ganis and towards the stairway leading to the lower decks. Before he disappeared into the darkness, Pertinax looked back and whispered to himself, “It will be an interesting journey.”

Although his final words to Ganis were not meant for her ears, her enhanced senses allowed them to be so. Ganis watched the skies for a moment before retiring to her quarters below, her thoughts entirely on the Parthans and the beauty of the sight escaped her.

Strength of Unity (renamed from Hands of Fate) Chapter 1 (ed2)

Chapter 1: Assigned to Utyirth

‘It is an honor to be sent on such an endeavor by our Lord Demigod Emperor, an honor only exceeded by death during this endeavor.’ Philosophical Lessons from Utyirth (Volume I: Captain).

1

Ganis walked back and forth on the deck of the Siren’s Tear, the Sennan vessel which would take her to the distant lands of Utyirth, where she was told the notorious rebel Naa’tas escaped to. She would join nine other Parthans, people from the western reaches of the Nosgardian Empire, in this perilous journey, as she was told by her master, Lord Asclepius of Katabasis Keep.

A cool wind breezed through her blond hair, braided into one thick bundle and held together with a long black leather strap wrapped around it. It was a practical choice for anyone who intended on keeping their hair long while on the front; although she never cared much for wearing it down regardless of how many compliments it brought her.

Why did Lord Asclepius send me here? Ganis thought, her black eyes wandering with fiery anger, looking randomly and things which met their path.

Commodore Habitus shouted commands at his crew, “Stock these crates here…Make certain we have replenished our stocks of heaven’s weed” – his favored pipe stuffing – “and enough rom” – his favored drink – “to last us for twice the journey we plan.” He kept shouting commands to his crew – of which all seemed to Ganis as trivial, never a command to prepare the ship itself for sail – with impossible vigor.

And Ganis continued to walk back and forth. She cared little for the blue sky above her or the calm seas embracing the Siren’s Tear, reflecting the flight of seagulls gliding in the air. It was, by all means, a beautiful day for anyone who took the time to enjoy it.

A Red Parthan Ona, the most well trained and seasoned warriors the Nosgardian Empire had to offer, would be her new troop, the only link she would have to Nosgard, her home, once they reach the shores of Utyirth. The Demigod Emperor Servak himself commanded that they discard all things Nosgardian before their arrival – their weapons, armor and all crafts imperial – for it would do little good to make them blend into their new mysterious environment, one of which they knew nothing.

Utyirth was but recently discovered when a Sennan vessel was lost at sea for many crescents, yet the Cult of Naa’tas – the rebels who rose against the Nosgardian Empire during the events of the recent Ancient’s War, the very first test of the Demigod Emperor Servak’s worth – somehow knew of it. The Emperor, against all odds, managed to keep the people of Nosgard unified against the mighty threat, but the few who doubted his claim were kept unchecked, and the Cult of Naa’tas was formed.

After the Ancient’s War ended, the Emperor’s spies, known to a few as the Guild, were freed to investigate and eliminate the rebels. They were all but destroyed. Naa’tas, the leader of the rebellion, escaped to Utyirth with a handful of mercenaries and loyalists.

When Naa’tas eluded all attempts by the Emperor’s forces – the warden order of the Silver Stags, the Emperor’s law enforcers the Peacekeeper Core, and the notorious Guild of spies and assassins – Prince Iolcus, the once-kingdom of Partha’s leader, promised that his First Ona, the very best soldiers Partha had to offer, would be able to bring him Naa’tas, dead or alive.

Yet these events alone would not make Ganis, a servant of the necromancer Lord Asclepius, join the First Ona, for she was not one of them and had not trained sufficiently in their ways.

A Parthan Ona, always ten, was a selected group of proven warriors who spent enough time training and living together that their minds melded into one. The Red Onas, the very best of them all, were capable of fighting truly as one. Some said that a Red Ona took a life of its own at the expense of ten, but few saw just how deadly a Parthan Ona was and lived to tell the tale.

Ganis had never trained with a Parthan Ona, even though she was defeated by them in the Second Civil War of Man – where she supported the very same Council which the Demigod Servak, before he became Emperor, fought against. Her servitude to Lord Asclepius was the Emperor’s punishment for her actions, and Asclepius saw it fitting that she should be sent to Utyirth under Captain Pertinax the Second’s command, the Ona’s leader.

If only I died back then, Ganis thought, boots beating mercilessly on the ironwood deck of the Siren’s Tear. She often thought of how simpler it would have been if she died during the Second Civil War, as an officer in the Peacekeeper Core. Perhaps, she would think, there would be some afterlife awaiting me. The thought never lasted, no matter how bleak things seemed to be to Ganis.

But now she was not regretful of her past, just angry at being sent away like a common servant by a man she was forced to call ‘Master’, an act she always found demeaning, but could do little to avoid without suffering from an even more demeaning punishment.

Another reason for Ganis’ anger was her ignorance about those she would join on their mission. She knew that they were nine others, two Turians, Ninazu the Alchemist and Sigurd Ironskin, and the rest Parthans, Captain Pertinax the Second, Hephaestion the Scholar, Thalia the Actress, Priestess Eirene, Monolos the Beasthandler and the Twin Spies Percival and Dindrane. They were many names to remember.

The Turians she previously met were all men of incredible determination, a truly proud and capable nomadic people long separated from their lands, and she could not but feel humbled by the deeds of Turians she heard of.

Lord Asclepius, she recently discovered, was also a Turian, although he came from a different age and few living Turians would consider him anything other than a relic from the past. His knowledge of necromancy gave him an unusually extended lifespan – a gift he bestowed on Ganis as a reward for her sacrifice during the Ancient’s War, even though she thought it a curse.

She also knew, rather thought she knew, that the Parthans would not accept her as one of them, not with the stance she took against them during the Second Civil War, and before she could see to the Emperor’s mission it was necessary to gain the Parthans’ trust, all while hiding her Dark Gift and the extend of her true abilities.

Consumed by her thoughts, Ganis barely noticed the ship setting sail. The Parthans must have arrived, and she never even noticed them. They must have discarded their Parthan attire already, she thought. It was time for subterfuge.

2

Aboard Commodore Habitus’ ship, the Siren’s Tear, each of Ganis’ new companions was preoccupied with his own habit. Ganis, the Moroi, deemed it a good time to get acquainted with them. In spite of her objection to being sent away from Katabasis Keep, her home, she knew that the voyage would be even more unpleasant if spent alone.

Like a chain, an Ona was as capable as its weakest link, and years of studying made Ganis know this very well. She had studied the Parthans twice, once during her service in the Peacekeeper Core, and once more under the mentorship of Asclepius. To her, being the weakest member of the Ona was unacceptable and shameful. After all, she was a Protector like her other nine comrades, as well as a bearer of the Gift of Death – making her far stronger than her comrades and even more suited for survival. However, the strength of an Ona was determined by the harmony of the group rather than the capabilities of each individual member. It would not be simply a matter of her strength, but of her belonging.

To Ganis, it seemed reasonable to start her introduction with the leader of the group, Pertinax the Second. She did not need to look or ask around for Pertinax, for he stood on the edge of the ship’s bow, attempting to get a better view of the sculpted Siren which served as the ship’s figurehead.

Once she approached him, Pertinax requested from Ganis to hold his hand and secure him if he lost his footing in his attempt for a closer look. She agreed and held his hand in compliance, watching as he clumsily hung on the vessel’s wood. Once the air started striking his grease-covered hair, running its meticulousness, he quickly returned and produced a wooden comb from within his cloak.

“Thank you,” while combing his straight white hair, Pertinax said.

Ganis nodded. “I just wanted to introduce myself.”

“You are Ganis, Asclepius’ companion and former Protector Commander of the Peacekeeper Core. You were captured by the Demigod Emperor Servak, Pax bless him, and sentenced to serve the released Necromancer Asclepius as punishment for aiding the Council during the Second Civil War. Although you were directly assigned to Asclepius, your second and main task was to spy on him…” Pertinax continued to flawlessly recited Ganis’ known history. Once he finished combing his hair, Pertinax inserted his comb back into a pocket within his grey cloak and continued, “I know who you are, but do you know who I am?”

“Other than being my leader and serving Servak, I know nothing of you.” Ganis was shocked by her Commander’s assiduousness. She judged that he might be a peculiar fellow from his appearance, but her assessment was far from accurate to the level of his peculiarity.

“As a comrade and a member of our Ona, I believe it is important for you to know about me as much as I know about you. My story began forty years ago when I taught at the Parthan School of Knowledge. Signs of the First Civil War started worrying many of the scholars and thus, by their council, the leaders started reacting to those worrying signs. I was young at the time, and felt obligated to do more for my kingdom and king. Fueled by youthful passion, I volunteered to join the Parthan forces and was immediately placed as an officer to serve in a fighting Parthan division. My rune-bearing capabilities and education made me privy to the best training and care, leading to my assignment to a high-ranking unit. Once my loyalties were certain and my training complete, I was carved with the same runes Parthan Protectors were required to bare, unless they had already undergone the ritual before they joined the force. Shortly after I started my military career, the Civil War of Man broke and my duties were multiplied. Although the Parthans had the best trained and equipped soldiers, we were overwhelmed by a far larger force with far more resources. It was not long until the casualties started piling up, forcing us to retreat to a defensive position. With all our prosperity and military might, we were incapable of fighting the world on our own. Once we were driven into our lands, the combined kingdoms of men built a wall around Partha to imprison us, cutting us off from most of our lands and the outside world. We then fell into a godless darkness. This, my friend, was when I met Lyra and the Demigod Emperor Servak, Pax bless him. They showed us the path to salvation and peace, the Path of Pax.” Pertinax looked above him and gazed towards the endless blue skies.

“How did you get to be in Lyra’s Ona?”

Pertinax lowered his eyes and looked straight into Ganis’, saying, “Pax led me to her. All I had to do was simply follow the path he set me on. Tell me, Ganis, Is there a deity you believe in?”

“No,” Ganis responded adamantly. “I don’t believe that sins and virtues affect the path our spirits tread once freed from the physical realm. I know that there’s no reward for the just, nor is there punishment awaiting the wrongful. Once we die, we just seize to exist and rejoin the earth once again. The Gods have abandoned our kind long ago.”

Pertinax smiled and patted Ganis’ shoulder. “Perhaps one day I could convince you of Pax‘s existence and involvement. I have told you enough of my past for you to know who I am. The details, however, will have to wait for another time.” Pertinax walked away from Ganis and towards the stairway leading to the lower decks. Before he disappeared into the darkness, Pertinax looked back and whispered to himself, “It will be an interesting journey.”

Although his final words to Ganis were not meant for her ears, her enhanced senses allowed her to hear them. Ganis watched the skies for a moment before retiring to her quarters below.

Twitter Account

Dear all, I have started a new twitter account that I will be using solely for writing-related activities @SNileson

On Writing: Tags and keywords

Keywords are quite important to help your visibility. I am no expert in book publishing, but, by virtue of having an MBA, I do know a thing or two about marketing.

A tool I found and wanted to share was google ngrams. This free tool allows you to look for the frequency of use of words in books depending on the year search range. While it is not directly derived from the internet, I suspect there is a significant correlation between the use of words in books and online. Thus, I believe, that it would be wise to use this tool to compare keywords when deciding on what tags to use on your book.

On Writing: Writeon by Kindle

I recently discovered writeon.amazon.com I wonder how useful it will be. I would appreciate any feedback on my current edit-in-progress book.

https://writeon.amazon.com/read/story/Tarek_Book_of_Kayal%3A_Unity_of_Strength/amzn1.ignite.story.19b4ee305d0a5a04e050007f01004133?ref_=ign_c_rt_st_0

On Writing: Editing after two years

Its been a long time since I edited any of my books, at least 10 months. In that time I have been busy preparing my masters degree, a process that proved to be quite the writing workout.

A week ago I opened one of my older books, the one I have been posting some of its drafts on here (Book of Kayal: Hands of Fate) and started going through it once more. The improvements I have been doing are striking. Everywhere I look, there seems to be room for editing. A touch here…a touch there, until I ended up re-writing about half of the 40% I’ve gone through.

I have to say that the editing process has been this extensive for two main reasons: (1) I have wrote over 400,000 words in total since then; and (2) I have completed two more stories in the series since then and am working on a third one after HoF. Needless to say, the first has directly improved my writing skill while the second has resulted in me adjusting the world accordingly.

Unlike my former attempts at editing, this one has been entertaining. I can’t get enough of this first go, mostly because I have completely forgotten the story and the characters that have been included in the sequels have significantly developed since then.

So to all those who love to write but hate to edit, think about coming back to your books after finishing another story. It will help with the tediousness of the editing process.

Hands of Fate: Chapter 1.8

8

The journey was nearing its end when Ganis decided to introduce herself to the last member of her new party, Monolos. The animal handler woke up at dawn to fish for the first meal of the day. Ganis took the opportunity to talk to her comrade as well as figure out his exceptional fishing skills.

Aboard the main deck of the Siren’s Tear, Monolos stood still with a wooden bucket to his right. Ganis approached the motionless man who stared at the horizon ahead of him. As she got closer to her comrade, she peaked at the bucked and noticed that it was overflowing with fish. Some bait he must be using, she thought. To her surprise, Monolos held no fishing gear or tools.

“Did you catch this fish?” Ganis asked the man.

“Aye.”

“How?”

“By observing,” retaining in his unnatural stillness, he calmly responded.

“You are dry and carry no fishing tools. The bucket at your side makes no sense to me.” She waited for a response or justification by Monolos, but he offered none. Frustrated by this lack of response, Ganis asked yet again, “In great detail, explain to me how you catch fish.”

Taking a moment to think about his reply, Monolos spoke, “It starts by a fish laying eggs. Then the eggs hatch and little fish start swimming instinctively towards their natural habitat. Then they feed on whatever type of food their kind is used to, either other fish or plants. When the fish matures, they head to the surface of the water to breed or eat microorganisms living there, where is it warm and suitable for their survival. Once I am near the location where this fish surface, I catch them.”

“Are you serious about this worthless answer?”

“I am sorry, but if this response is inadequate, I am afraid I do not understand your question.”

Almost reaching the limit of her patience, Ganis prepared her fist to strike the man. Suddenly, a hawk flew behind the Moroi and threw a fish into the bucket. At this point the bucket was filled with fish and the new addition bounced off and onto the wooden deck. Finally, Ganis’ question was answered; the man trained his hawk to fish for him.

Admiring her companion’s talent at training his avian friend, Ganis commented, “That is quite a skill you have got there.”

“What skill?”

Ganis seized the opportunity to respond to Monolos as he had with her. “The one that you just proved.”

“Thank you.”

Growing even more furious with her comrade’s response, Ganis exhaled a deep breath to indicate her frustration. “I do not like you!”

“I am sorry. I will try to make you like me by observing your behavior and determining your likes and dislikes. By offering you more of what you like and avoiding what you dislike, I hope that you will come to change your mind about me,” Monolos explained. The man then picked the bucket of fish with his left hand and the sole fish which lay on the wooden floor with his other hand. Looking at the fish then at Ganis, Monolos asked, “Do you like fish?”

“No,” Ganis replied. Although she remembered that she had been fond of the taste of fish when she was alive and capable of consuming regular foods. For a moment, Ganis grew nostalgic.

“Then you may not have any.”

With no heed to his intentions, Monolos carried his hawk’s catch and headed to the kitchen where preparations for breakfast were being undergone. Taking a moment to calm herself, Ganis stood watching the calm sea.

Commodore Habitus noticed the Moroi and headed towards her. Quietly, he stepped beside her while preparing his pipe with a new filling heaven’s weed. After lighting it and taking a few puffs, he offered Ganis a taste of his remedy. Without exchanging words, the Moroi took the contraption and smoked. It did not take long for her to feel the effects of the drug. Although Moroi were immune to the effects of most drugs, Ganis’ exposure to the rising sun caused her regenerative capabilities to focus on repairing the sun’s damage to her skin and allowed her to be affected by things that would have usually not affected her. It was as if she became human during the day and returned to her true self at night.

“I heard that you have an Orc bodyguard who is also the mother of your children. Is that true?”

“Yes it is. Hrah is the mother of my three bastard half-breeds that are currently serving on the Phoenix with Captain Porter until I return to the Imperial waters. I did not want to risk harming them on such a perilous journey. Besides, with those brown bastards around, I go through stocks of rom and heaven’s weed with unnatural speed.”

“At least you have contributed to the coming generation of inhabitants, and they can claim to be the children of the peace-bringer Habitus. Do not underestimate their value or the value of your own deeds. Even Asclepius acknowledges you.”

“All I wanted was to retire in Senna and die from consuming a great deal of rom. Instead I have been given more responsibilities than a sane man can handle. What you and others see as honor and blessings, I see as troublesome. It is indeed ironical how this world functions. You can have this pipe,” Commodore Habitus returned to man the helm of the ship and directed it towards its destination.

Hands of Fate: Chapter 1.7

7

While skulking in the rear of the Siren’s main deck, escaping the serving of dinner, Ganis heard a tranquil voice singing merry tunes. Although incapable of explaining the reason, Ganis knew that the singer reduced the quality of her singing purposefully. The tune grew closer.

Hypnotized by the music, the Moroi found bright blue eyes looking straight at her. The intensity of Thalia’s yellow colored hair made it difficult to miss the artist even with the absence of light, although the Moroi’s undead eyes could see in the darkest of places. Thalia halted her singing and started another tune.

“Hiding in the shadow of the Siren’s main deck,

Ganis, a stranger amidst our ranks.

She looks like a fair maiden, but acts like a creep

For all of us wonder when she sleep”

“Do you like my new tune?”

“It worries me that you spend your time thinking of ridiculous tunes instead of training. Perhaps it would be wise if I did not rely on you in combat.”

Laughing merrily at Ganis’ observation, Thalia responded, “That is a rather funny thing to say from someone who spends most of her time avoiding people instead of training. It seems that both of us share the same concern.”

“I guarantee that my fighting capabilities will increase the overall effectiveness of this Ona.”

“Care to put this to a test?”

Smiling at her comrade’s challenge, Ganis held her fists up in a gesture of acceptance. Thalia struck first, but her blows were all averted by the Moroi’s quicker hands. Kicks and punches were exchanged without hesitation from either. The fighting caused the contestants to move towards the middle of the deck, where the lighting offered them better sight. Stirred by the commotion, the other crewmen and comrades aboard the Tear surfaced to the main deck.

The fighting caused the spectators to cheer and start placing bets. Pertinax and the others did not interfere in the friendly duel between their comrades as it was obvious that it was not serious. Naturally, Ganis held back to hide her true nature. Although pushing her training and natural ability to the limit, Ganis was incapable of turning the tides of the brawl to her favor. Thalia, however, periodically increased the strength and speed of her blows to gage her comrade’s fighting limits.

Eventually, Thalia gained the upper hand and pinned her opponent to the ground. “You are the second strongest person I ever fought,” Thalia informed her comrade.

“Who is the strongest?”

“Sigurd, our Turian companion,” Thalia replied while helping Ganis up.

Barely swallowing her pride, Ganis falsely confessed, “You are a better fighter than I. Fighting alongside someone with your skills comforts me. I was wrong to assume that you would be a liability on the battlefield.”

“I stretched my glorious skills to the limit. You are not too bad after all,” Thalia responded. “Mind if I make a song about our brawl?”

“Not at all, but do not go around bragging that you beat me. At least do not use my name,” Ganis responded. “How did you become so skilled in both fighting and singing?”

“Through a lifetime of hardship and irony. But the origin of my skills remains a mystery even to me. If you ever come across anyone who knew me before Partha, please do not hesitate to inquire about my past.”

“How come you do not know your own past?”

“My first memory is of a play I acted in five years ago. Apparently, no one knew who I was or where I had come from. The only certain fact I know about myself is that I am not Parthan. Are you bothered by my shrouded past?”

“I do not care for the past, but for the future that awaits our party. As long as you can be trusted, I am content.”

“Then I am glad. Did you talk to our other comrades yet?”

“All save for one; the bird talking fellow,” Ganis referred to her eccentric comrade, Monolos.

Thalia burst in laughter, “Good luck interpreting his speech. Unless you can turn into a bird or some odd insect, he will make little sense to you.”

“Does he not speak the common tongue?”

“He does. But if you put the words he speaks together, they will not make much sense,” the performer answered, barely controlling her laughter.

Ganis realized that the crowd of spectators that amassed for the brawl had dissipated. She then noticed the unusual silence which indicated that most crewmembers had retired to their quarters. Captain Habitus was the only one whom she could see other than Thalia, for he stood at the helm to guide the ship through the calm ocean waters.

Noticing Ganis observing the waters, Thalia addressed her, “Ever since the Behemoths’ defeat, the ocean waters have been unnaturally calm and inspiring for my art. I will leave you to your thoughts now.”

Ganis nodded her head, signaling a ‘good night’ to her comrade. It was not long till Thalia disappeared into the lower decks, and the Moroi was left alone to ponder. Reflecting on her speech with the artist, Ganis realized that her attempts to make herself scarce during feeding time raised much suspicion with her comrades. She knew that her identity could not be kept secret for long, especially since they would be spending an undefined and long period of time together. What shall I do? Ganis thought.

Hands of Fate: Chapter 1.6

6

Ganis spent most of her days in solitude, intentionally avoiding the company of others. However, she often came across her crew members and shared idle talk, all save one, Sigurd. Curious regarding the lone warrior, Ganis sought him out in the aft section of the bottom-most deck. Sigurd rested on one of the hammocks designated for the crewmen.

Upon entering the faintly-lit room, Ganis found a hairless face with blue eyes staring at her. For a moment, she was paralyzed with shock and awe at the size of the rugged hulk standing in the middle of the room. The man’s frame was larger than any Ganis had seen before. His bald face bore no scars, but his eyes claimed a different story. Looking into the pale blue eyes of Sigurd, Ganis saw that they were the eyes of a ruthless predator.

“Sigurd, I assume,” with a shaken voice, Ganis spoke. She spent a few moments waiting for a reply, but received none. “I am sorry to alarm you while resting. I was hoping that you would share some of your experiences with me,” said Ganis, in an attempt to draw out Sigurd’s past from him.

The hulking man stood with complete stillness as he stared into Ganis’ eyes. The stare was different from Ninazu’s, for it did not cause the Moroi to feel unveiled; instead, she felt as a helpless prey. Nevertheless, Ganis’ prowess was far greater than that of her comrade’s.

Unwelcome by Sigurd, Ganis took leave and headed towards the main deck. On her way to the stairs leading upwards, Ganis heard a whisper coming from one of the rooms. Further investigation led the Moroi to a room next to Ninazu’s lab where one of her comrades prayed.

Noticing her presence, Eirene asked, “Can I help you with anything, child of Pax?”

“I am no child of Pax,” Ganis referred to her unholy nature, a reference that the Priestess did not comprehend due to lack of knowledge regarding the Moroi’s past.

“We are all children of Pax,” the Priestess stood up and looked at Ganis. Her motion was slow and soothing. Eirene was fair and had a serene face which calmed Ganis’ worried heart. Her dark black hair, coupled with dark colored eyes, matched the color of her skin perfectly. Eirene was a true specimen of beauty. Taking a brief pause to stand up, the Parthan continued, “Some of us are clouded in darkness that prevents the truth from emergence, but they are still children of Pax.”

“And what father would abandon his children and condemn them to such a blood-riddled fate? What father would watch his children slaughter each other and bring never-ending pain upon one another?”

“Pax is no father to any of us.”

“If we are the children of Pax and he is no father, then Pax must be our mother. Unlike fathers, mothers tend to their children infinitely; a trait which is lacking in the ways of wise Pax.”

“Pax is no mother either.”

“Your words are obscured by riddles. Please clarify the meaning behind them” frustrated by Eirene’s riddles, Ganis requested.

“Pax is a concept which we can never grasp, regardless of the level of enlightenment we reach. The methods by which Pax attends to us, his creation, can only be comprehended by hundreds of lifetimes spent worshipping Pax. Some of us hope to reach a small portion of enlightenment during our given lifespan to help us pass through to the next life with a clue on how to continue worshipping Pax. All the strife we go through while living is just a test of our conviction, for it causes the true to follow the path of Pax and the false to fall deeper into the abyss of faithlessness.”

“Your beliefs are naive. Why would an omnipotent being such as Pax care for how we fare?” attempting to counter Eirene’s zealous logic, Ganis inquired.

“Because he loves us like parents love their children. We are creatures of peace that have been misguided by other omnipotent beings such as Pax, but our faults increase the love that Pax has for us.”

Frustrated by the flawed reasoning of the Priestess, Ganis investigated the roots of her comrade’s beliefs even more, “How have you become drawn to Pax to that extent? I find it contradictory with your occupation.”

Smiling at her comrade, Eirene obliged, “I am glad you asked me, for my story might direct you to the path of Pax. I was orphaned at a young age and taken in by Fark from the School of Knowledge. Never being introduced to religion, I took an interest in the topic and pursued it. Within the School of Knowledge, I was allowed to study any topic I wished as long as I contributed. Along with studying the scrolls stored within, I trained in the arts of combat. The combination of studying war and religion drove me to think about the reasons behind all the violence within our world. After years of pondering about the issue, I figured out the answer; it was peace. People fight to protect. They fight to protect themselves; they fight to protect their loved ones; they fight to protect their beliefs; they fight to protect the peace they know. Peace is the ultimate goal of war, and it can only be attained by unifying the peoples. Pax shows us how to unify ourselves and end all the suffering we brought, and continue to bring, upon ourselves. If you fight for Pax and convince others that his path is the only one that leads to salvation, you will bring an end to all wars. This understanding is the gift I have been given by Pax.”

“I once thought as you did, but I was wrong. As long as there are strong people and weak people, there will always be conflict. We are beasts that seek power and work hard to place ourselves above others. Like the kingdoms of living creatures, the strong seek more strength to force their lesser into obedience. The true answer to peace is absolute oppression of the weak, for only then will the strong have no need to assert themselves over others,” Ganis conveyed her thoughts regarding peace to her comrade.

Smiling at her comrade, Eirene concluded, “I am glad that you joined our humble Ona. Perhaps our travels together will give me another opportunity to convince you of my beliefs. Would you care to pray with me?”

“I am honored by your offer, but I believe in trying rather than hoping,” Ganis politely rejected Eirene’s offer while conveying her true thoughts regarding praying. While heading outside the door Eirene held her arm and gently hugged Ganis.

Ganis was speechless by her comrade’s gesture. After a brief moment, the Priestess let go and directed her friend towards the exit. Although contradictory to the Moroi’s beliefs, her conversation with Eirene made her think about the deity of Pax.