It Was The Book Promo Before ChrisTmas And Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

*First, I’m profoundly sorry at missing two posts last week. I do have a business post that must go up soon, and also at least a short story, but …. We had to go see family for various reasons. Getting to play with the baby of one of the readers was a bonus. 🙂 I’ll be (a very tone deaf) Bach, but for now let’s deal with the delayed promo and vignettes. Cracks whip. On, internet hamsters! On Sluggish, on Confused, on Glitchy, on Typo,on Meme, on Spam, on Server Update, On very PARTICULARLY today’s internet Hamster “can’t display images” GRRRR. We have stuff to do. SAH*

Book promo

If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. A COMMISSION IS EARNED FROM EACH PURCHASE.*Note that I haven’t read most of these books (my reading is eclectic and “craving led”,) and apply the usual cautions to buying. – SAH

FROM HEATHER STRICKLER, (According to Hoyt’s Own Bard!): Lift High the Candle (Wyrd Rhymes)

When the storm rages onward
And the world comes tumbling down
And there seems no future forward,
And you’re deep enough to drown.

Some times a simple song uplifted
Can ease the burdened soul.
So here a book has drifted
With rhymes to ease the toll.

FROM JEFF DUNTEMAN: The Camel’s Question

In this short Christmas fable, three camels carry the Wise Men to Bethlehem, where the Christ Child speaks to them in their own language, and grants each their heart’s desire. For two of the camels, their desires are simple and easily granted. The third camel asks a difficult question of the infant Christ, but Christ answers Hanekh the Camel nonetheless, in a way that Hanekh could not have predicted.

FROM SABRINA CHASE: Red Wolf: Exile Part 1

Same map, different world.

Nic Duncan must prove she has what it takes to follow her uncle into the Special Forces. To get his backing she infiltrates a lawless area of postwar Asia posing as an adrenaline-junkie hiker. Checking out a newly discovered cave follows naturally as part of her cover.

But in that cave she encounters a strange artifact—and when she emerges, the world she knows no longer exists. While the terrain remains the same, every sign of civilization has disappeared. No road, no power lines, no GPS, nothing.

Starving and desperately searching for a way back, Nic discovers the relics of the past have vanished too – and the pre-technology people she encounters either terrified of outsiders or ruthless killers.

Can Nic find any safety in this strange yet familiar world … and what must she sacrifice to get it?

FROM LIANE ZANE: The Draka & The Giant: Book Three in the Elioud Legacy Series

With supernatural stakes never higher, everything rides on her.

Three years ago, Alžběta Černá, an officer in the Czech military intelligence, learned that she’s got angel blood. In fact, she’s one of the Elioud, the hybrid race tasked by Archangel Michael to protect humanity. A lone wolf, Beta ignores her newfound ancestry. She suspects she’s not cut out for the Elioud mission. Worse, she has to team up with András Nagy, a Hungarian Elioud warrior who drives her wild with exasperation—and desire. After András saves her life during a failed mission, Beta’s entire existence is upended. And she’s not the same woman she was. Something dark has descended upon her.
So she flees. From her best friends and their Elioud mates. From András, who’d given himself to the taciturn Czech, body and soul. Back to the VZ where she’s sent on a years-long deep-cover assignment that subsumes her.

Heartbroken at Beta’s untraceable disappearance, András becomes a stone-cold Elioud killer. Just in time to face the growing Dark angelic threat: emboldened daemonic hordes attack humans throughout Central Europe. András tracks a particularly nasty band of daemons one night to Prague where he picks up a trace of the woman he’d loved and lost—only to realize that they are now on opposite sides.

FROM RICHARD F. WEYAND: The Favor (Agency Book 2)

Bert Mangum, an operative for the secretive Agency, is back on the Crossroads space station waiting for a new assignment when Detective Elina Stavros of the Crossroads P.D. asks him to do her a favor.

Could he help her figure out how the dangerous and illegal drug RDT is getting onto the station?

But the more they dig, the more they find, until they’re facing a cluster-wide drug manufacturing and smuggling operation.

Worse, if they shut it down, Crossroads will go under and the economy of the cluster will go with it.

Mangum, Stavros, and Sam, with help from Gloria Dent and Claude Portnoy, have to find a solution before the economy of the cluster falls down around them.

FROM PAUL BAHLIN: Connections: Power Play (Tom & Suki Book 1)

Seal Tom Lincoln and his Belgian Malinois war dog, Suki, left the Navy together, planning on a new beginning in retirement. Fate finds him running from a righteous but questionable Samaritan act. On the run, and unable to engage law enforcement, he finds himself in a life and death struggle to save the country from shadowy terrorists and the corrupt elites that back them.
As he connects the dots on the terrorists, state police are connecting the dots from his past and the elites are connecting dots from his present. It’s a three way race against time, between him, the good cops that want him put away for a questionable crime, and the elites that want him dead.
With only his friends and his dog as allies, he has to bring down the terrorists to win the race. If he doesn’t win, he goes to jail, Suki is destroyed, and the country suffers an attack far worse than 9/11.

FROM LAURA MONTGOMERY: Simple Service: A Science Fiction Lost Colony Adventure (Martha’s Sons Book 1)

They’re stranded beyond the known stars. Will Peter Dawe’s perilous mission with a brother he despises end in death?
A lost starship’s settlers, isolated on an uncharted alien world, manage to terraform a mountain-ringed valley into a rich replica of Earth. Despite their success reproducing the environment they need to survive and thrive, only tenuous forces hold together the human colony on the world of Not What We Were Looking For. The governor’s appropriation of the western settlers’ weapons for the city strains those bonds to breaking point—and then beyond when Peter Dawe’s father sends him to get the weapons back.

Twenty-year-old Peter Dawe’s restless nature easily endures the lost colony world’s rigors. His genetic modifications make it even easier. So when Peter retrieves the family weapon, he also brings back a motorbike, a piece of technology no longer available to everyone.

It would be a fine prize to keep to himself. He won it. He earned it. He quickly learns that his brother Simon lies in wait to take what isn’t his. Simon wants more than just the motorbike. He wants Peter’s glory.

But when Peter’s father forces him to take his hated older brother on Peter’s next mission, the pair must not only navigate the city’s perils and politics but learn to work together—when neither thinks the other should be in charge. Their success—and their very lives—depend on it. Or will Peter be proven right that he should have faced this task alone?

Simple Service is the first book in the immersive Martha’s Sons science fiction series. If you like gripping action, insurmountable odds, and alien worlds, you’ll love Laura Montgomery’s tale of a man determined not to let family ties sabotage mission success.Buy Simple Service to pull off the impossible today!

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: Cart

62 thoughts on “It Was The Book Promo Before ChrisTmas And Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

  1. Thank you for the promo post, Sarah!

    I’m reading Liane Zane’s Elioud book right now and enjoying it immensely. The series is a cross between romantic suspense and paranormal romance. I think the first in the series might still be on sale.

  2. So we are putting the cart before the carp? Let’s see…

    Detective Fixx eyed the wobbly cart apprehensively.

    “Passepartout, you must be mad. This vehicle won’t get us beyond the town limits! If we wind up with supplies all over the road, you’ll be the one to explain to Mr. Fogg.”

    Passepartout laughed. “I forget, you don’t understand French. This driver knows his business – his son is a blacksmith. No one will pay a moment’s attention to us, but I paid him well. We’ll make good time to Provence. All you have to do is lie down in the bottom of the cart and get some rest.”

    “It’s full of splinters,” Fixx complained under his breath, trying to get into a comfortable position. “Ouch!”

    1. I hear only a really good actor can play a bad actor. Perhaps the same is true of most crafts, including cart-making?

      And I sympathize with the poor detective. Splinters are one of my greatest pet peeves. (I think when I was much younger, one of the things that really stuck in my head about the story of the Crucifixion was just how splintery the Cross must have been! And on a bare back, too… Now that I’m old enough to understand the term ‘scourged,’ there’s yet another layer of horror.)

      1. Yes, it must have been horrible. Once I acquired some medical knowledge, it became clear why He only survived six hours instead of the day or two that many crucifiction victims did. The scourging had a lot to do with that.

  3. Most of the interesting things have likely already been written; but let me relay to you a little more about my abortive “Air Force Career.”

    My first day “in the office”, after having been rescued from the Visiting Officers’ Quarters (not to mention the Diet RC Cola) by the arrival of my luggage and my mentor, I was taken to the Bomb Squadron building up on “SAC Hill” as it was called. As I entered the First Sargent’s office, there was suddenly a klaxon alarm and everyone rushed to the windows, where we say the bombers “loaded for bear” suddenly wreathed in billows of black smoke.

    As I had never seen this before during my flight training, I was the USAF equivalent of gob-smacked. Was it a fire? A terrorist attack? What was the deal? And why just as I arrived?

    Well, it was actually just the weekly practice alert and “elephant walk”. The alarm and smoke were normal. And that’s when I learned about the so-call “cart start”, shorthand for “cartridge start”, a rather large, smelly pyrotechnic device that, electronically-ignited, generated enough “wind” to turn over the jet engines and start them without requiring the normal “air cart”.

    Here’s a video of a similar event using only two, not eight starter cartridges:

    I hope that was at least mildly entertaining or amusing.

    1. Huh. Interesting. I’m not sure I understand the purpose – is it a form of emergency training, or a device that shortens the take-off process, but has some unfortunate side effects preventing it from being commonly used?

      1. In an emergency, there might not be time to hook up the starter carts. Or the plane might need to leave an airport that doesn’t have starter carts, if it was forced to land there for some reason. Like most back-up systems, you need to test them every so often, just to make sure that everything works as hoped. And there are things like de-icing equipment, when you test it before you need it.

      2. and yes, bang-starting the engine is harder on the engine, leaves a lot of fouling, and is a one-shot process, where cart-start is much cleaner, smoother,, and easier on the airplane.

        1. …and you can tell I’m from a different community, given that I differentiate between “bang start” (cartridge) and “cart start” which utilizes the fart cart…. ah, the air cart.

        2. Umpteen years ago, Mom had Reader’s Digest Condensed books on hand. I recall a scene from The Flight of the Phoenix where the bang-start came into play. Wow, that was a long time ago. (As I recall, there were a handful of cartridges available, and part of the book entailed an argument over whether to test the engine before the wrecked/rebuilt aircraft was ready.)

          I never saw the 1965 movie version, and the movie version of the rebuilt airplane killed the stunt pilot when it failed. (Haven’t seen the 2004 remake either, and I gather not a lot of people did.)

          1. Yep, that scene was in the 1965 movie. I saw it when I was around 12, and had never seen anybody trying to start an engine with giant shotgun shells before.

  4. Don’t put the hart before the corse? Some might say it’s a soary old haying that is padly out of slace in these todern mimes.

    (Don’t worry, I haven’t suffered a hoke or a start attack, and you’ll find neither grypos nor tammar problems in the offing; I’m merely illustrating how one can spanipulate moonerisms for pun and frofit. Well, fostly must jun; sadly, there’s not much spofit in proonerisms these days.)

  5. “Where is my soup?”, he asked the waiter.
    “Here is the salad cart sir please make your selection.” the waiter replied.
    “I want my soup, so I’ll ask you again, where is my soup?”, he came close to shouting.
    “Sir, please understand, we always put the cart before the borsht.”

  6. They had wheeled the two starter carts right up to the Nightwing and plugged in the power systems. The fighter had its own APU, but it was easier all around to start the engines with external starters, and this wasn’t a hot launch. The hydrogen turbines on the carts keened as they came up to full speed and started to dump power into the fighter’s capacitors for start-up.

    Then, there was the skin-tickling tug of the main fusion core magnets coming fully online, then the hissing rumble as the twin fusion air-rams began to draw cooling air while at idle speed.

    The ground crew quickly pulled the starter cart cables and methodically began to remove all the safety flags and pins as the crew bus came up to the line.

  7. I’m stealing this text from a meme, so unfortunately I can’t take credit for it:

    A horse goes into a bar and orders a pint. The bartender says, “You know, you’re in here pretty often. Do you think you might be an alcoholic?”

    The horse says, “I don’t think I am,” and promptly vanishes from existence.

    See, this was a joke about Descartes’ famous line from philosophy, “I think, therefore I am.”

    But if I had explained that before the rest of the joke, it would have been putting Descartes before the horse.

      1. Talk to TXRed. She’s hit me with ICBCarp a couple of times in the past and the new girl might have just earned one.

    1. Oh, that’s nothing compared to the one the guy on The Woodwright’s Shop managed to pull off. The entire episode (building a sawhorse) was a lead-up to the “Descartes before the horse” pun. It was terrible, in a magnificent sort of way.

      Orbital carpage release in three . . . two . . . one . . . mashes button with paw Carp away!

  8. I’ve just been reading a cozy mystery series by a guy named P. J. Fitzsimmons, who’s basically doing Golden Age-style “impossible mysteries” but with a Wodehouse-style amateur sleuth.

    I don’t know who this guy is, but he plays the game correctly. The mysteries feel very period, and they are funny. The characters have the concerns and thoughts of their own place and time. And his sleuth manages to uncover all kinds of villainy and sordid behavior (and good behavior too) without the tone being lost, or the detective himself becoming creepy.

    So check the series out, once you get through the friendly neighborhood promos!

  9. When I saw the title of Zane’s book, my first thought was that it was fanfic of S.M. Stirling . . .

  10. The cart trundled up to the doorway.
    “It is Aubrey,” said Charlotte-Rose.
    “What?” said Delia. “You thought Ava would be unable to tell from the luggage? She probably knows it better than we do. No one ever bothered to stay a week at our parents’ houses, and it was rare that someone spent a day.”

  11. It bobbed innocently on the current. Autumn drew her breath in and forced it out. True, the boat with its fresh paint looked better than the cart driven by the plague doctor, but it could bear them somewhere equally evil.
    “We haven’t got a choice,” said Lucie. “We must leave.”

  12. At hearing Admiral Chaffee’s voice, Leonid Gruzinsky’s thoughts went back to those last days of 1974, when they’d worked together on the Tiger Team for the desperate yet thrilling effort to rescue the Aphrodite astronauts. He hadn’t thought about it for years, yet his time in Houston all came flooding back — being hustled into the Astronaut Office to explain how Americanski and Soviet equipment could be made to work together, being right there in Mission Control for the most critical parts of the process, and the celebrations afterward.

    And on the day before he had to return to the Soviet Embassy in Washington DC, being privileged to ride in a NASA T-38 Talon. The Amerikanskis had been certain he’d see nothing of value — it was after all just a trainer — but he’d still carefully observed every detail from the hand gestures the Admiral — then still a captain — had used in communicating with the ground crew in the process of starting the engines with an air cart to the flaps settings as they came in for a landing. No doubt his report on that flight was still in a file somewhere, although it was even odds whether anyone of consequence had actually read it.

  13. He looked about. In a musty corner, a mirror reflected his pale face, and Liam grimaced. He was not some witch, to know how to enchant it to answer him.
    More prudent to hire a cart and lug her off, and drop her to see if it would dislodge a bit of apple from her throat.

  14. “A quiet docket tonight, your Honour. A couple of gender non-specific, unlicensed physical pleasure service providers, Section 94(b2), and one unrepentant cis-male for Failure to Use Preferred Pronouns, under Section 308(14.1 2024) Conspiracy to Avoid Recognized Terminology”
    “Right, then, let’s get through this quickly. Put the CART before the whores.”

  15. A cart stood ahead of them. Filled with dead bodies. For a moment, Markus eyed them, and knew that he knew none of them; they had not come from his village.
    The Firelord struck him. “Get to work.”
    He showed them the firepit that glowed just past the cart. They were to dump the bodies into it. One by one.
    The girls quailed, and he struck them as well. The younger girl staggered as she came toward the cart. Two others loomed up out of the gloom. Also children, taller than they were, hollow eyed, scrawny, and gray from ash.

  16. He did not move. He could walk back, and the cart journey was jolting enough that he might prefer it.
    “A discreet soul might find a thing or two. One who could justly keep secrets on behalf of a benefactor.”
    I’m only trying to buy a few charms, thought Will.

  17. This has possibilities…

    “Now Sluggish; Confuzzled! Now Glitchy and Typo!

    On Meme, and on Spam, and on Server Updat-O!

    To the top of the blog, to the the image displaying,

    Now dash it all, dash it all, you’re why my hair’s greying!”

    The rest of the film, I leave to my betters


  18. On a theme that has been expanded on previously:

    “Are you sure Monsiuer Rene knew what he was eating?”
    “It’s a Russian restaurant and he knows what meat we specialize in. And he ordered it. We serve what the customer ordered.”
    “So what you’re saying is…”
    “Yes. You must put the horse before Descartes.”

  19. “So, how was your day, Top?”
    “Don’t get me started. When they brought women into the unit, I knew it was going to cause problems.”
    “It’s been years, though. What is it this time?”
    “Well, we walked in to the hanger this morning and found two of our specialists… engaged in relations under the cart we use to drag the missiles to the attack helicopters.”
    “Uh… Wow.”
    “Yes. They were doing a lot more than kissing under the missile tow.”

  20. Vincent and crew is taking a break for once! This one’s more suitable for my first world, so…

    “Everything is in order. You may pass.”

    The soldiers waved the red-haired woman on before proceeding to inspect the cart behind her. She had expected a lot more trouble out of them than she had gotten. Then again, when it came to why she was here she supposed even the duke’s men were willing to be more lenient with security as long as their leader was occupied elsewhere. After all, even if all the rebel duke cared about was finding the vanished emperor and his retinue leaving a vampire to run around unchecked, even here in this forgotten corner of the empire, was bad for them and their families.

    The woman walked to the inn once she arrived in town, exhausted from the road. As she expected very few people were here. She ordered a meal of chicken and vegetables, her brown eyes scanning the room. Most of the patrons were haggard peasants but an armed trio wearing hooded cloaks caught her eye. It wasn’t their attire that was unusual, especially here in on Canace, the Continent of the Wind, though their choices of weapons seemed strange. The most normal one was the bow and quiver of arrows that the woman carried, one of the men had an unusual curved sword that she recognized as an Arctisian blade – wasn’t the proper name of that sword type a katana? The other man, who they both seemed to defer to, had an unremarkable longsword at his side and an ornate Argyros claymore on his back. She wondered why he carried them and which of the two weapons he favored.

    “If they’re who I think they are heads are going to roll!” she thought, getting up from her seat and walking over to their table.

    “You three expecting anyone?” she asked, giving the trio a bright smile as she stopped by the vacant chair.

    “Who’s asking?” the man with the Arctisian blade replied, only one wary eye visible between his hood and hair.

    “Someone who could use some help on a tricky job the mayor needs done,” she responded, seemingly unfazed by the suspicious looks she received from the man who spoke and now the woman, whose features and pale violet eyes marked her as an elf. “My name’s Diane Fairburn and I’m here to take out the vampire that’s been running loose here.”

    “An admirable job for sure, Miss Fairburn,” the woman said, her accent and mannerisms far too formal to be those of a simple traveler. “We have our own business to attend to, however.”

    “That’s what I was afraid of,” Diane said, the strangeness of the group seemingly going right over her head. “Well, you can’t blame a girl for asking a group who clearly know their way around some weapons for help can you?”

    “I suppose not.” the man with the two swords spoke up, a sad smile on his face.

    The redhead turned around to go back to her table when the door to the inn burst open, a ragged village girl stopping to catch her breath before she yelled “He’s here! Where’s the huntress?!”

    “Right here!” she replied, pulling the two blades from the sheaths on her back and linking them into a double bladed weapon. “Nice of him to save me the trouble!”

    Diane’s reddish leather duster trailed behind her as she ran out the door to confront her prey. The villagers watched her leave in silence, as did the unusual group of travelers, who glanced at each other.

    “Damn, she knows her weapons for sure!” the man with the katana remarked, his sharp teeth coming into view as he grinned. “One blade for the heart one to cut off the head!”

    “Yet everything we have heard about this vampire indicates that even a huntress of skill like Miss Fairburn will struggle with him thanks to how much time he has had to feed and grow powerful.” the woman observed, shaking her head sadly.

    “Maybe we should help her out after all?” the man with the two swords asked, his silver eyes glowing softly as he glanced at his companions.

    “An inadvisable move Y – I mean, Dylan. It is not worth the risk to us.” the elf replied sternly.

    “I’m sure she realized who we were already, Vanessa,” the man said, clearly having less issues with playing the part of a traveler than she did. “Perhaps we can win her over to our side if we back her up.”

    “And hey, she’s a looker too!” the other man added in, his fanged grin going wide. “You don’t see curves like those on a slim, toned frame like that often!”

    “You think with the wrong part of your anatomy as always S – I mean, Rufus,” “Vanessa” spat, looking at her companion with disgust. “But if that is your wish, Dylan, let us proceed.”

    The woman took up her bow as “Rufus” drew his katana and “Dylan” shrugged the claymore off his back, drawing it as they went to back up the huntress.

    1. That’s an interesting twist to put on ‘You all meet in a tavern’! I’ve generally thought that intro to be rather worn out and unimaginative, myself. The fight sounds like it’s going to be very interesting.

      1. Thanks! I wasn’t looking to do anything unique myself, it was just the first thing that popped to mind filtered through the only chance I had to work on it being the unholy hours of the morning before work. This group is always fun to write, though, especially the bickering between the elf and the dhampire! And for the record I did struggle a bit with the latter’s dialogue to keep it blog friendly since he’s just a bit of a potty mouth! 😉

    1. It was due yesterday but the Diner’s defenses had to destroy it.

      The Idiot Delivery Dragon decided that to drop the delivery onto the Diner!

      Oh, He’s no relation of mine. The Family disowned him centuries ago. 😡

      1. There was some time wrangling involved so this is true.

        On the bright side, Christmastide also entails flexible time to accommodate Santa.

  21. I

    Teclis, The Forest of Quiet Screams
    Second Sun Season, 173 EBP.

    Rip stared down at the broken cart. The gods damned cart was just the latest in a long stretch of bad luck that began before he was even born, and Rip was beyond sick to death of it.

    Elves were trouble. Every being on Teclis knew it, too. Because every elf eventually went violently insane. Every. Single one. At nearly thirty, Rip was beginning to feel the itch at the back of his mind. The need to lash out at something or someone- anything at all. To give form to the growing sense of frustration with the world.

    He knew he was going to die. Elves rarely lasted much past thirty. A few managed forty, but not many. For all they looked to never quite age the way that humans, orcan, or the halfing races did, they all died fast. And ugly.

    It wasn’t the cart’s fault, really. Nor the bezug that ran off, spooked by Silent Gods alone knew what. It wasn’t even the fault of whatever poor fool of a wainwright what constructed the thing either, before Rip and several of the other doomed souls stole it from them.

    He couldn’t blame it on the forest. Trees grew roots and never seemed to give a damn what was in the way. It wasn’t the fault of the forest lord, that gods damned giant spider.

    It was simply luck. All of Rip’s luck was bad. It always had been.

    A lazily spinning leaf fell through a sunbeam ahead. Maybe he couldn’t blame anybody honestly. Maybe he would anyway, because screw them. All of them. Everything. With pinecones and with the spikey bits down.

    If the cart full of corpses did not make it back to the nest, the forest lord’s children would grow hungry. And the first one on the list to get his head twisted off would be one short, black haired elf that everyone called Rip, because “Ripples of Summer Dawn” didn’t quite roll off the tongue like one short, sharp syllable did it now?

    Rip remembered being pelted with stones as the other slum children taunted him with the name. Back before he’d had to flee the town in shame. Before he’d become shackled to a gods damned spider in a gods damned forest.

    Rip cursed. He cursed the cart, the forest, the forest lord, the town of Halden, spiders in general, roots, small minded Men, fat women, stupid children, and the world spanning secret cabal that seemed to exist only to make his short life a living hell.

    He cursed them all in the name of Those Who Shall Not Be Named, because who the hell cared? Not that the Silent Gods had brought anything more than misery and destruction when they did answer.

    Then he cut the traces down to something smaller than a cart-sized beetle-looking bezug. Settled the thick straps across his shoulders and knotted them damned tight.

    Rip screamed his rage at the world as he pulled.

    The cart moved.


    But it moved.

    1. II

      Charyon Station, Maintenance Subsection Delta, Level 2
      Second Sun Season, 173 EBP.

      Exedious stared down at the scrying screen, his brow furrowed. The elf in the image struggled mightily with the heavy cart. His shoulders bled. He slipped and fell once, nearly being dragged all the way down the small incline before slowing to a stop. The elf never once stopped cursing. The elf hauled the cart up the hill inch by straining inch, never once stopping to rest.

      Ex knew the reason why all the elves were going mad. Not because he was a god, though. Ex knew because he was the one god on Charyon sane enough to remember why they’d dragged a gas planet and its two habitable moons through the interstellar rift and into this new star system.

      He knew what Teclis had been. Back before all the gods went insane.

      All of them. Without exception.

      Ex was not insane. Not anymore.

      That was how he knew how to fix the elves. He knew what it would take to fix a lot of things on Teclis, but the slow diminishing of the elven race was high on the list of things to fix NOW rather than later.

      The temporal bubble he’d been destabilizing was nearing the point when it would vomit out its contents. The bubble was not close to the forest, but close enough. If he was lucky, there might even be elves from before the Fall in it. Ex was not normally what one would call “lucky” though.

      The former gods of Teclis, the residents of Charyon station were another problem that needed solving. Teclis needed its gods. It was never designed to operate for so long without them. Countless things were falling apart, from the weather system to the power generators deep within the planet’s mantle, to the mana wells under the sea.

      But to fix those things, Ex needed access to the main systems on Charyon that controlled the workings of the planet. Between one little godling and the main systems were tens of thousands of homicidal cannibalistic humanoids with the powers of gods, ranging from minor godlings that were still more powerful than he, to major deities with enough power to flatten him with a single gesture.

      Before eating his corpse, of course. What was left of it anyway.

      He sighed. The elf finally returned to the spider nest, nearly collapsing in a bloody heap before what appeared to be a guard post. Two smaller spiders roughly the size of large dogs scurried up to investigate whether the elf was weak enough to be food. One poked him with its leg. This proved to be a mistake.

      The elf ripped the offending limb off. Then he used it to stab the spider in the face while the arachnid screamed in pain. The second spider scurried away, apparently less concerned with its companion’s demise than keeping its own limbs attached.

      Elsewhere on Teclis elves were dying. So were humans, orcan, halflings of several races, dwarves, miktuks, and fae. Diseases that could be cured with the simplest of divine magic were killing the young and old alike. Hordes of monstrous beasts and strange chimeras stalked the landscape, snuffing out little civilizations hacked out of the wilds. Ancient cities lay decaying and dormant, shunned by the inhabitants.

      Sometimes with good reason. The Silent Gods were present in those cities, in some small ways. It would not do to draw their attention.

      Exodius returned the scrying screen to the maintenance cart. Destabilizing temporal bubbles was risky business, but it was one of the only tools he had to make changes on Teclis. None of the inhabitants even knew he existed, and even fewer would do something as dangerous as seeking an oracle from him. Even if it could possibly save untold millions.

      He turned to the cobbled together workstation that held what he hoped was a working fourth dimensional spike. The stabilizing program was doing most of the work keeping the spike on target, thankfully. The spike itself was incredibly crude, made of cobbled together foci and one hell of a lot of aural dampeners.

      But it would work. It had to work.

      The workstation’s scry screen was fixed. Fixed in place, fixed in the location it could render remote sensory data from. And fixed because when he’d found it there was a rather large crack in the screen and half the housing was crushed with several burn marks around the power coupling.

      Technical problems were something the godling had experience with. He could fix faulty tech. People? Entire worlds? Those were problems of far greater complexity and magnitude.

      The hum coming from the makeshift temporal spike began to get louder and higher pitched. Soon, it began to scream.

      Ex looked around wildly, trying to watch all three exits to the room at once. Almost immediately he heard pounding on the west entrance, the one leading to the surface. Growls could be heard through the heavy door, but no dents appeared in the metal. Weaker godlings then.

      They were still a threat though. It sounded like there was more than one out there.

      The temporal spike abruptly went silent and still, as if it too was apprehensive. But no, the scry screen showed something new. A haze appeared over the bog he had been watching for hours now.

      Then the south door exploded off its hinges, crashing into the maintenance cart and crushing several mops, a mop bucket, two minor flame wands, and a portable scry screen. The massive head that was deforming the door frame belonged to one of the stronger deities- a wolflike creature with many sharp looking teeth.

      Exodius was already through the remaining door by the time the door frame snapped off, becoming a sort of necklace for the wolf god. Such a being could and would easily eat him for lunch.

      Behind him the workstation scry screen showed a naked man appearing above the swampy bog. He was a tall man, lean and rangy, but without the pointed ears of an elf. He appeared covered in soap and holding what appeared to be a sliver of soap in his left hand. A brief expression of confusion crossed the man’s face before he fell straight down into the cold and wet, the mud not cushioning his fall very much at all.

      1. III

        Teclis, Teaberry bog,
        Second Sun Season, 173 EBP.

        Aleksei Voldenfik was not pleased that his bath along with the inn where he was bathing had disappeared. His landing in a cold, wet swamp was even less pleasing. Least pleasing of all was the fact that his clothing, his gear, and his mount were all missing as well.

        One could do without an inn to sleep in and bathe in. But without weapons or clothing or tools, Aleksei was at more of a disadvantage than normal.

        Swamp bugs began to sample him to see if his blood would provide sustenance. He swatted them away, killing some and suffering others. There was a fog bank to his left, West if the magical effect wasn’t teleportation. North was a forest not especially dissimilar to the one he’d rode through on his way back to his unit. East was more forest, backed by mountains.

        South looked different, though. There was a lake to the south. That lake had not been there when he rode up to the inn. The inn that was no longer there.

        The tall man completed his visual inspection and concluded that he was well and truly fucked. And not in a good way.

        But well and truly fucked was a temporary condition, so long as one survived.

        It reminded him in a way of his training days. A true soldier needed to be prepared for anything. Fighting and surviving stark naked sounded like one of the challenges that the sadistic training sergeants would think up, back in the day. He shuddered.

        More likely it was some wizard’s idea of a prank. Or a spell gone badly wrong.

        The forest would provide him weapons. With weapons he could hunt, and eat. With the right kind of prey, he could clothe himself. Priorities. First, acquire a weapon.

        Alexei’s long legs propelled him out of bog as his arms swatted away yet more bugs. He disliked swamps, in general. They could be useful in warfare, depending on where and how they were situated. Enemies that like comfort rarely expected to be attacked out of a swamp when a perfectly nice forest was right nearby.

        Aleksei’s homeland of Saig had many civilized enemies.

        The thought that some enemy spellcaster could be at fault briefly crossed his mind as he crossed a sunken log. He dismissed it a moment later. An enemy spellcaster that could disappear an inn and create a lake could disappear him much more easily.

        Several hundred feet of swamp later Aleksei finally reached the shore. A sturdy branch made for a decent weapon. One just happened to be nearby. That was lucky. So were the stones that he found not much further in. After a small fire to warm his bones and harden his new spearpoint, Aleksei felt better about the world.

        A man with a weapon is well on his way to solving many of life’s fundamental problems.

        Fire hardened spear in hand, a soldier hunted for his supper in the forest. He missed his mount. Derga would have found food long before now. She would even share a bit with her little human friend as well. Derga was a good pzitlach, a scaley beast with a shoulder taller than his head and twenty feet from nose to blunt tail, but she was a crafty one. Aleksei hoped wherever she was, she was doing well.

        Likely, she was doing better than her rider. This made Aleksei smile. Derga would not go pulling a cart, like some domesticated beast. Derga was a fighter, like him, and a hunter. She would be fine.

        After more than an hour in the forest on the hunt, Aleksei came to several important conclusions. Stone seared forest hare was tasty. He was not in the same forest he came from. And there were no towns or farms nearby. And Derga was nowhere nearby as well. He knew her scent, and her habits.

        No roads, and only a few animal trails. No large animals either. When large animals stayed away, there tended to be a reason for that. Tomorrow he would find out what that reason was.

        Aleskei tied himself into a tree with vines. The rabbit skin loincloth he’d constructed was adequate for the moment. The night was warm, quite unlike the late winter frost he’d left behind. That told him that it must have been teleportation magic.

        After all, who would disappear a whole in and leave one single soldier behind? It defied belief. The gods alone knew what foolishness was going on, but whoever it was that stole his mount and his inn would be in some trouble if Aleksei ever found them.

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