In The Castle’s Shadow (pt 3)

Part one- http://wp.me/p7AdNd-7G

Part two- http://wp.me/p7AdNd-7W

As the phone started ringing, Connor had a moment of panic. He was sure that the time differences meant he was calling Gregor in the middle of the night. He knew from the picture that his great uncle could not be a young man anymore. He doubted that the man would even be awake. He was so sure that Gregor would be asleep that when a gruff voice said hello, he just sat there in shock for a minute. A second rude hello roused him from his stupor.
“Uncle Gregor? This is Connor, um Alexandre’s son. Did I wake you?” Connor managed to stumble out.

“No.”

Connor waited for more before continuing.

“I’m so glad I reached you. I have to do a family history project for my psychology class. I’m supposed to contact living family members and gather some stories. I was wondering if I could ask you some questions?” Connor asked.

“I do not usually take phone calls to talk about myself. It is a waste of time,” Gregor’s accent was so thick that Connor had to concentrate to understand him.

Connor needed to get the answers and decided to ask again. It was easier to push for answers when it was over a crackling phone line. 

“I just need to get one story and any medical history you would be willing to share,” Connor spoke quickly, worried that the phone line was going to die.

He listened to the fading connection, praying that Gregor would give him the answers he needed. His hopes began to fade as the silence dragged on. At one point, he even checked his phone to make sure they had not lost their connection.

“Gregor?” he tentatively asked.

“I do not want to give away personal information to someone I have never met. If you want answers, I will send you tickets,” the line clicked before Connor could answer.

Connor sat there in shock. He had never left the state let alone the country. He had always thought of traveling, but Romania never made the list of countries he wanted to visit. He did not even know anything about Romania. The only thing that he knew about the country was that Dracula’s castle was there. The legend of Dracula had always peaked his interest. Without fully realizing what he was doing, he walked to his parents room to let them know that he was going to visit Gregor. He did not know what he was expecting. He knew that they would not be happy about his decision. 

When he was back in his bed for the night, he was a mixture of anxious and excited. To say his parents were less than thrilled would have been an understatement. Connor had nearly changed his mind when his mother started to cry. He had never made her cry before and hoped to never do it again. The anger on his father’s face battled against his apparent fear. He did not say a word as he comforted his distraught wife. He did not even look at his son.

Connor knew that going to Romania was going to disappoint his parents, but loosing his scholarship would disappoint them as well. He was in a no win situation. He hoped that in time, they could accept this trip and forgive him for making it. Despite their reaction, his excitement mounted. He could not wait to learn more about the country his great grandmother had grown up in.

He feel into a restless sleep, his dreams plagued with vampires and monsters stalking him. Everywhere he turned, horrors waited to greet him.

Jessica

In The Castle’s Shadow (pt 2)

Part One- ​https://wingswordsblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/in-the-castles-shadow/?preview=true

Connor did not think about his project again until his family was sitting down for dinner. His mother started to cut up the meatloaf. One look from her and he knew what was coming.

“How was your day honey?” she asked.

“It was okay. We started a family history project in my psychology class. I need to interview a couple of living relatives. Dad,” his father looked up from his phone. “Don’t you have an uncle from Romania? My teacher wants me to get in contact with him.”

Connor felt the mood in the dining room shift instantly. The air itself seemed to grow icy. If he had not been watching his father, he would have missed the sharp intake of breath and the furtive glance towards his mother. The tension mounted as the silence waned. Connor regretted asking the question. He felt dread settle around him as his father relaxed his clenched jaw. 

“My uncle Gregor,” was all his father said before turning back to his phone.

Connor waited for more, but nothing came. He stared at his father in shock. Their family had always been open about everything. He never felt like he needed to keep secrets from his parents and they had never kept secrets from him until now. He was not sure what they were hiding from him, but he had to talk to Gregor in order to pass his class. He decided not to press the matter and do some research on his own. 

The meal passed in silence and soon Connor found himself in the den. He was flipping through the old photo albums, making notes about hair color and other defining features. He knew one of the albums would have a picture of Gregor. His patience was rewarded when he found a tattered black and white photo. The photo was that of a much younger version of his great grandmother standing beside a young man. Someone with spidery handwriting had written their names and a date so faded that he could no longer read it on the back of the photo.

Connor smiled as he studied the picture. He had not known his great grandmother very long, but he only had good memories with her. The man standing next to her was wearing a soldier’s uniform and a grim face. He seemed tall with dark hair and haunted eyes. Somehow, Connor could tell that those eyes belong to someone who had already served their time in the military. Someone who had lost loved ones and returned home without them. 

He quickly flipped through the remainder of the photo albums, hoping to get more information but finding nothing. He was going to have to talk to his father about reaching out to his uncle. He was not looking forward to pressing his father, but he was not willing to loose his scholarship over an awkward conversation. 

        Connor found his father in his study. His father’s law firm often overloaded him with cases, so most nights he worked from his study. He knocked on the open door before walking in. He felt like he was in the principal’s office at school. 

“Dad, I can’t find any information on Gregor. I need to do good on this project,” Connor watched the same dark cloud cover his father’s face.

Connor found himself debating if it was worth it. The carpet mills provided a steady income and had a good benefits plan. He did not want to cause his father any strife, he just wanted to pass his class. He felt his determination grow as he waited for his father to answer. He did not want to get stuck in this town like all of the other athletes who peaked in high school. 

“I do not know much about my uncle. As far as I know, he has never left Romania. Even when your  great grandmother died, he refused to leave. I do not think he even has an email. You can try calling him, but you might want to consider getting creative,”  his father slid a slip of paper across the desk towards him. 

Connor took the slip of paper, careful to avoid his father’s eyes. His father who had just implied that he should cheat on a school project. He could remember being forced to return a stolen candy when he was younger. He could not believe this change. He could not imagine what would posses his father to encourage such dishonesty. A foreboding feeling filled his room as he looked at his phone. He was not sure he wanted to call Gregor if his father was so against it. He could easily make up dates and information and his professor would never be the wiser. Just the thought of cheating did not sit well with him. Reluctantly, he punched in the numbers.

The Widowmaker (pt 3)

Part One- https://wingswordsblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/the-widowmaker-pt-1/?preview=true

Part Two- https://wingswordsblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/the-widowmaker-pt-2/?preview=true

I walked towards the castle, apprehension filling my every step. I kept waiting for the three men to appear and start chasing me again, but the only sound was that of birds chirping in the trees. The castle walls loomed ahead, the red sandstone reflecting the sun. I noticed men scurrying along the tops of the walls as I got closer. I could hear them shouting, but they were too far away to make out what they were saying.

I looked back, unsure if the shouts were a warning. Mary stood just inside the small grove of trees watching me. She frantically motioned for me to keep going before sinking further into the shadows. I wanted to slap myself for not asking her more questions before she shoved me towards the castle. I just wanted to know where I was. I put my hand in my pocket to reassure myself that the Widowmaker was still there. When I felt the jewel encrusted spider, I started walking towards the castle again. 

The heavy wooden doors creaked open in front of me. My heart thumped painfully in my chest as I waited for the doors. Inside the courtyard, a small battalion of soldiers stood ready. Their hands rested on their sword hilts with a deceiving ease. I had no doubt that they were all efficient with their weapons. I froze, unable to approach the imposing group. A scream almost escaped my lips when a set of hands grabbed my arm and began to haul my forward.

“Where are we going?” I finally choked out.

The stoic man stared straight ahead, his jaw clinched in silence. He led me through a torch lit hallway. The air inside of the castle was dank and cold. I could fill a chill seeping into my body as we walked. I was sure the man was taking me to a cell, but to my shock, we entered a bright room. The floor was lined with rugs and animal skins. In the center of the room a throne seemed to grow out of a huge tree. It was not carved, the tree formed the throne.

The man sitting in the throne was a large man with a thick red beard. A thin, twisting crown rested on his unruly mane of red curls. His face was set in a permanent scowl. With a crook of his finger, the guard shoved me forward. I stumbled, awkwardly falling to my knees. 

“Where have you come from and why are you here?” the man’s voice boomed through the room.

“I’m not sure how I got here. I fell into a lake,” my voice cracked. “M-mary sent me here.”

“You have found the Widowmaker?” the man’s voice filled with rage. “We have spent centuries protecting the world from that cursed spider. That lake was our last line of defense, you’ve doomed us all.”

Desperation set in as his words hit me. Despite all the warnings, my pride had forced me to search for the artifact. I knew I was the best and finding the Widowmaker would prove that. My pride would lead to the downfall of humanity. My breath came in shallow gasps as the panic set in. The world seemed to rock beneath me. I did not even notice the soldier entering the room until he spoke.

“My Liege, the Guild is here. We must get ready to defend the fortress,” he looked at me, anger clear on his face.

The guard grabbed me again, this time leading me deep into the fortress. I felt numb as I listened to the footsteps thundering overhead. I had brought death to this place. I still was not sure where I was or who the Guild was, but I knew I was in trouble. The cell door clicked shut behind me. They had not even bothered to search me for weapons. The spider still rested in my pocket as I listened to the soldiers preparing for battle. Their blood was on my hands.

(Remember that likes equal a fourth part)

Jessica

The Widowmaker (pt 2)

(Don’t forget likes=another part of the story 😀)

I had long since lost my way in the never ending tunnels. Every time I thought I had lost them, their footsteps would reach me. My feet ached and my throat was raw. I knew I could not let them get the Widowmaker, but I was not sure how much longer I could run. I was forced to feel along the walls as I ran, leaving my fingers bloodied. My flashlight was hanging on my belt, unused, to help hide my location. 

I pulled up short as the dark tunnel began to slope downwards. I could see a faint light in the distance. Every fiber of my being screamed that I should run away, but the pounding feet behind me urged me forward. The light grew more focused as I ran towards it. The tunnel began to open up, becoming big enough to drive a car through. My mind raced, trying to identify the source of the light as I entered a large cavern. 

I tried to quiet my breathing as I walked around the edge of the cavern. In the center of the cavern was a large lake. The light seemed to be coming from somewhere below the surface. The water was absolutely still and crystal clear. My curiosity got the better of me and I crept forward. I peered into the water, but the source of the light was still hidden. The water seemed to go on forever. 

The click of a gun drew my glaze away from the seemingly bottomless lake. In the mouth of the cavern stood four men. They seemed to be from all different ethnicities. The only thing they had in common was a serpent tattoo that twisted it’s way around their necks. 

“So, you have found the Widowmaker? Give it to us and you can leave this cave,” the man pointed his revolver at my chest.

I clutched the spider, knowing they would never let me leave alive. For a split second I considered throwing the artifact in the lake, but the history buff in me couldn’t do it. I took a step back, trying to figure out what to do. That step back change my life.

The deep rumble was accompanied by the sound of ripples across the lake. I watched in horror as the men’s faces turned to shock. They ran towards me, but I was falling away. I must have stepped on a thin overhang that broke under my weight. I knew that I was going to die. Icy water swallowed me as I sank. I tried to reach the surface but the rocks falling forced me down.

I was running out of air. My head started to swim and my ears popped as I continued to sink. The light in the lake shined brighter. I closed my eyes, but the light came through. The pain intensified as the crushing pressure of the water grew. Just when I thought I was dead, a hand plunged into the water and grabbed me. I thought sure the men had rescued me, but the face I saw was new.

A girl stared down at me. Her clothing looked like something you would find in a textbook about the middle ages. The world around me was no longer that of stones and caves. I was sitting on grass surrounded by trees. In the distance, I could make out what looked like the spires on a castle. I looked at the girl, unable to comprehend what had happened.

“You must go to the castle, tell them Mary sent you,” the girl helped me to my feet and pushed me in the castles direction. 

I had so many questions, but I felt like I could not form words. My mouth just opened and shut without a sound.

Jessica

The Widowmaker (pt 1)

(I’m going to mix it up. This story ends in a cliffhanger. If it gets enough likes/comments I will add another part)
My hands quivered with anticipation as I reached into the stone hole. My heart thudded so hard in my chest that it felt like my ribs might break. The thick spider webs did nothing to curb my enthusiasm as I plunged my arm in deeper. I had spent years researching and studying. I followed every hint of a lead that reached me. Everything I’d sacrificed had led to this moment.

My outstretched fingers brushed against something cool. I felt like my palms were so sweaty that it would slip away, but my grip was sure. I had lost my job and my marriage in pursuit of the artifact I now clutched in my hand. 

I quickly brushed away the spider webs and opened my hand. Nestled in my palm was a delicate golden spider encrusted with rubies and emeralds. The spider was three inches wide and deceptively heavy. 

 The fabled Widowmaker.

The Widowmaker was the oldest recorded artifact known to man. There were even crude cave drawings that many historians agreed were the spider. Stories of death and disease always accompanied the spider. I stared at it in disbelief. The stories could not be true. There was no way this spider could be responsible for the ancient plagues. The spider was also rumored to be the cause of droughts and the ice ages.

I was ripped back to reality by the sound of stones shifting in the distance. I froze and listened, silently praying that I would not hear it again. Panic flashed through me as I heard it again, closer this time. I had been warned against searching for the Widowmaker. Threatening letters and emails were sent before I even announced my plans on recovering it. I had foolishly pushed the threats aside, trying to convince myself that they were just from a rival archaeologist.

I heard the unmistakable click of a gun safety being switched off. Without hesitation, I shoved the spider in my pocket and ran. My steps echoed off the cave walls, but secrecy was no longer an option. Every story that involved the spider mentioned a guild. The guild was shrouded in mystery, but I knew that was who had sent the threats. I did not know what they wanted the spider for, I just knew I could not let them get it.

Jessica 

P.s. Let me know if you want to hear more! 

Journey to Styxaz (part 2)

Captain’s Log Day 201
Today, we made first contact. I’m not sure I can find the words to describe what we’ve seen, but I will try. 

Upon landing on Mars, we immediately began to work on repairing the ship. We took a break to explore the surrounding area. It was not long before the city came into view. The walls were made of some sort of glistening material. It would have been considered bright, but the wall was dulled by the shining buildings. The buildings stood taller than any I’ve ever seen before. 

We approached the city, careful to remain hidden. When we finally saw the inhabitants, all rational thought failed us. We ran back to the ship. The data said we should findlife, but nothing could prepare me for that. 

When we reached the ship and locked ourselves inside, I tried to reflect on what we had seen. The inhabitants had light blue skin, it almost seemed transparent. Their limbs were strangely elongated and bent at awkward angles. They appeared to be hairless and wore open, billowing robes

I sat back, trying to think of what else to add, but nothing seemed to be making sense. I started to close out of the entry, when I sift knock rang out in the ship. My heart skipped a beat as someone knocked on our door again. 

Jessica

Eulogy For a Lost Father 

In other news today, after a drawn out battle, The Scarlett Fever has finally defeated the Phantom Knight. The Phantom Knight has spent years terrorizing the city. After a long crime spree, we are finally free to walk the streets in peace thanks again to the Scarlett Fever.

The young woman clicked of the news broadcast, unable to listen to another word. She finished buttoning up her black dress and adjusted her veil. She could not take the lies and double talk any longer. She had a eulogy to deliver. Her mother was waiting in the kitchen. Together, they began the long drive to the funeral home. 

♢ ♢ ♢ ♢

“I never had the typical childhood. There was no Saturday morning cartoons or tee ball games. My family did not play catch in the yard or go to the beach for vacation. I always knew I was loved, but my life was far from normal. 

My earliest memory is from my third birthday. Instead of going to the zoo or having friends over, my dad brought the zoo to our house. I spent hours roaming around the yard, enjoying my personal zoo. When the police and animal control showed up to take the animals, I was devastated. My mother held me as I watched them take my dad away. 

That was the day I found out the truth. My dad was the Phantom Knight. He spent his time prowling the streets for easy targets or robbing shops. He always brought me and my mom home the most amazing souvenirs. Despite being labeled a criminal, he was an amazing father. 

Today, the papers are celebrating the death of the Phantom Knight. While those who knew him best are here, mourning the loss of a beloved father and friend. When we resourced the news that he had passed, we were stunned. The world has lost a truly amazing man.”

The young woman left the podium, pausing on her way down to kiss her father one last time on the forehead. She sat next to her weeping mother, her face a calm mask. The mask hid her true emotions. Emotions that were brewing and growing like a tidal wave. Her anger threatened to explode out of her. She was going to make them pay. The papers who were dragging his name through the mud and the so called hero who had killed him. They were going to regret this day.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this little flash fiction segment. 

Jessica 

Journey to Styxaz 

Captain’s Log: Day 145

Nothing can describe the feeling of falling asleep in the Earth’s shadow and waking up to find the red surface of Mars glaring at you. It looks like an angry ball, just daring us to trespass on its surface. The sight of the planet leaves you with an overwhelming sense of dread and apprehension. I’m trying to stay strong for the rest of the crew, but I can’t help feeling like we might never see Earth again.

We woke from hypersleep a day before we reach the planet’s surface, just as planned. All systems seem to be working as expected. Thanks to the improvements, we did not experience much muscle loss. We are just dealing with minor soreness due to inactivity. We should reach the surface without any complications.

The broadcast has grown stronger, but we are no closer to translating it or identifying the source. The constant beeps and clicks are not helping with moral. Smith has taken to wandering what little space we have. I fear he will break before too much longer. I have to express my concerns once again. It was foolish for us to come out here without knowing what the broadcast meant. We do not know if it is a warning or a plea for help. We could be flying into some kind of trap.

After years of studying life in harsh climates, I am not sure life can survive here. There is no water visible on the surface. The surface appears to be made entirely of rock. When we land, we will use the tools we brought with us to attempt drilling. We will proceed with our experiments despite my reluctance to step foot on the surface.

End transmission.

Captain Keith sat back, rubbing his temples. He knew the entry sound like death was a sure thing, but he was told to be honest. He could not shake the feeling that they were in trouble. If Smith lost it, he would be alone. Something needed to change. He winced as the beeping and clicking started up again. That was not the change he had in mind.

Building the World of Styxaz 

Last week, I posted a beginner’s guide to world building. I decide to practice what I preach. I have had this story idea rolling around my brain for a while, so I went with that. I started building the world of Styxaz!


The red planet. That’s what the humans call it. To the inhabitants that live there, it is simply known as home. The planet is covered in red dirt. Most of the day is spent seeking shelter from the sweltering heat and the flesh stripping wind. It is a harsh planet, the only thing more harsh than the climate where the inhabitants. 

Most of the inhabitants live in the main settlement of Styxaz. It is a sprawling city filled with life, despite the harsh desert climate. The city is full of towering buildings, none taller than the shielding towers. The shielding towers protect the city from being discovered by the human’s and their constant prying.

The city was founded before humans had even started walking the Earth. The inhabitants elected a ruler who was charged with protecting the city. The Ruler came from the Zealots sect. She started leading the inhabitants down the path towards conquering Earth. It is a matriarchal system and the Zealots did not want to give up their status as Ruler. They clung to the role harder then they clung to the belief that the Chosen One was coming.
The inhabitants of the city were an odd race. Their skin was a mottled mix of blues and greens. They looked humanoid other than their elongated limbs. Each arm ended in six long fingers. They were completely hairless with large black eyes.
The inhabitants of Styxaz divide themselves into two separate sects. The larger sect goes by the name of Zealots. They are a radical group that believes a Chosen One will be born. The Chosen One will lead them into battle against the humans.they believe that humans are primitive savages who do not deserve such a lush planet.
The other sect goes by the name Squatters. They believe in peace. They do not wish to conquer, merely to expand and form relationships with other planets. The Squatters set themselves apart from the Zealots but their black headbands or handashi.
The inhabitants spend most of their time preparing for the upcoming invasion. When they are not preparing, they are cultivating the desert ground. They have no monetary system. If they grow anything in excess it is donated to the Ruler who distributes it among those in need. They lived in perfect harmony. The only thing they disagreed on was how to deal with the humans.

(Art by Ian McQue)

A beginner’s guide to world building

This week, I took the plunge and published one of my short stories on Amazon. Words cannot express how cool it is to see your name on a book. I have been writing for most of my life. In fifth grade, I wrote a short story about a dog that got lost and my teacher bought it for five dollars. It is an amazing feeling to share what you love with those around you.

I wanted to start a new short story this week since I finished off The Horsemen, but instead, I took some time to work on editing and world building for my young adult novel. I had never heard of world building until someone mentioned it in a writing group on facebook. The more I looked into what world building was, the more I realized my novel was severely lacking.

I scoured Facebook and pinterest for helpful tips on world building. I ended up compiling a list of what I thought were some of the most important aspects. 

  1. Have a map
  • I have been working on my novel since I was in the 9th grade (I graduated in 2007). During that time, a lot of names have changed. I needed a map just to make sure that everything lined up!

      2. A list of rulers

  • Even if my characters did not visit a certain city, it is nice knowing who’s in charge there. They might visit it later.

      3. Economy

  • A large portion of my book centered around war and poverty. I needed to figure out who was suffering and who was thriving.

      4. History

  • If you spend time writing about the history of your land, it will influence how you write. It may or may not make it into the book, but it’s good for your personal knowledge. 

       5. Religion

  • Knowing about the religious beliefs or lack thereof can help you get a grasp on certain character’s motives. I feel like this goes well with the history of the land.

I am far from good at world building, but I can already tell a difference. I’m hoping to add the the list and watch my world grow! Let me know if you have a favorite aspect of world building that I missed!

Jessica

P.s. I finally bit the bullet and published my short story. Check it out! ⤵