elise_rasha: (Default)
There is one thing I have learned over the course of the year, and that has been who I dare speak to about my publications. Each city, each person gives off a different vibe.

And I have talked to people about Portal to Gaming. Granted, it has not been a lot of people. Each situation is different naturally, but sometimes it's a gamble either way.

So far, the dice have rolled in my favor. The handful of people have actually been very impressed to hear my first publication has a gay main character. I do reiterate that it isn't a gay love story (because it's not). I've even been told good for me on this so . . . I'm rather pleased by these results.

Now, mind you, I understand not everyone is going to be thrilled that my first novel has a gay main character. In fact, I do expect more than a few to be displeased and to turn away from the series. But this is also my vision. This is a world I can get behind, not just because of the wonder of what the future could hold and the different worlds we could see, but because it won't be unusual to have gay people walking down the street without fear, to have people of color not be looked down up as though they're nothing more than criminals, and for women to be totally kick-ass, the same way as men, and for men to be more . . . expressive with their feelings beyond displays of anger. I have loved the science-fiction and fantasy genre for as long as I can remember. I love it when the main characters are expressive, not just with things like joy and anger but with sadness and uncertainty. Do I get annoyed when a female character tends to carry things too far? Of course, I do. There comes a point where anger, sadness, frustration, and all of those other negative emotions need to just melt away, be the character male, female, or idenitfying as something else completely. If the character doesn't do that, despite his or her status in the story, said character is ultimately weak, in my estimation.

But then it's more than just the characters that draw me into the realm of science-fiction and fantasy. It's the worlds created within that are just so magnificent. I love the visuals for games like Star Ocean and Final Fantasy. Sure, there are some things that will look similar to this mundane world we live in, but even those mundane things aren't so mundane. They possess their own energies and spirits. It's about traveling to worlds we can still only imagine. Even urban fantasy possess a type of magic and wonder that is just so . . . beautiful to me.

And that's why I like to write science-fiction and fantasy. I can create these worlds and hope what I envision in my head translates well into the written word without it sounding so clunky and lumpy and lame.

I am an inspired soul.

Now, for a little bit about The Twilight of the Gods
From The King and Queen of Wands

"About Snow in Olympus:
Readers have lamented about the missing scenes from The King and Queen of Wands. I have read their words, and I’m pleased to announce I will be publishing The Twilight of the Gods along with Arc of Fantasy. The Twilight of the Gods will feature the missing scenes from the time Loki and Freya join the Olympians with Ares and Athena in Asgård and the chaotic consequences that follow.
Snow in Olympus is the first book slated for the series and follows Freya and Loki as they try to navigate the very different playing field of Olympus. In addition to facing the many enemies of the Olympians, the two must contend with the Olympians themselves. Freya has two warring brothers competing for her affections and the jealousy of Hera and Aphrodite
Not to mention what will happen when one puts Loki, Dionysus, and Hermes in the same room.
But the story is more than just fun and games. There’s unfinished Ragnarök business, something that will haunt Asård and Olympus as they seek to set up their treaties and learn how to deal with each other as deities.
Olympus and Asgård will never be the same again."

There's a bit of a snafu with this particular series right this moment, one that I need to resolve, but it should be fun all the same. The snafu itself has prompted a search into Greek Goddesses and brought about an interesting and potential conflict for Thor, our favorite dorky but lovable God of Thunder. I look forward to how this particular twist will play out, hopefully leaving a few things intact, or things I've already done will be meaningless and pointless.

One final note: I'm now more than just a little halfway to my goal for ISBN purchase. However, I have discovered the price went up by $45 since the last time I checked. Not to worry, though. It's hardly a major deterrent. I still have over $100 to go, but, if things go the way I'm being told they will go for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, everything will be set, and my three published stories will be available as audio and paperbacks.

The future holds so many possibilities!
elise_rasha: (Default)
About:
Portal to Gaming
Portal to Gaming is the first story in my six book series, Arch of Fantasy. Arch of Fantasy is a science-fiction/fantasy blend involving space travel, multiple worlds, and the fate of the universe hanging in the balance. The series itself features several different heroes, each with specific goals and tasks.
Portal to Gaming introduces three of those heroes, nineteen-year-olds Fen Willows and his best friends, twin brothers Daniel and Wolfgang Evans. Fen is the only child of Farold and Victorie Amie Willows, two universally renowned alien archaeologists and pioneers in the field. Set in a shining distant universe, mankind has achieved all kinds of wonderful, beautiful things, such as space travel and equality for all. Life on Earth itself is idyllic, peaceful . . . and not for Fen. He longs for travel and excitement, anything to distance and distract himself from the painful break-up with his boyfriend. However, war with an alien race known as the Salmorians keeps Fen stranded on Earth while his parents, thanks to military funding, continue to travel to dig sites, hoping to uncover anything to end the war. To gain what his heart desires the most, Fen takes to the gaming simulators of entertainment juggernaut, Portal to Gaming. Daniel and Wolfgang join him.
It is in the simulators that Fen's life takes a dramatic turn towards the interesting and bizarre. A stranger approaches him from behind and utters three words.
"Draw your sword."
He does so, but the fight never happens. Fen is whisked away to the safety of the real world where he's told no one approached him. Fen, who is suspended for two days, and his friends leave the facility.
Life is about to become more complicated for Fen. Strange events take place around him when he least expects it, and he's at a loss for how to explain them. He's convinced he's not going crazy, but Fen keeps the incidents to himself, a secret of his own to bear.
Fen isn't the only one with a secret. His parents and his best friends have a few of their own as well. The ones his parents keep are at the heart of the conflict with the Salmorians, and they are ones that will alter the universe. Forever.
Portal to Gaming is available on Amazon Kindle for $3.99
http://www.amazon.com/Portal-Gaming-Arch-Fantasy-Book-ebook/dp/B00MQ68JNQ/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1418677871&sr=1-2
Portal to Gaming is now available on NOOK for $3.99
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/portal-to-gaming-elise-k-rasha/1120942910?ean=2940150257382
*********
About:
The King and Queen of Wands
The King and Queen of Wands is a fantasy short story, blending the Greek and Norse pantheons.
Rumors are circulating around Asgard - Loki and his son, the dire wolf Fenris, have broken free of their bonds. The time for Ragnarök, their doom, is at hand, thus putting the Gods of Asgard on edge.
Loki and Fenris never show.
For weeks, the Gods wait and prepare, wait and prepare, only for the impossible to happen.
After three long, harsh winters, spring, colorful spring blooms. The change of events disturb Odin, Allfather and King of Asgard, and he decides to investigate the truth behind the rumors. With his son Thor, he heads to the cavern where Loki and his son were bound away.
**
Zeus has it made. He is the King of Olympus and all the Gods. Even his elder brothers bow to his might. He has a beautiful wife in Hera, the worship of the mortals, and kingdom filled with plenty of food. The lives are the mortals are his to play with as he deems fit. Life is grand for there are no others like him.
Or so he assumes.
Everything changes the moment Hermes approaches him and says words he never expects to hear. There are trespassers in Olympus. Worse, they are stealing from the sacred groves, and they are not mortals. Curious and a bit angered, he sets out with Artemis and Athena to capture the thieves and to bring them to justice.
**
Loki is hungry. For centuries, he and his family have had little to nothing to eat. For centuries, he's sworn vengeance upon the Gods of Asgard for their slights and insults and for the deaths of his sons, Narvi and Vali. However, things have changed. His wife, Sigyn, needs food more than she does vengeance for the loss of their children, and Loki intends to care for her. Fortunately for him, he's stumbled into a land where food is plentiful and the weather warm. No one will mind if he takes a few things here and there.
Worlds are about to collide with interesting and devastating consequences.

http://www.amazon.com/King-Queen-Wands-Elise-Rasha-ebook/dp/B00PM9R6SS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1418677871&sr=1-1
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-king-and-queen-of-wands-elise-k-rasha/1120960202?ean=2940149969357
*******
This is the current listings for both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Stay tuned for the release dates for Arch of Fantasy, Book 2: The Sons of Thor and Snow in Olympus, one of the "missing" scenes from The King and Queen of Wands
Also, I do want to thank my sister, Kyla, for her hard work on the covers. I'm quite proud of her and her abilities. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
And I want to thank my best friend, Kami Simon, for constantly encouraging me to not quit. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Follow and friend me on facebook, goodreads, and twitter!
https://www.facebook.com/archoffantasy?ref=hl (Arch of Fantasy page)
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Elise-K-Rasha-Author/144995235564573?ref=hl
https://www.facebook.com/elise.rasha
https://twitter.com/EliseRasha
ETA on 12/29/2014: The Wandering Author Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/The-Wandering-Author-749251111826860/manager/
elise_rasha: (Default)
About:
Portal to Gaming
Portal to Gaming is the first story in my six book series, Arch of Fantasy. Arch of Fantasy is a science-fiction/fantasy blend involving space travel, multiple worlds, and the fate of the universe hanging in the balance. The series itself features several different heroes, each with specific goals and tasks.
Portal to Gaming introduces three of those heroes, nineteen-year-olds Fen Willows and his best friends, twin brothers Daniel and Wolfgang Evans. Fen is the only child of Farold and Victorie Amie Willows, two universally renowned alien archaeologists and pioneers in the field. Set in a shining distant universe, mankind has achieved all kinds of wonderful, beautiful things, such as space travel and equality for all. Life on Earth itself is idyllic, peaceful . . . and not for Fen. He longs for travel and excitement, anything to distance and distract himself from the painful break-up with his boyfriend. However, war with an alien race known as the Salmorians keeps Fen stranded on Earth while his parents, thanks to military funding, continue to travel to dig sites, hoping to uncover anything to end the war. To gain what his heart desires the most, Fen takes to the gaming simulators of entertainment juggernaut, Portal to Gaming. Daniel and Wolfgang join him.
It is in the simulators that Fen's life takes a dramatic turn towards the interesting and bizarre. A stranger approaches him from behind and utters three words.
"Draw your sword."
He does so, but the fight never happens. Fen is whisked away to the safety of the real world where he's told no one approached him. Fen, who is suspended for two days, and his friends leave the facility.
Life is about to become more complicated for Fen. Strange events take place around him when he least expects it, and he's at a loss for how to explain them. He's convinced he's not going crazy, but Fen keeps the incidents to himself, a secret of his own to bear.
Fen isn't the only one with a secret. His parents and his best friends have a few of their own as well. The ones his parents keep are at the heart of the conflict with the Salmorians, and they are ones that will alter the universe. Forever.
Portal to Gaming is available on Amazon Kindle for $3.99
http://www.amazon.com/Portal-Gaming-Arch-Fantasy-Book-ebook/dp/B00MQ68JNQ/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1418677871&sr=1-2
*********
About:
The King and Queen of Wands
The King and Queen of Wands is a fantasy short story, blending the Greek and Norse pantheons.
Rumors are circulating around Asgard - Loki and his son, the dire wolf Fenris, have broken free of their bonds. The time for Ragnarök, their doom, is at hand, thus putting the Gods of Asgard on edge.
Loki and Fenris never show.
For weeks, the Gods wait and prepare, wait and prepare, only for the impossible to happen.
After three long, harsh winters, spring, colorful spring blooms. The change of events disturb Odin, Allfather and King of Asgard, and he decides to investigate the truth behind the rumors. With his son Thor, he heads to the cavern where Loki and his son were bound away.
**
Zeus has it made. He is the King of Olympus and all the Gods. Even his elder brothers bow to his might. He has a beautiful wife in Hera, the worship of the mortals, and kingdom filled with plenty of food. The lives are the mortals are his to play with as he deems fit. Life is grand for there are no others like him.
Or so he assumes.
Everything changes the moment Hermes approaches him and says words he never expects to hear. There are trespassers in Olympus. Worse, they are stealing from the sacred groves, and they are not mortals. Curious and a bit angered, he sets out with Artemis and Athena to capture the thieves and to bring them to justice.
**
Loki is hungry. For centuries, he and his family have had little to nothing to eat. For centuries, he's sworn vengeance upon the Gods of Asgard for their slights and insults and for the deaths of his sons, Narvi and Vali. However, things have changed. His wife, Sigyn, needs food more than she does vengeance for the loss of their children, and Loki intends to care for her. Fortunately for him, he's stumbled into a land where food is plentiful and the weather warm. No one will mind if he takes a few things here and there.
Worlds are about to collide with interesting and devastating consequences.

http://www.amazon.com/King-Queen-Wands-Elise-Rasha-ebook/dp/B00PM9R6SS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1418677871&sr=1-1
elise_rasha: (Default)
 Being homeless is a humbling and growing experience. Days are spent finding a place to get out of the cold - while it isn't Michigan cold, it's still nippy around here - as well as seeking work. I go to WorkSource, use their computers to hop onto Snagajob.com and find what I can actually do in terms of work. I have no college degree as of yet. I'm also not really much of an office person or factory worker. I enjoy retail work with an emphasis more on food service. It's been a month, I've had a few leads with a couple of interviews with nothing panning out just yet, but the fight isn't over yet. I'm not giving up. Despite some of my anti-social tendencies, I do like to interact with people. I love to hear their stories.

Days are also spent at two of the libraries, checking Greyhound and craigslist, and letting family and friends know that I'm all right - most of my family is still in Michigan. Most of my friends are in Michigan. My mother, stepdad, and brother are in Tulsa. My sister will be joining them soon. I'm still heading for Philadelphia. Facebook is one of the best ways I keep in contact, especially when I'm not sure I'll have my cell phone from one month to the next. I also used the computers to type up The King and Queen of Wands for publication.

At night, when I return, I eat dinner which is provided for me by the shelter and go someplace a little quieter than the rest of the house so I can write. And I listen to the stories. I watch mothers struggle with their young children. I stay with women who are overcoming addictions and coping with health conditions. 

I talk to my mother a little more than what I used to, which is strange because we lived together for so long. It's funny how distance can actually repair a relationship. It may never be what it used to be and it may take my mother a while to get used to the idea that I need to trust my intuition.

There's also something else, and this is reposted from facebook:

Here is an ugly, ugly truth about homelessness in Washington.
It's caused by people coming here to seek work. I should know. I'm one of them. Washington has the highest minimum wage in the United States right now. THE HIGHEST at $9.32/hour. That isn't including what Seattle has mandated for minimum wage, which is $15/hour. People are coming here, living on the streets, bouncing from shelter to shelter (because they're NOT permanent; some allow a person to stay no more than 90 days in ONE year), and the housing authorities are overwhelmed. In Bremerton, in Kitsap County where I currently live, the housing authority had to stop taking applications. There's a 4-5 YEAR waiting list for many places. The first place I applied to for low income told me their waiting list was nine months. Most people in the shelters can't wait nine months or 4-5 years.
And it isn't just single people like me who are needing a permanent place to stay. It's FAMILIES trying to survive. It's single parents escaping bad situations and trying to protect their children. 
I listen to the stories the women in the shelter tell, about how they're trying to find a place to stay, and what they've gone through in their lives. Many of them will have to find another shelter to stay in until they can find a place to stay. Many of them can't stay with family because they either don't have family in the area (like me) or it's unhealthy for them to be with family.
So it's time. It's time for a great many things, my friends. It's time to understand that economics is playing a very huge part in the plight of the poor and the homeless. It's time to see that corporate greed is destroying this country. 
It's time to raise the minimum wage. After all, the more money people have to spend beyond the basic necessities of food, shelter, and clothing, the more money the corporations will continue to make. Continue to oppress the poor and the homeless, continue to make it impossible for them to get by, and the economy will not survive.
I have been very humbled by everything I've learned. I will also not be silenced on this matter.
I have done nearly all I can while here in Washington, and it's time for me to move on to the next place. I'm only one person, but I have a voice. I will fight for these people, though. I don't care what mistakes they've made in their lives. They are PEOPLE, first and foremost, and every life is worth fighting for.
I stand by raising the minimum wage. I stand for getting people off the streets, out of shelters, and into HOMES and with jobs that can not only support them but to help them thrive. 
Raising the minimum wage is only the start, though, and I encourage people to get out there, to do something, be it donating food, money, or time. You never know what a difference you can make in someone's life until you see that smile, that look of relief that says more and gives more than anything hoarding money could ever do.

And, yes, my homelessness has been a positive experience while at the same time a crash-and-burn/you-really-need-to-learn-this experience. I researched where the highest minimum wages are at in the United States, and it's all in Washington. For about two and a half weeks, until I received my food assistance, I went to the Salvation Army for lunch. I overheard a woman on her phone telling a bill collector she doesn't receive unemployment. She's been unemployed since 2011, and she goes to the Salvation Army for two of her meals Monday through Friday.

These are the stories the world needs to hear, and I know there are people out there trying to get people to hear them. I want people to hear them. I want the blinders to come off. I recently told my grandmother the world is what we make it. She told me that the world isn't what we make it, that it's a dangerous place to live in anymore. Like we don't have a say in how dangerous this world becomes. Mind you, I love my grandmother. She's one of the sweetest, most loving people I've ever met, but she's at a point where she doesn't believe the world can change. She choses to see the danger. She listens to the horrors about human trafficking and can only speak about it. By her own words, she proves my words true - the world is what we make of it.

So I will say it. The world is a dangerous place, but it's also very beautiful and filled with kindness. I have met nothing but kindness from the residents of Bremerton, from some of the shop owners, and they help to ease the hardships that I'm facing. There's also nothing more dangerous than apathy and unwillingness to bring about the necessary and painful changes that are so desperately needed. I no longer want the apathy in my life. I want to do something, and I have the skills with writing. I'm willing to bring about these very painful changes.

I will write more about the homeless experience. Because it's a very real problem, one that needs to end like childhood and world hunger. It's time to wake up. I know this sounds very preachy, but it's something that a lot of people are turning a blind eye to. If we don't act now, if we don't do something, it really will be too late.

***

Finally, I would like to announce that The King and Queen of Wands went live on Friday. There were a few hiccups (like me forgetting to save the cover in the cover creator), but it's now available on Amazon Kindle for $2.99. Portal to Gaming is also available for $3.99.

The cover, once more, was done by my lovely and talented younger sister, Kyla, and I love everything she's done for me. Thank you, Kyla, for the hardwork and beautiful cover designs.

elise_rasha: (Default)
 I'm pleased to announce that, by the end of this week, The King and Queen of Wands will be available for purchase on Amazon Kindle. Price will be announced on the publication date.

About The King and Queen of Wands
The Gods of Asgard are on edge. Rumor has it Loki and his son Fenris have broken free from their bonds, the final precursor to Ragnarök. They've prepared for this moment. They're ready to face their deaths valiantly and with honor.

Only Loki never shows. 

Instead, spring, beautiful spring starts make its appearance for the first time in years, and the mortals are slowly forgetting what was to befall them. For Odin, this is a sign something has happen to alter the course of fate. Loki's desired vengeance and justice for some time. He isn't one to let go of a grudge, and the Allfather wants to know why.

For Zeus, King of Olympus, life is good. The lands he inhabits are abundant with people and food, and he and his fellow Olympians are secure.

Until Hermes announces there are trespassers stealing food in their sacred groves. Worse yet, the Messenger claims a large black wolf accompanies them. Determined to bring the thieves to justice and to slay the wolf, Zeus sets out with two of his daughters to capture them.

Loki is hungry. For centuries, the Gods of Asgard hid him away, bound to a rock with the entrails of his son Vail and a serpent hanging over his head. His wife Sigyn endured his torment with him, and they've finally broken free. But his wife's told him something that's made him rethink his desire for vengeance and destruction upon his former allies. With his wife and son, he flees to find food and freedom.

Worlds are about to collide, and tragedy will strike. The Gods of Asgard and Olympus will never be the same again.

****

The King and Queen of Wands is a Tarot-inspired story and a prequel of sorts for Portal to Gaming.

****
About Portal to Gaming:

Nineteen-year-old Fen Willows lives an idyllic life. Both of his parents are universally renowned alien archaeologists, pioneers of the field. He studies alien archaeology and plans to follow in the footsteps of his parents, used to have a boyfriend, and enjoys spending his free time hanging around with his best friends, Daniel and Wolfgang Evans.

The idyllic life, however, is not for Fen. Earth is too boring, too bright, too shining for him, but war with the Salmorians keeps him from joining his parents as they travel to ancient civilization sites. Bored and on the heels of a painful break-up, he takes to the virtual reality simulators of Portal to Gaming, one of the leading companies in entertainment and information technology, and where he feels most at home.

There, his world is turned upside down by a stranger determined to fight him for reasons unknown. No one else sees the stranger, and Fen is left to defend his sanity on the issue.

After the confrontation, strange phenomena start to follow Fen around - moments where he stands in his gaming world and moments where destruction is raining down around him.

Unbeknownst to Fen, the war with the Salmorians runs deeper. His parents harbor secrets, ones that can change the course of the war, and his life, forever.

Portal to Gaming is available on Amazon Kindle for $3.99.

******

Upcoming holiday season:

Portal to Gaming 
will go on sale one more time, just in time for the holiday season. Price and run time will be announced next week.

elise_rasha: (Default)
 I'm very pleased to announce that Portal to Gaming is now for sale on Amazon. Currently, it's an e-book only, and the cost is $4.99.

About Portal to Gaming

Portal to Gaming is the first story in a series called Arch of Fantasy, and focuses on nineteen-year-old Fen Willows. He's the son of two universally-renowned archaeologists, Farold and Victorie Amie Willows. He attends college, following in his parents' footsteps. Though set in the distant future, post World War IV, jobs are mostly inherited. What your parents do for a living, chances are, you will do as well. Fen doesn't mind becoming an alien archaeologist. He's a curious young man, interested in learning.

School is winding down for the summer for Fen and his best friends, Wolfgang and Daniel Evans. His friends are looking forward to participating in an upcoming questing adventure called Arch of Fantasy by Portal to Gaming. Fen just wants to forget about his break up with his boyfriend. The Greco-Roman-Norse epic quest options don't thrill him as much as they do his friends, but he's willing to log in the hours with them. Fighting against Orcs and Kobolds relieves the tension. After all, it's only a game.

Or so Fen thinks. 

A stranger approaches him, starting a fight. It is this event that will be the beginning of his life turning upside down. 

Greater powers are at play, and Fen is one of many caught in the middle. His life will be turned upside down with no guarantee for the future.

About Arch of Fantasy
Arch of Fantasy is a multi-story arch with a blend of science-fiction, fantasy, and mythology. 

The second story in the series, The Sons of Thor, will follow Wolfgang and Daniel Evans as they try to make sense of everything that's happened. The sons of two top-ranking military commanders, Wolfgang and Daniel are proud, confident, and strong, but they are not prepared for what's coming. They, too, will be in for twists and turns and revelations as they seek out King Lopt's two-headed fire wyvern. Secrets will be revealed to them that will either break their spirit or make them strong.

Tentative release date for The Sons of Thor is September 28, 2014.

More about the series will be posted in later updates.
elise_rasha: (Default)
 Well, my friends, Feast of Fantasy: The Ultimate Fantasy Adventure is no longer the title of my soon-to-be self-published novella. Or short novel. I'm still very fuzzy about where one thing cuts off and becomes something else when it comes to word count. The title of my novella is now Portal to Gaming​, and here is the excerpt.
.
From Portal to Gaming:

The village of Tulupa bustled with life. Vendors hawking their wares shouted to be heard over the marching of booted feet and the whinnying of horses. Women walked along, examining bolts of fabric, meats, breads, and cheeses. Small children scampered underfoot.
Fen turned off the main road, and the sounds of everyday life fell away. The alley he strode down was surrounded by poorly constructed homes of thatch and stone and wooden carts with iron-spoke wheels, torches, with tall, stone walls peering over them.

It was also silent, empty. Muffled, even. He stopped and glanced around. Satisfaction filled him with how his and his friends’ quest to battle a group of Kobolds ended. The fighting relieved some of the tension creeping into his shoulders and kept his mind off his recent break-up with his boyfriend. Now was the time to collect the reward and move on to the next adventure.

Confusion erased away some of his satisfaction. Beggars and the homeless usually made their homes in the alleyway. He saw no one. He glanced at the piece of parchment in his hand and frowned. According to a bright red door to one side, he was in the right location to meet his contact.

Something wasn’t right.

‘Where’s the lady who . . .’

“Draw your sword.”                                                                   

Fen froze as the sharp edge of a broad sword appeared in his peripheral vision and pressed against his cheek and ear. A trickle of blood ran from the right side of his face and slid onto his neck. The wounds stung and startled him. His heart pounded, heavy yet fast. He cursed himself for allowing his guard to falter so this assailant could sneak up on him. He’d not heard the soft whisper of a sword being unsheathed or the footsteps of this person’s arrival. He should have had some kind of indication in the quiet that he wasn’t alone.

‘How did I miss those? Where did he come from?’

Fen fought the urge to simply whirl around and smack the weapon away with the back side of his hand. He couldn’t risk another injury so soon after that skirmish with Kobold bandits, despite the ridiculously easiness of the task. His left arm ached from the gash the leader had given him. Panicking was the last thing he needed to do in his current situation. He inhaled a sharp, deep breath.

‘Calm. Remain calm,’ he told himself. ‘He’s expecting me to panic. Well, I won’t give him the satisfaction. He won’t ever get the drop on me again. But why does he want me to draw my sword? He could’ve killed me already, taken my stuff and be gone. Others would’ve done so by now. Is he really just wanting to fight me? Why? Stop thinking about it, dammit. Focus! You’re not usually a scatterbrain, Fen!’

“You want me . . . to draw my sword?” With slow and deliberate grace, Fen reached for his sword, where it hung behind his waist.

“Is that so hard to believe?” The man’s voice held mild amusement and a hint of mockery.

Fen’s free hand balled into a fist. Anger flared within him. He eyed the blade pressed against his cheek, noticing the hand holding it never wavered. The stranger remained calm and self-assured. Whoever he was, he wasn’t some rank amateur.

“Considering you snuck up behind me, yeah,” he replied. “I find it very hard to believe you want an honest fight with me.”

“So you feel I’m a dishonest person because your guard doesn’t exist? I suppose I should take insult with your implication. Yet, I can at least guess why you think the way you do.” The man chuckled. “Then again, it hardly matters now, does it? There’s only one truly important question requiring an answer.”

“And that is?” Fen asked. His heart continued to hammer away. He tried to inhale several deep, calming breaths instead of gulping in as much air as he could. His chest constricted a little, and he wanted, needed to keep his breathing under control. Sweat beaded on his forehead, threatening to obscure his vision. Why was he reacting like this? Had his opponent poisoned his blade beforehand? He eased his sword from its sheath.

“Are you ready for this?”

“I guess I am.”

Fen stepped to his left and spun away from his opponent in an effort to dodge a blow to the head. At the same time, he attempted to bring his sword arm into a better defensive position. In those seconds, he wished he carried his sword at his side rather than on his back. His arm ached from the awkward angle at which he held his weapon.

‘Can’t be helped now,’ he told himself. ‘At least now I know to keep my guard up when I’m here. It really does take all kinds, doesn’t it?’
He brought his sword into a better defensive stance, ready to counter his opponent’s strike.

The other man hadn’t remained idle in those moments. The stranger’s feet slid across the dirt, moving into a different position away from Fen. The air hummed as he swung his sword in a semi-circular arc. Fen crouched down and scrubbed at his eyes, his sweat blurring his vision.

“It appears this is over before it has even begun,” the man said. Was that disappointment and anger in his voice?

“What?”

With his heart racing harder and faster, now in anticipation, Fen scrambled to stand straight so he could face his opponent. His blood pounded in his ears.

“Until we meet again . . . Fen Willows . . .”

The scenery shifted. It rolled like an image losing signal, twisted several times, and turned to static. All of his attention centered on battling his opponent, to prevent the other man from fleeing. They couldn’t stop now. The fight was just starting, and Fen loved a challenge.

“Player endangerment detected. Powering down. Initiating emergency protocol.”


The new voice didn’t register in Fen’s mind right away while the new event unfolded around him. He opened his mouth to retort to the newcomer to the fight. The words failed him.

‘Player endangerment? What the heck is he talking about?’

When the computerized male voice broke through his battle-ready mind, Fen blinked. The scenery dimmed and faded out of sight, the smells fading away. Before everything disappeared, however, Fen caught a hint of his opponent’s golden hair and a flash of silver. Instead of a sunlit sky in a medieval town, he stood in a room of four, light grey metal walls.

The game ended.

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