Lady Alesta of Dare is a girl of Barrow stock hailing from the western city of the same name. The Dares are the largest extended family on Kana with over sixty percent of people of Barrow stock being Dares.

“Lady Alesta of Dare” by Kayla Woodside

From a young age, Alesta was a mature, thoughtful girl. She loved to play and jump, but was nevertheless more reserved and bit more introspective than her brothers and sisters. She often saw a strange star hanging in the western sky. It was a large yellow star that was bright enough to be clearly seen at mid-day, yet dim enough that she could look right at it without hurting her eyes. She thought she could even see some sort of surface detail on it–a red, twisting cloud. She marveled at it and even thought it might be a moon of Kana, though she couldn’t find mention of it in any of her astronomy books. She asked her mother about it once, and she didn’t know what she was talking about, so Alesta didn’t mention it again.

When visiting the marketplace with her mother, she often saw a group of apparently impoverished beggars being harassed in the town square by gawkers. She asked her mother who the beggars were and her mother told her: “Pilgrims of Merian,” and she said nothing more, hurrying on.

“Alesta” by Eve Ventrue

Alesta often saw these Pilgrims of Merian coming and going in Dare. They appeared to be priests of some sort preaching a bizarre alternative version of the History of the Elders, one not sanctioned by the Sisterhood of Light. Most of the people listening to the Pilgrims appeared to be mocking their beliefs.

One day, she stopped to listen to what the Merians were saying. They said, amid the jeers, that the Elders were not gone, and to see them one need only open one’s eyes. The Merians mentioned their Star–a yellow star to the west. The people listening to them laughed. What star, they asked. There is nothing there.

“I see it!” Alesta cried. The Merians turned to her and she pointed right toward it.

Though her family protested, Alesta had found her calling. She left her family in Dare and set out, traveling in the meager wagons of the Pilgrims of Merian. She quickly discovered that there was much more to the Merians than they let on to the public. They took her to a sacred mountain to pray and discover her path. She knelt in the snow at the summit for hours waiting to hear the yellow star speak.

At last, she heard a kind voice whisper in her ear: Save all those who fall astray.”

Alesta on the Merian Ship (From LoE Book VII cover, by Carol Phillips)

For Alesta, she would walk the most dangerous road. She was taken with her Merian brothers and sisters to places of evil where unsuspecting souls often fell into peril and needed help, and her task was to rescue them. She visited many planets without ever having stepped onto a starship, she walked the mysterious Merian’s Road. She and her order saved many people in need, and those they saved were rarely grateful.

Though threadbare and impoverished, her star protected her. She wore a belt that allowed her to walk invisibly if she so wished and had beads that shielded her mind from attack.

She eventually ended up on a small outpost overlooking a watery world of evil unknown to the Sisters or the Fleet, hiding right under their noses where the unwary were lured in and killed. It was very dangerous, and should she and her Merian order be discovered by the caretakers of this world, there would be no mercy and no help for them. As always Alesta and the Merians were on their own in a dangerous world.

One day, she saw a star fall, and that was beginning of the end …

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue, Carol Phillips and Kayla Woodside

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Wherever people have sailed, be it across the seas, over the mountains, or through open space, there have always been tales of lost ships, the ghost ships: The Flying Dutchman, the Mary Celeste, the Edmund Fitzgerald, and on and on.

And so goes the Heade-On-The-Hearth, a warship in the League’s Fleet like many others, she has assumed a unique place in the lore of inter-stellar shipping, the demon ship that comes upon one in the emptiness where there is no help.

The “Heade-On-The-Hearth” by Fantasio

The Heade-On-The-Hearth was launched from Tusck port, Station Indigo, Onaris in 002452AX. She was a Webber-Class warship, a standard Fleet design that took up the bulk of the serviceable fleet back in the early days. The Webbers were an ugly, functional ship that featured an open gantry system laced with removable crew, cargo and engineering pods that could be configured in a variety of ways such that no two Webbers were exactly alike. The Stellar Mach Coil was a dangerous and somewhat unpredictable power system at the time and was housed in the starboard faring well away from the crew areas. The Webber fleet was eventually superceded by the larger, more modern Straylight class ships. She was named after a city on Onaris, as is customary.

The Heade served for only a short period of time. Shortly after her maiden voyage, she was conscripted into battle with the Xaphan armada at Sorrander-Quo. There, she sustained major damage to her starboard fairing and had to be towed from the theatre. Eventually she was scuttled and left to drift in The Kills region of space. She was removed from the Fleet’s active books.

Several months later, mariners began issuing warning of a pirate ship sailing the deep sea between Kana and Onaris. Witnesses claimed a black Webber ship came at them from nowhere bent on theft and mayhem, a ship missing its starboard faring. Eventually the name of the offending ship reached the ears of the Fleet admiralty: the Heade-On-The-Hearth was doing the pirating. An investigation of The Kills revealed that her hulk was missing. It was later discovered that a band of pirates from Onaris, the Drury Brothers as they were known, had stolen the Heade from The Kills, strapped on a set of old Woburn rocket engines and brought the Heade back to life. The Druries used the Heade to great effect, able to fall on the weak and helpless and flee just before any dispatched to stop them could arrive.

Eventually the Fleet set a trap for the Druries off of Exeter’s Belt (a nebula eventually renamed Druries Belt). The Druries took the bait and, in the ship battle that followed, were sunk by the Fleet after hours of fierce fighting.

So much for the Drury Brothers …

However …

The Heade-On-The-Hearth modified with spotlights and tentacles (by Carol Phillips)

The Drury Brothers soon returned alive and well in their Heade-On-The-Hearth ghost ship. The Fleet, convinced they were dead, scoffed at the notion, however, ship after ship were accosted they were forced to act and face the Druries again. The Fleet, in concert with local authorities, sunk the Heade over a hundred times only to have it return from the dead over and over, and, with each resurrection, she came back more odd, more sinister, bristling with alien weaponry and dark accessories strapped to its gantries.

Eventually, the sightings died down, and the Druries and their black ghost ship faded into lore. On the new world of Bazz, they said the Devil had a new assignment for the Druries, to feed his children.

They still say if one dare to venture alone from Kana to Onaris and one wander off the shipping lanes, the Druries will get you.

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia, Fantasio and Carol Phillips

The following has nothing to do with my science fiction/fantasy book series. Just some thoughts on a sport that I love and respect. WARNING–there’s a bit of foul language.

Ronda Rousey

–Note, the following interview occurred only in the imagination of the blogger … Ronda Rousey is becoming a force in the world of women’s MMA, not just because of her amazing skills in the cage, but also because of her bold personality and ribald, unpredictable wit. Her material just sort of writes itself and she is destined to become the Muhammad Ali of women’s MMA for her ability to bang out quips and one-liners and self-promote a fight.

TOTEH: So Ronda, we appreciate the opportunity to sit down and speak to you today.

RR:

TOTEH: In your last outing, you beat Sarah Kaufman in just under a minute of the first round via armbar. What can you tell us about that fight?

RR: No, no, I beat Sarah Kaufman in about ten seconds, really. I bull-rushed her, knocked her down using some judo stuff that I know and then she spent the rest of the fight trying to avoid the inevitable. I snapped her arm off like a twig–you saw it. She was all patriotic before the fight, saying the belt was going with her back to Canada. Looks to me like the belt’s staying right here in the US. I’m amazed maple syrup didn’t come gushing out when I broke her arm off. How’s that for promoting US-Canadian relations??

TOTEH: You’ve won pretty much every fight you’ve ever been in, either amateur or pro, by way of armbar. Your critics call you one-dimensional–that’s not me talking, I’m just saying. What’s your take on that?

Anna Maria Rousey DeMarrs

RR: My take? Yeah, I’ve got a hot armbar, and when somebody can figure out how to beat it, I’ll move on to something else. Look, Plan A of every fight is to land the armbar. Want to know what Plan B is?? Do you? Plan B is: Repeat Plan A. I used to wake up as a kid with my teddy bear and footie pajamas and have my mom all over me, rolled up in the armbar position. “Get out of it, you little milk-drinking punk!” Mom would shout. “Get out of it!”, and eventually I did.

TOTEH: Your Mother is Dr. Anna Maria Rousey DeMarrs, a very famous judoka of the `70’s and `80’s.

RR: Damn right. The only chick out there tough enough to beat me is my mom, and I don’t think you’ll be seeing her stepping into the cage anytime soon.

Miesha Tate

TOTEH: Let’s move on. Miesha Tate

RR: Oh, f— that bitch! No–take that back, I wouldn’t f— that bitch if I was a guy, see? Did you see that scene while I was kicking Sarah Kaufman’s ass? She was sitting there eating a cupcake or something, and got frosting in that stupid hair-doo of hers. See, I frighten her so much, she can’t even eat a cupcake in my presence without embarrassing herself. So me and Kaufman are rolling around and I’m like: “Why don’t you take that forked tongue of yours and lick that frosting off of there, bitch, I mean Miesha!” Ha! Miesha Tate … Thanks to me, we all know what the inside of her arm looks like.

TOTEH: But, she …

RR: Next question, she’s old news and out of the picture. F— her. Did you see her almost lose to the dried up Earthly remains of Julie Kedzie in the under, under, under card that night? Heck, I could help Julie Kedzie cross the street and she’d end up with a broken arm and a busted hip. Julie Kedzie needs to apply for AARP or for one of those scooters old ladies rumble down the sidewalk on. Time to retire, Julie! You know what Tate’s trying to do, right? She’s trying to create some sort of cross-association linking her name to my name to get her places, sort of like Tonto and the Lone Ranger, Bigfoot and Wildboy, Batman and Robin. She’s like the ghost of some nameless person whose ass you’ve kicked and wants to haunt you forever. Let “Cupcake Girl” win some fights against non-senior citizens and eat some cupcakes without getting it in her hair and we’ll see. I’ll add her other arm to my collection.

Cris Cyborg

TOTEH: Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos is considered one of the most dangerous females ever to step into the cage. Her doping suspension is up soon, and she has stated that she wants you to come on up to her weight level and fight. Looks like she wants her belt back. What do you say to that?”

RR: What do I say?? I say there’s two types out there, there’s the “Champ,” and then there are all the “Chumps”. If you’re not the Champ, then you’re a Chump. I don’t see a belt around her waist, and therefore she’s a big, sorry-looking Chump from Brazil. Maybe there’s a problem with the Portuguese to English translation, but the Champ does not come up to the Chump’s weight class. No, no, if the Chump wants to fight, then she’s going to have to put down the `roids and the creams and the clears and come on down to where I am and we’ll fight. I wonder, when I rip her skinny, cut-weight Chump arm off, if it’ll wiggle around on the mat and do a little Chump Samba for me. What do you think?

Michael Phelps

TOTEH: I think that would be something to see. You were recently critical of former Olympic teammate Michael Phelps for being a “Diva“. Can you expand upon that?

RR: What’s to expand? He was a big guy around the Olympic village in Beijing–didn’t hang out, didn’t participate in stuff with everybody else, played by a different set of rules. Sounds like a Diva to me. Sounds like he ought to be dating Miesha Tate and they can hang out and be Divas together. I hung out. I made friends. Oh, by the way, he’d last about as long as Sarah Kaufman did against me.

TOTEH: Well, he’s not an MMA guy, he’s a swimmer. I don’t think he knows judo.

RR: I don’t know judo either, I just rip arms off. If he’d like to swim, we’ll swim. I’ll jump into that pool and armbar it into submission in world record time.

TOTEH: Well, er …

RR: You know, sometimes when I’m working out and I get a real sweat going, I think I can see through time. You know what I see there at the end of time?

TOTEH: What?

RR: I see a big arm there, ripe and sweaty, just waiting for me to grab hold and hyper-extend it.

TOETH: Miesha Tate’s arm?

RR: Oh, hell no–she wishes. She’s at minute 14 1/2 of her 15 and we’re moving on without her. Nope, it’s just an arm, and one of these days I’m going to reach out and it’s going to tap.

RG

TOTSE: The Pilgrims of Merian

September 2, 2012

Sketch of the cover to LoE Book VII “Against the Druries” featuring a Merian ship attempting to rescue the wreck of the Demophalon John (Carol Phillips)

The Pilgrims of Merian are a group of wanderers roaming the countryside of Kana, Hoban, Onaris and various Xaphan worlds as well. They travel from city to city preaching an alternative history of the Elders, often in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Sisterhood of Light. The Sisters, normally swift to stamp out alternative histories of the Elders, found the Merians to be benign and harmless and so bizarre in their views, that nobody could ever possibly take them seriously. They allowed them to continue provided they pay their taxes and cause no strife or duress.

The chief tenet of their teachings is that the Elders of Old are not gone, only relocated. They believe in the Star of Merian, the astral presence of the Elder Merian thought to be long dead. They say those with clear sight can see the Star of Merian as a great yellow star, easily visible in broad daylight, and that it is wreathed in a twisting red cloud. A prerequisite to joining the order is to be able to see the star.

The Merians travel the countryside by way of floatwagons covered with tarpaulins. They have no known permanent headquarters and make a meager living selling hand-made trinkets and cloth and performing calligraphy (see below). When asked where they come from, the Merians always say “Westwood“, though such a place has never been located. Occasionally, the Merians will stop and settle in one place for a year or two. They often ask the local Lord or Lady permission to settle, and, when granted, build a temporary village called a Hermitage. The estate of Belmont-South Tyrol resides on the grounds of an old Merian Heritage. Though they are impoverished in the extreme, those who enter a Merian Hermitage are welcome to share in anything they have.

“Lady Alesta of Dare and Pilgrim of Merian” by Eve Ventrue

Their dress consists of a homespun white smock that extends down to their knees. They wear a belt of red and green shells and a number of small necklaces of red and green wooden beads. Merians never cut their hair for they believe their ability to see their Star comes from their hair. They hold back their masses of hair with pins and combs. They rarely wear shoes. On top of everything, they wear a green brocade cloak lined with gold cloth. They write in a secret language known only to them. In some parts of Esther and Barrow, Merian writing is thought to bring good luck, and they are sometimes paid to decorate various vessels and buildings.

Though threadbare and impoverished, it is said in some quarters that the Merians are much more capable and advanced than they let on. Some say that their belts allow them to pass unseen if they wish, and their beaded necklaces shield the wearer’s mind from attacks and illusion. There is also the various tales that the Merians may travel virtually anywhere they wish at the blink on an eye via an arcane bridge called The Merian’s Road. Xaphan Traders often tell tales of selfless, green-robed people who walk into peril to rescue those in need and that they travel by way of a “Road” wreathed in fog.

Such tales have never been verified and the Merians themselves never speak of such things.

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue and Carol Phillips.