It’s odd. I’ve been working on the latest LoE manuscript: The Shadow tech Goddess for almost three years. It’s been, by far, the longest slog I’ve ever had in writing a book.

"Carahil's Busy Morning" (Artwork by Carapaulo)

“Carahil’s Busy Morning” (Artwork by Carapalou)

And then, there’s Carahil’s Busy Morning, a children’s book I decided to write on a lark which took me about five minutes to finish.

Well, not so fast, let me explain…

I’d learned a few things going to shows over the years. One: books that really sell are YA and children’s. I hate to say it, but that does seem to be the case. Most of the people browsing around are parents looking to buy a book for their kids. My science fiction books (richly illustrated by Carol Phillips) tend to catch the eye, People passing by often stop, pick one up, and ask “Are these books for kids?”

Kids?? Of course I could have lied and said “Sure … kids will love these.” My LoE series is not for kids–too much violence, too much darkness floating around. It is what it is.

But then I thought about it. One character that is a continual ray of fresh light in the series is Carahil, the Great Nargal Spirit and patron god of the House of Blanchefort. Just a big kid himself, Carahil would do well in a children’s series, and if I ever got around to writing one he would be the subject matter. I put that thought on the back burner and let it simmer.

Carahil and Mabs beginning their life together (Carol Phillips)

Carahil and Mabs beginning their life together (Carol Phillips)

Over time, I wondered about Carahil and his jolly face emblazoned in the pages of a kid’s book. What would the book be about? Would kids understand Carahil’s supernatural origins? Would they identify with his cosmic, star-faring ways?

It occurred to me that all the weirdness in the world really doesn’t matter much, as long as there is a familiar framework in which to paint and give it perspective. And, what could be more familiar than a nuclear family setting–a father, a mother, the kids and all the pressures and situations that come along with such a setting. A family of odd creatures in space is really just the same as the family next door. I began thinking about Carahil’s family.

I knew that Carahil had taken up with Mabsornath, the Cat Goddess seen in LoE Book II: The Hazards of the Old Ones. Mabs was actually the main bad guy in the book, plotting the destruction of the planet Xandarr. Being the straight shooter that he is, Carahil managed to turn Mabs around. In the end, they became close, eventually committing themselves to each other and mutually sharing their secrets (a very big deal among the gods). As the LoE Series progresses, we see Mabs pregnant, and, eventually, the proud mother of seven children. In a vision, Captain Davage and Countess Sygillis see them playing at her feet.

Atha, as a sultry adult and as an innocent child (Fantasio and Carapalou)

Atha, as a sultry adult and as an innocent child (Fantasio and Carapalou)

That’s all I had, Carahil’s children aren’t seen again … until I began writing The House of Bloodstein. In the Temple of the Gods on Xandarr, Lord Kabyl, Lady Sarah and Lord Phillip of Blanchefort go seeking Carahil’s help. Instead of Carahil emerging, a tall, sultry woman with short blonde hair and a glowing visor over her eyes appeared. I immediately knew who it was: Atha, the youngest daughter of Carahil. Unlike her father, Atha is a mysterious and somewhat ominous presence. Her motives are unclear. To prove to Kay that she is in fact Carahil’s daughter, she takes him to Carahil’s Gift Shop in 1000 Carahil Park and shows him a children’s book where she is depicted as a little girl in Carahil’s household. The book was a light-hearted family farce called “Carahil’s Busy Morning” where Atha, as a precocious kid, tends to stir up innocent trouble.

So, then I had it, all at once. I had the characters and I had the setting. In five minutes of working on my manuscript, I also dreamed up a 1000 word story of Carahil and Mabs raising their seven children at the Top of the Universe, encountering surprises, and teaching their kids important lessons. It was the easiest writing I’ve ever done. It just felt right.

Dreaming something up and writing it down is the easy part, turning it into a living, breathing story is hard. As it’s only a 1000 words, the story would need to be driven by the artwork, and that would take an artist of exceptional skill. My good friend BeaKimera, an amazing Manga artist and a representative of many others soon had the solution. Bea embraced this project and showed real enthusiasm. She had a whole portfolio of artists for me to look at, all of whom were immensely talented–one, though, was the clear choice, with a clean Manga style and a flair for story-telling: Carapalou.

Seven months and a lot of hard work later, here we are with a finished book, each page a masterpiece. The end of a long, hard road in publishing is an ISBN and a barcode. CBM now has those things and I can’t wait to share it with the world.

Carahil’s Busy Morning will be available in late June from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2013, Ren Garcia, Carapalou, Fantasio and Carol Phillips.

After Seven books and counting, the LoE Universe has grown by leaps and bounds. It is bursting with characters and places, most of which were created in mere passing and then expanded upon at a later time.

Queen Ghome, by Carol Phillips

Queen Ghome, by Carol Phillips

Queen Ghome is such a character. The name “Ghome” started off life in Book I as a type of Xaphan battleship. Princess Marilith, the nemesis of Captain Davage, flew about in a Ghome 52 battleship. The only thing I knew of the name at the time was that it belonged to some Xaphan tyrant from antiquity.

Flash forward six books. As I puzzled out the plot for LoE Book VIII (or IX depending on which gets published first) is need a villain character and, for some unknown reason, the name Ghome flashed into my head. Without knowing anything about the character, I decided Ghome would be the main villain of Book VIII. I spent a bit of time thinking about the character, and then it hit me all at once.

RULER OF TRIMBLE:

Bad guys are so fun to play with, the possibilities are truly boundless. Queen Ghome’s roots are lost to the ages. She entered Xaphan social circles from nowhere in 000701AX. She had all the assets one would need to thrive in Xaphan society: she was beautiful, had money, was ruthless and cunning and brimming with ambition. Where she came from was always a topic of speculation, most believed she was an exile from the League. She flirted with The Court of George for a time, and even picked up their habit of casual cannibalism.

Queen Ghome's appearance changed frequently, but, her eyes with their terrible, withering stare, were always the same

Queen Ghome’s appearance changed frequently, but, her eyes with their terrible, withering stare, were always the same

Her true rise to notoriety came when she married into the royal House of Trimble in 000715AX. Princess Xoefer of Trimble, the heiress to the throne and one of the most eligible princess in Xaphan space, was seeking a husband to share the rule of Trimble with her and her list of suitors was long. Shockingly, she ended up marrying Ghome, a female, which caused quite a stir having two queens sitting on Trimble’s throne. Rumors flew how Ghome, a mysterious vagabond, managed such a thing, for certainly the princess had been bewitched by her. Queen Xoefer’s fate was not a kind one, as she quickly grew sick and died, leaving Queen Ghome I sitting alone on the throne. The House of Trimble was a potent one, and, as was Xoefer before her, Queen Ghome became the most sought-after woman in Xaphan space.

Her lore grew quickly. For one, she was a tyrant of the most despicable sort. Cruel and despotic, she was given to fits of rage, paranoia and occasional madness. She carried a spiked scepter forged of iron and rarely hesitated to use it when the mood struck her. Also, her appearance changed often, not simply changed in terms of hairstyle, hair color or wardrobe, she looked like a completely different person with only her scepter and her eyes giving her away.

She planted and designed her infamous Garden of Zama, a gigantic garden and reflecting pool near Trimble Palace off the west lawn. The garden was huge, with many intricate paths leading in a bewildering, maze-like tangle. It was populated with an endless host of deadly carnivorous and poisonous plants cultured and developed by Queen Ghome herself.

WAR WITH THE LEAGUE:

Many suitors came to Trimble seeking Ghome’s hand, and her price for entertaining these suitors was invariably a quest to fetch some item or parcel of land which would end up in war with the League. Many Xaphan Houses were severely weakened, and a few went extinct altogether as a result of these wars.

VEHELM OF WAAM AND GHOME II

One of the suitors for Ghome’s hand was a tiny man from Gothan named Vehelm of Waam who was a noted maker of fabulous jewelry. Ghome created a workshop for him in her Garden and compelled him to make for her a new treasure every month otherwise she would allow him to starve or be killed in the depths of the Garden. To the surprise of many, he survived and became a favorite in her court.

An odd change came over Ghome at that time. She appeared to have experienced some sort of revitalization or rebirth. She cast aside her thuggish ways and became a true visionary and leader for her people, with Vehelm of Waam at her side. The people began referring to her as Queen Ghome II as she led them into a new age of prosperity and learning. Ghome II stopped carrying her iron scepter and had the Garden of Zama walled up tight.

THE END OF QUEEN GHOME:

The Horvath Creeper and the Aboleth Lilly were just a few of the deadly plants Queen Ghome cultivated

The Horvath Creeper and the Aboleth Lilly were just a few of the deadly plants Queen Ghome cultivated

As with all things, this age of enlightenment didn’t last. Queen Ghome II reverted to her old ways with a vengeance and ordered Vehelm of Waam executed. This tyrannical Ghome became known as Queen Ghome III and was the worst of the lot by far.

But, by this point, Ghome had alienated too many Houses and the end was near. The House of Sorrander came in force and subjugated Trimble. They toppled Queen Ghome’s palace and burned the Garden of Zama to the ground. The Sorranders then occupied Trimble for five centuries.

What became of Queen Ghome after that was unknown. It was assumed that she was killed during the Sorrander attack, though her body was never found.

copyright 2013, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

"Carahil", by Felipe Montecinos

“Carahil”, by Felipe Montecinos

Of all the various characters roaming around the LoE Universe, Carahil appears to be the most sympathetic and well-loved. He’s a cool guy, has a heart, has a sense of humor, and he’s always ready to give of himself. He’s reformed the cold hearts of wayward goddesses and saved whole planets. For that reason, he tends to strike a chord with readers. You never know what might happen when he’s in the area–could be anything.

There are several aspects of the character you may or may not be aware of:

Carahil 1 (Carol Phillips)

Carahil 1 (Carol Phillips)

CARAHIL 1: The original Carahil, or Carahil 1, appeared only for a brief period of time in LoE Book 1. He was a scavenger living in the dregs of Sygillis of Metatron‘s temple, eating the dead bodies she created in abundance. Occasionally, when driven by hunger, he would take one of Sygillis’ Hulgismen guards. He was basically a big rat. When Syg was turned from evil and the Shadow tech of her temple changed to Silver, Carahil too was enlightened. He grew in size, became intelligent and powerful with Silver tech. He carried Captain Davage aloft into battle and, when Syg’s temple escaped the desolation of Metatron, Carahil 1 escaped as well and was, from the reader’s perspective, never seen again. We can only hope he had a happy ending out there somewhere along with his friends. Notice he is quite large, and has a natural, somewhat predatory appearance diminished a bit with a benevolent expression. Aside from his size, strength and ability to fly, Carahil 1 had none of the amazing abilities Carahil 2 would one day possess.

Carahil 2 (Carol Phillips)

Carahil 2 (Carol Phillips)

CARAHIL 2: Though he only knew him for a short time, Carahil 1 had a great influence on Captain Davage. Davage would often speak of Carahil at dinnertime, how he had admired him and considered him a benevolent soul and a friend, and that he missed him. Sitting at the table listening to all of this, was Captain Davage’s sister, Lady Poe. As a Silver tech female of growing power, Lady Poe loved creating little animals in Silver tech, and she was inspired by her brother’s tales. She decided to give Carahil back to Davage as a gift. She spent months collecting thoughts and recollections direct from Davage’s head, placing them into an ancient Vith fountain in the Telmus Grove. As she worked, Lady Poe became particularly devoted to the “Carahil Project” and was determined to make him “something special”. She gave him great wisdom, knowledge of magic and lore, and even threw in knowledge of cooking, sewing, botany, alchemy, and animal husbandry. Still not satisfied, Lady Poe wanted to give her masterpiece “a proper heart” She wanted him to be kind, to have a love of life, though she didn’t quite know where to get such a thing.

Carahil, as a human, with a pregnant Mabsornath (Carol Phillips)

Carahil, as a human, with a pregnant Mabsornath (Carol Phillips)

She would soon have an answer. The kitchen staff had an old bloodhound they called “Cookie” who was known for her gentle disposition and willingness to mother lost animals. The staff often brought her lost kittens, and Cookie would mother them until they were big enough to fend for themselves. Cookie was old and, as she lay dying, Lady Poe took her essence and placed it into the fountain as the final ingredient. Soon, Carahil 2 emerged from the fountain.

Lady Poe was delighted with Carahil and considered him to be her first child. She created a number of medallions which would summon carahil when needed. Carahil 2 brimmed with power. He loved rescuing small animals and nursing them back to health. He also had a love of jokes and pranks. His favorite prank was stealing gowns from Countess Sygillis’ wardrobe and hanging them from a flagpole.

Carahil’s abilities have never been fully tapped or displayed. He is powerful enough to be invited to join the Celestial Arborium, an organization of gods seeking to maintain Universal Balance. Carahil follows the rules of Universal law preventing him from using his abilities to their full extent. He is known to change his shape at will, become larger or smaller, use TK, control the weather, control animals, travel vast distances in moments, become ethereal or astral, ward away evil and destroy Shadow tech.

XANDARR:
Carahil took an active role in saving the Planet Xandarr from a Black Hat attack. Ever after Carahil was considered the protective patron god of the planet.

Carahil and his family (Felipe Montecinos)

Carahil and his family (Felipe Montecinos)

CARAHIL’S FAMILY: Carahil eventually took up with Mabsornath, the Cat-Goddess and together they had seven children. Their children were all very powerful, including Lannis, the Herald of the Gods and Atha who became a goddess of unluck, misfortune and impossible quests.

CARAHIL’S TEMPLES:
There are a number of mystical places associated with Carahil. The places are usually fun and filled with Carahil’s light. The Mystery Library in Castle Blanchefort, 1000 Carahil Park and its Gift Shop on Xandarr have both been confirmed as temples dedicated to Carahil.

There is another place associated with Carahil that is very frightening and dangerous, the Cathedral of Bone and Wire where a hideous demonic beast resides. How Carahil could be associated with such a dark place is not currently known.

copyright 2013, Ren Garcia, Carol phillips and Felipe Montecinos

Carahil’s Daughter

October 4, 2012

As many people know full well, raising a child can be a trying and difficult undertaking. Children can be a veritable bundle of dynamite ready to explode at any moment despite one’s best efforts to diffuse them.

“Atha” by Fantasio

Such is the same with the gods. The gods, too, sometimes have issues raising their children.

Take Carahil for example. Often considered a child himself, Carahil lost his heart to the Windwalker Mabsornath, the Cat Goddess of Zall 88 and they went off to the top of the Universal Tree and were wed. With marriage came children, seven of them in fact, four girls and three boys. Most of them were somber, thoughtful children, aware and weighed down with the burden and responsibility of being gods and the power the comes with it.

And then there was Atha. The youngest of the lot, Atha was an enigma to her parents in many ways. She most often chose to appear as a human instead of as an animal, as was the usual case: her brothers all appear as various types of seals, her sisters as wild cats. On occasion, Atha does appear as an animal, as a giant black snake, and, rarely, she appears as a cloud of smoke.

Most often, however, Atha chooses to appear as a human of changeable age, sometimes as a mischievous child and other times as a full-grown adult. In fact, she greatly resembles her grandmother, Lady Poe of Blanchefort, appearing tall and thin in a silvery gown and short platinum-blonde hair. Her one distinguishing feature–she always wears a pair of intricate, geared goggles as the ladies on Hoban often wear. The goggles are a constant feature whether Atha appears as a child or an adult, always perched on her nose covering a good portion of her face. Atha’s goggles are huge and protruding, rather like a pair of binoculars made of gold, silver and brass. It has been said that to see her eyes beneath the goggles is to go mad.

Atha shares much in common with her father. Atha keeps her word–if she promises something she follows through. She possesses his whimsy and unpredictable sense of fun and humor. She loves pranks and jokes, however, unlike her father whose pranks are always benign, Atha’s are anything but. She is selfish and self-absorbed, she is flighty as well, given to fits of rage and temper when things don’t go her way. According to various Hertog writings, she has a fascination with Vith heroes, both male and female, putting them through the wringer, literally torturing them (sometimes to death) with adventure and quest occasionally ruining their lives, and then, when she has had enough fun, she takes them into her bed and seduces them. Atha’s wanton promiscuity with the younger folk is well-known. In time, she became known in various pantheons as a goddess of mischief, of sex (and the misfortune of having sex) and questing.

Atha, also taking after her father, also has a habit as masquerading as other out-worldly entities, in particular, an entity known as the Shadow tech Goddess. Why she does such things is not known, though it is assumed such antics are for personal gain.

Carahil, though he loves his daughter, was beside himself and didn’t have a thought as to properly teach her not to do some of the things she often did. His solution to the problem was one many parents often make use of: he found Atha a “babysitter“, one whom he thought would teach Atha virtue and proper manners through deed and example. He therefore “dropped her off” at Castle Blanchefort to be taught by the people there and, with luck, her positive experiences would calm her down a little.

There she came under the tutelage of Maser of Blanchefort, his mentor and lover Laika of Stonebringer Tower, Sebastian of Tusck and Millicent of Blanchefort, a distant cousin of hers.

Would it do her any good–only time will tell.

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia and Fantasio

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

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

“Lt. Gwendolyn” by Eve Ventrue

LT. GWENDOLYN, LADY OF PRENTISS is rather an enigma. Hailing from the Zenon region of Kana, ladies are expected to be smiling and demure and rather tiny in stature: the classical, tea-drinking Zenon-Girl that prospective gentlemen seek in earnest. The daughters of Prentiss, however, do not quite fit that mold. They are on the tallish side, usually in the upper five foot range, sometimes passing six feet. Gwendolyn was easily that, and also had a solid, rather husky frame. Gwen also was encumbered with a bad reputation around Zenon: a Black Widow, bad temper, sharp tongue. Why … she acted like a Vith woman.

Indeed, Gwen did have a bit of trouble with her temper. Her uncle of the Cone side of the family, Derlith, was fond of his niece and helped her channel her aggressions in constructive ways. He got her into contact sports: boxing, sambo, grappling–all things Zenon-girls was not expected to do. Gwen’s size and solidity helped to excel in those sports and Uncle Derlith took her to compete in tournaments every year on Onaris. She has a slight limp from a broken ankle suffered in one of those tournaments when she refused to submit from a sunk-in ankle-lock. Gwen also, unlike her sisters, mastered the FEDULA, the LosCapricos weapon of the Prentiss Household. She was quite deadly with it.

Lt. Gwendolyn wearing a Fleet Tremblar Uniform (note, the rapier-like FEDULA at her hip) –painting by Eve Ventrue

Gwen also had a good head on her shoulders. Instead of hoping to marry young, Gwen enrolled at the University of Arden and received an “E” degree in Stellar Engineering. Her Uncle Derlith, an Admiral of the 3rd Stellar Fleet, helped her secure a command chair on the Demophalon John, a scouting vessel. Gwen’s temperament did not suit her well to the rigors of command and she was considered a harsh and unreasonable disciplinarian and was roundly disliked by her crew: the “Grizzly Bear”, they called her in hushed tones.

There was a darkness that seemed to hang over Gwen growing up. She had an aunt on her mother’s Cone side of the family who terrified her. Darkness seemed to walk with the woman, and when she came to Prentiss for a visit, Gwen often hid. Even the lurid sound of her voice scared Gwen. Through the vents in the manor, Gwen could hear her aunt frequently talking about some woman to the east whom she despised and cursed. She even hated her son, a boy named Stenstrom whom she hoped to torment.

And, eventually, her aunt would call for Gwen. “GWENDOLYN… COME HERE!!” rang out in her thoughts. Dreading each step, Gwen would come down the stairs and enter the parlor where her aunt and darkness waited.

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia and Eve Ventrue

In what she thought would be the opening notes for the symphony of the rest of her life, the great Nether Day Ball in the city of Feren turned out to be one of the last.

“Lady Vendra of Cone” by Eve Ventrue

Lady Vendra of Cone, the fourth daughter of the prosperous Remnath House of Cone was well-loved by her family and had many friends. Thin and doe-eyed, she took such joy and care in anything she set her mind to. She was a very smiling young lady wearing the colorful Cone gowns with rare grace and charm. She was very unlike her eldest sister, Sephla, who was rather catty and argumentative and who had the social reputation as a hair-puller. Her father, Milius, was an importer/exporter of rare goods and often took Vendra with him. She marvelled at the great Fleet ships her father often shadowed for protection and often spoke in dreamy notes of wishing to marry a handsome Fleet officer some day.

When she came of age, her mother persuaded her to join the Posts. For a small initial fee, one could leave a letter in a general Fleet Posthole and any Fleet member who was looking to have a pen pal could respond and strike up a rapport. Vendra thoughtfully penned her letter and submitted it. She got many responses, though most she rejected. One, however, stood out. Lord Stenstrom of Belmont, a young Com officer aboard the Fleet Webber Amazing had answered her post. Vendra liked his simple wit and fine penmanship and decided to answer his reply. They soon, via correspondence, struck up a healthy friendship. With each exchange of letters, Vendra was more and more convinced that Lord Stenstrom was the man for her.

When all of the Cone daughters, except for Sephla who was on the BANNED list, were invited to the much-anticipated Nether Day Ball in Feren, Vendra immediately penned Lord Stenstrom a note and entreated him to accompany her.

She promised it would be an evening neither would ever forget.

Though she reserved final judgement until she met him in person, Vendra felt herself losing her heart to Lord Stenstrom, and when she saw him at last tall and handsome in his Fleet uniform, that was all–she was in love. They took an introductory swirl across the ballroom floor, every step a wonder. She tingled at his touch. They were such a fine pairing. After the dance, Vendra excused herself and Stenstrom went to get her a glass of punch. She gathered her friends and pulled them aside. She could barely speak she was so excited.
Lord Stenstrom.
Lord Stenstrom!
Everything she hoped he’d be.
Tall.
Handsome.
A fine Zenon House.
Perfect.
“In love. I’m in love,” she told her friends, breathless, and they clapped and congratulated her.

In later years, as she sat in a daze in her dreary convent room on the nightmarish world of Carina 7, she would reflect back on that fateful moment, standing amid her friends, speaking so freely of the new love growing in her heart. She would reflect back on the great mistake she made letting Stenstrom go, of parting with him. She should have stayed and gotten punch with him.

She should have never let him go.

In her excitement, she forgot about her sister, Lady Sephla, and all the enemies she had rolling about Kana. She forgot about the social game on Kana, the one-upmanship, the tawdry little ploys ladies played upon each other.

“Lady Jubilee” by Eve Ventrue

Lady Sephla had enemies everywhere, and they had ears as well. It never occurred to Vendra that one of those enemies heard every word she said, of childish love, of beating hearts. It never occurred to her that one of those enemies would dare humiliate her in her sister’s place.

When she returned to the ballroom floor, she couldn’t find Lord Stenstrom anywhere. Where had he gone? She smiled as she checked the nooks and corners.

Where could he be?

And then she saw him, out on the dance floor with some silver-haired girl Vendra had never seen before. She tried to get his attention, to pull him away from the intruder, but she could not. That woman was nailed to him, eyes locked, feet in step. Eventually, arm-in-arm, they left the floor and vanished, probably retreating to some quiet alcove or terrace, the silver-haired girl taking what should have been hers.

She would later learn that silver-haired girl was Lady Jubilee of Tyrol, one of her sister’s most heated rivals.

The anger, the rage, the broken heart. It was too much. She threw all her colorful Cone gowns out her window, put on an ugly gray suit, and threw herself out as well. She survived her suicide attempt and went mad. Her family, not knowing what to do with her, committed Vendra to a convent on Carina 7 where they heard she would receive the best of care.

As her family departed in their transport, the dames of the convent converged on her room and slammed the door behind them.

“We have things to teach you, Lady Vendra,” they said, eager. “Wondrous things …”

–Lady Vendra of Cone appears in LoE Book VI: The Sands of the Solar Empire coming soon from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia and Eve Ventrue

“Stenstrom, Lord of Belmont-South Tyrol” by Eve Ventrue

Lord Stenstrom of Belmont-South Tyrol is the main character of the upcoming LoE Book VI: The Sands of the Solar Empire.

“Bel” is a very different sort of fellow from his predecessors, Captain Davage and Lord Kabyl.

He is of mixed Zenon and Esther/Tyrol heritage and is the youngest of thirty Belmont children (and the only male). Though the Zenons are potent in the Gifts, his Esther blood has robbed him of Gifts of the Mind. His mother, Lady Jubilee of Tyrol, taught him the ways of Tyrol Sorcery, which consists of mundane learning, such as herbal lore, chemistry, Sleight of Hand and lock-picking. It also covers more arcane subjects: Demonology, Cabalism, alchemy and sympathetic magic. He is said to be able to Walk in the Shadows, passing unseen. Bel carries two LosCapricos Weapons: The NTH’s of his father’s line, and the MARZABLE from his mother’s. The NTH’s are a mystical set of pistols that can kill anything: living, dead, undead, machine and intangible.The MARZABLE is a potent dagger that mystically replenishes itself. With the MARZABLE, he can never be completely disarmed.

“Bel” by Carol Phillips

Bel gave his heart early on to Lady Lillian of Gamboa, a talented artist from the east. Lilly was very strong-willed and helped guide Bel as he grew into young man-hood. Unfortunately, Lilly would not commit herself to Bel and insisted they share a “cooling off” period lasting five years. During that time, he ended up having a number of affairs with: Lady Alitrix of Zama, Grand Dame Miranda of Rosell, Crewman Kaly of Figg, and Christiana of Z-Encarr. He has also participated in the Sisters’ Program over thirty times. He is said to possess the rare Pel Programmability.

He wears a long green coat formerly worn by members of the Hoban Royal Navy. Within his “HRN” he places many bits of his arcane equipment. The HRN appears to have certain mystical properties of its own, as the coat never shows wear or damage and always keeps Bel perfectly comfortable no matter how cold or hot it is.

Bel is also a well-known eccentric, wearing his HRN coat, his Vith triangle hat and a small mask, which nobody quite knows what to make of. He also never joined the Fleet, though his Programmability is high and his Father, Stenstrom the Older is a long-standing Warbird captain. Instead Bel became a Fleet Paymaster: essentially a clerk and shipboard civilian.

Bel, if anything, is a man of many secrets.

LoE Book VI: The Sands of the Solar Empire will be out July, 2012 from Loconeal Publishing

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue and Carol Phillips

JOSEPHUS, LORD OF A-RAM is a character in the upcoming LoE Book VI: Sands of the Solar Empire.

"A-Ram" by Fantasio

The House of A-Ram is a House Minor from the Calvert city of St. Edmonds. His family was once part of a larger Calvert line known as the House of Aramterwillager from the old city of Dee. When the Sisterhood of Light decided to wipe Dee off the face of Kana because of continued lawlessness and decadence in 00221ax, the House split into three minor houses, the House of Aram fleeing to the seaside city of St. Edmonds in the hope of getting back into the Sisterhood’s good graces. The Sisters, never very high on Calverts in the first place, mis-handled the House of Aram’s patent, recording them legally as the House of A-Ram, which they afterwards refused to change, so the name stuck. The A-Rams made their trade as fishermen, renting several boats and trawling the bountiful Sea of Elder. Not rich by any means, they made a decent income fishing and lived in a four-story townhouse several blocks from the docks.

The House would have a rather sordid history with the Sisterhood of Light, always trying to please and impress them and always falling short. Clovis of A-Ram, who had become a noted chef in the region, once accidentally gave food poisoning to a Sister who had come to sample his dishes. Another A-Ram patriarch, Arlie, put a Sister into traction while attempting to pull off a bang-bang move playing brandtball. Silly things like that tend to stick in the Sisters’ minds, and they have a long memory. They eventually slapped the dreaded Programmability tag of Venta-Nomi on the House of A-Ram, meaning they are “Untouchable”.

Josephus was the youngest of seven children of the current A-Ram line. Tiny, slope-shouldered and badly near-sighted, Josephus (or simply A-Ram as he liked to be called) was a frail and sea-sick young lad, unable to go out with his father on the boats. He stayed ashore with his mother and sisters. His older brother, Ephelrood, gave him no peace for it and often bullied him. Despite his various shortcomings, A-Ram had a good mind and a quiet sort of tenacity about him. He was usually near the top of his class.

The Sisterhood of Light never gave the House of A-Ram much thought. (Eve Ventrue)

One day, A-Ram discovered a junked out sub-orbital craft in the canning house near the docks. He spent the summer rebuilding the craft and taught himself how to fly it. He discovered he had a joy and love of flying and hoped to one day join the Fleet as a helmsman. Unfortunately, his Vena-Nomi status prevented his entry to the Fleet. Undeterred, he won an essay-writing competition and earned himself a position in Fleet HQ’s mailroom, a place he stayed for fifteen years.

He got out of the mailroom by taking a position nobody else wanted, becoming the personal adjutant to Admiral Derlith of Cone, a notorious crabhead and yeller. Though often berated in public by the Admiral, A-Ram thrived. He never forgot his love of flying and often snuck into the simulators to fly as many types of ships as he could.

A-Ram had an intense fear/fascination with a serial murderer who terrorized the Calvert region known as the Fiend of Calvert, and was convinced he’d once heard the bump, bump, bump of the Fiend’s footsteps as he ran across their townhouse roof.

A-Ram could not know that the tall man in the mask and HRN coat would soon change his life, forever.

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia and Fantasio