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K23 Detectives

Terrall in Depth

Terrall in Depth: Deities

The gods in K23, known as deities, are not the remote-unless-evil variety found in most fantasy works. Most of deities interact with the living on an everyday basis because magic is act the of harnessing divine energy to affect the world…but that’s another post entirely.

They are complicated entities of dichotomies. They have forms, yet are formless at the same time. They are infinite and everywhere existing throughout space and time yet can focus and deal with the living on a personal level. They are sentient yet not sentient at the same time. They interact yet are remote at the same time. They are universal in Terrall, but each has their own patron races which they bestow gifts upon.

In creating the deities, I mostly borrowed from Eastern and African religious influences, rather than from the usual Judeo-Christian mold. From eastern religions, i take the concept of divine energy (Taoism). From African religions, I take the personal, everyday interactions (Vodun).

K23 is quite spiritual. Atheism and Agnosticism do not exist in Terrall. Even the more scientifically minded individuals know and respect the deities. Those who practice magic worship their deities just  by using it. Certain indivuals, such as shamans and Uthirans (dragons) have especially intimate connections with their deities which I’ll get into  shortly. Even those races that don’t have intimate connections still receive gifts and interact with their patron deities in some ways.

There are nine deities:

Elohim, the Holy: By his name, you can guess this is the Judeo-Christian deity stand in. But Elohim isn’t the bearded guy on the throne, not anymore. Elohim now looks like a retro-robot, such as:

Why is this? Simple: Elohim is the patron deity of the humans, who commanded them to build New Delta and divinely ordained the megacorp Order of Elohim: “And Elohim said to the humans, ‘On this spot you shall build a great and glorious city. To build it, you shall form an entity called a corporation.'” With his technological vision for humanity he changed his image  to reflect it.

Ulax, the All-Seeing: This is the goblins’ patron deity and the one who gives shamans their divination abilities. He is pictured as an eyeless, earless goblin and is said to hear all, sell all and know all. He pops up in the novels as a character because he literally has a “phone line” right into the shamans’ heads. When either of the two main shaman characters, Eluna and Ebb, divine something, it is only because this deity gives them the information directly.

Alpha, the Creator: This is the remote creator archetype. Alpha is pictured as a disembodied hand and is the deity who brought the universe into existence. It doesn’t have a patron race and aside from summoning magic it doesn’t interact with the living.

Armagda, the Destroyer: Alpha’s counterpart. Armagda’s role is bring about the end of the universe in a few billion years.  Trying to access Armagda is forbidden and usually deadly. Those who succeeded become super-powerful chaos mages who seek to destroy the world.  But Armagda is not evil, Armagda just exists. It is others who call it evil. Armagda isn’t pictured in Terrall, but I do give it a form at very end of the Impending Darkness.

Harderith, the Dragon Mother: Patron deity to Uthirans and Komodo (lizard-people). The Uthirans are magical creatures, fused with Harderith, because it through her that they are able to manifest their breed-specific abilities, like red Uthirans breathing fire and white Uthirans breathing ice. She has a sizable number of human worshipers through a religion called the J’Harderith who are based in the desert settlement of the City of Sands. They believe that if you get eaten by a Uthiran you’ll be reborn as one. They don’t get eaten out existence as they feed Uthirans criminals instead. Pictured as a Uthiran, naturally.

Breunor, the Undergod: Patron deity to dwarves and gnomes. He’s pictured as a half-gnome, half-dwarf or Gnarf with a pickaxe in one hand and a clockwork watch in the other. His role is to put the minerals in the ground which the dwarves then dig up.

Illwyn, the Life-Bringer: Most known for having the elven forest named after her. She’s the patron deity to both orcs and elves. The Orcs have their own sacred jungle devoted to her on Elemchi. Illwyn intervened when they both tried to destroy each other and told them to stop fighting or she’d smite the both of them. Pictured as either a nude elf female holding a sapling or a pregnant, nude orc.  Her functional role is the creation of souls which give life to the living.

Thagnar, the Dead: Patron deity to ogres and trolls. Thagnar breaks down souls upon death so Illwyn can form new souls from that energy. Despite being a deity focused on death, Thagnar actually promotes life: once you are dead, that’s it, there’s no coming back, so live life to the fullest. Thagnar is also praised before battle which makes him a dichotomous figure. Pictured as a hooded figure with no face.

Aquillia, the Water Maiden: Patron Deity to Avians and Mers (fish-people), she can be pictured as a member of either of the two races. She is a fuctional deity, as she is responsible for the weather and ocean currents.

I’m only half-done talking about the deities, as I barely talked about magic. That’s for the next Terrall in Depth.

K23 Side Story

K23 Side Story: The Importance of Receipts

Arnoldo Kramer stormed into his local Stolen and Smuggled Goods Market, or S&S Mart for short, carrying a laser pistol.

The four specially armored avian guards standing towards the front lifted their own guns.

“No. Trouble,” one said from behind a specially-made facemask. Avians normally didn’t wear armor,  it was too heavy to fly. The ones who guarded S&S Mart locations wore armor for added protection because they stayed on the ground.

“I bought this a few days and ago and it doesn’t work. “

“Counter. In back.”

Arnoldo made his way past the purchasing kiosks. There were several people buying the array of stolen and smuggled goods the Mart sold. A few criminal types like himself, a few poor people looking for cheap goods and even a well-dressed man who was probably looking to buy back what was stolen from him.

Half the goods were unloaded by thieves cashing in or others disposing evidence. The other half was stolen by the Mart themselves via a network of theft rings. The government would’ve loved to put them out of business but they paid their taxes and provided needed food and goods to the poor. The Avian Syndicate protecting them to keep their food source safe didn’t hurt either.

Arnoldo made his way to the laser-proof cage built into the back wall. Behind the clear barrier sat a bored-looking troll female. S&S Mart liked to hire orcs and trolls. They were fearsome, yet could actually speak clearly unlike most ogres. Troll females had the added benefit of being gorgeous which tended to help sway male shoppers.

“I’d like to return this,” Arnoldo said through the intercom.

“Reason?” The troll, named Grixla the Steady, asked.

“You sold me a defective weapon! I was going to shoot a defaulting borrower’s knee caps out, but it jammed and didn’t fire. One of my buddies had to do it. It was embarrassing.”

A drawer slid open. “Let me take a look.”

Arnoldo slipped the pistol into the drawer. Grixla pulled the drawer back. She took the pistol and typed the special S&S Mart serial number into a console.

“Mr. Kramer, the Markok pistol you purchased was clearly marked as “Defective, good for parts.”

He banged his fist against the glass. The avians turned their heads. “It wasn’t marked like that when I bought it two days ago!”

It was marked “good as new.” The designation was burned into his mind. He wouldn’t have purchased an obviously defective weapon.

“I’m sorry sir, it’s marked that way now and therefore cannot be returned. And I think I trust the computer over you.”

Arnoldo put his face up to the glass. “Let me talk to your manager.”

Grixla did not flinch. “I am the manager on duty at the location, but if you’d like to go above my head, the Avian Syndicate members are over there.” Grixla pointed while smirking.

Arnoldo took the pistol out of the drawer. “One of these days, I’m going to bring my buddies and teach you bastards a lesson.”

“You do that, sir,” her eyes glimmered. “I look forward to it. Have a nice day!”

Arnoldo grumbled out of the store. Served him right for looking for a cheap gun at a place that didn’t provide receipts.

He should have known better.

—-

K23 Detectives Three Pack with Bonus Novels

K23 Side Story

K23 Side Story: No Holds Barred

Get up! Get up!

Nona the Rocket’s head was spinning from Tulma the Star’s overhead slam. Nona’s black shorts and sports bra were soaked in sweat. Her feet felt itchy and uncomfortable in her laced up boots.

Outside the chain-link cage, the massive Cloudplex crowd of seventy-five thousand was going wild; everyone, except for her parents.

Nona’s father and trainer, Knunc the Trunk, stood at ringside yelling, “Shrug it off and counter!”

Her mother, Borga the Rocket, a celebrated cage brawling powerhouse and current Ryland Aerospace CEO, stood next to her husband, glaring at Nona. If Nona  lost the match, she would not become a professional cage brawler and would have to wait another year for the next  Cage Brawl Association’s professional tryouts. Borga wouldn’t disown the sixteen-year-old troll if she lost, but she would be very disappointed.

Nona had been groomed to be her mother’s successor and wrestled with it every day. While she loved and respected her mother, she also didn’t want to be her mother.

Across the ring from her parents, two ring commentators, a troll and a near incomprehensible ogre, were yelling the play-by-play into headsets. Camera pods floats inside and out of the cage, capturing the action.

Tulma smirked at Nona’s parents as she went for the pin. The tattooed troll was  twenty-five years old with an 6-13 record, which is why she was wrestling the tryout matches, the CBA wouldn’t give her any other fights anymore. But as Tulma had stated in an interview, while beating rookies wouldn’t normally help her much, beating this particular rookie would help her gain regular matches again. She had as much to gain as Nona did from winning.

The troll female referee counted: One… Two… Kick out!

The crowd booed as it was a tradition to boo the rookie at the tryout matches until they truly proved their worth.

Tulma huffed and picked Nona up by her long black hair hair. She tucked the teenager’s head under her arm for a DDT. Nona summoned her strength and kneed Tulma in the stomach.

Nona then grabbed Tulma’s arm and tried to whip her towards the ring ropes, Tulma wouldn’t budge.

Crap! I need to stop watching theatrical wrestling the night before a match.

Cage brawling had grown out of theatrical wrestling, still popular among humans. Theatrical wrestling was fake fighting, where everything was choreographed and set up for maximum drama. Most of the flashy moves that characterized it required the defender’s help to pull it off, or sell, the move. For example, a clothesline, or running forearm to chest, required the one taking the move to fall back and flail on the ground, pretending it did major damage.

Then ogres discovered it, and found they could pull off most of the same moves simply via their own strength, though some things, like whipping your opponent around the ring, could never be replicated. They held their first real matches inside crude wooden cages with both sexes competing. The ogres introduced what they called cage brawling to the trolls during the late 9800s. Once this happened, the sport became even more popular, prompting its organization and the flimsy cages were replaced with steel chain.

When Nona realized Tulma wasn’t budging, she kneed her again and grabbed her torso.

Nona looked over at her parents, who nodded.

With every muscle so tense they bulged under her soaked green skin, she lifted Tulma up above her head, dashed three steps and threw her in air across the ring, over the ropes and into the cage wall opposite the ring entrance.

The cage wall snapped and literally fell over, lying flat as it was supported by the heavy, solid barricade. The rest of the cage stayed up due to very smart construction. The four walls were free standing, and latched to each other.

Tulma was writhing, gritting her teeth through the pain, trying to stand.

The ref ran over and seeing the nothing was actually broken and Tulma wanted to continue, signaled the match would continue.

If they were men, the match would have been over, with Nona disqualified and possibly arrested. This was because the male lying on the fallen cage would’ve been dead. Male cage brawling during its early days had an in ring fatality rate of forty percent. Once it became professional, a huge list of banned moves and disqualifications were introduced. Since the fatality rate in original female version was negligible, it had far fewer restrictions on the action, so it was vastly more popular. The CBA loosening the latches during the women’s matches so the cages split open more often, didn’t hurt.

The crowd was deafening. “Nona! Nona!’

I might actually win!

Nona took deep breath, bounced off the ropes and leaped into the air to splash her opponent.

Tulma put her knees up just in time.

Nona had the wind knocked out of her and doubled over onto the chain.

Tulma kicked up and leg dropped her younger opponent. Then she stood up and elbow dropped Nona’s head.

The crowd sounded distant, the overhead lights blurred and pulsed.

Tulma pinned.

One…Two… Tulma pulled away!

Tulma wasn’t just going to beat Nona. She was going to humiliate a legend while doing it.

Borga had an amazing  record of thirty-seven wins and eight losses and held the CBA Female Troll Championship title for eight of her  fourteen years as a cage brawler. She also had two cage brawling gold medals from the 9993 and 9997 Hominia Athletics Large Hominid Games, and a silver from the 10001 Games. In 10005, she became pregnant with Nona, married Knunc, and retired at the age of thirty-one.

Tulma pulled a near unconscious Nona off the wall and walked her around the cage to her parent’s side.

Tulma hung Nona on the railing. Exciting onlookers tried to touch her but ogre security guards in the crowd quickly pushed them away. Tulma then picked up one of two steel folding chairs provided for Nona’s  parents to sit on if they chose.

They glared at Tulma, but could do nothing.

“Watch her suffer!” Tulma cracked the chair across Nona’s back.

Nona screamed in agony.

The commentators wondered if they were watching a cage brawl or theatrical wrestling match.

“Your legacy ends here, Borga!” Nona didn’t scream the second time.

The ref checked and was about to end the match, when Nona stood up.

She turned, eyes burning with rage.  “How dare you!” Nona hissed.

“Little Borga is pissed, how sad!” Tulma swung the chair, but Nona caught it, and pulled it away.

“I am not my mother!” Nona roared as she slammed the chair into Tulma’s forehead so hard the impact echoed throughout the arena.

The crowd was silent once again.

Tulma stood there for a few seconds, and then collapsed.

Nona pinned.

One… Two… Three!

The crowd cheered as the referee held Nona’s arm high in victory. Tears rolled down face as she had done it.

Borga finally smiled and hugged her daughter by the side of the ring. “Congratulations,” she whispered. “And you’re already not me because I lost my first tryout match.”

Nona pulled back, “Really?”

“Of course, you’ve seen that match several times along with the next one where I famously dived off the cage top and put my opponent through an announce table.”

Nona shook the ringing out of her head. “Sorry.”

“It’s alright,” her father said. “Neither of us remembered stuff right after match.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Regardless, I’m proud of you,” her mother said. “My cage brawling glory days ended long ago, while yours have just begun.”

Nona hugged her mother again. ”Thanks, mom!”

Her parents each draped an arm over their daughter and led her back to the locker room while medical personnel attended to Tulma and ring attendants repaired the cage for the next match.

K23 Side Story

Bedtime for Elves

Icovara Sareyan sat on her daughter Deenea’s bed with a screen open to a new text she had bought called Stories for Elven Children. Deenea, a four year old Deltan elf, lay expectantly for a story from her mommy before falling asleep. The room was dark and quiet, with only a light so Icovara could read.

“Once upon a time,” Icovara began, “there were white elves called Teolian elves, and dark purple elves called Deltan elves.”

“I’m a Deltan elf,” Deenea said. “You and daddy are too.”

She kissed her daughter’s cheek. “Yes, we are Deltan elves.”

She looked back at the screen. “The white elves were good and pure, while the dark purple elves were…”

“Mommy?” Deenea asked as her mother’s face twisted in horror.

“Let’s read another.” Icovara moved to the next story. “Once upon a time there was an ogre who lived in the woods. He was very strong—”

“And tall!”

“—And tall,” she added in. “One day he saw some pure maidens frolicking in the woods.”

“What were they doing?”

The text didn’t say. It just said “frolicking” so she replied, “they were drawing pictures.”

Deenea had drawn at preschool that day so she giggled and smiled.

“He wanted to draw pictures with them,” continued Icovara. “He waddled over and invited them back to his cave to draw. Being good maidens, they accepted. When they got to his cave, they found he didn’t want to draw as he…“

She skipped to the next story. “This is a good one. “Once upon a time there were funny creatures called brac’tai.”

Deenea giggled. “They ARE funny.”

“Yes they are,” Icovara said. She read, “A brac’tai was floating down a stream when it came upon an elven maiden swimming. ‘Hello,’ the maiden said to the brac’tai. “The brac’tai looked her up and down. He chirped. “‘You want to play?’ The brac’tai whistled.”

“The maiden splashed water playfully at the brac’tai,” continued Icovara. “Soon they were splashing around and when they finished they sat upon the bank of the stream.  The brac’tai laid a tentacle on her. The maiden knew what the brac’tai wanted to do and she…”

“Mommy, go on,” Deenea said.

Icovara put the screen down. “And she spread her arms and the brac’tai tickled her.” The girl giggled and squirmed as her mommy tickled her.

Once Deenea was asleep, Icovara walked in her bedroom to find her husband, Oneren, watching a show. He flipped the screen off as she got into bed beside him. “How were those new stories?”

Icovara proceeded to finish them for her husband.

“You might want to have checked to see if these stories were intended for Teolian children or Deltan children,” said Oneran when she’d finished.

“I knew these were for Teolian children, but I didn’t think they’d subject their children to that stuff.”

She pulled the covers up.

“They have their reasons, but we don’t have to subject Deenea to it.”

“And I won’t. The world’s too messed up as it is.”

Like what you read? Check out the K23 Detectives novellas.

Uncategorized

What Lies Within Chapter 1

The crowd at the taping of the return episode of ‘Revelations With Ebb’ was harsh; the packed audience filled the studio with booing the second he walked out on stage.

“You’re a fraud!”

“I divorced because of you!”

“Go back to your degenerate kind!”

“Tell us the truth!”

Ebb was chastened by the response, because he deserved it. For years, being the only goblin shaman in town, he could get away with being a self-help guru, selling insights especially formulated for mass consumption. This boiled down to absolving people of personal responsibility for their problems and telling his guests that everything would be alright. This, of course, was not what a shaman’s insights actually did. It usually scared people into changing, otherwise, everything wouldn’t be alright.

He never once used his divination powers. He never once asked Ulax, the All-Seeing, for true insight. Only his downtrodden goblin breathren got true insight, because keeping the status quo was not a good thing for the poorest, most abused and suffering hominid race.

Ebb could get away with this as long as the general population didn’t know better. Then Eluna showed up and showed the world a shaman’s true power. The power to change history. In this case, it was helping the Avian Syndicate bring New Delta to its knees.

Now the city knew that a shaman could see beyond themselves, to anything in the present, concrete or abstract, except other shamen, and those covered with a special enchanted cream.

Ebb stood in front of the comforting, pastel-toned set taking his licks for a moment before raising his hand. The audience quieted down, slightly.

“The liar wants to speak!”

“Let’s hear the filth!”

“Ye say me lie, me conceal shaman true power. This is true, me lie, me not tell ye reality. So me tell ye truth. Ye sir,” he pointed to a middle aged human in the second row. “What ye here for?”

“If you say you’re a shaman prove it, you tell me.”

Ebb shut his eyes. He saw the man’s problem and its true cause. “Ye here because ye have problem in bedroom with mate. Ye want me to say it her fault. That she no try. It ye fault, ye lazy. Ye no try new thing.” The man squirmed in his seat. “Ye,” He pointed to a human woman in the front row, ”tell me.”

“I can’t find a boyfriend.”

“Stop being clingy so much.”Ebb pointed to a Deltan elf male in the fourth row. “Nobody like ye because ye asshole!”

He pointed to human woman in the fifth. “Ye spend too much money on useless stuff.” He pointed to the man next to her. “Ye son can’t no be gay, grow up!” One by one, Ebb went through audience member after member, cutting them down, until the audience was silent, each lost in their own shame. “Now ye want the raw, uncensored truth?”

The audience said nothing, until a young goblin female in the front row raised her hand. “What about me? What me problem?”

“Ye problem be that ye only one in audience that problem no ye own doing.” He took her hand and walked her up on stage. “This girl be special. This girl like me.” A man in the audience was about to stand and heckle, but Ebb lifted up Eluna’s shirt, revealing a nasty scar running through her grey skin from her groin to lower abdomen. “This be Eluna problem. This be symptom of city who no care about reality.”

“But it was your people who threw her out!”

“Yeah, we had nothing to do with her!”

“That be true, that be very true. But why did goblin-kind banish her? Me tell you. Average goblin male age expectancy is thirty. Female, forty. Females will have at least three mates in lifetime, because the other two die. Average goblin male land in Penitentiary at least twice. Unemployment rate for average goblin male thirty-three percent. One in seventy goblin mothers die in childbirth.  Goblins die so fast, all females can do is pump out babies all time and hope no die before she do.”

“So what? That’s not our problem!”

“Yes it be your problem!” Ebb screamed. The hecklers slammed down in their seats. “Ye all sit in ye nice apartments, eat ye nice food, sleep in nice warm bed. Yet ye ignore the starving in shadows, the sick in gutters, the dead just beyond ye doors! Ye pretend everything be great, when reality comes, ye blame the downtrodden for their action. Avians killers but avian rage legitimate. Eluna justifiable accomplice, but her pain real. Me wrong for lying? Yes. Me wrong for believing ye spoiled brats who no deserve truth? No. If ye can’t handle truth, but hate for me telling ye what ye want, then ye get nothing from me! Me quit!”

Ebb grabbed Eluna’s hand and stormed out of the studio.

“How ye help suffering now?”

“There be a way. There always be a way.”

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Terrall in Depth

Terrall in Depth: Avian Design and Influence

By now, I’m sure most of you are familiar with this cover. It shows an New Delta avian, a bright purple bird with arms. They live on perches, shit where they stand and use their beaks to manipulate the world. Most of them also Talk. Like. This.

In essence, these are fantasy parrots, specifically large macaws. My influences are spelled out in the book’s dedication:

To Rocco, Daisy, Louie, Sweetiepie, Elvie and all the other large macaws at the Wilson Parrot Foundation who inspired the avian characters in this book.

Those are real birds who live the Wilson Parrot Foundation where I volunteer and I used them to create my avians.  I spent many hours watching and recording them. I put many of their actions verbatim into the book, including the dancing in chapter 42.  In fact, Rocco here:

is whom I based Sisqub, the Avian Syndicate’s leader, upon. Rocco is a very regal, refined parrot who I always imagined speaking perfect English.

Now let’s get into the nut and bolts of character design.

In fantasy, animal/human hybrids are almost always humans with animal characteristics. Your fantasy bird-men look generally like this:

Stock fantasy here

While actual birds look like this:

This is Jake

Note when Jake lifts his wings, he’s using his huge pectoral muscles to lift. You can tell his by his chest muscle being flexed.  Because the placement of his feet, his body is remaining in line with the ground, causing each flap to lift his entire body.  Jake could take off from this position if his wings weren’t clipped. His leg would move back into a straight line.  This is why I placed my avian’s arms where they are, so they can be used to easily carry things during flight and fold along their body when not in use.

Birds are also very light, with hollow bones. Also, every single feather (and every strand in those feathers) has a unique lift equation associated with it.

As for that sketch above, why that creature can’t fly should be obvious. When he flaps his wings, he’s flapping them back and forth, not up and down. Therefore, he’s creating absolutely no lift at all. There are other problems too: lack of feathers, weight and so on. Basically, BAD FANTASY ARTISTS! BAD, BAD!

Yeah yeah, I know this is fantasy so people can make  up whatever they want. This is true, but when I went about designing Terrall, I asked myself: if fantasy creatures actually evolved, what would they look like and how they live? That is why I based my birdmen on actual birds, using parrots, the birds I come in contact with the most.

This tenet is all over the place, even beyond my avians. It’s why my version of dark elves don’t live underground, since if they did they wouldn’t have dark skin – more on them when I get to Deltan elves later on. Once I reveal my versions of cat-men, dog-men (kobolds), lizard-men and mermaids in later stories, you’ll also see a similar design philosophy at play.

In essence,  my world is science-influenced fantasy (though not science fiction). Here’s another way one could look at it: instead of starting with humans and adding animal characteristics, I start with animals and add human characteristics. There’s a big difference there.

I  could go on talking about why the avians are portrayed as criminals (part behavior, part plight in the pet trade) but I don’t want to have to spoil the plot right now.

A Clear and Feathered Danger is currently free on Smashwords for a limited time.

What Lies Within, the second K23 Detectives novel, can be purchased for .99 cents at Amazon or Smashwords

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