Learning To Not Be Over-Critical

For a little context, the picture attached to this post is (from left to right) December 8th, January 7th, and February 10th.

I have been working out consistently for two months now. I have been watching what I eat, having some splurges from time to time when I’m out with friends. Usually that’s about once a week. Still, I feel pretty confident in the changes I’ve made for myself in my life. Unfortunately, I am still overly critical. Yes, I can see a change, but a part of me tells me that it’s not enough of a change. That I should be further along, that I should be able to see more of a difference. So then I begin to chastise myself for every poor decision I’ve made. Now I should say right now that I have been using the “Lose It” app on my phone, and I love it! I use it every single day, and I’m almost always consistent with putting my food on there. But there are times when I don’t. Like when I go out and have a few too many Coronas with my friends (Thanks to Joan and Jose! Love you guys! :D).

So, after posting this picture on Instagram, I wanted that gratification. A part of me wanted to hear from other people that they can see I’m working hard, that they can tell I’ve lost weight. I was craving that. Why? Because I can’t look at myself objectively and be proud of what I see unless someone else tells me it’s okay? I don’t get it. I don’t understand where that mindset comes from or why I feel trapped inside of it. Is it just from years of self hatred that keeps me from loving myself? Is it so hard for me to show myself love that I can’t look at three pictures of myself and think “Damn girl. You’re working hard. I love you.”

I remember, when I was a kid, any time I would compliment myself or say anything positive about myself, my stepdad would always call me out on it, as if having a positive outlook on myself was being “full of yourself”, being arrogant. Any time I showed any kind of positivity where I was concerned, it was immediately met with sarcastic comments and taunts about my big ego and my arrogance.

I never remember what exactly I said to receive these taunts, but I remember the words spoken to me. I wonder if that is a part of why this all started in the first place? Thinking to myself that any kind of self-love or self-appreciation was selfish and arrogant. I was terrified that people wouldn’t like me because of that, that it was another personality trait of mine that, eventually (as I had been told on several occasions), would result in everyone that I loved turning their backs on me.

So finding it in me to look at these pictures and find pride in the progress I’ve made felt foreign, wrong even. And there’s that person inside me that tells me that if I voice those thoughts, someone will come around to tell me how wrong I am, and put me back in my place, back in that dark hole that suffocates me with self-hatred and depression. I don’t want to get back in that hole. I’ve spent too many years living there, and the world is too bright to ignore anymore.

So here it is. I am proud of what I’ve done. I can see my progress and I can say, with confidence, that I’m happy with myself. I will not stop working to improve myself, but I can look at these pictures and be proud of what I have done. Nothing can change that. Not even some jerk’s nasty comments. I refuse to give them that power. And I may be far from the point that it doesn’t affect me, but one day, it’ll just brush right off my shoulders.

I look forward to that day.

The Relique – Part 1 – Excerpt

So this story is within the same world as “Devil’s Breed”, but only a little over a year before. It’s a vast world with many possibilities, which is why I love writing it. I love to create something, to take bits and pieces from some of my favorite works and creating another world altogether.

This is probably the fourth re-write of this story. When I first started it, I was naïve about how extensive the plot should be. As the characters grew and the plot thickened, I found myself going back tot he beginning and rewriting many scenes that lacked depth. The characters in this excerpt are originally part of another storyline within this world called “The Half-Breed”. In that story, Tammy is definitely a supporting character, one that doesn’t show up until late in the story (although she is talked about often). She is a very strong female character, with a loud mouth and a taste for whiskey. I felt that Tammy needed a little more time in the spotlight, but that wasn’t going to happen with “The Half-Breed”, so I decided to give her a bigger role in this story. This is a scene between her and her boyfriend, after receiving a visit from Moiragetes, the God of Fate.

Chapter 8

8:00pm – Friday Night

Tammy tapped the counter anxiously as she waited for her drink. “How long does it take to make a fucking margarita?”
“Babe, relax. You don’t even like margaritas.”
She turned and glared at Stone. His eyes were an unnatural hazel and his dark black/brown hair seemed to almost glow. It was eerie sometimes when she actually thought about it. “I’m trying to look less threatening.”
“By ordering a margarita?”
Tammy shrugged and looked back at the bartender. “If I start taking shots of whiskey, I think I’ll look more intimidating. They may be more willing to talk around me if they see me as just some dumb chick.”
“And you think drinking margaritas and wearing a pink wig is gonna work?” Tammy fingered the hot pink strands thoughtfully. “Baby, I know you wanna find out what’s going on, but this isn’t the best way to do it. These are not good guys. If you start pokin’ around, they’re gonna think something is up, and if they start looking into you, they might find Dakota.” He leaned in closer, “Let’s go see your brother, like he said. Hawthorne would love to see you.”
“We will!” she spat out, then turned back towards the bartender. “I thought that bartenders paid closer attention to slutty girls. Where’s my fucking drink?!”
“Show him some cleavage.” The words were meant to be rhetorical, but Tammy obviously didn’t catch that. She leaned over on the bar, pushing her breasts up high in the tight, purple dress and motioned for the bartender. He caught her attempt and stuck his forefinger in the air before turning towards another patron.
“That bastard. If I wasn’t trying to not be myself, I’d go over there and kick him in the dick.”
Stone laughed as he began rubbing her back affectionately. “Baby, this is a different kind of bar. They cater to the vampires. The bartender is probably one himself, or he knows what goes on here, and he probably gets a lot of ass so he doesn’t need to work for it.” Tammy sat back onto her stool and sighed while Stone began fishing for something in his wallet. He casually lifted his hand in the air while a twenty dollar bill nestled itself casually between his fingers. The bartender looked his way, smiled, and came over. With a kind smile, he shook the man’s hand and dispersed the bill. “Would you mind taking care of my date here? She’s feeling a bit dehydrated. I believe she ordered a margarita.”
He passed a glance to Tammy and quirked a lip, “Of course. Is this your first date, sir?”
Stone almost wanted to cringe at the words. He smiled despite his aversion. “Yes, it is.” He knew Tammy could hold her liquor better than just about anyone. It made him wonder if every Zeotheon could hold their liquor.
The bartender, with his abnormally golden eyes, winked and turned to start Tammy’s margarita. She yelled out a thank you, then requested a cute umbrella. Stone simply shook his head, but the bartender seemed to find it quite amusing. Once Tammy had her drink in hand, she turned towards Stone, her brows furrowed. “What was that about? Why would he only serve you?”
Stone tapped the counter repeatedly as he thought of how to explain it. He glanced over to the bartender, who had made his way back to the other side of the bar. “First off, when the bartender here sees that you’re a vampire, and you have a hot young chick with you that no one knows, they assume those women are going to be food for the vampire later on that night. The vampire you’re with calls the shots. That’s how it works. His way of letting you know who has control.” Stone pointed to himself. “Second, they want to make sure they give the girl the right amount of alcohol. The more drunk a girl is, the easier it is to hypnotize her.” He stopped and looked into her eyes and gave her an honest, shameful smile. “When the bartender asks us if it’s our first date, that’s the sign to make the drinks a little extra strong.”
She nodded slowly. “So, he put a bunch of alcohol in this drink?” Stone nodded as he adjust his finely trimmed jacket. “And you just decided on your own that I would be okay with that?”
Stone froze, his eyes narrowing with an unspoken warning. “Baby, none of this am I okay with. You’re the one that wanted to do this shit. Live with the consequences.” He could see her natural desire to retaliate biting at her like a rabid beast. Instead, she turned away and sucked down half of her margarita. Stone closed his eyes and shook his head as he mentally prepared himself for the evening to come.

“Seriously, Tammy, did you have to drink five margaritas? He probably put triple the normal amount in them.” Stone had his arms tucked under Tammy’s as he attempted to drag her to one of the private rooms. “You know, I realize I’m a vampire,” Tammy stumbled again, causing Stone to topple forward slightly, “but you dragging your feet is fucking exhausting.”
She clumsily tapped her finger to his lips. “Oh, stop it. You just…” she stared blankly at his face for what seemed like an eternity, while he fought to keep her upright. “You know, you have pretty lips.”
“What?” He pulled harder on her until her feet were back on the ground.
She touched his lips again and smiled as the hot pink strands of her wig fell over her face. “Your lips, they’re all pouty… kissable.” She leaned in and smiled, “Are all Asian men so kissable?”
Stone couldn’t help but laugh as he dragged her closer to the booth. “Depends on the region, the country… Most of my ancestors had the ‘pouty lip’, as you call it.”
“You were from Japan, right?”
“No. My family originated in an area called Gaya. It was of the Southern most part of Southern Korea, closest to Japan. We left because—”
“Stone!”The suddenness of his name in front of him made him stumble slightly, losing a bit of his grip on Tammy.
Stone turned towards the voice and stiffened. “Hello, Gerald.” By the entrance of the private room he had purchased, the man stood in a finely tailored, cool green suit with an easy smile and bored expression. He had his right elbow bracing himself against the wall while his other hand casually brushed the suit jacket aside to tuck gracefully into the pocket of his form-fitting pants. Stone gave a slight bow as he began pulling Tammy closer. She looked up and gave the man a sloppy smile as she attempted a seductive stance. He shook his head and turned back to Gerald. “Apologies for my date, sir. She chose not to heed my advice when I told her two of the ‘first date’ drinks were enough.”
Gerald laughed, “The easy ones never do.” A couple of dark strands fell out of his low-sitting ponytail as he nodded towards her. “Would you like a little assistance?”
“Thanks. That would actually be nice.” Gerald pushed himself from the wall and grabbed Tammy by the waist. She looked at him and smiled before her eyes started to drift. They moved themselves into the room and stopped as Stone took in the furnishings. A long, half-oval couch in pure white fit perfectly along the curved walls with matching, oversized chairs adjacent. A thick, black marble coffee table sat in the middle with a red-violet vase filled with white and black roses. The walls matched the color of the vase, giving the room a seductive feel when coupled with the elaborate lights that fit snug against them. They actually reminded Stone of antique candelabras. He swallowed hard as he and Gerald slung a limp Tammy onto the couch. Sighing heavily, Stone looked around and squinted curiously. “White furniture? Really?”
Gerald smiled. “Try not to get too messy.” Stone hated what was going to happen next. “Do you mind if Keegan joins us?”
Just then, the other owner of the bar stepped in. Dressed in a smooth black suit ad golden colored shoes, the man was the epitome of elegance. His hair was dark brown on the sides, cropped short with highlights on the long, wavy lengths that rolled together on top to create an intricate pompadour. “Hello, Stone. It’s been a while.” His green eyes danced with curiosity as he glanced between Stone and Tammy. He tugged thoughtfully on the lapels of his jacket, then the cuffs. “To what do we owe this pleasure?”
Stone didn’t miss a beat. He shrugged, sat on the couch next to Tammy and pulled her towards him. He dark chocolate eyes were hazed over with alcohol, but he could see that she was lucid enough to understand what was happening. “Sometimes you just need a change of pace, one that won’t get back to your girlfriend.”
The two men smiled and slowly sat down in the chairs. Crossing his leg and leaning back, Keegan answered, “don’t worry, discretion is of the up most importance here at ‘Dreamers’.”
“Yeah, I never did ask you how you came up with the name?”
Gerald laughed, “There wasn’t much thought to it.” He glanced over to Keegan who smiled mischievously, “I mean, how many of us mythics aren’t ‘Dreamers’?” He turned and stared at Tammy who had currently laid her head against Stone’s shoulder. “Plus, it makes Dreamers more comfortable showing up here. A place just for them. And if one of them ends up missing? Well…” Gerald shrugged as if it was the difference between having a sandwich or not.
“The cops don’t give you shit?”
Keegan stared mischievously into Stone’s eyes. “They’re too scared.” He then lifted his hand and gestured towards Tammy. “Bon appetite, my friend.”
Stone knew he wouldn’t get far if he didn’t do what was expected of him, what all vampires did in those rooms. He turned to Tammy, who looked up at him with wondering eyes and smiled. He brushed the soft pink strands from her face and kissed her lips. When he pulled back, he made sure to use his powers to persuade her, even if he knew it might not work. Although, her inhibitions were definitely down. “Let me see your neck, beautiful.” She grinned ear to ear and sloppily tilted her head back. Watching the pulse skip down her neck, he found himself tracing it with familiar interest. It was that way each time he fed. But, this time it would be from Tammy, and he had never fed from her before. Sucking up that feeling of guilt, he leaned forward and licked her skin. The taste of it made his beast arise, awakening him from his slumber. He took in a deep breath and felt his eyes turn to that swirling silver as his teeth protruded just slightly.
Before he could talk himself out of it, he plunged his teeth into her skin. He felt her inhale sharply before that euphoric trance took over. Then her blood began slipping into his mouth, warm and sweet, with the bite of that Zeotheon blood… and something else he hadn’t prepared himself for. Thoughts ran through his head, making it difficult to hold back his irritation. He’d just have to talk to her about that when they were alone.
From his peripheral, he saw a black cloth dangling in the air. He reached out and pulled it from Gerald’s grasp, swiping his tongue along the wounds, tidying up after himself. Pulling away from her neck, he used the black napkin to dab at the blood around his mouth and the tiny droplets that had escaped and were currently running down her neck. He caught her glance, a glazed weary glance that held understanding within them. He leaned toward her instinctively and kissed her lips. “Thank you for the napkin, Gerald.” He gave a lazy nod of the head while Stone took the drowsy Tammy and gently laid her head on his lap. “I didn’t take a lot. She should be fine soon.”
“Even so,” Keegan smiled, “there’s orange juice and other provisions in the small refrigerator in the corner.” Stone glanced around curiously, surprised he had missed it. He finally saw it, black and hidden in the corner, to the other side of the white chairs. “So, Stone, we haven’t seen a lot of you lately. We usually only see you when you’re making deals.”
Stone shrugged, “I do a lot of dealings with the Fae. They’re a shady bunch of assholes, and I prefer not to be the next vampire in one of their experiments.”
“They have to work on their craft. It’s how they make money.” Keegan explained as he rubbed his fingers against the hem of his pant leg that was draped over the other knee.
“Yeah, well, they can experiment on another vampire.” Gerald and Keegan both smiled knowingly at each other. Stone grew more uncomfortable by the minute, but he’d had 1,500 or so years to perfect his poker face. “In fact, the last time I was here, I was meeting up with some Fae, they had tried taking a chick from the bar and I ended up in a fight with them behind the club. Happened to see someone I hadn’t seen in ages.”
“Oh yeah?” Gerald furrowed his brows. “Who would that be?”
Keegan pursed his lips and squinted his eyes, mocking true thought. “Hmmm…. You’ll have to be a little more specific. I mean, I do know of the Greek God, but I don’t recall him being here.”
“I saw you two talking to him.”
Keegan’s eyes then turned to a swirling mercury. “You must have been mistaken.”
Gerald cleared his throat, “Can I ask… why are you so interested in what Hypnos is doing?”
This was when Stone would have to be clever with his words and he knew it. He glanced between the two, determining which path he should take. “Is he going against Victoria?”
Their expressions never faltered as they stared him down for a moment. Keegan finally spoke, “Are you Victoria’s little lap dog, Stone? Coming to check and make sure no one is misbehaving?”
Stone snarled his nose at him. “Fuck no. I try to stay as far away from her as possible.”
“Then why are you worried about whether Hypnos is trying to create problems for Victoria?”
“’Cause if he’s starting shit with her and it leads back to you, I need to hightail it the fuck out of this state. I’m not interested in Victoria suddenly remembering me and using me as one of her little drones.”
“You’ve made it this long. You have to have some kind of resistance to her, don’t you?”
Stone shook his head, “Only distance makes it weaker. The closer she is to me, the easier it is to control me. So tell me, what did he want with a couple of club owners?”
Keegan stared thoughtfully at him, searching his eyes for lies. “How do I know I can trust you?”
“How do I know I can trust you?” Keegan spoke slower that time, biting his teeth at the end as his teeth began to elongate.
“I think what my associate is trying to ask you is, what information do you have to give us?” Stone looked questioningly at Gerald who responded with a laugh. “You obviously want to be in the loop with what’s going on, but information isn’t cheap. We have plenty of money, so the next logical thing you can barter with is information. Do you have any information that we might be interested in?”
Stone had to bite back the desire to growl at them. Leaning against the solid white couch, he fingered Tammy’s wig with careless caresses. “Okay, fine. You want some juicy information that you can sink your teeth into?” The both hummed in recognition. “How many vampires do you think Victoria can control at once?”
Gerald huffed audibly. “I fought under her during the Battle of Seminara. I saw her control over two hundred vampires and the minds of almost a hundred human soldiers.”
“Exactly.” Stone rested his arm against the back of the couch. “Now, tell me you aren’t scared shitless of that woman and that you aren’t even the least bit interested in finding out how to keep yourself from being controlled by her?”
“She doesn’t do it lightly. It takes a lot of energy out of her.” Gerald stiffened and began to shuffle nervously. Stone fought the smile that tickled his lips as he watched him move uneasily. “But let’s say there was a way… How come nobody else has figured it out before now?”
“Do you remember the legend?”
Keegan curled his lip, “Of course we do. I’ve been around longer than you have little one.”
Stone nodded slowly. “Right. And what would you say if I told you that she wasn’t a legend?”
Gerald and Keegan both laughed loudly before Gerald sobered and tucked the loose hairs behind his ear. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his thighs and squinted curiously at Stone. “Are you trying to tell us that there is truth to the Maiden of the Dead?”
“Yes. The only vampire to ever resist Victoria’s control. And her name is Mia-Ka.”

Once Stone had Tammy secured in the car, he got behind the wheel and headed to the mountains of Northern California. “What the fuck was all that about?” Tammy’s speech was stronger, more clear now. It made him wonder if she had even been drunk at all or if she had been faking it.
“What are you talking about?”
She slapped the console in between us and began to pull the pins out of her hair. “I’m talking about you giving them all that information on Mia-Ka! That was for us! That was to help protect Dakota, not use as a bargaining chip to get information on a fucking God that may or may not be pissing off Victoria.” She groaned angrily, tossing the pins onto the floor.
Stone cursed at her. “Do you mind not throwing those on my floor?”
“Are you even listening to me?” She finally had it loose and pulled it from her head, tossing it into the back of the car. Stone threw out several more obscenities before she continued. “If they find her, they could direct Victoria to her, or worse? Use her for themselves.”
“Seriously, Tammy? You think a woman that has been around for nine thousand plus years is going to be controlled by a couple two thousand year old vampires? You know the legend. Mia-Ka was the only reason why the French didn’t succeed. If it wasn’t for her, Victoria would have taken over Italy.”
“Then where is she now? Victoria’s obviously up to something.”
“Of course she is. She lost her latest pet fifty years ago and wants him back.”
“Exactly. And if she finds him?”
“I don’t know. Nobody knows much about him, but rumor has it that he’s the first vampire that didn’t die in order to be made. If that’s the case, I wonder what he is, exactly. If she successfully turned an elf, or some other light mythic, we’re screwed.” Silence fell between them as thoughts filtered through their minds. “Speaking of which, what exactly are you?”
Tammy turned to him, the light of the dashboard illuminating her strong features, making her look regal. “Excuse me?”
Stone shrugged, “Your blood. You’re not full-blooded Zeotheon.”
“Oh.” She leaned back in the chair and sighed. “My real father was a Thilatheon Guardian. My Guardian side is really strong.”
“Wow. I didn’t know that about you. What about your other siblings?”
“Just Hawthorne… and Dakota, of course.” She stared off into the night’s sky which turned a meek burgundy against the city lights, hiding away the wonder of the stars above. “James, Mike, and Julie are all our Dad’s kids. Hawthorne and I were both Lewis’ kids… biologically, anyway.”
“You’re the oldest and Hawthorne’s the youngest.” She nodded. “But your mom and Kevin, they were married?” Again, she nodded. “So…”
“Yeah,” she breathed heavily, her nostrils flaring with idea. “My mom’s a slut, what can I say?” Before Stone could even think to stand up for her mother, she turned with an outstretched finger as anger filled her gorgeous features. “My Dad committed suicide, and then she has the audacity to not only bring the leader of our flock, Elton, into the family as if he could be some kind of replacement, but she tries to act as if Dad meant fucking nothing to us, and then, when they found out Hawthorne was gay, they kicked him out of, not just the family, but the entire flock! And she stood by and let Elton do that! How could she?!”
“What about your other siblings?”
She snarled a lip. “Mike is just as bad as Elton. He can fuck off, too. Julie? She’s too co-dependent on my mother, so she’ll never stand up to her. And James…” she bit her lip and looked away. “He hasn’t been the same since he came home from war.” She shook her head slowly as she thought of her brother, sadness overwhelming the small area they were confined to.
“What war was he in?”
“He was off-world. Elton’s idea. He sent James to Gar-Ag Olk. They’re cruel people, and they hurt my brother. They hurt him in ways that I can’t even begin to think about without my stomach turning somersaults.” She closed her eyes as a tear fell down her cheek. Stone reached out and held her hand, knowing too well how violent the Olkeans could be. “I don’t think he’ll ever be the James that used to drive me nuts as a kid, who always tried to act like he was a tough guy but deep down, he loved everyone more than they deserved.”
She turned towards Stone and sighed. “James, when he finally got strong enough, left. He’s in Hawthorne’s pack, technically, but he’s a recluse. He doesn’t talk to anyone, he doesn’t touch anyone. The only one that he’ll let close to him is Hawthorne. He’s the only person he trusts.”
“Well, at least they have each other, right? I mean, James isn’t alone.”
“What do you know about Zeotheons?” He shook his head stiffly, signaling his lack of information. Tammy looked out of her window and sighed. “We need love, affection… physical touch. I don’t know if it’s the animals inside of us or what, but the longer we go without it, the more reclusive we get, the more our soul sort of… dies.” Her voice had slipped into a whisper, mental thoughts that had escaped through her voice… a crack in the facade of the strong woman she always let everyone see. “I don’t know how long James can last like this. How many more years can he go, hiding away in some cave and refusing any sort of touch before he eventually…” A tear slipped down her cheek, then another, and another until a river of tears slid down her cheeks onto her purple dress. “What if he commits suicide, too?” She covered her mouth as a sob escaped.
Stone pulled the car over on the side of the brightly lit highway, cars passing them quickly in the early hours of the morning. “Hey, look at me.” She turned slowly towards him, her eyes rimmed in red from the tears, her lip shivering with the drops she held back. “There’s gotta be a way we can pull your brother out of this, okay? I’ll look into it. I know people, and maybe I can—”
“Wait, are you talking about a fae potion or something?”
He shrugged, “It’s an option.”
She shook her head, “No. I don’t want you owing them, Stone. It’s bad enough that you do business with them.”
“It wouldn’t be a favor. It would be a business transaction, Tammy. You never want to owe a favor to the fae. I’m not that thick.” He smiled wide at her pinched expression. “But that’s not the only option. There’s a rumor that a wizard lives in Seattle, pretending to be homeless. Apparently he’s really good. I could go see him first, see if he has something that can help him.”
“You’d do that for me?” Her eyes widened with surprise. “You’d help me save him?”
Stone smiled, “I just risked my neck with two of the most notorious vampires on the west coast, and now I’m going out to the boondocks with you to visit your little brother despite the fact that I may be thrown out on my ass when they smell me and realize I’m a vampire, so yes, of course I would do this for you.”
Her expression grew solemn as another set of tears fell down her cheeks. “Thank you, Stone.”


Devil’s Breed – Excerpt

Xatka situated her armor meticulously as her eyes bore daggers into her youngest brother, “I really should have drowned you at birth.”
“I would have survived, remember?” He made a strange motion with his hands against his neck. “Besides, everybody loved me when I was a baby.”

I really do enjoy writing stories. I especially love writing character disputes. Not just “good vs. evil” battles, but of simple personality clashes between two important, and equally loving characters. I love writing Anstend and Xatka together. Their personalities clash so much, yet there’s an obvious love between them. In this exerpt, you get to see the first time that the main character/narrator, Ambriel, is not only introduced to Xatka, but also of the oil and water relationship between these two.


I stepped through the doors of the castle, the walls around me welcoming me back to its bosom. I inhaled deeply, the familiar scent of elf enticing my blood lust. I was upset. The blood lust always got harder to control the more emotional I got. Fjærlette stopped and sighed. Curious, I turned towards the hallway and listened closely as we walked. The faint sound of an argument floated towards us. “My gods, can’t those two ever be in the same room without acting like juveniles?”

I looked over at her and laughed, “You say that like an irritated big sister.”

Her eyes widened, “Thanks for reminding me that I’m actually related to them.”
I laughed and held Lys’ hand as we walked towards a large open door where the familiar blue glowing orbs of light lit the room. Anstend’s voice was raw from the tears he had shed. “What the hell is your problem with me now? Damn Xatka, every time I see you, you just rip my fucking head off!”

“And I don’t have to justify my feelings, you little twerp!”

“Ooh, so vicious.” He mocked his sister as we stepped in through the door, “Maybe next time you might cross over and call me a butt head!” He lifted his hands in false fear before catching us standing there. He straightened, pressing his hands to his side, “Oh, hey.” He smiled sheepishly before stepping back.

Xatka was beautiful. She had intense blue eyes just like Anstend, and warm sun-kissed skin. She had strong cheekbones that made her look almost regal, but the scars that racked her face marked her as a warrior. She didn’t look much like her mother, other than the grey-violet hair, which was identical in shade to the tall, overbearing man beside her. Now he looked like Lys. He was taller than me, same bright blue eyes as Anstend and Xatka but he held himself like a man of refined taste, of royal bloodline, instead of the warrior stance that Anstend and Xatka currently donned. He must be Melo.

Xatka’s mouth hung open in surprise as I walked through with Fjærlette. I cleared my throat, “You must be Xatka and Melo?”

Xatka looked to her twin brother then back to me, “Yes, we are.” She came to stand in front of me, that familiar tug to my soul I had felt before, “Is it true you don’t remember us?”

She stood like a soldier, not that it wasn’t evident with her attire. She was fitted with armor, a metal that held a strange yellow-green color. It seemed dull yet shimmered against the light of the orbs. “Yes,” I began as I sat down. “I’m afraid my mind isn’t what it used to be.”

“Oh, look who was telling the truth. Who was it now?” Anstend stood thoughtfully for a moment, “Oh yeah, that was me.” He pinned her with an angry stare before taking a seat to my left. Lys sat beside me on the plush couch as Melo, Xatka and Fjærlette took the couch parallel mine. They moved in even closer, enough so that I could see the bright blue eyes of Melo and Xatka. They were quite breathtaking.

Xatka situated her armor meticulously as her eyes bore daggers into her youngest brother, “I really should have drowned you at birth.”

“I would have survived, remember?” He made a strange motion with his hands against his neck. “Besides, everybody loved me when I was a baby.”

“That’s because they didn’t know what a jerk you would turn out to be.”

“Okay, enough, you two!” Lys sat up straighter. She had her mom face on which I found highly amusing. “If I have to separate you two, you will feel my wrath like you’ve never felt before. This is not about your ridiculous bickering.”

“Yes ma’am.” They spoke in unison.

I coughed in my hand, trying to hide the chuckle that escaped. Lys glared at me before turning back to her children. Trying to ignore the feeling that I was going to get lectured after this, I turned back to the three on the couch. “Okay, so, I am under the impression that I used to be rather close to all of you. At least, my gut tells me that. Not knowing anything about anyone has essentially been driving me nuts over the last few days. So, maybe we can start by telling me some things about yourselves?”

Fjærlette turned to her siblings, “How about I start the introductions since you three can’t seem to open your mouths without insulting each other?” Xatka went to protest but Fjærlette cast her sister a warning stare. Turning back to me she cleared her throat.

“Okay, so let’s start by telling you what we all do for a living. Me, I work with mother in Scotland, looking over the land there. Usually I tend to the animals and the forests to try and protect them from the viciousness of men.” Melo made a sound of protest but she ignored and continued on. “Personally, I’ve never had much use for humanity of any kind. I prefer animals over people. For now, though, while mom is tending to the matters here, I’ve been taking care of her duties, which include watching over the mythics that live there. She governs over Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales. Xatka is a warrior, as evident by her attire.”

“I didn’t have time to change.” She explained leaning forward, “And for the record, I’m a real warrior, unlike others.” She passed a glance to Anstend and smirked.

“Oh great, here we go again.” Fjærlette sighed and leaned back in her chair.

Anstend leaned forward, “Excuse me? What the hell does that mean?”

“You know exactly what that means.”

He laughed sarcastically, “Actually, no Xatka, I don’t. Do you mind enlightening everyone?”

She sat up higher, “Fine. You wanna know?”

“Please do, big sister. Your wisdom is all that I crave.” His sarcasm could have drowned an elephant.

She leaned in front of Melo, angling her head towards Anstend. Melo leaned back and laughed. “I became a warrior because I wanted to do good in this universe. I wanted to protect those that needed protecting, to serve those who needed help. You became a warrior, for what? To impress a General?”

“I didn’t decide to become a warrior because I wanted to score with the General, Xatka. I did, however, choose to become the best fucking warrior in the twelve known galaxies for that very reason. My decisions for why I did what I did has nothing to do with you. You’re just bitter because I’m a better fighter than you.”

“I’m bitter because I do what I do for the good of those twelve known galaxies while the only thing you give two shits about is getting your dick wet.”

My eyes shot up, as did everyone else’s. I turned around, trying to hide the smile on my lips. Anstend did the same thing. As soon as we looked at each other, we both broke into laughter. “Damn, Xatka. I can’t believe you just said I wanted to get my dick wet.”

She huffed, crossing her arms, “Yeah, well it’s true. It’s all you care about and you don’t care who you hurt in the process.”

“What in the hell are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about Delyna!”


She laughed loudly, “Of course you don’t remember her. She was my best friend until about a month ago when you slept with her and then never called on her again.”

“Are you talking about Del? That girl I hooked up with on Torg last time I came to visit you?”

“Yes, you asshole! That’s my best friend. Or at least was my best friend, until you broke her heart.”

He laughed, “Okay, let me get this straight, I come to visit you, and your best friend Delyna comes onto me knowing full well that I’m only visiting and then gets upset when I go home? Then she takes it out on you and you, in turn take it out on me. I got that right so far?”

Xatka’s eyebrows furrowed, “Yes.”

“So… what, am I supposed to never get laid on the off chance that the woman may very well be a friend or potential friend of yours?”

“It’s just…” She threw her hands in the air, “You do this every time! You always sleep with my friends! Why do you have to do that?”

“Because you have hot friends, and I need the exercise.”

She gasped then growled as she pulled a pillow from the couch and threw it at him. “I hate you so much right now!”

Anstend laughed harder, grabbed the pillow and stood. He went to his sister and knelt before her. “I’m sorry, Kloke kriger.”

“You might not want to be this close to me. I may have left my sword at the door, but I have plenty of throwing knives at my disposal.”

Anstend cast the most charming grin I had seen yet, “Kloke, I promise I will behave.” He wagged his brows at her, “And I promise I will try and do better about not sleeping with your friends.”

“I’ve heard that before.”

“I swear to the general herself.”

I eyed Lys with amusement as Xatka considered what he said. Finally she huffed, “Fine. But it doesn’t change the fact that I lost a good friend.” He stood up, plopping himself across his sister’s lap, draping his legs along Melo’s. Melo tried to slap them away but it didn’t seem to phase him. “Anstend, will you get off of me? You weigh a ton. Stop eating.”

“Sis, let me tell you something.” She stopped squirming and looked up at him, “If that was all it took for her to not be your friend, then she wasn’t really a good friend. You’re the best warrior I know, and you are the kindest person I know. Your friends should feel half as lucky being your friend as I feel being your brother, because if they did, they would never leave your side. You deserve better than that bitch.”

For the first time since I walked in, I saw love for her brother as she looked up at him. “Thanks Anstend. I love you, too, you twerp.”

“Aw, you’re so sweet.” He leaned down and kissed her cheek. “You know, if you need help finding some better friends, I could help you with that.” The tender moment was broken as she shoved him to the floor. We all broke into laughter as Anstend laid on the floor at our feet. “See, she really does love me. If she didn’t, I’d have one of those throwing knives in my side right now.”

She kicked him in the ass as he moved to slide back into his chair. “Okay, now that you two have gotten your quarrel out of the way, let’s move on to Melo.” Fjærlette turned to him and smiled, “Melo is a diplomat for Staerlania. They’re rich in several types of herbs and minerals that you can’t find in other places. He’s the one that goes in to try and negotiate with them on a political level.” Fjærlette looked at him and smiled, “He’s done very well.”

He smiled at me, “My goal is to one day hold the seat of house representative on Atlantis.”

Anstend went to say something then stopped. Then he seemed to not be able to help himself, “Melo, I really wish you wouldn’t hang out with those assholes.”

Melo turned to him, “Anstend, you know why I’m there.”

He met his brother’s gaze. “They’re never gonna accept you as one of their own. They’re assholes that only like pure-bloods. You should know this better than anyone. Why do you do this to yourself?” Anstend seemed genuinely concerned for his brother, but Melo didn’t seem to notice. Instead, he crossed his arms over his chest, choosing not to speak. Anstend leaned forward, “I just don’t wanna have to go kill anyone that fucks with you. That’s all.”

Melo chewed on that for a moment, then finally chuckled, “You would, too, wouldn’t you?”

“You know my feelings on the Atlanteans.” Anstend turned back to me, “He’s the best politician there. He’s done more for that stupid place than anyone had been able to accomplish in over 1,000 years on Staerlania. But still, he’s held the same position on their Senate for over 400 kyers.”

I looked around, puzzled, “Sorry… kyers?”

“A euphemism for Kullarna years.” Ah. Okay.

I turned to Melo, “Well, I am kind of on the outside here, because I don’t know the entire situation, but it seems to me that if you have made such progress there and those dicks still refuse to give you your due diligence. I say fuck ‘em. I say tell ‘em to shove it up their asses and move on to somewhere that will appreciate your skills.”

His mouth quirked up just a little bit, “I was offered a quite prestigious position on Staerlania, working with the royal family of the Phroas continent.”

“Are you considering it?” I asked, leaning in closer.

He looked up, his trimmed grey-violet hair falling against his brow, “I don’t know. Maybe.”

Anstend seemed suddenly excited. “What’s the position?”

Melo smiled thoughtfully for a moment, “Ambassador to the queen in extraterrestrial affairs.”

“Ambassador as in you’ll be running everything? You will be the leader?” Lys piped in, just as intrigued as Anstend. Melo nodded with a shy grin. “Oh my gods, Melo, that’s amazing! That’s even higher standing than House representative in Atlantis.” His smile faded, looking at his hands. “Melo, look at me.” Lys stood, directing Xatka silently to trade her seats. She sat beside her son and pulled his hands into hers. His gaze met hers hopefully. “I know how badly you want to be accepted by the Atlanteans. I know that was something you needed, deep down, to feel closer to that side of your family. And you are closer to them, but you don’t deserve to be treated as some lower-life citizen. You are strong and smart. You would be an asset to the Atlanteans, but they fail to see it.”

There was silence that fell before them, and I could sense there was a conversation going on between them. Although I had a feeling I could listen in on their conversation, I didn’t feel that I wanted to find out anything else that might send me over the edge. If they were speaking telepathically, there was a reason.

I looked to Anstend who had his eyes set on Fjærlette, both staring at each other in amusement. Fjærlette finally cleared her throat, “Um, Melo, I wonder if you could, uh… clear something up for the rest of us.” He turned to her and frowned. “Is it true that you were caught necking with the queen’s youngest granddaughter?”

Melo’s eyes widened, his face turning deep red. “What? Why would say that? Who told you that?”

Anstend laughed loudly as Fjærlette raised her hand to her mouth, “Oh my gods, Melo! She was set to go into the ministry when she turned 40. She was a virgin!”

“And she still is. We’ve not done anything that would take that away from her.” He straightened, pulling his regal coat straighter, “We just… got caught up in the moment. That’s all. Nothing more.”

“Melo,” Xatka interjected, “You don’t think that’s why the queen wants to appoint you to Ambassador?”

Lys turned her head sharply, searing her daughter with irritation, “Xatka! She offered him that position because he is the best at what he does! Nothing more. How could you possibly put those fears into his head? You know how he blows things out of proportion.”

“Thanks mother.” Melo countered dryly.

“I’m sorry,” Xatka began, “it’s just that it’s well known that Queen Sava has been pretty adamant about not wanting her to go into the ministry. There’s some type of prophecy on their planet and the Queen is obsessed with the idea that the prophecy is of her granddaughter. If she and Melo were to end up having sex, it would make her ineligible for the ministry.”

“Can we please not talk about my sex life right now?”

“Or lack there of?” Anstend thought his question funny until he had four sets of bitter eyes his direction. “Hey,” He shrugged, “I’m just saying, you’re kind of obsessed with your work. Maybe getting laid would do you some good.” A long list of profound obscenities rushed from four mouths, bashing Anstend. “I’m just trying to help my brother, here, alright? He hasn’t had a girlfriend since Dad disappeared.”

There was a subtle but distinguished change in the air around us. Everyone quietened down, staring at Anstend as memories seemed to flash through their eyes. After a couple of moments, Anstend ran his hands through his hair, clearly disturbed by whatever had just happened and stood up. “I think I’m going to bed. I have a long day ahead.”

“Anstend, wait.” Lys stood up to follow after him.

He stopped at the door and held his hand up to his mom. “It’s fine, mom. Really. I just… I’ll be better in the morning.”

“Søtnos, I was really hoping that all of us could stay in Fjærlette’s cabin tonight. It’s been ages since we were all together, and with Feppert’s death…” She trailed off has her voice broke.

Anstend pulled her into a deep hug, “Of course, mamma. We’ll get up early and talk Xatka into making breakfast.” They all laughed somberly and it was then that I noticed they all had started crying again.

Slowly, the rest of Lys’ children stood, giving me and Lys a tight hug. They let us know that they would save the master bedroom for us before heading out. She seemed sad now, as they all left the room. “I’m sorry about that. When his father disappeared, it was really hard on him. I don’t know that he’s ever quite recovered from it. Honestly, I think that’s why he’s so afraid of commitment. And why he’s obsessed over a woman that’s unattainable.” She looked up at me, trying to shake off the sorrow. “He just needs to sleep it off. And we need to sleep as well. We have to get up early in the morning. It’s a full two day journey to the Valkyrie.”

“Wait, we’re leaving tomorrow? What about Feppert? Aren’t we having a funeral for him?”

Her face turned to stone, “Tomorrow evening they will give his body back to Kullarna. And we’re going to get this Sephora shit taken care of so I can focus on killing that bitch, Victoria.”

Again, this is such a fun group of characters to write about. I really do enjoy their banter. I am hoping to have this book out by August of this year. It’s a very complex plotline, so there’s a lot of attention to detail that I need to adhere to. Also, there are two other storylines that not only coincide in the same universe, but have intertwining timelines and characters, so there’s a lot to watch out for when writing these stories. I will try to add an excerpt of the other two storylines within the next week, just for fun.