Death’s Apprentice – Part 64

Joe closed his eyes. It was another beast. All was lost. There was nothing more he could do. The adrenaline that had fuelled was quickly being consumed by the fight.

There was a yelp. The branch was knocked out of his hand with a great force.

He opened his eyes just as Cerberus was standing over the creature that had very nearly claimed his life. With one plunge of its head, it tore open the beasts neck. And the beast lay dead.

Was this really the hound that he’d been playing fetch with?

‘Good boy Cerby,’ came a child-like voice.

It was Hel. And Joe was thankful to hear it.

‘You okay, Joe?’ she asked.

Was he?

‘Yes. Are you?’

‘I’m fine. I don’t know where Agnes has got to though.’

‘What were those things?’

‘Werewolves. They’ll be back soon. We need to get moving.’

Werewolves? Of course, they were. It was like being in Bloxwich on a Saturday evening, thought Joe.

‘Thanks,’ said Joe.

‘I didn’t do anything,’ replied Hel.

‘I was talking to Cerberus,’ said Joe, aware of how awful that sounded.

Cerberus looked over to Joe. The middle head’s tongue was lolling out of the side of the mouth. He looked so cute, so normal, well, as normal as a dog with three heads could look. It didn’t look as if he’d just finished off a werewolf. The only tell-tale sign was a blob of blood that the first head was trying to lick off the ear of the second head. Joe strolled over to Cerberus and buried his head into the thick neck fur of the dog. He smelled of wet dog and the zingy iron smell of blood and stale meat. He reached up and stroked the back of one of the dog’s many ears.

‘Thank you,’ he mumbled into the dog’s fur. Cerberus gave a tiny rumble that Joe interpreted as dog speak for “be cool man, it’s all good.” Suddenly he felt a pang in his chest.

He really missed Lola. Dogs were so loyal and they didn’t stab you in the back.

Joe felt something nudge his leg but chose to ignore it. He needed a minute.

But the thing nudging his leg was rather insistent. It pushed its head under Joe’s arm.

‘Hades, you daft dog,’ said Joe looking down at the dog who was wildly wagging its tail and persistently nudging Joe’s arm.

Joe looked up, startled as another load howl cut through the silence.

‘They’re back,’ said Hel. ‘Come on Cerby, time to go hunting.’ She turned to Joe and said, ‘I’ll leave Hades with you. I’ll keep the wolves away from the door. You really need to go, keep following the string north until you reach the Woodcutter’s cottage, okay? I’ll meet you there.’

Joe turned to find the string. It was nowhere to be seen.

He whirled around to tell Hel it was gone, but she had already disappeared.

Death’s Apprentice – Part 63

Lola.

What would she do? He couldn’t leave her. He knew that she was safe with the Crows back at the funeral home but how long would that last? She’d be sent to a dog’s home. And then what?

No. He couldn’t do that. He had to fight, but how?

He turned around, fully aware that the beast was only inches from him. With a strength he never knew he had he ripped a large branch from the tree behind him. It snapped with a loud crack. He pulled it free and turned sharply just as the wolf creature reached him. He swung the branch and it connected with the creature’s head.

The wolf staggered sideways, stunned.

A feeling stirred in Joe. A feeling that surprised even him, in the heat of the battle. He wanted to live. He needed to live.

And then another creature emerged from the fog, even bigger than the beast he had just stunned. It was huge, over eight-foot-tall and its teeth looked like jagged glass inside its mouth. It looked as if it had been in battle as it had a large gash running across its left eye. The eyeball was missing and there was a gaping hole in its place. Below its eye, it’s mouth had been cut and the skin flapped down allowing Joe to see the muscle and sinew underneath. It was also missing a big chunk out of its nose.

Joe knew he should have been scared of this beast slowly advancing on him but he wasn’t. His body hummed with adrenaline and the need to survive.

He picked up the large branch and charged at the creature just as it lunged for him. The wood connected with the beasts chest, plunging through its chest cavity and spraying Joe with warm hot blood.

Joe would live. The beast would die.

But the beast kept coming for him, lunging at him with its snapping jaws. The creature kept moving forward on the branch. Joe held on tightly but he could feel the body of the beast moving forward, the branch plunging deeper into its body. On it kept coming despite the weapon splitting his chest open.

Joe held on tightly and, with all the strength he had, he twisted the branch inside the beast.

It made no difference, the beast kept on, a war machine wanting to kill its prey. Joe felt his insides turn to jelly as he realised the beast was not going to die.

There was a movement to the side of Joe.

Joe closed his eyes. It was another beast. All was lost. There was nothing more he could do. The adrenaline that had fuelled him was quickly being consumed by the fight.

There was a yelp. The branch was knocked out of his hand with a great force.

He opened his eyes to see Cerberus standing over the creature that had very nearly claimed Joe’s life. With one plunge of its middle head, it tore open the neck of the beast. And the beast was dead.

Was this really the hound that he’d been playing fetch with when he first arrived?

‘Good boy Cerby,’ came a child-like voice.

It was Hel. And Joe was thankful to hear it.

Dragon Rider – Part 45

Dragon Rider

Chapter Eighteen Continued

Reciprocal Damage

 

God, he hoped that he wasn’t too late to save Falkor.

There was a muted blast from outside the pod as the doors to the room were ripped from their hinges and soldiers poured in under a cloud of grey smoke.

‘YOU WON’T GET AWAY!’  It was the Overseer.  Her voice blasted inside the pod from two small speakers attached to the inside of the cask.  The Overseer was clutching the microphone on the desk, her crazy eyes bulging out of their sockets, her red hair wild, bursting from its bun.  Beside her, soldiers were pressing the buttons on the control pad, desperately trying to open the cask.

A small grizzled soldier, fed up with playing with buttons, fired at the pod but recoiled in horror as the toughened glass repelled his bullets.  Instead, they ricocheted around the room sending everyone, including the Overseer, diving for cover.  Smoke began to pour from the control panel as the bullets became embedded in it, shrouding the soldiers from view.

‘IMBECILES!  STOP THEM!’ screamed the Overseer from somewhere behind the veil of smoke.

The pod burst into life, there was a deafening sound, like nails on a blackboard, and bright white light swamped them.  Almost immediately, Drake could feel himself flying forwards at a terrifying speed but it was too fast for his mind to keep up with.  He tried to close his eyes, to stop the sensation, but he couldn’t.  He screamed, but no sound escaped from his mouth, as he realised his mind had freed itself from his body.  He looked down in horror as he saw his body lying beneath him, still and lifeless.

Then the sensation was over.  His eyes snapped shut as his mind re-entered his body and once again he could feel his heart beating, pumping his life-blood around his body.  He could feel the warmth of Willow’s breath and smell her scent of strawberry and vanilla.

The pod went black.

Now he could see a bright light radiating and throbbing from the end of the tunnel.  And they were hurtling towards it, so fast that the pod felt as if it had stopped moving.

The pure light consumed Drake and Willow entirely, coating every part of their bodies, enveloping them like they were in some primordial womb.  They were suspended in the light, but for how long, Drake could not tell.  It could’ve been seconds, years or just the blink of an eye.

And then it was gone.

Drake could feel something real and solid beneath him; the hardness of the earth accompanied by the comforting smell of damp grass and moss.

They were home.

Drake dug his hands into the soft earth, scraping up the grass and moss with his fingernails.  He didn’t want to open his eyes, to ruin the moment.  He felt strangely at peace as his heartbeat slowly in his chest, a gentle thrumming of a drum, and his head felt strangely empty of the confusing mess that usually bubbled and churned there.

He didn’t want to think about anything, he didn’t want to have to deal with any of it.  Not now, not when he felt so calm.  He didn’t want to break the moment.

Willow’s voice broke the silence.  ‘Drake.’

Drake felt Willow leaping up from the floor.  But he didn’t want to move, he wanted to stay here and breathe in the cool air, to feel it brushing against his skin.

‘Thank you for joining us Drake, I did wonder when you would show, if at all,’ said a silky voice, fracturing his euphoria.

No.  No.  No.  Drake’s body was screaming at him; this wasn’t right.  Drake forced his eyes open and jumped up from the muddy floor, still grasping the Emerald Key tightly to his chest.  But his mind, although clear, was slow.  ‘Funestus?  What-?’

‘Yes, thought I’d come and surprise you.’

It was only now that Drake saw the dwarves standing close by, huddled around the crumpled body of Falkor who was pinned tightly to the ground under giant iron chains.  Scarface stepped forward, his black leather trousers and skull tee-shirt were covered in mud and a neon blue substance; Falkor’s blood.

Dragon Rider – Part 44

Dragon Rider

Chapter Eighteen

Reciprocal Damage

‘Pyro, don’t you dare!’ shouted Drake, as Pyro dropped back down onto the seat, his eyes blank, staring out into the unknown.

And then, right before their eyes, he disappeared with not even a speck of blood to show that he had even existed.

‘Drake, do you think?’ asked Willow, her voice trembling.

‘I don’t know,’ said Drake, shaking his head.  Shit.  This was not supposed to happen.  Not this way.  What if he was dead?  He wasn’t supposed to die!  What had he done?

‘Maybe he’s been summoned,’ said Willow.

‘Maybe,’ replied Drake, fixing his eyes on the small battalion of soldiers gathering at the foot of the Main Tower.  ‘When we get back, you find out.’

‘I don’t know if I can, I-‘

‘We know his real name, right?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then we’ll do it.  Somehow.  We owe him that much.’

‘STOP THE CART AND PUT YOUR HANDS UP!’  The Overseer’s voice rang out from the speakers situated all around the compound.

‘What the hell do we do now?’ said Willow.

‘This!’ said Drake, ramming his foot down hard on the accelerator so that the cart shot forward, straight towards the soldiers preparing to fire in front of them.

‘Have you got a death wish or something?’

The cart crashed through the soldiers sending them scattering like dominoes.

‘GET UP!’ ordered the Overseer over the tannoy.  ‘STUPID FOOLS, STOP THEM!’

The soldiers scrambled to their feet and followed the cart as it plunged over the bridge, straddling the fiery moat, and into the foyer of the Main Tower.

Drake immediately took his foot off the accelerator and slammed it on the break.  The cart screeched in fury as it struggled to stop on the slippery floor.  It finally came to rest just short of the main desk.  The receptionist behind it was standing open-mouthed, clutching an empty cup that had held the coffee she was now wearing.  Beside her stood the woman in the khaki uniform who had asked them to fill in the questionnaire.

Drake smiled at her and winked.  ‘Sorry!’

Behind them the soldiers were fighting their way through the foyer, slipping and cursing as they chased after them.  Drake turned on his heels and catapulted himself into the gaping mouth of the lift.

Willow jumped in behind him clutching The Emerald Key and breathing hard.  She leaned over and slammed her hand on the “close doors” button.  The doors began to slowly glide shut.  ‘Come on, Come on!’ she said, pressing the button again and again.

‘Please refrain from pressing the button more than once,’ said the chirpy lift-voice.  ‘Which floor do you require?’

Before Drake had a chance to answer, two strong arms, belonging to a man-mountain of a soldier with a hawkish face, began to push the metal doors back open.

‘What’s happening?’ asked the lift-voice.

‘Nothing that you need to worry about,’ said Drake, punching the soldier on his beak-like nose.  The soldier stumbled backwards, momentarily losing his grip on the doors as he cradled his nose which was pouring with crimson blood.  The doors slowly began to close, but the soldier launched himself at the doors, growling as he pushed them apart again, the muscles in his arms nearly popping with the effort.

Willow hit the soldier’s bloodied hands with the book as he tried to scramble into the lift, the other soldiers behind him now forcing him forward.

‘Exit please,’ said Drake.  He rammed his boot into the soldier’s stomach sending him flying backwards and onto the soldiers behind him, his enormous bulk pinning them to the ground.

‘That was close,’ gasped Willow as the doors finally closed.

The lift quickly dropped to the basement.  The doors opened and they pelted out, the shrill alarm still blaring around the compound.

They were now in a large rectangular hall with steel double doors in front of them.  Two small flies buzzed around the flickering florescent strip light running along the centre of the dirty polystyrene-tiled ceiling, adding to the air of abandonment in this part of the tower.

They ran over and entered the room beyond the large double doors.  The room looked to Drake like some sort of old control room, maybe a relic from the human era, as it reminded him of pictures he had seen, when he was a small boy, of the NASA control room in the 1950 s, with its large control panel on the side of one wall and its old-fashioned lights that flashed green and red.  A large microphone covered in grey foam sat at its centre, in front of a blank green computer screen.  To the right of the panel hovered a cylindrical glass pod, in front of a dark chute, its door hinged open at the top with small chrome fixings.

‘That’s got to be the way out!’ said Drake, pointing at the pod, ‘Now if we can just get it to-’  He doubled over, cradling his stomach in both of his trembling hands, as pain gripped him in her tight claws.  He clenched his teeth and let the agonizing feeling pass.

‘Are you okay?’ asked Willow, her hand on his shoulder as she bent over to get a good look at him.

He nodded, unable to speak.  But he knew something was horribly wrong.  He just didn’t know what.

‘Okay,’ said Willow, but Drake could tell she didn’t believe him.  But then again, he wasn’t really hiding the fact he was in trouble.  ‘I’ll see if I can get the pod working,’ said Willow, stuffing the Emerald Key under her arm as she turned her attention to the control panel.

Once the pain had subsided, he managed to wedge the door shut with an old wooden chair.  He didn’t know how long they’d got before the soldiers got here, but even if it didn’t hold the doors shut for long, it might just give them the valuable seconds they needed to get out of this place.

Willow was desperately pounding at the buttons on the control panel.  She hit a green button and almost immediately there was a sound like an engine starting up and the pod began to shake violently, the computer screen now lit up with a picture of the pod’s sparkling interior.

Drake froze as more pain wracked his body, but this time it was like his flesh was being cut from his skin.  He gritted his teeth as the pain took control.  He stumbled, his eyes unable to focus, as his stomach tightened as nausea swept over him.

There was shouting outside the room and the double doors began to shake as the soldiers tried to ram their way in.

Drake was shaking and he could feel sweat, clammy and wet, under his tee-shirt and coat, where his Zephyr lay.  Suddenly, it felt as if someone had grabbed his arm and had ripped it off backwards.  He let out a muffled cry of pain and then gagged as bile rose up his windpipe.  He closed his eyes, bit down on the pain and fought to keep control, to not let the pain take him.

Willow grabbed his arm.  ‘Are you-‘

‘Yeah,’ he said, a little too harshly, ‘I’m fine.’  As the pain started to subside, Drake was now gripped by the crushing fingers of dread; Falkor was in deep trouble and Drake now knew that he was feeling the Reciprocal Damage.

Goddammit.  He’d got to get back, to see if Falkor was okay.  ‘QUICK!’ he shouted, running over to the pod.  He turned and beckoned for Willow to hurry.

Willow looked at the hourglass still clasped in her hand; there was only a drop of silver, no more than the size of a tear, left in the top half of it.  She threw it on the floor where it smashed into tiny pieces, the silver liquid oozing out over the floor like quicksilver.

Willow thrust the Emerald Key at Drake then threw herself into the pod.

Drake climbed in beside her, clutching the book to his chest.  He could feel his Zephyr underneath him, its bridge jabbing into his back.

The pod snapped shut behind them.

So you want to be a writer? Five things to think about when creating characters.

Morning folks!

I do like to do these “five things” posts, don’t I?

Today I want to consider how we write our characters and what it takes to make a character seem, well, real.

This is incredibly important if we want our readers to connect fully with our characters.

The first thing is, to be fair, pretty obvious.

One – Appearance

woman in grey long sleeved shirt
Photo by Ali Pazani on Pexels.com

Appearance is very important.

We live in a very visual world. A world in which how we look is noticed very quickly and assumptions (rightly or wrongly) are made.

As soon as we meet someone we notice their hair, how they dress, their facial features etc. (unless it’s my hubby when I’ve had a haircut. That goes straight over his head, bless him. You’ve just got to love him :)).

Whilst I’m not going to get into a debate here about assumptions made on looks (although, I am dying to have a rant if truth be told :)) we need to make sure, as writers, that we don’t feed into people’s assumptions and their prejudices.

So, why have I picked a pretty girl as the picture to this section? To emphasise the point. And to make sure you’re paying attention. Are you?

Appearance is important. But it’s also important to question and constantly try to challenge these assumptions.

We need to look at things differently and mix it up a little bit.

Besides, how boring is it to read about the millionth heroine with blond hair and blue eyes who is also a fantastic cheerleader, loves animals, aces school and is loved by absolutely everyone?

That’s unless she’s a serial killer by night.

It’s also very boring when people do the “looking in a mirror scene” and then list all of their character’s features.

“I looked at myself in the mirror. My blond hair was perfect, in a bob, just to my shoulders. My green eyes smouldered, looking fabulous in my smoky eye makeup. I adjusted my emerald green top that seemed to set off my eyes…”

You get the picture.

Try and scatter descriptions of your character throughout your writing. Don’t info dump.

You’ll thank me for this one, I promise 🙂

And please, please, try and think about appearance in a new light. Maybe play with people’s expectations a little. Challenge those assumptions!

Two – Quirks

What is a quirk?

A quirk is a peculiar or special aspect to a person’s character.

Such as Harry Potter’s lightning scar. Or in my book, Dragon Rider, my character WIllow has pink hair and lots of piercings.

Willow

Or it could be a character that recites Charles Bukowski ALL. THE. TIME. Or an autistic child who speaks in cat language. Or maybe they chew gum like it’s going out of fashion (like the cliche I slipped in there?).

Whatever the quirks are, keep it consistent and don’t go too over the top!

Three – Traits

Character traits are an aspect of a person’s behaviour and are therefore a very important ingredient in making a character come alive.

You need to know if a person is lazy or energetic. Are they kind? Are they spiteful?

But please, for the love of God, don’t make your character all good or all evil. People are shades of grey. A good, well-developed character will have good traits and some bad.

Again, try not to use cliches. Mix it up a little bit.

Okay, the next two points are my absolute faves when I’m writing a character. I love to get into the nitty-gritty of what drives my characters. What do they want? That, my friends, is the key question.

Four – Motivation

Why does your hero do what they do? What drives them? What to they NEED?

On a basic level, it could be peer pressure that makes them do what they do. Or curiosity, or guilt or the need to survive?

woman standing on road
Photo by Pedro Sandrini on Pexels.com

Is it evil or good that motivates your character? Do they act out of love or hate?

Or are they acting out of fear? Pain, or rejection?

This is what I love about creating characters. I love to find out what makes them really tick.

Five – flaws

Remember the perfect blond I was talking about earlier?

Well, she doesn’t exist. No real person or character, for that matter, is perfect.

We all have flaws.

What are flaws, I hear you ask?

Good question.

A flaw is a fault or weakness in a person’s character. An imperfection or an undesirable quality in your character.

For example, I am very lazy. I eat far too much chocolate and I drink far too much gin and wine. God, I’ve just realised I’m a walking, talking writer cliche. Who knew? I’m also very clumsy. And I eat too much.

I could go on, but I won’t. I’d be here all day else 🙂

Flaws can range from the minor ones (eating too much, clumsy etc.) to the major flaws (greed for example) right up to what are known as fatal flaws.

Minor flaws don’t really impact upon the story. Whereas the major flaws do. For instance, the villain’s flaw will eventually lead to her downfall. The hero’s flaw must be overcome at some point in the story. You get the picture.

Fatal flaws, however, are very different. These are specific flaws that tragic heroes possess. These flaws are so great that they cause the character to bring about their own downfall. Prime example, Tony Montana in Scarface. I know it’s a film and not a novel, but I love Scarface 🙂 The principle still stands.

Want to say hello to my little friend?

No, I thought not, lol!!

So, these are my top five things I like to think about when I create new characters. What do you think?

Anything you’d add to the list?