Beyond the Curtain: Getting It All Out

The weekend is almost here and so are all the summer shows I’m gonna have to start working on next week.  Netflix reminded me this morning that next Friday I can come home from work and spend the next ten hours binging Sense8, which is something I might just do.  Because why not?

Now, back at the school the kids are making their way to Memory’s End, where revelations await:

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

On the walk to Memory’s End Kerry said little, and when he did speak it was not about the day’s instruction. It was only once they were inside the building and heading for the stairs to the first floor that he finally brought up what awaited. “Are you worried about me?”

Annie didn’t see a point in avoiding a direct conversation on the matter. “You’ve seemed somewhat anxious since learning what we’re doing today.”

“I was, but…” Kerry stopped them both before heading up the stairs. “I’m not scared. If anything, I’m excited about this. It’s just that I recognize this could be one of the most dangerous things we’re going to do this year, and I can’t help but think of all the possible things that could go wrong.”

“That I can understand.” She was keenly aware that Kerry was the sort of person who often anticipated the worst of a new situation. “How are you feeling now?”

“Eager to go. Really, when I mean I think of the worst that could happen, I don’t believe anything’s going to happen to us today. But, I’m certain Deanna’s going to tell us everything that can go wrong once we start visiting the Astral Realm on our own.”

From everything that Annie had read in the past she understood that the Astral Realm possessed dangers unique to that world. There were spirits and wraiths that sought out anything that wasn’t part of their world, and witches had noticed and documented weather-like phenomenon in the Realm that were terrifying and dangerous.

She knew Kerry was correct: Deanna was preparing them for when they were ready to enter the Realm on their own. At the same time, however, she was certain that the Astral Realm within the walls of Salem was a benign region, and she couldn’t imagine it being a dangerous place.

Then again, there were other things within the walls of Salem that one needed to watch for—

They bounded up the stairs and headed directly for the study room. Deanna was waiting for them, standing in the middle of the room smiling as if she had anticipated they were going to walk through the door that very moment. And he smiled back. “Good afternoon, Deanna.”

Kerry waved. “How’s it going?”

The seer approach them. “Good afternoon. And to answer your question, I am doing well.” She waved the door shut and rubbed her hands together. “I imagine your eager to begin.”

 

Given that they just met with Deanna it’s not gonna be long before they take that first step…

Beyond the Curtain: Pre-Passage Jitters

So…  how was your evening?

First off, I did my video.  It was fun, but as I usually do when it’s over I feel as if I could have done more.  It’s that whole thing that goes hand-in-hand with being creative–you know, everything you do sucks and you want to do better?  I should get out of that habit and will.  One day.

Then I head off with a friend to the Harrisburg chapter of the National Organization for Women and after opening my mouth a couple of times, I end up one-half of their fundraising committee.  This is why I shouldn’t say anything, but I can’t keep my mouth shut.

Came home, watched one episode of Breaking Bad, and the–wrote?  Yep!  Wrote!  Put down about seven hundred words as I began describing what it’s like over by der in the Astral Realm.  And since I’ll be home all night tonight I’ll not only write more about this, but… well, you never know who just might show up.

The thing is, if you got your witchy kids in the Astral Realm, that means they had to of started on this side of The Curtain.  And they did.  I know this because it all starts below–

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Being a legacy witch meant there was little that could surprise or shock her, but Annie imagined today would be one of the days where everything she saw and heard was completely new. For today Kerry and she were about to embark on an adventure:

Today they would pass beyond The Curtain and walk in the Astral Realm.

The realization that they were taking this step came at breakfast this morning. They were just sitting down at a little before seven when Deanna came to their table, through upper privacy barrier around them, and said today was the day they would visit the Astral Realm. She refused to answer any questions: she simply said anything that needed to be asked could wait until the afternoon, as she wished to discuss anything concerning today’s exercise in private.

And just as quickly as she approached and gave them the news, she turned and left the Dining Hall.

Annie grew excited right away. Since he had begun her special training with Deanna she had begun preparing herself for anything involving passage beyond The Curtain. She’d read stories and had even seen a few pictures, but they did nothing to dampen her expectation of what would come about in the next few hours. She was on the verge of living a dream that was nearly as important as wanting to become a sorceress and a Guardian.

For his part Kerry seems slightly distracted. When she asked if there was something troubling him, he said he was a bit nervous about entering what was essentially an alien world. He knew there was little to fear for Deanna was skilled in these matters and everything would happen within the confines of the school’s walls, but he still found the prospect of walking into another world just a bit worrisome.

When she reminded him that entry new worlds was something he should be comfortable with given his science fiction fandom background, he agreed, but only with the caveat that he also knew, based upon those same stories, all the things that could go wrong even though they were told everything would be fine.

Though she spent the morning concerned that Kerry’s mind wouldn’t be on flying while Emma, he, and two other fliers from class made a high-speed run to Philadelphia and back, she was pleasantly surprised to find him in a good mood at lunch time. He explained his change of mood as being nothing more than the realization that since everything he had done since arriving at school a little more than two years earlier was new and somewhat alien when compared to Normal studies, why should he get upset about dealing with the situation that was completely alien?

 

There you go:  Annie is a secret Astral junkie and Kerry is just a little worried about stepping into his first alien landscape.  But you know these kids are going there.  How do we know?

I told you up at the start of the excerpt.  Duh.

All Over the Place

I said I would have a video on Sunday, and I am a woman of her word.  And here it is. Enjoy.

And if you want to see the route I walked yesterday, here that is.

A View From Afar: The Watching

As you’re reading this it is highly likely that I am either somewhere on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., or I’m in the city and on my way to the Washington Monument.  Yes, I’m back in the capital getting ready to do my part for the March For Science, and if you have any sort of connection to my Facebook page, you’ll notice that my profile picture is changed to that of Science, Princess Bubblegum’s favorite rat.

Because I’m all about Science.

What you’re reading is the last few hundred words of Part Three of Act One.  And this is the last excerpt you’ll get for a couple of days.  Sunday I’ll be sending you another video, and the odds are pretty good that Monday you get a video as well.  Because I’m all about the videos right now.  Also, and allow me to catch up on some writing and perhaps put fifteen hundred or two thousand words between me and these excerpts.  It’s hard to say.  All I know is, I’m going to keep writing.  Because I have to.

But here, at the end of this last part, we have Deanna doing a little sneaking around.  And why is she doing that?  Because her something she wants to see.  And she wants to see because it’s a special day…

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Deanna positioned herself behind the tree and look to the north, where the largest open space on the shore of Lake Lovecraft was situated. The sun was setting but Magic Hour was nearing and everything was taking on a shadowless demeanor. It wasn’t for this reason that she was able to see the two figures standing almost sixty meters away. Since she didn’t want to move closer, she used a bid transformation magic to give herself telescopic vision, which made it seem as if she was standing maybe twenty meters away.

Even without the telescopic vision she immediately knew who was standing in this open space: it was Annie and Kerry. And there was a simple reason for them being here, for today was Annie’s fourteenth birthday, and as Deanna knew they had done last two years, Kerry brought her here so he could give her a birthday present.

As Kerry faced Annie Deanna thought back to their moments this afternoon in class. She didn’t notice Annie wearing anything new, but she was able to tell from scanning Kerry’s aura that he was anxious, which she took to mean he hadn’t given the present. Though she didn’t have much to go over she managed to drag out class out as much as possible, if for no other reason than to make the setting of the gift giving to be far more perfect. She knew she was being a bit mean, but she was also certain that when the moment came for Annie, it would mean far, far more.

She watched Kerry remove his backpack and reach inside one of the pockets to retrieve something. From here the package didn’t look large, but then she was aware that Kerry had never really given Annie anything large except the leather jacket he presented after her last solo flight the previous school year. Given that the package fit easily in one of Kerry’s hands Deanna assumed it was a small present—

And small presents were often the most intimate.

Annie slowly unwrapped the gift revealing a box, then open that to unveil gift inside. Whatever it was, there was enough of a surprise that Deanna detected her momentary recoil. Kerry partially blocked what happened next, but it appeared he helped remove whatever was inside the box and and presented her the actual gift. Though difficult to see, to Deanna it seemed almost as if Annie raised her left hand for a few seconds, then looked down for a moment before wrapping her arms around Kerry’s shoulders and giving him an appreciative and emotional kiss.

Deanna dropped her telescopic vision and stepped away from the tree before turning to her left and making her way back to the path. Though she couldn’t say, she was certain she knew what Kerry had given her, and not because of any guesses made based upon her observation—

She stopped and closed her eyes she took a slow, calming breath. You’re not supposed to think of these things: you’re supposed to make assumptions based upon what you’ve already seen. You’re not even supposed to be here

“And yet, here I am.” Deanna didn’t worry that she was heard, as the only people close to her were sixty meters away and likely busy kissing. She made her way to the path and turned to the south, then spent a few seconds crafting a Far Sight spell and jaunted to the edge of the path just outside the entrance to the Instructor’s Residence.

She went inside and headed directly up the stairs toward her room so that she could prepare first for dinner and then for the Midnight Madness. Once inside her room she leaned against the closed door and spent nearly ten seconds staring at a spot at the joint the ceiling in the wall.

It’s times like this I hate my Sight. Deanna headed to her bed and flopped down on her belly. I know so much about so many and I hate that I can’t warn them of what lay ahead

She rolled onto her side and lay there with her thoughts, much as she had done and she was a student. I hope you enjoy your gift, Annie, and all the happiness it brings you today. And I hope Kerry is also happy that you are so extraordinarily pleased with what he has given you.

For it maybe the last bit of happiness you both share for a while

 

I debated for a long time whether or not to show Annie’s birthday gifting up close and personal as I had before. In the end, I thought I would view it from a different perspective, one outside them.  And Deanna is a good one for that, because it could be several reasons why she’s there.  I mean, it’s not like any of the instructors don’t know that on Friday, 27 September, 2013, Annie turns 14.  And when that happens, Kerry takes her out to the north shore of Lake Lovecraft and gives her a gift.

As strange as it may seem there is a reason I didn’t want the interaction to focus on Kerry giving Annie a gift and having Annie’s reaction to that gift. Rather, I wanted someone to see it from afar.  That’s not to say you won’t get a chance to discover her reaction, it just means you’re not going to see it now.

Yeah, I’m being sneaky that way.

And speaking of sneaky, just wait until you get your next excerpt–

The Kali Test: The End

Yesterday was a good writing day.  I wrote almost twelve hundred words in the morning, came home and wrote eleven hundred word TV recap, then ended up writing another two hundred and sixty words later in the evening to include something I meant to include in the morning, but didn’t.  Add all that up, and I wrote close to twenty-four hundred words, something I haven’t done in quite some time.

That doesn’t mean I’m back in the groove: it simply means yesterday was a good rating day.  The trick to all this is doing something like that nearly every day, and not just on a Sunday in April.  Most times I’ll be lucky to get five hundred words a day.  But I have to say, yesterday felt good.

Since I’m on the way to ending Chapter Eleven, here’s the end of the test scene.  And you knew this was coming; why wouldn’t you?  But based upon what you’ve seen so far, this ending is a little unusual–

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Covered in blood and winded, they were both catching their breath when fifteen seconds later music stopped and silence fell upon the test surface.

Ramona waited until she was absolutely certain that Annie and Kerry were the only creatures moving on the other side of the safety enchantment before casting it away.

She waited a few seconds for her students to gather their bearings before speaking. “The test is concluded. Based upon the final results—”

Kerry turned toward Ramona and Helena and screamed at them, raising his arms and hands in the air. “What was that bullshit?”

Annie stepped around the bodies on the floor as she wiped blood from her face and eyes. She, too, was not happy, and the moment she was alongside Kerry she also yelled out her frustration. “Koĭ postavi tozi shiban test zaedno?”

Ramona quickly raised the safety enchantment, putting a barrier of silence between her angry students and the rest of the people in the hall. She turned to Helena and shrugged. “Apparently they have some questions.”

“They’re not the only ones.” Helena turned to her left as she sensed Isis walking away. “Where are you going?”

 

The kids usually stick by their mantra of “A good sorceress keeps their head about them while everything is going to hell around them.”  But nothing is going to hell around them anymore: that’s already happened, things to them.  And these kids get just as frustrated and confused as adults, who often vent her frustration once a momentous task has completed.  Plus, when you add in the fact that both these kids are raging hormone factories, it’s easy to understand why they lost their cool and started screaming.  At their instructor.  In front of a room full of people, including the Head Sorceress.

Fortunately, Ramona is fairly even-tempered and she understands that emotions run high at times, particularly when you’ve been in a difficult match.  Also, it’s likely fair to say that the kids aren’t known to start screaming and swearing at the same time while in the Advanced Self Defense class–and you know Annie swore, because Kerry is already mentioned that usually when she’s upset and says something in Bulgarian, it’s likely she’s cursing.  You’ll find out in the following scene what she said.

So it’s probably a good idea to let the kids simmer down, or at least get rid of witnesses–

 

She held her tablet at her side as she addressed the Head Sorceress. “I’m finished with my side of this test, so there’s no need for me to stick around.” She tapped something on her tablet screen then looked up at Ramona. “My people will be by in the afternoon to collect the Spy Eyes. Shouldn’t take too long to get them out of here.”

Ramona nodded in acknowledgment. “That shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Cool. See you ladies later.” Isis juanted off.

With the Chief of Security gone Ramona now turned to the students who’d observed the test, with a few appearing to have not handled the bloody spectacle well. “This test is concluded. For those while visitors, you are free to leave. For those of you remaining for class, I will need about twenty minutes to clear the testing surface so that we may start. Feel free to mill about outside: I will call you when ready.”

Students filed out of the Manor and it was empty save for the two instructors and the two testes standing on the other side of the safety enchantment. Ramona took a deep breath. “I think we can continue our dialogue.”

Helena nodded toward the two students. “By all means, let’s.”

 

Testing is done, so Isis isn’t needed anymore.  Or at least she seems to think so.  This will get brought up in the next scene as well.  Hell, a lot of things get brought up in the next scene…

Since Ramona and Helena are pretty easy-going in most situations, they’ve given Annie and Kerry time to cool off.  That time is over: now it’s time to talk.

 

The Self Defense instructor removed the safety enchantment and addressed her students. “Have you had time to calm yourselves?”

They answered simultaneously. “Yes, Professor.”

Ramona approached and stopped two meters from them. “According to the rules of this engagement, you have successfully completed this test. Will see to it that the results are passed along to the appropriate authorities.” She gave them both a quick smile. “Go clean up and change, and once you have you’re both free to leave.”

Annie looked the most surprised of the two. “We don’t need to return for class?”

A soft chuckle escaped Ramona’s lips. “I think you’ve both proven that there isn’t any need for you to work on forms or spar today.”

“That’s for sure.” Helena moved up closer to Ramona, though she knew better than to stand next to her at this point. “Erywin, I, and a few others are heading into Boston about eleven to have lunch and do a little shopping. Why don’t you come out to the Instructors Residence when you done cleaning up? You can relax a bit before we leave.”

Both seemed happy to hear this news. Kerry reached out and gave Annie’s hand a squeeze before responding. “Thank you, Professor.”

Annie smiled as she returned to squeeze. “Yes, thank you, Helena.”

“All right, then.” Ramona straightened slightly. “Face me.” Annie and Kerry turned to face their instructor and bowed as she did. When they straighten Ramona wave them away. “Go on: go clean up.”

The instructors watched Annie and Kerry make their way through the carnage they left behind only to stop just past the last of the bodies so that they could share a short kiss. When they finished they both cast a glance back before heading off to the locker rooms and vanishing.

Helena rubbed her eyes as she chuckled. “Love among the zombies.”

Ramona only partially turned to head to look at the sorceress. “Didn’t you ever do that after test?”

“We didn’t have homunculus as nice as the ones you make.” She turned towards Ramona. “When I get back from Boston this afternoon, you and I are going to have a little discussion about what just happened here.”

Ramona crossed arms and gave her friend an unconcerned look. “Believe me, Helena; I want to talk about this.”

 

There you have it: the kids get to kill a bunch of zombies in front of the third of the student body, they then got this work their instructor, and then they were released from class for the rest of the day so they can go hang out in Boston with other instructors.  All in all, not a bad day–or, I should say, a bad four minutes, as that’s all it really took for them to establish themselves as the Bad Ass Zombie Killers of Salem.  And given what was seen, and the rumors that will come out of what was seen, one has to assume that anyone who calls these two out now is simply looking for a beating.

That doesn’t mean that neither of them won’t get called out–

And now that the fighting is done, it’s time for the instructors to ask a few questions…

Almost Live and In Person

Today am doing something completely different: I doing a video from and outside location.  And it’s rather unusual, even for me.  But I think you’ll find it enjoyable.

The Kali Test: The Third Phase

Just like yesterday there won’t be much for preamble; were going to get right into the action.  And this one is going to be a little different than the first two phases, because anything goes as far as my kids are concerned.

And as for going to see, that may be true for the zombies as well:

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

He stepped away from the mess he had created and cast a glance at Annie as Ramona’s voice boomed out again. “Third Phase: all attacks allowed.”

As is happened the last two times the homunculi crossed the white line at the same time, but rather than run at them this time all six seem to mill about as if considering their options. Kerry wondered if they were trying to run out the clock and press them for time: he knew Relax pretty well and figured there was perhaps a little more than a minute until the end of the song, so the possibility existed that these were programmed to put a lot of pressure upon Annie and he in the last thirty to forty seconds.

Annie was considering another possibility, however. In the previous two phases the homunculi attacked three on one and were always defeated. With the likelihood that the test was winding down if there was any possibility of them failing the test, it would occur now. And the best way for that to happen was—

Five of the pseudo-zombies broke for Annie while the remaining one ran at Kerry.

 

Besides the fact these homunculus are fast, this is the first indication we get that they could be working together, which means it’s likely they’re something more than just simple homunculus.  And they’ve decided to going to gang up on Annie, because if they can take her out the kids fail the test.

The only problem with this plan is they have to take out Annie…

 

It didn’t take a genius to figure out what could happen—and Kerry certainly didn’t consider himself a genius. While Annie could handle herself, there was always the possibility that in a five-on-one battle one of the homunculi could get lucky and bite Annie, which would knock her out of the test and cause them to fail. At this point their odds of winning were far better if they worked together…

Kerry decided not to mess around. As soon as his attacker was close enough he sidestepped the attack and pushed hard on the homunculus’ back, driving it toward the safety barrier a few meters behind him. The creature hit it hard and was momentarily disoriented, but before it could determine the boy’s location Kerry threw a fireball and engulfed it, then follow that up with a Air Hammer that slammed it back into the safety enchantment once again. He figured between the damage it had taken from the combined attacks it was either out of commission or disoriented enough that it would be unable to continue.

He sprinted toward Annie.

Annie was prepared for the multiple attacks heading her way. She positioned herself near line of shadow and immediately cut a shadow ribbon long enough to be used as a whip. She twirled it around her head and encircled the neck of the first homunculus to approach her. With it firmly in position she gave the shadow whip a hard jerk. Blood sprayed everywhere as the shadow ribbon sliced into the zombie’s neck as it stumbled forward beyond Annie. She whipped her left arm around and blocked a grab from a second homunculus before slamming it in the chest as hard as she could with a flat palm strike that she felt crack its sternum. She swept it aside with her right arm as she blocked an attack from another homunculus with her left.

 

Keep in mind Kerry’s only a few meters from Annie so for him to sprinted over to her takes a matter of three or four seconds seconds.  And Annie, as well as Kerry, are actually moving about a bit trying to avoid attacks.  It seems like their standing in one place, but as was indicated in the second phase, Annie was having to adjust the grip on her sword because of all the blood that was coming off of the different attacks, and this would lead one to believe that she’s moving about as she setting up for strikes.

But the truth is is hand-to-hand stuff goes quickly and can be over in a matter of seconds.  And in that last paragraph above we got to see Annie perform the moves she did in the trailer I wrote for this novel–said moves including blood squirting from the neck and broken bones.  Yes, Annie is a vicious little girl and no one should trifle with her.  Then again, Kerry through a homunculus at the safety enchantment and inflamed it with a fireball–and if you’re paying attention, that means he did both in the direction of the students, as they are standing directly behind the safety enchantment. I hope they had a good show.

So let’s wrap this sucker up–

 

Kerry caught one of Annie’s homunculus from behind and got his left arm around its neck, then planted himself and forced it to the floor with a cross body throw. He stomped its left knee, breaking it, then turned to the fake zombie on his left and threw a right fist/left palm smash/right elbow smash into its right eye socket and skull, staggering it badly. He stomped down on the right ankle, smashing it, and threw it on top of the last homunculus he’d disabled.

Out of the corner of her eye Annie saw the second homunculus she repelled beginning to recover, which meant she didn’t have much time to deal with the third one. She drew back her right arm and thrust it forward, extending her index and middle fingers. She and drove them as hard as she could into the homunculus’ eyes, hoping she’d pierced the fore brain. The creature staggered away, damaged and unable to see, giving Annie time to craft Exsanguination and toss it at the second zombie. It bled out explosively and Annie managed to catch two sprays in the face and chest before it went down.

Seeing that Annie had her situation under control Kerry did a quick sweep of the room. The burning homunculus was still on its feet and staggering in his direction. He fired a couple of Air Hammers at the two on the ground at his feet, killing them, then crafted an Air Hammer using dark energy and fired it off at the burning zombie. The creature came apart when the sorcery attack hit, throwing a half dozen pieces in various directions. He turned around in time to see Annie kick her last homunculus to its knees, come up from behind, and snapped its neck with a head twist.

Covered in blood and winded, they were both catching their breath when fifteen seconds later music stopped and silence fell upon the test surface.

 

So there you have it: exploding burning zombies and Annie snapping some poor homunculus’ neck by hand.  Neither of these kids are playin’ and they finished their tests successfully just in the nick of time.

Which means everything following is going to be nice and sweet, yeah?

Ummm…