trauma

What I inflict on people. Or in some cases, what others inflict on me.

Where the Hell is Kelly?

Here’s a fun game for all of us. It’s like “Where’s Waldo” but with more swearing. Where am I? What am I doing? Why the hell haven’t I updated this blog in forever? Well, in the first place, I’m still alive, working two jobs, and for a three week stretch (23 days, but who’s counting?) I didn’t have a day off; I was working at either one job or the other. During this time I’ve been continuing my work as an editor and trying to do normal human things like “laundry” and “bathing”. Other things, like this blog and most human interaction outside of work, have fallen through the cracks. I’ve had two weeks in a row, though, where I’ve been able to get a day off and the trend looks like it will hopefully continue.

I don’t really have much more to update than this. I haven’t been writing much, editing less of my own work, and I’ve only recently started to catch up on the back log of reading I have waiting for me (though I did finally get through my email). If by some chance you need to contact me, you can leave a note in the comments, email me, or send me a message on twitter. I am going to try to get back to updating at least semi-regularly. Well, we’ll see how that goes.

How I Named My Brother’s Car “Dammit”

Because I could use a little levity, I’ll share this story with you.

I think I’ve mentioned before that my younger brother is very ADHD. He is so much so that when he was younger, we made a game based off of it called Free Association. To play, you had to get from one object to an unrelated other object by words of association. I’ll give you an example. Kumquats to Kublia Khan:

Kumquat
Fruit
Orange
Origin of Orange
China
Mongolia
Kublia Khan

That, of course was too easy, so we started adding words you had to go through before you could get to the end. Our favorite was the French Revolution.

All of this is relevant to the story.

Changing topics, my brother recently bought his first car. Our family has a tradition of naming our cars based on the model. My brother, being different, named his Bob. A few weeks later he decided he didn’t like that name after all, so he decided to change it. After some deliberation, he decided on ‘Cody’. Unfortunately, my mother is somewhat hard of hearing, and she thought he said ‘Colby’. When she told me, she confided that all she could think of was cheese. I said in that case a better name would be Jack, as in Monterrey Jack, and well, it went from there. Here is our free association to Dammit:

Colby
Cheese
Brie
French Cheese
France
The French Revolution
Wars in France
WWII
Normandy
Cheese from Normandy
Camembert
Cheese
Monterrey Jack
Monterrey, California
California
Aunt Janet (a relative that lives in CA)
Dammit, Janet (Rocky Horror)
Dammit

And that is how it happened. Incidentally, my brother doesn’t like is calling his car Dammit. I wonder why.

Chapter 19: Monks in a Brothel

New to the story? Need to catch up? Catch up here: Chapters of Our Party

“Isn’t that his costume for Hrede?” Iain asked as he peered out from between the legs of a tall, almost nude, mostly broken statue of a woman that adorned the top of the old brothel.

“His flamboyantly gay character that he accidentally gave a girl’s name?” Ailbhe asked.

“That’s the one,” he said.

The paladin groaned. “Tell me he’s not going in as one of his own characters?”

“I think he is. If it makes you feel any better, Hrede is actually one of his better characters.” The ‘serk rolled onto his side to look at her.

“I don’t care if he could fool Richard Simmons, it’s not going to work. Clerics can spot a lie,” she said.

“Wait, Richard who?”

“Never mind. The point is we need to decide right now is we’re going to go save him or pretend like we don’t know him,” she said. She hadn’t taken her eyes off of the door Seamus had disappeared into, though there had been no sign of him since.

Iain flipped onto his back, presumably to look at the sky. He found himself face to face with a very different sight. “Oh gods, they made this thing anatomically correct. Why would they do that?!”

“Some people have a fetish.” Ailbhe shrugged.

“I can see what STD’s she has…”

The paladin frowned. “Wait, how do you know what STDs look like on a girl?”

“Ciardhe,” he said without turning.

“Ooooh, I am SO sorry,” she said. “Maybe we should change the subject.”

“Can’t look away…” he said in a strangled voice. “Want to, but can’t.” His hands slowly started moving towards his face.

That’s when she realized he was serious. Before he could do anything rash, Ailbhe grabbed him by the belt and yanked him out from under the statue. When the crazed look in his eyes didn’t immediately die, she sat on his stomach and pinned his arms above his head. For a moment it seemed he didn’t recognize her. All he saw were boobs. The berserker transformation started to take hold, his eyes reddened and there was a warning crackle from his bones.

“Iain!” Ailbhe shrieked, forgetting she was supposed to be quiet.

The panic in her voice touched the last of his sanity and he blinked at her. “Ailbhe?” he said slowly.

“Thank god. Yes, it’s me. Look at my face and focus on what I am saying. We need to go save Seamus, so you are not going to ‘serk out and you are certainly not going to pull a Fandango. Is that clear?”

He snarled at her. Just as she started to consider letting go he struck. She was on her back before she knew what had happened, one of his hands closed tightly around her throat. Wide eyed, she watched as he leaned down.

“Don’t do that again,” he growled. Then he was off of her.

For several long moments, all she could do was lay there and cough. Eventually she rolled onto her side and willed herself to breathe normally.

Iain nudged her back. “Okay?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak before she cast a healing spell on herself. A laying on hands spell made it significantly easier to breathe. Iain pulled her to her feet and steadied her before she even thought about asking for a hand up.

“Sorry,” she mumbled. “Was just trying to help.”

He grunted and pulled her towards the trap door that led down into one of the brothel’s back rooms. He jumped through the opening, ignoring the mostly rotten ladder and turned back to help the paladin down the same way. Luckily the place didn’t have high ceilings. Once Ailbhe was down, he pulled her towards one of the rooms.

“What are you doing?” she hissed. “We need to get out of here and save Seamus.”

“Lie down,” he replied, moving her toward a bed.

“I’m fine, Iain,” she said, trying to pull away. He had an irony grip on her, though. “I healed myself. I don’t need to lie down, I promise.”

He shoved her down onto the bed and climbed in on top of her, arranging them into a somewhat compromising position.

“Iain, what are you doing?” she asked as he leaned down.

“Quiet,” he growled.

She was. For several moments all was quiet except their breathing, then the door slammed open and monks poured into the room. More would have pressed in except those in the lead came to a sudden, horrified stop.

“Lady Paladin, are you alright?” the monk in charge asked, his hand moving to the sword at his side.

So that was his game. Ailbhe put her arms around her berserker protectively. “Thank you for your concern, but everything is fine. Poor Iain gets like this when he’s coming down off a berserkgang. He got all worked up when he saw a child strike a cat. I just barely managed to drag him in here before he went off.” She felt Iain stiffen against her with her story of the cat and tightened her hold on him.

The monks were nodding, though, as if they were wise to the ways of cuddly ‘serks. Their leader motioned for them to go, as they were filing out, he turned back to look at Ailbhe and Iain again. “We will leave you, then, so your companion might recover. If you are ever in need of anything, Lady Paladin, please let us know; we are here to serve.” With that he turned to follow his men out the door.

They listened to the monks leave the brothel. They were quiet several minutes more before Ailbhe final spoke. “You can get off me, now.”

Iain rolled to the side, but kept an arm around her, presumably in case anyone decided to come check on them again.

“And just so I’m clear about this, are you or are you not recovering from a mini-berserkgang?” she asked.

“No,” he said, then paused. “Maybe little bit?”

“But still functional enough to talk. Mostly.”

He grunted and rolled away from her.

Now free, she sat up. “I just thought of something. We have an open invitation into the monk’s camp. I just have to think of a suitable excuse.” She glanced at the ‘serk beside her. “If you think you’re up for it.”

Crash and Burn

Wow. What a month. Or two. And not in a good way. To give you an update on my life, two of our staff members quit, right before the busiest time of year. I decided to write (and wrote) a novella during that time period. I found out the company I’ve been working for lost its contract with the government and I’ll have to reapply if I want to work here next year. I realized I don’t really want to work here next year. I worked two 50+ hour weeks in a row and had to fight for a day off during one of those weeks. I read 6 novels, at least 8 novellas and a bunch of short stories and am working on reading more. I managed not to kill any guests at work and kept my coworkers from murdering anyone either. I have not collapsed from exhaustion yet (either mental or physical) though there were a couple days where I was close. And sadly I have not yet finished the “outline” phase of my current work in progress, though I am so close I can taste it. I’ve set it aside for a bit, though, so I can read. I’m currently in the middle of 1984. Brave New World should be arriving any day.

I am ready for a break. I’m more than ready for the season to be over. I don’t want to deal with people anymore (though I’ve been seeing some really nice people lately. Unfortunately I’m to the point that I assume they’re going to yell at me unless proven otherwise.), and I definitely don’t want to be responsible for their problems. I’m tired of people complaining about the smallest things (I asked for a TOP floor room, even though I made my reservations YESTERDAY, and I am MAD someone who made their reservation months ago got it instead of me!)

On a happier note, I’m ready to write. My massive reading binge (4 of the 6 novels have been in the past two weeks) is my way of recharging my writing (and my poor beleaguered brain). While I’d planned to start writing my work in progress this month, I think everyone will be happier with the result if I wait until next month (or at least I will). I am also planning on writing and submitting a few more short stories, both to anthologies and magazines.

So yeah, I’m ready to crash and my sanity has already burned. Please send help.

Remember, sanity is relative. Whose relative is questionable, but certainly not one of mine.

Chapter 15: The Lake Effect

New to the story? Need to catch up? Catch up here: Chapters of Our Party

The coagulated smoke fell from Seamus’s body and landed with a thud. Producing a sack from his belt pouch, the wizard stuffed the magical residue out of sight. In the meantime, the bard regained his senses. He looked first confused, and then terrified as he realized he was tied to a tree with his party members standing over him. Fortunately Ailbhe removed the gag before he started to cry.

“What’s going on?” he asked. “Why am I tied up?”

“It’s a long story,” Iain said as he removed the still rainbow colored roped.

“One I would suggest for another time,” said Fandango. “I think the dragon is done.”

Indeed, an unnerving calm had fallen over the forest, as if every living thing held it’s breath to see if the dragon would go to sleep. Either that or they were offended by the scent produced by the beast.

“Oh god,” Ian said as Ciardhe staggered up over the lip of the rim.

Seamus’ first act as a free man was to throw up.

“Drop her in a lake,” the paladin said. “For the love of all that’s sacred and holy, drop her in a lake.”

With a nod, Fandango started a teleportation spell. Unfortunately it looked like he was having some trouble concentrating. And with one simple misspoken word, he dropped a lake onto Ciardhe instead of her into it.

The wave that hit Ailbhe took her breath away and knocked her into a tree. Fortunately her armor took the brunt of the damage. Unfortunately, once it was done taking damage, it held her pinned at the bottom of the deluge. She struggled desperately to free herself from the heavy plates, drawing her rarely used knife from her boot to cut the leather straps. Blackness ate away at the edges of her vision. A powerful jolt knocked the blade away and nicked her face. Without thinking, she inhaled water. Panic helped her find the breastplate straps, but it was too late. Her fingers slipped from the strap and were still.

“Ailbhe!” Iain’s voice brought her back and she woke coughing. “Shit, you had me scared. Do you always have to be so damn dramatic?”

“Yes,” she croaked between coughs. A soothing sensation spread over her chest and she realized the ‘serk must have cast a healing spell. “What happened?” she asked. It was much easier to talk now that she wasn’t coughing. She finally opened her eye to find Iain laying half beside her, half on her. He was using her chest as a pillow.

“The damn wizard dropped a lake on us,” he muttered. “And I ruined your armor.”

“Guess that explains why you can use me as a pillow,” she said. “Normally you complain I’m way too hard.” She put an arm around him. “Thanks for saving me.”

The ‘serk grunted.

There was a long pause, and Iain was almost asleep before she asked. “The others?”

He grunted again. “Haven’t seen ’em. Was too busy saving you to look.”

“Shit, we have to go look,” she said. “I’ve got not idea where to start, though.”

“Sleep now, look later,” Iain said. “Tired.”

“Mmm,” Ailbhe agreed.

They were still asleep when Fandango found them. The magical burst woke the paladin, and the berserker sneezed himself awake on the accompanying smoke.

“You’re okay!”

Iain made a displeased sound as he found himself sandwiched between Seamus and Ailbhe.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the bard exclaimed, pulling away. “You are okay, right?”

“We’re fine,” the paladin said. “Though someone owes me a new set of armor.” She gave the wizard a withering look.

“Right,” Fandango cleared his throat nervously. “Now that I’ve found you, we can go looking for the healer.”

“Do you think she’s alright?” Seamus asked.

“Fat floats. I’m sure she’s fine,” the wizard replied. “Now hold on a minute while I teleport us back to town. I’ll need to consult my crystal bowl again to find her.”

Remembering the last time someone distracted the wizard in the middle of a spell, the three party members were absolutely silent as he recited an elaborate incantation. Iain had almost fallen asleep again when smoke billowed out from Fandango’s sleeves and enveloped them all.

When the smoke cleared, they found themselves back at the inn where they’d captured Hellspawn. As Ailbhe and Iain climbed to their feet, their companions looked around for the staff.

“Haloo, we’re back. Can we get our keys?” Fandango called to the kitchen.

There was a clatter and a teenage girl came out. “Keys? Sure, which rooms were you in?”

“Back corner room and the one across the hall,” the wizard said. “Where’s the innkeeper?”

“No good jerk just took off this morning,” the girl said. “Told me to run the place while he was making a spiritual pilgrimage. Or something like that.”

“Goody for him. Glad he found religion, etc, etc. Keys please,” the paladin held out her hand.

“You don’t have to be rude,” the girl said. The deposited the keys in the waiting hand.

“Sorry, sleepy ‘serk,” the paladin said as she headed for the stairs, one arm around Iain’s waist. “Fandango. Come get us whenever you find Ciardhe in that crystal ball of yours.”

“Bowl,” the wizard said. “It’s a crystal bowl.”

She grunted. “Whatever it is. Just don’t wake us up until you know where she is. Come on, Seamus.”

The three of them trudged up the stairs and were asleep in minutes. When the knock from Fandango came, it was full dark outside.

“Come in,” Ailbhe slurred.

The wizard entered, closing the door behind himself. “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that I found your healer and she’s not too far from here, just the next town over. And she’s okay.”

“So what’s the bad news?” Seamus asked from his blanket nest on the floor.

“The bad news is she found someone that likes her costume. And by ‘likes her costume’, I mean they invited her home. And by ‘home’ I mean to bed,” the wizard said.

Ailbhe swore.

The Day that Wouldn’t End

I actually wrote this a while ago, but never got the chance to post it, so it’s been sitting on my phone collecting virtual dust. Yesterday, however, was “one of those days”. And since I’m sure you’re as tired of hearing me bitching as I am about having something to bitch about, I decided to post this today. This is my rant in poem form; while it isn’t 100% accurate to yesterday’s circumstances (at least I hope not) there were certainly homicidal thoughts. Here, without further adieu, is the original poem, The Day that Wouldn’t End.

The Day that Wouldn’t End
Saturday was the start of it
And I an unwilling part of it
Though we all did our best
There was not a moment’s rest
There were problems and complaints galore
Until we threw up our hands and said: “No more!”
But it just didn’t stop the whole night through
(I was lucky to leave before two)
Then, just when we thought it was done
We came back and found it was only begun
The world gave the worst it could send
It gave us the day that wouldn’t end

It wasn’t until sometime Sunday,
Or maybe even as long as Monday
That we realized it was the same day
(The changing time caused the delay)
It was the same bitching and griping
The exact same petty sniping
We changed people and rooms
But the new ones were the same goons
They were just going by a new name
Like they were playing some sick game
Trying to make our fragile minds bend
Here on the day that wouldn’t end.

And we were affected, it’s true
Or at least those that weren’t were few
Our tiredness started to show
Though our service didn’t slow
Normal people would be astounded
At the homicidal thoughts that abounded
We’re lucky no one was killed
Or a drop of blood spilled
That we won’t, though, I wouldn’t bet
It just means we haven’t yet
I guess it will all depend
On if this day will ever end.

Chapter 9: Horse Thieves

New to the story? Need to catch up? Catch up here: Chapters of Our Party

Ailbhe and Iain looked at one another. “Okay, but who are you? And second, there’s the matter of a horse. If you haven’t noticed, sir, neither of us have one,” the now healer said.

“I am the ranger Arth and I’ve just come from the village of Shropshur where your berserker is ravaging. And the second is problem easily remedied,” the man said. He turned in his saddle and whistled towards the trees. All was silent for nearly a minute before something crashed through the underbrush towards them.

Ailbhe grabbed at her sword and Iain at the spear strapped to his back as the bushes before them shook.

A large, black stallion emerged and stepped out onto the track. Miraculously it wore a bridle, though no saddle. It snorted and pawed at the earth before thrusting it’s snout against Iain’s chest, much to the former berserker’s dismay.

The mounted man watched with amusement. “You do not seem acquainted with horses and yet you are a paladin.”

Iain glared. “I’m not a-” he was stopped mid sentence by an elbow to the side.
“What Iain is trying to say is that he has not been a paladin for long,” Ailbhe said. She took hold of the stallion’s bridle and gently pulled its head towards herself, whispering to it.

“An honorable job choice, sir,” the man said.

“It wasn’t exactly a choice,” Iain muttered.

Ailbhe swung herself up onto the stallion and offered a hand down to Iain. He took it and used it to help pull himself up behind Ailbhe.

Arth swung his horse around. “I suppose there is an interesting story behind that statement, but now we must ride.” He spurred his horse and took off back down the track.

Ailbhe followed with Iain bouncing along behind her. “I hate horses,” he muttered as he clung tightly to her waist.

They rode for a few minutes before she asked. “Where do you suppose he got this one?”

“What do you mean?” Iain asked. “Maybe it was wild or something.”

“I hate to break this to you, but horses don’t come with bridles, or trained to take riders,” she said.

“I knew that,” he muttered.

“So,” she said, ignoring him, “We’re still left with the question of where this horse came from.”

“Since when have you ever cared where something we needed came from?” he asked. “I swear you’re acting more like a paladin now that you’re a healer.”

Ailbhe grunted. “I just don’t want whoever’s horse got stolen coming after us,” she said. “I don’t know if we could take them right now.”

Iain grunted. They rode in silence and soon Arth’s horse slowed its pace. The ranger looked around, twisting in his saddle.

“What’s going on?” Ailbhe asked.

Arth swung his horse around. “There’s something in the woods. Can you not feel it, paladin?”

“Er, sure I do,” Iain said. He whispered in Ailbhe’s ear, “What am I supposed to be feeling?” He held on tighter as the horse they sat on flattened its ears against its skull, and sidled up away from the direction which the Ranger looked.

“Judging from our horse’s reaction, it’s probably a demon,” she murmured.

Arth nodded. “Ride quickly. Even with a paladin, I should not want to fight with a demon.” He spurred his horse forward again and Ailbhe followed suit.

They rode for another ten minutes before they came to a village. A gaping hole marred the wall surrounding it.

“That was not there when I left,” the ranger mumbled as they approached the gates.

Inside was worse, with whole buildings collapsed and others in flames. Even with such destruction, it seemed none of the residents were too grievously injured. Several were forming a fire line to try to put out the blaze.

“What happened here?” Ailbhe asked.

“This is all the work of your companion, Ciardhe the Berserker,” the ranger said.

“She’s not a ‘serk,” Iain said. “Well I mean I guess she is now, but she’s not supposed to be.”

Arth gave him a hard look. “Then what is she ‘supposed’ to be.”

“A healer,” Ailbhe said as her fingers brushed the hilt of her sword. “I’m supposed to be a paladin, and this is supposed to be your berserker.” She put an arm around Iain’s shoulder and ignored the death glare he gave her. “It’s my fault we’re like this. I was in a fight with hellspawn and well,” she shrugged.

“Demon sorcery! I should have known,” he said. “That certainly explains the way she was acting.”

Iain slithered off the horse and looked around. A few women moved quickly from one building to the next. He approached them. “Where’s Ciardhe?”

“We’re sorry, good paladin, but you have arrived too late. Ciardhe left when she had finished raping and pillaging.”

“Well damn,” Ailbhe murmured, “She might be the worst healer in the history of existence, but she’s a better ‘serk than Iain.”

“And the horse you road in on, Ailbhe,” Iain growled as he stalked back. “You’re the worst paladin ever and I don’t know how you keep your job.”

“I didn’t mean it that way, Iain, and you know it.” She turned in her saddle and offered him her hand. He ignored it. She shrugged. “Which way did she go?”

Arth pointed to a hole in the wall. “That was not there when I left.”

“Great, let’s go,” she said and turned the horse.

They continued in silence for several miles before Iain let Ailbhe pull him up. Afterwards they sped up and cantered through the forest, following the distinctive trail. Ciadhe hadn’t run through the forest so much a bulldozed her way through it.

“I wonder if hellspawn is still with her,” Ailbhe muttered.

“Of course it is,” Iain said from behind her. “She might be a ‘serk, but there’s no way in heck she could do this all on her own.”

“Great,” she said. “Just great.”

They rode a while longer before the woods opened up into farmland and the trail abruptly ended. It looked like Ciardhe had changed tactics. That did not, however, explain the angry mob that stood in their path.

One of the men pointed at them and yelled, “That’s it! That’s my horse!”