Archive for August 26, 2013

Chasing the Wyrm – A Christopher Yan Agent of the OAA Novel

If the subtitle made you think of James Bond, you’re on the right track. Here’s a preview of my next book, coming soon.

 

Part 1

 Top Secret – Eyes Only by Presidential Authority

From the Office of the President of the United States, Harry S. Truman

Executive Order 12334C For the Creation of the Office of Arcane Affairs (OAA)

By virtue of and pursuant to the authority vested in me under the National Security Act of 1947, and of all other authority vested in me, it is hereby ordered as follows:

I. I hereby establish within the Government a new agency, and prescribe its respective function and duties, as follows:

(A) To further U.S. interests in matters of the occult, including those pertaining to (but not excluded to) industrial production, economic manipulation, and military and intelligence applications. It shall be the duty of this agency to ensure U.S. superiority in all arcane matters and to protect Americans and their interests at home and abroad from arcane threats.

(B) The Office of Arcane Affairs shall be composed of:

The Secretary of Arcane Affairs

The Director of Interior Affairs

The Director of Foreign Affairs

The Deputy Director of Investigations

The Deputy Director of Commerce

The Deputy Director of Diplomacy

The Deputy Director of Intelligence

(C) The Office Arcane Affairs shall be responsible directly to the President, and be held accountable for providing knowledge on all matters of the occult, and remain vigilant to all threats, reporting them to the President as necessary.

To this end, the Office of Arcane Affairs shall have the following powers and duties:

1. To establish and operate a division responsible for investigating occult threats from within our borders and from our own citizens.

2. To establish and operate a division responsible for research and development of arcane processes which further U.S. economic superiority.

3. With the approval of the President, to act as diplomats to extra-dimensional beings.

4. To establish and operate a division responsible for gathering intelligence on arcane matters from foreign powers, and to conduct espionage and counter espionage using arcane practitioners and means.

Chapter 1

October 19, 2009

 

NSA Headquarters has its own exit off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway labeled “NSA Employees Only”. When you come off the highway, past a screen of trees and hills, you run into a friendly wall of sniper posts and barbed wire. I don’t work for the NSA, but I visit often, so they gave me an electronic beacon for my car. When someone without one of these nifty encrypted radio devices takes that exit, a nasty surprise waits for them at the end of the ramp. All of Ft. Mead goes on a heightened security alert. It annoys the battalion of Marines that guard the place to no end, and they don’t mind taking it out on you.

The base sprawls across the rolling green countryside, but all eyes focus on the sinister, shiny, black boxes, reflecting the massive parking lot that surrounds them, like alien obelisks from a sci-fi movie. The main NSA building consists of two attached structures, one short and long, the other taller and more square, both composed of black mirrored windows. No, not intimidating at all.

I stopped at the security building and some smart looking MPs checked my ID. “Christopher Yan, ODNI, Office of the Director of National Intelligence,” that’s the head of the entire U.S. Intelligence Community. The picture shows a smiling, half-Chinese, half-American male in his mid-twenties with high cheekbones and a spiky haircut. Perhaps handsome in that skinny-nerd Asian kind of way, I let others be the judge. All I know is that the girls in my high school never made a fuss over me. The guards gave me the once over and waved me in. I was on the guest list.

I gingerly rolled my agency issued Impala over the tire spikes and they directed me to visitor parking. Like your average stadium, those parking far enough out from the main buildings need to catch a shuttle to the front door. Visitor parking spared me this indignity. The number of people the NSA employees is classified. The parking lot could accommodate the population of Delaware.

One of things you’ll notice about guys like me, that is, intelligence officers, special forces guys, police in high-crime areas, anyone who often finds themselves in the unfortunate position of seeing the people they shoot up-close and personal, is that they are extremely aware of their environment. I don’t claim to be a bad-ass in any way, shape, or form, but I do have a knack for knowing where I’m going, and where I’ve been. I remember people and where I’ve seen them before, and I rarely get lost. I may not work at the NSA, but it’s fun to act like I do. I flashed a big smile and gave an enthusiastic “good morning” to all the receptionists I passed. I stopped to tell Miranda she looks good today. She’s tall and lean, with dyed red hair, cut in a bob at the shoulders. She wears glasses, and has freckles, very cute and self-conscious. She pretends that I don’t impress her.

After chatting up Mirada, I made my way through a maze of corridors to the elevators. I was about ten minutes late, not serious. Johnny waited for me there with a fake scowl. Johnny, and everyone calls him Johnny, but not to his face, looked trim and perfectly coiffed as usual, a nice GQ haircut with gray at the temples. He was wearing one of his impeccable tweeds. He goes to Scotland once a year to see his tailor. He plays golf for a week and has a dozen suits made. I’m very good at Nintendo golf, and was told just recently I should be wearing suits to work.

“Good morning Chris-to-pher,” he said in a lilting tone that only a gay man confident in his sexuality can achieve.

Jonathan Strange holds the title of Chief of Operations, under the Deputy Director of Intelligence, in the Office of Arcane Affairs. You have never heard of us.

Harry Truman created the Office of Arcane Affairs with a Top Secret Presidential Directive shortly following WWII. Apparently, we got a hold of a lot of Hitler’s occult research from the SS Ahnenerbe, officially the division of “Ancestral Heritage”, but they were the ones looking for Odin’s Spear and all that crap. Spielberg didn’t make that shit up. They really were looking for the Ark of the Covenant. Just like everything else, it scared the shit out of Truman, and he formed the OAA to research and combat arcane forces for the good of the ‘ole U.S. of A.. It wasn’t long after that the government found out that wizards walk amongst us and decided it was prudent to put a few on the payroll. Like Johnny and me.

Later, during the Kennedy administration, we found out that the KGB had some wizards doing a bang-up job as field officers. Not to be undone, Kennedy ordered the OAA to provide trained practitioners in the arcane arts to any intelligence service that asked for one. That’s my job. So while technically I work for OAA, I am bitch-boy for anyone under the ODNI. The CIA finds out that al-Qaeda has a guy who bends spoons? Call the OAA. Send Christopher. He can take care of it. ONI has a report of a strange, glowing, giant squid? Hey OAA, can Christopher scuba dive? Nothing worse than spooked spooks that don’t have a clue what they’re dealing with.

Wizards, however, are not dime-a-dozen. You get born with the gift – you do not get made. Our reports estimate the odds at about one in a million. That’s around 300 wizards total in the U.S. Rarer still, a wizard that the government knows about, and can cajole, harass, or coerce into working for them. So you see Johnny can wear anything short of rainbow colored bicycle shorts to work. They need us. This particular economics of scarcity is what saved my bacon in the end, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We rode the elevator to the 7th floor in silence, and followed the twisting corridors to an office tucked into the corner, room 12370. Johnny hit the button for the intercom, “James, its Jonathan Strange.”

Jimmy buzzed us in.

The only light in the room came from the computer monitors, about thirty of them. Jimmy sat in the middle of them all, strapped into something that looked like an ultra-modern stainless steel and leather dentist chair. Three keyboards on swivel perches sat in arm’s reach. The whole thing could recline and swing about on a track so that the operator could view another monitor, or input on another device, without getting up from his chair. He gave out a, “What-up Topher?”

I approached his throne and we went into a minute long gang handshake, mostly to annoy Johnny. Jimmy looked like he hadn’t left his lair in days, which was probably the case. He wore a black stocking cap stitched with a picture of Curious George on the front, a testament to the temperature in the room, maybe about 60 degrees. A t-shirt, two sizes too big draped his skinny frame. It said “NSFW” in large red letters. No glasses though, Jimmy’s eyesight decided not to be cliché.

He loves it when I visit. We’re the same age, and all the guys in SIGINT/IMINT (signals intelligence/image intelligence) secretly or not so secretly idolize all of us in HUMINT (human intelligence). James Bond is the shit. Jimmy’s role is analysis; he combs over data collected from all sources and looks for certain patterns. Those certain patterns being occult activities. It’s a grueling thankless job. The few people in NSA who know what he does think it’s kooky or a waste of time at best. We could– probably should–be going through Jimmy’s superior, but Johnny likes his information straight from the horse’s mouth. Besides, we treat Jimmy right, and in return he takes care of us. The higher-ups give us the brush off.

Johnny gave an exaggerated sigh to feign his annoyance, and to move the meeting along. “How have you been James?”

“Can’t complain,” Jimmy shrugged. “You know how it is Doc; they keep us shackled in this cave until we dig up somthin’ massa’ likes.”

“Well I like what you showed me yesterday.” Johnny said, priming the pump a little. “Why don’t you tell Christopher about what’s going on in Sao Paulo.”

“Shit, I wish you were my boss,” he said to Johnny, and then turned to me. Using a bad Chinese accent he said, “The boys from Brazil have sent us something very, very, interesting.”

Jimmy let out a strained cough before continuing in his normal voice. “We’ve been working with ABIN, the Brazilian agency. Every year Sao Paulo hosts the finale of the Formula One racing season. Lots of rich Euro-trash and South American bankers flock to it.”

“Yeah, I follow Formula One,” I told him.

“Oh, from the tea and crumpets set are you? Anyway, so you know that big wigs and playboys crawl out of their hidey-holes for the event.” He turned back to his monitors. “You remember Super Bowl XXXV?”

“Tea and crumpets set, remember? Besides, why should I?” He waited for the question. It was all dramatics, but Jimmy likes to tell a story and we let him, since we’re his only human contact.

“I’m not a football fan either, but the Federal Bureau of Intimidation did something interesting during the game. They set up cameras with the latest in 3-D face recognition software. Faces are like fingerprints, each one is unique, and features can be plotted out into patterns recognizable to a computer, and searched through a database.” Jimmy was used to explaining the tech to Mr. Flintstone and the rest of his superiors.

“They were able to pick out 19 perps in the crowd with outstanding warrants which were scooped up by the Tampa Police. The ACLU went ape-shit about invasion of privacy, and we stopped using it here.” Jimmy made quote marks with his fingers, meaning that we just don’t tell anyone now when we use it in the States.

“Police in the UK still use it.” He went on. “So we teamed up with ABIN and they allowed us to install the system at Interlagos, the race track. We’re giving them the bad guys they’re looking for, and we’re keeping track of international players. Apparently a whole lot of Bond-types are Formula One fans, especially the European guys. I think half of MI-6 are there.”

This started to sound sweet. A spring weekend in Brazil watching the race and hob-nobbing, playing friendly spy-vs.-spy with my peers. All in all, not a bad gig. But my dreams of box seats, beautiful women, and expensive cocktails faded with the invasion of my common sense. They would never send me anywhere without a real mission.

Jimmy just kept talking. “Of course, we just use ears now. Each person’s ear is as unique as a finger print….”

I shook my head, “Wait a minute, they only opened the track to visitors yesterday. You saying you already found something?”

Jimmy smirked. “Oh ya.” He made a few keystrokes on one of his keyboards and the bio came up on the largest monitor.

I saw the picture and went stone cold.

Guest Post – Anthony DeRouen

I present to you another great indie author from the Magical Appreciation website – Anthony DeRouen. Anthony has just completed Precipice, the first book in the A Show for the Gods series. He has taken the time to write a piece on one of my favorite subjects.

 

The Magic of Velyn – A Loremaster’s Review

James has been gracious enough to let me hijack his blog for a day, and asked I give a post regarding how magic world in the world of Velyn. Initially my plan was to summarize the magic system in 500 words or less. However, after visiting the Scroll of Thoth Tumblr page, I’m confident the followers of James can handle the complete and compelling story of how the God of Fire introduced magic to his fellow deities only to be betrayed and cast out from the heavens.

In the beginning

Legend says it was Cassiel, the God of Fire who sired the era of magic. Children were randomly selected and gifted with the ability to wield the four earth elements. Fire, water, earth, air. Why Cassiel did this remains a mystery. Was it an action born from a desire to have children? To leave his mark on society before his time in the heavens was over? Or was it something else?  Something more sinister perhaps? Whatever Cassiel’s reason for passing on this gift to others was quickly followed, or countered in some instances, by his fellow chosen: Karael, the God of Life, Sofiel, the Goddess of Nature, Yofiel, the Goddess of Beauty and Illusion, and Asmodeus, the God of the Dead.

The power Cassiel inserted into the world of man had damning effects. Fearing a total collapse in society, the five gods hastily erected a set of rules and limitations. The first involved how the magic would be used. They decided on a split, one side became the arcane, the other half divine. No one man or woman could ever would both sides.  Children gifted with the arcane ability were raised to become wizards and sorcerers, if they so chose to be. Others born with divine blessings enrolled in special schools to become healers and protectors of the innocent.

Arcane and divine magic carried unique sets rules and limitations. One attribute related to both however, the energy pool casing or later named the Ometh-Rua. Within each gifted human this infinitesimal shell managed their natural and magical energy.  The shell limited their ability to expend energy. If a spellcaster burned through their magical energy they would still have natural energy to use, but roughly half of what a normal human carried. This trait alone prevented magic wielders from overpowering the populace.

Not everyone born of magical influence pursued – or even acknowledged – their inherent gifts. Some called the blessings a curse of the gods. Others who were born ungifted tried desperately to gain such power ultimately failed.

The Fire God Cast Down

Little is known of Cassiel’s demise. The God of Fire blessed the races of Velyn with many important gifts such as the ability to create fire and wield magic. Cassiel wished nothing more than to see the races of Velyn flourish without the Five Gods help. Theologists believe his dream to see the races of Velyn free contributed to his downfall. In essence, Cassiel stood as the only God not to contradict his gifts with curses. Where Karael blessed the world of Velyn with life, he introduced plagues. Yofiel graced the world with great beauty while subverting her efforts with vanity and greed. Theologists and priests in Velyn rarely agree on historical data; however, in the year 421 BC (Before Cataclysm) a great chill spread throughout Velyn. A thick marine layer covered the world, blocking the sun and remained in place for an entire day. No fires could be lit, no matter the skill and resources employed. Thousands of hearths were left cold; whole cities were plunged in darkness. Historians have called this day The Great Sadness.

Following the Great Ascension

For the chosen five who ultimately assumed the duties of the Creator and the Keeper, their time spent on earth was brief. Despite the numerous journals documenting their travels, meetings, and wondrous creations, much remained unfinished. Various orders and religious sects were charged with building opulent temples and devotional sites like the Path of Light and Heaven’s Tower in Kopani, the Orgalath in Stygia, the Garden of Heydeles in Prystan, and the Mausoleum de Sarta in Ferran, the final resting place of the chosen.

Arcane magic was heavily relied on during the construction of Heaven’s Tower. The architects, mason workers and carpenters simply didn’t posses enough skills or resources to build such a prodigious landmark. Many laborers had fallen to the deaths, or had materials crush them from above. Negotiations with the Kopani senate to reduce its height failed miserably. Citing their desperate need for help of a different kind the senate issued work proposals to half a dozen wizard orders. Only one responded favorably.  The Nijelon Order, a relatively new order fashioned more as a research group than construction or warfare. Arch Magus Quiledor eagerly accepted the senate’s offer and sent forth his brightest and most powerful wizards to Miris Halaan. Under the guidance of Kopani’s architects, the construction of Heaven’s Tower blossomed.

Three-quarters of Heaven’s Tower was finished, but the Nijelon wizards were tired beyond reckoning. They needed rest. Every day for two years they pushed themselves to the brink of exhaustion. Before long a handful of wizards exhibited symptoms of Garvedian’s Fatigue. A serious condition caused by the continuous application of external or internal magic. Arch Magus Quiledor was faced with hard choices, either remove his people from the site or develop a tool to aid their efforts. In his heart of hearts, Quiledor knew Heaven’s Tower would never see the light of day without his order. A failure of this magnitude would have catastrophic effects on the Kopani people, not to mention his order’s fledgling reputation.

Magic empowering magic

One night during a particularly harsh winter storm, within the bowels of castle Nijelon, Quiledor successfully crafted an object that could expand a wizard’s Ometh-Rua without interfering with its natural half. This metallic container – about half the width of his palm – was built using a precious metal found in the most dangerous region of southern Prystan.  He tested the glyph extensively throughout the winter into spring.  By utilizing a sample of the wearer’s Ometh-Rua, Quiledor masked the glyph into an exact replica, thereby doubling the energy pool. Satisfied his invention could do the job, Quiledor created glyphs for every wizard involved with Heaven’s Tower construction. In the months following the tower’s swift completion, the Velyn Supreme Council declared Quiledor’s order as the sole proprietor in all dealings with arcane and divine magic.

About the Book

Precipice is an epic fantasy adventure revolving around Danika and Kiruna Del Ray, two sisters born with unique mystical abilities who must retrieve a stolen book of magic before its power can be harnessed for evil. Together, they must battle to overcome an array of obstacles impeding their quarry, arising not just from the enemy, but also from allies who secretly work against them. Precipice is the first thrilling act in the A Show for the Gods series.

Purchase Precipice at: Amazon/Smashwords/Barnes & Noble/Sony

Get to know Anthony at: Facebook/Twitter/Goodreads/anthonyderouen.com

About the Author

Anthony DeRouen was born and raised in Redwood City, California. Anthony began writing short stories and fan fiction in 2008. He has published one novel and written two others in the A Show for the Gods series: Precipice, Diviner, and End of Dreams.

A growing passion for online role-playing games introduced Anthony to the world of fan fiction where he compiled numerous stories and articles for his fellow guildmates to enjoy.

In 2009 while drafting a fantasy article for a friend’s gaming website he fell love with the concept of a battle healer who defends a country not her own against sinister forces bent on releasing a terrible power. A number of plot lines were developed along with how the world would appear at the height of its economical and political strength in the beginning, and then deteriorate as events unfolded.

When Anthony is not writing, he’s playing MMO’s such as Guild Wars 2 and Everquest 2,or training for obstacle course runs.

Guest Post – T.C. Southwell

Earlier this year I joined Magical Fantasy Books to not only promote my work but to help other writers that share a love of magic.

Today, I’m introducing to you another member of the group, T.C. Southwell, author of the Queen’s Blade series. She has graciously provided a guest post on the how familiars work in her fantasy setting.

 

Familiars’ Relationship with Humans in The Queen’s Blade

James, thank you for this opportunity to share one of my favourite topics with you.

The relationship between humans and animals in The Queen’s Blade fantasy series is quite complex, and sometimes, it seems, can be a little confusing. Every person is born with a predilection to resemble a certain beast, depending on their character, and their familiar also moulds it, to a certain extent. Children bond with a familiar from the age of five or six, but it can happen as late as the early twenties. Finding a familiar depends on the child’s exposure to the beasts he or she has an affinity to. Generally, people who would bond with fish end up alone if they don’t spend time in the sea or a lake. People, however, are also drawn to those environments where their familiars are likely to dwell.

A familiar lives as long as its human companion, even if it’s a short-lived species, such as a butterfly. In this case, it will die when its companion does, but, if it’s a long-lived species and its human companion dies prematurely, the familiar will outlive him or her, and retain its uncanny intelligence. Animals will shun a human who has no love to give them, or who has an unpleasant personality. A human companion is able to communicate with his or her familiar through thoughts and images, give commands to it and receive information from it.

The only magical familiars are radiant dragons, which are also the only ones who are able to communicate their thoughts as words. While in other cases, the link to a human companion raises the intelligence of the familiar, the reverse is true of radiant dragons, which increase their companions’ intelligence and precognizance.

Domestic familiars will spend more time with their companions, due to their lack of fear of people, while shy wild familiars usually live in the wilderness. People bonded to wild familiars will also tend to live in rural areas and forest villages. Certain wild avian familiars will accompany their companions everywhere, although not into crowded places like alehouses. Even wild familiars that are not so fearful of people will generally stay outside if their companion goes into a crowded place. Dogs are the only familiar that will remain at their companion’s side constantly, and are also the commonest familiar. While horses, sheep, goats, pigs and cattle would also do this, they’re not usually welcome in houses and taprooms. Domestic familiars are commoner than wild ones.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be honoured if you’d read Book 1 in the series, The Queen’s Blade, which is permanently free on Smashwords.