• “Accel World” in AniWay #33

    A new issue of AniWay magazine means a new article by your truly–this time, a review of the anime series Accel World. What did I think? Read and find out!

    In stores now. (Caution: Dutch-language only.)


  • ANNOUNCEMENT: THE DRAGON’S BEADS

    http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354060


  • June Is the Month for Publications

    These are busy times at Telltale central. Not only am I in the final stages of a translation, with the deadline looming over my head like the slavering jaws of a ravenous beast, but I have also already been published twice this month.

    EEN STORM VAN SMARAGDEN

    This is my translation of Michael J. Sullivan’s The Emerald Storm, the fourth book of the Riyria Revelations. I’d even recommend this series if you are unable to read the Dutch edition and ar thus useless to me, you fiendish foreigners.

     

    ANIWAY #32


    Aniway is a Dutch-language magazine on manga, anime and Japanese culture. The current issue–#32, in stores nation-wide–contains an article by yours truly reviewing the long-running Gunslinger Girl manga. It is my first article for the magazine, but will not be my last.


  • FULCRUM WILL RETURN

    COMING SOON

    In the meantime, why not get the ebooks and reread or catch up ?

    Prologue – FREE!                       Book I – Just $1.99!


  • Fulcrum, Chapter VII: All Wounds Scar

    Fulcrum

    VII
    ALL WOUNDS SCAR

     

    Rated: DubiousThe Citadel of the Almighty is, for all intents and purposes, the center of the world. Not only does it lie in the borderlands between the realms of the Skanda and the Arganian people, an oasis in an unhospitable river basin, it is also the holiest of holies, the sacred home of the United Church. Once already, war started here. If the world is to change again, here is where that change will begin.

    CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE THE E-BOOK CONTAINING THIS CHAPTER
    THROUGH THE BOOKSTORE PAGE.

    CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE MAIN TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE.

     

     

    A wound that doesn’t scar is a lesson that isn’t learned.

    – Skanda aphorism

     

     

    AHLIN flinched.

    The itch was getting worse. She scratched behind her left ear, wriggling her fingers through her loosely braided hair, but the scar tissue was thick and it had little effect. The itch had been a nigh incessant bother for at least a week now—as premonitions of bad times went, this one didn’t seem to know when its usefulness was at an end.

    She focused on the pile of coins in front of her, shimmering in the candlelight. The remains of a full season’s savings. It should still be enough to last the winter—probably—if nothing else happened. She wished she didn’t have to dip into her savings yet, but literally everything in town had shot up in price. And some of those things were rather essential to her continued survival. Like food. And shelter.

    Scratching behind her ear one last time, Ahlin swept the stacks of coins she’d counted out into her money pouch and closed the metal box holding the meager remainder.

    Periyus Xulo stood ready to put the box away. He made no notation of the amount of money Ahlin had taken out, but she had no doubt that he would update his private records later. Xulo had an unforgiving memory. He held out his hand, and Ahlin reluctantly let the coins she had kept aside drop into it. It was a nice little racket—charging people a fee for access to their own money and valuables.

    “Your patronage is appreciated. Feel free to come again. And always remember—one cannot put a price on security.”

    There was a gleam in Xulo’s eyes that told Ahlin the Arganian had spotted her reluctance. Didn’t make his words any less true, though. He went to lock her safe box away, and Ahlin said, “Finna, you done?”

    “Almost, Ahlin, give me just one minute.”

    “I’ll wait out front.” She wandered back out through the beaded curtain and past the set of gigantic guards watching it, into the front area of the shop. Here, the vague murmur audible in the safe room grew to muffled, angry shouting. As long as that was all it stayed.

    Ahlin never felt comfortable coming into the moneyed district of town, and it had little to do with the constant feeling that she was being fleeced. No, these streets awoke unpleasant memories. Once upon a time, she had stayed here, and the cost of a room during the high season had seemed like nothing. Now that she laundered clothes for a living, she never had occasion to be here long enough to replace those old memories with better ones.

    But it was the anger out in the street that made everything much worse. Those were armed men out there, and the fact that these were after money changed little. A man shrieked loudly enough that she could almost catch his words, and Ahlin’s eyes widened. She was fourteen again, and a savage, painted man shrieked as he swung his battle-axe in a wide arc. Blood sprayed at him from his victims, and as he opened his mouth to laugh—

    “Ahlin?”

    She started, and swung her head around. Finna was watching her with worry in her eyes. “What?”

    “I’m… ready to go. Do you want to get out of here?” Finna said.

    Grateful that the older woman didn’t ask about it, Ahlin nodded. “Sooner the better.”

    The two of them had taken to sticking together like conjoined twins and removing themselves from other company as much as possible. Most of the time they were so bored that Ahlin wished she was scrubbing her hands raw again, doing actual work, but her paranoia mixed with the real danger still kept her from the streets. She was thankful that Finna had stuck with her this long.

    They headed for the outer door. The grim-faced guards made no move to hold it for them, as they would have for wealthier clients—or perhaps they, too, were reluctant to take their hands off their weapons. Ahlin’s hand was certainly already on her knife. With the other, she pulled open the door.

    Noise rushed in like the tide. Gritting her teeth, Ahlin stepped forward and took in the situation. Mercenaries stood spread out over the street. It was a lucky thing they were from different bands and hadn’t organized, because that meant there was still room to walk in between them as they stood cursing the half dozen different moneylenders’ shops.

    The mercies had started showing up outside moneylenders’ shortly after rumor said their pay had been cut off. They assumed—probably correctly—that the coin they felt rightly belonged to them was locked up in one of these small fortresses. And if they hadn’t tried taking it by force, it was probably only because the money was being guarded by men much like themselves.

    The atmosphere was stifling, and Ahlin began to sweat despite the cold. Behind her, Finna was humming some jaunty tune that somehow made her feel worse. She gave up on trying to spot the safest path meandering through the groups of mercies and just set off straight for the southeastern shore of the island and what amounted to home.

    Snow crunched underneath their feet, an angry chant echoed across the street, and Ahlin’s heartbeat pounded in her ears, so she didn’t even realize what else she was hearing until a gruff, bearded man bumped into her as he stepped into Finna’s path.

    “You think you can taunt us, bitch? That’s probably our money, ain’t it?”

    “What? No—I…”

    At the sound of Finna’s startled, hesitant voice, Ahlin spun around, her knife already half drawn. “Let her go!”

    The man had grabbed Finna’s arm, and didn’t let go as he turned to snarl at Ahlin. Grimacing at his foul breath, Ahlin looked past him to Finna’s hand, clutching the coins the woman had been playing with. She could have hit her friend—it was only a few bernons, not worth enough that anyone would try and rob them for it under normal circumstances, but the situation was anything but normal.

    “Ha! You’ll get your turn if you like, bitch,” the man spat at her. “But first I’m getting my damn money. I’m done waiting.” He pulled Finna up against him, easily overpowering her protests, and held her with one hand while the other began to roam over her body, and Ahlin wasn’t certain if he was searching for her money pouch or just groping her.

    Suddenly, Ahlin was certain of very little. Her vision was clouded with images of other rough men, her ears full of words worse than ‘bitch,’ and the next thing she knew there was blood on her hand. The memories of years long gone snapped back into the past as the mercenary shrieked and let out a string of profanity that would have made Finna pale even more if that had been possible.

    As if from a distance, Ahlin realized that her knife was out and had scraped a bloody trail over the man’s knuckles. As he jumped up and down, shaking his hand, Ahlin quickly pulled Finna away from him and behind her.

    “You’ll pay for that, you fucking bitch!” Ahlin gritted her teeth, still disoriented and trying to calm her breathing. Her knife, gleaming red as she held it in the air between them, suddenly looked tiny when the mercenary reached for the short, wide sword at his side. Ahlin started pushing Finna backwards, but didn’t dare turn away her eyes.

    More mercenaries came to join the bastard harassing them, and Ahlin sensed yet others behind them. Were they trapped?

    And then, just as the first mercenary drew his sword, a giant hand landed on its pommel and pushed it back into the scabbard. With identical expressions of surprise, Ahlin and the mercenary looked up at the red-headed giant of a man, who was casting a look around over everyone else’s heads. Were there Church Guard coming into the street—was he subduing the situation to prevent a more serious incident?

    “Keep your head on, you ass,” he barked.

    “She cut me, Barndt!” the first man snarled. The rest of the gathered crowd seemed to be holding its breath.

    “Ooh, a little blood. I’ll go tell your momma to come kiss it better. Murroc, do those sorry wenches look like they’re rolling in coin?”

    Murroc only growled.

    The giant, Barndt, barely glanced at Ahlin and Finna as he barked, “You two, fuck off before I remember I don’t care what anyone wants to do to you.”

    Ahlin didn’t have to be told twice. Grabbing Finna’s hand to drag her along, she started to run. After a few streets, Finna began to pull on her hand as the older woman panted for breath, but Ahlin kept dragging her along. Only when they reached a deserted stretch of familiar alleyway did she allow the two of them to stagger to a halt. They were behind Old Man Kerotod’s laundry house—as close to a home as Ahlin had, but more importantly, well away from inns, taverns or anyplace else mercenaries might frequent.

    “Damn… you…” Ahlin panted, leaning over with her hands on her knees. “Playing with… your coins? Did you… want them to beat us to a pulp?”

    She glared at the older woman and caught her wide-eyed look. “I… I… I’m sorry. I didn’t think… Oh, sainted ones, we almost…” Ahlin saw her flinch under her glare and back away.

    Rage was so much more comfortable than fear. But Ahlin knew all too well that the emotion wasn’t always her friend. Finna was frightened already, and she did not want to drive her closest companion away. The very fact that it hadn’t even occurred to Finna that the mercenaries might freak out over her few bernons was the reason she needed someone as paranoid as Ahlin around to survive this winter.

    And considering how close her memories were floating to the surface these days, Ahlin really didn’t want to be alone, either.

    She squeezed shut her eyes and took a few deep breaths, the freezing air quickly chilling the sweat from their exertions. “It’s all right, Finna,” she said then. “They were asses, and we’re safe now. I’m sorry I yelled.”

    When she looked back at Finna, there was such a look of relief in the Skanda’s eyes that she wondered whether it was for the mercies or for her temper.

    “I’m sorry too,” Finna said. “You’re always telling me to be more careful.” More suspicious, really. Finna was still eyeing Ahlin’s knife guardedly, but the incident had apparently frightened her enough that she showed no intention of reproving Ahlin for her use of violence. Good—she didn’t want to talk about what had come over her out there in the street.

    Ahlin picked up a handful of snow to rub the drying drops of blood from her fingers and knife. Then she nodded her head down the alleyway. “Let’s walk. Did you drop those coins?”

    “Hm? Oh, no, guess I clenched my hand as I ran.”

    “Well, at least you have your priorities straight.”

    “Oh! You!” Finna said, bumping her shoulder.

    Together, they walked back onto the streets. What Ahlin really wanted was to retreat to the relative safety of their current hidey-hole—a stable warmed by the heat of many animals’ bodies—but without anything to distract their minds, probably both of their heads would pop. By late afternoon, Ahlin almost stopped jumping every time she spotted anyone tall and broad. A juggler who must have intended to travel south with the last caravan kept them entertained for a while, more because of his frozen, clumsy fingers than in spite of them.

    When Finna expressed a desire to stray a little further than usual to find their evening meal, Ahlin saw no harm in it—the dinner crowds would be thick enough to hide them, and the ‘meat’ gruel they usually got nearby was getting very old, both figuratively and literally.

    The chicken meat they got tonight was still on the bone. You paid premium for meat that was actually identifiable, but that was all right as long as they didn’t make a habit out of it.

    By the time they wandered back to the stable arm in arm, it was getting late. Perhaps it was because her stomach was full and the ale had been watered down less than usual that Ahlin let her guard down. She only realized that footsteps had been following them when they were cutting through a deserted alley and it was too late.

    “Ahlin? What…?” Finna started to ask as Ahlin froze and pulled the older woman to a stop along with her, but she trailed off when she heard the crunching of heavy footsteps in the snow—in front of them as well as behind them.

    Ahlin moved slowly to the side of the alley, putting a wooden fence to their backs. She loosened her knife in its scabbard.

    A mocking laugh assaulted them from the shadows. “Look at the bitches, all alone. Think you don’t have a care in the world when you have enough coin, huh?”

    Fuck,” Ahlin whispered under her breath.

    There were three of them. The mercenary from earlier that day, Murroc, approached them from ahead, drawing his shortsword. The other two had been following them down the alley, but were obviously with him. They had the same look—grimier than your average mercy and crazy eyes overflowing with rage.

    Ahlin eyed them warily as they approached, her knife at the ready but still hidden underneath her cloak.

    “When I say run, you run for the street, got it?” she whispered to Finna, trembling behind her. When she got no response, she elbowed the older woman. “Got it?”

    “Yuh-huh.”

    “I think we’ll take your money first,” Murroc said, “see if you have a proper payment for us.”

    The other two were chuckling. “If not, we’ll manage—wouldn’t be the first time we have to take payment in something other than coin.”

    At that remark, Murroc showed his bad teeth in a grin. He was almost close enough for Ahlin to smell his rancid breath.

    Ahlin grew calmer as she observed their assailants—there were no flashbacks for her this time. She counted her blessings for that small favor. The two goons were keeping their hands warm under their cloaks, their weapons undrawn. They must not have been around for the earlier scuffle, and saw only two frightened women now—a man like Murroc wouldn’t advertise the fact that he had let a washerwoman cut him. Good. They’d take a few seconds longer to react if she could surprise them.

    Murroc himself, his hand bandaged as a reminder, was more careful. Still, he had brought back-up, and was probably used to intimidation doing half the work for him. He held out his sword in front of him, pointing the tip at Ahlin’s chest.

    “You first. I want to see your coin purse. Drop it. Anything else you have, too—like any knives.”

    And Ahlin shrank back as if terrified, nudging Finna to move slightly to the side. Murroc’s grin widened. Yes. This was what he was here for more than some coin—humiliation, as revenge for his wounded pride. He was eager to believe in it.

    The point of the blade came forward—slowly, to nudge, not to stab.

    Ahlin saw that she had exactly half a chance to get them out of this, and she took it.

    “Run, now!” Bursting forward, Ahlin dodged the tip of Murroc’s sword and spun towards him along its edge. Murroc’s eyes widened in surprise, then snapped to the right as the dim light of distant lamps caught the knife Ahlin held raised high into the air—distracting him from the elbow of her other arm right up until the moment it slammed into his ribs.

    Ahlin’s entire arm went numb with the blow—she’d hit some kind of armor—but the mercenary got the worst of the deal. Gasping, he dropped his sword and fell over backward. Having thrown herself against him with all her might, Ahlin went down on top of him.

    “Damn you, Finna!” she screamed as she fell. “Run! Run!” She lost sight of the other woman as she tumbled on, but was relieved to hear rapid footsteps fading into the distance.

    For a few seconds, she struggled with Murroc, lying half on top of him and ignoring the deafening profanities he was shouting. Then a pair of rough hands grabbed hold of her and threw her through the air. She crashed against the wooden fence and slumped to the ground.

    “Go!” she heard Murroc shriek. “Catch the other one! This bitch is mine!”

    The back of her head had hit the wood, and everything was spinning. Her cheek was resting on snow, and she tried to focus on that.

    “Murroc, she’s gone—there’s a crowd in the street up ahead.”

    Just get her! You think I can’t handle one woman? Go!”

    More footsteps running off, these heavier than Finna’s. But they were right—Finna should be able to get lost in the busier street. For now, Ahlin had to focus on the fact that she was down to one opponent and make the most of that. She forced herself to roll over and pushed herself up. Just as she spotted her knife lying not far from her hand, the scrape of metal on stone made her head snap up.

    Murroc was coming towards her, letting the tip of his sword drag over the snow-covered cobblestones. Her only advantage was that she had managed to drive the man over the edge—all calculation was gone from his eyes, and only battle rage remained. It was an advantage that gave her a sick feeling in her stomach.

    Warning her with a savage roar, Murroc swung his sword. Ahlin rolled away. She cut herself on her own knife as she grabbed for it, but managed to close her fingers over the hilt. Murroc spun around before she had time to get to her feet, and again she had to dive to the side to escape his steel. She ended up against the opposite side of the alley and pulled herself up by the uneven stones of the wall.

    She glanced down the alley. If only she could get past the bastard and out of reach of his sword, then she might be able to stay ahead, outrun him.

    The sword came down again, angled to her right. She ducked left.

    Right into the dagger she hadn’t seen.

    There was a soft rasping sound. It was her breath. But she barely heard it. The thunderous drum of her heartbeat was too loud.

    Why did it feel hot? The steel in her belly should be freezing. But it felt hot. Hot like the Pit.

    She coughed, and immediately moaned as the tremor it sent through her body rocked her against the dagger in her gut. It felt like death.

    Then Murroc’s rough hand provided her with a faint distraction as it grabbed her by the throat. He must have let his sword drop to the ground again to be able to hold her against the wall, because his other hand was still on his dagger.

    “Bitch. Fucking bitch. Gonna make you hurt.” He sounded like a madman. She felt his spittle on her face.

    The only reason that sensation seemed to return to the rest of her body was because the pain in her belly spread out through it, but it returned nevertheless. Ahlin found herself unsurprised to still be holding her knife. She had forgotten how to let it go long ago.

    To aim was beyond her at that moment, mentally and physically. But then, Murroc stood crowded against her, providing a big target.

    She slammed her hand forward with more strength than she had imagined she had left.

    And Murroc squealed. Like a pig being butchered.

    Ahlin must have stood there for seconds after he fell away, dragging her knife out of her hand, and lay thrashing about on the ground.

    Then her own pain reasserted itself and she doubled over, her hands pressing against the wound in the side of her belly. Panting, she looked down at Murroc and saw that he was clutching his groin, the blood gushing out from between his fingers. She would have laughed if she’d been able to. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

    Their weapons, torn from their wounds, lay around them, like the scene of some dreadful battle. Something in the back of Ahlin’s head told her to pick up one of them, any of them—but as she pushed herself away from the wall, the world spun and her legs wobbled.

    No. She had to get away. If she could only focus on one thing, it had to be on getting away.

    She began to stumble off in the direction opposite to the one Finna—and more importantly, Murroc’s comrades—had gone in. Had to get away. Each foot that moved in front of the other was a monumental effort.

    Then she was in a street, and the other people shied away from her. Looking down, she saw that she was losing a lot of blood. It trickled through her fingers. Bright red.

    A surgeon. This wound needed a surgeon. But who? The butchers she knew, she wouldn’t trust with a wound this deep. The wealthier ones might be better, but even if she’d be able to get them to open their doors at this hour, she wouldn’t be able to afford them.

    She just kept walking, though she didn’t know where to. She only knew with cold certainty that if she stopped now, it would be for the last time.

    One foot in front of the other.

    Looking up, Ahlin saw the massive shape of the Citadel of the Almighty rise up threateningly ahead of her, the lights at its top so small and distant that they looked like stars. The inhabited mountain loomed over you wherever in town you found yourself, but now the supposed presence of the Almighty taunted Ahlin. There was no sanctity in this forsaken town.

    But then, like Divine Inspiration, the thought popped into her head. There might be one place she could go. It was a long shot, but still better than none at all. She kept going.

    One foot in front of the other.

    The pain was good—it kept her awake, kept reminding her to keep pressure on the wound. She saw her guts tumbling from her body, but a moment later it was only a hallucination. She kept going.

    The heat of her wound was fading now. It just felt cold like everything else.

    Everything was dimming around her, all sound fading, and Ahlin was no longer sure of where she was when she felt her legs give out underneath her.

    And she knew—this was the end.

    Fulcrum © Niels van Eekelen/Telltale Productions.


  • Fulcrum Update

    Due to extreme business, the new chapter of Fulcrum has been moved from the start to the middle of the month. Apologies for the delay!

    Making the best of a bad turn, though, this will help reduce the gap that was threatening to pop up between Books I and II.

    Fulcrum will return in about two weeks!


  • Fulcrum, Chapter VI: The Dean of Citadel Town

    Fulcrum

    VI
    THE DEAN OF CITADEL TOWN

     

    Rated: DubiousThe Citadel of the Almighty is, for all intents and purposes, the center of the world. Not only does it lie in the borderlands between the realms of the Skanda and the Arganian people, an oasis in an unhospitable river basin, it is also the holiest of holies, the sacred home of the United Church. Once already, war started here. If the world is to change again, here is where that change will begin.

    CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE THE E-BOOK CONTAINING THIS CHAPTER
    THROUGH THE BOOKSTORE PAGE.

    CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE MAIN TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE.

     

     

    The duality of the Almighty is no grand mystery: He is many fingers, and yet They are one hand. So likewise are we countless men, but is each of us Almighty, our destiny in our own many-fingered hands.

    – Emarotol the Philosopher (banned letters)

     

    (more…)


  • Fulcrum Cover Page: Book I

    Book I Cover(Click to enlarge.)

    Cover to Fulcrum Book I: The Rot Has Set In by Niels van Eekelen, available in all major e-book formats. See the Fulcrum Bookstore for more details.

    Design by Niels van Eekelen
    The Owl & the Oak symbol art by Paul Vromen
    Background photo by Net_efekt used under a Creative Commons licence


  • Fulcrum Cover Page: Prologue

    Prologue Cover(Click to enlarge.)

    Cover to Fulcrum Prologue: The Three Virtues by Niels van Eekelen, available in all major e-book formats. See the Fulcrum Bookstore for more details.

    Background photo/design by Niels van Eekelen
    The Owl & the Oak symbol art by Paul Vromen

     


  • Fulcrum, Chapter V: A Joining of Hands

    Fulcrum

    V
    A JOINING OF HANDS

     

    Rated: DubiousThe Citadel of the Almighty is, for all intents and purposes, the center of the world. Not only does it lie in the borderlands between the realms of the Skanda and the Arganian people, an oasis in an unhospitable river basin, it is also the holiest of holies, the sacred home of the United Church. Once already, war started here. If the world is to change again, here is where that change will begin.

    CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE THE E-BOOK CONTAINING THIS CHAPTER
    THROUGH THE BOOKSTORE PAGE.

    CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE MAIN TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE.

     

     

     

    And thus it will be that in the eyes of the FULCRUM

    Among the chosen and worthy people there will be

    A joining of hands; cleansed in fire all the world

    And all its creatures will be held by the FULCRUM

    Child of the ALMIGHTY and ultimate judge of man

    – Book of the Fulcrum, Visions 3:8-12

     

    (more…)



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