On the writing front, the African Firestorm outline is over 11,000 and complete up to Chapter 38, heading into Chapter 39. I'm beginning to see the end, but the climax is going to tricky to write, as I have to wrap all the threads together to complete the story. I know how the story ends --- I just need to get it there....
The Battletech stories are going well, I'll update them in my Battletech blog (http://thebattletechstate.blogspot.com/). Just suffice it to say, they are going well.
And I've decided to go a little bit farther in bringing the first draft of Merlin's Legacy to you, the reader. Here is part one of Chapter 7:
I don’t know how long I laid there like a stunned fish, but when my senses started working again, I heard voices. One was the cat’s, while the other I vaguely recognized.
“It’s tradition!” the cat was saying.
“The situation is different,” the second voice said.
“Are you sure he’s the one?”
“You didn’t see him when those thugs attacked him. He used the energy powering the wards around my tomb and channeled it through him with only a little help from me. And that was with his Magus Sensus blocked.”
“But he has so much to learn!”
“And that is my fault, old friend. But he will learn for you.”
“You should have brought him in sooner.”
The second voice sighed. “I’ve already said it’s my fault. But the point is moot. And Roger has recovered.”
I groaned and sat up. “What’s going on?” I asked.
“That is my fault, I’m afraid.”
I looked up and found myself staring up at the mirror image of the painting of the library. He was wearing the bomber jacket, military trousers, and boots. I glanced at his hand and the dragon ring was there. “Uncle Lucian?”
“Hello, Roger,” Lucian said, smiling at me. “Sorry about this, but it’s time you and I had a talk.”
“But you’re dead!”
“That’s one of the things we have to talk about. I have an offer for you, one that will change your life.”
Lucian sighed. “Get up and we can continue this in the library.”
I got up slowly. “But you’re dead!”
“Yes, I know.”
“But you’re here! And young!”
“I’m here, yes, but I’m dead, and I’m a ghost.”
I was on my feet now and looking at him. “But I can see you!”
“Try touching me.”
I reached out had tried to put my hand on his chest, only to have my hand pass through his body. I pulled my hand back and tried again, with the same result. I pulled my hand and looked at it. “I must be dreaming,” I muttered
Sharp pain lanced through my left calf as if someone had pressed a nail against it. I yelped and hopped back.
Lucian looked down. “That wasn’t very nice, Cachmawri,” he said in a disapproving tone.
“We don’t have time for him to work through his disbelief,” the cat replied, walking past me and into the library. “There’s a lot he needs to know and only a little time to explain it in.”
Lucian nodded. “He’s right. We need to move this along.”
I walked into the library. Cach was sitting on a chair. He raised a paw and pointed at a nearby chair. “Sit.”
Lucian walked over to stand near the fireplace. He stared into the fire for a few seconds. “Roger,” he said. “Have you ever thought about our last name?”
“Merlin?” I shrugged. “I got teased about it for a few years, but no, not really.”
“What would you say if I told you that Merlin of the Arthurian legends was a real person, and you are his decedent?”
I blinked at him. “Okay.”
“You accept that?”
“I’m talking to a ghost and a cat and not freaking out.”
Lucian smiled, making him look younger. “Good.” He looked over at Cachmawri. “This might work.”
“You’ve only started,” Cachmawri replied. “We’ll see if he remains calm.”
Lucian nodded, then looked back at me. “But there’s more. Not only you are Merlin’s decedent, you are his heir to his position.”
“Heir to what?” I asked.
“The position of Merlin’s Heir,” Cachmawri replied.
“Okay,” I said, looking from cat to ghost and back again. “Which means what?”
“Which means you’re a wizard,” Lucian replied.
“A wizard?” I said, leaning forward. “As in magic?”
“Yes,” Lucian said.
“Real magic and not some sort of stage show?”
“Like Gandalf, Harry Potter, Harry Dresden—”
“Yes!” Cachmawri snapped in annoyance.
“Cachmawri,” Lucian said gently. Then to me, he said, “Yes, Roger. Sixty-one generations of Merlins have followed the original in defending this world against those who seek humanity’s destruction.”
“Demons, for one,” Cachmawri said.
“Demons?” I asked. “Real demons?”
“Demons are real, Roger,” Lucian said. “In fact, if you think of all the legendary creatures you’ve read or heard about in documentaries, there’s a grain of truth to most of them.”
“And I have to fight them?”
"No,” Cachmawri said. ‘Most of the time, it acting as an intermediary between humanity and parabeings.”
“The general term for those creatures that don’t fit into normal classification,” Lucian said.
“The person who is Merlin’s Heir is one of the few humans parabeings take seriously,” Cachmawri said. “Sometimes the Heir has to protect humanity from the parabeings, other times, the Heir has to protect the parabeings from humanity. In addition, the Heir watches for magic misuse on both sides.”
I held up my hands and stood. “Wait a minute!” I said, “Give me a few minutes to process this!” I began walking up and down. “You want me to become the new Merlin’s Heir, right?”
“Yes,” Lucian said.
“And you’re a wizard, right?”
“I was a wizard. Now, I’m a ghost.”
“So, I’m a wizard too, right?”
“You have the ability.”
“Why me? Why not one of my uncles or my sister or brother?”
“Because you’re the only one in two generations of Merlins that has a Magus Sensus.”
I stopped and looked at him. “A what?”
“Magus Sensus,” Cachmawri said. “Latin for ‘Magical Sense.’ It means you have the ability to sense and tap into the energy necessary for magic.”
“The energy all around us. For example, Lumen Globus.”
A sphere of light the size of a softball appeared above Cachmawri’s head. It glowed with about the same light as a flashlight. “There is energy all around us, Roger,” Cachmawri said. “Different types, but all can be tapped for different spells. For example this glow globe is using the energy from the light on the table back there. Now watch what happens when I use another form of energy. Ingnus Globus.”
The ball of light suddenly became a ball of fire, and even from several feet away I could feel the heat It floated there like a miniature sun. “Dispellere,” Cachmawri said and the fireball vanished.
“Anyone with a strong enough Magus Sensus can use magic,” Lucian said. “The problem is that only six hundred thousand people world-wide have even the rudimentary sense, and of that number, maybe six thousand people have a strong enough Magus Sensus to use magic.”
“And I’m one of those six thousand?”
Lucian nodded. “The Merlin line has always had strong wizards through the centuries.”
“If I have this Magus Sensus, why didn't I know about before this?”
“When you were a newborn, I set up blocks around your Magus Sensus.”
“I think I remember that,” I said. I held up my hand with the ring. “When I put on this ring, I had a flash of memory. You were leaning over me in the maternity ward.”
Lucian nodded. “The ring is the symbol of the position of Merlin’s Heir. It has been passed down through generations of Merlins.”
“So, what about this Magus Sensus? Is it dangerous?”
“Only to the untrained,” Cachmawri replied.
“The blocks prevent you from accessing your Magus Sensus unless you happen to be near a place of strong concentration of energy,” Lucian said, “like my tomb.”
“Your tomb,” I said.
Lucian nodded. “My tomb is surrounded by wards designed to prevent anyone from breaking into my tomb and disturbing my body. It was the energy fueling the wards that you used to send those thugs flying.”
“When I heard voices at your tomb, it was you?”
I began pacing again. “So, I can use magic, in order to be the protector of humanity against Parabeings and vice versa. I have this magical sense—”
“Magus Sensus,” Cachmawri said.
“Right,” I said. “Magus Sensi-thingie that allows me to feel and manipulate the energy around me and cast spells like a RPG wizard.”
“RPG?” Cachmawri asked.
“Role-playing game,” Lucian replied.
I stopped and looked at Lucian again. “So, why are you dead?”
“I was murdered.”
“Yes, shot, then fell. Why didn’t you defend yourself?”
Lucian scowled. “Because being a wizard doesn’t make you immune to bullets or grant you the ability to automatically detect a sniper. We can do things most humans only dream of, but we are still human.”
“Any idea who shot you?”
“No. I was shot in the back and had no time to do anything.”
“Why were you out there at night?”
Lucian became sober. “I made a mistake.”
“A mistake?” I asked.
He nodded. “There’s been a series of incidents, involving churches being broken into and desecrated and livestock missing.”
“Yes, I know about them. The sheriff thinks it’s kids fooling around with Satanism.”
“It’s much more than that,” Cachmawri said.
“Cachmawri’s right,” Lucian said. “I also thought it was kids fooling around, but I found sings that this was something much darker and serious.”
“What did you find?”
“Evidence of a sorcerer.”
I frowned. “Sorcerer?”
“There are two types of Magic users,” Cachmawri said. “Wizards and sorcerers.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Wizards use the energy around them for their magic,” Lucian said. “But sorcerers use unnatural energy for their spells.”
“Unnatural energy?” I asked.
“Sorcerers deal with demons to gain their power. They use demonic energy to fuel their spells. On the one hand, they don’t need to have a Magus Sensus to cast spells, and they can become dangerous in a matter of weeks or months. On the other hand—”
“They have to deal with demons,” I finished. “And I’m guessing demons don’t hand out that much power for free.”
“They don’t,” Cachmawri said.
I nodded. “So, there’s a demon-dealing sorcerer in the area.”
“Worse than that,” Lucian said. “There’s a demonic cult operating in the area.”
“A demonic cult?” I said.
Lucian took several steps away from the fireplace. “Yes, Roger. I should have seen the signs earlier, recognized them, but I allowed myself to be lulled into a false sense of security.”
“You can’t blame yourself.”
“Yes, I can. Once more, I should have seen it earlier because I’d seen the same signs back in the aftermath of World War Two.”
“I’m guessing you didn’t fight a normal war.”
“Not as you know it. What do you know of Nazi Occultism?”
“I know a few of the top leadership were obsessed with it. Heinrich Himmler comes to mind.”
Lucian nodded. “Himmler was obsessed with the occult, and he gathered experts together and began contacting several demon lords for aid and power.”
“He offer souls in return for the power,” Cachmawri said. “Innocent souls.”
“Himmler formed a department in the SS simply called Office 51, and placed the resources of the SS at their disposal. Office 51 handled all sorcerer activity, and ran their own concentration camp to supply both labor and souls for the demon lords. When word got out, it sent shockwaves through the magic and parabeing community. Some groups sealed themselves away, while others looked to join the Nazis. But most saw the danger for what it was.”
“The Allies gathered wizards and we fought the war on the mystical level,” Lucian said. “And we managed to disrupt most of their operations, including several last-ditch efforts that could have prolonged the war and turn it into a nightmare.
“Good for you,” I said. Cachmawri sighed.
After the war,” Lucian continued, “I spent five years hunting down remnants of Office 51, destroying or seizing objects and files from the survivors. Most of the Nazi sorcerers who went underground would set up in an area, slowly recruit followers, contact one of the demon lords and begin to build a base of power. Most moved too fast or overreached themselves and were destroyed. But a few managed to evade justice and went underground.”
“So you think that a Nazi demonic cult is operating here in Pilgrim’s Cove?”
“A demonic cult, almost certainly,” Cachmawri said.”There’s no evidence that there’s any Nazi influence.”
“Several objects from Office 51 were never recovered,” Lucian said. “They’re still out there and still dangerous in the hands of wrong people.”
“We’re getting sidetracked here,” I said. “Uncle Lucian, How bad can this demon cult be?”
“If they summon a demon, and the demon gains a foothold in this world? Bad, on a scale that would make World War Two look like a pillow fight.”
“In more ways than one,” Lucian said.
“If the Circle finds out about it, they’ll do anything to stop it.”
“Who’s the Circle?” I asked.
“The Excalibur Circle are the decedents of the original Knights of the Round Table,” Cachmawri said. “When it comes to things like demons and sorcerers, they are ruthless and tend to destroy everything in the zeal to hunt these people down.”
“Remember those fires out west last year? The one in which a dozen people were killed and an entire mountain town?”
“That was the Circle, hunting down and destroying a demon cult. The fire was set to destroy the evidence.”
“Wonderful,” I muttered. “Uncle Lucian, why were you out at Table Rock when you were murdered?”
“I was investigating the area because I found traces of a recent demonic ceremony,” Lucian said.
“Why here?” I asked.
“This area has several intersecting lay lines,” Cachmawri said. “The energy around here is much greater than in many other places.”
“Okay, fine,” I said and began pacing again. “What do you want from me?”
“Find the demonic cult and stop them,” Lucian said. “Find the person who murdered me. Become the new Merlin’s Heir.”
I stopped as my head began to throb. “Oh,” I said. “Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
“I don’t know anything about magic!”
“Cachmawri can teach you,” Lucian said. “he has been the mentor for fifteen generations of Merlin Heirs.”
I looked at the cat. “Fifteen generations?”
“I am much older than I look,” Cachmawri said.
“Five hundred years?”
The throbbing in my head got worse. I put my fingers on my temples and began massaging them. “I’m getting information overload.”
“We don’t have time to deal with your disbelief,” Cachmawri said, sounding annoyed.
“Which is why I included the stipulation that Roger spend the night alone,” Lucian said. “I know we couldn't expect him to digest everything quickly.”
The cat looked at the ghost. “This is going to take longer than one night.”
“We have several more hours before Charlie makes the second call. We’d better show him the Sanctum.”
“Are you sure?”
“We have to show him what Merlin’s Heir has to work with.”
Cachmawri sighed. “All right. Roger.”
I stopped rubbing my temples. “What?”
“I need you to open the Sanctum.”
I stared at him. “The what?”
The cat hopped off the chair. “Follow me.”
We went over to the bookcase to the right of the painting. Cachmawri sat in front of the painting, facing me. “Now,” he said, “place your left hand on the outside of the bookcase, about shoulder high.” I did so. Cachmawri stared at where my hand was. “Move your hand up two inches and toward you half an inch.”
I did so, and felt the wood under my hand give. “Don’t push it yet,” Cachmawri said. “Now, with your right hand, reach out to that red leather book on the fourth shelf, just above eye level.”
“Of Mice and Men?” I asked, reading the title off the book’s spine.
Place your hand on top of the book and pull it toward you at the same time pressing the button on the side of the bookshelf.”
I did as directed and I head a “click.” The entire bookcase swung away from the wall and to my right, leaving a dark space behind it. Cachmawri stood and walked into the darkness. “Follow me,” he said, his tone echoing. I glanced back at Lucian, who nodded silently. Taking a deep breath, I went into the darkness.