Thursday, September 12, 2013

Heeding the call - a fantasy novella

It's been a long time since I actually posted here, I have my reasons but I won't bore you with them right now. Instead take some time and read this fantasy novella I wrote as an entry to the Sword and Laser anthology competition. I didn't get my story accepted, but I still think it is good and maybe some of you will too. So sit back, relax and enjoy my original story!

Heeding the call
- an origin story

Tears were rolling down her cheeks. She was lost both physically and mentally and she didn't know how to become unlost. Everything around her was dark. It was cold and the wind was blowing. Her cloak was billowing around her and she had to clutch at it to keep warm. She had been such a fool running away like she had, but she didn't have any choice at all. Not really. She couldn't risk hurting her family. What if she ended up hurting her little brothers with her malady? No, she couldn't think about it. It would be better if she simply disappeared and left them with their parents. They would all be happier and safer without her. The symptoms of her illness had been getting more and more severe as of late and she knew she couldn't keep hiding them much longer. The spasms would come during the night, crippling and painful. They made her curl up in her bed while clutching her abdomen. She often had to bite her lip to keep from screaming. It was like she had a burning fire inside of her, coursing through her veins. She had nightmares of pulsing green eyes that haunted her. Some mornings when she woke up the sheets would be bathed in sweat and ripped as if some terrible beast had clawed at them. She would hear a voice in her head that whispered to her of secrets and fire. The voice never whispered horrible things, but it was urging her to go somewhere, somewhere she had never been. She kept seeing images of a house in her mind, flashes and details. She always saw the same grand old house made from stone, not notched lumber like she was used to. It was abandoned long ago and overgrown with ivy. Broken shards of glass from the windows and crumbling stone littered the grounds around it. Layers of dust could be seen on the inside. The visions came and went, more and more frequently over the past weeks. Slowly she had been feeling like she was loosing her grip on reality. She couldn't tell if the thoughts in her head were her own or belonging to the mysterious voice. Constantly hearing things had also made her jumpy. She had almost hit one of her brothers with a large wooden log once when he had tried to sneak up on her to scare her as a prank while she was chopping wood. She had screamed like a wild animal and had almost bashed his head in. He had cried then and she had dropped the log instantly to bend down and comfort him, but he had backed away from her before running of. She had scared him and it had hurt so badly, like someone had torn her heart out of her chest. That's why she had to run away. She couldn't trust herself around others, not unless she was able to cure this madness. She didn't think she would be able to though, she had known a man who heard voices in his head once. She had loved him and he had killed himself. She had seen his body swinging from the great pine tree that stood not far away from their hut. The entire village had seen it for that matter. He had been her husband, and a very troubled man. The voices in his head had driven him mad too, but his voices had been worse than hers. They had told him to murder her. To eat her flesh. Sometimes in his sleep he would speak with the voice of someone else. He would threaten her, lie to her and tell her of all the evil things he wanted to do to her. It had frightened her something fierce every time it happened. She had tried talking to her husband while he was sleep talking, but it was like talking to a stranger, someone she didn't know and who decidedly did not like her. Whenever she told him of the things he said in his sleep he would hug her and beg her forgiveness. She would always forgive him, because she knew that he was not himself whenever it happened. It didn't mean that she was not scared, but she tried very hard to hide it from him. Once, and only once the stranger had taken hold of him. He had drawn a knife and tried to kill her. He had managed to cut her arm when she had tried to get away from him. The sight of the blood streaming from the cut had brought her husband back to her though and he had fallen to the floor, burying his face in his hands. He had sobbed violently and she had knelt down beside him to comfort him even though she had been the one with the knife wound. In the end he hadn't been able to take it anymore. He had hung himself because he didn't want to hurt her. He would rather kill himself than harm his family. He hadn't left her any note, because he couldn't write or read, and neither could she. She hadn't needed a note to know, to understand why he had done it. She knew, and she had admired him for it. She didn't blame him for the choice he made, but she missed him terribly. Despite his illness he had been a good husband and life had been very empty after his passing. Had it not been for her parents and her siblings she might have hung herself as well. Her brothers had been too young to remember what had happened when her husband had killed himself so they did not understand her sadness. She had never told them about it either. They didn't need to be burdened with such a heavy and dark story. Now she almost wished she had hung herself. It would have been better to be dead than to be walking alone in the deep dark of night, freezing and wet and hungry with a strange voice in her head as the only thing to keep her company. Unfortunately she didn't have her husbands courage, so what other choice did she have. She pulled her cloak tighter around her shoulders and continued to walk, tears still streaming down her face. She had no idea of where she was, but somehow that didn't seem to matter anymore. Lost or not she was putting a greater distance between herself and her family with every step she took.

The sun was shining, after the darkness of the night it was almost blindingly bright as she pried her eyes open. It was cold despite the sunlight, her breath came out as little puffs of mist, and the ground felt hard and cold beneath her. Her clothes felt like the moisture had seeped through them, but she hoped that they would feel warmer and drier as soon as she got up and started moving. Last night felt more like the memory of a nightmare than reality. She remembered little of it. At some point she had been too tired and sleepy to keep going so she had huddled down at the foot of a large tree with her cloak wrapped around herself. She had fallen asleep almost instantaneously sinking into her nightmares once again. In the light of day the surrounding forest looked very different to her. If asked she wouldn't have known which way she came from or which way she should go. Her stomach was growling and she hadn't brought any food along for the journey. Food was scant enough at this time of year, and her family needed it more than she did. She wondered what they were doing now. The thought alone brought tears to her eyes. She blinked them away and tried to suppress the memory of their smiling faces, and warm embraces. If she thought about them too much her resolve might waver and she might turn back. Instead she got to her feet and started walking. It was better to occupy her mind, looking for food, berries or nuts or anything else that would be edible. She spent some time foraging the forest floor. She came across an area where big ripe blueberries were growing. She sat down among the berries and ate as much as she could stomach. Her fingers had turned a dark shade of pinkish purple before she finished. She gathered a few handfuls in the pocket of her apron before she got back up again, and tried to decide on a general direction she could follow. She wasn't sure why, but she felt herself moving towards the east. It was like some invisible hand was nudging her to go that way. “Yes, that way Hana, east is the right way” the now familiar voice in her head whispered. Up until now she had ignored it at every turn, but now that she was on her own and could not pose any harm to anyone but herself she didn't see much harm in indulging it this once. So she went east, deeper into the forest. She walked all that day and the next day, only stopping to rest or gather food and water. At night she would hear the noises of large animals in the distance. Wolves would howl and the sound of their cries would echo between the distant mountains. One night she actually climbed a tree to make sure she would be safe. She tried to sleep, but the constant fear of falling made that impossible. The nightly spasms were still there too of course, they hadn't changed and they made it hard for her to restore her strength and her mental faculties. The voice in her head was getting louder and louder. It was no longer a whisper, it spoke now. She could hear that it was the voice of a male, if it was an old or young voice she couldn't tell, but it was a pleasant voice. It was no longer as scary as it had been when it was only a whisper. She found that fact slightly strange, but her fatigued mind and body was not capable of caring about it overly much. Maybe it was less scary now because it seemed more real somehow? The voice itself was growing annoyingly chirpy, almost cheering her on. It beckoned her to keep going. She was so close now it kept telling her. She had no idea what it was she was close to, and if she was honest she didn't really care as long as she could rest easily for one night. Her feet were aching, and her legs were scraped from climbing through bushes and up and down hills. To sit inside with a warm fire and plenty to eat would be heavenly. The fifth day of her journey she came upon a small road or maybe it was a large path, she couldn't tell if there was any difference. It wound away in front of her like a brown ribbon amidst a sea of green There were signs of recent passage but it was obviously not a road that was much traveled. Since it seemed to continue more or less eastward and it also offered her an easier route to travel than the forest did she simply chose to follow it. Not having to struggle with difficult underbrush or branches slapping her in the face was like a blessing from above. She didn't even consider the possible threat of lurking bandits. This road had been out of use for a long time and bandits usually preyed where people traveled regularly, or so she had been told by a merchant once. The road seemed endless to Hana as she walked. There was no way of telling where it lead, but since she didn't have any particular place she needed to get to and because the voice in her head was quiet for the time being she simply soldiered on. When the night started to fall upon her once again she decided that she would stop and find a suitable tree to seek shelter under, but before she could even begin to look for one she was startled by a loud howl that ripped through the silent night. It was accompanied by several other howls, and they were terrifyingly close. Hana felt her heart start to beat furiously inside her chest, and sweat prickled up on her neck and hands. This was bad. She had no chance of outrunning a pack of wolves or fending one of for that matter. It wasn't full dark yet and she could see dark shadows moving amongst the trees. Some of those shadows stopped to regard her for a while. She could feel their eyes on her and she realized that she was holding her breath, afraid to move or make even the slightest of sounds. They had wolves in the woods near her home too, but they never came close to humans unless they were starving and were looking for food. She had never faced wolves in the middle of the wild and she only had a small knife in her belt. It was not a weapon, it was just for cutting pieces of meat or fruit and wouldn't help her much against a wild animal with fangs and claws. The longer she stood there the more she got the feeling that these were not ordinary wolves. They were bigger, and their eyes were brighter. Some of the wolves had emerged from the foliage, circling around her. She could hear low growling from some of them. They were great shaggy beasts, easily twice the size of the normal wolves back home. Their teeth were long and yellow and their clawed paws were quite large. She swallowed hard, trying to remember how to breathe. “Help” she muttered weakly to herself. Hana expected to be torn to pieces as soon as one of the wolves decided he had had enough of circling her body. When she heard the sudden unexpected sound of a blaring horn and of galloping hooves behind her the relief was so great she actually fainted on the spot. Had she been awake she would have seen a man in a cloak sitting astride a great horse charging into the pack of wolves. His horse came dangerously close to trampling her prone body, but deftly jumped over her and skidded to a halt in the middle of the path. The man atop it was brandishing a great burning torch in one hand and a long gleaming sword in the other. The wolves were furious, but shied away from the fire, they were deathly afraid of it and would not come near it. When they tried to snap at the horse's legs they quickly found that it was a bad idea as one of the wolves tasted the steel of the mans blade. It was not enough to kill it, not instantly at least. The injured wolf yelped and fell over in pain. The other wolves tried to get close to the horse a couple more times but to no avail, the horse kicked wildly at them and the torch was a constant threat. At last they gave up and retreated. The wolf that had been wounded was left behind, it whimpered pathetically where it lay. The man jumped down from the horse and approached the wolf. The torch he had put down on the ground close to Hana. The wolf growled at him as he got close, but the man did not react to it. Instead he looked at the wound in the faint light of the torch. It was too great, the wolf was dying slowly. He did not want to see it suffer so he raised his sword, then drove it deeply into the animals neck giving it a quick and clean death. After cleaning the blood of the great wolf from his blade the man turned around towards the fainted woman he had just saved. She was a small thing with dark blonde or pale brown wavy hair cropped to her shoulders, she was not a very beautiful girl, but pretty enough in a plain sort of way. She wore simple clothes so he thought she might be a peasant or a low born villager. The question he could not answer was why she was all alone in the middle of the Grey Forest at night. He would have to ask her that when she awoke. He picked her up and carried her to his horse where he slung her across it's back in front of his saddle before he himself climbed into it. Then he rode off in the same direction from whence he had come, further east along the same path Hana had followed all day.

Her mind was filled with howling wolves, they were chasing her and snapping at her feet. She was running out of breath and her chest burned, it would not be long until she would fall and they would be upon her. As she ran the howls of the wolves turned into roars, and the wolves had turned into dragons with sparkling green eyes. Their mouths were open and fire was brewing within. Right before the dragons were about to breathe their deadly fires down upon her she woke up with a start. Sitting up straight she found herself staring into a bright and cheerful camp fire. It was still dark, but she thought that it might be close to dawn. Next to the fire sat a man. His skin was fair, his hair was dark and wild reaching to right below his ears. She could see that he was slender, but strong. He wore sturdy clothes of good quality that were only slightly frayed and worn, and his skin was only lightly colored by the sun so he had probably never worked a field in his life. No, he was definitely not a farmer, he looked more like a fighting man. He was handsome, very handsome. That however did not make her less anxious. Pretty faces could hide ugly secrets. She gathered her cloak tightly around her and discovered that she had been wrapped in blankets. She looked at the stranger that was sitting across from her. She tried to say something, but she didn't know how to start, and so she sat their staring at him with her mouth hanging half open. It seemed like he understood that she was struggling with uncertainty and initiated the conversation instead. “Bad dreams?” he inquired one eyebrow raised. She nodded meekly. “Yes, very bad dreams.” She held her hands up against the fire to warm them, and also to have something else to focus on instead of the strangers face.”I hope this is not very rude to ask, but who are you and how did I get here .The last thing I remember is wolves and darkness and the sound of a horn.” The stranger grinned at her. “It is not rude at all, I am Aru. I am a traveling sell-sword and a minstrel and the horn you heard was mine. I had just set up camp for the night when I thought I heard something and decided to investigate. I saw you standing there surrounded by the beasts and thought that it would be a shame to let a pretty girl go to waste like that. I blew the horn to distract them and then I charged. You probably fainted from fright so I took you back to my camp and made sure you wouldn't get cold while you were unconscious.” He told the story with a smug look on his face, like rescuing damsels in distress was a simple task for a man like him. Hana screwed up her face at that, she wasn't sure she liked him at all. Aru didn't seem to have noticed her dislike, he was too busy studying her face. Now that she was awake Aru could see that her eyes were almost as blue as the sky above on a sunny day. Maybe she wasn't as plain as he had originally thought, or maybe it was just her personality that made her seem more attractive. He wasn't sure. Hana at least had the manners to thank him for his help.”Thank you Aru, I owe you my life.” Aru waved his hand at her, pretending to not care about it. “Never mind it. I was happy to help. I'm sure you would have done the same if you were in my stead.” Hana smiled at him, not so sure she would have. She was after all going insane, mad people weren't necessarily the most reliable of saviors. She said nothing of it though. Aru continued to talk however. “If you don't mind, I would very much like to know your name miss, and your reasons for being all alone in the middle of the Grey Forest at night.” She bit her lip, not knowing what to say. Thinking about why she was here made her want to cry. Tears were pressing their way out of her eyes, but she pushed them back. She would not cry, not in front of this stranger. With a gargantuan effort she steadied her voice and said “My name is Hana, and, and I' ran away from home. I have been walking for days with no idea of where I was. To me this forest is all just a world of green.” His eyebrows creased, and he looked at her inquiringly. “Why did you run away?” She tried to speak, to say anything but the words wouldn't come. They had been blocked by a large hard lump that had lodged itself in her throat. The tears came unbidden to her eyes again, and she choked on them before she began to sob. She was so tired, and she had kept her dark secret hidden for so long. She couldn't take it any longer. “I had to run away, I had no choice. I am loosing my mind! I hear a voice in my head, it bids me do things and whispers secrets to me. I have nightmares, horrible nightmares where green eyes and fire surrounds me and while I dream I thrash like an animal and rip the sheets, and I have no idea how it happens. I'm turning into a monster just like my husband!” The last sentence came out as a miserable wail. Once she had started to share her troubles she seemed to be unable to stop. It felt so good to confess her fears to another human being. If he left her she wouldn't blame him at all, at least she had been able to tell someone about it. It was a terribly selfish thing to do, but she didn't care. She didn't know what she had expected, but she had not expected the gentle touch of a sympathetic calloused hand on her shoulder. “There there, I am sure it is not all that bad” Aru said somewhat awkwardly. His voice betrayed how utterly uncomfortable he was. It was clear that he was not used to wailing women worrying about their sanity, then again who would be? He was comforting her the way one would do a crying child. His awkward sympathy and clear discomfort was almost funny, and she could not help but laugh a little. This seemed to confuse him even further. “Please, forgive me! I didn't mean to burden you like this. I wasn't going to say anything about it really. I just couldn't help myself, and here you sit trying to comfort a mad stranger..I just had to laugh.” He smiled at her then and then he too laughed, albeit a little nervously. They sat in silence for a long time after that, while the sky grew lighter as the dawn broke and the sun started creeping over the horizon. “Where are you going to go now?” he asked her. Hana thought about it for a little while. “I don't know, I only know I have to go east. There is a place not far from here that I need to find. At least that's what the voice keeps telling me. It's quite persistent.” she said hesitantly and sighed. “I suppose I have to get going. I don't want to be a bother to you anymore.” As she got to her feet so too did Aru. He held his hands out to stop her. “I can't possibly let you wander of on your own like this. You don't have any food or a horse, and you are clearly not well. Let me take you where you need to go at least, it is not an inconvenience I promise it. I was going east myself.” He didn't really know why he was so intent on helping her, but he felt responsible for her somehow, having saved her life and all that. He was also quite curious about what mysterious thing it was the alleged voice was guiding her towards.

They had been traveling together for several hours when they glimpsed a tall stone tower in the distance. The voice in Hana's head became extremely excited at the sight of it. “There, go there! You are near. Hurry to the manse!” Hana drew in her breath sharply, which Aru noticed. “What is it?” Hana pointed at the spire. “That is where I am going.” Aru looked at the tower and then back at her.”Alright, then that is where we are going.” She nodded tentatively. It wasn't that she didn't appreciate Aru's offer to help her on her way, but she didn't know if she could trust him. He had saved her life sure, and he had not claimed any reward for it, but she kept thinking that there must be something else than valor motivating him. She had seen him casting appraising glances her way back at the camp. Most sell-swords she had met were rough men with basic manners and basic appetites. Why would he be an exception to the rule. So far he hadn't done or said anything inappropriate, in fact he had said precious little at all. She didn't think she would share a whole lot about herself to a mentally ill person she had just met either, so she didn't blame him. They were both sitting on top of Aru's horse. She was sitting in front of him, desperately clinging to the saddle. When Aru spurred his horse on towards the tower, Hana tightened her grip on the saddle horn as the horse started moving at a greater pace. She was definitely not used to riding yet and having a man this close to her again was a strange sensation. She could feel his breath on her neck now and then. It gave her goosebumps and she almost felt guilty for liking the press of his body against hers. She was a widow after all. It felt unseemly even for a young widow to feel like this, but she still did.

They cleared a bend in the road and in front of them a large mansion revealed itself almost hidden amongst trees and ivy. It was surrounded by a tall stone wall, and wrought iron gates were set into it. They were rusty and one of them had fallen almost all the way of it's hinges. The windows were all dark and most of them were missing panels of glass. Here and there pieces of the building and the wall had tumbled to the ground and were littering the grounds around the house. The grass in what had at some point probably been a pristine garden had grown tall and wild. Finding this house was like walking into a dream. It looked just like her visions had showed her, only it was bigger than she had imagined it to be. To her it looked almost like a castle. The tower they had seen was the tallest part of the building and was situated on the left side of the house farthest away from them. It was so strange. The house was real! It hadn't been a figment of her imagination. Did that mean that she wasn't going insane after all? If this was true then what of all her terrible nightmares? She shuddered and Aru asked “Is something wrong?”
“I have seen this place before in my dreams and in visions.”
“That can't be true, I mean unless you are a seer or something of the sort.”
Hana shook her head. “I can assure you that I am not a seer or a witch or a sorceress, I just know that I have seen this place before. It's calling to me, or something inside it is calling to me, I don't know which it is. I just know I have to go there!” Her eyes had taken on a glazed distant look and her words trailed away. The voice within her head had grown so strong and urgent, it was as if a choir was chanting inside her mind, blocking out everything but the house itself and the strange beckoning from within it. She scrambled down from the horse frantically and started running towards the house. Before Aru could dismount and tie up his horse she had disappeared through the rusted gates and was halfway to the main door of the sprawling mansion. Upon reaching the door she grabbed the handle and yanked it hard. The door flew open and then fell of it's frame slamming loudly as it hit the ground next to her. She paid the door no notice. She felt delirious as she sprinted past it and into the gloom of a long forgotten hall. She had started to talk to herself, but the words were not hers. ?Up the stairs, follow the hallway, you are near, do you feel it?? She felt it, something unexplainable that was pulling her onward. Her feet never wavered for they knew exactly where they were going. She thought she could vaguely hear someone calling her name in the distance but it didn't matter. All that mattered was the voice. She turned a corner and at the end of the hallway she was following there was an open doorway. She knew instantly that this was where she was meant to go. A faint glowing light that looked almost green was pulsing beyond it. She started running again and almost fell as she skidded to a halt inside an old room. It was large, maybe it had been a study of some sort or a dining hall. There was little evidence to support either theory. The only things in the room was a stone chair on which sat a decomposed and dusty skeleton wearing moldy robes that had in their day been made from the finest velvets. Had she not been completely distracted by the delirium of her mind the sight of it would have shocked and repulsed her greatly. The only thing she cared about right now however was the source of the green glow. It was coming from an object, a tiny clear gemstone resting on a stone pillar or stand of some kind that was covered with a moth eaten piece of cloth. The stand was situated at the far side of the room. She walked towards it with slow sure steps. The voice in her head spoke to her once more. ?This is what you have come for, you must take the stone and swallow it! It is the only way to release the spirit within. There is no time to explain it any further, quickly now before he wakes!? In her trance Hana could do nothing but obey the voice. She reached out with a tanned hand, picked up the gem and placed it in her mouth. A tiny part of her that was still herself screamed that this was madness, but the other voice quickly drowned it out. She swallowed and felt the stone glide down her throat, scraping it raw. Once inside her the gem blazed to life. It felt like her insides were on fire, just like in her nightly spasms. She clutched her stomach and chest in agony. Was she going to die now? The pain she had experienced earlier was as nothing compared to this. She doubled over as the sensation spread to her arms and legs and her head. It forced her to her knees and further down until she was reduced to crawling on the floor. The world was on fire around her it seemed. Her mind swam with the burning image of green eyes the color of emeralds and the now familiar voice thundered in her head. “I am the great dragon Velheran, and you are my mortal instrument, the only soul to heed my calling in the lapse of thousands of years. Long has my essence been imprisoned in this stone by the sorcerer to which this place once belonged, but now you have broken my prison and for that I am forever thankful towards you human. Now my spirit can find rest at last. As a token for your service I give you what little remains of my once vast powers. May they serve you better than they have served me.” With that the voice faded and the world around her slowly returned back to normal leaving her on the cold floor heaving for her breath. The presence of the voice was gone making her head feel almost empty. She could feel a tingling sensation that was running through her entire body however. She could also hear footsteps scuffling across the floor near to her and she lifted her head thinking that it was Aru finally catching up to her. It was not. The skeleton in it's moldy robes had risen from the stone chair and was slowly shambling towards her. It's eyes and mouth and nose were missing, but she could swear that it looked sentient. A hissing voice emanated from the empty husk and she could feel some dark power building in the room. “You dare destroy what is mine, you insignificant little worm! I don't know what brought you here, but I am going to destroy you and then I am going to paint the walls with your blood as a warning to others who might be foolish enough to enter!” Hana was completely baffled for a split second and then she screamed, completely struck with horror. The undead skeleton grabbed her arm and yanked her to her feet. The touch of it's bony fingers hurt and sent a dirty slimy sensation through her. At that moment Aru came crashing into the room with his sword drawn. He had been looking for her everywhere but had not been able to find her before he had heard her scream. As he laid his eyes upon the skeletal abomination he recoiled in fear, but quickly gathered his wits when he saw that it had gotten a hold of Hana. He bellowed and charged, slashing his sword down intending to crush the skull of his opponent. The skeletal creature simply flicked it's hand in his direction and Aru was sent flying through the room. He slammed into a wall and tumbled unconsciously to the ground. His sword skittering across the floor. The skeleton then returned his attention to Hana once more. Twisting her wrist until she thought it would snap. She screamed in pain and it looked to her like the skeleton was smiling. How was this possible, magic like this didn't exist. It belonged in fairy tales and legends they weren't supposed to be true! She was scared, but she was getting angry too. The last few days had seen her beaten down, scared, starving and alone. She had been a victim to her imagined disease for so long, too long. She refused to remain a victim. If this vile thing intended to kill her she would fight it until her last breath. Her chances were minimal,in fact they were none existent, but she would not lie down to die. Not now when she had finally reclaimed her lost sanity. On pure impulse she stretched out her free hand and grabbed the underside of the skeletons jaw and then she yanked at it as hard as she could. With a dry tearing sound the bone and remaining ligaments snapped and the jaw came flying off. Absolutely shocked she looked at her own hand as it dropped the remains of the jaw to the ground. Where had that strange power come from?! She had no time to think about it though, as the skeleton roared wildly in rage. It had let go of her arm and she could almost feel the dark magic the undead sorcerer was about to unleash upon her as he started chanting. There was nothing else to do but try to interrupt the spell. She gathered her courage and then she ran straight into the sorcerer, knocking both him and herself to the ground in a tangle of arms and legs and dust. The skeleton roared once more while it clawed after her face. She fended it off to the best of her ability, but somehow it managed to wrap it's hands around her neck. It was attempting to squeeze the life out of her. The enormous pressure cut of her oxygen supply quite effectively and she could feel a pressure building followed by a lightheaded sensation. Her eyes were bulging from their sockets and her face was turning red. Her eyes started rolling and she felt herself losing consciousness. She struggled against it and struck her hands against the skeletons chest. Sparks suddenly flew from her fingers followed by long twisting tendrils of green energy. They crackled and spat and danced around the skeletal figure forcing him to loosen his grip on her throat. The air smelled of burning flesh and fabric. It was enough to make her want to gag, but she didn't dare take her focus of the magic flowing from her hands. The undead sorcerer was writhing below her violently. Smoke was rising from him and she could see that the animated corpse had started to disintegrate. Bits and pieces kept falling of it and vanishing in small puffs of green sparks. The skeleton finally let out an almost human wail of pain and bitter disappointment before the rest of it's remains simultaneously exploded into a million little green embers that danced through the room. She was left sitting on her knees all alone surrounded by fading green embers. She heaved for breath and a fatigue like she had never felt before washed over her. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she fell to the ground.

She awoke to the sound of crackling flames like she had done once before and for a moment she thought she might have been dreaming, but this time it was different. It was the middle of the day, and she could hear birds chirping in nearby trees. Aru was sitting next to the fire, roasting some rabbit on a spit. When he saw that she was awake he scooted closer to her. “Good, you are awake. I thought you might not make it.” She looked questioningly at him. “What happened? Where are we?”
”Not far from that evil place. I came to my senses as darkness started to fall and I saw you slumped over on the floor. I thought you were dead.” A look of shame came upon his face. The fact that he had been knocked about like a rag doll unable to help seemed to have been a very humbling experience for him. “You should see yourself, you're covered in scratches and bruises, especially around your neck.” He shook his head and continued. “I have no idea what happened but it seems that shambling horror has vanished. I searched the grounds after I carried you outside, but saw no trace of it.?”
“You won't find any trace of it either” she said. Her memory returning to her rapidly. “I destroyed it.” Aru's eyes widened. “How?!” She creased her eyebrows as she tried to gather all the loose ends in her memory and then she described to him what had happened when she swallowed the gemstone, and the following battle with the undead skeleton sorcerer she had inadvertently raised from it's slumber. Aru whistled, looking incredulous. Had he not witnessed the skeleton with his own eyes he would probably not have believed her at all.
He was silent for a while, looking like he was trying to find something appropriate to say. When he finally spoke he said “There's something else you need to know. You, erhm, well you look very different.”
“Different how?”
Aru didn't say anything, he just handed her a small steel mirror. She gazed into it and almost dropped it in pure shock. Her hair had gone a pale pale green, it was almost white. Her eyes too had turned green, emerald green like the eyes of the dragon. She held a shaking hand up to her mouth and looked at him with disbelief clearly written on her face. She didn't know how to react to the unexpected change at all. Aru thought she might be unhappy and tried to comfort her. “It is not so bad. I quite like it actually. It makes you look mysterious and exotic.” She shook her head slowly. “It is going to take some time to get used to I think.” She stared at herself in the mirror once more, unable to speak for some time. Aru smiled and said “well, at least we know one thing. You're not out of your mind.” She beamed brightly at him then. That much was true, the voice was gone now and there was no tugging in her to go anywhere in particular or do anything at all. The dragon was gone, it's spirit had moved on to some other existence she guessed and had left her with what it considered to be grand gifts. She could still feel a faint tingling sensation coursing through her body. The only pain she could feel was the soreness of her muscles and the bruises on her body. The joy of being freed however was quickly replaced by a depressing thought. There was no way she could return to her family like this. They would not understand, and she was not entirely certain that she wanted to go back to all the memories of her past life that haunted her old home. “So what happens now?” she asked Aru in a careful and uncertain tone. She fully expected him to leave and go about his own business now that she was well again and this strange business was over. He shrugged and sighed. “I'm not sure, I simply go where there is money to be made. I heard rumors of a struggle between some lords further east. That is where I was going before I met you.” Hana nodded understandingly. “So many things have changed. I can't go back home and I have nowhere else to go. You are the only one I know outside the village. Would it be possible to go with you, at least to the next village you come upon?” He smiled mischievously. ?I wouldn't mind some company. It is a long way to where I am going.? She smiled too, she was actually starting to like Aru's easygoing and confident nature, nothing seemed to bother him for long. It would be nice to have such a friend by her side as she began to discover a new life, a new world and her new powers. “Alright, I will go with you, and we'll see what the future might hold.” Aru smiled then and they shook on it. They had some of the roasted rabbit that Aru had prepared. Hana could not remember ever having a better meal and felt her spirits slowly being restored. After filling their stomachs they packed up their improvised camp and headed out into the surrounding forest, striking east once more. Hana contemplated to herself that it was quite exciting not knowing what might await over the next hill top. She was done being the unhappy widow, she was free now to be whoever she wanted to be.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Hitchikers guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - Book Review

I have been a fan of the whole hitchiker franchise for quite some time, I've watched the episodes from the old television show and also the rebooted movie version. I just find the whimsicalness of it all endlessly amusing. I had not however read any of the books, until now that is!

I figured I had to start at some point and since this year is my official reading year now was as good a time as any. I decided to read the first book "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and then see how I liked it before purchasing all the other books as well. I was not disappointed I can say as much already. As always the book is better than the film. Although I have to say that the TV - show and the movie is quite charming you feel even closer to poor Arthur Dent as he is tossed around the universe against his will when you read the book.

Most of you probably know thew story of the book already or at least the basic concept so I won't bother lecturing you on it, because honestly I don't think any rendition of the book that I give you will be even remotely close to being as funny as Douglas Adams himself. I often found myself giggling out loud whilst reading this book, and had to read certain sections of it out loud to my husband so he would understand why I was giggling like a maniac next to him in bed. He thought it was funny but not as hilarious as I did. Now quite often I find this to be the case when it comes my sense of humor and that of my husband. He quite stubbornly insists that I am qoute:

A bloody hippie living inside her own bubbleworld filled with unicorns and flowers and peace on earth

From this you can pretty much derive that I am a bit naive and childish at heart. Maybe that is why the quirkiness of Douglas Adams appeals to me so much. I still have that sense of wonder every now and then, and I also love funny words, puns and sarcasm, and Hitchikers Guide is full of it. Which I am sure other connoisseurs of the works of Mr. Adams will attest to. My husband on the other hand is a pragmatic and slightly cynical soul and therefore I don't think he was able to feel as entertained by the book as I was. He did enjoy it though, don't get me wrong. I am simply stating that I think this book is best suited for those who are still a bit childish at heart like I am. It's just a theory though, I might be wrong.

Anyway getting on to the point. I loved loved loved the book, it was so much fun to read and it didn't take long at all (it's not a very long book either really). I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys sarcasm, puns, funny words, absurdity in abundance and a general randomness. It's a true delight.

(c) Anita K. Olsen Støbakk

Remember your towels!

Cheers Mateys,
Anita, the literary pirate

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dripping, drowning - Original poem and illustration

After writing Sanatorium of the dead I didn't quite feel finished with the whole blood and gore scenario, I'm in a grim mood these days. I don't mind  though because at least it makes me creative. I have no idea why that is, but there it is...could I be more of an artistic cliché?

Anyway I made a bloody/vampire illustration inspired by "Sanatorium of the dead", and the illustration in turn inspired me to write a poem. Don't you just love that artistic snowball effect when one piece of art inspires another? I know I do!

So here it is, the poem and the illustration!

I do have to mention that most of my poems are not autobiographical, they are more like short stories, really short flash fiction if you will, or musical songs.

Words and artwork (c) Anita K. Olsen Støbakk

Dripping, Drowning

My lips they drip,but is it bile or is it blood?
I cannot close them
cannot stop the flood.
I'm spilling over on the floor
there are pools at my feet
does my body truly contain more?

I'm drowning in myself
drowning in myself

My heart still beats,
every beat is one step closer to killing me!
I want to stop it
want the gods to hear my plea.
but it's too late to ask for salvation
I'm a lost and wayward girl,
the architect of my own damnation

I'm loosing against myself
loosing against myself

I need help


Cheers Mateys!
Anita, the literary pirate

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Pirate Princess and the Mysterious Map - The Audio version

This is the podcasted version of my quirky little children's story for all of you out there who prefer listening to books and stories ;)


Podcast Powered By Podbean

If you're having problems playing the audio here you can also listen to it on my podcast channel at

You can also read the story for yourself Here!

Cheers Mateys!
Anita, the literary Pirate

The Pirate Princess and the Mysterious Map - A children's story

The Pirate Princess and the Mysterious Map
by Anita K. Olsen Støbakk
You can listen to the audio version here!

The pirate princess also known as Abigail to people who care about names sails the seven seas with her trusty crew and her faithful friend Captain Crow. They sail on a ship called the "Jolly Robber" and have exciting adventures all over the world. The pirate princess is a tough little thing with flaming red hair and a shiny saber. she uses it to defeat evil monsters and cut tough pieces of cheese with. Captain Crow is a bird of quality and he lost one of his legs in a very unfortunate incident with an angry crab. He doesn't mind the loss of the leg much. Who needs legs when you can fly?

One day the pirate princess was standing on the deck of her ship looking through her spyglass searching the horizon for whatever it is pirates look for when they are looking through spyglasses, when she suddenly spotted something floating in the water. It was a message in a bottle! She commanded her first mate to steer the ship towards the floating mystery and quickly went to retrieve her fishing rod. She threw out the fishing line with expert technique and managed to fish the bottle out of the water with little effort. She yanked the cork of the bottle as soon as it landed in her hands and shook out the piece of paper that lay inside it.
"Shiver me timbers, It's a treasure map!" She exclaimed.
The paper showed a cartograph of an island with a big cave and a big red "X" marking the spot where the treasure was supposedly buried. Abigail and Captain Crow looked at each other and knew they were thinking the same thing. "We're going treasure hunting mateys, all hands on deck!" they shouted in unison.

They sailed for days through sunshine and storms before finally reaching the island that was pictured on the map. Captain Crow had become quite sea sick during the journey and was terribly relieved to see land again. The island itself was surrounded by jagged rocks and reefs, and the cave where the treasure could be found gaped into the water and was shaped kind of like the jaws of a shark. If you squinted a bit and tilted your head to the left. They couldn't sail the ship in to shore because it would be smashed into pieces on the sharp rocks. So the pirate princess and Captain Crow took a little dinghy and rowed it to shore. The rest of the crew stayed aboard The Jolly Robber to protect the ship. Well that's what they said, but the princess and Captain Crow had the feeling that they were just too scared to enter the dark cave. "We'll show them" she muttered to the crow.

They tied the dinghy to a rock outside the cave, lit a lantern and began to explore it. They had ventured quite a bit into the cave when they suddenly heard some very strange noises. They heard sloshing, wet sounds coupled together clinking and clanging and slithering. They followed a wide snaking tunnel trying to figure out where the noises were coming from and as they rounded a corner they could see a flickering light at the end of it. The pirate princess and Captain Crow looked at each other with nervous glances. What if there was a dangerous hideous monster at the end of the tunnel? The pirate princess was getting quite scared and it felt like ice cubes were dancing a rambunctious tango down her spine. She almost turned to run away, but changed her mind. She was the pirate princess after all, nothing was going to scare her, especially not when treasure was involved! She drew her saber and stormed into the light. Nothing could have prepared her for what she saw next! 
A giant squid was in the middle of pouring himself a cup of tea and in front of him there was small dainty table covered with a frilly pink table cloth. On it she could see a delicate assortment of cakes and biscuits and tea cups. The princess was stunned and speechless, she lowered her saber and gaped at the giant squid. It smiled at her, or at least it looked like it was smiling and said "Welcome little pirate girl, do sit down, have some tea and biscuits won't you?" In lack of any better ideas the pirate princess sheathed her sword and sat down by the little table. Accepting the tea cup that was being offered to her. "I hope you won't be too disappointed when I tell you that there isn't any treasure here" the squid said. the pirate princess wrinkled her brow "why would I find a map in a bottle saying that there was one then?"The giant squid shrugged, or it would have shrugged if it had had any shoulders.
"It gets quite lonely in these caves and I didn't think anybody would come if I wrote a letter saying - giant squid in scary cave, looking for company!" She had to admit that he was right, it didn't sound very tempting. She was silent for a little while before saying "I'm glad I came though, these cakes are delicious and I don't find you scary at all."

(c)Illustration by Anita K. Olsen Støbakk

So the princess and Captain Crow drank tea, ate biscuits and had wonderful conversations about cooking recipes, adventures and treasure with the giant squid. In fact they talked for so long that it had become night outside the cave and the princess was afraid that the crew might be getting awfully worried. She and Captain Crow had to bid the squid farewell and leave, but they promised to return soon for more tea and cakes. "It's a pity that we didn't find any treasure" said Captain Crow as they began to row back to the ship. The pirate princess smiled and said "We may not have found gold and diamonds, but we did find a new friend. I think that's a pretty great treasure don't you?" Captain Crow had to agree.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Final Warden by Thomas Cardin - Book Review

Tally ho mateys! I am back with a new book review and this time I'm reviewing "The Final Warden" by Thomas Cardin which is a self-published fantasy book. It is actually the first self - published book I've ever read because frankly I find that I'm quite skeptical to literature that hasn't been through the classical publishing process with several edits and all that jazz. Don't get me wrong I know that there is a lot of quality stuff out there in the self-publishing world, but there is a lot of trash out there too. I digress, over to the book at hand!

Cover art for the book

I really enjoyed the overall story and a lot of the concepts in this book . The whole idea of an unexpected hero appeals to me, maybe because I've been an underdog and have felt a little lost all my life despite my intelligence and my drive and so I feel I can identify myself with the main characters in such story lines. I also liked how the Dwarves were able to communicate with the spirit of the world amongst other things.
The main character Lorace doesn't know who he upon waking up on a strange shore although we as readers get a hint as to who he really is in a previous chapter. He is interesting and I felt empathy for him, and I found myself wanting to find out what happens to him as he gets tangled into politics and heroics. I will probably read the rest of the books in this series too, although I don't know when.

However, because there is an however sadly enough.There were things that brought my experience of this book down. I felt like the story rushed ahead a lot like the author was in a rush to get to the juicy parts of the story. I really just felt like there was a lack of detail and in depth when it came to interactions between some of the characters. Cardin could have slowed down the pace a little bit, but of course that is just my own personal opinion.

There were also quite a few grammatical errors that kept popping up unfortunately, and if you know me you will know that it one of my pet peeves. It really grinds my gears and totally ruins my reading experience so it took a while before I was able to look past it and concentrate on the story that was being told.

I also think that chapter 1 and 2 might deserve to be slightly re-written or at least edited a little as I found them a bit difficult to get through because the language was a bit jumbled and messy.

The conclusion is that the book is worth reading, and deserves a fair chance. The passion of the author is very evident as you read through it and that alone makes it worth the while even though it was a somewhat mixed experience.

(c) Anita K. Olsen Støbakk

Cheers Mateys!
Anita, The Literary Pirate.

New Blog Header!

Yeah, well so I guess the heading says it all. I designed and drew a new unique and slightly spunkier header for the blog. I hope you like it! I think it is important to have something that sets you apart from the vast ocean of literary blogs out there and what better way of doing that than personalizing the blog with my own art!

(c) Anita K. Olsen Støbakk

On a different note here's an update on how the reading prosject is going so far.

Basically it all went great until April hit and everything came to a screeching halt. I got diagnosed with anxiety and started taking meds to help me with the symptoms and the stressful feelings I was dealing with all the time. Let's just say that getting used to these meds was quite the ordeal and has effectively put me out of commission as far as reading goes because I'm having trouble focusing. Hopefully I'll be back on track soon, and if I'm not I'll just have to convince myself that it's OK even though the perfectionist inside me is screaming and banging her head against a hard surface at the mere though of it....which is probably one of the reasons why I'm medicated in the first place. I suffer from the good girl issue, I set to high expectations to myself and every time I fail or convince myself that I'm doing something wrong I will obsess over it and sometimes it leads to anxiety attacks. Have no fear dear readers, I am currently going to cognitive therapy so I'll be ship shape again!

Keep your good eyes peeled through your looking glasses for the next upcoming book review!

Cheers mateys!
Anita, the literary pirate.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

On/Off - Some new pirate poetry

Well as some of my followers might know I have recently joined the masses of mentally plagued and medicated little girls. Therefore I have not been capable of reading or writing much as of late. Don't feel sad however, I'm still here and today I have a delectable little treat for all of you. It is a brand spanking new poem I have written that I hope you will enjoy. Three guesses what it's about? Seriously what do you think is the intent behind my words?

Leave your cleverly crafted theories in the comment section!


I can be charming like Cleopatra
brave like Joan of Arc
passionate like Marie Curie
and my smile can break your heart

And as if that was not enough
there are a million things you
still don't know about me..yes
I'm a tasty little cream puff
made up of all the right stuff

I can be artistic like Marie Antoinette
free like Amelia Earhart
dedicated like Florence Nightingale
my personality is state of the art

Oh, and did I mention my
consuming mental illness?
I'm sorry dear was that too much
forget my indiscretion we wouldn't
want you to get the wrong impression...

(c) Anita K. Olsen Stoebakk

Cheers mateys,
Anita, the literary pirate.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest - Book review

I wasn't really sure if I would like Boneshaker when I first started the book. I had never read anything by Cherie Priest before and I had not read a proper Steampunk novel before either (even though I love Steampunk in general). I'm usually more into classic epic fantasy writers like David Eddings, Terry Brooks and Raymond E. Feist. I very often have a problem with more modern authors, what can I say, I'm an old fashioned gal...well, sort of.

So with a skeptical mind I delved into the story of Briar Wilkes and her son Zeke and was pleasantly surprised. The concept of the blight gas-affected and walled in town of Seattle sets a grim and exciting backdrop for the adventure. Briar lives a hard life hardly getting by with the money she earns from her job.
 Her deceased husband  Leviticus Blue was responsible for unleashing the blight gas that has turned Seattle into a ghost town filled with shambling undead things. Her son keeps asking questions about his father and his grandfather and Briar doesn''t know how to handle it. When Zeke heads into Seattle to find answers to his questions Briar has no choice but to follow him in there on a mad dash quest to get him back.

After reading this book I found that Priest has written characters that I actually care about (This is one of my Litmus tests, if I don't care about the characters it's not a good book). I found myself nervously reading on at times just to make sure that the characters survived whenever they were in danger. At some points I thought I could predict the next twist in the story, but most of the time I was actually surprised about where things ended up. I realize that Priest has taken some liberties with historical facts in this book, but the world feels very real and believable to me, and the people that inhabit it are complex and flawed, just the way I like it!
The language of the book is very good and the dialogs between the characters doesn't seem artificial and bland like they sometimes do in fiction.

Bottom line, I would highly recommend this book if you're into Steampunk, dysfunctional relationships and Zombie afflictions!
I'm definitely going to read the rest of the series at some point, when I have cleared a few more titles of my reading list. So many books, so little time you know.

(c) Anita K. Olsen Støbakk

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Broken Glass - original poem

This is a poem I think I wrote in 2009, I have troubles remembering why I wrote it. Knowing myself I was probably going through one of my depressed periods. They come and go all the time. In any case I still kind of like it, it has a ring of truth to it I think.

Broken Glass

I tread on pieces of broken dreams
They cut me like pieces of broken glass
Every cut leaves a mark
in my soul and in my heart

Through all the cuts and bruises
at least you stuck around
Now help me put together all the shattered pieces
I have found

I used to have more faith in me
but faith seems to be in short supply these days
will you have faith in me,

and see what I no longer see.

by: Anita K. Olsen Stoebakk

Cheers Mateys,
Anita, the literary pirate.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Liebster award 2013

So apparently I have received a nomination for the Liebster award for this very blog. Color me surprised! I received it from Erren Grey Wolf, so thank you very much to you for the nomination!

So according to the rules I have to answer 11 questions given to me by the blogger that nominated me and then I have to nominate 11 other bloggers for this award and give them some new questions to answer. So far so good.

Below are my answers to the 11 questions I received from Erren.

1. What is your favourite book?
Oh wow, such a hard question, It's like asking a mother to pick her favorite child. I think that if I had to choose it would be Magician Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist just because it was one of the first fantasy books I ever read and it really made me fall in love with the Fantasy genre.

2. What can you do to change the world?
I recycle my trash and I don't drive a car and I like to think I do my bit for the environment. Most importantly of all though I try to be kind and considerate and treat everybody around me with respect.

3. What was the last kind thing that you did?
I offered to help a lady in a wheel chair up a steep and icy hill.

4. Why did you decide to create a blog?
I decided to create a blog because I love writing and reading and I wanted to share that passion with the world. It also gave me a great excuse to draw cute pirate girls ;)

5. What is your favourite character in any book?
This is a tough one too, there are so many characters that I love. I think maybe Arya Stark and Daenerys Targaryen from A Game of Thrones are tied for that title.

6. If you had a superpower, which would it be?
I can never decide which super power I want most, but being able to manipulate fire would be really cool, either that or being able to teleport.

7. What is your favourite genre?
Hands down, it's Fantasy!

8. What is your favourite place to visit?
My old hometown, because that's where my mopther lives.

9. Have you written a book and, if so, what is the title?
I've never actually finished a book, but I'm currently working on one and the title is a secret! ;)

10. Do you like tea? If so, which is your favourite?Earl Grey with lots of sugar and milk (I love tea).

11. Describe a perfect day for you.
My perfect day includes sleeping in, reading a good book, going to the movies or seeing a show,
eating a great dinner and a couple of hours of tabletop rpg before cuddling up with my husband on the sofa

And here are my 11 nominations for the Liebster blog award!

5. HippieFreak Beads
6. Barbra Briggs Designs
7. colourmecupcake

Puh, that took a while, but now I'm finished :p

Cheers Mateys!
Anita, the literary pirate.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin - Book Review

Two out of five is not bad considering it's only March, I'm currently working my way through A Storm of Swords, but that is a tale for a later post. The tale at hand is of course A Clash of Kings, the second book in the "Song of Ice and Fire" series. Be ye warned, this post might be a little spoilery if you haven't seen the tv show or read the books!

A Clash of Kings mainly revolves around the feud of the five newly risen kings of Westeros. Stannis Baratheon, Renly Baratheon, and Joffrey Baratheon all want to rule from Kings Landing. Robb Stark is declared King in the North and demands that the north be subject to the southern king no longer. Balon Greyjoy declares himself king of  the Iron Islands and sends his son Theon and his daughter Asha to pillage and conquer along the coast in the north. While all this war and turmoil is raging we follow characters through their very own big and small losses and victories.

As in the first book everything that happens is told and seen through the eyes of POV characters. In this book we follow:

Prologue: Maester Cressen, maester at Dragonstone.

Tyrion Lannister - Acts as hand, and tries to secure Kings Landing's defenses before they are attacked by either Stannis or Renly

Lady Catelyn Stark - Follows the army of her son Robb and struggles to come to terms with the loss of her husband and the fact that her daughters are being held captive at Kings Landing.

Ser Davos Seaworth - A former smuggler now sworn to Stannis Baratheon struggles with his faith and his allegiance as he sees the red pristess Melisandre work her terryfying shadow magic to further Stannis Baratheons claim to the Iron Throne.

Sansa Stark - She spends every day in fear of Joffrey and rejoices when she thinks she will be allowed to leave the castle when Joffrey takes a new bride in Margaery Tyrell. She also continues to develop her strange relationship to the hound.

Arya Stark - Arya hides herself under many names trying to avoid detection from her fathers enemies. She meets a mysterious man called Jaqen H'ghar who promises to kill three people in her name as a service for having saved his life and the lives of two other criminals.

Bran Stark - Bran finds new friends in Jojen and Meera and they help him discover the source of his wolf dreams.

Jon Snow - Jon and the rest of the night's watch have travelled far into the northern wilds in search of Benjen Stark and the other missing brothers of the watch.

Theon Greyjoy - In desperate need of approval from his father Theon turns his back on Robb and storms Winterfell with only 30 men, taking Bran and Rickon as his prisoners.

 Daenerys Targaryen - Daenerys leads what is left of her Khalasar through the red waste to Qarth, a large trading city where she and her dragons become the talk of the town. She thinks she has found an ally in one of the merchants of Qarth, but that alliance fails her and she ventures to the house of the undying in search of aid.

Now let's get down to my opinions shall we? I of course loved loved loved the first book in the series and the second installment doesn't disappoint either. It is just as detailed, just as gritty and just as believable as "A Game of Thrones". The biggest difference is that the pace has slowed down somewhat in this book. Things slowly reach a boiling point in Kings Landing as Stannis attacks but is beaten back by Tyrions well thought out defensive tactics. Daenerys finally finds a ship that will take her away from Qarth, Arya makes her first kill and Jon Snow is brought face to face with the wildlings of the north and his own sense of honor. It doesn't really bother me that things develop slowly because I'm honestly more interested in the characters than in the greater political schemes.

By now I have a clear opinion of who my favorite characters are and I feel excited every time I get to read about Arya, Sansa, Tyrion and Daenerys. They are the characters I feel connected to and if one of them dies I think I might actually get a little heartsick.

I have also developed quite an amount of hatred for some of the characters as well. I can't stand Cersei and Joffrey because they are, well evil. Theons betrayal of Robb and his egotistical and cowardly actions thereafter really turned me of. And to be completely honest, Rickon Stark is a spoiled and horrible little shit. I know he's only a small confused child, but I can't stand him.

I usually measure the greatness of a book by how much it makes me feel one way or the other, and I have to say that this series makes me feel a whole lot of everything. Happiness, sadness, anger, hatred, disappointment, excitement and wonder. That alone is enough to make it great in my opinion, but the way the books are written, the language itself and the amount of world building that has gone into it all is just tremendous and makes it work on every level.

(c) Anita K. Olsen Støbakk

I just can't wait to learn what happens next!

Cheers Mateys!
Anita, the literary pirate.

Monday, March 25, 2013

New anthology in the works - a publishing opportunity!

If you are a budding writer like myself then an anthology might be a good place to start your writing career. Well, at least thats my current theory. Honestly I have no clue as to what might be the best way to get into the publishing business, but I figure one has to start somewhere and why not with an anthology.

That's why I decided to enter a short story I recently wrote into the Sword and Laser anthology! If you haven't heard of it before it's because it's a brand new anthology hosted by the Sword and Laser community. The Sword and Laser is a Podcast and a web show about Fantasy and Sicence fiction literature that is part of the Geek and Sundry channel on Youtube. They also have a book club on with a bustling community forum.

The very first Sword and Laser anthology is basically going to be a collection of original Fantasy and Sci-Fi stories. You can write about anything as long as it is within the bounds of Fantasy or Sci-Fi, entry is free and if your story is selected they will not only publish your story but you will also receive 200$. Best of all it is still open to submission and you can submit more than one story in total.

If you have a short story you think might be suitable for the anthology and you think you might be interested in participating then you can learn all about the submission process and the rules and regulations right here:

The Sword and Laser Anthology!

Hopefully this will inspire my readers to participate and begin their journey towards realizing their dreams as it has most definitely inspired me.

Cheers Mateys!
Anita, the literary pirate.

In bed with a higlander by Maya Banks - Book review

Last year I joined the Vaginal Fantasy Book club, which is a book club hosted by Felicia Day, Veronica Belmont, Bonnie Burton and Kiala Kazebee. It is a book club that focuses on reading fantasy and Sci-Fi books with smutty bits in them like sex and romance. I joined it because I felt like I needed to broaden my horizon and by Davy Jones' Locker I have.

So if you were wondering, yes, "In bed with a higlander" is what I like to call housewife's porn. It is a book with loads of sex and glistening muscles and throbbing get my drift. Usually this isn't my cup of tea or bottle of rum for that matter, though I do like a little romance mixed in with my fantasy now and then and some sex, yes sex too. The thing is I don't like it when sex and romance becomes the main plot. It's not interesting to me, I crave more content than that.

There were a lot of "smutty" bits in this book, which is one of the reasons why I started reading it
The sex was quite detailed, but not to the point where I felt it was too much information. The main character Mairin was entertaining at first, but quickly became an element of irritation. I couldn't relate to her as a real person. She had an annoying habit of speaking her thoughts out loud without even noticing it. I kept wondering if she was constantly drunk or something, since the only people I have ever met who are able to speak their thoughts without realizing it have been drunk to some extent.
She didn't seem to be properly traumatized by any of the horrible things going on around her either, and apparently if you kiss her she loses all notion of personal principles and control which is not consistent with someone who has been brought u in a frickin' convent!
The overall story was really easy to predict and I felt like parts of the book were very lack-luster. I wanted more detailing of the era, the environment and the characters populating it. Beyond the main characters I wasn't able to form much of an opinion about any of the other characters.

Towards the end of the story there is a build up of tension, Mairin is stolen away from her husband by the main bad guy and something heroic needs to be done. I kept waiting for things to properly explode, for some real excitement, but it just got glossed over like the author was in a hurry or had to keep a word count or something (one more chapter wouldn't have killed me). The whole thing just ended up feeling anticlimactic, like I got riled up over nothing.

Oh yes on a final note, be prepared to read the word "lass" a lot..That word really pissed me of by the end of this book.

I personally prefer a nice blend of a well made plot and a bit of smut, and this book just didn't have that. I wouldn't really recommend the book, but if you like historical fantasy and romance and you aren't looking for something serious or historically correct maybe you would like this..

If I had a beard I would be tearing it out by now...

(c) Anita K. Olsen Støbakk

Cheers Mateys!
Anita, the literary pirate.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin - Book review

The song of Ice and Fire series has long been on my reading list. I actually read "A Game of Thrones" for the first time when I was about 15. It's like...10 years ago!.. I feel old now... I never got past the first book on my first attempt because the library never had the the rest of the series available (Three of the books had been published at that point I think)and so I gave it up. After HBO started sending the TV-show I got motivated to start reading it again though, and my goal is to finish all five books this year.

If you don't have a relationship with A song of Ice and Fire you can check out what wikipedia has to say about it, it's like a small crash course into the worlds of George R. R. Martin.

Heres a link!

Moving on to the book review itself!

A game of Thrones is a spectacular book full of intrigue, politics, violence and sex. I love it!
It's gritty and every single character feels real and interesting to me whether I like them or not. They have personalities with flaws, agendas, a strong sense of honor and duty or a complete lack of it. There is little in the ways of magic, but I think that's good because not every fantasy book needs to be "High Fantasy". I would rather term this book, and series for that matter as "Epic Fantasy" just because it is such a grand tale spanning over so many continents and points of view.

Something I quite enjoy is the fact that Martin actually writes female characters really well. There are plenty of them and they all have different personalities and motivations. Sansa is a romantic dreamer who believes in true love and valiant knights, but who comes face to face with the realization that the real world is not at all like the legends of old. Arya is a true tomboy who refuses to consent to becoming a noble lords wife and spend her life raising children. She wants to fight like a man and be free to make her own way in the world. Cersei is a calculating bitch who has no issues with plotting against, hurting or even killing anyone if it will get her what she wants.She might have been a very different person had Robert Baratheon treated her better and not been lost in the loss of his one true love (Eddard Starks dead sister).  Her one redeeming quality is her love for her children, but even that will not give her my sympathy. Daenerys starts out as a meek child who does what she is told to do by her brother Viserys and ends up being a fierce Khaleesi and mother of dragons at the end of the book as the troubles she meets makes her grow stronger.These are just a few of the female characters that inhabit Martin's world but they are all memorable and strong in their own ways. Few writers has such a good grasp on writing female characters in my opinion.

This, for your enjoyment is a picture I drew of Arya Stark earlier this year. This at least is how I envision her when she is not covered in dirt and sweat or blood.
(c) Anita Olsen Støbakk

I am however not a "I'm gonna burn my bra feminist" and have not forgotten the brilliant male characters of Westeros. They are as varied and as kind and cruel as the female characters. Among my favorites you will Find Eddard Stark, Tyrion Lannister, The Hound, The Spider and Ser Jorah the Andal. All of them very different but likable in their own way. (at least they are likable in my opinion).
I think I actually cried the first time I read about the execution of Eddard Stark, and I still felt a little heartbroken when reading about it this time around even though I knew it would happen. I feel a warmth in my heart when I read about Ser Jorah's loyalty and dedication to Daenerys, and I think a little part of me wants The Hound to rescue Sansa from Kings Landing. I love Tyrions brain and his sense of humor. And the spider, well he is the spider. I don't know where I have him, but I think I see some good in him.

(c) Anita Olsen Støbakk

Over all I can't recommend this book enough. Sure it's a big book and if you are not a fast or experienced reader you might have some trouble with it. That however should not stop you from reading it!

Read it! It's an order from the pirate captain!

Cheers Mateys!
Anita, the literary pirate.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien - Book Review

I read this book in January this year, well actually I re-read it. I read it for the first time about 10 or 12 years ago I think. It was during my obsession with Lord of the Rings and anything Tolkien. The reason why I chose to read it again is as follows:

I went to see the Hobbit at one of my local cinemas a week or two after it's opening date with my husband. (I don't like pushy crowds, so I rarely attend premieres unless I'm dying to see a movie). Point and case being that I didn't quite agree with it. I had some trouble remembering a lot of the details from the story so it was difficult to judge the contents of the movie, but I remembered enough to feel almost a little offended at all the extra stuff they had jammed into the the movie (Radagast and his ridiculous bunny sleigh being one of those things). It made me feel like I had to read the book again to make sure that I wasn't getting worked up over nothing.

The Sword and Laser Book Club that I am a member of was also having the Hobbit as their book pick for January 2013 so I figured I might as well read it and satisfy my own curiosity while fulfilling my pledge to read 30 books or more this year. So I did, and this is my verdict!

It's the hobbit...It's a classic, badmouthing it feels a bit like swearing in church (if I went to church that is).
I have to admit that The Hobbit is not the most riveting book I have ever read, I find it to be quite charming at times but it was harder to get through it than it was to get through the Lord of The Rings even though The Hobbit is a tiny book.

Tolkien always brings forth nostalgia in me, his books remind me of my childhood and magic and discovery.
I remember really liking the Hobbit when I read it the first time, but now I feel like the descriptions are a bit vague, and I fail to become emotionally invested with the characters (usually that is not a problem for me). Gandalf is portrayed as quite the jerk, and the elves seem silly to me. It might be because this was meant to be a children's book or maybe I have just outgrown it. Still there is something else nagging at me. It just does not seem to fit with the rest of his universe that is represented in Silmarillion or LotR. However I won't linger over my own feelings of slight disappointment, and get down to the story itself.

The story of the Hobbit is widely known so I won't have to tell most of you what it is all about. The dwarves need a master burglar to help them on their journey to the Lonely Mountain to take back their home from Smaug the dragon. Gandalf convinces them that Bilbo is the Hobbit for the job even though Bilbo himself does not want to be part of this adventure at all. In the end he joins them and they travel to Rivendell to see the elves, they encounter Goblins and Hobgoblins and eagles and trolls and a shape shifting man called Beorn before they even get to lonely mountain. When they finally reach Lonely mountain they have no idea of how to deal with Smaug, but as he leaves the mountain one day the problem is solved for them as Smaug is killed by a man from a nearby village he chose to attack. Fter that a great battle is fought at the Lonely mountain as the villagers blame the dwarves for having driven Smaug from the mountain. They are also joined by elves from Fangorn forest if memory serves me right. Let's just say that drama and bloodshed ensues.

The story itself is interesting and a lot happens over the span of few pages which gives the book a good pace. It keeps you entertained and keeps you reading on. In a sense it is a truly epic story about an unlikely hero, which is one of the things I really love about the book. Being an underdog myself I have always cheered for the unlikely hero or the anti-hero. Bilbo was also the only character I even remotely liked this time around.

Sometimes I felt like the story was a bit rushed and that Tolkien could have taken more time to describe events or people more specifically. I just kept feeling like something was missing, I can't really put my finger on it. Maybe my view of the book has been muddled by the movie. There were just so many things I disliked about the movie that I kept analyzing the differences and looking for flaws in the two storylines. Maybe this book is meant to be read in a less aggressive and more laid back manner?

All in all the judgment is that the Literary Pirate is slightly torn, confused and stumped. I like the book, and I don't like it. I have fond memories smudged by present resentment.....hmmm tough one...Any opinions from you scallywags out there?

(c) Anita Olsen Støbakk

Cheers Mateys,
Anita, the literary pirate

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Confidante by Hélène Grémillon

This was one of the first books I read this year, I ventured outside my Fantasy bubble in the hopes that I would stumble upon something good. My aunt had gotten some freebies from a friend and gave one of those books to me. That book was "The Confidante". It was not a big book, and seemed easy enough to get through so I gave it a shot. The beginning was intriguing so I kept reading and it was all downhill from there for me...There are no spoilers in this review btw, so it should be very safe to read!

I just could not bring myself to like this book.

Yes, the way the author had handled the different points of view were decent

Yes, the historical events were quite accurate.

Yes, the plot seemed interesting.

Here is where it all fell apart:
The language was messy, and whenever there was a change of POV it was often unclear to me which of the characters were actually narrating. It might be that the translated Norwegian version of the book was poor and had a hand in messing up the language, but I can't say for sure. It ruined the flow of the story for me at least. Grammatical errors or poorly built text is one of my major pet peeves. I hate it and if there is too much of it in a book I loose interest fairly quickly (although I can never bring myself to abandon a book, leaving it unfinished, or "Lemming it" as I fancy saying).

Worst however was the infinite stupidity of the characters in the book. There was such a total lack of communication and honesty between all of them on every possible level that I kept wanting to scream at them and toss the book away. Maybe there are people who are so dysfunctional out there that they are unable to properly communicate with anybody, but for all of the characters in the entire book to lack that exact same ability seems idiotic to me.
No one seems capable of telling the truth until after they are dead or before it's too late.

It simply annoyed me to no end.

Basically I can't recommend reading this book as it was awful. This of course is simply my opinion and I am not an oracle and do not claim to be an all knowing book goddess so you are free to make up your own mind.

The book pirate has made this book walk the plank and has banished it to Davy Jones' Book locker of watery doom!

(c) Anita Olsen Støbakk

Cheers Matey!
Anita, the literary book pirate.