From the Vault: “Omniverse, Book 1, Chapter 3” (Part 2 of 3)

Posted: January 22, 2013 in Uncategorized
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When I was growing up, I tended to reuse the same characters between projects.

I had three characters who existed pretty much exclusively in all of my fiction between about 2006 and 2011. When I’d abandoned my first novel (a godawful Tolkien ripoff that I’m thankful I left choking in the dust), I decided that I wanted to write a story about teenagers traveling to a strange new dimension, which was called Winter. (It was very cold. That’s why it was called that. Like you couldn’t figure it out for yourself.)

The three teenagers were: Krish, a young geeky martial artist; Anita, a cool, socially-outgoing musician and cheerleader; and Ash, a quirky young woman with mysterious abilities and an uncertain past. The three of them were friends, and they would have had great adventures together.

About 2009, I decided that I wanted to write some secondary-world fantasy for a change, going back to my “roots”, so to speak. This didn’t prevent the three mystery-solving teens from making the transfer to fantasyland, though. Krish became a retired battle-scarred warrior, living a life of quiet solitude with his family in the most remote part of the continent. Ash became a young priestess with strange powers, hunted down for carrying a demon child. And Anita was a barmaid with a crossbow.

That book, which I think I still have on my computer, never got past the first fifty pages. But somehow the characters continued onward, getting into my next big project, written during the fall of 2010: a secondary-world fantasy novel that I thought of as the first book of the Exodus trilogy, which contained… wait for it… two barmaids named Ash and Anita. Ash had strange and mysterious powers, as usual. (Somehow, Krish had disappeared from that universe. It makes sense– the character was intended to be Indian, and he wouldn’t have fit into that universe.)

Omniverse was the last story I wrote that contained Krish, Ash, and Anita. They had been with me for five years, jumping from being dimension-hopping high school students in Santa Cruz, to being characters in two separate fantasy universes, and finally hopping back to modern-day California, this time as college students, and getting back into their old dimension-hopping habits as if 2006 had never ended. In fact, I don’t think about each character as being one “character”, per se, but instead a strange archetype, a being that exists in multiple universes, with a different aspect for each universe. They’re a little bit like the Eternal Champion in that way, I guess: just as Jerry Cornelius, Elric, Dorian Hawkmoon, and Corum are all aspects of the same person, so were these characters: a constant running thread throughout five years of my life.

I can’t pretend that they’ve gone away, either. They’re still with me, in The Lotus Imperiate, only some of them have different names and some of them have been blended together and mutated over time. Sometimes I find myself writing a line for a character that has very specifically Ash-like characteristics, and there are times that I can see Anita in a character that I write. I wonder if all writers have this recycling process. We might think that we see a single character, but what we’re really seeing are the granddaughters of a thousand rough drafts.

Oh, hey, the story. Let’s get to that:



Page 69 has four panels.


Shot of the mountbird, with ASH and FARADOR on its back, running off into the distance.

CAPTION: The days passed by. I asked Farador how far a mountbird could run in a day with two people on its back. He answered that it could go ten leagues.


Another shot of the mountbird riding past another stand of trees, the blood-red moon of the alien planet setting on the horizon.

CAPTION: Assuming that one league is three and a half miles, that’s thirty-five miles a day. Since Farador said that Forn was a hundred days away, then that means that the distance between where we started and Forn was 3,500 miles.

CAPTION: That’s like riding an ostrich from San Diego to Nova Scotia.


Shot of ASH and FARADOR seated around a campfire. ASH is carrying a load of firewood while FARADOR whittles down a five-foot long piece of wood into a smooth staff.

CAPTION: I insisted in doing my part to help– fetching water, setting snares, chopping firewood. In return, Farador said that I needed to learn how to defend myself. He made a quarterstaff for me, and taught me how to use it.


Shot of ASH and FARADOR squaring off and sparring. FARADOR has removed the sickle from his sickle-staff, and is now facing down ASH armed with a seven-foot length of wood.

CAPTION: Time passed quickly. My clothes got ratty and worn, and my hair got greasy and lank. Since I was dressed in a TARDIS T-shirt and pajama pants when I came to this world, they got dirty quick. And the smell… my God, you can only imagine it.

Page 70 has three panels.


ASH and FARADOR sit by the fire, talking. ASH is telling FARADOR a story, complete with hand gestures, and FARADOR is listening intently.

CAPTION: Farador made good on his promise not to touch me. And we became friends, in a way. He told me stories of Forn– old sagas and dragonslaying legends, and war stories from his life and the lives of his ancestors.

CAPTION: While I told him stories from my own world. I started with fairy tales and kids’ stories, and later told oral versions of my favorite books and TV shows. (Of course, there was a lot of misunderstandings involved in telling him my favorites. I still have no idea if he understood anything of my summaries of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes.)


ASH cuts a notch into her staff with a knife. There are about twenty other notches already carved into her staff with her knife.

CAPTION: As a way of keeping time, I carved notches into my staff with Farador’s hunting knife. One notch equalled one day of travel. That was how I could guesstimate how long I’d been in this world, and how close I was to Forn.


Distance shot of FARADOR and ASH, riding the mountbird, looking out over the edge of a cliff into a deep canyon, about the width and depth of the Grand Canyon. This is Kamora’s Kerf.

CAPTION: So I knew we’d been traveling for ten days when we reached Kamora’s Kerf…

Page 71 has six panels.


Shot of ASH’s astonished face as she looks out over the vast canyon.

ASH: My god…

ASH: I had no idea that anything this size was out here.


FARADOR looks out from over ASH’s shoulder at the canyon.

FARADOR: Yes. It is called Kamora’s Kerf.

FARADOR: We cannot go around it. It stretches for thirty leagues to the north and the south. We must go through the canyon.


ASH: Huh. How are we going to get down into it? This cliff has to be five hundred feet high.


FARADOR: There is a trail, about half a league to the north. It leads down into the canyon.

FARADOR: But Ash Campos… I must warn you. There is danger in the canyon. This place is a location of old magic.


ASH: Huh? What do you mean?

FARADOR: Have the stories not reached your country? Kamora’s Kerf is famous the world over.

ASH: No. I’ve never heard anything about this place.


The mountbird begins to ride off across the lip of the canyon.

FARADOR: You are very strange, Ash Campos. Very well, I will tell you of Kamora’s Kerf.

Page 72 has six panels.


Okay, this is an image styled like a page from an old manuscript. We’re looking at an image of a giant, a creature whose head scrapes the sky. The creature is female, with wide hips, and writhing serpents’ tails for arms. Clouds gather at her feet as she walks the earth, mountains nothing more than molehills beneath her. Her head is huge and solemn, and her hair is lank and dreadlocked. As she breathes out, yellow clouds of smoke steam from her nostrils. In one snaky hand, she carries a double-headed axe, like the labrys of Minoan Crete.

CAPTION: In times of old, when the sun shone golden and the world was warm, there was a monster named Kamora. It is unknown where she came from, whether she came from beneath the earth or the distant sky, but where she walked, destruction followed in her wake.


Picture of KAMORA’s huge feet crushing a city beneath her heel, as she walks across the earth. Off to the side, a man in silver armor stands mounted on a mountbird, with a bow across his back and a lance on the side of his bird.

CAPTION: Kamora was careless of the beings below her. One day, she crushed an entire city under her foot, for there were cities in the earth in those days. For this, the only surviving warrior of the city, a man named Tyreesh, swore to take vengeance on her, to kill her in any way possible.


TYREESH, with a bow and flaming arrows across his back, bows before an eagle the size of a 747, paying fealty to him. This is KAARAKI’I, the King of the North Wind.

CAPTION: Tyreesh journeyed for a three years and three days. He stole the fire arrows from the Queen of the Sun, and took them back to earth. He journeyed to the far north, and using his speechcraft, persuaded Kaaraki’i, the King of the North Wind, to be his mount to kill Kamora.


Picture of TYREESH and KAARAKI’I, flying around KAMORA’s head in battle. TYREESH is loosing a flaming arrow, and it strikes KAMORA in the eye. She howls in pain, and lashes out with her double-headed axe, where it flies towards the ground.

CAPTION: Tyreesh and Kaaraki’i challenged Kamora in the Outer Wastes. Tyreesh loosed arrow after arrow, striking Kamora again and again in the face and head. Kamora struck out against Tyreesh with her axe…


Another manuscript-type image of KAMORA’s axe carving deep into the ground, creating a deep furrow.

CAPTION: …and it cut into the earth, creating a great gash, sixty leagues long and four leagues wide.


An image of glowing, insubstantial humanoids, with bright white eyes and hooded robes, in a deep and shadowy place.

CAPTION: Ever since then, it is said that Kamora’s Kerf has been haunted by those who Kamora’s carelessness has killed, those inhabitants of the cities that once dotted the earth like standing stones cover the Outer Wastes.

Page 73 has five panels.


Shot of ASH staring off ahead of her on the mountbird as she and FARADOR ride across the lip of the canyon.


ASH: You left the story unfinished.



ASH: You didn’t tell me how Tyreesh killed Kamora.


FARADOR looks out over the canyon, out across the buttes and mesas deep within Kamora’s Kerf.

FARADOR: It is unknown. Tyreesh was never seen again, as was Kamora. No man knows where they went.

FARADOR: The lore tells us that Kaaraki’i returned, but he was mute. He never spoke a word again. That is why no bird speaks today.

FARADOR: In any case, this was long ago, and nothing of Kamora’s like lives on the earth today.


FARADOR stops his mountbird, and steps off. There is a small trail visible on the side of the cliff, which goes steeply down into the canyon.

FARADOR: Even so, we must rest here for the night. There are foul beasts within the Kerf, and we should gather our strength for the journey through it.

FARADOR: It will take us three days to pass through the canyon– one to descend to the river, one to travel along the river’s banks to the trail back out, and one to climb out of the Kerf.

ASH: Great. Just what I wanted to hear.

Page 74 has four panels.


ASH and FARADOR lie on opposite sides of the campfire. ASH is staring up at the sky, and FARADOR is snoring. The campfire’s embers are burning low, and ASH has a faraway look on her face.

CAPTION: I realized how far away home was. I didn’t think that Kamora’s Kerf was really a giant axe-wound in the earth… but then again, I didn’t think that I could travel to alternate dimensions by being attacked by shadow monsters. So I’d had a few preconcieved notions challenged.


Shot of the stars and moons, shining brilliantly above the earth. This is a shot from ASH’s perspective. We can see two of the moons of this planet, each one blood-red and gibbous.

CAPTION: The sky really was beautiful. I spent hours at night staring up at the heavens, just watching the stars slowly revolve around the north pole. They were unfamiliar: no Big Dipper, no Orion’s Belt. Even so, they were beautiful. And so bright. Even in the High Sierras at night I never saw stars so brilliant.


It’s daytime, and FARADOR and ASH are descending down into the Kerf. They have both dismounted: FARADOR is walking first, leading the mountbird down the steep trail like a burro down into the Grand Canyon, and ASH following behind, dressed in her TARDIS t-shirt and pajama pants, leaning on her staff. All around them, cliffs of stratified rock rise up, strange spires like you see in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.

CAPTION: We traveled downwards, deep into the canyon. We couldn’t ride on the mountbird. It was far too steep. Farador offered to let me ride while he led the mountbird down, but I’m a feminist to my core. I refused, and walked instead.


Sitting around the campfire. ASH is skinning a winged lizard-type creature about two feet long. FARADOR is using his arrows to try and shoot down a second flying reptile high above, so they can have food. The mountbird is off chasing down some kind of small mustelid, and a slow-flowing river winds its way through the canyon, off to one side.

CAPTION: We made the bottom of the canyon by mid-afternoon, and made camp by the side of the river. It turned out that there were these weird flying lizards in the bottom of the canyon. I asked if they were related dragons. Farador gave me a funny look. In any case, we hunted and replenished our supplies.



I’ll try and post the third part of this chapter sometime soon. Sooner, at least: there was quite a while between the first part and this one.

~ Ian

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