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The State of the Dream Address

a dragon wearing a santa claus hat



The State of the Dream Address


Dear Reader,


As I write this post, it's the middle of November, 2023. A lot is going on behind the scenes, so I thought it might be wise to fill you in on some of it. Even though I post weekly, not everyone has time to read. Some of y'all have lives that interfere with your enjoyment of the dream, just as mine does. This post is a stop-and-catch-your-breath moment, before we run headlong into the holiday season.


I wanted to start with Substack. Quest for the Valkyries is currently premiering in serial fiction form for my Substack readers only. It's been posting a chapter a week on Friday mornings for a month now. I chose Fridays, so readers got the chapter just in time for their weekend. For me, as an author, Friday is the first day of the week. The day job steals the actual week from me, and I normally only get to play with my books at night and on the weekends. So Friday after the day job ends, I finally focus on the two and a half days I have to spend in the dream.


The Foray into Substack


Valkyries Ride Book Cover


Substack is something new I started toying with back in the summer. Does it work? We'll see. Even if it isn't a super success, I enjoy offering the stories to my dedicated readers first, before they go into the wild on their own. Substack has given me the ability to do that.


As per usual, when I publish in a serial format, whether on or off, OpheliaKee.com, it's a work in progress until the serial ends. Even then, I often find things in the files or decide to add ideas or update items within existing serials, so I reserve all rights and the manuscript may change at any time. Please read at your own risk.


It will post to OpheliaKee.com once the story concludes on Substack. Quest for the Valkyries will wrap up the Friday before Christmas. It will have no availability elsewhere until after the New Year while I setup the webpage for the 'course'. (Sorry. I teach high school in the day job. Course modules and chapter style lessons just made sense to me. It's easy to navigate with no e-reader required. All you need is an internet connection to read everything in the dream.)


Mystic Dark Updates


Grim Dark Book Cover


Speaking of Christmas, I wanted to remind everyone Grim Dark will exit purgatory (Kindle Vella if you missed my sad excursion) and live again at OpheliaKee.com on the fifteenth of December, 2023. I fully intend to drop the entire story relatively quickly. If I can do it all at once, I will. If not, I'll post it a chapter a day until it's all live. The first three chapters will be free, and the rest will be behind the paywall.


As always, those who buy into the serial will have access to all new posting chapters for all the stories in that series and all the extras like character art, videos, graphics, AI audio readings, and more for the same price that the boxed ebook set will eventually list for on the retailers. For those who purchase before the serial's end, patience is required. You will have not only the story chapters each weekend, but the behind-the-scenes stuff as well. You'll receive the stories before the books publish.


Unlike some other miniseries currently posting completed manuscripts which are simply being edited, I haven't finished writing in the Mystic Dark miniseries. My current on-fire, work-in-progress is a tale set in the Mystic Dark miniseries entitled Haunted Echoes. It's not a part of the main storyline. It grew out of my frustration with the experience of limbo I felt as I published Grim Dark to Kindle Vella. As a standalone tale, I'll add it to the miniseries, but it doesn't exactly fit. It's more like a prequel tale. So you may find it posting to the Mystic Dark miniseries around the time Grim Dark releases to OpheliaKee.com.


Haunted Echoes a Sneak Peek


Haunted Echoes Book Cover


Okay, first, the legalese.


Warning:

This is a work in progress and

is subject to change at any time.

Read at Your Own Risk!


And Now: Welcome to the dream...


Reimt Bergmál

Haunted Echoes


Rorik Skog Vættr / 1349 / Somewhere North of Nidaros


Rorik knelt amidst the hollow ruins of his recent past. The smell of sickness and death lingered in his memory, even with the scent of smoldering fire and ash still wafting in the remnants of the forest. He felt the emptiness in his soul. His beloved trees, his closest friends, had died. The forest he protected no longer existed.


Astrid was gone. The farming villagers perished alongside her. He hadn’t been strong enough to save them. His only consolation? The plague took Astrid before the fire burned the shell of what remained.


Her platinum hair once hung in a thick braid. No more. Deep blue eyes set in a kind face which smiled shyly at him in the past. No longer. His daydreams of claiming his draugakona lay in the smoking ruins of his home. Nothing remained except him.


He’d helped Astrid’s family and the village she called home. They lived in harmony with the trees. He’d never crossed the line, never spoken with her about his daydream. Rorik had debated approaching her father, asking to court her favor. All floated away like the wisps of acrid smoke in the wind. 


Rorik heard the Vaettir Council pass their judgment as he knelt. Banishment, an exile to the far northern lands in the Spirit Realm, stripping him of his home, his warrior status, and his ability to exist in the Leaindeail as a man. Rorik Skog Vaettr became a ghost.


It paled compared to the horror he’d lived through. It may have been marginally better to have died. Immortals rarely chose death, and it was exceedingly rare for death to seek them. When the sentence descended upon him, he recognized himself as a rare immortal.


Rorik knelt in deep snow as the magic of the Vaettir Council’s sentence did its work. Unprepared for the length of winter in the far north of the Spirit Realm, the trees still whispered to him of sanctuary, and he stepped into foreign woods in need of the peace they offered.


As a youth, he’d studied his kind as all adolescents did. He practiced his magic and his weapons diligently. The council required all young Vaettirs to show their worthiness before it allowed them to claim a territory. 


He’d studied deeply, wanting to know all he could learn. Some others made fun of him, and spent more time focused on weapons training or magic practice, but he’d laughed with them and studied instead. What youth didn’t want to be successful in his own way?


His recollections plagued his thoughts, bringing reverberations of the past always into the present. Rorik Skog Vaettr had crossed into the Spirit Realm as the draugr the council made him, with little hope of ever returning to the Leaindeail as a man. 


His youthful peers may have been right to poke fun at him. The Vaettir Council had angrily sentenced him, only after acknowledging their own mistake in having believed him worthy and allowing his claim.


He found the Geymsla Fyrir Bölvaða, the Repository for the Damned, belonging to the Velosian Ironwoods. He walked into the stone monolith, passing the bones of those determined to be enemies of the trees. The magic stacked them between the stones, leaving the path to the stone temple clear.


Rorik stepped to the temple at the center, located the door to Salur Sundraðra Sála, the Hall of Shattered Souls, and stepped inside. He trudged toward the altar to leave one of his coins. 


The room reeked of old blood magic. The stone walls bore images depicting evidence of spirit magic, sedr magic, and unholy reincarnations of the flesh. Strange symbols offered mantras in an ancient form of the Dragan language.


Rorik studied it once. It had many similarities with the ancient Dorchan language. He idly wondered about the relationship between dragons and devils. Had they both sprung from the dark itself, as devil lore suggested?


He shook his head. The devils were all, save one, locked in the Dorcha. The diamond dust dragons had faded.


Dragons, who once ruled the Ironwood Hall of Shattered Souls, no longer raised those slain as enemies of the trees to form armies of soul dark vampires serving the Ironwood gods.


The final funeral pyre for the ritual lay in ashes near the entrance. The dragons never rebuilt it after the last rites they performed.


It had been centuries longer since nonconsensual lovers took part in the painful arcane ritual of shattered soul bonding. The stone slab beyond the Hall’s altar still held the charcoal outline of a human figure etched on the surface, guiding those who would perform the ritual in placing the limbs of the victim before the shattering of the soul happened. 


The pool of liquid ice to freeze the victim’s soul still sat at the end of the stone marked for the victim’s head. The poles to bind the soul stood in place beside the pool, and the copper hammer with which to shatter the frozen soul lay ready atop a small pedestal. Once shattered, her lover would consume the pieces containing magic, then glue the rest together with spirit magic, marking her as one of the damned.


The trough to catch her draining blood should her lover choose to sacrifice her rather than claim her as a slave mate still awaited a filling on the other side. They would sprinkle her blood into the forest, the body burned, and her ashes spread in flowing water.


If her lover desired her, the ritual claiming of her physical body, as the master consumed the magical parts of his new slave mate’s soul, had seemed to be nothing more than the rape of a bound, helpless, broken woman to Rorik. That her Vaettr master enjoyed the taboo feast of souls during the sedr rite of bonding had both horrified and fascinated him. It was the only known acceptable form of soul consumption, outside of the battlefield, or the sentencing of criminals by the royal houses of the Cockatrices, which Rorik ever discovered.  


No Vaettir claimed their draugakonas in that fashion anymore. The council hadn’t outlawed the practice, but the methods had fallen into disuse. Most preferred a consensual relationship. Rorik doubted many of the younger Vaettir knew how it worked. 


His own macabre fascination with it had led him to appease his curiosity, even though it made him deeply uncomfortable. It had repulsed him to discover the woman had to agree for the magic to work, but if she refused to agree, her master could choose to sacrifice her to the Velosians and seek another. Either way, he owned the magic in her soul, removing it from the circle of life.


Shattered soul bondage brutally subjugated a gifted human’s magic to that of their immortal mate. It enslaved them to their giant lover’s desires. Her consent opposed her sacrificial death and sometimes still didn’t save her. So what choice did she have? 


Rorik, upon meeting a few old draugakonas claimed that way, had shivered in horror. Each time, she was a beautiful woman, collared as property, kept by her Vaettr as a prize or a showpiece, rather than a true mate. Her hollow eyes saw only her master, spoke to no one but him, and existed solely because he wanted her, so he could slake his lust upon her. 


Rorik couldn’t imagine how a woman who’d been human could choose to be made draugakona as a shattered soul slave for all of eternity, living in fear her life would cease with no chance of her returning with a rebirth if her mate grew weary of her. 


Human spirits followed a cyclical pattern. After birth, they lived a short, intense life. They died, paid their coins to Thanatos, and crossed the River Styx. When the memories of their life faded and left them, their souls floated out of the Underworld up to the Gan Breith, and they awaited a chance to cross the Rainbow Bridge and be born again. 


Shattered souls lost their coins when their souls broke. Their masters collected them, of course, because slaves owned no property. Rumors claimed the coins fetched a high price among necromancers.


The slave couldn’t pay to be ferried across the river without her coins. The Ferryman turned her away when she died, and her soul spread ever thinner into the fabric of magic which created the dream, lost forever from life. 


The shattered souls who survived the ritual lived as vampires, requiring the life force of another to sustain them. Their masters chose when or if they could feed. It was a macabre arrangement.


Rorik looked away from the stone slab upon which those who chose to become shattered souls could be bound to an immortal master. Instead, he focused on his mission.


His soul coin allowed him a place in the Ironwood forest, even if he didn’t belong there. Should the Forest Lord governing the woods choose to see him as a trespasser, Rorik’s coin would demand the Velosian point him to another cairn and grant him time to move his belongings and food stores.


They denied no man the right to glean from the forest. Velosians tolerated draugrs so long as they didn’t harm the trees.


Remembrance was the sentence he passed upon himself. The cold only numbed his pain. Cursed by the haunted echoes of a life he could never have again, Rorik stood naked before the altar in the Hall of Shattered Souls. He left his coin and faced the unrelenting punishment of an immortal memory and a grueling solitary life in the frigid far north.


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I gotta get some writing done. Until we chat again next week, when you read, please remember to be kind and leave your honest reviews. They help more than you know. I hope you enjoyed this post and will leave any comments or questions. When you have a chance, I hope you know you will always be welcome to the dream...

Be Careful!

Happy Reading,

Ophelia Kee


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