My Conflicted Feelings on Amazon’s The Wheel of Time (First Three Episodes)

I haven’t taken the time to post here in a while, but this was too big a thing to pass up. After what feels like an Age, Robert Jordan’s epic series The Wheel of Time has finally been adapted.

The reasons this is momentous are many, but the biggest reason for me is that the Wheel of Time was my gateway to Epic Fantasy, and was incredibly formative for me as a writer, a reader, and to an extent, as a person. Put simply, I would not be who I am without it. I absolutely love this series, and while other books written since have taken the series to new heights since Jordan’s passing, what he gave us is still precious to me.

I don’t bother doing write-ups on things, especially as high profile and current as this, because my voice will almost certainly be drowned out by higher profile names or companies talking about it, but because this is such a cornerstone of myself, as I said, I felt if I was ever going to say something about anything, it had to be this.

So naturally, I have thoughts and feelings on Amazon’s adaptation. I was lucky enough to see the first two episodes at the Atlanta Premier Monday (Thank you, JordanCon people for organizing that), and I watched Episode 3 when I finally realized what day it was.

TL;DR : There are things I love and things I hate, and things that make me go “Huh?!!?” but ultimately I plan to continue watching and hope to enjoy its entire run

Because this series is so ingrained into my bones at this point, having taken up nearly 20 years of my life, and literally present in my life since I was born, I cannot with any sense of certainty tell you how this show will come across if you are a newcomer. I’ll have to wait for my non-fan friends to tell me when they catch up. I can only speak on how it comes across to a life long fan. However, I will try to keep this spoiler light, meaning I will only refer to what the show has currently given us (Episodes 1-3) and how it stacks next the books as much as I can. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of differences, but examples will be given to make my points as needed.

I understand things need to change with adaptations. I really do. Things need to be cut for time, phrases or descriptions that work in a book don’t always mesh with live action, budgets, etc. Sometimes, those changes can add a lot. A good moment of improv by the actors, a really cool visual, neatly avoiding a plot hole, introducing a major character at an earlier point to let the audience get a sense for who they are when they’re still in learning mode….

I get it, and I can roll with a lot of punches if I can at least see why the change was made and feel that it feels faithful to the spirit of the original even if not the letter. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Witcher, Stardust, most of Game of Thrones…. I love the adaptations, even if they aren’t 1:1 with the source material, because they kept to the spirit. (again, mostly in the latter case)

What I loved

So, I want to put this here because I have a lot of complaints, but I don’t want to give the impression that there is nothing good here, because that’s just not true. I’ll try not to use this as an excuse to avoid talking about the positives as I go, but again, I want to be very clear, this is worth watching.

I’ll be writing this list sort of stream of consciousness style and it’s late, so I may miss some things, but this should still paint a picture.

First and foremost, almost all of the main cast is terrific. Rosamund Pike and Daniel Henney steal the show as the iconic dynamic duo, Batman and Robin Moirane Damodred and Lan Mondragoran. Both of them have the presence of their characters, and they have chemistry for days. Every time they are on screen, I want them to lay that exposition on, or kick some ass, because they do both so well. Holy shit, in the battle in episode one, where Lan swings his sword and Moirane just casually ducks without interrupting her channeling —

Ahem. More on that later.

Marcus Rutherford as Perrin, oh, man, without saying a word of it, you get his caution, his fear that every move could hurt someone if he isn’t careful, is slow, deliberateness of motion and words that lead people to underestimate his mind, and the way he hunches like he’s trying to become smaller… all Perrin’s mannerisms brought to screen.

Rand, Egwane, Nyneve, all really well casted. Episode 3 gives us Thom, the Gleeman, and whatever else I have to say about his adaption, he’s damn cool.

The Opening credits sequence is gorgeous, it really fits the way the books describe the way the Wheel of Time weaves the Pattern of Ages, it is colorful, and I love it.

Many of the costumes are fantastic. Shifting to a visual medium, I definitely think the more full-outfit Ajah colors work better on screen than simply wearing a color-coded shawl on top of any old dress. Full marks there.

I love that the show uses practical effects as well as CGI, instead of just relying on CGI. The trollocs look damn threatening.

That One Power though…. switching gears, where the show does use CGI, it looks great. The weaves of power really evoke how they’re used in the books, and in episode one the visuals do a phenomenal job of conveying that the One Power is the fundamental driving force of the entire world and creation, and it is so satisfying to see on the big screen.

That leads to the battles. The fight choreography is fun and energetic, the monsters feel threatening, the people feel in danger. So engaging!

The sets are creative and look great, and the locations are beautiful. Shadar Logoth probably takes the cake. That wall…. wow.

This is going to sound weird, but seriously, the exposition. The worldbuilding and history of Wheel of Time is one of the greats in literature, and Rosamund Pike can deliver that exposition with an air of someone who feels passionately about the history of her world, and you believe her Moirane is exactly the kind of person who would be drawn to a great cause.

Mat’s shift towards being less helpful and more irritable after Shadar Logoth. It’s subtle so far, but I see it!

First Impression

Amazon’s Wheel of Time started on a rocky note for me by starting with an exposition dump rather than showing us the backstory of the Dragon, and his reincarnation The Dragon Reborn. The fact that the prologue of the first book was my favorite part of the book made this disappointing, but by no means a deal breaker. In that exposition, we learn something I’ll address later under the heading of Thematic Changes, but over all, it’s cool.

We open up with a show exclusive scene of Red Ajah sisters hunting down a male Channeler. if I just scarred you off with those unfamiliar words, it’s okay, I’m not gonna throw too much at you, we’ll get through this together. But basically, a bunch of women on horse back chase what must be the fastest man in the world through a winding road in the mountains. Magic battle happens, the woman in charge tells the man he should not have this power, it belongs to women.

BAM! Solid, we get a sense for where things stand, what the prejudices are, things are looking up. And it looks damn good, to boot. I have a couple niggles we’ll get to later, but there are some massive changes that really soured my experience for the entire two hours I spent in the theater (and no, it’s not the change that was causing Twitter discourse since the last trailer dropped).

At points the tone gets a little too Game of Thrones-y

So after that mostly pretty epic opening, we meet our main characters in the quaint little village of the Emond’s Field in the Two Rivers valley (in the Kingdom of Andor). At first, all is good, everyone’s getting ready for the winter celebration, there’s love in the air, we meet people, and while there’s very little in this establishing sequence that I could point to and go “HEY, that’s pulled right from the book!” it looked nice, and it foreshadowed certain character’s later traits.

BUT THEN, our lovable scamp of a rogue, Mat Cauthon, says to his good buddy Perrin, “You’re married now” and I was like “EXCUSE YOU?!” They gave Perrin — consummately unsure around the ladies, always thinks Mat and Rand know the ladies so well — Perrin Aybara a wife. Well, this set off my cynicism bells right off, because unless they decided to include a +1 to the adventuring party later, there was only one reason she could have been written in, and it ain’t exactly a progressive storytelling device. Hold, on, I need to grab a drink out of my fridge — LAYLA, WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THERE?!

But we’ll swing back around to that.

The next big change comes later that night. I’m not going to set this one up, I’ll just come out and say it: they made Mat’s parents the WORST. His dad is now apparently a cheating lecher (and when I was in the theater, that girl looked WAY too young, and before Mat’s mom got all mad I thought he was talking to his daughter, but that’s a whole other can of worms) while his mom is now a drunk, bitter old woman who would tell her son what a horrible person he’s destined to become. There was absolutely no reason for this change. There’s plenty of drama in what happens to the village without getting into a Game Of Thrones-ian look at how shit life is and how horrible people are.

The Two Rivers folk in the books had their problems, but were largely wholesome to contrast with the larger world the heroes would face, and their parents doubly so because one of the recurring themes of the story was how the heroes’ upbringing would shape who they became when they came into their own! Instead, you get a sick old drunk saying, “He’s a prick, and you’ll be a prick just like him”, and like…. even the phrasing feels completely incongruous to the books.

This continues in Episode 3 with the introduction of Thom (pretty late, considering he showed up in the Two Rivers, but whatever), a gleeman who brings exactly zero glee to a little mudpit of a town, sings exactly one dour song that no one seems to care about before they cheer about what really matters — drinking more. They made a point of showing off that his coat has the colorful patches of a gleeman…. but they’re on the INSIDE of his coat. If he’s on the job as a gleeman, he shouldn’t have them turned in like he’s trying to lay low. The only thing I could think was that they were embarrassed to have him look colorful and silly and uplifting. Never mind that the town really needed it.

Thematic Changes and Gaps In the World Building

So, as with any adaptation from a book, things had to be cut. It happens. Literature is the most free to both dive deep and expansively with the lore (though Video Games are giving them a run for their money).

The trouble is, when you cut too much, you risk losing the heart of what was beloved in the first place. Again, I’m not going to list every single change made in the adaptation process. There’s a youtube channel that does that professionally (look up Lost In Adaptation, by Dominic Noble, it’s a damn good time), and frankly by the time I’ve finished the next episode will be out. Instead, I’m going to give a few examples of the changes that I feel do the most damage to the story itself.

Remember earlier when I found Layla in the fridge? Yeah, I want to address that. In Eye of the World (book one of the Wheel of Time) Perrin did not have a wife. It was very clear as soon as I saw she existed that she was going to be fridged* to add extra angst to an already angsty event and character.
*(Fridging is the narrative trope of killing a female character for no other reason than to develop or motivate a male character. It’s often derided as hackneyed and sexist, and considering other changes seem to have been made for the sake of moving away from what some have called the more dated parts of Jordan’s narrative, this seems particularly egregious)

What’s worse about this is that for the sake of speeding things along, the show completely omits the tangible metaphor for Perrin’s internal conflict. In the books, Perrin fights with an axe and a blacksmith hammer. One of his core dilemmas is that he wants to live the peaceful life of a blacksmith (represented by his hammer) but he is called on to fight and kill, and he’s good at it (represented by the axe). This is a very power and evocative image that would be very effective for an onscreen adaptation. But in the show, he has neither! And to add insult to injury Layla was killed with an axe and she was using a hammer! It was right freaking THERE!

The next one I want to talk about also involves weaponry. Rand al’Thor carries his father’s sword, a heron marked sword. If you have only watched the show, I suspect that your thoughts on this must be “Why did they zoom in on the bird decoration?” Because it’s never mentioned in the show that the heron mark is a designation for Blademasters. It’s a revelation that in the books leads Rand to wonder about the secrets his father kept.

In fact, Rand’s father is an incredibly important part of Rand’s arc in the first book. When Tam al’Thor was wounded in the books, he was delirious and feverish, implied Rand might be adopted, and that his life was a great deal more interesting. In the books, Rand sought out Moiraine’s healing specifically out of desperation, and he joined Moiraine as the price for saving his father’s life. In the show, she just heals him in passing like it wasn’t a big deal and kinda meanders away. This stems from another aspect of the show I’ll address after the third thematic change.

The next point is one that has had people up in arms before it was even confirmed, and, yeah, it bugs me too.

In the books, one of the absolute core themes of the series was the interplay between men and women. It could be said the thesis of the series is that men and women are stronger when they work together because they make up for each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Now, in the 2020’s, and indeed in the years leading up to them, this has been a very contentious aspect to the series, with some fans and many non-fans alike disapproving of the cis-normative binary of male and female, and if you want to read about the million debates as to whether Jordan was progressive or not 30 years ago when Eye of the World you can probably find six on Reddit right now, I’m not getting into it because frankly there are people better equipped to discuss the nuances.

But what I will say is, if you don’t want to explore the themes of the source material because you think they’re dated, why adapt it at all?

Now, some of you may be thinking, “But Vincent, you third-rate Disney villain, how can you say that, Men still go mad from using the Power, that part of the story hasn’t changed” and yeah, but the trappings around it certainly have.

For a start, the possibility that the Dragon Reborn could be a boy or a girl. Within the book universe, the power to channel is determined by your soul. This doesn’t come up a lot, but it is proven that if you can draw upon sai’din, the male half of the power, your reincarnation will too, and same goes for sai’dar, the female half. There is even a female equivalent to the Dragon, and the Pattern apparently alternates which one gets reincarnated as the destined hero across the ages. In the show, however, there are no mentions to the sides of the One Power. Sai’din and sai’dar go entirely without reference, unless I’m just completely missed it. Which is a bit odd considering the opening sequence and the promo materials still reference the ancient Aes Sedai symbol (basically a simplified Yin-Yang symbol).

The pacing is too fast

Aside from Mat’s parentage and Perrin’s marriage, this is probably my biggest complaint, and it directly leads to the missing world building I mentioned earlier. It also just messes with the narrative a bit Shadar Logoth happens in freaking episode 2, which is hella early, but Thom didn’t get introduced until episode 3 because they felt the need to have the Leavetakings happen in the first episode and had to pare so much down.

I feel like in the balance of character and plot, the fast paced nature leans too hard to plot and away from character. I don’t know whose decision it was to only give this first season 8 episodes, but I think 10 might have been enough to give that little bit extra breathing room to get into more character development.

In summation

For all my complaints, I have enjoyed it overall, and I want this show to go far. I want it to succeed, for a few reasons. The biggest is that I just know if it fails, the lesson won’t be “we need to be more faithful to the source material”, it will inevitably be “Let’s never touch that again ever.” Part of it is my love of the source material and my hope that my favorite parts will be brought to the screen in all their glory. But also because there is real talent behind this. There is clear passion and effort and even if I don’t agree with a lot of the choices made, the artistry on display deserves love.

And fantasy fans need a win.

Skies of the Empire – Now available on Audible

Skies of the Empire is now available as an audiobook on The voyage of Cassidy and Zayne is brought to life by the very talented Naomi Rose-Mock. Check it out today!

Skies of the Empire now in Hardcover

It’s been a while coming because Amazon only allows for paperback and ebook through their self-publishing services, but I discovered Barnes and Noble do self-publishing services as well. This link may go down temporarily once I figure something out because I realize that on the product page, my name is listed just as “Vincent Thorn” and not “Vincent E. M. Thorn” and my OCD is driving me up the wall over it.

But for now, Skies of the Empire available on Barnes and Noble in Hard Cover!

It is, of course, still available in Paperback and ebook on

Skies of the Empire, now only $14.99

After several revisions and format corrections, the paperback of Skies of the Empire is now available for the new low price of $14.99!

As an added bonus, to anyone who got a physical copy in 2019, I’m offering a complimentary copy of the newly revised Skies of the Empire*. Just send me proof and a mailing address.…/dp/0578521059/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0…

*Copies will be shipped out based on my own schedule and availability, and it will be done in order of request. Sorry for any inconvenience that causes.


Become Legend: The JordanCon 2020 Anthology – Preorder today

For those of you who don’t know, JordanCon is an annual SciFi/Fantasy convention in Atlanta, Ga that originally began as a Wheel of Time-centric convention. Said convention has a fantastic Writer’s Track which has hosted such guests as Patrick Rothfuss, Saladin Ahmed, and Brent Weeks. Starting in 2019, the convention began releasing an annual anthology comprised of stories by guests and attendees of the convention’s Writer’s Track.Become-Legend-Cover

This year, the anthology includes stories by great writers like Darin Kennedy (Fugue and Fable), Faith Hunter (Jane Yellowrock), A. K. DuBoff (The Candicle series) and Vincent E. M. Thorn — yes, I did just refer to myself in the third person, and I make no apologies.

This book contains 20 different stories centered around the theme of Legends, including The Witch Hunter, a short story set in a world where many legends are dying.

Pre-order today through March 25! All proceeds of this Anthology will go towards supporting JordanCon’s 2020 charity, and they always rally behind a good cause. Last year (or, I guess this year since 2020 isn’t quite upon us) they donated to the Hospice of Mercy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Skies of the Empire – Available Now

Well, folks, it’s finally here! My debut novel, Skies of the Empire is now out!skies_of_empire_cover_front_RGB_with_text.jpg You can buy it by clicking this link, here!

Set in a steampunk environment with magical forces, Skies follows the adventures of Cassidy Durant, an airship pilot who forms an illicit partnership with a Fae creature, and Zayne Balthine, a mercenary on a suicide mission. Action and intrigue, cults and swashbuckling, friendship and betrayals all await in this exciting first installment of the Dreamscape Voyager Trilogy.

Mask of Xiavaal – Prologue

     The ruined castle stood at the edge of the glade, bathed in bars of red-gold sunlight. A smile crept across Tirha’s face as she stepped out from the thicket. The field between her and the structure was littered with mossy pillars of grey stone covered in glyphs. The temptation to break into a run and reach the castle pulled at her, but she composed herself. There was no competition here. She could take her time, and there was much to investigate right in front of her. Stepping away from the tree-line, she approached the first of the obelisks and took her sketchbook from her pouch.

     “Magnificent,” she breathed as she squatted down and scraped the moss with her thumbnail to reveal the ancient engravings in the grooves. “Captain Calias!” she called over her shoulder. “You and your crew can take a rest. I will call you when I’m ready to enter the castle.” She didn’t hear her guard’s reply, already preoccupied by sketching out the patterns on the stone before her. It was remarkably easy to make out the markings, despite the years that had clearly worn at the stone. “Fascinating,” she whispered as she copied the markings.

     Tirha looked up when a shadow was cast over her page. Captain Calias was a tall, stocky man, with shaggy black hair only partially contained by a leather cord, and a dashing, roguish beard. Looking at him, she couldn’t help but smile at his hard, brown eyes as they gave off an autumnal glow in the dusky light of the glade.

     “I told you to take a break,” she chided playfully, rising slowly to her feet. She smoothed out her skirts and leaned flirtatiously back into the guard. He smelled of charcoal and soap.

     Calias snorted, puffing air into her hair. “This entire job has been one long break, Professor.”

     Tirha laughed and returned to her sketchbook. “I’m sorry I don’t go around chasing dragons these days.”

     “I think I’m alright with this,” he said. He chuckled warmly in her ear and placed his hands on her arms gingerly. His scarred and calloused hands were warm against her skin. “So, what does your rock say?”

     “It’s fascinating! See this script here? That’s clearly Jurielish –Second Empire script –”

     “Clearly,” Calias sarcastically agreed.

     “—but it references the Goddess Rings!”

     The captain hesitated and looked skyward at the red-gold band that spanned the sky the sky from the northwest to the southeast. “Did… did the people of the Second Empire not look at the sky?”

     Oh, the man is hopeless, Tirha thought to herself. “Don’t be silly,” she said, slapping ineffectually at his dull grey breastplate. “The rings didn’t form until near the fall of the Third Empire.”


     “But this script suggests either an isolated culture that kept the old ways for thousands of years, or the existence of augers that far exceed –” she trailed off when she saw suffering smile on his face and the lack of any notable recognition.  “Fine, fine,” she said, snapping her book shut. “Gather your people if you’re bored. I’ve been itching to get in that castle for months, now.”

     “It’s a wonder you didn’t drop everything and rush the gate like an invading army.”

     “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted.”

     It didn’t take long for Calias to gather his mercenaries; the Lyceum regarded this expedition as a waste of time and resources, and since she refused to let any of the other professors share in her glory, they only endorsed six guards. Truly, she wouldn’t have brought any of them along if they hadn’t insisted she have some protection along the road. While she was glad for Calias and his team for the company –especially Calias himself, and his strong hands –she didn’t much care to sharing the discovery

     The company followed Tirha to the fallen wall of moss-laden basalt, two of the guards pulling a cart across the glade behind her. Beyond the broken gate was a mostly barren courtyard, save for a solitary tree with bark like bleached bone and autumn leaves clinging to its skeletal branches. Directly across from the gate, set into the stone of a low, weather-worn cliff face, was a dilapidated awning that framed a door made of deep red crystal-wood. As they drew nearer, it became clear the door was splintered and swinging in the wind.

     One of the mercenaries, a young man with sand colored hair, stepped out of formation and stepped protectively in front of Tirha.

     “Is there a problem, Tam?” asked Calias.

     “Aye, captain,” the young man responded. He knelt and traced a finger along crease lines along the splinters. “These splinters aren’t eroded, and this damage is consistent with a hammer blow.”

     Calias gave Tirha a sidelong look, and the professor merely shrugged. “It’s crystal-wood,” she said. “Crystal-wood can resist erosion better than any other, and this door is protected from the elements. Besides, it took me six years of digging to piece together the clues to find this place. I’m sure we’re the only ones here.” The young mercenary seemed slightly mollified, relaxed slightly and fell back into line. Tirha was relieved. She didn’t need paranoid swordsmen jumping at shadows while she worked.

     The broken door was a small, humble thing for a royal family. Only the splintered material hinted at the wealth and status of those who once sought their final refuge in this place. Beyond the threshold, the light cast by the sun didn’t taper and fade, but rather cut off suddenly into darkness blacker than pitch.

     Tam reached into his pack and extracted a torch, passing it to Tirha. She nodded graciously and readied the light, and two of the guards used it to light their own. The gentle glow of the flame replaced the oppressive darkness with a merely gloomy one. The antechamber of the ruined palace was narrow –more of a corridor than anything –and lined with old banners, which had faded over centuries of neglect. Ancient books and scrolls formed dust-ridden piles on tables in alcoves along the walls.

     Passing the torch back to Tam, Tirha made her way to the nearest collection of tomes and found one of the books was already open. Its text was faded, and its vellum pages were brittle under her fingertips, but not nearly so faded or as brittle as she would have expected from the years of exposure, and she was able to read the out-turned pages. Without taking the time for a proper translation, she was still able to recognize a few works of the script, something about a prophecy. She reached into a belt pouch, extracting a vile of translucent, red liquid and two tiny brushes, like those used for painting.

     “Professor?” Calias asked nervously while Tirha applied the preserving agent to the book.

     “Yes, captain?” she asked, only somewhat paying attention.

     “We only have one cart to bring back to the Lyceum,” he reminded her. “You might want to look around and decide what you really want to bring. You came for something… specific, right?”

     Tirha pursed her lips and sneered, thinking about the cart they had left in the glade. She looked at the pile of books in front of her. Disappointment welled up in front of her as visions of the untold hours she wanted to spend recording and translating the texts disappeared from her mind’s eye. But the captain was right, she had priorities.

     “Very well,” she moped. “I’ll just do this one book, then we’ll look around.” She swept the dust off the vellum and the leather cover with delicate flicks of one of the small painter’s tools before applying the preservative onto the clean one. With a slow, practiced hand she applied the red liquid to the pages, spreading each brushstroke until it was gossamer-thin and pink before reapplying the substance. She wasn’t sure how long it took, and her guards were patient and disciplined enough not to rush her, so she took her time to make sure it was done properly. After the pages, she reinforced the leather spine and closed the book gingerly as possible.

     She put the book gingerly in a special case in her pack. Turning, Tirha found her entire guard contingent had clustered closer to her, as if to protect her from any nefarious tapestries. She scowled and waved them off until they gave her sufficient breathing room. Without a word to any of them, she moved on down the chamber. As she walked, she observed the faded tapestries, wondering what the dust covered heraldry once represented.

     At the end of the chamber, bathed in the light of the torches, was a set of crystal-wood double doors swaying slowly on their broken hinges. There had been a door barricade on the other side, which was naught but splinters, now.

     Calias stepped in front of Tirha protectively. He had his hand affixed to the sword on his belt.

     “Is there a problem, captain?” Tirha asked.

     “This door was opened recently,” the guard said flatly.

     Tirha was about to ask how he could be sure of that when the gravity of his words struck her. “Someone else is here?” she asked instead, unable to keep the anger entirely from her voice. “This is my site, dammit! No one is supposed to know about…” she trailed off, biting her lip.

     “Calm down, professor,” Calias said, in a not-particularly calming tone. “They might not be here for the same reason. They may not even still be here.”

     “So, you think it’s just looters,” she said disdainfully.

     “Could be,” said Calias, as if not registering her tone. He waved two of his crew mates over –a middle aged woman with a severe face and a slightly younger man with no particularly remarkable features aside from an uncannily clean face – and snapped orders at them. “Ren, Vander, scout ahead. See if whoever did this is still lurking around.”

     “Sir,” they acknowledged simultaneously before taking up another pair of torches and lighting them on Tam’s. They ducked between the broken doors and after a few steps, the light vanished from sight. Tirha gritted her teeth in frustration, wondering at whomever might have gotten in her way. She wasn’t sure whether she would be more annoyed by looters or other academics ruining her find, but either way, she was seething.

     Taking a deep breath, Tirha led the remaining guards into the next room. After the narrow entry chamber, the new room was vast, with a ceiling high enough the torches couldn’t illuminate it. There was deteriorated, purple rug that ran from the door and up a dais to the opposite wall, and another that ran perpendicular to it through the middle of the room.

     Vander and Ren were at opposite ends of the second carpet, investigating the closed doors on each side. Tirha led the rest straight across to the dais, upon which sat a dilapidated, ivory throne knocked over on its side. Behind the throne was a stairwell that would have been completely hidden from view if the magnanimous seat had been in place.

     The guards took up positions in front and behind of Tirha as they made their way down the stairs. From the first step, the temperature plummeted, and the professor was grateful for the torches in such proximity. The stairs went down what felt like two stories in a tight-walled spiral before they reached an empty room about the size of her office back in the Lyceum. The opposite wall was inset with three, nested rings of stone at its center, each laden with carved images of stars and the lesser moons. Above the rings a depiction of Delis, the Great Moon, which had been deified during the tenure of the Second Empire.

     The arrangement was wrong, however.

     “Nothing here,” Calias said. “Must have been a safe room, or else whatever treasure was here was moved.”

     Tirha pursed her lips, staring at the wall carving. After a moment’s deliberation, she said, “No.” She pointed at the rings, “It’s a vault.”

     Calias stepped up and put his ear to the stone and slapped at it. Primitive man, Tirha thought. After a moment, he did so again. “So, how does it open?”

     “Those rings. It was common for royalty to utilize puzzle locks during the Classic Imperial eras. Traditionally, only the royal family would know the proper pattern, but this looks like a star chart. I just need to figure out which constellation they might have chosen and turn those rings to match it.” She opened her satchel and began riffling through her papers.

     “It’s the Warlord,” Calias said, without any hesitation in his voice.

     “I beg your pardon?”

     “The constellation,” the guard explained. “It’s the warlord. Delis is only directly overhead in the middle of summer, and the Twins are arranged on opposite sides of this same ring, so…” He pushed on the stone rings, and after a grunt of exertion, the stones began to rotate with a rumbling groan and surprisingly loud scraping that made Tirha wince. When the captain stopped, there was a loud snap-click and a section of the wall began to swing outward, slowly, scraping along the floor as it did so.

     This isn’t a vault, Tirha realized. It’s a crypt. Sarcophagi lined the walls, a dozen in total. Curled up in the corner was a bundle of tattered velvet. The professor stepped into the chamber and examined the cloth, discovering it was a cape wrapped firmly around a shriveled, skeletal corpse that wore a bronze crown and what might have once been a fine tunic. A prince, perhaps? Whoever it had been, they had died doubled over and wrapped up on themselves, likely freezing or starving to death in the crypt. She wondered if he had been trapped inside by someone, or if he had chosen to hide from something in the crypt.

     Something was glowing faintly in the corpse’s hand. Tirha opened the brittle, sinewy fingers with almost disturbing ease, revealing a gleam that might have been a jewel. She pried it out from the dead man’s clutches and was awestruck. On one side, it seemed to be metal, perfectly reflective, as though it had just been polished, fashioned into the shape of an eye. Flipping it over, it was entirely transparent, like glass, with an iridescent tint around the edges.

     “It’s beautiful,” she breathed. There was a pulsing, like a heartbeat, between her fingertips. “So beautiful.” This was, without doubt, what she had come to find. She was sure of it. She thumbed the pattern of the eye on the metal side while staring through the glass side.

     A series of loud thuds broke here reverie. She clutched the eye tight between her fingers and held it to her chest protectively. Between her mercenaries and the stairwell was a massive wall of muscle shaped like a man that towered over the guards. It wasn’t that he was large that made Tirha’s legs tremble. It was that he was impossibly large. Pitiless, bare white eyes reflected the torchlight over a snarling face loomed over the party. The monster carried a massive, broad axe with an elongated blade that fanned out into a crescent.  The edge was smeared with fresh blood.

     “Run,” Calias whispered to Tirha in the moment before he charged at the pillar of pure muscle, sword in hand. The captain swung his blade up at the monster, but he didn’t reach him before the massive axe moved with impossible speed. There was a gut churning crunch as the monstrosity struck the captain with the broadside of his mighty weapon and sent him flying straight into the wall. He crumpled to the floor like a sack of potatoes, blood splattered around him. The nearest mercenary, a young woman named Kel, lunged at the attacker with a short sword, but was knocked aside by the haft of the axe.

     A guard emerged from the stairwell –Vander, Tirha recognized through the cloud of terror fogging her mind –and swung and stabbed the behemoth in the ribs.  With an inhuman noise that vaguely resembled a grunt of pain, the bestial man fell to one knee that boomed like thunder against the stone.

     The order Calias had given her finally broke through the mire of her understanding, and she hitched her skirt with her free hand, still clutching the eye to her breast with the other. When she reached the stairs, she had to make her way in pitch darkness. She could hear the clamoring of swords and armor below, she heard the monster bellowing, Tam cursing, scattered screams and yelling, all growing distant as she tripped and scrambled her way up the stairs. Her heartbeat, her ragged breathing, and her clumsy ascension up the stairwell all eventually drowned out the sounds of the guards.

     At least, she thought they had.

     She knew the truth as soon as she heard the drum like thuds below. Her people were dead. And the killer was coming for her. She tore her skirt on a misstep but was able to course correct and fear had her moving faster. She heard the monster growing closer when she reached the top. Scrambling around the fallen throne, she all but leaped down the dais and made a run for the door. Through the double-doors, across the entry chamber she could see the outside world. Night had fallen, but the moons were bright. She lifted her skirts higher and ran as hard and fast as her legs would carry her. She was half way through the entry hall when she heard something crash hard behind her.

     She staggered and nearly fell several times along that chamber, and again as she ran through the moonlit clearing, but she held ground. When she reached the tree line, she dared a look back to see her pursuer in the field. He was charging, fast as a raptor despite his girth.

     Clutching the eye tight in her hand, she fled into the forest.

About the Mask of Xiavaal and Other Announcements

Hello, my dear readers! Today, I am ready to share with you my new, and first formally presented, project; a serial novel, titled The Mask of Xiavaal.

The Mask of Xiavaal is an experimental project I started a little while ago, so bare with me a moment as I explain what it’s all about:

As I said before, it’s a serial novel, which means it will be made available chapter by chapter rather than all at once. As for the experimental aspect, there were actually two ideas I had knocking around my mind for a while; the first idea was to write a serial. That’s already been covered.

The second idea,  however, was a bit more out there. For some time, I have had the idea of writing a story like a Dungeons and Dragons (or other tabletop) campaign, with characters having stats, and situations unfolding based on the luck of the dice, and so on.

After the ideas spun around in my mind for a long while, I eventually decided the two ideas could be done in one story, and the Mask of Xiavaal was born. This format means that, while I am writing a story that I have planned and plotted, things can happen that change the course of events that will throw a wrench into things and change the trajectory of the story. In this way, things like success and failure, life and death, ingenuity and foolishness, all of which are necessary story beats, can occur in a way that feels both natural and dramatic, and hopefully immerse readers into the world.

The story will be posted over time, a chapter at a time, free to be read here on my website. However, each chapter after the prologue will be made available first to subscribers of my Patreon page! Oh, and I have one of those! I hope you enjoy this story!

Adaptations – If the Book is Always Better, Why Bother?

It’s the clarion cry we all hear (or say) as we’re leaving the theater. “The book was better,” “Oh, well, in the comics this character…” and “What did that even have to do with the game?” It’s all summed up by the old adage: “The book is always better”.


Just a small budget adaptation of a little-known book

Of course, it’s not so simple as all that, otherwise we wouldn’t live in an age where almost all successful movies are adaptations of something. I pulled up this list of movies adapted from books (just books, not comics or anything else) coming out this year alone, and there were thirty-five of the damn things.

So why are adaptations so prevalent? Well, money, obviously, but there’s more to it than that. I would like to take a moment to delve into what makes an adaptation good, where they tend to fall flat, and why certain things work better than others. Not necessarily in that order.

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