Playlists for reading

Readers, if you want some songs to read by, I have a few playlists on Spotify. These are songs that have inspired be, and that speak to the nature of the story, the setting, and the characters. In the case of No Distance Greater than the Stars, a few of the songs are actually referred to in the book. They should make for some great music to read by. You can also see the bands I follow, and maybe discover someone new that way. Happy listening!

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Legends of Lorata Book One: The Champion of the Goddess – Prologue

Prologue: The Woeful Emperor

After a land has long since become enshrouded in legend, and the light of its glorious past is filtered by the dust of ages, it falls into danger of facing yet another peril. And while that peril should like to disprove the realm’s glory, often it is that a greater legend is born. In a world where history is no different from legend, and prophecies are promises from the gods, unyielding in their faithfulness, reverence and wonder shall never cease. The legends and prophecies written in holy text might not be fully understood, but they are true nonetheless. Even the most esoteric of tales cannot be dissolved by time; the future shall look back upon them to watch the warrior emerge from the flames and tears to prove the might of his spirit. 

Legend, in all its richness of glory and tragedy, had birthed the most majestic kingdom known to Lorata. In the grassy plains that roll from the cliffs of Dragonridge Mountains to the waves of Blueshade Ocean, Onsira stood proud and deeply respected. Its rich soil brought verdant life to the plains, dotting it with woodlands cut by streams and ponds. Onsira had long been ruled by a monarchy, its bloodline tied to the greatest of all heroes: Loracaz, Champion of Jenh.

Generations had passed since the hero’s great feat, years that were ruled in peace under centuries-old traditions. Onsira was a kingdom governed by elves, but it welcomed fae-kind as friends. It had even found peace and mutual respect with the dragons, difficult though their history had been. It was a safe and honorable kingdom, said to be blessed by Goddess Jenh herself, and its people prospered.

Late in the fifth millennium of Lorata’s recorded history, that age-old peace came to its end. For those who believed that it would never leave the kingdom, it was a juncture of utmost tragedy, the desperate culmination of the actions of His Royal Majesty, King Z’Lé. For the elves who had put their trust into his dream of uniting the four realms of magic and the four races, he had become a figure of cruel betrayal. His people had feared him ever since the day that he invited ambassadors from Thiizav, the kingdom known for it devotion to Métius.  The king’s people began to worry that their queen had made the wrong choice in taking Z’Lé as her beloved.

The Onsiran citizens protested the collection of taxes in order to support the construction of a temple for the one god who had no place in Onsira: Métius, ruler of the Abyss and all the demons who resided therein. Complaints about the taxes brought King Z’Lé’s wrath, and he did not hesitate in jailing those who tried to prevent supplies from arriving at the site of the temple. It had been an act of treason, the king decreed, to prevent the unification that he so desired to create. He had lost the mercy that Onsira had been known for, and cared not that he was feared and reviled. 

All the while, Queen Arialla could do nothing  to stop him. She did not agree with the harshness of Z’Lé’s punishments, but the goal of unification that Z’Lé sought was to important, and too well under way to get in the way of.  She was as nervous as any of her citizens were about demon king, but if she let that fear guide her, how could she bring about unity? It was for that dream that she had chosen Z’Lé, and she could not give up on it.

This logic, however, denied something greater. If Arialla had wanted deny the nobles from Thiizav their embassy and keep Métius out of her kingdom, the king would have gone ahead without her blessing. King Z’Lé had begun to dominate the throne long before commissioning the Temple of Métius to be built. No decision was final without his word, and while the queen laid resting, he would decree many of the laws that would bring his goal of unification to completion. In the name of the alliance of the gods, he broke from one Onsiran tradition after another without even a thought.

Zarrek, the second son of the royal family, grew up as the dark temple was completed. King Z’Lé took the child with him to oversee the raising of its twisted spires, and though he was just a babe, Zarrek watched, transfixed, as each block of rich black stone was set into its place. It worried Arialla to know that her son was so close to that source of evil. He would not bend to her concerns, though. Although the queen did not want her sons to partake in the darker aspects of the unification, the king insisted upon it in the name of true unity. 

With all that he had done, King Z’Lé had forever changed the face of Onsira. Its proud heritage was now hardly better than a memory, and the people were resentful that they could not contest what their king was doing. He expected them to forgive what Métius had done to Goddess Jenh centuries ago, and he decreed that devotion to her alone would harm Onsira’s chances for a unified future. 

In truth, Jenh was the pillar of the kingdom, and Arialla was a direct descendant of her champion, the realm’s founding ruler: Loracaz I. Métius had captured the goddess ages ago, in an attempt to steal away her life and magic, and Loracaz had been the only one able to rescue her. Welcoming the lord of evil back, even in the name of unity, was an insult to the worshipers of the goddess.

Z’Lé overruled any concern for the threat of the demon lord by declaring that the legends and prophecies were too ancient to be trifled with. Jenh had forgiven the dragons, whose jealousy was the root of all acts committed against her. Even her promise that the great hero would return to Lorata, should Métius ever again threaten the world with his evil, seemed unnecessary. It was time for Onsira to grow into an empire of unity, rather than a simple kingdom devoted to a goddess.

When Zarrek was merely five years old, he was initiated into both the Temple of Jenh the Elemental Mother, and the Temple of Métius, Dark Destroyer and Lord of Demons. In the evening of that same day, the king announced that he would unite all of Manastaecies under his rule. He declared himself Emperor of Unified Onsira, and a new age was born. The old green banners were pulled down from the palace walls, and replaced with a new tapestry, one of Z’Lé’s own design. Instead of the traditional leaf, the imperial banner was a long, vertical tapestry that contained the symbols of all four deities, even the demon lord, sewn onto a background of pale grey.

Arialla, now forced to call herself empress, could now understand how he could go so far, 

To Z’Lé, Onsira being ruled by an elvan family meant neglect for the dragons, and it was that neglect that had ignited anger in the hearts of the dragons of ages past. Being that he was from one of the mountain provinces, where dragons outnumbered the elves, he was the best authority on the current disposition of the flying creatures. Arialla had once trusted his conviction that the dragons should be welcome everywhere in Onsira. Nobody had ever suspected that it would come to this.

He who had begun as a charismatic, idea-laden man, able to win the heart of the princess, changed into an irascible, demanding, and vengeful beast of an emperor, more like a dragon than an elf. When Arialla had fallen in love with Z’Lé and made him her king, he had been a gentle ruler, his only request being that dragons and elves should learn to befriend one another. It had been a strange mixing at first, for most elves were frightened of such immense and powerful beasts, but Z’Lé had worked hard to create a peaceable relationship between the races. 

It became apparent, however over the years that his initial success, and the subsequent trust placed upon him by the elves was only his method of preparing for the darker aspects of what he called unity. That unification seemed to lie primarily between Jenh and Métius, ignoring the other two faiths almost entirely. Though he’d allowed temples to the holy god of purity and the celestial goddess of the bards to be built, he took no interest in them, and not even Zarrek bothered to learn from the other two temples.

Z’Lé took no pains to insist that such sacred buildings be built, as he had for Métius. Where he had overseen the building of the black temple at every stage, he had appointed ministers to ensure that the other two were erected, and left them to make their own decisions. Even the funding for the Temple of Métius was far more generous than that budgeted for the Temples of Kearr and Aamh combined.

When the people of the land could no longer bear to live under Emperor Z’Lé’s cruelty, his unfair laws and extreme punishments, they began to beg of Arialla to make him cease his actions and restore the traditions and former laws of Onsira. To their dismay, she could do nothing, what with him dominating the throne. Even when she reminded Z’Lé that the elves were dying of hunger and sickness because of his demands, he asserted his power over her. 

Matters only worsened after that. Z’Lé had amassed a powerful and innumerable following of loyal soldiers and noblemen over the years. Even the dragons were willing to follow his command. They believed in his dream, in the future that Z’Lé had promised them. His followers ignored what most called tyranny, insisting that it was part of the process of incorporating the four alignments; what good was a ruler with a pure heart in a kingdom that allowed Métius within its borders? Blindly, they supported him, defending him with their lives. 

The hope of the people laid in the hands of Prince Loracaz II, Zarrek’s elder brother and the first child born to Arialla and Z’Lé. To find a way out from under the emperor’s tyranny, the citizens implored him instead of the empress. The prince was the first person to be named after Jenh’s champion in all the centuries since the hero’s daring feat. He had much in common with the legendary hero, greatest of which was his pure love and devotion for the goddess; he spent much of his time in the temple dedicated to Goddess Jenh, studying her magic and legends, and often left offerings for her on the royal altar. 

What the Onsiran people now held most dear was this: ages ago, after Goddess Jenh had been rescued from the clutches of Métius, she had made a promise to the elves of Onsira: should evil ever again threaten the land, her champion would return. Loracaz was the one man who could put a stop to tyranny and suffering and banish Métius back to the Abyss. Even if the emperor did not believe in the prophecy, the elves and their fae brethren did, and they prayed each day that their prince would soon awaken to his destiny and restore Onsira to its age-old glory.

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The House of the Seventh Minuet XXII

When Club Nightshade opened its doors to the public at nine o’clock, Stefan wasn’t DJing yet. For the first hour, while the club was still filling up, one of the house DJs– I think they called her Moonlight– was in charge of music. She played mostly songs that we were used to hearing at the club, and I passed the time chatting with Killian and Larsa.

The lights dimmed at ten o’clock, and the music changed to a low, rhythmic drumming. The spotlights changed from their usual circles to outlines of a galloping eight-legged horse, then the lights proceeded to move all over the club. The huge screens on both floors changed to display a Viking-era scene, with a moon-lit night. The shadows of the Norse gods passed by, followed by hoofbeats. There was the whinnying of a wild, bestial horse before DJ Moonlight addressed the crowd.

“Good evening and welcome, my fellow nightlings,” her voice came through all of the club’s speakers. “It’s wonderful to see all your beautiful faces tonight, gathered together to meet the newest shadow music magician.”

She paused and let the crowd cheer excitedly before she went on. “You’re going to have a wonderfully dark time tonight, darklings. Welcome to Club Nightshade, DJ Sleipnir!”

Moonlight turned off her microphone and gestured to the top of the stairway. The club technicians had released clouds of artificial smoke, and a figure stepped out of it wearing armor-like leather, a fur cape, and a skull helmet. The crest emblazoned across his chest showed a silhouette of Sleipnir encircled by musical symbols. He rose one hand, and the crowds cheered. Then he descended the stairs, one gloved hand on the railing, and greeted the crowds on the lower level.

His bright blue eyes met mine, he he gave me a slow nod, his body bowing slightly. I smiled back at him, and he continued over to the DJ podium. The crowd was cheering, ‘Sleipnir, Sliepnir,’ and he was waving to all of them. He put on his headphones, and I could see him moving to the rhythm of the song that was growing and developing deep and rich dubstep characteristics.

“Gott kveld og sæl– Good evening and best wishes to you all.” He paused to let the crowd cheer louder– myself included. “Thank you for being at the best club in town tonight. I’m DJ Sleipnir, and I’ve got a mix just as dark as your hearts and minds for all of you.”

I felt an arms go around my shoulders, and turned to see that Killian had found me. He was grinning wildly, as was Larsa. I smiled back before turning to watch Stefan as he spoke.

“Are you ready for some wicked tracks and haunted beats?” More cheering, and the background music was building in speed and pitch. “Okay nightlings; I’ll give you what you want. For my first song, here’s “Sleipnir” by Centhron!”

Stefan’s introductory song descended to its deepest bass, sounding a lot like a laser beam plunging into the depths, and we were soon greeted by electric thrums and powerful German vocals.

“Sleipnir” by Centhron

Another song that goes well with this scene: here.

This one was also great, even though it’s more dubstep than goth.

If you want music with an ancient Nordic feel, try Heilung, Wardruna, and Danheim.

Happy listening!

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The Coronation

The coronation of Loracaz I, shortly after he’d rescued Goddess Jenh from the crystal in which Métius had imprisoned her. He becomes the first king of Onsira, and in time he takes a mate and begins the enduring lineage. Arialla Antraius is one of his descendants, and is thereby capable of bringing about his reincarnation.

The woman crowning him was high priestess of Jenh at the time. Also shown is the spear that he used. The feathers he’d tied to it because he thought they were lovely; one had been given to him by a friend, and the other he’d found in the forest while training with his spear. They’re remembered fondly because they show a well-respected aspect of his personality.

Loracaz I was down-to-earth, friendly, and loved to be helpful. He was the eldest of several siblings, and never had a problem with helping his mother with them. He joined his fellow villagers in learning to use a spear so that he could hunt and defend the village.

Legend has it that Goddess Jenh had been captured in the crystal by Métius not long before Loracaz I was conceived. It’s said that Jenh had intended for him to be able to rescue her even when nobody else could. He was a young man when he decided that he had to try. It’s hard to explain how someone with limited training and skill was able to shatter the crystal, but he hadn’t gone to the tower alone; the people journeying with him helped him fight off the monsters and climb the tower. Once they were at the top, in the wide chamber where Jenh floated in the crystal that drained her magic, he felt her call in his heart. With everyone else fighting the demons and the evil priest, Loracaz I took his chance and charged at the crystal. The wind seemed to propel him, to carry him up, to allow him to pierce its weakest point with his spear.

After rescuing the goddess, his spearhead became entangled with a chunk of the crystal, which contains a significant amount of Zeah. Loracaz I wielded the altered spear while he sat on the throne, but after his passing, it was at first entrusted to the Temple of Jenh in the capital city, Jzifélan, and eventually placed in the tower at the center of the royal palace.

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Banner of Jzamneh Forest

Jzamneh Forest is on the continent of Manastaecies. It’s a place of whimsy and wonder, crystals and treasure. The elves and fae here are playful and artistic. The forest is also home to fae-winged dragons.

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Phiare and Faolan

Elves from Jzamneh Forest. Read about them in Book I: The Champion of the Goddess and Book II: Traipsing Light and Shadow.

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The House of the Seventh Minuet XXI

Club Nightshade glowed darkly and we pulled into its parking. Let me explain. It glowed because there were so many lights on the outside of the building to let people know it was open that night. I say ‘darkly’ because, for one, the building is painted black, and secondly because a lot of the lights used had darker colors on them– dark blue, deep red, royal purple. The building itself had a façade reminiscent of the Victorian era, looking formal yet creepy, wrought iron bars overlaid over many of the accents. There was also a banner announcing that a new DJ was debuting that night.

We showed our VIP passes to the bouncer is a red and gray suit at the door, as he bowed slightly as he let us in. The place already smelled of rich cologne an incense, and it was still bright inside to allow the crews to get everything set up. There were lighting tests and safety checks and– another employee in a suit and top hat stopped us to check our IDs so that he could get us wristbands for the bar.

“It’s going to get crowded later and you don’t want to be waiting in line for these,” he said as he fastened each wristband for us.

I thanked him, and he had the bartender give each of us a water bottle before pointing us in the direction of the stage. We found Stefan behind the wide podium, checking his equipment as he got things plugged in.

“Okay,” he said from under a tangle of cable, “let’s boot up and start the sound checks.”

“What song are you using for that these days?” I asked.

“Wait, what–” Stefan choked as he crawled out from under everything. He looked up at us , then a wide grin crossed his face. “You’re here!”

“O’ course we’re here, lad,” Killian said.

Stefan got to his feet. “You guys came really early.”

“What else are VIP passes good for?” I said with a wink.

Stefan didn’t reply right away. He looked over the sleek black slacks Killian hand gotten on, and the silk shirt in black with a pair of long black dragons embroidered down the front. I’d gotten him to not wear the leather pants he preferred for club nights, considering it was still warm this time of year. The Stefan’s blue eyes shifted over to Larsa.

“I see Killian managed to convince you to wear black this evening.”

Larsa blushed. Stefan was mostly accurate; Larsa almost never wore black, preferring lighter colors and those traditionally worn people the people of his culture. But I was the one who’d convinced Larsa to try on the black jeans he now wore; they actually looked really good on him. He’d managed to get out of wearing the chainmail belt Killian had offered to lend him, but he did seem to like the braided leather bracelets we found at the store. He also had on a white collared shirt with a vest of black and sapphire brocade, and a plain silver chain necklace.

“I lent him a thing or two,” Killian explained, “an’ took ‘im shopping. I think he had more fun watchin’ me get dressed up.”

Stefan peered closer at Killian. “Well… What do you know? He got you to put on make-up?”

I let out a lough that sounded more like a giggle than I’d intended it to. “Larsa saw me putting on make-up and asked Killian if he wore it, too.” Killian definitely didn’t wear make-up before, even on previous goth nights. “It was interesting helping him apply it, to say the least.”

“The eyeliner actually looks really good on you,” Stefan told him, earning him a wary look from Killian. “No, I really mean it.”

Killian smiled a little, still uncertain about to look. The lipstick I’d given him was a deep red that managed to blur the line between black and maroon. It suited him, actually– in a gothic way. I was secretly wondering how things would go when they started making out later. I was so lost in thought that it took me a few moments to realizing that Stefan’s eyes were still on me.

“Y– You…” I saw his Adam’s apple move as he swallowed hard; I decided not to say anything about it just then. “You brought that dress.”

That dress. He was so close to actually adding the emphasis. The truth is, I’d forgotten until that moment that he’d seen me in this dress before. The sleeves are all lace, and the lace is woven in the shape of bats in various sizes. The body of the dress is something between a corset and a medieval bodice, made of green silk overlaid with the same lace. It was low-cut, and some of the green silk lining peeked out from the top. The skirt portion continued the layers of green silk and lace, except there were more layers, and if poofed out a little.

I– back when I’d been dress shopping years ago– remember being glad that it went down to my knees, because I really don’t like anything shorter than that. I actually have a couple other dresses that I like more than this one, but they don’t go well the warm weather we get in early autumn. I had lacey tights on under the dress, but I’d had to get the kind with skulls because there were no bat stockings. Then there were my Doc Martens, of course. I couldn’t find my lace gloves, and I didn’t feel like buying new ones unless it was colder.

I nodded slowly. He’d been all compliments that last time I’d worn this dress to goth night, and– I don’t know why I didn’t remember that when I’d seen the dress in my closet. But I was remembering it now. And my cheeks felt warm. And he was now grinning– not in a weird way, just…. just pleasantly happy. Stefan’s always a gentlemen like that.

“You’re going to be the best-dress young lady at my debut,” he commented. “And that dress actually makes sense for the season… unlike what I picked out.”

“Oh really?” I looked him over, noting his well-worn indigo Henley and the jeans that had once been dark blue, but were now more approaching a typical shade.

He chuckled. “Not this, obviously,” he said, understanding what I was thinking. “This is just what I’m wearing while I get set up. No sense in getting my special garb dirty.”

“Is it something I’ll recognize?” I asked. I remember the skin-tight leather pants he’d dance in back when we were in college.

“Not unless you were peeking in the back of my closet,” he said with a wink.

Around that time, one of the Club Nightshade’s crewmates came by. “All right, DJ, are you ready to do sound checks?” she asked as she handed him a bottle of water.

“Most definitely,” he replied.

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The Dragon Isles

The setting of Book IV: The Distant Isles of the Dark Seas

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Chibi Starshine

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The House of the Seventh Minuet XX

I wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear that owls had such dark connotations. I’d always thought of them and wise, maybe even rustic. I guess I missed this little detail when I was reading up on Celtic stories. Either way, Stefan seemed content that the owl I’d let into the house had to ill will towards me.

I decided not to tell him about the dream. I should say dreams– plural. I mean, I wasn’t going to invite my friends up to the house if I actually thought anything weird was going to happen while they were there.

Once I’d finished painting his nails, stefan had me boot up his computer so he could show me a few of the songs he’d written, plus the playlist he’d come up with. I made Sure he added a couple more that were definitely worthy of being heard at Club Nightshadow, including my favorite Sisters of Mercy song.

“Oh, hey,” he said all of a sudden, as though suddenly remembering something, “did you bring your oboe?”

I blinked, trying to determine whether he was being serious. “Was I supposed to?”

He chuckled and shook his head. “I was just curious. I remember how we used to practice together.”

“Ohhhh… you were interested in a duet,” I said, eying him knowingly.

“You see right through me, don’t you Leila?”

“Only some of the time.”

“So… Here’s the thing: I wrote a song recently that has two different tunes for oboe. I was going to to play each one separately, record them, and then layer them in my music software, but…”

but you want to see–or hear– if it would make a difference if both were recorded together?”

He gave me a wide grin.” I had a feeling you’d understand:”

“You should have told me,” I said. “I would have gladly brought it to play with you! “

His grin widened– if you can believe his mouth was big enough to do That. “I might have just the thing!” he hopped out of h is chair and took off for his bedroom. I could hear a lot of noise, so wandered over to See what he was up to.

“You’re going to chip that nail polish I just put on you,” I warned him, only partially serious.

“This is worth it!” Stefan pulled a black plastic case from the top shelf of his closet and presented it to me.

I gave a wary look and snapped open the box. After peeking inside, I glanced back to his desk, where his oboe sat on its stand. “You have two?”

He nodded, still grinning. “That’s my older one, the one I learned with back in grade school. The one on my desk is my professional one. So? Will you play with me?”

I smiled at at him. “Of course I will.”

The song he’d written had several layers to it, and most of them were electronically generated. He liked to record himself playing whenever he could, and now he’d written something even more ambitious. He loaded up the file in between putting the oboe together and testing it out. Once it was loaded, he pulled up the sheet music for each oboe.

“The line is what I’ve been calling the upper path.” He played it for me, demonstrating the higher notes and the tune that seemed like it was off on an adventure.

“I like it,” I told him with a smile. “It reminded me of the start of Final Fantasy VI, but a little more…”



“You always have such a way of describing music,” he said. “It must come from the fact that you’re a writer, too.”

I shrugged. “Maybe.” Then I looked over at the other lines of music. “Those are some really low notes.”

“Yep,” he agreed. “That’s the lower path.” He played the lower path, which was slow and dark and… well, just short of creepy.

“What do you think?” he went on. Then he suggested, “Do you want to play the upper path?”

“I’ll give it a whirl.”

After a practicing a few times, I started to get the hang of the song. It wasn’t terribly long, and it did have a couple reprisals. Then we practiced playing together, and I realized that there were points when the tunes were played together, sometimes the same notes, sometimes complementary. There were also times when one tune rested while the other went on, and after some overlap, they switched places. By the end of the song, the lower notes seemed to be chasing the higher ones, and the higher notes were lifting the others out of the depths.

“What is it?” Stefan asked when he realized I was staring at him.

“Wow…” I said. I caught myself, not wanting to sound dumb. “You’re incredible at writing music. I could never come up with a song like that.”

He gave me a warm smile. “Some of us write words, some of us write songs. In the end, they’re both made up of sounds and notes.”

“You do want a way with words when the timing is right,” I told him.

He smirked, and we went back to practicing more. We eventually got to recording, and managed to record a few good play-throughs before lunch time. Stefan could edit the rest together later– another day, when he didn’t have a big debut to make.

“What’s the name of your song, by the way?” I asked as he saved the files and started getting ready to head out to lunch.

He shrugged. “I haven’t really settled on anything yet.”

“Hmmm…” I thought as I looked over the sheet music again. Then I noticed the file name. “Are you sure? I mean, this sounds like it suits it really well.”

“What does?” He slipped on his shoes and tied them in a hurry before coming back over to the computer. “Oh, that’s just–“

“‘Sleipnir’s Dream’?” I said the file name out loud. “I think that’s a perfect name for this song.”

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Map of Kriilani

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Chibi High Priestess Liriel

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