A Soldier’s Crest: Variant Issue #1

A Soldier’s Crest: Variant: Issue #1


 

The frigid night was uncommon on the otherwise warm continent of Khroma. The chirping of crickets, only interrupted by the sound of speeding cars on 45th Avenue, set the tone as Detective Jared Grim parked his car. He took a deep breath, followed by a long drink from the flask of alcohol he kept hidden in his glove compartment. After the call he had received, he wondered how it could be possible that all he heard were the crickets. Grim wasn’t your ordinary Detective. He would often receive the toughest jobs with the most unusual circumstances. This one was no different.

As Grim got out of his car, he took a moment to study his surroundings. There was a line of stores on either side of the street with visible trees behind each building. To his right was a stop sign with a black and white sign behind it. The pole underneath was straight, but the actual sign itself was crooked. “Welcome to New Halosy,” it read. He didn’t realize this job was just outside his town. New Halosy was where he was known as the successful Detective, but elsewhere no one knew who he was. At least that’s what he thought.

“Wasn’t expecting to see a member of the Royal Guard,” Grim said as he approached the store in question. The man he spoke to was dressed in black armor with a gold outline. His helmet was tucked under his arm.

“I happened to be the closest when it happened. My lucky night, I suppose,” replied the knight. “Sir Emery,” the knight put out his hand to the Detective who welcomed the gesture. “Wasn’t sure if you would answer a call just outside of New Halosy. Not many Detectives here in Syren.”

“I didn’t realize it was outside, or I might not have,” replied Grim. “What are we looking at?”
“Multiple homicides. No connection between the victims from what I can tell, but I’m not a Detective,” Sir Emery led Detective Grim closer to the store in question. “Doesn’t seem to be any relation between the victims and the store owner either.”

“How long ago did you found the bodies?” asked Grim.

“Maybe an hour ago? How long did it take you to get here?” replied Emery.

“The man over there with the cigarette,” Grim ignored the follow-up question as he noticed the man standing just a few feet away. “Is that the store owner?”

“Yeah,” Emery adjusted the helmet under his arm, obvious to Grim it was uncomfortable for him to hold. “I tried asking him some questions, but he doesn’t seem too surprised. The crime rate keeps increasing between here and Davish City.”

“Not surprised at all,” said the store owner, closer to their conversation than they thought. “Shit like this keeps happening all over. It ain’t just between here and Davish.” He took a long drag from his cigarette before dropping it to the ground. He joined them. “You look at the bodies yet? Pretty messed up if you ask me.”

Grim had seen dead bodies before. He had also seen his fair share of “messed up” murders before too. “Let’s have a look.”

The store owner led them inside where five bodies were lined up on the floor. Black garbage bags covered the bodies and blood was all over the floor and walls of the store.

“Business was just starting to pick up too,” added the owner with a deep sigh.

“Did you cover the bodies like this?” asked Grim wondering why the bodies weren’t placed in the bags, just covered by them.

“Hell no,” the owner replied. “This is how I found them.”

“Did you look at them?” this question was for Sir Emery.

“No, I called you the moment I found out about this. Figured it was best to leave them as they were,” Emery walked over to the bodies, he got as close as he could without stepping in the pool of blood.

“I see,” Grim removed plastic gloves from his pockets and began putting them on. “I need to know what we’re up against. How did you know there was no relation between the victims?”

“Like I said, I’m no Detective, but from what I can see of the bodies, it looks like these murders were done at different times. Some have no blood around them.” It was true. Majority of the blood seemed to be coming from the body at the end of the row.

“And definitely no relation to you?” Grim asked the owner.

“None that I know of. They may have been customers, but that’s about it. I don’t have many friends or much family, I called them all as soon as this happened to make sure everyone was alright.”

Grim knelt down and pulled back one of the bags. The first victim in the row had markings carved into his face. Majority of his skin on his chest had been removed. Grim couldn’t narrow down with what, exactly, but it looked to be ripped or clawed off. The blood on this victim was dry, the first of the five no doubt.

“Male victim, late twenties, early thirties if I had to guess. Weird markings on his face and skin on his chest ripped off,” Grim was talking out loud, but mainly speaking his thoughts. This information was of little importance to Sir Emery and the store owner.

“Damn,” the store owner added as he chose to no longer look.

“Next victim is female, dark skin. Most of her teeth have been removed. Looks like they were removed violently, but not with a punch. Pulled out one by one,” Grim covered her back up and skipped ahead to the last victim. “Strange.”

“What is it?” asked Sir Emery.

“The last victim, which you were right in assuming this was the most recent, has a tattoo that is known to represent members of the Craw.”

“That crime organization that has been causing trouble in New Halosy?” Sir Emery asked, already knowing the answer.

“Yeah, convenient that you would call me here to handle this. The Craw have been a thorn in my side for ages,” Grim completely removed the bag from the last victim. “The tattoo is typically here,” he pointed at the victim’s stomach. “This person has it on their neck.”

“Does that mean something?” asked the owner, still refusing to look at the bodies.

“Yes, actually,” Grim pulled out a notepad from his pocket and a pen. He began writing notes as he spoke. “The tattoo on the normal spot, the stomach as I said, represents that you’re a true member of the gang. A tattoo on the neck means you’re a temporary member until you prove yourself. My guess is that this person didn’t prove themselves worthy, but also did something to warrant removal of a more permanent nature.”

“So you think the Craw is responsible for these murders?” Sir Emery asked, now holding the helmet with both of his hands.

“Yes… and no,” Grim folded his arms and brought the pen up to his stubble covered chin. “From my experience the Craw are criminals, but they aren’t flashy when it comes to murder. Bullet to the head then dump you in a river, they keep it simple. An exception comes along once in awhile, but something this extreme? It just doesn’t feel like something they would do.”

“What do you think is really going on here, then?” Emery walked over to the other bodies, but with the bags still on them he couldn’t see anything.

“I don’t think the victims are related and that’s my concern,” Grim explained. “If they killed someone who didn’t prove themselves, why lump them with 4 other people who weren’t even in the gang? I saw no tattoos on the others.”

“It’s just coincidence? Wrong place, wrong time for this Craw member?” Emery asked, trying to do some Detective work of his own.

“Yes, or…” Grim raised his index finger before pointing at the bodies. “These victims were all problems for the Craw, but they hired someone else to do their dirty work. The only problem with that is the Craw wasn’t expecting this third party murderer to put the bodies on display.”

“They can’t be happy about that,” added the owner, finally turning his gaze to the bodies for a moment before quickly looking away again. “This new murderer trying to draw the attention of the Craw?”

“Or just trying to make a name for himself,” added Grim. “Either way, not much more I can do here until the Syren officials run diagnostics on the bodies. Have them send the results to my office in New Halosy.”

“Will do. What’s your next step?” Sir Emery asked, mainly out of curiosity.

“I’m going to have a chat with the Craw.”

 

——-

 

The next day, Grim found himself seated in a car just outside of a bar in New Halosy. He didn’t sleep much at all the night before, not with this new case on his hands. His white button-down shirt looked like it hadn’t been washed or ironed in months. He wouldn’t be able to tell you what happened to the tie he was wearing the day before. While he would normally wear a hat to avoid tidying up his hair, the hat was also missing in action and thus his dark brown disheveled locks were on full display. His eyes, that were also dark brown, surveyed the street until he found what he was looking for.

A young man with black baggy clothes and piercings that connected from his nose, eyebrows and ears was walking down the street at a hurried pace. Grim maneuvered himself over to the passenger side of his car and opened the door abruptly when the young man passed by.

“What the hell, old man? You almost hit me!” the Craw member impulsively got in Grim’s face, before realizing who it was. “Not you again!”

“Me again,” Grim said with a smile. The Craw member didn’t react violently, but more dejectedly and disappointed.

“Look man, you told me not to sell anymore and I stopped. You got nothing else on me and my crew. Just give it a rest already,” the Craw member put his hands into the pockets of his unzipped hooded sweatshirt.

“Why are you always so defensive, Corkscrew?” It wasn’t an insult. Corkscrew was actually his name. It was tattooed on his chest. “I was just hoping we could have a friendly chat.”

Before Corkscrew could answer, Grim grabbed him by his sweatshirt and threw him into an alley next to where they were speaking.
“Aren’t you supposed to help the law? Not break it?” yelled Corkscrew, as he tried to gather himself. Grim put his boot on Corkscrew’s chest and pinned him against a garbage can.

“Five people turned up dead in a store just outside New Halosy last night. Any connection to your boys?” Grim’s other foot hovered over Corkscrew’s hand. He slowly placed it down, crushing his fingers.

“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, man!” Grim applied more pressure to his hand. “Ow, yo! Come on!”

“No new members or suspicious deals?” Grim brought his foot off Corkscrew’s hand.

“You think they tell me? I’m not even a high level in the gang, man!” The pressure went right back on. “Okay! Okay! Alright, just get off my hand!”

Grim picked up Corkscrew and slammed him into the nearest wall. “What do you got for me?”

“Boss was talking to some shady looking dude,” Corkscrew began massaging his hand. “No idea what his name is, what he wants, what he needed him for, it just all seemed really shady, man.”

“What did he look like?” Grim asked, his grip loosening.

“Average height guy, raggedy clothes. His skin was covered, even his face. Head to toe,” Corkscrew pulled away from Grim. “All I know, man.”

“What was he covered with? What do you mean by that? Covered in tattoos?” Grim kept himself ready in case Corkscrew tried to fight back, but Grim picked this Craw member for a reason. He was a known coward.

“Bandages? I think. It looked like bandages. Like his entire body was wrapped up,” Corkscrew made his way out of the alley, keeping his eyes on Grim as he did. Grim didn’t pursue any more. He could tell that was all Corkscrew knew, so he let him slip away.

When Grim got back to his office there were papers waiting for him on his desk.

“You got some gifts from the folks over in Syren,” a soft voice spoke out from behind a nearby desk. “Anything I should be concerned about?”

The voice belonged to Gemma Orion. A blonde haired young lady with glasses who had been Grim’s assistant for the last five years.

“I got called out there last night,” Grim said as he sifted through the papers.

“Wait, you went all the way to Syren last night?” Gemma replied, shocked. She had not seen Grim leave New Halosy a single time since she began working for him.

“It’s not that far and the case was literally just outside New Halosy,” he grabbed one of the papers specifically and began reading it.

“Must have been bad,” Gemma added.

“It was,” Grim was busy reading and almost forgot to finish his thought. “Five people are dead. Their bodies were left inside a random store on 45th Avenue in Syren. Didn’t see much connection to anything until I inspected the final victim.” Grim went back to reading the paper.

“… Well? What did you find?” Gemma asked, reeling him back into the conversation.

“Craw member tattoo. The neck kind.”

“Poor Corkscrew,” laughed Gemma.

“Don’t worry, I already visited him,” Grim said with a smile of his own. “He proved helpful, as always.”

“Break any of his bones this time?” Gemma took a drink from a nearby mug, her judging eyes not diverting from Grim who finally turned to face her.

“Not that I know of? I stepped on his hand with almost all of my body weight, so I guess it’s possible,” Gemma shook her head at him after her drink. “This file is interesting.”

“What’s it say?” Gemma got up from her desk and joined him.

“Emma Staves is the name of the victim according to the top of the report, but Julia White is the name that keeps popping up in all of the information,” Grim pointed it out as he explained.

“A stage name, perhaps?” suggested Gemma.

“I don’t know much about the offices in Syren, but I would hope they would have the sense to state if this was a stage name or not,” Grim handed the paper to Gemma. “Keep this somewhere secure. Look up Julia White and find out where she lives.”

“I’m not sure this murderer would be that calculating, you think this might be his next target?” Gemma put the paper down on her desk and began typing on her computer.

“We know nothing about him, it could be coincidence, it could be well calculated. He could have no reason for any of these murders or he could be carrying out a job for the Craw. We won’t know for sure until we find him,” Grim stood behind her to also view the computer screen. “I don’t want to take a chance and ignore this clue, it could be a matter of Ms. White’s life.”

“She lives here. In New Halosy.”

—-

Grim broke several speed limit laws on his way to Julia White’s house. When he arrived the front door was cracked open. He’s here. Grim thought, he felt behind his back for a gun he had holstered in the back of his pants. He gripped the handle, but didn’t fully draw the weapon. Despite the open door, the house looked clean and untouched. Nothing was out of the ordinary, but Grim still assumed the worst.

After a full scan of the bottom floor, Grim made his way to the second story of the home. All of the doors were open, but Grim could tell no one was home. He peered inside each room, his hand still firmly on the gun handle, but still no cause for concern. Grim made his way into the final room on the second floor. Inside he found a queen sized bed, picture frames with photos of Julia and her family, and a desk with a notebook on it. He noticed another door closed nearby, but opted to check out the notebook first. Before he could examine it, he heard a car door shut just outside the closest window.

Thanks to the pictures scattered around the room, he knew it was Julia. She must have just got home from work. Had he waited a bit longer he could have knocked on the door and spoke with her directly, but in his current situation it would now look like her front door was open because he was robbing her. While trying to think of the easiest, safest and most lawful way to handle the situation, he heard a sink begin to run in the room with the closed door.

I didn’t hear anyone in there before. Grim thought, before focusing on a nearby closet. He forced his way inside and closed it as quietly as he could. The next thing he heard was Julia come inside and say some words that he couldn’t make out through the floor beneath him. Probably wondering if she left the door unlocked. Grim thought, all of his focus on the closed door. He could hear her footsteps as she made her way to the second floor. The closed door in front of him finally opened.

The man that stepped out was average height, a baseball cap covered the top of his head. Sunglasses covered his eyes. Ragged clothes and bandages covered the rest. Grim’s heart began to beat fast and he could feel the sweat begin to form on his brow. The man he was searching for, found him instead and turned his attention to the closet.

He can’t know I’m in here. That’s impossible. Grim thought to himself, one hand on the closet door and the other on the gun. He took a deep breath then went to open the closet to confront the killer, but the door wouldn’t budge. The bandage covered murderer walked over to the closet door, slowly. Each foot creating a loud thud as he walked, the silence in the rest of the house seemed to amplify it. Grim couldn’t even hear Julia’s steps anymore.

Once the killer was close enough to the closet, he slammed both palms onto the door and moved his face close. A rugged, raspy voice spoke out. “Not yet,” it said. The killer turned his head to look behind him then looked back at the closet door. “I want you to see this, Detective.”

 

 

Shorter Short Stories Update + New Youtube Video!

Hey everyone! Just a quick blog here, I might do another one on Friday. I had a busy day. Had a job interview, walked around the city a bunch, visited Midtown Comics and spent a lot of time with my family so I wasn’t able to post the blog earlier like I normally want to do. However, I didn’t want to miss a day, so here we are!

The new Shorter Short Stories are shaping up and starting to look great. The first one has everything but the voice work completed so far, so that means the text and picture are ready to go. As soon as the voice work is done(by the lovely Shannon Butler! Check out her book Beyond the Inferno!!) I’ll begin putting that together!

The second one now has a voice! My good friend Matt is going to be doing it for me, but other than Matt I’m slacking a bit on the second one. For those who have read A Soldier’s Crest: The Dragon Knight Chronicles, this shorter short story will be about Faris Featherwind! Those who have read the prequel really enjoy Faris and I can’t wait to share more of his story with everyone! Unfortunately, I have no artwork to accompany this one yet, but I believe Gabby is cooking up some more masterpieces for me so I’m sure we’ll have this fixed soon!

The third one has art, but I’m still working out the kinks on the story and still waiting to hear back from the person I reached out to for the voice work. It won’t take me long to write this one once I hammer out the details, because if I carry out the plan I’m planning it’s one of the characters from my series that I find it easy to write for. I know this is super vague, but I’ll be adding more to this soon once I get the ball rolling.

For those looking for more updates with my beautiful face, I did a Youtube Thing! Please check it out and let me know what you think!

I’ll have more updates either later this week or sometime next week. I’d like to fit in another blog somewhere throughout the week. I was thinking on Fridays, because I would like to eventually share some more writing here on the blog and Friday would be my slot for that anyway. We’ll see how it goes! Thanks for reading!

I’m on all of the things!:

I mentioned the original Shorter Short Stories, please check it out and give me some feedback! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yX_5K…

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show…

Twitch: Twitch.tv/SynthroLives

Twitter: @SoldiersCrest
Instagram: @SoldiersCrest
Facebook Book Page: https://www.facebook.com/SoldiersCres…

For Soldier’s Crest T-Shirts and other merchandise: https://www.zazzle.com/soldierscrest*

Goals

Goals

Hey everyone! It has been ages since I’ve used this blog due to complications with the log in information and trying to get everything settled. I used my other blog for a while, but now it’s time to return to this one and get my entries featured on my own website.

The theme of this blog post is goals. I will be referring to this post often in the future as I work closer to achieving these goals. Let’s break it down.

Writing Goals:

I’m happy to say that a lot of these goals have been completed. However, there are a TON more that I still need to work towards. I self-published my first book(shown above – top photo) A Soldier’s Crest back in 2015. Since then a lot has changed. I was picked up by the publishing company, The Polyethnic, at the beginning of this year and released my first traditionally published book just a few weeks ago. That book acts as a prequel to my first book and is called A Soldier’s Crest: The Dragon Knight Chronicles(shown above – bottom photo).

I’m extremely proud of both accomplishments and happy to say the first book is being re-released later this year in November! The prequel is designed to introduce people to the universe of my books and set the tone to build hype for the re-release. I’ve also completed another manuscript for another side project based in the ASC universe, that I am just waiting for my publisher to give me the okay before I submit it. This story will tell the origins of a very popular character from the first book, Mira Stormwillow. I’m really happy with how that story came out and I’m hoping to share it with everyone either later this year or early next year depending on publishing schedules.

So if you followed my other blog, you know I’m working on something called the “10 in 10 Campaign” which is essentially trying to complete 10 books in 10 years. I’m currently 30 years old and that would put me with 11 main story books(I’m not including the side story stuff like the prequel, so it could potentially be more than 10 in 10 years!) by the time I am 40. So far, everything is set in place to make this a reality. I’m still putting some guidelines on this process to ensure that I am comfortable with releasing these books and that I feel they are at the quality that I feel is the highest before releasing them to the public. Another words: I won’t release a bunch of trash in order to achieve my 10 in 10 goal.

That being said I am 170 pages into Book 2 as of this post and I intend to have it completed, my own personal edits included, before the first book gets re-released. This blog will touch on my writing goals and progress a lot, so I’ll leave it at that. There is so much more to talk about, but I will post more about it in the coming days.

Social Media / Youtube / Twitch Goals:

As an author trying to make it, as it is with any creator or artist, Social Media has become a huge part of advertising. I’m on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook of course, with my own Author Youtube page. While posting to the first three is easy and something you can do often with no problems – I’m trying to get the youtube page going. I haven’t been consistent with videos and updates, but one of my goals is to change that. A big part of it is to release a lot more “Shorter Short Stories” – which are mini(5 or 6 paragraphs) stories narrated by myself or my friends/peers. I’ve only released one and although it didn’t get as many views as I would’ve liked, I got a lot of positive feedback. If you want to help me feel better about the views, you can check it out here: Prelude to Ruria

I’m also trying to get more involved on Twitch. I’m a big gamer, so I’ll be livestreaming a lot of games with a set schedule starting soon. I’d also love to revisit another idea I had and occasionally do a livestream of my writing process as I work on whatever project I’m on at the time. I’m still working out the kinks, but I think this would be a really cool way to keep fans and friends updated on my progress.

Gaming Goals:

Well, I just mentioned I’m a big gamer so I figured I’d include some gaming goals here as well. I know this sounds kinda silly and this list will seem way longer than it should for a 30 year old person to be posting about, but I hope a lot of people who view this blog are also into gaming. I’d love to share a lot of my videos, goals, accomplishments and experiences on here as well. I have a separate Youtube channel for gaming(ASC Gaming) that I also plan to post more on. A recent video with some tips on a shortcut in the FFXIV expansion has reached almost 1900 views on there and I’d like to replicate that more in the future if I can!

Here’s the breakdown of my current gaming goals:

Path of Exile – some friends just got back into the game. I’ve never played it, but I loved Diablo 2 and Diablo 3, as well as the 2 Torchlight games so I’m sure I’ll be hooked on this one as well. The goal here is basically to catch up to my friends, who are much higher level than me as of this post.

Heroes of the Storm – I play Heroes on and off, but one consistency for me is that I love to collect things for the character Li-Ming. Playing with some friends last night, I realized that Li-Ming has a new Legendary Skin that’s 2400 shards. Without spending any money, I’m going to try to unlock at least one color of that skin to add to my collection. I’m currently at 840 shards.

Overwatch – When Overwatch first came out, I played it a bunch and got really into it. In a similar fashion to Li-Ming above, Widowmaker is my character of choice to try and unlock everything. There is a new summer event going on and I’d like to unlock at least the Widowmaker skin from that set, so I guess I need to return to the game!

FFXIV – The Moonfire Faire event update was Tuesday. I’m planning to do that, which shouldn’t take long. For more long-term goals, I plan on finishing Black Mage to 70 just to have other options besides Samurai. I’ve recently lost interest in XIV, so I haven’t been playing it as much so this goal may take the longest.

Fortnite – Mini-goal here, but I’ve been playing a lot of Fortnite since it hit Early Access and my current goal on that game is to get my Legendary Hero(Ninja) to Rank 3. I just unlocked the node, but I need to farm up some more hero EXP before I can rank her up.

Closing:

That’s pretty much it for this entry. Not all of my posts will be this ridiculously long, but I wanted to set the tone for my return to blogging. I hope you enjoyed it if you got this far and I hope you stick around for more posts. I’ll be updating on these goals over the next few weeks to see how much progress I’ve made. Until next time~

J.A.

The World of Khroma

The Last Continent: Khroma

Today I’d like to talk about the setting of my book. For those who have yet to read it, or even briefly skim the prologue – I tried to make the setting of my book different and unique. Yes, the events of the book do take place on Earth. This Earth is the same Earth we’re living on right now but this is far off into the future. The world itself has been plunged into chaos and the world is at war. This ultimately leads to the destruction of our planet and in it’s rebirth – we are introduced to the last continent: Khroma.

“So the world ends in fire after all…” – Fredrick Marshe, 53rd and final President of the United States of America.

Khroma is basically every fantasy fan’s dream world. It features elves, demons, dragons, angels and even cat-girls. It has a little something for everyone. The key here is that it stems from what our world used to be and reverts back into medieval times. To me, this makes the story a lot more interesting because it’s not a completely different world. It’s an extension of our own world. When the world is in shambles and the angels come down from Heaven to piece it back together, they assign a young woman by the name of Simone Fair to help repopulate the world. She is granted immortality and is forced to give birth every year to a child of a different genetic code. This helps build the foundation of the new world in which Kings and Queens rise to power and young warriors, like the main protagonist Vallick Halstar, are forced to find their place. But things aren’t all fun and exciting on Khroma, it’s actually the opposite.

“The mother of Earth? There’s nothing left but despair and misery. Why would anyone want to be the mother of this?”  -Simone Fair

A fierce race known as the Dragonkin has risen to power in the east side of the continent and a group of warriors known as the Dragon Knights of Bawal are given the task with ending this bestial tyranny. It is in this conflict that the story of A Soldier’s Crest begins and the main characters are set forth on an arduous journey. Khroma, the future of our planet, is where these legendary battles will take place. The future of A Soldier’s Crest is bright and the series is just beginning. More stories are on the way. I will also be doing more posts like this one to explain settings, races, characters and whatever else I feel like talking about in regards to book 1 and future books. Look forward to it!