THE 3rd TURN OF THE SHADOW TECH GODDESS
The quest of Paymaster Stenstrom spans the planes, taking a bizarre turn in the 3rd universe, as there he is not an affluent man but a woman in desperate circumstances. Lady Stenibelle is imprisoned for her role in the Seeker Affair, is penniless, and her House of Belmont-South Tyrol is on the verge of extinction. Her spirit broken, Stenibelle is resigned to perform her sentence without fuss, do as she is told, and fade away in obscurity. However, fate is not yet finished with her. Stenibelle is in the gaze of hidden benefactors with ulterior motives. People claiming to be her dear friends come forward, yet she does not know them. The Quests of the Shadow tech Goddess proceed, and she must discover the hero that lies within or face total oblivion. The disgraced 30th daughter of the House of Belmont will either be the final stake driven into its dying heart, or the ray of light that comes to save it and all else that follows.
Ren Garcia is a Science Fiction/Fantasy author and Texas native who grew up in western Ohio. He has been writing since before he could write, often scribbling alien lingo on any available wall or floor with assorted crayons. He attended The Ohio State University and majored in English Literature. Ren has been an avid lover of anything surreal since childhood, he also has a passion for caving, urban archeology and architecture. His highly imaginative "League of Elder" book series is published by Loconeal Publishing
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From Chapter 7: All Alone“Come in,” Lt. Gwendolyn said. The door meekly opened. Stenibelle entered Lt. Gwendolyn’s tiny quarters, hat in hand. The walls were bare white paint on metal, riveted and ducted, sporting no personal effects whatsoever. The small bed in the back of the quarters was tightly made to military standards. The closet was filled with nothing but Fleet uniforms each identical to the next. Gwendolyn was sitting at her table, a deck of painted cards sitting scattered in front of her. The cheerful cards were the lone bit of color in the room. “Captain, I was hoping for a moment of your time,” Stenibelle said. Gwendolyn extended a vacant hand. “Come.” Stenibelle wanted to sit down, but there wasn’t another chair. She stood. “I wanted to thank you for allowing us this passage.” Gwendolyn responded in a dry voice. “Your fare was paid. You’ve kept to yourselves, you’ve not inconvenienced us or impeded the operations of this ship. You’ve no need to thank me.” Stenibelle had been avoiding this encounter all day. “Bel, it would make me very happy if you would visit with Lt. Gwendolyn and offer your apologies for what was done on Planet Fall,” Alesta had said. Stenibelle had come to love Alesta, and A-Ram, to depend on them both for strength and direction. Alesta had asked, and she could not refuse. And, deep down, she knew Alesta was right—she owed Lt. Gwendolyn a sincere, unsolicited apology. It had taken her several dreadful hours pacing about in her room to generate the courage to stand before her. “I wish to apologize for attacking you on Planet Fall. I want to say I’m sorry.” “We fought fair and square. I underestimated you and you beat me. I consider the matter closed.” Gwendolyn locked eyes with her. It was brutal. “If you’d like to fight again, I assure you I will be more ready.” Stenibelle raised her hands. “Please, I don’t want to fight you again.” With her hands in the air, she waved them back and forth in a quick manner. Gwendolyn’s watch appeared in her hand from nowhere. “I want to give this back to you.” She held out the broken watch. Gwendolyn reached out and took it. “I had thought this lost,” she remarked. “I’m sorry I damaged it. May I compensate you for it so that you may buy a new one?” Gwendolyn closed her eyes. “My watch cannot be replaced.” She placed the watch on the table top. It sat there motionless like a corpse. The two lingered there in silence. The deed was done. Stenibelle had come to give the watch back and apologize, and Lt. Gwendolyn had listened. She had imagined offering a hastily-worded apology and then leaving as quickly as possible to the safety of her room. Now that it was done, Stenibelle found herself not so eager to leave. The kiss. The power. In another universe, they loved each other. The Merthig will give you power. Gwendolyn is the Merthig. Put your tongue in her mouth . . . Morgan had said. “May I see it for another moment, please?” Stenibelle asked. Gwendolyn looked at her. “Why?” “Just for a moment, please.” Gwendolyn slowly slid the watch across the tabletop. The crystal face was cracked, the mechanism damaged. “May I ask where this watch came from? It obviously means a great deal to you.” “It was a gift.” “You gave it to her,” came Alesta’s words. Stenibelle shook her hands and produced a fine set of lock picks and other precision tools and laid them out on the table. Gwendolyn watched her conjure these items up from nowhere without surprise or interest. She seemed lost, or in another place. “I think I can fix this,” she said. Stenibelle turned the watch over and skillfully removed the back plate exposing the damaged workings within. That seemed to catch Gwendolyn’s interest. “Are you a watchmaker?” Gwendolyn asked, studying her as she worked. “No,” she said, “but I was taught to be skilled with my hands.” She selected a few tools from her kit and began working. “This seems beyond repair to me.” “Who gave this to you?” Stenibelle asked again, already knowing the answer. “Was it someone dear to you?” Gwendolyn sat quiet and didn’t say anything. “Captain?” “If you must know, I was given my watch by a person from my dreams. I’m certain that sounds rather silly, doesn’t it? A proper daughter of Prentiss and Zenon does not dwell on dreams, but, one night, there he was. I saw him in my dreams standing by my bed, and then the next morning there was my watch, sitting on the nightstand.” Gwen paused, puzzled. “I can’t rightly recall having ever told anyone that before. My parents and my sisters often question me on the matter, wondering who the mystery man is, but I’ve always remained mum. Why did I just tell you, I wonder?” Stenibelle turned her eyes up from her work for a moment. “Perhaps we are closer than you might think. I thank you for sharing that with me.” I gave it to you, Gwen, and then I took it away. Gwendolyn had a large, square face. “Have you ever had a dream so wonderful, Lady Belmont, that it makes every moment afterwards unbearable? Have you?” “I think I have, yes,” Stenibelle agreed. “I’ve looked for this man. He must exist, my watch exists. I’ve spent hours in Fleetcom searching for him, describing his features to the database. Nothing is ever found. I cannot locate him, he’s just a ghost.” “And, you’ve fallen in love with this man from your dreams?” Gwendolyn’s hand went to her breast for a moment, and then fell. A bit of naked emotion came out across her face and then retreated back within. She nodded. “I will love no other.” She looked hard at Stenibelle. “Your eyes are like his. Same shade, same patterns, same bits of light and dark.” Stenibelle blinked. “You can see that much detail all the way across the table?” “I have Sight like no other. I can see like a Vith. I can see your beating heart in your chest and the VUNKULA you have hidden under your coat.” Gwendolyn seemed puzzled. “Why am I telling you these things, my deepest secrets? Who are you? We fought not days ago and you broke my watch. I should hate you, but I don’t. I’ve not had issues hating people in the past, and for lesser offences. Maybe it’s because your eyes are like his.” Gwendolyn has the Sight? Only the Vith have the Sight, like Captain Davage. A-Ram told her: As a Merthig, Gwendolyn will be able to do things she wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do. She derives that ability from her connection to you. It’s a symbiotic relationship, you give each other power. “Perhaps that man you seek is closer than you think.” Stenibelle adjusted the workings and repaired several springs. She put everything back into place with minute skill. She gave it a shake and the watch began ticking again, moving with a precise beat. “See, anything can be fixed, Captain. It just takes a little effort.” She picked the watch up and held it out. Gwendolyn extended her hand to take it. Their hands touched. “Allow me to offer a parting gesture for luck,” Stenibelle said as she held Gwendolyn’s hand. “Just a simple offering we have in Tyrol expressing my hope that your watch continues to beat.” She swept her fingertips across the watch face and Gwendolyn’s palm and then gave two light raps with her knuckles. “We call it the ‘Wishluck’ gesture. Just a small touch that means a great deal to us.” Gwendolyn stared at her hand. She took her watch and put it back on her wrist. She seemed to be a thousand miles away, lost once again in her own head, searching for a phantom. “I’m sorry, I should have offered you my chair. Where are my manners?” “It’s all right.” Stenibelle put her tools away and took her hat. “I still owe you a new crystal, and I assure you I will make good on it.” She slowly turned and headed to the door. She stopped. There was much to be said. She carried many of the secrets Gwendolyn had longed for. She was the answered prayer, the end of the journey. She was the phantom man, the watchman for Gwendolyn’s dreams. Stenibelle hadn’t wanted to come, now she didn’t wish to leave. She felt a connection, a tiny but unbreakable cord connecting her soul to Gwendolyn’s, a cord that spanned the universes. All the hate she had felt for seven months was gone, replaced by something else, something quiet but persistent and unavoidable. Alesta and Morgan were right. You and the Merthig . . . “I’m to be leaving soon when we make berth. I’ll not be back,” Stenibelle said. No reaction from Gwendolyn. “I want to give you something first. It’s not much, but still, it taught me an important lesson and perhaps it will do the same for you . . .” “You’ve already given me my watch.” “I have more to give.” She waved her hand and set a small photo on the table. She slid it toward her. “What’s this?” Gwendolyn asked turning her attention away from her watch. “It’s a photo I was given, and now I want to give it to you in turn.” Gwendolyn took it and held it in front of her face. She studied it. “I recognize Lord A-Ram, and Lady Alesta, and there I am. I don’t recall ever being photographed with either of them.” Her eyes locked onto the tall handsome image of Stenibelle as a man. They widened. “Who is this man? Who is he? He’s dressed like you.” Gwen’s eyes peeked over the top of the picture and fell on Stenibelle. “I notice a resemblance, is this man your brother, perhaps?” “Do you recognize him?” “I do. I know his face.” She appeared a bit desperate. “Please tell me you know he is.” “Is that the man from your dreams?” “Yes, yes he is. Do you know him? Do you know where he may be found?” Stenibelle answered. “I do know him. That man is not my brother, Lady Gwendolyn. I have no brothers. The man you see in the photo is me in a different reality, so I’m told.” Gwendolyn was puzzled. “Another reality? I don’t believe in such things. There is no reality besides this one.” “That’s what I once thought as well, but I have been taught different. There are many places, many realities. I am just now coming to terms with such a prospect. Look at the photo. It’s true. That is you, and the man standing there beside you is me. And look at us . . . In another place look how we love each other. Can you not see it in the photo? See that same watch on your wrist? I gave it to you. I came to you in your dreams, though I was a man. These are truths I have come to know.” Gwendolyn didn’t reply. She stared at the picture with a hard, empirical expression. As her eyes moved up and down her expression changed a bit: softer, more unsure and quizzical, trying to make sense of it. She was no longer in her hidden place. She was now right in front of her listening with full attention. “The watch, I’m told, is a gift I gave to you to commemorate the occasion of our engagement. I bought it in a fine jeweler’s mark on Hoban. I wanted to give you a practical gift, something you could use every day. I . . .” Gwendolyn flushed a little and Stenibelle stopped. “I see you,” she said. “I’m listening. I know lies from truth. Are you lying to me?” “No.” “Then tell me more.” Stenibelle looked at the bare walls and cold metal of her quarters and felt closed-in by it all. “I wish I had more to tell. In many places I am a man. Here, I am a woman.” She reached out across the table and gently took Gwendolyn by the cheek, allowing her fingers to explore the soft passes of her skin. She felt her fingers react to the touch. A slight sting and a trail of stirred memories. The power the Merthig gives you . . . “I’m sorry, Gwen. I’m sorry that, here, I’m not the man you love, the man who gave you that watch. I’m sorry I’m not that person for you. I’m sorry you’re all alone.” “You need the Merthig, and the Merthig needs you . . .” Morgan had said with considerable bile and envy. Her watch ticked. Gwendolyn sat down and looked at the picture, fading back into that private world she appeared to inhabit most of the time. Stenibelle turned and took her leave, opening the door and passing through it, the latch fastening with a cold metallic clunk. The touch. The feeling it gave. As she closed the door, she lingered a moment. She heard the dim ghost of bitter weeping drifting out from within. You need the Merthig and the Merthig needs you. A woman?? She leaned against the door and put her hands to her heart. It was the most sorrowful sound Stenibelle had ever heard.
What writers inspired you to become an author?
Michael Moorcock and Fritz Leiber were my biggest influences. Michael Moorcock taught me to be bold and uninhibited in my writing, while Fritz Leiber taught me how to use my imagination to world build, filling it with all sorts of crazy things.
What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?
Writing is a very personal thing. What works for me likely won’t work for another. The best advice I can offer is to have a vision and stick to it. If you believe in your vision, then do not allow negative feedback to sway you from your path. If you have access to a writing group that you trust, then join and hear what they have to say--but, avoid constantly changing your work to suit the needs of others, otherwise your vision will be lost.
Any special appearances or events coming up that you want to mention?
I visit a number of different shows and conventions across the Midwest
If you could have dinner with any of your characters, which ones would you choose? What food would you serve?
The Goddess Atha. We will eat manna.
If you could travel anywhere, on earth or off, where would you go?
"All writers must have cats, especially if they write fantasy or speculative fiction." Do you have a stand on this one? Any cute pictures of your kitty or other pet?
I’m allergic to cat fur, so I have no cats. I have three Dachshunds. They won’t sit still long enough to create a cute picture.
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