Free Dragon Age Fan-Fiction: “Schala”

Long before I came to work at BioWare, I was a hardcore fan of its Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises. Like most people that play the games, I was drawn in by the rich storytelling and deep characters. Each universe provided a fertile playground with so many avenues of narrative possibility to explore. It continues to boggle my mind today.

As a writer, I had never attempted fan-fiction before. It felt somewhat disrespectful to undermine the creators and assume that I was worthy, or even capable, of taking the reins of the established canon. However, I couldn’t resist the urge to play in their sandbox. In particular, Dragon Age seemed to spark my imagination and call to me.

I set some ground rules: I could reference the lore, but under no circumstance could I touch known characters or storylines. If I was going to create Dragon Age fan-fic, it had to be completely from scratch.

From the depths of my brain emerged Schala, an impoverished young girl living in fear of her blossoming magic abilities. This short story follows her trials and tribulations, as well as her ties to the Grey Wardens.

DISCLAIMER: Before we continue, it must be noted that the Dragon Age franchise is owned entirely by EA/BioWare. This short story is a work of fan-fiction, and in no way represents the ideas or opinions of the creators. Additionally, I received no compensation for this work.

You can read the story in its entirety below, or you are more than welcomed to download a free copy to own here. I hope you will enjoy it. Thanks for reading!



Inspired by the best-selling BioWare video game series Dragon Age


Written by: David K. Hulegaard

Edited by: Karin Weekes


My mother used to tell us tales about the hooded man.  Whenever we misbehaved, she pinched our ears and made us sit down at her feet.  With a stern glare, she retold the same story.   Time and again, she warned us of what was to come if we didn’t behave.

She embellished certain aspects of the tale over the years—sometimes the children were ripped from their families, never to be heard from again, other times, the children’s heads were lopped off at the feet of a grieving mother—but the crux of the story remained the same: along came the righteous man in shiny plated armor, the banisher of evil.  We would know him by the crest he bore, which instilled fear into the hearts of the wicked.

I never believed her, of course, but my baby brother swallowed every word as though told by Andraste herself.  All mother ever need do was narrow her eyes in his direction, and he became mum’s perfect little angel.

I suppose I could have shown her more respect, but her childish ramblings of mythical punishment merely infuriated me.  I grew tired of mum’s inability to recognize that I was aging and becoming a woman.  She seemed keen to stunt my development into adulthood, and the anger I felt nestled in the pit of my belly.  It begged me to lash out at my mother for trying to control me with scare tactics and fairy tales.

The resentment I felt grew as years passed and I could not understand why.  Perhaps it was the price of growing up without a father, which was something that I had never entirely forgiven mother for.

I was not rebellious by nature, but as I matured, I felt the increasing need to assert my dominance.  I always believed that I was meant for something greater than the life I was given.  I wanted to open my cage and fly away and escape the horrendous world of poverty that surrounded us… but she would not have it.  My mother would have confined me to her side until she perished if it were up to her, and that truth only drove us farther apart.

The quarrels with my mother continued throughout my adolescence, but I believed that they were harmless.  And they were… at first.  I remember the terror in my baby brother’s eyes every time mum and I had a row.  He would cower in a corner, wrap his arms around his knees, and bury his face between them.

“She’ll bring the hooded man,” he would cry.  “You must stop this, Schala!”

My sweet, naïve baby brother’s concern was genuine.  I could see it in his bulging eyes and trembling bottom lip.  He fought valiantly to hold back his tears because mum had always told him that men do not weep.


I remember the year that winter had come early and without warning.  Cloudbursts of rain turned to shards of ice as they fell and shredded our modest crops within a mere day’s passing.  Without the spoils of our garden to sell at the markets, we had no coin to purchase food and I thought that we would surely starve.  Mother did not want to bear her worry in front of her children, but she could not hide it from me.

Our situation hit my baby brother the hardest because he was a growing lad in need of sustenance.  As a young man of fourteen years, he didn’t particularly care for being referred to as a “baby brother” anymore, but he’d let me get away with it provided no one else was around.  One evening, his stomach roared so loudly that even the hogs in the pen took notice.  His cheeks flushed and he apologized.  I asked him later why he would apologize for such a thing, and he told me that it had been an inappropriate and selfish expression of his hunger when we all suffered from the same affliction.

I could not take it anymore.  My brother’s arms were reduced to skin and bone, reminding me of the tree branches too weak to survive the winter that broke off as I passed through the woods.  Maker bless his heart, he never once complained, even in those abysmal conditions.  He had more right to call himself a man at fourteen than all the lousy drunks in our village combined.

I stared at my mother’s near empty coin pouch on the table.  I had begged her countless times to send me into town for bread, but she refused.  My mother did not intend to be cruel in calculating a budget that, with a little luck, might allow us all to survive until spring.  I only wish she had told us that at the time rather than allow our hunger to erode our relationship.

Mum was scared.  I know that now.  But, I was scared, too, and I could not rationalize her reluctance to purchase food.  All I could see was my dear brother starving to death and wasting away before me.  A confrontation between Mum and I was inevitable, and the moment had finally arrived.

My mother slapped me when I protested.  I will never forget the cold sting of her palm against my cheek.  She had never struck me before, no matter how little I heeded her instructions.  I reached for the coin pouch again, but my mother clung on to the leather strap like a wild Mabari to a fresh kill.  I had thought myself to be stronger than Mum, but I could not free the pouch from her grasp.  In retrospect, that very moment was when my life changed forever.  How different my life would be today had I simply let go.

A bright blue glow emitted from my arm and swirled from my elbow to the tips of my fingers.  An intense heat enveloped the side of my face, though it did not burn.  My mother’s eyes shot wide open as she let go of the pouch and recoiled.

She moved away from me until her backside met the edge of the counter.  She patted blindly against its surface until her grip found the cleaver.  Oh, her eyes.  I wish I could purge that image from my mind:  She looked upon me as an abomination and not her daughter.

I should have been afraid, but I was not.  I held my hand in front of my face and basked in the tranquility of its beautiful illumination.  I felt stronger, somehow, and yet not all that different from the girl I had always been.  Some part of me must have known of this power inside of me all along, but I knew not its full extent.  Could I even control it?  And why had it taken so long to manifest?

My mother lunged toward me, her fingers curled tight around the cleaver’s handle as she waved it over her head.  I raised my arms to block her strike and a burst of electricity shot forth from my hand.  My mother flew backward and landed hard on the stone floor with a sickening splat.  She writhed in pain on the ground as I stood over her.  My emotions were torn.  I had not wanted this, yet at the same time, I felt so liberated.

A stack of dishes rattled in the cupboard then shattered onto the floor.  The energy dissipated from my arm, and the sparks subsided.  I heard a crunching noise behind me.  I spun around and found my brother slinking away through a wasteland of ceramic shards.  Crimson gushed from his left foot.  Once our eyes met, he seemed unable to remove his gaze.

I took a step toward him and he backed up.  I took another step and he retreated once more.  He no longer saw his sister standing before him.  I had become a monster that donned his sister’s skin.  No torture could ever to compare with the pain of knowing that a momentary lapse in judgment had cost me my brother’s love.

I turned back to check on my mother.  Propped up on her elbows, she took in deep, rapid breaths.  Her jaw had dropped open like she wanted to scream but couldn’t, and fluids leaked from her eyes and nose.  What had I done?  I had only wanted to feed our family, but within moments, my world had been torn asunder.

I ran to my room through the crunchy plate fragments and slammed the door shut behind me.  I climbed into my bed and leaned against the wall, feeling the cool, bumpy texture against my cheek.  I began to cry, something I had not done in many years, but I could not refrain.  Had it all just been a bad dream?  I squeezed my arm, which was still warm to the touch.  No, it had not.

The sound of pounding against my bedroom door jolted me awake.  My heart thumped in my throat as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and attempted to collect my wits.  With each blast from the other side, the metal door handle bent forward until the lock could no longer withstand the force.  The wood splintered as the door ripped clean away from the frame.  At the opposite end of a grand mace, there he was: the hooded man.  The very man of legend described in my mother’s stories. And as I would soon discover… the man of nightmares.


He and his men bound me at the wrists and ankles like a common thief and marched me through the streets of Redcliffe as the townspeople looked on and jeered.  Some even threw rotted fruit.  The inhumane treatment moved him not at all.  I was his trophy on parade, serving as a warning to others like me that still roamed free.  My persecution delivered a message: Obey or be punished.

Flecks of dead skin lined the holes in my robes from his studded cudgel.  He’d shown no mercy, and I did not assume he would think twice about striking me again.  He demonstrated no remorse and clearly felt nothing about roughing up a woman.

Our journey was savage and cruel.  He and his men rode on horseback, whilst I was leashed and forced to travel on foot.  If I walked too fast, he’d yank the rope slack and choke me to the ground.  If I grew tired, he’d jab the butt of his cudgel into my back to keep me moving.  I understood our relationship perfectly and was not about to push its boundaries.  Should I display the first sign of resistance, my fate was clear.

He lit our path through the pitch-black forest with a flaming torch.  The thick tree canopy kept the moonlight and stars from finding a way in.  He thought it unsafe to continue and decided to camp for the evening.  He and his men rested within the comfort of tents while I was bound to the trunk of a mighty old tree with my arms cinched at my sides.  I labored for breath under the constricting rope and hoped that each gasp would be my last.

As I was about to lose consciousness, I heard a male voice say my name.  I had thought myself delirious at first, perhaps even slightly mad, but his words continued.

“You must be patient, girl,” he said.  “You may suffer now, but you will have your retribution soon.”

A shadow moved through the forest, darker than the blackness of night.  It sent a chill through my body even as it calmed me.  I knew, somehow, that the man’s words would come to fruition.  Everything would be all right.  I was going to be all right.  My survival depended on me believing that.


Several days passed before we reached the final destination of our voyage: A stone keep, abandoned for several generations and lost to time as nature threatened to reclaim it.  The cold winds bit at my exposed skin as my teeth chattered.  As raising my arms above my waist caused me great anguish, I could not shelter my body from the extreme temperature.  I did not require a healer to know that several of my ribs had been broken.

The hooded man led me down the stairs into a dungeon below, the path lined with empty suits of armor standing watch.  He uttered no words, merely affixing his torch to a cradle on the wall and pointing to an open cell.  I complied and sat down on the floor with my back pressed against the wall.

He entered the cell and secured my wrists with chains that hung from the walls.  He gripped my chin with his thumb and index finger and turned my head from side-to-side.  Satisfied with whatever inspection he had performed, he let go and backhanded me across the face.  I smiled.

“Your manners do not become a Templar,” I said.

He looked down and ran his hand over the deformed emblem on his armor.

“Oh, yes. I recognize it.”  I rattled my chains against the wall.  “Your attempt to camouflage your allegiance is rather poor.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, witch,” he said.  “But you are not as perceptive as you think.  We are not Templars… not anymore.”


“This here?”  He thumped his chest plate.  “Painted over.  We have renounced our old ways and started something better outside the eye of the Chantry.”

“That’s preposterous!”  I said.  “If you’re not taking me to the Circle, then what are your intentions?”

“The Chantry allows your vile brand of filth to pollute the world. It believes that given the right training, you can still become productive members of society, but you and I know differently, don’t we?”  The hooded man knelt down beside me.  “The Maker did not bless you with these gifts.  You have chosen to become a practitioner of evil, and we will not allow it to continue.  You can either forfeit your powers and pray for forgiveness, or you can rot away here in this cell.  The choice is yours.”

“You’re mad!”  I yelled.  “I cannot forfeit my powers any more than you can forfeit the grotesque face under that hood!  I did not ask for this!”

“Then you shall die here.”

The hooded man walked away and left me in total silence.


I had no window to the world on the other side of those walls.  I did not see sunlight in what felt like an eternity.  Something festered inside me, boiling to the surface.  It grew hard to tame the rabid animal that thrashed against its cage—as time continued to pass, I found myself giving in to it more and more.

While imprisoned, I had contact with only the hooded man and the guard whose duty it was to bring me my meals.  During each visit, the hooded man forced me to look into his eyes, as though he were searching for something hidden behind them.  He never told me what it was.

“Are you ready to repent, witch?”


If he was feeling charitable, he would hit me only once.

The guard fed me by wooden spoon once a day.  Much like his commander, he was neither kind nor gentle.  He pried my mouth open, shoved spoonfuls of hot stew into my mouth, and then covered my airways until I swallowed it down.  He refused to ever make eye contact with me or even speak.

“If you will not even address me, I shall relieve you of your tongue one day,” I warned.

Although the guard did not offer a verbal reply to my threat, he responded by relieving himself on my clothes.


I used to keep track of passing days by counting the number of times I’d been fed, but I lost track once I reached the thousands.  My guard, once chestnut-haired and muscular, had greyed around the temples and started to sag.  I knew the years were wasting away, and my hope of that promised retribution dwindled.

I wondered what was so special about me.  There must have been others, I thought, but every cell around me sat empty.  Perhaps others had met a different fate.  Perhaps others had not survived the journey at all.

How I craved the sound of another person’s voice, if only to block out the screaming that echoed inside my head.  I fought to ensure those sounds never passed through my lips.  I refused to give the hooded man the satisfaction of hearing my suffering.

He seemed to have lost interest in me.  I had not seen hide nor hair of him in quite some time.  I knew that even if I were to give in to his demands and “surrender my powers”, I would still never see the Circle.  No, whatever he had planned for me was far less than noble.  The life of an apostate was hard and full of never-ending danger, but I began to see the appeal.

Finally, after years in his dank dungeon being feasted upon by both rat and spider, I lost control.  The rabid animal within broke free from its cage.  Instead of “curing me”, the hooded man had instead given life to something else.  Something sinister.  Something that he and his band of ex-Templars all feared.

I closed my eyes and focused as much energy as I could summon into my right arm.  I trained my ear on the squeaks of a rat gnawing on my foot.  I visualized the rodent in my mind’s eye until I had a clear image of the little bugger.  I transferred the image of the rat to the palm of my hand and held it there.  Once I had achieved maximum focus, I squeezed my hand into a fist and popped the rat like a balloon.  The rat uttered one last squeak before its insides splattered against my skin.  If they wanted a monster, so be it.  A monster they would have.


The guard visited me a second time one day.  He stood over me and said no words before filling his mouth with saliva and spitting it in my face and hair.

“Urchin,” he growled under his breath.

As he turned to walk away, I began to sob.  He stopped and turned back to face me.

“Quit yer moaning,” he snarled.

“I’m sorry.”  I rattled my chains.  “It’s just that these shackles are chaffing my skin.  The bone must have poked through my flesh by now.  I beg you, show mercy.  Allow me a few seconds of respite to soothe my wrist.”

The guard scratched his head and took a few steps closer.

“I’m not supposed to,” he said.

“I know, but please, sir,” I told him.  “Have pity on a tired and weak woman.”

The guard pulled an iron ring of keys from his hip and knelt down beside me.  He inserted the key into the cuff and it fell open, freeing my right hand.

“Thank you.”  I brushed the side of his face with the tips of my fingers.  “How can I ever repay you for such kindness?”

My hand emitted a bright blue glow.  I thrust my fingers into the guard’s mouth and felt his moist, fleshy tongue beneath my grasp.  His eyes grew wide and watery, but I cinched down and ripped his tongue clean from his jaw.

The guard bellowed and covered his mouth, but the blood trickled through the cracks in his fingers like a failing dam.  I aimed an energy bolt at the cuff around my other wrist and freed my left hand.  I crawled over to the guard, looked him in the eyes and studied his face.  I wanted him to be sure he had met the “witch” that brought him to his end.

“Perhaps you wish that you had addressed me properly when I gave you the chance,” I said.

Malnourishment and expending my magical energy had left me in a weakened state.  Disoriented, I fumbled my way through the dungeon, made all the more difficult by the extinguished torch.  However, I would allow no amount of darkness to hinder my escape.  I would accept no other outcome than my prevailing.  I found the staircase that led from the dungeon of misery to freedom above and began my ascent.

My legs burned as I climbed the stairs.  I slid my hands along the stone walls to keep my balance.  I refused to let my body give out on me before I could reach the top.  Every muscle ached, every joint squealed, but I refused to die that day and there would be no surrender.

The hooded man waited for me at the top of the stairs.  Him and about a dozen of his men, all with the same red glow in their eyes, and each aiming the tip of his sword at my throat.  As two of the guards rushed towards me, I summoned a ball of lightning into my hand and unleashed it, sending the entire pack flying back.  The smell of charred flesh filled me with delight, but I had little time to savor it before I was overwhelmed and detained by the rest of the guards.

They wrapped heavy braided rope around me from my shoulders to my waist.  The hooded man sheathed his mace and walked toward me.  He tapped the repurposed insignia of the Templars engraved into his armor and then dragged his thumb across his throat.  I had been sentenced to death, and I welcomed it.

He barked orders, instructing his men to back away and let him handle me on his own.  He took the end of the rope, threw it over his shoulder, and pulled me behind him toward a clearing with practice dummies.  I did not resist him.  My heart felt no sadness.  Instead, I took comfort in seeing the outside world one last time and not perishing alone in a prison.

The snow crunched under my bare feet with each step.  Frostbite had long ago claimed my dry, cracked skin and I no longer experienced sensation below the ankles.  He took me to a spot between two tall trees and kicked me in the gut.  I dropped down to my knees and coughed, watching the steam billow from my exhaled breath.  My insides convulsed and my mouth filled with the salty taste of blood.

The hooded man dropped the rope and pulled an ornate blade from his waistband.  Too long to be a knife, but too short to be proper a sword, the curved blade was unlike anything I had ever seen.  Engraved markings adorned the red and gold handle, and the blade appeared too clean to have ever tasted blood.

“With this ceremonial blade I shall collect the debt that you owe to the Maker, witch.”  He ran his finger from the hilt to the tip.  “You shall pay it with your head.”

“I accept this death, but know this… I will hold my gaze upon you from the Fade,” I said.  “You and I will see each other again.”

I closed my eyes as the hooded man raised his weapon overhead.  I visualized the last grains of sand spilling out from an hourglass.  My time had come to an end.  Then, my ears rang from the sound of metal colliding against metal.

“Enough.” a stranger’s voice said.

When I opened my eyes, a monstrous sword held the hooded man’s blade in check, mere inches from my head.  The former Templar grunted and applied more pressure, but the stranger fended off his attempt to strike me down with a single hand.  The hooded man gave up and stared at the stranger with contempt.

“What is the meaning of this?”  The hooded man roared.  “Do you have any idea who I am?”

“I offer my sincerest apologies, honorable warrior.”  The stranger sheathed his sword.  “I mean not to interfere, but I have come to collect the girl, and it is preferred that her head remain intact.”

“Wha–?  The girl?”  The hooded man spit out in disgust.  “And by whose authority do you lay claim to this witch?”

“Why, friend, now it appears as though you do not have any idea who I am,” the stranger replied.

I looked up and saw my rescuer in full view.  His long, raven hair curled and was pulled back into a ponytail that dropped between his shoulder blades.  His eyes, the deepest of greens, were hypnotic pools of full of confidence and vigor.  A more handsome man I had never before seen, yet, I recognized him instantly.

“Baby brother?” I whispered.

The stranger winked at me, then threw his shoulders back and invited the hooded man to study the griffon emblazoned on his chest.

“But…“  The hooded man lowered his blade.  “Then you’re—“

“Yes,” the stranger interrupted.  “I have come to conscript this young woman. As a Templar, I trust that you have seen to her fine treatment and that I will have no reason to return and investigate you further?”

“I have no quarrel with you, Warden.”  The hooded man backed away a few steps.  “Take her, but I hope you realize the magnitude of your decision.  I hope you can live with the malevolence that you are about to set free on the world.”

“Duly noted, friend.”  The stranger untied my bindings and let the rope fall at my feet.  “We should be going, Miss.  There is much for us to discuss.”

The stranger turned his back on the hooded man and walked away.  He moved toward a black steed tied to a post just outside the keep in the distance.

“Wait!”  I called out as I followed behind him.  “I must get something I left behind.”

“All right.”  The stranger mounted his horse.  “Fetch it quickly and let’s be on our way.”

I doubled back to my stone prison.  The guards allowed me to pass, and I made my way down the stairs and back into my former cell.  I knelt down over the expired guard and snatched his leather coin pouch from his waist.  I emptied out the gold coins and collected his severed tongue off the ground. I placed the tongue into the deep pouch, closed it up, and tied it around my neck.

“Thank you,” I whispered into the dead guard’s ear.  “I will gladly accept this generous donation toward a future potion.”

I reconvened with the stranger as the hooded man looked on from afar.  He wore his anger like a second suit of armor.  He still wanted to kill me, but had lost his chance.  The feeling was mutual.

“Did you get what you needed?”  The stranger asked.

Yes, I did.”  I patted the pouch around my neck with a gentle touch.  “A little going away present of sorts.”

“Oh?”  He said.  “And what little treasure was too tempting to resist?”

“Nothing special,” I said.  “Just an old conversation piece.”

The stranger reached into his pack and dropped a pair of boots onto the ground.

“These may not be the right size, but they will at least protect your feet until we reach Amaranthine.”  He scooted forward on the saddle to make room.  “The markets are bound to have more suitable attire for you, but we can’t very well have you freezing to death before we arrive.”

I slipped my feet into the boots.  They were large and fit comically, like a father’s shoes would fit a child, but I was grateful for the protection nonetheless.  I had always fancied something a bit more Orlesian in design, but was content to let fashion come at a later date.

The stranger extended his hand to help me climb up.  He clicked his heels against the muscular sides of the horse and we were off.  I wondered what the future would hold for an outcast like me, but in that moment, I felt something that I had not felt in years: happiness.

“Baby brother, is it really you?” I said.

“I suppose there’s no longer a need to keep up the charade.”  He cracked the reins to speed up the horse.  “It is good to see you, my dear sister.  I would much prefer to address you as ‘Schala’ than ‘witch’.”

“You’re all grown up, brother,” I said.  “How long has it been?”

“Well.”  He paused.  “It’s been seven years since you were taken.”

“Seven years?”  I brushed my hair off of my face.  “Can this be true?”

“I’m afraid it is, Schala.  I am sorry that it took me so long to find you.”  He reached back and took my hand.  “I never stopped trying to find you, sister, but I was just a boy then.  I know that you will probably never be able to forgive our mother, but… well, I’m not sure that I can either.”

For the first time in my life, I shed tears of joy.  I had assumed the incident from my youth had left me without a family.  But my baby brother had been out there all along.

“Seven years,” I whispered.  “That must make you a man of twenty years now.”

“Twenty-one, to be exact.”  He squeezed my hand once more, and then returned his grip to the reins.  “We will have many missed birthday celebrations to catch up on once we get to Amaranthine.”

“That sounds lovely.”  I leaned my head forward to rest against his back.  “So, why Amaranthine?”

“Because there is someone there that wants to meet you,” he said.  “Is very anxious to, in fact.”

“Meet me?” I said.  “I am but a peasant.  A farmhand.  A nobody.”

“Aye, you may be a peasant and a farm hand, but you are far from a nobody.”  He grinned.  “You will see that for yourself in time.”

“It is so good to see you, baby brother.”  My eyelids drooped as the lull of the horse’s gallop filled my ears.  “I have so many questions to ask you.”

“I know, and I look forward to answering them,” he said.  “But for now, why don’t you try and get some rest?  We don’t have many days of peace left.  Best to savor them whilst we can.”

Noble Blog Series #5: What’s Taking So Long?


I first began work on New World Order in September of 2012. Since that time, I have seen several self-imposed deadlines come and go. There have been periods of significant creative boost, and other periods where I wanted to throw it all in the trash and walk away. So, what exactly is going on and why is this book taking so long?

Truth be told, New World Order wasn’t my first choice when selecting my next project. The plan was to take a break after Bloodlines and channel my creativity into a new story. Believe it or not, I started writing two other books, but I didn’t get very far with either of them. I thought they were fun ideas—both of which I still intend to explore later—but in the back of my mind, ideas for the end of the Noble trilogy kept creeping toward the front of the line.

By September of 2012, Bloodlines was already five months old. Unlike the original Noble, it ended in traditional cliffhanger fashion, which I had hoped would entice readers to hang around for the finale. Little did I know that it was my own brain that couldn’t wait to see how the story would play out. This turned out to be both a blessing and a curse.

With the social media shit storm I’d endured following the release of Mass Effect 3, I felt a lot of trepidation. My fan base is not even within a stone’s throw through a mass relay of Mass Effect’s, but the experience taught me a lot about passion and expectation.

Although I was pretty happy with the majority of new ideas I’d come up with for New World Order, I found myself overthinking it and even second-guessing a lot of them. Some ideas, once high on my list, didn’t even make it into the book.

I went through my outline and put each plot point under the microscope. I had to ask myself if these kernels had potential, if they were compelling, and if they were airtight enough to not poke holes in. I tested them personally, looking for deus ex machina, damsel in distress tropes, and missing logic. When I’d reach a point where I felt content, I’d write a little bit and then start the whole process over again.

As of this writing, I am down to the final chapter. On one hand I am very excited to complete the book and get it into the hands of readers, but on the other, I’m sad to see the trilogy come to an end. These characters have meant an awful lot to over the past four years and hopefully to the reader as well.

After the dust settles, I really only have one wish: That readers will feel satisfied, and that the series received the send-off that it deserved. Even though I am saying goodbye to a series that contains more blood, sweat and tears than I ever imagined, I am excited about what the future may bring. You never know, some of these characters might even live on…

Noble Blog Series #4: A New Challenger Has Entered the Ring!

SPOILER WARNING: This blog contains references to previous events from the Noble series.


Within the opening lines of Noble, we’re introduced to Jane Emmett: A troubled teenager from Ashley Falls. However, her story, like many others in the series, is connected to Alyssa Noble. The main story arc has centered on Alyssa because her existence in the world has driven the motivations of many other forces, both natural and supernatural. Miller, Puckett, the Rayburn family, Icarus, the Seda, the Civil Parrish—Alyssa played a hand in all of their fates.

As far as antagonists go, Alyssa Noble is a bit of an enigma to me, even though I created her. Sure, she’s diabolical, and has left a trail of carnage throughout the series, but at the end of the day, she’s fighting for the survival of her kind by any means necessary. Although she is incapable of expressing it through words, I imagine she is quite lonely. I don’t loathe her. In fact, I have empathy for her.

As crucial as Alyssa is to the plot, we find out in Bloodlines that there are other sinister players lurking in the shadows—watching… waiting. During the raid on a chemist’s lab in Savannah, the team uncovers first traces of a man named Gibbard through a series of old letters. This new lead, while intriguing, is separate from the case they’re investigating, so, Puckett decides to do some digging on his own. By the closing moments of Bloodlines, we have a connection: Rayburn and Gibbard.

As dangerous as Alyssa has been, her perilous ways take a backseat in New World Order, allowing an even deadlier foe to emerge: Father Gibbard. Operating under the radar of the FBI, Gibbard quietly served as architect to a master plan, devoting ninety years of his life to orchestrating the end of the world. The grand finale is set for September 30, 2014… all he needs now is the last piece of the puzzle.

What’s the deal with the name Gibbard?

Some readers may have noticed that this is not the first time Gibbard’s name has shown up in my books. It’s not laziness, I swear. 🙂 In truth, I’ve added a character named Gibbard to each of my books as an homage to Death Cab For Cutie’s front man, Ben Gibbard, who is something of an inspiration for me.

The first appearance of Gibbard’s name popped up in the original Noble. He was the harmless Smith family chauffeur that drove Miller to his meeting with Phillip’s father. And that was my plan, really: Find some innocuous character in the story and sneak the name in as an Easter egg, the same way as Final Fantasy had done with “Cid.” However, that plan backfired when I got to Bloodlines.

If I’m being honest, I had no idea where the story would go next after Bloodlines. It wasn’t until I neared the end that I came up with the idea for New World Order. I realized that with Alyssa dealt with, I needed a new enemy to replace her. Of course, Scythe fit that role handsomely, but I didn’t think that was enough for an entire book. That’s when I reviewed previous events in the story and started brainstorming.

The chemist in Savannah’s story made the most sense. He didn’t make a very compelling antagonist on his own, so I fleshed out a backstory for him. What was his motivation? Was he just following orders? If so, who was giving those orders, and what was their end game? Before I knew it, my imagination had been sparked, and I had enough to expand upon.

The only problem was that the chemist took his orders from Gibbard. I couldn’t go back, though. I was already too in love with the idea. By complete accident, I’d just given a starring role to my innocuous character used to sneak in my signature Easter egg. Whoops.

So, there you have it: The story behind the repeated presence of Gibbard, and his unplanned rise to power in New World Order. A valuable lesson has been learned, and we have likely seen the last of the Gibbard name in my books going forward. I’m sure Ben would prefer it that way as well. 🙂

CD Review: Hammock – Oblivion Hymns


I was in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada the first time I heard Oblivion Hymns. I’d just clocked out after a long day at work, went back to the hotel, and put my feet up. I’d been thinking about the album all day: What would this new chapter sound like? How different would it be from Departure Songs? To what new places would the music take me? With some time finally all to myself, I put on my headphones, dimmed the lights, and submerged.

The album opener, “My Mind Was a Fog… My Heart Became a Bomb,” left an instant impression on me. The delicate play of piano keys during the intro lulled me into an immediate state of calm, washing away all traces of the day’s struggles. Then, at around the two minute mark… explosion. The heavenly strings of the Love Sponge Quartet launched a full-scale assault on my senses, and I surrendered willingly, knowing that the next hour of my life would be filled by something far beyond my expectation.

Oblivion Hymns unfolds like a piece of origami as you listen. It’s more of a journey than an album, each piece intricately composed, laid out, and arranged for maximum impact. Ambitious and far-reaching, this record plays to Hammock’s true strength, which is to say that Marc and Andrew are architects, and Oblivion Hymns is a blueprint of master craftsmanship. An instant classic, and well-deserving to be a part of the band’s catalog.

Although still present, Hammock’s signature wall of guitars takes a backseat in favor of neoclassical elements including strings, French horns, glockenspiels, and even a children’s choir. The mixture is subtle and splendid, with no one section overpowering another. To fully appreciate its depth, one must listen to this album multiple times. The songs are like treasure chests, and you find yourself closer to unlocking the prize with each attempt.

Each track is special and stands on its own merit, but I would be remiss to not specifically make mention of track eight, “In the Middle of this Nowhere.” Any attempt to describe this song would be doing it a great disservice, so I will only say that it arrives without warning, and leaves all too soon. It fills my mind with glorious visuals, and my soul with a healing touch. It could very well be the greatest Hammock song of all time, a claim I do not make without proper consideration. If not the greatest, certainly one of the top three.

As an added bonus to listeners that purchase direct, the exclusive tracks “Sleep” and “Cathedral” are included in a digital download. Make no mistake, these are no mere throw-ins. Each continues the thematic presentation in their own way, while adding something different at the same time. “Sleep” brings with it a dose of familiar guitar effects and droning bass notes, and “Cathedral” offers the soothing textures of a delay pedal, and softly-plucked acoustic guitar. Both, well-worth the effort to obtain, and fantastic additions to the album.


Hammock makes music that you hear with your heart, not with your ears, and Oblivion Hymns is no exception. With an expanded arsenal of tools at their disposal, Hammock has created something that is sure to stick with you long after the last track has played. The experience is unforgettable. If cast iron and stainless steel are built to last, then Hammock albums are crafted to score eternity.

In a word, breathtaking. In another word, masterpiece. Whatever the future may hold for Hammock, there is little doubt that Oblivion Hymns will become an influential and referenced work within a library full of rich, meaningful melodies. On a scale of one to ten, I give it all the stars in the sky.

The Playlist

For our honeymoon destination, my wife and I picked Port Townsend: A beautifully preserved, old Victorian town up along the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. While the reality of a four and a half hour drive wasn’t the biggest selling point, I came up with an idea to help keep us entertained during our long road trip: A 1990s iPod playlist!

Me (right), circa 1994.
Me (right), circa 1994.

At full disclosure, I am a hardcore music snob. You see, being a little older than my wife, I sometimes forget that the 90s I experienced were quite a bit different than hers. It’s a fact that never becomes more evident than when comparing our musical tastes. Sure, she knew and liked all the blockbuster bands of the era, but she was sadly deprived of some of the deeper cuts that fueled my collection of mix tapes.

I saw this playlist as not only an opportunity to relive the soundtrack to my high school years, but also to introduce my wife to some of the great music that she missed out on the first time around. To the surprise of both of us, she remembered quite a bit more than she anticipated, and the playlist reconnected her to some long forgotten tracks.

To loop my friends in on the fun, I solicited their votes on Facebook for songs that we should include. Thanks to their participation, I was able to add a few tracks that I had overlooked. The only ask from them in return was that I share the final playlist at the end, which I am happy to oblige!

Below is the curated playlist, as it occurred during our trip. This is by no means a complete list of the best tracks from the 90s, but it’s a pretty damn good start, if I do say so myself. J Here’s hoping that you’ll find an old track or two to rediscover. Long live the 90s!!

  • Big Me – Foo Fighters
  • Sliver – Nirvana
  • Spin the Bottle – Juliana Hatfield Three
  • 100% – Sonic Youth
  • Believe – Dig
  • Laid – James
  • Buddy Holly – Weezer
  • Celebrity Skin – Hole
  • Man in the Box – Alice in Chains
  • Into Your Arms – The Lemonheads
  • All the Small Things – Blink 182
  • If I Could Talk I’d Tell You – The Lemonheads
  • Far Gone and Out – Jesus and Mary Chain
  • Welcome to the Cheap Seats – The Wonderstuff
  • Vasoline – Stone Temple Pilots
  • Monkey Gone to Heaven – The Pixies
  • Sabotage – Beastie Boys
  • Kill Your Television – Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
  • Miss World – Hole
  • Walk on the Ocean – Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • I’ve Got a Feelin’ – Ivy
  • Basket Case – Green Day
  • Dream All Day – The Posies
  • Cut Your Hair – Pavement
  • It’s a Shame About Ray – The Lemonheads
  • Right Here Right Now – Jesus Jones
  • Jerry Was a Race Car Driver – Primus
  • Miss Misery – Elliot Smith
  • Brain Stew – Green Day
  • There’s No Other Way – Blur
  • All I Want – Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • Operation Spirit – Live
  • Detachable Penis – King Missile
  • Today – Smashing Pumpkins
  • Here Comes Your Man – The Pixies
  • My Name is Jonas – Weezer
  • My Sister – Juliana Hatfield Three
  • Verse Chorus Verse – Nirvana
  • Renaissance Affair – Hooverphonic
  • Ladyfingers – Luscious Jackson
  • Would? – Alice in Chains
  • Into the Fire – Sarah McLachlan
  • A Little Respect – Erasure (1988, but had a renaissance in the 90s)
  • Cannonball – The Breeders
  • Shimmer – Fuel
  • Been Caught Stealing – Jane’s Addiction
  • Am I Wrong – Love Spit Love
  • Window Pane – The Real People
  • Pets – Porno For Pyros
  • So What’cha Want – Beastie Boys
  • I’ve Been Waiting – Matthew Sweet
  • High – The Cure
  • I Think I’m Paranoid – Garbage
  • Friday I’m in Love – The Cure
  • What I Didn’t Know – Athenaeum
  • The Beautiful People – Marilyn Manson
  • Come As You Are – Nirvana
  • Girlfriend – Matthew Sweet
  • Naked Rain – This Picture
  • Twisterella – Ride
  • Bound for the Floor – Local H
  • The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get – Morrissey
  • Grey Cell Green – Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
  • Crank – Catherine Wheel
  • Taillights Fade – Buffalo Tom
  • Popular – Nada Surf
  • Ironic – Alanis Morissette
  • Bulls on Parade – Rage Against the Machine
  • American Music – Violent Femmes
  • Until She Comes – The Psychedelic Furs
  • I Alone – Live
  • Monkey Wrench – Foo Fighters
  • I’ll Stick Around – Foo Fighters
  • Hit – The Sugarcubes
  • Thunder Kiss ’65 – White Zombie
  • Which Way Should I Jump? – The Milltown Brothers
  • Lullaby (Weren’t We Wild) – The Judybats
  • Ballerina Out of Control – The Ocean Blue
  • Here’s Where the Story Ends – The Sundays
  • Learn to Fly – Foo Fighters
  • Creep – Radiohead
  • Unsung – Helmet
  • Mayor of Simpleton – XTC
  • Happy – Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
  • Set Adrift on Memory Bliss – PM Dawn
  • Sweet Surrender – Sarah McLachlan
  • Abuse Me – Silverchair
  • Mysterious Ways – U2
  • Adia – Sarah McLachlan
  • Tomorrow – Morrissey
  • Kool Thing – Sonic Youth
  • Spoonman – Soundgarden
  • Dizz Knee Land – Dada
  • Regret – New Order
  • You Oughta Know – Alanis Morissette
  • What Do I Have to Do? – Stabbing Westward
  • Nearly Lost You – Screaming Trees
  • Naked Eye – Luscious Jackson
  • Everlong – Foo Fighters
  • Debonair – Afghan Whigs
  • Tonight, Tonight – Smashing Pumpkins
  • Barely Breathing – Duncan Sheik
  • Sadness (Pt.1) – Enigma
  • Simple Kind of Life – No Doubt (Technically 2000, but I’m counting it)
  • Machinehead – Bush
  • Only Shallow – My Bloody Valentine
  • High and Dry – Radiohead
  • Wonderwall – Oasis
  • Angry Johnny – Poe
  • Bullet With Butterfly Wings – Smashing Pumpkins
  • Vapour Trail – Ride
  • Say it Ain’t So – Weezer
  • Rush – Big Audio Dynamite
  • Siva – Smashing Pumpkins
  • My Hero – Foo Fighters
  • Poison – Bell Biv DeVoe
  • Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver – Primus
  • Kiss Them For Me – Siouxsie and the Banshees
  • Turn – Travis
  • Little Things – Bush
  • Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Rusty Cage – Soundgarden
  • Tomorrow – Silverchair
  • 1979 – Smashing Pumpkins
  • Glycerine – Bush
  • Sodajerk – Buffalo Tom
  • Sister – The Nixons
  • The Freshman – The Verve Pipe
  • More Human Than Human – White Zombie
  • Name – Goo Goo Dolls
  • Brick – Ben Folds Five
  • Watery Hands – Superchunk
  • Mr. Jones – Counting Crows
  • High – Feeder
  • Last Goodbye – Jeff Buckley
  • Linger – The Cranberries
  • One – U2
  • Queer – Garbage
  • Everything Zen – Bush
  • Possession – Sarah McLachlan
  • Waltz #2 – Elliot Smith
  • Corduroy – Pearl Jam
  • Red – Treble Charger
  • Heart Shaped Box – Nirvana
  • Give it Away – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • From Your Mouth – God Lives Underwater
  • Late in the Day – Supergrass
  • Wild Horses – The Sundays
  • Fake Plastic Trees – Radiohead
  • Even Flow – Pearl Jam
  • Policy of Truth – Depeche Mode
  • Traffic – Stereophonics
  • Fade Into You – Mazzy Star
  • Cuts You Up – Peter Murphy
  • A Long December – Counting Crows
  • Something’s Always Wrong – Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • Cherub Rock – Smashing Pumpkins
  • Under the Milky Way – The Church
  • Pure Massacre – Silverchair
  • Head Like a Hole – Nine Inch Nails
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
  • Changes – Sugar
  • River of Deceit – Mad Season
  • Undone (The Sweater Song) – Weezer
  • Yellow Ledbetter – Pearl Jam
  • Sober – Tool
  • Stars – Hum
  • Killing in the Name – Rage Against the Machine
  • Hey Man Nice Shot – Filter
  • Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden
  • Jeremy – Pearl Jam
  • Step On – Happy Mondays
  • Love Shack – The B-52’s (Right on the cusp of the decade, so I’m counting it)
  • Dirty Boots – Sonic Youth
  • Start Choppin’ – Dinosaur Jr
  • Alive – Pearl Jam
  • Buffalo Stance – Neneh Cherry
  • Take a Picture – Filter
  • The Concept – Teenage Fanclub
  • Enjoy the Silence – Depeche Mode
  • Duel – Swervedriver
  • Angel – Massive Attack
  • Paranoid Android – Radiohead
  • Rhinoceros – Smashing Pumpkins
  • AEnima – Tool
  • Black Metallic – Catherine Wheel

A Reading From My Wedding


Before I could marry the most amazing woman in the world, our officiant recommended that we schedule readings as part of the ceremony. These readings did not carry a specific set of rules–We were allowed to write our own, select from an archive of previously vetted material, or even invite a guest to perform a reading of their creation. I chose to write my own.

A reading is separate from a vow. A vow contains all the promises to love, to have and to hold, and to cherish one another. A reading can be anything, provided it comes from the heart. I’ve seen people at other weddings use this opportunity to tell stories of how they met, their first kiss, the day they knew that their partner was “the one,” and so on. My wife is the single greatest person I know, and as a writer, I definitely felt the pressure to step up my game and produce something worthy of her.

Below is a transcript of the reading I prepared for my wife. My goal was simple: Make her laugh, make her cry, but above all else, fill her heart with love. I hope I rose to the occasion and delivered a message that she will always remember.


In the five years that I’ve known you, I’ve probably already used up all my best material before we even made it to the wedding, but since we’re all gathered here today in front of our family and friends… and of course, [our officiant] Kevin, I’ll give it my best shot.

I still sometimes think about the man I was before I met you, but the truth is, I barely remember him anymore. I know that he was unhappy and unfulfilled, but those feelings are so foreign to me now that it’s hard to imagine anything other than complete happiness. With all of the good that you’ve brought into my life, there’s simply no room left for anything else. And although I recognize the clichéd nature of what I’m about to say, it doesn’t make it any less true: For the first time in my life, I am whole. I am a better person because of you.

I don’t consider myself a lucky man, because finding you stretches far beyond the definition of luck. I’m not normally the kind of person to say things like “fate,” “serendipity,” or “kismet”… mainly because they remind me of Kate Hudson movies… however, I truly believe in my heart of hearts that some unknown mystical force was at play the day you entered my life.

I’m not telling anyone here in attendance today anything about you that they don’t already know. Anyone that has ever met you has been touched by your kindness, your compassion, your light… and your crazy theories about who Gossip Girl is.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’re just the greatest person I have ever known, and choosing to spend the rest of my life with you is the easiest decision I will ever make. It was meant to be. I only hope that I can return a fraction of the joy that you have given me, but you have my undying promise that I will never stop trying.

I know that I don’t get to kiss you until the end of our ceremony, but if it’s all right with you, I’d like to give you a hug, because I love you with all my heart, and this is the greatest day of my life.


My Birthday Drive

Women are amazing. They are our mothers. Our wives. Our sisters. Our daughters. Our friends. They are strong. Resilient. Creative. Intelligent. They are deserving of love, kindness and respect. Sadly, many women are mistreated every day and must seek out help to escape from those that would do them harm.

I have a good life. I want for very little because I have love. With my birthday coming up soon, rather than gifts, I’d ask instead for your help in supporting my chosen charity, the Bradley Angle domestic violence shelter.

I have selected Bradley Angle as my charity of choice because they also provide support to the LGBTQ community, which is of significant importance to me. I am hoping to raise $1,500 for the shelter before August 20th, and am personally kicking things off today with the first $500 donation.

Please do not feel obligated to give. However, if you would like to help out in honor of my birthday, please donate here.

Be sure to list my name in the “In honor of” box. Thank you so much for your help! Let’s work together to make a difference.

Noble Blog Series #3: The Return to Ashley Falls



SPOILER WARNING: The following blog post contains minor spoilers from the first two books in the Noble series.


Noble introduced readers to the life and experiences of a private investigator named Miller Brinkman. Through Miller’s POV, I hoped to paint a clear picture of small town life in Ashley Falls. Miller was born and raised there. He knew every name. Every face. Every nook and cranny. And of course, every dirty little secret. While Miller knew everything about his home town, it did present me with one interesting challenge: Ashley Falls isn’t a real place. 🙂

I didn’t create Ashley Falls from scratch, necessarily. I viewed countless photos of mid-century small towns, read several pieces of literature and talked to local historians at length. I began building the town of Ashley Falls with a solid foundation. I wanted something that felt to readers like a cross between Mayberry and Little House on the Prairie. From there it was really just a matter of giving it life and sprinkling in some lore to make it feel real.

We learn a lot about Ashley Falls in Noble, but we never actually discover where it is geographically. There are many clues woven into the story to help give the reader an idea along the way. In the scene where Miller leaves Ashley Falls for the first time and arrives at the train station, he mentions how long the ride to his destination of Washington, D.C. will be. If someone had been determined enough to find out and did some digging through Amtrak’s train schedule, the answer was out there.

At the end of Noble, Miller packs up his things and leaves Ashley Falls behind for a new life in Boston, which is the setting for Noble: Bloodlines.  Even though Miller has left Ashley Falls, we discover through a twist at the end of Bloodlines that the reader stayed behind for a glimpse into Ashley Falls’ future, circa 1989.

But who were those new characters, and how had Ashley Falls become home to an apparent religious cult? These are among the questions that will be answered in Noble: New World Order, as well as confirmation on the exact location of Ashley Falls!

Although the world of Noble has changed over the five decades that have passed, Ashley Falls still plays a role in the shape of things to come. The area has become an abandoned ghost town, hidden deep within overgrown vegetation and dilapidated old structures. The only remaining ties to the Ashley Falls from Miller’s time are a few walls left standing, and the preserved property of the historic Carroll house.

As desolate a place as Ashley Falls has become, it is not without a few final secrets left to be uncovered. While most of the town’s shady history has been contained within restricted files, Demond’s journey eventually leads him to Ashley Falls and brings him closer to the truth. Desmond doesn’t yet realize that his role in the invisible war has already been determined, and his path set in motion…

Thanks for reading!

~ David

Noble Blog Series #2: A Change in Perspective

Noble Blog Series

When I began writing Noble in the spring of 2010, I had no intention of turning it into a trilogy. In fact, I didn’t see much potential for a continuing franchise at all. It wasn’t until after I started reading the book reviews that I realized there was an opportunity to create more stories in that universe.

One reader in particular felt quite bullish about the book and would send me emails from time-to-time with plot elements that he wanted to see continued. Although I didn’t share his vision about what might come next in the story, it got me thinking about it nevertheless. Before I knew it, a rush of new ideas flooded my brain and I began outlining Noble: Bloodlines.

About half-way through Bloodlines, I started to wonder if there was enough story left to write a third book. It seemed silly to me to be two-thirds of the way to a trilogy and not do it, but based on the direction Bloodlines was headed, I didn’t immediately see a meaningful way to keep the story going. I also didn’t see the point in making Noble a trilogy if the third act would not be compelling.

I waited about six months after the release of Bloodlines before I sat down and started to brainstorm ideas for a third book. I felt as though I had taken Miller Brinkman’s arc as far as it could go, and no amount of contemplation could change that. I also felt that a lot had happened in the story in a short amount of time, and that even the most ambitious villain takes some time off after a colossal defeat to lick their wounds and regroup.

I considered several options when it came time to select a character for Miller to pass the torch to. I wondered if Puckett would be the right choice. I loved his character, and he felt like the most natural fit to take the reins. Then I wondered if Mosley might be a better choice. She’s young and gifted, and I am a huge proponent of wanting to see more strong female characters in the literary world. She received a pretty big promotion from Puckett, after all, so I saw an opportunity to thrust her into the spotlight and turn her loose.

In the end, however, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was time to bring the Noble universe into modern day. All of these events had been happening in secret since the turn of the twentieth century, and I wanted to explore what impact that would have on today’s day and age. What if those secrets began to bubble to the surface? What if the evil that happened in the shadows had finally stepped into the light?

In order to bring Noble into the twenty-first century, I had to create a brand new protagonist. I wanted a character that felt organic to the world I’d created, but that would not come across like Miller Brinkman, part two. It was important to me that this new character have charisma—after all, the reader will be spending over 300 pages with them—and be likeable in the same way that Miller is, but in no way should they outright resemble each other.

This thought process led to the creation of the new protagonist for Noble: New World Order: Desmond Kalish. I’ll be getting more into Desmond’s character in a later blog post, but he is a twenty-five year old police officer for the Charleston, West Virginia police department. How that relates to the Noble universe will unfold as we continue this blog series. 🙂

As you noticed, I did ultimately choose a male lead protagonist instead of a female. While I whole-heartedly believe what I said earlier about the need for stronger female characters, having this protagonist be male presented more options for plot ideas that I wanted to explore in greater detail. That said, Noble: New World Order does indeed have a strong female character. Several, in fact, but more on that later.

Thanks for reading! I’ll be back soon with the next installment in the Noble blog series.

~ David