Black Friday used to be an event. Stores would open at 6 or 7 AM and people would be lined up waiting to get that one special deal. Then the doors would open and chaos would ensue. I’ve worked retail all my life and watched it. Then K Mart started opening on Thanksgiving and a new trend stared. Other stores like Wal Mart began starting their sales at 6 PM on Thanksgiving. Other stores followed. Now I can’t look at my email without a Pre-Black Friday Sale staring me in the face. Amazon even has Black Friday for a week before the actual event. In it all the magic of the event has been lost. It has been exploited and degraded to just another shopping day. That doesn’t even take into account the added stress on the retail associates. There’s no going back now. Soon stores will be open all day on Thanksgiving. Many of them will close due to on line shopping. I could see Sears and J.C. Penny closing their doors in the next 12 to 24 months. Best Buy will fall soon after. Even Macy’s will tumble. Customers are shopping at the smaller boutiques and on line. Internet companies don’t have the overhead of a brick and mortar store so they can charge less. Which brings us back to Black Friday. The items the stores do sell are loss leaders where products are sold at a loss to get you in the door in hopes you’ll buy something else. Lately I see most people leaving with just the loss leader. The stores can’t go on that way. In 5 years Black Friday will look very different.
Rander was beginning to fall asleep when he heard rustling from the trees across the clearing. He perked up and looked closely at the area. Though his eyes saw nothing out of the ordinary, his ears heard the snapping of branches caused by an animal running in the woods.
He turned to signal his brother but noticed that Bander was preoccupied trying to swipe a mosquito buzzing about his head. Rander dared not make a sound, in fear of revealing his position. He waved an arm to get Bander’s attention. The gesture went unnoticed. Bander’s interest was totally held by the flying nuisance.
The sound from the woods grew louder and was repeated in unison from other nearby clumps of trees. Rander could wait no more. He placed an arrow on his bow and fired it at his brother. It struck the tree near Bander’s head. The suddenness of the event nearly caused the burly elf to fall from his perch.
He drew back an arrow and turned to see his attacker. When he spied his brother looking at him most crossly, Bander relaxed his bow and stared at him with his head slightly cocked to the side. Rander feverishly pointed to the woods from which the noise had originated. Bander stared at the woods with the same confused look he had been showing Rander.
Suddenly, the trees began to shake. Bander joined his brother with his bow ready to fire. It was not long before a herd of deer stepped from the woods and into the clearing. Without hesitation, the elves fired. Their aim was true and two deer fell immediately. The rest of the herd charged down the clearing with great haste.
Rander pulled a second arrow from his quiver and fired again at the fleeing game. The arrow struck a deer in the hind leg and knocked it to the ground. Bleeding badly, the animal tried to get to its feet and resume running.
Not wanting to lose the precious meat, Rander dropped his bow, drew a knife and slid down the tree to finish his task. As he neared the fallen game, he noticed that it was not looking at him as it tried to escape. It was looking back at the woods it had just left.
Rander stopped next to the deer and turned curiously to look at the woods as well. All he saw was a charcoal-colored blur as he was knocked to the ground. An immense pain came from his leg moments later. He looked down to see his entire calf lodged in a Trogo’s mouth. It shook its head back and forth so hard that the motion lifted Rander off the ground. With one last swing of the head, it threw Rander several paces in the air before he landed and rolled to a stop.
The wounded elf was in shock and looked about for the beast. To his horror, more creatures than he could count had entered the clearing and were surrounding him. They growled and snarled ~ 252 ~
as they moved closer. Time seemed to creepas Rander awaited the attack. He screamed for help, but his voice was overcome by the sounds of the Trogos. Having sized up their prey, the one with Rander’s blood in his mouth attacked first.
Having lost his knife during the attack, there was little Rander could do except put his arm in front of his face and close his eyes. The sound of the barking suddenly stopped as a low-pitched whine came and went in an instant. Immediately following it was a loud yelp from the Trogo near him.
Uncovering his eyes, Rander saw the Trogo spinning in a circle, trying to remove an arrow from its side. It had hit near the ribs, but did not dig deeply into his thick hide. Another Trogo came close and snapped the arrow’s shaft.
It was about that time that another arrow struck the same wolf. It struck in the hindquarter, but again, did little damage. A third arrow totally missed the target and lodged in the ground.
The pack spread out and did not take long to locate Bander in his tree. They left Rander and the deer behind as they surrounded the tree and began barking at its host. The beasts demonstrated remarkable agility as they leapt nearly to the branch where he stood.
As the terrified elf drew back his bow, one of the trogos caught hold of his boot at the apex of its jump and tore it from his foot as it fell. The incident knocked Bander on his belly. He struck his head on the wide branch but had the sense to hold on to it. In order to grab the branch, however, he was forced to let go of his bow. It fell to the ground, where it instantly became a chew-toy for the trogos.
Realizing he was within reach of his adversary, Bander tried to return to his feet. The action was too late, however, as a wolf jumped for his dangling arm. Bander could see the jaws coming near as if it was happening slowly.
Just as the teeth were about to strike, a high-pitched whine preceded an arrow slicing through the great animal’s neck. The arrowhead stopped only after exiting the far side of the skin. With a horrible yelp, the beast fell to the ground and moved no more.
Patience. Yes, that’s what I need; patience. My 3rd book was assigned to an editor in August. Still all is quiet from their end. My mind begins to race. “What if it is full of errors and is taking a long time to edit?” “What if the editor only works on it periodically.” “What if the editor hasn’t even started it yet?” I reached out and emailed the editor and heard back a week later that she was swamped and there was much to do on my book. Ouch. That doesn’t sound promising. That was a month ago. I don’t want to tick off the person editing my book but I am anxious to get it published; hopefully before Christmas. Every day I open my email with new found hope that something will be there. Every day I am disappointed. I want to email again but I’m sure the editor is aware of my book and does not want to hear a writer nagging them. So, what am I left with? I wait and wait. Right now, I need patience. But it will not be long before my patience wears thin and I use my writing skills to draft an email. It’s like someone’s testing one of your children and you’re in the hall outside waiting, and waiting, and waiting. In the end there is little you can do but have patience. So that is my goal.
In the very center of the bed lay a middle-aged human man of size slightly larger in height and substantially greater in weight than Linvin. His hair was a combination of black and gray. The latter color carried over to his morning facial stubble. On either side of him lay a voluptuous young woman of impeccable beauty. The girls attempted not to giggle while the man settled his composure.
“Has morning come early, Lord Fendri?” the man in the bed asked.
Fendri sat his tray on the bed and showed an expression of mild frustration. Then he set about drawing back the curtains around the room to allow the sunlight to enter. In a disappointed voice he proclaimed, “It is mid-morning, my Good Lord Mandrean. You have an eventful day planned. I would have presumed you would have made less active use of your bed. Your endurance will be needed later in the day more than it was last night.”
One of the girls responded. “Trust me, Lord Fendri. He needed all his endurance last night.” She smiled like a temptress and caressed Lord Mandrean’s face.
Fendri wrinkled his lips to one side as he beheld the absent attire of the ladies. Then he sighed and responded, “I am sure he did. Nevertheless, our Lord has greater demands this day.” He ushered the slaves to bring their trays to the concubines in the bed. Then he lifted his master’s tray and set it over his lap with sides extending down to hold it aloft. Once the coverings were removed, a huge breakfast was revealed. The plates for the emperor held steak, eggs, bacon, fresh bread and fruit. A small pot of tea completed the meal. The concubines had smaller portions of the same foods.
As the inhabitants of the bed ate, Fendri and the slaves gathered randomly discarded clothing from the floor and piled it by the stairs. “I shall have the maid come shortly to tidy your rooms Sire.” He picked up several empty wine bottles and placed them by the clothing. “It would seem your private wine cellar is in need of restocking. You appear to be dipping into vintages you seldom touch.”
“Make sure you do that,” Mandrean said with his mouth full of steak. “I was meaning to bring that to your attention. See to it that it is filled by this evening. I intend to have several of my ladies for the night.”
“Will we be among them?” the girl to his right asked.
Mandrean did not even turn his head when he addressed her. “No, you will not. I want variety. Tonight I shall have Sixty-two, Sixty-nine and Seventy-one brought to me. See to it early, Fendri, so they may have time to prepare.”
“My Lord,” asked the second girl. “Were we not to your liking?”
Again, Mandrean did not look at the girl to whom he was speaking. “If you were not to my liking I would have no use for you and you would be dead. You were both adequate. I will be calling on you again. Tonight I have different cravings.”
Fendri took a position standing at the foot of the bed with his hands behind his back and his posture perfect. It was as though he were at attention. “There is another matter, My Lord.”
Mandrean sipped his tea and then picked at his teeth to dislodge a morsel of steak stuck between them. “What matter is that,” he said without interest.
Fendri cleared his throat and said, “Concubine Number One is currently at the outer doors requesting an audience with you.”
“I did not send for her,” Mandrean said in amazement.
“To be sure,” Fendri agreed. “Nevertheless she awaits an audience and is determined to wait until you see her.”
“That shriveled up old prune,” called one of the girls. “This is our time with our Master. She has no right to infringe on our visit.”
“Quite right,” Mandrean agreed. “Send her away.”
“While it would give me no greater pleasure,” Fendri concurred. “It will only strengthen her resolve. She will need to be removed by force. The situation will turn unpleasant both in the hall and in the lower levels with the other concubines.”
Lord Mandrean set down his tea and sighed. “You are right as always, old friend. We cannot allow her to become a cancer among the girls. I must entertain her most recent tirade. Bring her before me now.”
Fendri bowed and struck his heals together. “My Emperor is wise as he is powerful. I shall fetch her straight away.”
I had a car that I loved. It was 9 years old and I took good care of it. She was the place I could go and just be alone. Then I lent her to my future daughter-in-law and she had a small accident. At least we thought it was small. Then insurance had the body shop take a look at it and the car ended up being not worth fixing in their eyes and so they totaled it out. My baby that I had kept up fine maintenance on since it was new was gone. All I had was a small check to replace her. My wife and I looked at a bunch of cars but none were close to what I had. Then I went to work and my wife went car shopping. She bought me the same model of car, 3 years older. There were some little things wrong with the car so on my day off I took it to the shop where they’re always good and fair with me. There were a lot more than a couple of things wrong with it. When all was said and done it cost me $2300 to make it safe. They did tell me that now I have a car that can go for years. Even so, it was a bitter pill to swallow. Now I have to get used to my new car. It shouldn’t take too long but every little difference makes me miss my old car more.
“I hid my powers for the very reasons Rander just mentioned. Magicians are distrusted and thought to be of poor moral fiber. Years back, magicians were bound and burned. It was believed by those in ignorance that they were evil. Every catastrophe that happened from the trivial, to the bizarre, was blamed on the nearest magician. Soon, those blessed with the power were forced to hide it from the world, for fear of a gruesome death. Before long, generations grew without ever having seen magic or a magician.”
“Both of your mothers knew of my gift and swore to keep it a secret. Dirk Grithinshield knew of it as well and found my presence around Jelena comforting when he would travel. None of you were told because we simply did not know how you would react. Judging from the expressions on your faces, I would say we chose wisely.”
Rander kept shaking his head. “But isn’t magic evil?”
“No,” Anvar answered sternly. “It is a tool like any other. The one who uses the tool decides its course. It is up to the individual to decide if those powers will be used for constructive or destructive purposes.”
“So you possess the kind of power that Linvin is seeking?” Rander asked.
“Both are magic,” Anvar answered, “but the difference in the level of power is beyond compare. It is similar to comparing a lake to an ocean. The Red Sapphire will bring Linvin far greater power than I could ever hope to channel. Aside from the power the gem harnesses, it also is Red Magic.”
Seeing their reaction, Anvar decided to continue so that he might answer some of their questions before they formed.
“Magic is very color-specific. For example, I am an orange magician. This means that when I use my power, I emanate it in an orange color. Among magicians, there is a hierarchy based on color. Each color has an opposite, which is equal in power and cancels out its counterpart. Different pairs of colors have different strengths as well. The most powerful magic is either red or blue. A red magician and a blue magician would not be able to destroy each other, because their powers are opposites and cancel each other out. However, they can still do harm to one another, provided the opponent does not block the incoming magic. They simply can’t completely destroy each other with magic.
“As I said, there is a hierarchy. Red and blue are the most powerful and rare. No magic can stand against them when the magician is prepared. The next tier down of opposites consists of orange and yellow magic. Again, they cancel each other out and are not as powerful as red and blue. This level is more common, but still not widely found.”
“The final level is made up of violet and green. It is likely those magicians, you refer to Rander, being at fairs and the like. Their power is relatively weak. Such places of amusement however, are the only places where they may display their gifts without being persecuted. Violet and green magicians are the meekest of the six but also the most prevalent. While magicians as a whole are rare, there are far more of the lower orders than the higher ones.”
Anvar still observed the blank stares and decided to wrap up his seminar on magic. “Like I was saying, it is quite draining for me to use my powers. The better physical condition one is in, the more power that person can channel and the less tiring it is on them. Even at my age, I can still be of help on this journey. I am not so feeble that I must be relegated to parlor tricks just yet. However, I am not able to carry the burden of protecting the party myself.”
Is it more fun to write good or evil characters? Well let me first put the disclaimer that no character is totally one trait or the other. That being said, you will always have bad guys and good guys in a story. So which is more fun to write about? Definitely bad guys! Writing good guys can be great, don’t get me wrong. But with good guys you have rules to follow and honor to keep. That’s all swell but is not exciting to write. The bad guy has no restraints. You can do whatever you want with them. You can kill, rob, lie, cheat and pretty much whatever you can think of doing with them. I am currently working on Book 5, “The Thief Master of Ravensburg”.” The main character is Newminor from the first book. He can be good or evil depending on the moment you catch him at. Newminor would say he is transitioning from a killer who steals to a thief who kills. He is arrogant and obnoxious while being cold and calculating. He is so much fun to write because there are few boundaries with him. See writing isn’t about drawing something in a box. It’s about broad brushstrokes on large canvasses. You are literally painting pictures with words. That is not the time to feel restricted. As an artist you want to let that brushstroke fly. Don’t hate us for liking the bad guys. We just want to have fun and have a little more paint to work with.
The man spoke with a voice that was both amplified and at a screeching pitch. “Word has reached me that my prisoners have arrived. You did not inform me as I had ordered. WHY?” The walls shook from his voice.
Hugon crawled forward with his belly impeding his progress. “Great Necromancer, we received no orders telling us to inform you.”
Necromancer grew enraged at the statement. “Do not lie to me, Vile Vermin.” He held out his palm. A wind blew through the room and gathered the ashes from the scroll. Drawing together in a vortex, it deposited the remains in his hand. With the soot in his possession he closed his fingers. The ash changed back into the scroll. Opening the parchment he read it to himself. “I seem to have found the orders,” he said as he dropped them in front of Hugon. The Jailor did not move.
Without notice Necromancer reached out one hand and unleashed a plume of fire the like of which no one but a Lava Giant had ever seen. The flame poured over the quivering bodies on one side of the room. The entire area was enveloped in liquid flame. After a few short moments, he pulled his hand back and the fire withdrew back to his palm. All the goblins on that side of the room were gone. No trace was left to show they’d ever existed. The elves had been in that area as well, but they were unscathed. Their skin had not even risen in temperature.
Just by lifting one forefinger, Necromancer surrounded Hugon in a shell of magic, which was nearly invisible. It lifted him off the ground. With a shift of his finger Necromancer sent him flying across the room until he collided with the wall of the tower. Then he soared across to the far side and again struck the wall. The process was repeated several times before Necromancer deposited the massive goblin where he’d previously lain.
Necromancer walked forward and stopped just short of Hugon’s face. The Great Goblin immediately tried to kiss his feet. Repulsed by the action, Necromancer stepped back. Then he spoke. “Were my orders unclear?”
“No,” answered Hugon.
“Then I must assume you chose to ignore them. Is that right?”
“Yes,” answered the timid Hugon.
Necromancer placed his hands behind his back and paced before the goblin. “Did you know any of the goblins I just eradicated?”
“Were you friends with any of them?”
“Yes,” answered Hugon.
“Perhaps you wish to join them in the Hereafter?” Hugon simply shook his head. Necromancer stopped walking. “Then consider this your only warning. If you ever disobey me again there will not be enough dust left from your body to bury.” Then he turned his attention to the remaining goblins. “Just to make sure this refuse does not choose to test me, if he disobeys me you will all share in his fate. If he cannot follow orders for himself, perhaps he will for you.”
Linvin’s had a tough go of it in the first two books. From assassins to his annoying cousins he has dealt with problem after problem. There were wicked men, goblins, bandits, a dragon, an army, a very irate Emperor, the most powerful magician in the world, you get the point. One way or another Linvin and his party battled through. Now that he’s home again the upcoming book, “Mandrean Revenge” begins. Lord Mandrean is furious with Linvin. He gives Linvin a no-win ultimatum. With little choice, Linvin agrees to go to the Mandrean Capital of Marinhalk in order to be executed. With a sorrowful heart Linvin leaves home for the last time. Even his cousins, Bander and Rander try to talk him out of it. But Linvin has looked at the problem from all sides and this is the only scenario with a chance of working. Will Linvin even make it there, all alone in the Unclaimed Territory? Can he find a way out of this? If Linvin’s world was a ball of string it would be coming undone in the wind. Is there any hope for him at all? Find out when “Mandrean Revenge” is released. Coming soon.
Linvin looked into the darkness but only saw the swaying trees in the night’s sky. “That wolf sounded close,” he noted.
“That was no ordinary wolf,” Rander commented.
“What is so unusual about that wolf?” Linvin inquired as he found his bow and arrows.
“Remember those predators I was telling you about before?” Rander asked. “That’s one of them. You can tell from the low howl. Up here, we call them Trogoandras Wolves.”
“What is so special about those wolves?” Anvar asked.
“Well, to start with, they are the size of a full-grown human. Their claws can effortlessly cleave flesh from bone. They have powerful jaws that can snap your thigh in two, like a twig. Inside their mouths are two rows of teeth. The outer set is for tearing and shredding while the inner ones are for grinding.
“They have been the bane of loggers and farmers. You see, for all of the creature’s strength and power, Trogoandras have one flaw. Their legs are disproportionately short for their body. Most of the prey out here is long legged and too fast for them to run down, so they hunt in packs. One will mark a target and call for the pack to assemble. Then they will corner the herd they are tracking and attack. They are reasonably intelligent and crafty hunters, few escape the wave of death cast across their victims.
“With the ax men driving away the herds from these woods, Trogoandras have set to devouring stock and, as necessary, people.”
“They attack people?” exclaimed Linvin as he placed an arrow on the string of his bow.
“Sure do,” said Bander. “Lost two friends in the last month to ‘em. Can’t run as fast as deer, ya’ know. Outa control, them Trogos are.”
“I shouldn’t worry for now,” Rander told his cousin. “That was only one Trogoandras we heard. They seldom attack alone and will never come near a campfire without a pack. As long as we keep the fire going through the night, we should not have anything to fear.”
To be safe, Linvin set up a schedule for everyone to take turns watching the fire throughout the night. He had dealt with wolves on a normal scale, years before in Valia, and barely survived. The thought of an animal as big as a man was fodder enough to remind him of the past and keep him awake most of the night.
Fantasy fiction is my passion. This series embodies my love for a good story and action. You will find it to be many things, but not boring! Read what you love and love what you read...