I recently was told by a reader that I made Linvin (the protagonist in my books) “Too perfect” and that she rooted for bad things to happen to him throughout “Quest for the Red Sapphire.” I guess that’s one way of keeping a reader’s attention. Then I considered whether or not she was right. On one hand, Linvin is very gifted in many ways. On the other hand, he has his flaws just like anyone else. Some of his flaws cause great hardship to the party. He must also be so skilled and forthright in order to be worthy of the Red Sapphire. He’s supposed to make the difference of an army by himself. You can’t have a character who reeks of ineptitude wielding that kind of power. That would be harder to believe. It would totally ruin the question of why the Red Sapphire chose Linvin. Is Linvin too perfect? I can see how people could see it that way. To them I say, he’s as perfect as he needs to be.
In “Quest for the Red Sapphire” the main character, Linvin, finds himself going through an identity crisis. At first, he was a great general who had won many battles. But the scale of the slaughter is bothering his conscience. He finds on one hand he regrets what he has done and on the other he is enjoying it. At that time, he is summoned home by the disappearance of his father. Then he must change. No longer a warrior on the field, he must become one in business to save the family merchant empire. After fixing the problems with the company he feels complacent. His mother expects him to take a wife, settle down and start a family. But Linvin’s feet must keep moving so he opens a new store in Missandor and runs it as its manager. Then he must change again as his mother is assassinated and he must run for his life on a quest to find what this father sought for him. With a combination of fear and anger, Linvin sets out with his criticizing uncle Anvar to find thee gem before the assassins do. They pick up Linvin’s annoying cousins and Linvin’s patience is tested daily. He must remember how to be a leader and do it with people totally antagonistic to him. That’s a lot of personality changes for one character in a short time. Linvin is a complex character who will find all these traits will benefit him in the end.
Donorus hardly reached his place before Tecious struggled to his feet and stepped forward with cane in hand. After a few paces, the frail senior general stopped and gave a nod of his head. A mere two pawns came forward marked Nine and Ten. They took up positions south of Marinhalk and north of the Sorrowful Sea.
“My report will be short, My Lord,” Tecious announced. “I currently command only two divisions. They are both in training and will not be ready to be activated for some time.”
Mandrean’s demeanor changed drastically. After returning his goblet to Fendri, he walked forward with concern. “How are the new Legions doing?” he asked.
Tecious sighed and leaned on his cane with both hands. “I have trained armies for this Empire for over forty years and never have I seen a sorrier group of recruits than this last batch you sent me. I understand the Cangon Clan has chosen not to sell us any more goblins. My belief is they came to that decision before sending us this lot. It is not like it used to be where the crème of their warrior crop was ours for the choosing. These goblins are too lazy, too old and too young. I expect half to wash out in training and the rest will take at least a year to be battle ready.
“As for economics, my Province has fertile farmlands producing everything from hard-fruit to grains. The grape harvest is beginning and our wine production is reaching new heights. Unfortunately, we have no one with whom to trade. Only Ravensburg accepts our goods outside the empire. While they call themselves a ‘Free City’ the taxes they charge on every transaction border the ridiculous.”
Mandrean began to pace. “I’ve heard about the Cangons,” he affirmed. “We will have to look in different directions to fill the Legions.”
“I have made this statement before and I stand by it,” Tecious noted. “It is time to reintroduce Men back into the army. The shortage of manpower has been overcome and the goblins are running amuck. Even with the best training they loot from our own people. Crops are pillaged and stores confiscated.”
“Are the usurpers dealt with swiftly?” Mandrean asked.
“Of course,” Tecious answered. “I have put more goblins to the sword for theft in the last two years than I did years ago in all the Border Wars with the Goblin Nations. We are being sent the dregs of their society. While our fine men work in the fields, these scoundrels carry the Standard of the Empire. It is time to reverse their roles.”
Mandrean was silent as he walked over and politely gestured to the seat where Tecious had been in a nonverbal request to sit. The general rolled his eyes and shuffled back to his place. “Go ahead,” he mumbled on his way. “Say it.”
Mandrean obliged. “Great Tecious, you are a Master Trainer and no finer have ever lived…”
“But?” Tecious interjected.
Mandrean despised being predictable but felt no choice but to finish his thought. “You know my plans. We stand to take considerable losses. I would rather goblins form the fodder rather than our people.”
“As always, My Lord, I am your humble servant and will comply. Do consider, if the makeup of our forces were different, our loses may be as well.”
“If you are wrong,” Mandrean corrected. “We face a decimation of the populace not seen since the War of the Unclaimed Territory. The people would revolt.”
“They are not far from that point now,” Tecious added. “Our people are tired of the goblins and the crumbling infrastructure. They are nearing their threshold.”
Mandrean walked to his throne and spoke. “It will not be long before our people’s fears are alleviated and all will be well. I assure you.” Tecious simply nodded his acknowledgement and said no more.
As a writer you plan things so much. You plan the events of a book. You plan the character development. You plan every detail down to the dialogue. And once in a while it happens. You get bored. There are no surprises left. That is the time you go off script and add a new twist to the plot. It freshens it up and gets the creative juices going again. Some of my favorite moments in my books were off script. In the first book, the lumberjacks were a spur of the moment addition. They fit into the story quite well. They saved Linvin’s Company and they in turn solved their problem with the Trogoandras. Later in the book I decided to finally have Rander cross the line and get punched out. I knew Linvin was supposed to be above such things but the reader in me couldn’t take it anymore. Rander had to go down. Breaking away from the script on these precious moments takes away the doldrums of everyday writing and reinvigorates the mind. Writing is about planning but it is about having fun too.
One of those branches ran only Linvin's height from the ground yet was of sufficient strength to easily hold the hunter. The overhanging web of foliage dipped down just enough to make him hard to see in the shadows; they did not obscure his view of the field. There he perched himself, waiting for something to come into his field of view.
Linvin sat for a long time. Through gaps in the branches, he could still see the stars as they kept watch over him. His weary mind drifted back to sipping fine ale on his deck not so long ago. There was not a care in the world then; his biggest concern had been the sales number for the previous day at the store. Now he found himself in the middle of a disputed land with danger all around. He fled from a nameless enemy that had apparently killed his parents, and he was starving. Trying to recall the specifics of everything was simply too taxing on his brain. Putting it out of his mind, Linvin drifted off to sleep.
He didn’t know how long he slept but a grunting sound awakened him. His sleepy eyes opened to see two wild boars below him, digging in the ground for food. There was what he presumed ro be a male and a female. Using their sharp tusks they foraged, unaware of Linvin’s presence.
What luck! Linvin thought with excitement. One of the thick beasts could feed his party for some time. Linvin then realized there was bad news as well. While he had been asleep, he had dropped his bow and arrow. They lay not far below him on the ground. He did not dare get down to retrieve them. Once the element of surprise was lost, his chances of slaying one of the beasts were next to none.
Linvin lay forward on the branch and grabbed for his bow. It was still out of reach. Linvin did not want the opportunity to pass, so he took a risk. The bow was not that far out of his grip. He decided the best thing to do would be to lock his legs around the tree limb and hang down in order to retrieve his weapon.
Crossing one foot firmly over the other, he straddled the branch and turned upside down. There was one simple flaw in Linvin’s hastily conceived plan. When his head went down, all the arrows in the quiver on his shoulder fell out onto the ground. They made a loud noise as they crashed down.
The boars’ heads popped up from their digging and saw Linvin hanging upside down from the tree. The female turned and bolted for cover. The male reacted in a very territorial manner. He may have been protecting her or his area, but either way, he was enraged. Snorting violently, he charged the intruder.
Linvin was caught off guard. He had to act quickly. Grabbing the bow and an arrow from the ground, he tried to get a bead on the rushing boar. Linvin had never tried to shoot from such a position before but had no choice. Taking quick aim, he drew and loosed the arrow.
Due to the odd angle, the arrow took an arc toward the ground. Luckily, the boar was close enough that the arrow hit him in the shoulder on its downward curve. For a moment, the beast staggered. Then fury took hold of him once more. Screeching wildly, he moved in on Linvin. With a swipe of his head, he knocked Linvin to the ground. Not wasting any time, he tore his tusks into Linvin’s chest.
Linvin was being shoved around like a ball. His great mass was easily thrown by the stout foe. Every time Linvin tried to move out of the way, the boar seized hold of him again.
After literally being thrown several paces, Linvin’s hand came to rest on a loose rock slightly larger thana grapefruit. When the boar came at him, Linvin smashed the rock down on its head. Again, the beast staggered.
Taking the initiative, Linvin used both hands and cracked it on the skull again and again. Blood poured from the wound as Linvin continued to pound with all his might. At last, the pig moved no more. Its skull was crushed.
Linvin pulled the dagger out of his boot and slit its throat to let the blood drain and prevent the meat from bruising. Then he fell back onto the ground and assessed the injuries he had taken. Aside from a deep laceration on his chest, his wounds were mostly cuts and bruises.
In a medieval world former General Linvin Grithinshield is summoned home from the Goblin Wars after his father’s disappearance to run the family trading empire. Soon his mother is murdered and he is on the run with a price on his head. As a faceless enemy pursues him he must seek out the mythical Red Sapphire. In a world with enemies from without and within, he must set out with dragons in the sky and cutthroats all around to fulfill his destiny or die in the attempt.
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“If you like, I will take his place until his arrival,” Anvar offered.
“That will not be necessary, Uncle,” came Linvin’s voice as he sauntered down the stairs to his relatives, relieved to be released from the tailors’ ministrations.
His long blonde locks flowed back to rest ever so slightly against the gold embroidery of his neckline. He was all at once gallant and sophisticated.
“Please forgive my tardiness, Mother. It would seem that my appearance was in more need of repair than I had realized.” He gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek in an effort not to smear her face. “You look radiant, Mother.”
As if on cue, the first carriage of the evening could be heard rolling across the quartz driveway.
Jelena, Linvin and Anvar formed a receiving line and began to welcome their guests. Each party entering the mansion was announced and then properly greeted.
Linvin had been among great people in their best attire many times before, yet now he felt uncommonly nervous. He traced its source to no longer attempting to simply meet his own expectations. Linvin felt the additional burden of meeting those of his mother, too.
His mind filled with more uncertainty with each guest they greeted and to whom he was introduced. “What if I say the wrong thing?” he thought, “What if I offend the wrong person? Come to think of it, is there a right person to offend? I cannot embarrass my family. Wait. What was that last person’s name? Was he a baron or a lord? And what is the difference anyway? Why does it seem so warm in here? Maybe the other sandals would have been more comfortable?”
Anvar tugged on his nephew’s arm so that he would bend down close enough to whisper, “I may not be able to actually read your mind, but I am a rather good guesser. Remember, they are guests in your house and they are far more concerned with impressing you than judging you. If that, my boy, does not put your mind at ease, then I suggest you concentrate your attention on the beautiful young ladies assembled here, who will line up to be Mrs. Linvin Grithinshield.”
As always, Anvar brought Linvin back to reality and his demeanor softened considerably. With each new guest, he became more of the charming host Jelena had envisioned.
True to his mother’s word, every family of status was there. Along with gifts, usually of fine wine, they brought every available daughter of childbearing age in their house.
At times, the scene was nearly comical to Linvin. He was eagerly introduced to every woman from 14 to 40. Most of the ladies were quite proper in their introductions. There were, however, those who did not use their fans to hide their bosom when they curtsied, as was the custom in society. Though the act always drew Linvin’s attention, his mother would wait until the guest had moved along before whispering, “Not that one!”
Once the greetings were done, the threesome mingled through the room as their guests indulged in drink and folly. The roll of guests was staggering. There were nobles, members of the Royal Family, army officials, legislators, vendors of every race and region, and even the mayor of Fraylic.
Linvin was charming, but his mother kept him close. It was not the time or place for conversations on any serious matters. She whispered to him, “Remember, this is an opportunity to introduce and celebrate you. It is not the time or place to discuss politics and business. This is our gala and we must control its direction. Everyone here wants something from you. Do not be cornered into serious conversations, even with the daughters. They are often subtle agents sent to sway you to their family’s point of view. Keep the conversations light and take no drastic positions.
Two curious characters in “Quest for the Red Sapphire” and “Sapphire Crucible” are Bander and Rander Greenlith. They are the main character Linvin’s cousins and his Uncle Anvar’s nephews. They begin the first book having despised Linvin for their whole lives. When Linvin shows up on their door asking for help on his quest, he finds nothing has changed. They only agree to come after Linvin promises them a handsome bribe upon their return. Rander is small and frail. He is meekly built and not much of a physical threat. What he lacks in body he makes up for in brains. He is a schemer, a plotter, one who is always thinking of a way to advance his own cause. Rander is intelligent though he lacks wisdom. Bander is just the opposite of his brother although it is hard to tell sometimes. He is thickly built with muscle to spare. Bander could overpower most humans in a fight. He is nearly a match for Linvin. Brawn happens to be where his prowess stops. He has a very simple brain. His top goal is to get food and as much as he can eat. It is said that there isn’t a thought in his head that didn’t originate in Rander’s. Bander is controlled by his brother and does whatever he says. Thus, Bander is the muscle behind Rander’s mouth. Rander said not to like Linvin, so Bander doesn’t. Particularly early on in “Quest for the Red Sapphire” they are more trouble than they’re worth. As time goes on, however, they begin to come around and use their tools to help in the mission. Linvin comes to depend on them to take on responsibility during the campaign. They evolve on the trip. Rander learns to use weapons and begins to contribute. Bander stops listening to his brother and finds his own voice. By the end they are very major players.
“Well fate has seen to it once again that we survived,” Linvin said. “We have that reason alone to be grateful.”
“Grateful to Necromancer,” Bander corrected.
“So what do you think about our captor, Necromancer?” Linvin asked in return.
“He has saved our lives,” Bander pointed out meekly.
“To what end?” Rander implored. “Clearly he has some greater purpose for us and it doesn’t sound like anything we want to be involved with. We have traveled all this way only to be prisoners awaiting our deaths.”
In reaction to Rander’s despair Linvin sighed in such a way as to show he’d heard such talk before and was disappointed to hear it again. “If he wanted us dead, Hugon would have finished us. Necromancer has gone to great lengths to be certain we were kept alive. In fact, he wants us to be in fighting shape.”
“Perhaps he heard about what you did in Valia and wants you to serve in their army here?” Anvar asked. “Our imprisonment could be used as leverage.”
“So we are to be hostages?” Rander asked in fright.
“Do stop the drama,” Linvin ordered his cousin. “I am having enough trouble concentrating without you constantly telling me the world is ending.
“To your point, Anvar, it would explain why he wants us but not why he has kept the Emperor uninformed we are here. If my service were required for the army he would likely have told his master of our arrival straight away. Until we arrived here we were called the ‘Emperor’s Prisoners’. That proves he has interest in us as well and yet he is purposefully being kept in the dark about our arrival. It leads me to believe some sort of intrigue is afoot.”
“Then why is Necromancer being so good to us?” asked Bander.
“One thing is certain,” Rander answered. “It is not because he likes us so much.”
“You are right,” Linvin agreed. “He wants something from us. No. He needs something from us.”
“Perhaps it had to do with the key,” said Anvar. “He showed great delight at finding it among our things.”
“Wait,” Linvin said in astonishment. “I remember now. When we were brought in I tried to convince him the key opened my tree. He knew otherwise but would not tell me what it opened. Necromancer also talked about my door not keeping people out of my tree. Could it be the murderers we ran from in Sartan were known to him?”
“Perhaps he knows who sent them?” asked Bander.
“Perhaps he did send them,” Anvar added. “What if they were working for Necromancer? He showed great excitement at finding the key. He must know it is part of the puzzle of the Red Sapphire. If our assumptions are correct, the people looking for the key in Sartan killed Linvin’s mother to capture it. They were the people we ran from in Missandor and Varns. All arrows point to him being behind this plot in an effort to gain the stone.”
“That would mean he had my mother killed.” Linvin noted in a grizzly voice. “He just wanted the key.”
“There is another possibility,” Rander offered. “He may know who sent the assassins and wants to save us from their grasp. Necromancer then helped us so we may fight them and find the Red Sapphire. Consider this. He has made it very clear we are to receive excellent care. If he sent the assassins to kill us before, then why would he protect us now?”
Linvin shook his head. “I am not sure, Cousin. While I see your point, he appeared quite pleased at finding the key. It was as though that was what he sought all along. Even if he did not send the murderers, he wants the gem.”
After his long journey, the bath brought refreshment and relaxation to his aching body. He scrubbed his skin until he began to wonder if it would ever come clean. At last he was satisfied and laid his head back to enjoy the soak. No sooner had he done this than he heard what sounded like a crowd in the hallway moving in his direction. Leaping from the water, Linvin took hold of a nearby robe and managed to tie it just as the mob entered the room.
Linvin’s eyes were stunned. When he had heard that there would be tailors, he envisioned two men with bolts of cloth, chalk, pins and thread. He was correct in that expectation as all of those things entered the room. The shocking part was that there was an entourage of nearly thirty people with them. Some bore racks of clothing while others were clearly seamstresses. Only the tailors addressed Linvin, while the others marched through to another room.
The two tailors circled Linvin. “He’s a big one, Freedron,” said one, as he grasped Linvin’s shoulders in order to gauge them. The other man pulled Linvin’s robe off in one smooth motion. “Look at the scars, Thelon. Those will simply have to be covered in some way. He looks far more common than I had hoped.”
“And the hair,” Thelon said, while trying to rake a comb through its length, “It’s like an untamed jungle.”
Linvin’s initial embarrassment at being disrobed was replaced quickly by angered pain as Thelon attacked his hair. “Have you lost track of your senses! That hurts! Stop!”
Thelon paused for a moment. “I apologize for the lack of formal introductions, Lord Grithinshield, but we have been retained by the lady of this manor to make you presentable in a very short time.”
“It can’t be done!” Freedron exclaimed. “Even the greatest gardener cannot plant a flower and make it bloom by sundown. He is a savage barbarian. It cannot be done.”
Linvin smiled in a dry expression and put his arm around Freedron’s shoulders. “Now Freedron, it is Freedron, Yes?”
“I am Freedron, of the House of Flairgall.”
“How quaint,” Linvin said with contempt, “Am I to assume that my mother hired you and your companion at great expense to dress and prepare me for the gala this evening?”
“Yes,” Freedron conceded with regret.
“Well then, my slight and frail friend,” Linvin said while squeezing the man’s entire frame with his one arm, “I suggest you get over your misgivings and do the task for which you were hired. After all, I am sure you both have solid reputations in this town, which could only be enhanced by word of your part in my visual…blossoming, as it were.”~ 93 ~
The tailors eyed one another and nodded. “Forgive our momentary discouragement, sir,” Freedron said with a bow, “We have much to do and time is short. If you will but follow us into the adjoining room, we can get started.”
“Fine. I leave myself in your hands,” answered the nude half-elf as he strode past. On the way out of the room he paused to make one last subtle comment. “Oh, and just for future reference. If either of you ever call me a barbarian again; I will teach you the true meaning of the word. At that time, gentlemen, your reputations will be the only part of you that survives. Am I clear?” Both wide-eyed men nodded in unison. “Excellent!” exclaimed Linvin, “Then begin your work.”
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...