What a nice break from editing this is to sit down and write something. To me, editing is work and writing is recreation. When I am free to write I feel invigorated. It’s more than just words on a page to me. It is my creation. The editing is like criticizing your child. The time comes where it has to be done but you do not enjoy it. My father was an editor. He always came home from work looking like someone tried to strangle him with his own tie. Dad had high blood pressure and the stress of being an editor didn’t help. I remember one day he came home and shouted out, “No one knows how to write anymore!” As a child I took the statement on face value. I thought, “That can’t be. Most people know how to write.” Boy did I miss the point. Being an editor is a hard job. Although I get frustrated as an author from time to time, I do respect my editor. She’s meticulous in her work. That is frustrating but very important. It makes my work better. The time has come for me to end this break and get back to my edits. Be patient. “Mandrean Revenge” is coming soon.
King Hardurian was in shock. His tone was almost panicked and certainly strained. “You can’t leave!”
“Your Highness, I must go,” Linvin said as he stood before the king.
“No. No, you swore an oath, you did. You swore to serve me unto your last breath. I need you, Linvin. The people need you. Even those fools who just left need you. You are commander of the combined armies of Valia. You cannot up and leave.”
Linvin sighed. “I do not take my oath lightly. That is why I am here, to most humbly request that you release me from your service. I must go.”
“No,” replied the King indignantly. “I refuse to release you! The country cannot do without you. In the field, you are worth 10,000 men at arms. Morale would plummet without you. Among the people you give them peace of mind that they are secure; with me, you are like a son. In fact, I was going to use the celebration of your victory to announce my adoption of you as my son and heir. So you see, Linvin, you cannot go. Your home is here.”
Linvin was both flattered and stunned at the same time. “Your words are kind, my King, but the army survived before me and will do so after me. The people will find a new hero. Such titles are, after all, fleeting. You, sire, you have offered me the world, and I…I must turn you down.”
“Stay,” pleaded the king as he clasped Linvin’s hand. “Wear my ring, have my love, and be my son.”
“I have a father,” Linvin said sadly as he withdrew his hand. “He is missing and presumed dead. I am needed at home. Please, my King, if you love me as a son, you will release me to my mother.”
King Hardurian fell back into his throne and nearly wept. For what seemed to be an eternity, he looked into the determined eyes of Linvin. At last, he signaled for a scribe.
“Linvin Grithinshield,” he dictated, “by Royal Proclamation and with the gratitude of a nation, I release you from your service to Valia, her people and to me. Know that if the trade winds of the world should ever bring you to our shores again, that you shall be made welcome and greeted as a friend.”
The scribe was ordered to post copies of the decree and dismissed. King Hardurian stood slowly and embraced Linvin. “Someday, I hope you have a son, so that you can see how hard it is to let him go.”
Linvin fought tears while hugging the man who had been his teacher for so many years. “You are an understanding man, my King. You must surely know how hard it was for my own father to send me here.”
After a few moments, they parted and Linvin wished the king well. As he headed for the door, the king called after him, “and what of the statue?”
Linvin turned in the doorway and said, “Carve it of Sculla. He ought to get a chuckle from that.” Then he turned and headed to his quarters to pack.
It’s tax time again. A time of joy for some. A time of sorrow for others. I fall into the category of having to pay the state government; not a lot but I still hate paying. Either you get a refund by giving the government an interest free loan for a year, or you pay at the end. Then there’s property tax. That shot up over 30 percent this year. Ouch! And how about your car. On top of usual taxes here in Nebraska we have a Wheel Tax. You pay a tax for every pair of wheels you put on the road. So for a car you would pay 2 taxes. Then the schools which have a ridiculously inflated budge to begin with, dare to ask for a bond issue. They scare the parents and it passes making my taxes go even higher. The Catholic schools produce at least as good of an education on a much lower cost per student. No matter. In the end I still pay more taxes. Then there are hidden taxes on products like gasoline, alcohol and cigarettes. The saying in this state is “There isn’t a tax they don’t like.” What’s next…an air tax. If you don’t pay your bill every month they cut off your air supply. (Ooh that might make a good book!) Let’s face it. No one likes taxes. But it must be done. Paying them is even part of the saying of the 2 things you must do in life. Well, I’m waiting till the last minute to send that check in this year. It will give me some satisfaction.
As the room parted, Necromancer came into view. He moved but his robe showed no motion from his legs. As he grew near his eyes became a deeper red and nearly appeared ablaze as he approached the elves. He stopped directly before the guards in the front of the column.
“Captain,” he ordered. “You and your men may return to your duties.”
The captain looked puzzled. “I certainly would never disobey you, My Lord, but we were told these are the most dangerous prisoners we have ever held. With Lord Mandrean about to begin Court, I would think it would be wise to stay with them. After all, Lord Mandrean’s protection is the most important factor.”
“Your concern is noted,” Necromancer answered as anger swelled in his voice. “There are over a dozen Imperial Guards already stationed in this room. That is more than sufficient. Your men have other responsibilities they are neglecting. I suggest they return to them. As for our Dear Lord Mandrean, I am here. There is no greater protection to be had. You are dismissed. Pray I do not recall you’re questioning of my orders in the future. Such a recollection may displease me and be detrimental for you.”
The captain gave the fist salute and said firmly, “By your leave, My Lord.” He turned on his heal and led the guards from the chamber.
Necromancer smiled a fiendish grin as he approached Linvin. “I see you have been restored to health. That is good. I may not have use for you but I will be prepared all the same, Grithinshield.”
He walked over to the twins and looked at them with contempt. Then he glared at Linvin. “I can see why you loathe them. They are miserable excuses for elves. To be fair, elves never have impressed me as a group. These two are particularly under whelming. Had I been you, I would have eliminated them long ago.”
“They are my kin,” Linvin stated indignantly.
“A fact I am sure you have regretted on more than one occasion,” remarked Necromancer. “They may be of your blood but you would have done well to shed it long ago. Your trip would have been far easier. Then again, I may be giving you too much credit. Perhaps you enjoy having inferiors around. I personally despise it, but have no choice in the matter. I have no equal with whom to associate.” He moved on to Anvar. “You certainly draw a pathetic comparison to me. What is the world coming to when everyone is so scared of a circus freak like you? An Orange Magician, eh? You are better served as a sideshow trickster. At least that would earn the slightest respect. Instead you pass yourself off as a force to be handled with extreme caution. You could not harm me on your best day.
“There are many here who may fear your tricks. For that reason I will be clear. I will be removing all your restraints soon. After all, we do not want the ‘Emperor’s Prisoners’ to be uncomfortable, do we? Then you will all sit where I tell you and do nothing until called upon. If any of you make the slightest effort to escape, you will only leave this chamber when your ashes are swept aside.” He paced before the prisoners with his hands behind his back. “That means, no swordplay, fisticuffs or that sad thing Anvar Greenlith calls magic. Remember, you are nothing more than a means to an end for me. Even at that, you are a backup plan. Your incineration would at worst be an inconvenience to me. So do not bother convincing yourselves that you are indispensable.”
Necromancer lifted his eyebrows and the shackles on the party disappeared as though they were never there. Then he pointed to a bench. “Sit and do not move. You will know when I want you.” As the elves sat where they were told, Necromancer walked with great anticipation toward the throne. He turned and stood before the seat to the right of the seat of power and watched the people take their places.
Anvar lit his pipe and walked over to the rail. “Many years ago, Dirk was building his business. Items of great rarity were of particular interest to the blossoming middle class of Fraylic. In his travels and dealings, he came into the ownership of the staff I hold before you. Though quite ordinary in appearance, it had some sort of life within it. He said the staff was, in fact, a living being! In some way, it communicated with your father. It claimed to be part of a puzzle which would lead the one who solved it to find the Red Sapphire.
“Please tell me you are not referring to the all-powerful magic gem of father’s bedtime stories?” Linvin asked in disbelief.
Anvar was indignant. “You said you would listen. Do you want to hear this or not?” Linvin held out the palm of his hand in a apologetic gesture and inclined his head as he waited for the story to continue.
Anvar stared angrily at his nephew for a moment before drawing on his pipe and picking up his story. “The staff told Dirk that there were other parts to the puzzle. More importantly, it told him that the Red Sapphire had chosen whom it wanted to use its power next. It chose Dirk’s son, Linvin Grithinshield.
“To have the gem would give you unimaginable power. That power was to be used to fight the spread of the evil that infests our world. The problem Dirk saw was that you were still a boy. Any education he could give you would only help you run a business, not safeguard the world.
“You needed to be prepared, trained and hardened. The best place to train you was in Valia with Sedemihcra. He alone possessed the volume of wisdom needed to one day handle the power destined for you.
“Jelena could not have been more opposed to the plan. She had her own aspirations for you, as you know. Sending you away, to the other side of the continent, seemed ludicrous to her. In spite of her acute displeasure, your father did what he thought had to be done and sent you away.
“While you were gone, he continued the search for the other parts of the puzzle. Dirk thought that he could find the Red Sapphire and then send for you to return home. After several years, he traded for this key.” Anvar took a gold chain from around his neck. Dangling at its bottom was a brilliant golden skeleton key. He handed it to Linvin and continued to speak.
“There was one final piece he said he needed before calling for your return. During his inquiries about it, Dirk came to suspect that he was not the only party looking for the pieces he had and sought. The other mysterious bidder was believed to be very powerful and possessed limitless resources. It became a great concern to your father, but even that concern was not enough to ebb his obsession with his goal. After many years, he told me that he had found what he sought in Ravensburg. It was his intention to travel there and return within six months.
“I cautioned him about setting out alone to make the trip. Your father, however, would not hear of letting anyone in on his plans. His instructions to me were to guard the key and staff while he was gone and look after your mother. Should he not return, I would be her only protection. He left on his journey and was never heard from again.
Did you ever stop to think that maybe Peter Pan had it right all along? What was his motto again? “All I want to do is be a little boy and to have fun!” I grew up thinking he was so wrong in that belief. As children we’re taught that we should want to grow up. Peter didn’t have his priorities straight…or did he? What’s so great about being an adult? You have bills and more responsibilities than I can name here. Children don’t have that. So we spend our youth wishing we were older so we could make our own decisions. Then we spend our adult years wishing we had our youth back and not all of these worries. “Peter Pan” was written by an adult after all. His character might have stumbled on to the secret of a happy life. Obviously, you can’t go back and be a little boy or girl again. You can, however, still have fun. No matter what your age, you can still go out and have a good time. Maybe it’s not playing a game anymore. Maybe it’s spending time with your children or grandchildren. Whatever fun is for you, go do it. I think that’s the hidden message behind “Peter Pan.”
Donorus arduously stepped forward with the sound of his armor filling the room. He bowed as best he could in the suit. Before he could speak, Lord Mandrean commented. “Are you expecting an attack in this room or are you just trying to make us all deaf from the clamor you create with every step?”
“I am only dressing my part, My Lord. If it is offensive to you I will wear more casual attire at our next encounter.”
“Fear not General Donorus,” Mandrean chided. “I am sure you will find a way to wear all your medals on a quieter uniform. I am fully aware of your accomplishments. I need see no ribbons to remind me. Now tell me of your Province.”
Donorus nodded and called out “Pawns.” Five more boys raced forward with the numbers four through eight branded on their clothing. They took up positions east of Marinhalk. Five stood at the mouth of the Mystic River while the others dispersed in a uniform pattern that stretched to the Great Eastern Sea.
“As you have requested,” Donorus began. “We have established a base on the south side of the Mystic River in the Unclaimed Territory. Sartan has taken no notice of the infringement and leads me to think they have lost interest or at least the interest to fight for the land. A deeper penetration will likely prove my conclusions to be correct.”
Mandrean held out his palm and Donorus stopped speaking. “You are arguing for something you will not get,” Mandrean said plainly. “I had the base established to be certain Sartan would not be interfering with my plans. Starting another war with them is not on my agenda. If you want to prove you are worthy of all those medals, tell me what is happening in our newest province.”
Donorus looked at his pawns with dismay. “I presume you are inquiring about the limited taxes paid to The Empire.”
“Forget the Empire,” Mandrean roared. “I am the Empire. Two years ago I sent you to conquer one of the most lucrative trading nations in the world. Their armies fell in little more than two months. Yet, in all the time since then, I have not seen one bit of gold reach Marinhalk. Those funds were the chief reason for annexing them. Where are they?”
Donorus’s anxiety grew into distress as he formulated his answers. “My Lord, though we captured the land we were unsuccessful at doing the same with their merchant fleet. The vast majority abdicated to the south and joined the fleets of Rador directly to the south and Valia further still. That significantly reduced revenues for taxes. We have also had problems finding suitable leaders for the various counties. The new citizens of the Empire have fought the adoption of our policies. Our appointees are rebelled against on a regular basis and few of their own people are willing to help our government. Add to that the abysmal conditions of the roads and the bandits who prey upon our wagonloads of taxes and there is little wonder you have seen no tithes.”
Mandrean rubbed his forehead as though he was searching for a wound. “Why have I not killed you yet?” he asked rhetorically. “For two years you have had five full divisions to subdue the population and find my money. Here we sit with no funds and no viable answers.”
Donorus held up one finger and mentioned weakly, “To be fair the Fifth Division is at less than full strength at the moment due to some unforeseen natural phenomenon.” Linvin mustered all his will to prevent himself at laughing at the statement.
“Oh do shut up.” snapped Mandrean. “Your incompetence is not the result of the loss of a handful of goblins. A poorly dressed marching band could have defeated their army. Yet with all the resources at your disposal, you are unable to attain your true goal.”
“We have exported vast quantities of foodstuffs from their farms and ranches,” Donorus offered. “The wealth of the empire vanished when we arrived. It was likely carried away by their fleet.”
“Or your soldiers,” Mandrean accused. “You and your men are more corrupt than any in the empire. After what General Maxion just tried to make me accept, that is making a strong statement. So I will make a stronger statement to you and him. Before we meet next you will both have my tribute in great quantities or I will have your heads in their place. I don’t care how you get it or how many people need to die. Deliver my bounty or forfeit your lives. Now sit back down. I can’t have you crying and rusting your pretty armor.” A chorus of laughter was heard from the gallery. The disgraced general angrily took his seat.
Today I’d like to talk about a character who often goes unnoticed. She is Princess Mirianna or “Miri” for short. She appears in Sapphire Crucible. In creating Miri, I wanted someone who had been pampered all her life and was discovering hidden strength. Miri is strong willed and highly logical. She doesn’t see why the twins hate Linvin so much and works on the problem. In the end she discovers that Bander is Rander’s pawn in the game and that he bears Linvin no ill will on his own. She works on Bander to stand up to his brother and think for himself. This ends the negative feedback from Linvin’s orders. Miri is quite skilled with a bow and proves her worth in the climactic battle in the Valley of Broken Soldiers. After the battle it is she who dresses the other’s wounds and gets them on horseback in order to escape the oncoming armies. She is intelligent but not wise. This is proved by the ease of which she was caught by the Mandreans. Of course, with this being a fantasy novel she had to be gorgeous and sexy. Yes, Miri is a strong character with many positive attributes. She is a good partner for Linvin and a hard woman to turn down. Will his feelings for her cloud his judgement?
The morning sun poked cautiously over the horizon. It painted the sky in a dazzling display of vibrant colors. The brilliant star seemed to pause for a moment while taking its first look at the world to which it was bringing light. The majestic, glimmering light brought a caress to the silky spring clouds. They would continue to carelessly banter about the sky, riding winds where they led.
As the dark of night retreated, a dense fog still stubbornly held the land in a cloak of disguise. Such a spiteful deed by its dark counterpart seemed to displease the sun. It resolved to rise steadily into the air and shine brightly down upon the usurper with all its might. Being no match for such luminance, the night reluctantly withdrew its misty blanket and released the land to the dawn.
As the haze dissipated, it gradually revealed treetops where one might expect the ground to be. With more and more of the air clearing, the trees appeared to spread out in all directions. It was a great forest of redwoods which seemed quite normal at first glance. Upon closer inspection, though, it could be seen that the trees were twice as wide as houses and were spaced out evenly, most certainly in a deliberate pattern. It was not just a forest, but also a town.
The trees were actually the town of Missandor. The spacing of the giants formed a grid, which created streets through the town. There were no houses there in a conventional sense. The inhabitants lived within and upon the trees.
Missandor was a community of elves. The swarthy folk with brown hair and eyes were slightly more modest in height than their human counterparts.
As a whole, it could be said that elves were a friendly and kind people but also intensely proud and distrusting of other races. In Missandor, however, the population was known to be accepting of different cultures and races, making for an atypical elven town.
Ah, Valentine’s Day. I wish I was a Romance Writer. It seems like every holiday is a romance book holiday. The same can’t be said of fantasy books. I take it back. I’m happy being what I am. In the past I’ve reviewed several romance books. I don’t know why they are classified as such because they skip past the romance right into the sex. And these authors know a great deal about that and how to sell it. They paint vivid pictures. I would blush reading them. I take my hat off to those writers because they know what sells and they provide it. In the course of reviewing these books I have read some top-notch authors. I can say with certainty that I cannot write romance. At least, I can’t write that style of romance. I prefer swordplay and magic with a few monsters and demons thrown in for spice. That is a recipe for a good book. Still, we are hard-wired to like sex and romance writers have tapped into that instinct. There’s no denying the success. I’ve had suggestions to incorporate sex scenes into my books but it’s just not me. So, all that’s left is to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day. If you’re not busy try snuggling up with one of my books. Suspense and adventure can be wonderful sensations as well.
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...