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.
General Maxion was the first to step forward. He cried aloud, “Pawns.” Three young boys dressed entirely in black rushed from their seats on the benches toward the map on the floor, in between Maxion and the Emperor. Each boy had a number sewn onto his shirt. They were clearly numbered one, two and three.
They all took up positions north of Marinhalk on the map. One went to the extreme north, closest to the Emperor. Two and Three took up positions parallel to one another further south on the map.
Maxion bowed in a grand gesture and addressed his Emperor. “My good Lord Mandrean, my Province continues to flourish. The mines continue to produce vast quantities of precious ores. Iron mining has nearly doubled since our last meeting. Lumber also is progressing well into the northern wilderness. Our contribution to the glory of the Empire is clear and noteworthy.
“The First Division patrols the border with the Ice Giants to the north. The Second and Third Divisions are segmented into garrisons and placed around the key mining and forestry production to prevent slave revolt. All is well with my Province.”
Mandrean looked irritated and handed his goblet to Fendri without saying a word. He stood and observed the pawns’ position in detail. “As usual,” he barked. “You tell only the side of the story you want to be heard. What of the revolts in the mines?”
“As I mentioned, My Lord, the Second and Third Divisions are in place to prevent such instances.”
Mandrean appeared evermore lucid as he paced before his general. “So I was misinformed that gold production was brought to a halt for nearly a month? Are you saying the reports were wrong about your subordinates selling the slaves’ food for profit to line their pockets and afford their…attire? Are you also saying that the chain of revolts by starving slaves that followed did not require both the Second and Third Divisions to quell? In doing so I suppose it would also not be true that crushing the revolt reduced the work force by half. So did these things happen or are you simply withholding my gold shipments?”
Maxion’s arrogance evaporated in the light of the disclosure. After a moment’s pause he replied. “My Good Lord, the facts of these matters have at the least been contorted and spun in a most incorrect manner.”
“Well,” Mandrean said as he walked forcefully to his general and stared him in the eye. “Why don’t you explain it in a way that will not have your skin hanging from the battlements of this building?”
Maxion’s words sputtered out slowly. “You see…the Ice Giants have increased their tribute demands. If we do not meet their quota of food, we risk them coming into our realm this winter and taking what they wish. I do not have sufficient men to fend off such an attack. It was for that reason some of the provisions intended for the slaves were diverted to the offering. In hindsight, we gave too much and the slaves rebelled. The results were unfortunate but could have been considerably worse if we had not paid the ransom.”
Mandrean struck his palm to his forehead. “So let me understand. You took provisions from the workers and caused a mutiny with great loss in manpower and production and I am supposed to believe you did it for the good of the Empire?”
Meanwhile, in Missandor, the six stealthy individuals had invaded Linvin’s tree with the fall of night. The once pristine amenities were soon strewn around and destroyed. One climbed from floor to floor watching his minions searching in vain. “Leave nothing unchecked,” he ordered. “We ~ must be thorough if we are to find the prize or move on in confidence.”
When the destruction was complete, the group reunited on the main floor. “Now where do we go?” Two asked.
One paced within a circle formed by his brethren. “They are aware of our pursuit, that is clear. Anvar Greenlith and Linvin Grithinshield have either left to search for the ultimate prize or left to hide what they possess. Regardless of the reason, our next best chance to find them will be with their only close family in the area. That takes us to Varns.”
It was then that Four entered the house holding a young boy by the arm. “This lad has some information of interest,” Four announced.
One knelt before the child and told him, “Fear not, boy. You will be rewarded for helping us track down a criminal.” The boy looked around at the destruction around him, afraid and silent. Seeing his face, One produced a small sack of gold and handed it to the boy. “Now,” One began, “tell us what you know.”
Quivering, the boy began to speak. “I delivered a message here, from an old elf in Fraylic, a few days ago. The man or elf that lived here paid me so much for getting it here, that I wanted to thank him the next day. I got up early to do that but saw them leaving town.”
“Them?” asked Four.
“Aye,” the Boy said. “The old elf that sent me was with him.”
“Which way did they go?” Three asked.
“S…south, it was,” the boy said with increasing apprehension.
One drew his face very close to the boy’s face. “Did the half elf have a staff with him?”
The boy looked away. “It was dark. It was hard to see. I…”
One lost patience. “Yes or no! Did he have a staff with him?”
“No,” the boy said at first. “Wait…he might have. There was something long hanging beside his horse. It could have been a staff.”
One nodded and resumed his pacing. “You have seen much, young boy.” One walked over and removed the sack from the boy’s hand. “Too much, I’m afraid. Four, do be certain he never has the opportunity to tell anyone else what he has seen.”
The boy tried to scream, but Four covered his mouth and dragged him up the stairs to meet his end.
“Crime has become so ruthless,” One commented. “Take that boy. He comes back with his unruly friends to rob the benevolent man who paid him so well only a few days before. He destroys the house, only to be killed by his two-timing friends and left for the authorities. I tell you, my friends, the world has become a sad place. Let us leave this den of sin and be on our way.
Four rejoined them as they neared the door. He was wiping blood from his hands with one of Linvin’s kitchen towels. “So do we head south?” he asked One.
“That would seem logical,” One commented, “however, south is not much of a destination, but Varns is. Grithinshield is known as a great strategist and Anvar Greenlith has proven to be more wise than we gave him credit for. The heading, the boy thief observed, could have been a ruse to throw us off the trail. In fact, I am quite sure it was. If that were the case, then they would have gone in the opposite direction that the boy said. That would be north and north leads us back to Varns. Now let us go. Our quarry is slipping away.”
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...