One of my favorite parts of writing is creating and sustaining bad guys. Sure; everyone likes the good guy or protagonist but from a writing perspective nothing beats a well thought out antagonist. With the good guys you always have a moral code they choose to live by. That’s great…on second thought, that’s boring. Bad guys have no rules. You can write whatever you want about them. In creating Lord Mandrean and Necromancer in my books. I had a blast. Mandrean is simpleminded yet twisted and evil to the core. While easily manipulated he takes great pleasure in making his subordinates suffer. He is insulting and self-indulgent. Mandrean is surrounded by people with good ideas but he never takes their advice. He is a child who has been placed in a position of authority. Necromancer is even more fun to write. He is the personification of evil. Every move has a hidden agenda; especially when he is counseling Mandrean. It is much like a puppeteer and his marionette. He pulls the right strings and Mandrean normally does what Necromancer wants. There are other villains in the books as well but the point is clear. Being bad is just more fun than being good.
Mandrean held up his palm and the women in the pool stopped splashing. “Ah, Fendri. There you are. You are not intruding. The ladies just finished servicing me. I have worked up quite an appetite. Would you like to see a trick, Master Fendri?”
“If it pleases My Lord,” he said in response.
Mandrean turned to one of the concubines and said, “Number Nine, go bring me the Blue Sapphire.”
She bowed her head and answered, “Whatever you ask, My Lord.” Though still in her childbearing years, Number Nine was far older than the young concubines Betrimpia verbally abused three days before. Nevertheless, her unclothed body was an exquisite site to behold as it stepped out of the bath and strode confidently over to the bench holding the stone. Fendri bowed his head as if in her honor but the truth of the matter was he did not trust his eyes not to fixate on her mesmerizing attributes.
When Number Nine reached the bench, she casually reached for the gem her master requested. The moment she touched it, the Blue Sapphire released a bolt of lightning in the form of Blue Magic that shot her across the room like a catapult. She impacted the far wall and then fell to the ground. Fendri set down his tray and quickly rushed to her aid. He placed his fingers on her neck but could feel no pulse. He hung his head in sadness over her charred body.
Silence in the room was broken by laughter from Mandrean. He could not contain his enjoyment. “Did you see that, Fendri? She struck that wall like an insect being swatted. How is that for a trick?”
Fendri stood tall, pulled himself together and turned to look at his Emperor. “That was an impressive trick, My Lord. Am I to understand anyone touching the Blue Sapphire beside you will receive a similar fate?”
Mandrean beamed like a child with a new toy. “I haven’t tried it on everyone,” he laughed. “I think it’s safe to say it will only serve me.”
“Well then,” Fendri began. “I will have one of these trays removed.”
“Do no such thing,” Mandrean ordered. He began to emerge from the water. With a snap of his fingers the second concubine raced to fetch his full length white bathing robe. He stood on the marble with his arms held parallel to his shoulders. She dried him first with a towel and then wrapped the robe around his body. Once he was secure, she retrieved her own robe and dressed herself.
“I told you I had quite an appetite this morning,” Mandrean told Fendri. “I will now have two breakfasts.”
“If you desired more food, Master,” Fendri said as he picked up his tray. “I could easily have had the staff prepare any additional amount you would want. There was no need to sacrifice one of your concubines.”
“Where is the fun in that?” Mandrean asked as he placed the Blue Sapphire in a pocket of his robe. “Besides, Nine had become a little too old for my taste. Now bring the trays to the main floor where Fifty-Six and I will eat.”
Fendri and the slaves followed Mandrean up the stairs and placed the serving trays on tables by the pillowed furniture. Mandrean leapt onto a cushion and uncovered two of the trays. He brought all the plates onto one tray and began to eat. Once he’d begun, Fifty-Six reluctantly started to eat as well.
Mandrean ravenously attacked his meal. As he chewed, he beheld Fendri. The Master of his House dispatched the slaves and stood at attention in a corner. “What news from court?” Mandrean asked before a loud belch.
“Your court will be assembled by midday,” Fendri answered. “Though I am not informed of their actions, it is my understanding they have updates for you.”
“They had better have more than that.” Mandrean barked. “What of Necromancer? Has he completed his work?”
“I sent a servant to request an update on his progress. Necromancer nearly incinerated him but he reported your Court Magician would have something for you when your Council convenes.”
“At least one of my servants is doing as he is told,” Mandrean commented as he took a piece of crisp bacon in his hand. “I knew he would not fail me.”
Fendri’s gaze fell to the side for a moment as he silently added his own thoughts to the statement. Then he decided it would be better to let the matter lie and continued with his agenda. “Your tailors and their servants will arrive shortly to prepare your attire for your journey. I assume you are still intent on personally taking part in the hunt for the outlaw Grithinshield?”
“Your assumptions are correct,” Mandrean stated as he cut a steak on his plate. “I will deal him the final blow with my own hand.”
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.
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...