Running the Table @solsticepublish
I once was told the best song writers are poets. I was a drummer and tried my best to write songs. An important thing became clear to me…I’m no poet. Reflection on that time long ago leads me to wonder…what makes a great writer? I have given the matter some deep thought. I drank an entire soda while contemplating the issue. How many times have you started a book and found yourself part way in before asking yourself, “Why am I reading this? This is boring.” Sadly, I have felt this way many times. Then I harkened back to something my late father told me. He was a writer and editor. It was his opinion that the best writers were storytellers. I came from a large family where family gatherings were crowded. (I think I would still sit at the kid’s table if I were to go.) During and after the meal stories would be exchanged on everything from politics to religion. It was always quite clear who knew how to tell a good story and who did not. My father always captured the attention of the entire table when he spoke. I called it, “Running the Table” I never appreciated his skill while I was young but in my later years learned it and was a hit at parties and get-togethers for me. Fortunately, I managed to express my appreciation of his skill before his death. But the memories proved his point. The best writers are good storytellers. They know how to captivate an audience, when to pause, and when to lead you along. Those are books you don’t want to put down. They’re the ones you recommend to friends. Thank goodness Dad spoke loud enough for me to hear him at the kid’s table.
In the poorly lit cells of the prison, Anvar and the twins rested as Linvin sat against the wall opposite Miri and picked at the straw on the floor. For her part, Miri leaned against the far side of the same wall. She held her knees tightly to her chest and rested her head upon them.
“Do you know what I really miss seeing since I have been here?” she asked Linvin.
“There is only one thing?” Linvin answered with a laugh.
She chuckled before answering, “Alright Captain Sarcasm, you know what I mean. I miss seeing the sky. At home the sky just seemed to go forever. When there were clouds, they were always so high and distant. When the sun would set, brilliant hues of peach, yellow, red, silver and a host of other colors painted the sky like an ever-changing canvas. Every sunset was a spectacle to see. As much as I enjoyed watching them, I do not think I really appreciated their majesty until I no longer had the opportunity to view them.”
“I too have seen my share of gorgeous sunsets,” Linvin agreed. “One would think the sunrises would be as marvelous. Perhaps they were. For me, though, sunrise usually involved trepidation on my part. It often signaled the start of a march, or battle. More recently it meant the beginning of another day of a journey into the unknown.”
“That’s not a very positive way to see something so wonderful,” Miri noted.
“I suppose,” Linvin answered. “Many times it seems one’s perspective is colored by the end of the sword they see before them.”
Miri added to his thought, “Or perhaps it is colored by the fact that you see every day involving a sword?”
Linvin’s voice strengthened and he spoke with pride. “I did not choose the road I have traveled. Nor have I shirked the responsibilities given to me. Someone must hold the sword and fight so others can view sunsets. For a time I was ashamed of my past. Now I see it was simply part of my training for a greater purpose. I only hope I have the opportunity to finish my mandate.”
Miri felt guilty for her ignorant statement. She struggled to find the words to make the situation right once again. “I know we agreed not to divulge too much information in here,” she said. “Whatever your goal may be, I hope you attain it.”
Their discussion ended as the riotous noise of soldiers on the stairs interrupted. Three goblin guards came down the hallway and stopped at Miri’s cell. “On your feet, Your Highness. It is time for you to move.”
“Which level will I be going up to this time?” she asked as she pulled herself off the floor.
“Up?” asked one of the goblins. “Your time in the jails above is over. Lord Mandrean personally decreed you be handed over to Hugon for interrogation. You are going down to the Room of Horrors. If you do hold any information, you would be wise to divulge it quickly. The Sergeant has no patience and will use every means at his disposal to extract it from you.”
“I swear I don’t know any of the things you have asked about.” Miri argued as they removed her forcibly from her cell.
“Then you will die a slow, methodical, agonizing death,” the guard said. “Sometimes Hugon lets us watch when the torture really gets intense. I hope I am one of the lucky ones who gets to watch you die.”
In my post yesterday, I gave you an excerpt of Linvin arguing with the noblemen in the country of Valia. I was particularly proud of the scene. Linvin starts out as a pure military man. When he returns to Sartan to run the family merchant empire he realizes that he must change in order to be successful. He must deal with merchants, bankers, accountants, lawyers, and even a king who thinks a war is a dispute between rival companies. Linvin successfully puts his violent past behind him and concentrates on business. He picks it up quickly and soon has the company running better than ever. At last the point of the story appears and he must seek the Red Sapphire. The genius of his military background and the patience learned in business will be put to the test on the quest. He’s a multidimensional character. Linvin makes his mistakes and has errors in judgement but overall learns from them. By the first book’s conclusion he has conqurred his inner demons and has his party firmly under his command. He grows a long way throughout the book and leaves you wanting more.
As the men made a tight circle around the general, one brought his face right before Linvin’s and said, “We are the ones who took this nation from a bunch of farmers and fishermen to the foremost trading nation in the world. We are the envy of the world. So don’t think a victory such as yours gives you the right to come in here and insult us, General. Heroes come and go, but noblemen always remain.”
Linvin’s first thought was to thrash the fat bureaucrat to near death, but he showed restraint in his muscles that did not carry over to his lips.
“You are skilled businessmen, to be sure. However, your ears are so accustomed to listening for the sound of dropping coins that they do not recognize common sense. For years I have told you that the army was too small. For years I have warned that a serious invasion was on the horizon, yet my warnings and petitions to raise a larger army were ignored. We had a tremendous amount of time to prepare over the years, yet the army actually shrank.”
“No one wanted to join the army!” yelled one of the men. “Why take time from the monetary pursuits to become a soldier? There’s little profit in it.”
“And who would join the army?” asked another. “Between the merchant ships, navy, and farms, we hardly have enough people to do the work. We cannot afford to waste manpower in the army.”
“Waste!” Linvin yelled. “What waste would have befallen this country if I had failed? Every man, woman and child would have been slaughtered. Homes and fields would be burned. Any survivors would have become slaves. Now you call preventing such a thing a waste of manpower?”
“You argue against yourself,” a nobleman said. “You proved us right. All this time you have asked for more men and yet you had ample forces to complete your task. You are an anomaly, my good general.”
“And how many men fell, who would have lived, if there had been reinforcements?” Linvin asked. “How many more would have lived if they had not had to fight 3 days without rest? How many would have lived if we could have permitted the enemy to withdraw, rather than risking everything to destroy them utterly. The number is not known. What is known is that there would still be an army protecting this country instead of the few who still breathe.”
“Quiet your tongue!” snapped a nobleman. “You say too much! You see everything as black and white when there is an obvious gray area. Even if reinforcements were available, you have no idea of the cost associated with their hire and training. Those are costs, boy, that you do not see but we must live with. Think about that the next time you forget your place!”
The king hung his head and covered his eyes. A line had been crossed and the other side would be ugly.
Linvin was pushed too far. His eyes caught fire when hearing his new title. In one quick movement, he grabbed the man by the throat with a single hand and lifted him off his feet. Linvin drew him close with ease.
“Now listen to me, you pompous, arrogant sack of flesh,” Linvin said in a firm monotone. “Your life exists under the freedom I provide. Your words dictate that I remove that freedom.” Linvin’s hand began to squeeze.
“That is enough!” the king ordered. “Linvin, release him at once.”
“Colorful Magic?” Linvin inquired. “I do not remember you mentioning that when you explained magic to me.”
“I did not discuss it before because I believed it was extinct,” answered Anvar. “You see magic is a complicated subject dating back to the dawn of time. When people were first created, there were very special and rare individuals who were given the gift of magic. It was meant to safeguard all of The Creator’s works. The magic was said to look very much like that which Necromancer uses. It could take any form or color but in its pure state it most resembled sunlight. According to legend the several chosen Original Magicians did not tire from channeling the power and their strength could grow or decrease based on factors of which I am unaware.
“As time crept forward, the Magicians grew evil and corrupt with their excessive power. They used their tremendous gifts to dominate all life in the world. One by one they fell into darkness. Each insidious being became more twisted and wicked than the last. Their bodies contorted with their fall until their forms were unrecognizable and grotesque. They set their wills and subjects against one another in brutal wars that nearly wiped out life for good.
“Again, as legend states, The Creator was angered and displeased by the wanton misuse of his greatest gift. It was clear to him too much power had been concentrated in too few hands. He created a Grand Prism of the Cosmos. By passing it across the world he reclaimed the magic from the Original Magicians and diffused it into the colors I recounted to you previously.
“The gift was dispersed to a larger number of his creations and given limitations. Though a greater number of people could be born with the power, the numbers were still relatively few. When they channeled the power it would tax their endurance, making them subject to their own mortality. In that way The Creator limited the potential for one person to dominate the world.
“To further prevent misuse, He used the Prism to create the Hierarchy of Magic.” Anvar brushed aside the straw from a section of the floor and drew a triangle in the dirt with his finger. He made two horizontal lines crossing it at different places, dividing it into three sections. The first line was drawn two thirds of the way up the triangle. The second line was drawn just before the tip of the triangle and made a smaller almost undetectable area near the top.
Anvar pointed to the largest region. “The Magicians here are the Violet and Green Magicians. As I said before, they are the most common and possess the least power. They can only block magical attacks from their opposite color.” He pointed to the second region. “Next are the Orange and Yellow Magicians. They are considerably fewer in number and can channel more power. They can block any attack from a Green or Violet Magician or their opposite color. The final area is reserved for the Red and Blue Magicians. They are so rare I have never come across one in all my years. Their powers can dominate all but their rival color. They can channel the most power and unleash it with both amazing and terrifying results.
“Another legend states the Red Sapphire was actually part of the Great Prism the Creator detached and gave to the world to ensure freedom and stability. Whether that is true or not is a matter of debate. What is not argued is the breadth of its power. Even so, Colorful Magic would inherently be stronger.
The cursor blinks on the white screen. It’s waiting; no, taunting me to type. And so, I begin. Not long ago someone told me that I put too much detail in my books. At first the comment stung. I take great pride in providing detail for my readers. One of the things I hate in a novel is too little detail. I’ll read books where you have no idea what the room looks like or how the character is feeling. As a writer, I like to set the stage for my readers. I want them to be able to imagine a room to its smallest detail and know exactly what’s going on with the character. The details bring the story to life. I’m not holding back your imagination. I’m giving it more fodder to create an image. I looked through my reviews and could find no examples of readers disenchanted by my attention to detail. It’s kind of like saying there’s too much cheese on your pizza. Unless you’re lactose intolerant you can’t have too much cheese on your pizza. Likewise, unless you lack the patience to read the details they only add to the story. Perhaps there are different points of view out there. If you feel differently then let me know. I love to hear from my fans. Until next time, love what you read and read what you love.
“I can see that,” Linvin said while still staring at the pile. “Before we talk business, no one has given me any straight answers about father’s last trip. Please tell me what happened.”
“As with all things, Linvin, I can only tell you what I know. Dirk made all the deals with all our suppliers, and the whole business was too complicated for me. For that reason, I never really paid much attention to his dealings. Then, right about the time he sent you away, I noticed a change in him. He had the same passion for the business that had made it successful, but he began to have meetings with parties who were…well…of questionable character. The meetings were always private and often involved him taking a trip. It seemed like he was looking for something specific. I really thought little of it at the time, but now it gives me reason to wonder about the nature of the meetings and the trips.”
“One day, he emerged from one of those unusual meetings almost giddy. He acted as though he had just received a birthday present. I will never forget what he said to me. He shook me by the shoulder and said, ‘My good friend, this is it! I must go to Ravensburg with all due haste on a trading mission, and when it is all over, then my son can come home!’ He gathered some supplies and left. That was the last time I saw my old friend.”
“Father was headed to Ravensburg? Mother mentioned that in her letter. He must have traveled through the Unclaimed Territory,” Linvin said with horror.
“He did not seem to want to waste time, and that is easily the fastest route,” Gradon stated.
“But since the war, has that area not become unsafe?” asked Linvin.
“It has indeed,” Gradon answered. “It is overrun with bandits and exiles. That is the reason the trade routes all moved south to travel through Sartan.”
Linvin sipped his tea. “So he went with a trading caravan, I suppose?”
“Surprisingly, he went alone,” sighed Gradon.
“That is absurd!” Linvin swore while putting down his cup. “What was he thinking? Even in the best parts of the world, traders move in caravans to ward off thieves. How could he go alone into such an area? He was smarter than that.”
“It would seem,” Gradon surmised, “that he did not want anyone to know what he was doing. Forgive me for saying this, Linvin, I hate to even think it, but given the nature of the people he was dealing with, it is not implausible that his intentions were not…honorable.”
Linvin’s eyes widened and his nostrils flared as he leaned forward. “Are you implying that my father was involved in some unsavory, illegal activity?”
“Certainly I don’t believe that,” retreated Gradon. “However, many in town have whispered such things in the darkest of places, and those words have spread throughout the city. I would rather that you heard it from me first, rather than coming upon it from someone else.”
Linvin tried to contain his fury. “Is this why the societal crowd shunned my mother before last night?”
“Such people are fickle, Linvin, and are really of no consequence to you and yours.”
“No?” Linvin demanded.
Gradon sipped his tea with a quivering
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...