You need it. I need it. The law says in many cases we have to have it. Yet it holds on to us like a leach and bleeds us dry. I am of course referring to the greatest con in the market place, insurance. You pay for it on your health, car, house, disability, life and more. They collect their money every paycheck but when you need help they are less than helpful. Take health insurance for example. My policy will pay 80% of expenses once the deductible has been met. So I must spend thousands of dollars before they will pay a dime. How is that helping me? It only helps when I have something large like a surgery and even then I end up paying a large sum of money. Look at car insurance. The prices for newer cars especially are through the roof. Then you take a simple thing like a cracked windshield. I called the insurance company because the crack from a stone was 2 feet long. They informed me that per my request, I had glass coverage. What that meant was if I had a crack smaller than a dollar bill they would fill it. In my particular case the crack was too big and was therefore subject to the $500 deductible for comprehensive damage. A new windshield was less than $300 so what was the point in the insurance? About a year ago we had a flood in our basement where the sump pumps could not keep up with the water coming in. The carpeting in the finished basement was ruined. I consoled myself that night knowing I had home insurance. Well guess what? It turns out the only way water damage would be covered by my policy is if a pipe burst. I had to pay to replace all that carpet myself. Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with life insurance yet. I can only imagine the kinds if trouble they would cause. There are times I was not able to work and the disability insurance people did nothing but give me the run around. They wanted form after form from my doctor and were never satisfied. I could site many more instances but you get the point. You see all these commercials promising low rates, better service because they value their customers, quicker claims being paid, and let’s not forget the universal anthem that they are all on your side. NONE OF THEM ARE ON YOUR SIDE. They make money by collecting premiums, not paying claims.
“What is the meaning of this, Tibare?” she screamed at her
brother in the front of their wagon at the tail end of the procession.
“Quiet,” he responded in a low voice. “Men have stopped us.
“They look similar to the men who Argentoe killed last week.”
Argentoe moved like a cat to the flap just behind Tibare. “How
many of them are there, and where are they located?” he asked as
he looked over the weapons at hand.
“There appear to be six men on horseback,” Tibare answered.
“Three are to the left and front of the column talking to Father.
One just passed by and is somewhere behind us, and one is
halfway down the line on each side. They all have swords.”
Argentoe somehow knew how to use all the weapons in the wagon,
but there was one that caught his eye above the others.
“I am Bloxor,” one of the men in the front announced for all to
hear. “I am what you might call the magistrate of the Knife’s
Hand. A dozen of my best men disappeared on this road about a
week ago. Now, I come to find some simple farmers towing my
men’s horses behind their wagons. It would serve you well to tell
me how you came into possession of the beasts.”
Stynard was frightened but managed to speak. “We found the
horses wandering and saw no point in letting them go unattended.”
Bloxor looked unconvinced. “So you mean to tell me that some
group butchered my men and then buried them in such a way that
the grave was hard to discover but left their horses just wandering
the plain? This soil is hard as rock. Swords would be of little use
digging a grave in it. Farmers, however, could use their tools to
make short work of the ground.”
“We did bury the bodies,” Stynard confessed. “It seemed like
the decent thing to do when we came upon them. We only covered
the sight in order to prevent scavengers from digging them up.”
Bloxor smiled knowingly. “I thought you said you found the
horses wandering. Now you say there were bodies and buried
them. What else aren’t you telling me?”
“Forgive me, Mr. Bloxor. I am frightened and left out part of
“I examined two of the bodies,” Bloxor noted. “They died from
sword blows. You carry no swords, but I know you killed them. So
how did you manage such a feat?”
“We didn’t kill them,” the mother said as she entered the
“Indeed?” Bloxor asked as he reached past Stynard and held his
blade to the wife’s neck. “Then tell me who did do this, and I
might let you live.”
Meanwhile in the rear of the column, the back flap of the last
wagon was disturbed from the inside. The rider covering the zone
noticed the movement and came closer. The animals tied to the
back prevented his horse from reaching the gate of the cart.
Suddenly the flap flew open, and Argentoe fired an arrow into the
throat of the man at close range, killing him silently.
Argentoe scrambled to the front of the wagon and told Tibare
not to move. After gaging the positions of the bandits on the right
and left side, it was time to act. He poked an arrow through the
front cover of the wagon, and with precision dropped the man to
the right with a shot through the neck. It was a masterful shot.
While the man could not cry out, his partner across from him saw
his companion fall and raised the alarm. “We are under attack,” he
Not having time to line up another neck blow, Argentoe took a
full draw on the bow and felled him with a shot through his
breastplate to the chest.
The pale autumn sun meekly peaked across the world of night. Its dim light revealed a realm covered in crisp, frozen dew encasing the land with a silver-white glaze. With the onset of daybreak, the rays danced across the frost-laden landscape setting the fields aglow in a majestic prism of harmony. Half-harvested fields of corn stood as silent sentinels in the windless morning sky.
No birds were singing, as they had long departed to the south. The land was quiet and at peace. A highway between fields was sheathed in a thin layer of ice left as an unwelcome gift from the intemperate evening that had passed.
Such was the world Lord Mandrean observed as he emerged from his tent three-nights-travel from Marinhalk. His Imperial Guard had already begun to break camp and was tending their horses.
Commander Vipis personally delivered a hot tin of food to him and bowed after the exchange. “By the time you have finished eating, we will be ready to get underway again,” the Commander noted.
Mandrean observed his meal of sausage and cornbread with contempt. He knew there was little he could do about the fare and made do as he had since leaving his beloved palace. “Did any news come during the night?” he demanded as he sat on a portable chair and began to eat.
“No messengers arrived during the night,” answered Vipis. “With the conditions on the road it is unlikely any riders would attempt to navigate their way in the dark. It was a moonless night and visibility was nonexistent.”
“I do not care about ice on the roads, or moonless nights,” Mandrean yelled as he threw his plate. “I want news. Grithinshield has been gone for nearly a week and still there is not a single sighting of him or his rabble. If Tecious has men posted at all the crossings someone should have seen them by now. Even if the goblins on guard were killed we would have heard something.”
“We receive news throughout the day and there are simply no sightings,” Vipis confirmed. “Grithinshield is said to be a crafty general. He may have found a place in which to hold-up until the search dies down.”
Mandrean stroked his chin. “That is a possibility but I still think he is trying to escape. The longer he stays in the Empire, the greater his chances of being discovered. By now every town knows of the price on his head. He cannot hide for long without someone taking note.”
“Then what course of action does your Highness suggest?” Vipis asked stoically.
“We will continue to ride south with all haste to the Sorrowful Sea. There are many towns along the route where we can ask about sightings. If he has evaded detection then he must be riding cross-country. That will slow his progress. Sooner or later he will be found and I want to be there for the kill.”
As a writer I know there are many different parts to bringing a book to published status. First you must write the book. If you don’t enjoy this part then stop right here because this is the most fun activity in the process. Then you read through it looking for errors of any type. Next you send it to your beta reader to pick apart. You fix the mistakes. Then you read it again to satisfy yourself. Finally you fill out the appropriate forms and submit your book to the publisher. Assuming they like it or have contracted for it they will assign an editor to the manuscript. It turns out what you thought was good was actually full of little tiny errors that you will be correcting for some time. Then the editor always wants to put their spin on the story. That can be helpful or turn into a fight. In the end you have your novel; hopefully with minimal compromises. The part of this process too many writers overlook is the beta reader. This is a person you trust to always tell you the truth. They read the story looking for inconsistencies and errors. For example, “You said he was pacing. Then on the next page you say he is getting up from his chair. When did he sit down?” It seems like a silly mistake but it’s easier to do than you might think when you are writing. When you read your own work you often miss such obvious mistakes because you wrote it. A good beta reader won’t be afraid to tell you when something is not right. They live to find mistakes. Sometimes they point out things that are not truly errors. They are just written poorly and hard for the reader to understand. That’s worth a fix right there. It takes a certain level of maturity to handle a good beta reader. After all, they are finding fault with your work. As a writer you need to take the criticism constructively. It is better to hear it from a beta reader than an editor. This way your work looks more professional when it’s submitted. Remember, you are not looking for a fan who will tell you how great you are. You are looking for a critic who will tell you when you mess up. It also tends to be helpful if they know about writing. So all you aspiring authors out there, line up your beta reader before you start writing and things will go smoothly.
The morning after Linvin’s uninvited guest was dispatched, he
left for Fraylic as planned. Though he wore his finely tailored
clothing, his most recent brush with death forced him to fortify
himself for the journey. Linvin wore his black, dragon-scale armor
and his remarkable broadsword: Falconfeather.
This living blade housed the soul of Talana, Queen of the
Falcons. The sword was crafted from her strongest bone after her
death and was indestructible. She was light as a feather and
devastating as any blade in the world. Falconfeather was a prideful
weapon with a blood lust. Fiercely loyal, she obeyed only Linvin’s
commands to the point that the sword would permit only her
master to lift her or draw her from her scabbard.
Shrunk for convenience and discretion was the staff housing the
Red Sapphire. It adhered magically to his back but was concealed
by Linvin’s trademark crimson cloak. Linvin kept his prize close at
hand for more than one reason. Not being a magician by birth, as
all others were, Linvin needed to stay in contact with the staff in
order to channel magic with a degree of efficiency. Though
channeling magic was draining on him physically, he needed to
rely on stored reserves of magic when he was not touching the
staff. He charged his body with an increasing amount of red magic
when they were in contact and then could use it, albeit with greater
taxation, in the event that he was separated from the staff. Lord
Mandrean could not charge his body in such a way with his magic
The other reason Linvin carried it was more complex. Being left
alone offended the Red Sapphire. It was truly a living entity. Both
the Red and Blue Sapphires were created to help prove whether
good or evil was stronger when given the same power. The stone
had feelings and an ego of its own. In many ways, Linvin and the
Red Sapphire had bonded to become one mind and soul. He could
give it away no easier than he could his arm. While the marriage
was harmonious, they each maintained a certain amount of
independence. As such, the gem made it perfectly clear that it had
spent hundreds of years locked in a chest waiting to be joined with
its chosen master. With its liberation, the sapphire refused to be
left alone again.
Mandrean led his forces now consisting of his Imperial Guard and an entire Division of goblins. They’d entered the mists and were stumbling along the plain. Though he openly criticized Necromancer’s strategy, it did not stop him from pressing his forces to their limit each day in order to gain ground on his prey. In the distance he spied a signal arrow and then another. They continued to come closer as Mandrean’s smile grew. He could tell the direction from which the signal originated and urged his forces to that course. Then he heard the horns blow.
By late in the day, a messenger arrived with word of Linvin’s sighting. Necromancer reveled in the confirmation of his viewpoint. Mandrean would give him no such praise.
Linvin was perhaps a day’s ride ahead. Mandrean wanted pressure maintained and knew how to accomplish the task. Since the goblins’ bodies ran on a two-day clock as opposed to humans’ single day custom, Mandrean ordered half of the division to continue the advance through the night. He, the other half and his Guard would rest and then overtake the main force on the following day. Mandrean was determined not to let Linvin escape again.
Linvin’s throat burned as he swallowed the drink. “That’s quite a tonic you have there. What is it?”
Newminor replaced the cork in the jug and sipped leisurely. “It is called Racik. They make it out of wild grasses and roots. It is the native brew of my land.”
“Are you referring to the Land of the Gnomes?” Anvar inquired.
Newminor showed great offence. “Just because it is not a sovereign nation, does not mean it is without a name,” he scolded. “My homeland is called Letheria. It lies deep in the heart of the Endless Mountain Range. Hidden behind all the rock and snow is a magnificent high alpine meadow. In its center lies Leaking Lake; a shallow pond which is free of ice only a few months of the year. There my people have lived a hard life inthe intemperate climate. The summer is too short and the soil too poor to grow crops. Every spring, wild herds of all types gather to graze and mate while the water is unfrozen. My people would have a great annual hunt for bucks. Their meat would sustain us through the long winter. The short-lived season would end with a great festival to celebrate the success of the hunt. Great barrels of Racik would be aged from the previous year and brought to the festival. When the barrels were dry, the grasses and roots from the meadow would be gathered to brew the spirits for the next year’s festivities.”
“Being so exposed to the elements, how do your people manage to survive the winter?” Linvin asked.
“The problem with a place like Letheria,” Newminor noted, “is that no amount of seclusion can keep you hidden from your neighbors forever. With the Goblin Nations on one side of the mountains and the Mandrean Empire on the other, it was not uncommon for raiding parties from either side to descend upon the meadow. Though we are a proud people, our numbers and resources have never been great. Combine with that the fact that there was little wood to be found, and we chose to build our society completely underground. Goblins and men would stumble across the land, never knowing that beneath their feet lay our city. There, the bite of winter’s chill had no teeth. My people were safe and could surface when the invaders had left.”
“How is it that no one ever found the entrances to the city?” Rander asked.
“Only a gnome can see the doorways,” Newminor explained. “Living underground for so many generations, we developed much more refined sight than surface-dwellers. We can see what you cannot. We even see in total darkness. Since the first tunnel was dug, only gnomes have entered Letheria.
Far up in Marinhalk, Anvar found himself on a most familiar
floor of the prison roundhouse in the palace wall. He was in a
smaller cell than his previous visit, but the amenities were far
superior. His hands were shackled in order to prevent him using
his magic. All of his clothes had been removed as physicians
bandaged his wounds. Both of his arms had been broken along
with several ribs. The damage to his skull was severe enough to
warrant wrappings from his eyebrows to the back of his neck.
When the doctors were through, they dressed him in a loose fitting,
As if on cue, Acreas arrived with spear in hand. “Is the prisoner
ready to be moved yet?” he asked.
“The elf can barely walk, Commander Acreas,” answered the
caregiver. “Now is not the time to move him about.”
“It cannot be helped,” Acreas stated. “Lord Mandrean wishes to
see the prisoner right away. I will take him to the Throne Room
now.” In moments, he sternly pulled Anvar to his feet and marched
him with a spear at his spine out of the cell and down the spiral
Anvar was in tremendous pain but still had his wits about him.
“Officer Acreas, you can put the spear away now. I can walk very
little, and I have no use of my arms or my magic. It would be safe
to say that I am not a flight risk at this time.”
“The name is Commander Acreas, if you please,” Acreas
demanded. “I suppose the spear is unnecessary at the moment. It
was more for show and intimidation. I sense no fear from you.”
“Why should I fear at this time?” Anvar asked bluntly. “Even
with my advanced healing abilities, my wounds would have taken
my life if I had not been treated. Not only did I receive care but I
was fed as well. One does not do those things for someone they
plan to run through with a spear. Lord Mandrean has other uses for
me that require me being alive. So let us dispense with the pointy
objects. I will come without trouble.”
Acreas pulled the spear away. “My research said you were the
logical one in the group. Your logic makes sense to me.”
As they emerged from the jail to enter the courtyard of the
palace, Anvar addressed his escort again. “Research? I am
surprised the Commander of the imperial guard would research
someone like me.”
“Knowing your enemy is the best way to defeat him. I have
studied you and your family for that purpose. I have, however,
paid particular attention to your nephew Linvin Grithinshield. His
body of work is immense and required a good deal of analysis. I
have memorized his background, commerce and battlefield tactics.
If I could set my hatred of him aside for a moment, I might
actually respect his abilities. Every battle he has fought has been
against superior forces and every time, he has won. Whether he
was in Valia, the Territory or the Valley of Broken Soldiers where
he last fought, Grithinshield has used everything from the cover of
night to the morning mist and even the geography to his advantage.
He is a worthy opponent.”
Miri walked confidently over to him and asked, “Does my appearance please you?”
Linvin looked at his cousins whose gaze was fixed on him and answered, “It is fine. Yes. Fine. Um…here. I have two ointments you may find helpful. The first is here.” He opened a large jar, which concealed a brush in its lid. The smell was horrific.
Miri plugged her nose and asked, “What is that terrible stench?”
“It is a suave made from the mearock root. Once I apply it to your back, it will cause puss to excrete from the wounds. I will bandage it. After about a day, all the moisture leaves the medicine and the hardened root flakes away. Your back will heal much better and faster. I have seldom had a chance to use it. The root only grows in the northern climates and is nearly impossible for my company to obtain in trade. It is worth more than gold.”
Miri retained her hand on her nose. “Is there perhaps one that is only worth as much as silver that might smell better?” she asked.
Linvin sighed. “Just lift up the back of your shirt and let me put this on you. If it helps, you can take solace in the fact that your hair is beautiful.”
“Beautiful?” Miri asked as she fished for compliments and lifted the back of her shirt. Linvin wiped her wounds with a thick coat of the ointment and answered, “Well, as beautiful as you can get with a horse brush.” He sliced a cotton shirt in half and pressed it against the mixture. It adhered perfectly and required no wraps. Miri lowered her shirt.
“I feel like a slice of bread covered in marmalade,” she said as she turned around. Perhaps tomorrow I will thank you but for the moment sentiments lean toward repulsion.”
Linvin sat the jar down and commented, “I can respect that. You may, however, feel differently about the next jar I have for you.” He held a much smaller vessel in his hand. “I can tell you from past experience that there is little I can do to make your ribs heal more quickly. This medicine, however, will make the situation bearable. It is actually a toxin derived from a spiked fish in the Great Eastern Ocean. If it penetrates the skin in the smallest amount, it is lethal. On the other hand, if it is applied topically it has the effect of deadening the afflicted area starting with the skin and working down to the area beneath. It is scarcely used on the battlefield due to the frequency of open wounds and its cost. In your case, however, it should provide temporary relief of your pain if rubbed over the injured ribs.”
The description Linvin gave did not inspire great confidence but Miri’s pain was substantial. If Linvin recommended the treatment, she was anxious to test it at once. She reached for the jar and Linvin pulled it back.
“Wait,” he said. “You must apply it with a cloth.” He tore as section from his shirt and handed it to her. “Whatever skin it touches will be numb for a good while. Be sure not to touch the medicine with your fingers.”
Miri heeded the warning and took the cloth. Then she went to a corner and opened the jar carefully. She dipped the tip of the rag in the liquid and lifted the front of her shirt with her back to the others. Cautiously she applied the medicine and then lowered her shirt. She closed the lid on the jar and returned to the others. “It just feels cold,” she told Linvin.
“Give it a few moments,” he responded. “Soon you will feel nothing. In the meantime why do you not join my cousins? There should be a good selection of clothing in your size. Drop the rag on the floor for now.”
“Is something wrong?” he asked. Linvin’s face was red and his eyes stared fiercely at his uncle.
“Why did you not tell me we were going there?” Linvin demanded. Anvar sighed. “Just hear me out,” he pleaded with his palms outstretched. “I did not originally plan to go there, but when I found out we were headed this way anyway, I realized it was a good opportunity to get some help that we could trust.”
Linvin fumed, “Help? Trust them?”
“They are family,” Anvar implored.
“Family does not treat one another as they have treated me!” Linvin snarled.
“Linvin, much time has passed and you are all adults now. Do you not see that the odds of either one of us returning from this quest are low? Two extra swords will double our chances.”
“They will double our chances of being stabbed in the back!” corrected Linvin.
Now Linvin could see why Anvar held back the information. Had he known where they were headed, Linvin would not have come.
“So you just expect me to forget about all the years of fighting with them?” Linvin yelled as he pointed down the road. “All the comments they have made! All the vile things they have done to my parents and me! You are asking me to forgive those who terrorized my childhood. You are asking me to forgive those who would never forgive me.”
Anvar put his hand on Linvin’s shoulder and replied softly, “Yes I am, Linvin. I am asking you to be the bigger man. I am asking you to look at the bigger picture and let go of your hate. I am asking you to offer them your hand in peace, knowing full well what has transpired between you. Like it or not, you need them. The master of the Red Sapphire will need to know how to swallow his pride for the greater good.”
“What you ask is not as simple as blowing out a candle,” Linvin stated as he looked into the distance to disguise a tear. “They never gave me a chance. I was never treated fairly. You were there. Do you not understand why I hate them?”
“It is only natural that you hold resentment,” Anvar said while stroking his long, flowing beard. “I bore witness to the reunions and holidays where you were mistreated. I heard the horrible things said to your parents. Your father, as you may recall, viewed them with the same contempt that you do. Even I have been ashamed to call them family at times. Still, they are family. They are our one best hope of aid. You must put your feelings aside and try to sway them to join us.”
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...