I think everyone has pet peeves. I stumbled across one of mine the other day and it has been festering ever since. In order to spend some quality time with my wife I sat through a cooking show that reminded me of something I despise. Four “Chefs” or “Cooks” or whatever you want to call them were on this rooftop all alone cooking recipes. As they added ingredients I heard the audience go “Oooo”, “Ah” and then cheer and applaud when the dish was finished. THERE WAS NO AUDIENCE! It was all canned. Some sound editor took the film of this and added all those noises as cues for the television audience to make similar noises. You see this all the time on television. Unless a sitcom says it was filmed before a live studio audience then it has been filled with canned laughs and audience reaction. Think about it. Most of the comedies out there have the audience laughing at just the right spots. Every joke hits home. Pay attention to someone watching the show sometime. They will react exactly how the prompts on the show tell them to react. The canned laughs are cues and it has gone on since before I was born. On an intellectual level I feel insulted that I have to be told when to laugh or cheer or whatever the scene calls for. On an emotional level I’m offended that I’m treated like a sheep being herded. My oldest brother always told me that live performances were always better. It is true of musicians, actors and comedians. Let’s face it. You know the joke was good when the comedian has to wait for the audience to calm down before proceeding. You know the play was excellent when the cast gets a standing ovation. And who hasn’t screamed their lungs out at a good concert so the band would return to play an encore? I’d even settle for the days when Ed McMahan would laugh at whatever Johnny Carson would say on the Tonight Show. At least it was real. Maybe that’s why I enjoy books. Everything is inside your head so there’s no one telling you to laugh or be sad. I watch television and there’s nothing wrong with it. However, if I am going to watch a program with the sounds of an audience, I’d just as soon they come from a real one.
In a rocker near the door sat an old elf of unremarkable size
puffing a long pipe. His hair was that cross of silver and gray,
which proved to be so difficult to determine. A slowly sloping
beard extended from his face past his stomach. His stature was
small even by elf standards. The elf’s grand blue eyes were
captivated by the sunset over the city as seen through the orchards
in the back yard and did not notice Linvin’s entrance.
Linvin looked at the nearby table and found a tea setting with
one cup poured and another overturned on its saucer, waiting for
use. “No ale, Anvar?”
The elf’s concentration was broken, and he regarded Linvin. He
set his pipe down hastily and leapt to his feet. The two men
embraced for a long, respectful moment. Linvin held his closest
family member and dearest friend.
“My boy,” Anvar said with tears of joy. “It has been far too
long since we saw one another. I would offer you a pint of ale, but
that stubborn butler of yours refuses to tap a keg without your
Linvin released his uncle and poured himself a cup of tea. “You
know better than to cross Theisen. This may be my home, but he
runs it his way. For right now, tea will suit me just fine.” Linvin
sat down in the rocker next to Anvar’s. The old elf returned to his
seat and pipe as a servant brought Linvin his own.
Once the servant had left, Linvin chided his uncle. “I say would
you be good enough to light this for me?”
Anvar looked humorously annoyed. “You do not need me to
light that, Boy.”
“Of course not,” Linvin agreed. “But it is more enjoyable to
watch you do it.”
Anvar squinted at his favorite nephew but could not help but
oblige him. He tapped his forefinger in midair and a small ray of
orange magic flew in a line directly to Linvin’s pipe and lit the
Linvin took a long drag and blew a smoke ring. Then he
dropped a lemon slice in his tea and took a sip. “Thank you for
that, Anvar. So tell me, what is new in Fraylic?”
Anvar relaxed and returned to his own pipe. “What can I say,
my boy? The money flows and the population grows. I imagine
business is good?”
“That would seem to be the case from the ledgers I have read. I
am auditing the main store and the company as a whole tomorrow
while meeting with the accountant and banker. After that, I have
an audience with the king and assembly to address some matters.”
Linvin stopped as if there was more to say but instead just drew on
his pipe and watched the sunset.
Anvar scrutinized him carefully. His jovial expression changed
just as his nephew’s had. Then he noticed the armor and sword.
“You have not worn arms since our return from our trek to the
north. What has happened?”
Linvin rubbed his face with his hand as he was prone to do
while searching for the right words. “I had another visitor the night
before leaving Missandor.”
Anvar’s face became solemn as he peered forward and spoke in
a low, monotone voice while rocking. “From your appearance
here, you are no worse for wear. Was it a male or female this
“Did you get a name?” asked Anvar.
“Five. That was all he would say. He made it all the way to my
“That is the sixth assassin since our return,” Anvar noted. “Do
you have any idea whom we have to thank for all of the visitors?”
“I have many guesses,” Linvin answered. “Clearly, the same
party is behind them all. That party is well funded and obsessed
with killing me without stirring up trouble with Sartan. I know it
sounds insane, but this is just the line of thinking of Lord
“How can you say that?” queried Anvar. “We do not even know
who the new Lord Mandrean is or what he is like.”
“That, good uncle, is the insane part. It feels like the work
of Lord Mandrean the Thirteenth.”
“How could that be? You killed him in the valley. Maybe his
successor was like his father?”
“Perhaps,” Linvin said as he sipped his tea. “Something just
feels familiar about all this. I cannot shake this feeling that my old
nemesis haunts me still.” Both men were quiet for some time
before Theisen appeared in the doorway to announce that dinner
Mandrean gave a nod to Fendri. Then the House Master stood and proclaimed. “The court is dismissed.” There was a good deal of mumbling as the courtiers exited the hall. Soon only Mandrean, Fendri, Gramlick and a hand full of guards remained. Mandrean snapped his fingers and the guards left.
With only the three individuals left, Mandrean approached Gramlick. “I have a special task for you, my Teacher. Maxion is as crooked as a tree-branch in the wind. You will stay here and see to it no coup is attempted in my absence. Furthermore, there are many displaced citizens who are likely hungry and cold. See the issue is handled.”
“How will I enforce your authority when Maxion has a Legion at his command?” Gramlick asked.
Mandrean held out his open palm and had it immediately filled by an envelope bearing his seal. “These orders give you the right to act in my stead. I have personally sent for a Legion of your men to camp just outside of town. They will be here tomorrow. Your soldiers will beat Maxion’s any day.”
“Then why leave Maxion here at all?” Gramlick asked. “I could have handled this alone.”
“I am testing him,” Mandrean explained. “He will not know of your forces and his allegiance will be proven in the coming days. He also has recent experience with handling rebellious people. You, on the other hand, will see to it the people are here when I return. Now go to your quarters and take some rest.”
Mandrean could see his former tutor playing through scenarios in his head as he limped from the room. Only Fendri and Mandrean remained. The emperor turned to the Master of his House and handed him six envelopes.
“What are these,” Fendri asked as he looked at the seals.
“These are orders I want you to personally deliver to Numbers One through Six,” Mandrean said slyly.
“To the concubines?” Fendri asked.
“No,” answered Mandrean grimly. “You know of whom I speak.”
Fendri paused a moment as he realized to whom his master was referring. “If I may be so bold, My Master, what do these orders say?”
Mandrean smiled and answered, “They are insurance. If I wanted you to read them, they would not have been sealed. Take heart in the fact I would not have given them to you if I thought you would open them. The less you know the better you will be, Fendri.”
“Now, I must vanquish a rat my forces are in the process of trapping. With his death dawns the birth of a Mandrean Empire that shall rule the world. I bid you goodbye, Dear Fendri.”
Mandrean strode toward the door. Fendri looked at the sealed orders and then at his master. “Manenvious,” he called out. Mandrean stopped mid-stride and turned angrily to view his friend. “Remember the first thing Gramlick taught you,” Fendri reminded. “’Never underestimate your opponent.’” Mandrean snorted in disgust and left the room.
“Let me tell you the details,” Anvar told him. “The Red Sapphire has been around since before time began. Whenever evil gained supremacy in the world, the stone would find a new champion to wield its power. He would use its might to take up the fight for those who could not defend themselves.
“Such vast amounts of magic could that person dispense that he could ravage lands, lay waste to armies and strike down those who would oppress. It was just as the staff told you, ‘One can save many; one can make all the difference.”
“The last time the gem was seen was at the end of the last dark age. As you know, there were no written records at the time, but the last story I heard told was that the bearer was so powerful that he could even fly! In the final climactic battle, he used the magic at his command to drop a mountain on an opposing army, utterly destroying it.”
“A mountain?” Linvin said in disbelief. “That sounds quite ridiculous.”
“Well,” Anvar said, “if you consider that the stories were told for hundreds of years, from one fireside to another, there was undoubtedly some exaggeration. Consider that if only the smallest measure of the stories were true, the power you seek could affect the course of world events. However, it may be that the power you seek could be used to serve a darker purpose, with a different master. Should a person of a diabolical nature gain such power, it could prove to be the end of our world as we know it.”
“The staff and stone know who they want to use them. They know that to effectively use that power, the bearer would have to be brave, powerful, intelligent, pure of heart and well-schooled in military and world affairs. Such a man would even need to be wise in the ways of commerce. Through such a man, the power of the Red Sapphire would be most utilized for the greater good. How many men can you think of that match all of those criteria? I can only think of you, my boy.
“So I ask you, after all that I have said, do you still doubt that this destiny has been laid before you?”
Linvin rubbed his chin and paused, “But it was ultimately my choice to go on this quest.”
“Indeed it was,” agreed Anvar. “There will always be a choice. The doorway may be placed before you, but only you can step inside. It is what you do with this opportunity that falls into the realm ~ of choice. You could have chosen to conceal yourself from your would-be assailants, but you chose to embrace your destiny.”
“So you are saying that everything happens for a reason, but I am the one who must figure that reason out and choose to act on it?” Linvin asked.
Anvar sifted the summation through his mind and said, “That is correct. Destiny and choice mean nothing without one another. If an opportunity is there, but you choose not to take advantage, then where are you? Likewise, if you are prepared and willing to do something, but the opportunity never appears, then once again you are nowhere. Aren’t preparation and opportunity coming together the real meaning of luck? So as a comment about your first statement, it was indeed luck that we have the staff.”
I blinked and now it’s September. You wouldn’t know it from the scene outside. The temperature is in the 90s. The trees and grass are green. And the cars are still being parked outside their garages. But there are subtle reminders of what is to come. The kids are back in school. I saw my first Halloween ad. All the stores are running big patio furniture clearance sales. Football is back. Labor Day is just around the corner which always feels like the official end of summer. While summer is nice and all, we must not fear the approach of fall. It brings its own rewards. There is the first frost when my allergies suddenly get better. We can rake leaves and let the kids jump in the pile. (Watch for sticks) There is Halloween to look forward to with all the fun. And most importantly, it’s a great time to curl up with a good book. Everyone’s tastes are different but I’m sure you can find something to your liking. I humbly suggest my first book, “Quest for the Red Sapphire.” http://amzn.to/1npYd0S It takes you away to another world where swordplay and sorcery abound. If you have read some of my work then try the newest novel, “Mandrean Revenge.” http://amzn.to/1L9c76S This is a shorter book with all of the above and some romance thrown in for good measure. Whatever you choose, just take the time to enjoy the book and if there’s time, read another. Just remember if you’re downloading to do so legally from a site like Amazon. Stay away from all those nasty viruses and spyware.
Necromancer first tested the theory that the best hiding place
was in plain sight. He examined a bin of staffs by the door. There
was nothing out of the ordinary about any of them. Angered, he
used his magic to toss furniture around and search the kitchen,
bedrooms, attic and cellar. With the interior of the house
destroyed, Necromancer returned to the living room and cast an
exasperated glare at his prisoner.
“No luck yet?” Anvar asked. “What a pity! I am sure you would
tear this entire house apart were it not for the fact that it would
draw too much attention from the neighbors. What a mess you
have created for yourself!”
Necromancer hovered quickly to Anvar’s side. “Do you think I
fear them or anyone? I will do what I must, and I will complete my
mission. You act so smug knowing full well that I will find it.”
Anvar managed a smile. “At least I am a free man. How has life
as a slave treated you? Confined to this wretched existence you are
but a shadow of your former self. And a small shadow at that.”
Necromancer became infuriated and crashed Anvar through the
ceiling of his house and then smashed him back through another
place, stopping just above the floor. “I may not be allowed to kill
you, but I can still make you suffer.”
Anvar’s wounds were mounting to lethal levels, but he would
not give up the information or the verbal assault. “You might as
well give up,” he said painfully. “All your years in slavery have
dulled your wit. Perhaps now I have regained that respect I lost
Necromancer responded by diving his prisoner through the
floor. The floorboards shattered and revealed a space between the
floor and the ground. The mighty wizard gestured Anvar out of the
way and examined the area. With haste, he began ripping out the
boards with his magic until he found what he sought. There had
been a hidden compartment in the floor. Just under the wood was a
staff looking exactly like Linvin’s and a stash of gold.
Necromancer levitated the staff to his hand.
He examined the piece as Anvar spoke in a somber voice. “You
have won. For what do you need me alive?”
Necromancer paid him no attention. “This is masterful
workmanship,” he said as he examined the staff. “It must have
taken quite a skilled artisan to create such a compelling fabrication
of the real artifact.”
Anvar looked distressed. “That cannot be. Dirk assured me that
he had given me the blue staff for safe keeping. It must be real or
else I have endured all of this for nothing.”
Necromancer cast the staff aside. “Brilliant acting job,” he told
Anvar during a slow, insincere clap. “Most people would have
believed you, but I know that the staff is a living entity. It should
have been angered by my contact with it, but I felt no such being
“You planted this here in case someone was looking for it.
When they found this, they should have left your home. You even
surrounded the forgery with gold to reinforce the fact that the
searcher had indeed found the hiding place. It was a well-conceived
plan but not sufficient to fool me. If I were to guess, the
last place an intruder would look for the real prize is underneath
With of a wave of his hand, Necromancer made the wood under
the gold disappear. The coins fell, and the wizard moved to see
what he had found. A long object the same length of the staff laid
at the bottom of the hole, wrapped completely in cloth.
Necromancer summoned the item to him. Reaching beneath the
fabric, he contacted the staff. Moments later he smiled his fiendish
grin that Anvar despised so intently. “Your failure to outwit me is
complete. You have lost.”
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...