A good friend of mine and fellow writer is Angel Dunworth. She will be doing a book signing and I wanted you all to know about it. Follow this link: https://streetlighthalo.blogspot.com/
I feel old. I am the only person I know who still has a land line. Mind you, we have cell phones that we use frequently. As it turns out, the bundle I have with my cable provider makes it cheaper to have a land line then to get rid of it. I rarely use this phone. It seems to be basically a telemarketer magnet. I just deleted 8 telemarketer calls. I don’t even try to answer the phone when it rings. It is my opinion that the cable companies purposely make the price prohibitive to discontinue the land line. They could make it cheaper if they wanted to but they don’t. Why do these companies want us to have land lines so badly? Are they selling the phone numbers to telemarketers? Whatever it is, I seem to be the only person who kept their phone. Other than coming in handy when my cell phone isn’t working, it’s pretty much a waste. So here I sit with my land line; feeling alone in the crowd. Man; I am old.
Anvar brought him some water. “How is she?” he asked.
Linvin took a drink and returned the water skin to his uncle. “I really am not sure. I have seen more than my share of wounds on the battlefield but nothing like this. Her entire back side has been scathed. None of her ribs are out of place but I am certain the breaks are inhibiting her breathing. I will watch her tonight, but if she does not wake by morning, I fear she may never. All of it is my fault.”
“How can you say that?” Anvar asked in shock.
“You were right, Uncle. I could have finished Hugon much quicker. I could have spared her some of this pain and perhaps her life if I had not sought vengeance. Once again I lost sight of the bigger issue and failed.”
Anvar recalled his words on the ride earlier in the day. He observed the agony of his nephew and sought to console the weary warrior. “My words were meant to inspire you to become greater, not to tear you down. Though it sounds like criticism to want you to be greater, you have lost sight of the fact I am acknowledging you are great already. From your account, Hugon did the bulk of his damage before you ever engaged him in battle. Perhaps you could have ended the melee more quickly but I doubt
Miri’s condition would have been much better. You are not to blame for this situation. I see now my lesson, which was intended to make you aspire to be better, only sewed the seed of guilt in your mind. For that I am sorry and wish I could take back those words.
“You are, however, dwelling on the negative. Had you not gone back for her, to keep your promise, she would most assuredly be dead. Whatever happens from this point forward, you did save her life. You are an honorable man and I am proud to call you my nephew. Only such a man as you would have been chosen for the Red Sapphire.”
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.
“When your mother and I determined that he was not coming back, we began to suspect foul play. There was a break-in at the store in which nothing was taken, but the office was obviously searched. Besides that, my movements and those of your mother were watched by dark figures in the shadows. Dirk’s trip looked to have been a trap. Someone wanted the staff and key.
“Jelena thought I was wrong about my conclusions and decided to bring you home to run the business. I let her know I had great concerns about doing that. If Dirk had indeed been killed for the staff and key, the murderer would next target his family. By bringing you back into the fold, I felt that the wrongdoer would be spurred to action. The close confines of all the possible targets meant the time would be ripe to strike and find what they sought. Jelena, as it turned out, was just as stubborn as Dirk. She forbade me from speaking of the topic with you. In her mind, the whole foolish quest had died with your father, and if the danger was gone, there was no reason for her son to stay away any longer.
“As you now are aware, the threat was not gone. Jelena was targeted by someone very professional and slowly given poison in some form. We only discovered that the illness was inflicted intentionally at the very end.
“Realizing her errors in judgment, she sent for me. We decided that the killer could not be allowed to gain the staff and key your mother still concealed. You and I would be their next targets. The only choice was for me to bring you these items and both of us set out in search of the Red Sapphire.
“Sergeant Hugon...these are the Elves taken prisoner at the river crossing,” the Human Captain stated as he dropped a rolled scroll on the table. “They are not to be mistreated.”
Hugon angrily opened the document and struggled to read its contents. Then he began to laugh. Moving the parchment over to a lantern on the desk, he set the orders ablaze. “That’s what I think of your orders. I do as I please with my prisoners.”
The Captain drew his sword. Hugon stood quickly and took hold of his club. The other goblins in the tower drew their weapons and rallied behind the Sergeant. In spite of the insurmountable odds against him, the Captain held his position.
“I want you to acknowledge you have taken custody of the prisoners,” the Captain said with his blade pointed directly at Hugon’s heart. “You will be accountable for any deviation of the orders from this point forth.”
The Goblin Master snorted and answered, “I have them now, Human. Now be about your business. I wouldn’t want you to get your pretty uniform dirty.”
The Captain looked at the jailor with disdain and sheathed his weapon. “Goblin scum,” he branded as he turned and left.
After the Captain exited, the gates were closed and Hugon turned his attention to Linvin and his family. Using one hand for each, he picked up the twins by the chest and examined them. “So these are the Dangerous Elves that everyone fears?
“Ha.” Hugon threw them aside and looked at the others. “I presume you are Anvar Greenlith. The paper said you were not to be unchained under any conditions. Seems you’re some sort of Magician or somethin’. You look mighty old for anyone to be scared of you.” He shoved Anvar to the ground and stepped on him with his foot. “I could just squash you like a worm. You’re nothin’ but a feeble old elf.” He began to slowly press down on Anvar with his foot.
Linvin could not stand the sight. “Leave him alone, Gutter-Rat,” Linvin cried angrily.
Hugon removed his foot from Anvar and turned his attention to Linvin. With two fists full of Linvin’s shirt, Hugon lifted him into the air and drew his face close. The great elf was weak and sick but still stubborn. He stared straight back at the monstrous creature.
“So you’re the little half-breed that has everyone so upset. You look pretty harmless to me. Kind of like a bug. I guess maybe them Humans is afraid of bugs?” The other goblins started laughing.
Linvin replied. “You must be the pathetic Goblin Pet your Human Masters chose to guard the mean, nasty little Elves. What a sad commentary on you. So scared of us are you that you need to keep us shackled. I do not blame you though. Slaughtering all those goblins in the Territory was quite easy and actually a good deal of fun for us. I would be scared of us too.”
Hugon threw Linvin against the wall and turned to the goblins who traveled with the prison wagon. “They killed goblins?”
“At least an entire patrol,” the shivering voice of one of them said.
Hugon was furious and quickly showed his displeasure by uncoiling his whip. Without a thought he began to lash Linvin with vigor. “You want to play games with me, Boy?” Hugon shouted as the thick leather tore through Linvin’s clothes. The victim curled into a ball to protect his face. Unrestrained, the leather sliced through his skin with ease and did not stop until it struck bone.
“How do you like that?” Hugon screamed as the other goblins cheered his torture of Linvin. “I think I’ll give you one lash for every goblin you’ve killed. If there’s anything left of you after that, I’ll show you the lower levels where we can really have some fun.”
Linvin watched his tormentor closely. When the whip headed his way again Linvin held up his shackles and let it wrap itself around the chain. Then he grabbed the weapon and pulled it from the goblin’s hand. “I am Linvin Grithinshield,” he said from his knees. “No one puts leather to me and lives.”
Some people in this world are just gullible. I mean no offence. I happen to be one of them. Particularly when I was young I fell for every story or trick my brothers could come up with. I believed my brother who told me Bruce Lee was poisoned because he was too fast to shoot with bullets. Then there was the time he convinced me to try almond extract straight from the bottle. He poured it on a tablespoon and I smelled it. It smelled alright to me so I swallowed it. That was a rude awakening. Then I was convinced to run speaker wires through the wall in order to place speakers in my room. That way I could listen to my brother’s stereo. Soon the morning came when he placed a speaker on either side of my bed while I was sleeping. Then he turned off the sound to those speakers until the chorus of the song when Peter Gabriel screamed, “Lord, here comes the flood!” I nearly jumped on the ceiling. When watching the “Lone Ranger” I noticed he never seemed to run out of silver bullets. So, I asked where he received them from. I was told he got them from his “mine.” What heard was “mind.” So, I asked my brother how he could get bullets out of his mind? He told me he stuck his finger in one ear and the bullet came out the other. That’s why he never ran out of bullets. When I was grown I worked with an abrupt fellow with what sounded like a New York accent. We didn’t talk much. So, I asked another associate what his deal was. He told me the fellow was in the Witness Relocation Program and that no one knew his whole story. I believed that for 6 years. Until I talked with him and he gave me a plausible explanation. There is a silver lining to all this. I am now extremely skeptical. If an email looks at all suspicious, I delete it immediately. Regular mail scams also go in the garbage. As a rule, I don’t believe people’s stories. If I ever won a trip or a car I would never know because I delete those messages. I am still gullible but I have developed a hard-protective crust. It’s lonely not trusting people but it beats getting burned.
“Messenger!” Linvin called as he entered the camp. “Take word to the King. Send this message. ‘Engaged Marsh Goblins as anticipated. Enemy utterly destroyed. Valian losses light. Will march to capital within the week. Borders are safe.’ Sign it, ‘Grithinshield, Commanding General.’ Get that off right away. There are tens of thousands of frightened people waiting for news.”
Linvin and the others passed many open fires with fresh beef and pork roasting, continuing on to his command tent. Upon entering the tent and leaving view, they collapsed. Squires attended each of them. They removed all their masters’ armor and soiled clothing. Linvin passed out wine from his private stock to celebrate.
Fardar was attended as well. He was shocked as the squire disrobed him and washed his body of the vile, pungent goblin blood that had stained his clothes black. “These will have to be discarded,” the squire told him. “Goblin blood does not wash out of clothing.”
Fardar observed the others in the room. Linvin’s arm was being stitched and dressed. It was a far more severe blow than he had acknowledged.
Sculla had been stabbed in the thigh and sliced on his arm. He, too, was receiving treatment.
Victolin appeared unharmed and healthy until his armor was removed and he held his ribs. His right side was deeply bruised and bleeding.
Only Githara looked to have escaped without a scratch. She looked at Victolin and asked, “Was it an ax that hit you?”
He winced in pain, while lifting his arm to allow a bandage to be applied. “A heavy mace. I cut down one of their War Chief’s bodyguards and another struck my exposed side, knocking me off my horse. Fortunately, one of my men cut him down immediately thereafter.”
“What happened to you, Sculla?” Linvin asked.
“Stupid, really,” he replied. “When the line was advancing, this pathetic remnant of a swamp dweller reached up and stuck me in the leg with one of those cheap sickle swords. Made me furious! So I stomped his head. Wretched, filthy, disgusting little lizard!”
The squire attending him finished cleaning the wound and prepared to stitch it closed. “If you had not pulled the sword out by yourself, the wound would not be so large.”
“The blade was getting in my way!” yelled Sculla as he shoved the attendant away. “This stable boy acts like he was the one who was stabbed.”
“Easy, Stump,” Linvin consoled his friend. “I think he is just frustrated with your disregard for your body.”
“Well, it’s my body!” Sculla snorted. “I’m here to fight, not compete in a beauty contest.”
“We’re all glad of that,” Victolin joked. “You’d make an uglier woman than Githara.”
Githara lashed out quickly at the insult and kicked Victolin on his injured side. Victolin howled in pain. “You’re mistaken for a woman far more than I am for a man,” she said.
“Enough, children,” Linvin said, gesturing downward with his hand. “We do not need another fight today.” They were in many ways like the siblings he had never known.
Once their wounds had been tended and they were all adorned in scarlet robes, the meeting broke up. Githara and Victolin left to check their units. Fardar left to prepare his report. Entering the tent as they left was a centurion.
Hanging near the stairs by Linvin was a vast array of whips and chains of varying length and thickness. A torture rack was prominently displayed in the center of the floor. It was there Miri lay, chained and stretched on all her limbs. Her clothing was tattered and bloodied by clear markings of flogging. Her left eye had taken a powerful blow and was swollen closed. Blood ran down her face and pooled on the table beneath her. So saturated was the wood on the rack from previous victims the fluid would not absorb. Thus, her hair so golden blond once before, had changed to blood red.
Linvin hugged the inside wall of the stairwell to stay out of sight as he attempted to set aside his rage and locate his enemy. It was not long before Hugon came into view wearing black linens. He bore an iron gauntlet on his right hand covered with fresh blood from Miri. He had just pulled the wheels at the top and bottom of the rack tighter. The act stretched his victim further and pressed her back more firmly against spikes rising higher from the board with every turn.
He stepped over to Miri and grasped her by the hair. “You are stronger than I gave you credit for being. Many have begged for death by now, yet you will tell me nothing.”
Miri spit blood out of her mouth and yelled, “I told you I do not know any of the answers to your questions.”
Hugon wound up his arm and slammed the gauntlet into her exposed side. “Ooooh,” he said in delight. “I know that one hurt. I heard a rib crack. Why are you protecting Romadon so fiercely? Your armies have beaten us every time we invaded. Nothing you could tell me would hurt their defenses that much. There is no need for you to keep suffering. Tell me what I want to know and I will end your life quickly. If you insist on testing my patience, I will make what you have suffered so far feel like a holiday.”
“For the last time,” Miri yelled, “I know nothing about the army. Do your worst and have this over with.” Hugon chuckled as he removed the gauntlet. “You have just made my day better, Little Princess. First, I will use the white-hot metal tongs from the pit to rip your nose from your face. Now most people drown in their own blood but I hope you hold on. Then I will pull every toe and finger off one at a time. If you live through that, I will raise the spikes that now are only pricking you to a much more suitable height. Then I will lower a stone block on top of the remainder of your body and let it push the nails clean through your flesh. Once you are dead I will cut you into pieces for delivery back to your father. This will be a treat.”
Hugon turned toward the hearth to fetch the blistering tongs. A sudden crack was heard in the air and a long whip sliced though the jailor’s shirt and dug deeply in a diagonal pattern across his back. He yelped in pain and turned hurriedly. Standing at the bottom of the stairs was Linvin with whip in hand.
“I told you no one puts leather to me and lives,” Linvin bellowed. “I will now fulfill that pledge.”
“Grithinshield?” Hugon said as he stepped closer. “You were supposed to be dead by now.”
“That is quite ironic when you think about it,” Linvin said as he stuck Hugon in the face with the whip. “Since it is now time for you to die.”
Being a writer, you sometimes take little things for granted. In my case I think little about my sight. Now, I’m not talking about my bifocals. I’m referring to the ability to see at all. To be blind would end my love of writing. Fortunately, I don’t have that problem. Yesterday, however, I was talking with my oldest brother who has had Type 1 diabetes since age 9. Among his health problems is diabetic retinopathy. His sight slowly diminished until his current state of blindness. He was once a published writer of poetry. He had to give it up when his sight deteriorated. It makes me realize how lucky I am to have my sight so I can continue with my passion for writing. Every day there are so many simple things we take for granted like walking, talking, eating, hearing and sleeping in an ordinary bed. I’m not preaching here but I think most of us have a lot to be thankful for. Sadly, many of us, including me, concentrate instead on what ails us. I bet my brother would switch medical problems with me in a heartbeat.
Today I have the honor of being interviewed on “Carol Ann Kauffman’s Vision & Verse” blog. It’s a chance to better know me and my writing style. Check it out at https://visionandverse.blogspot.com/
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...