Ah, Valentine’s Day. I wish I was a Romance Writer. It seems like every holiday is a romance book holiday. The same can’t be said of fantasy books. I take it back. I’m happy being what I am. In the past I’ve reviewed several romance books. I don’t know why they are classified as such because they skip past the romance right into the sex. And these authors know a great deal about that and how to sell it. They paint vivid pictures. I would blush reading them. I take my hat off to those writers because they know what sells and they provide it. In the course of reviewing these books I have read some top-notch authors. I can say with certainty that I cannot write romance. At least, I can’t write that style of romance. I prefer swordplay and magic with a few monsters and demons thrown in for spice. That is a recipe for a good book. Still, we are hard-wired to like sex and romance writers have tapped into that instinct. There’s no denying the success. I’ve had suggestions to incorporate sex scenes into my books but it’s just not me. So, all that’s left is to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day. If you’re not busy try snuggling up with one of my books. Suspense and adventure can be wonderful sensations as well.
General Maxion was the first to step forward. He cried aloud, “Pawns.” Three young boys dressed entirely in black rushed from their seats on the benches toward the map on the floor, in between Maxion and the Emperor. Each boy had a number sewn onto his shirt. They were clearly numbered one, two and three.
They all took up positions north of Marinhalk on the map. One went to the extreme north, closest to the Emperor. Two and Three took up positions parallel to one another further south on the map.
Maxion bowed in a grand gesture and addressed his Emperor. “My good Lord Mandrean, my Province continues to flourish. The mines continue to produce vast quantities of precious ores. Iron mining has nearly doubled since our last meeting. Lumber also is progressing well into the northern wilderness. Our contribution to the glory of the Empire is clear and noteworthy.
“The First Division patrols the border with the Ice Giants to the north. The Second and Third Divisions are segmented into garrisons and placed around the key mining and forestry production to prevent slave revolt. All is well with my Province.”
Mandrean looked irritated and handed his goblet to Fendri without saying a word. He stood and observed the pawns’ position in detail. “As usual,” he barked. “You tell only the side of the story you want to be heard. What of the revolts in the mines?”
“As I mentioned, My Lord, the Second and Third Divisions are in place to prevent such instances.”
Mandrean appeared evermore lucid as he paced before his general. “So I was misinformed that gold production was brought to a halt for nearly a month? Are you saying the reports were wrong about your subordinates selling the slaves’ food for profit to line their pockets and afford their…attire? Are you also saying that the chain of revolts by starving slaves that followed did not require both the Second and Third Divisions to quell? In doing so I suppose it would also not be true that crushing the revolt reduced the work force by half. So did these things happen or are you simply withholding my gold shipments?”
Maxion’s arrogance evaporated in the light of the disclosure. After a moment’s pause he replied. “My Good Lord, the facts of these matters have at the least been contorted and spun in a most incorrect manner.”
“Well,” Mandrean said as he walked forcefully to his general and stared him in the eye. “Why don’t you explain it in a way that will not have your skin hanging from the battlements of this building?”
Maxion’s words sputtered out slowly. “You see…the Ice Giants have increased their tribute demands. If we do not meet their quota of food, we risk them coming into our realm this winter and taking what they wish. I do not have sufficient men to fend off such an attack. It was for that reason some of the provisions intended for the slaves were diverted to the offering. In hindsight, we gave too much and the slaves rebelled. The results were unfortunate but could have been considerably worse if we had not paid the ransom.”
Mandrean struck his palm to his forehead. “So let me understand. You took provisions from the workers and caused a mutiny with great loss in manpower and production and I am supposed to believe you did it for the good of the Empire?”
Meanwhile, in Missandor, the six stealthy individuals had invaded Linvin’s tree with the fall of night. The once pristine amenities were soon strewn around and destroyed. One climbed from floor to floor watching his minions searching in vain. “Leave nothing unchecked,” he ordered. “We ~ must be thorough if we are to find the prize or move on in confidence.”
When the destruction was complete, the group reunited on the main floor. “Now where do we go?” Two asked.
One paced within a circle formed by his brethren. “They are aware of our pursuit, that is clear. Anvar Greenlith and Linvin Grithinshield have either left to search for the ultimate prize or left to hide what they possess. Regardless of the reason, our next best chance to find them will be with their only close family in the area. That takes us to Varns.”
It was then that Four entered the house holding a young boy by the arm. “This lad has some information of interest,” Four announced.
One knelt before the child and told him, “Fear not, boy. You will be rewarded for helping us track down a criminal.” The boy looked around at the destruction around him, afraid and silent. Seeing his face, One produced a small sack of gold and handed it to the boy. “Now,” One began, “tell us what you know.”
Quivering, the boy began to speak. “I delivered a message here, from an old elf in Fraylic, a few days ago. The man or elf that lived here paid me so much for getting it here, that I wanted to thank him the next day. I got up early to do that but saw them leaving town.”
“Them?” asked Four.
“Aye,” the Boy said. “The old elf that sent me was with him.”
“Which way did they go?” Three asked.
“S…south, it was,” the boy said with increasing apprehension.
One drew his face very close to the boy’s face. “Did the half elf have a staff with him?”
The boy looked away. “It was dark. It was hard to see. I…”
One lost patience. “Yes or no! Did he have a staff with him?”
“No,” the boy said at first. “Wait…he might have. There was something long hanging beside his horse. It could have been a staff.”
One nodded and resumed his pacing. “You have seen much, young boy.” One walked over and removed the sack from the boy’s hand. “Too much, I’m afraid. Four, do be certain he never has the opportunity to tell anyone else what he has seen.”
The boy tried to scream, but Four covered his mouth and dragged him up the stairs to meet his end.
“Crime has become so ruthless,” One commented. “Take that boy. He comes back with his unruly friends to rob the benevolent man who paid him so well only a few days before. He destroys the house, only to be killed by his two-timing friends and left for the authorities. I tell you, my friends, the world has become a sad place. Let us leave this den of sin and be on our way.
Four rejoined them as they neared the door. He was wiping blood from his hands with one of Linvin’s kitchen towels. “So do we head south?” he asked One.
“That would seem logical,” One commented, “however, south is not much of a destination, but Varns is. Grithinshield is known as a great strategist and Anvar Greenlith has proven to be more wise than we gave him credit for. The heading, the boy thief observed, could have been a ruse to throw us off the trail. In fact, I am quite sure it was. If that were the case, then they would have gone in the opposite direction that the boy said. That would be north and north leads us back to Varns. Now let us go. Our quarry is slipping away.”
Well, I’ve just received my first set of corrections from my editor and I can say with some certainty that this is going to be a clash of wills. In the end, she has final say and I will have to go along. It’s going to take some time. But I’m a big boy. I can overcome criticism. Even if that criticism is directed at my baby. I will fix what they want fixed and move on. You see writing is the fun part. Editing…Not so much. But it is a necessary evil. It proves that you are human and as such are prone to human errors. My father was an editor. He has passed on now. Still, I wish I could ask him some questions about what it was like. Did everyone hate him? Did his writers think he was mean? How did he handle it? There are a thousand things I wish I could ask him but those would definitely be among them. I miss him so. Well the edits won’t get done on their own. I will take my leave of you fine people to work on them. I’m one step closer to being published again. My pride will be set aside for a while as I fix what they want fixed.
The man spoke with a voice that was both amplified and at a screeching pitch. "Word has reached me that my prisoners have arrived. You did not inform me as I had ordered. WHY?" The walls shook from his voice.
Hugon crawled forward with his belly impeding his progress. "Great Necromancer, we received no orders telling us to inform you."
Necromancer grew enraged at the statement. "Do not lie to me, Vile Vermin." He held out his palm. A wind blew through the room and gathered the ashes from the scroll. Drawing together in a vortex, it deposited the remains in his hand. With the soot in his possession he closed his fingers. The ash changed back into the scroll. Opening the parchment he read it to himself. "I seem to have found the orders," he said as he dropped them in front of Hugon. The Jailor did not move.
Without notice Necromancer reached out one hand and unleashed a plume of fire the like of which no one but a Lava Giant had ever seen. The flame poured over the quivering bodies on one side of the room. The entire area was enveloped in liquid flame. After a few short moments, he pulled his hand back and the fire withdrew back to his palm. All the goblins on that side of the room were gone. No trace was left to show they’d ever existed. The elves had been in that area as well, but they were unscathed. Their skin had not even risen in temperature.
Just by lifting one forefinger, Necromancer surrounded Hugon in a shell of magic, which was nearly invisible. It lifted him off the ground. With a shift of his finger Necromancer sent him flying across the room until he collided with the wall of the tower. Then he soared across to the far side and again struck the wall. The process was repeated several times before Necromancer deposited the massive goblin where he’d previously lain.
Necromancer walked forward and stopped just short of Hugon’s face. The Great Goblin immediately tried to 29
kiss his feet. Repulsed by the action, Necromancer stepped back. Then he spoke. "Were my orders unclear?"
"No," answered Hugon.
"Then I must assume you chose to ignore them. Is that right?"
"Yes," answered the timid Hugon.
Necromancer placed his hands behind his back and paced before the goblin. "Did you know any of the goblins I just eradicated?"
"Were you friends with any of them?"
"Yes," answered Hugon.
"Perhaps you wish to join them in the Hereafter?" Hugon simply shook his head. Necromancer stopped walking. "Then consider this your only warning. If you ever disobey me again there will not be enough dust left from your body to bury." Then he turned his attention to the remaining goblins. "Just to make sure this refuse does not choose to test me, if he disobeys me you will all share in his fate. If he cannot follow orders for himself, perhaps he will for you."
"Now, where are the prisoners’ possessions" he asked in a normal tone of voice. Several of the goblins ran outside and pulled the cart with the items to the door. Necromancer approached the cart and sifted through the materials. His face lit up with a wicked smile as he produced the gold chain and key Linvin had been wearing. He discarded the chain and placed the key in the folds of his robe. "Take the rest of this lot to the top floor storage area."
"Lord Necromancer," asked Hugon. "Should I inform Lord Mandrean of the prisoners’ arrival? They are his captives after all."
"No need to bother him," Necromancer replied. "I will tell him when the time his right. For now they are my prisoners and you would do well to remember that."
Winter has a firm grasp on the Great Plains where I live. For weeks we have been locked in a death grip of single digit temperatures. Yesterday school was even called off because of it. As I sit in my fleece pants and sweatshirt I type this with cold fingers as I do not wish to push the heat up too far. My granddaughter is curled up in the other room with a form of the flu that has lasted for days. She is watching “My Little Pony” on Netflix and staying bundled up. Even the dogs go outside and do their business and then come right back in. I had to fill up the car with gas yesterday without my gloves and thought I was going to lose my fingers. They still tingle. This kind of cold is brutal. It’s funny. No matter how bad the weather is it seems there is always someone out there jogging. I’m all for dedication but this borders on insanity. The logic there escapes me. And why does the cold air always have to be blamed on Canada? We are in an “Alberta Clipper” and the weatherman always refers to “cold air coming down from Canada.” Why can’t they just say “cold air coming down from the north.” After all, in the summer time the weather man doesn’t say “hot air moving up from Mexico.” They say, “Warm air moving up from the south.” It must be more politically correct to blame Canada. The fact is, neither country is to blame. Weather is weather and there’s nothing we can do about it. So I sit with blue skies taunting me with the promise of warn temperatures when the air brings anything but. If history has taught me anything it is that the weather will change and this icy grip will release.
The morning sun poked cautiously over the horizon. It painted the sky in a dazzling display of vibrant colors. The brilliant star seemed to pause for a moment while taking its first look at the world to which it was bringing light. The majestic, glimmering light brought a caress to the silky spring clouds. They would continue to carelessly banter about the sky, riding winds where they led.
As the dark of night retreated, a dense fog still stubbornly held the land in a cloak of disguise. Such a spiteful deed by its dark counterpart seemed to displease the sun. It resolved to rise steadily into the air and shine brightly down upon the usurper with all its might. Being no match for such luminance, the night reluctantly withdrew its misty blanket and released the land to the dawn.
As the haze dissipated, it gradually revealed treetops where one might expect the ground to be. With more and more of the air clearing, the trees appeared to spread out in all directions. It was a great forest of redwoods which seemed quite normal at first glance. Upon closer inspection, though, it could be seen that the trees were twice as wide as houses and were spaced out evenly, most certainly in a deliberate pattern. It was not just a forest, but also a town.
The trees were actually the town of Missandor. The spacing of the giants formed a grid, which created streets through the town. There were no houses there in a conventional sense. The inhabitants lived within and upon the trees.
Missandor was a community of elves. The swarthy folk with brown hair and eyes were slightly more modest in height than their human counterparts.
As a whole, it could be said that elves were a friendly and kind people but also intensely proud and distrusting of other races. In Missandor, however, the population was known to be accepting of different cultures and races, making for an atypical elven town.
The quiet streets soon erupted with the sounds of the market opening for business. Stands, carts and stores of all types were opening. In a matter of minutes, the town had gone from a simple forest to a merchant conglomerate.
Sounds of children playing all around blended with the haggling taking place at the vendors. It created a symphony of sound which was pierced on occasion by the ringing of a bell on the local water wagon. The wagon was pulled by two horses and driven by a kindly old elf who had been delivering this precious commodity to homes since he was a child. He would most likely continue his task until his eventual demise. He was a constant in the ever-changing township.
So here I am; alone in the house. Not a sound to be heard. Every writer’s dream. Yet all I can think about is how thankful I am that my lab puppy (75 lbs) didn’t chew any thing up today. She’s a chewing monster. She’s chewed through shoes, sandals, purses, jackets, toys, and even the wood leg on the bottom of my La-z-Boy. At Christmas she chewed through the electrical cord from the tree to the wall! She’s a nice dog and we love her very much but is this a phase that is ever going to end? Or am I stuck forever placing my shoes and slippers on the dresser? Our last dog lived for a while and we had a gap between dogs but I don’t remember this phase being so significant. It’s gone on now for 5 months. We get her bones and chew toys but nothing seems to taste as good as what she’s not allowed to have. I’m at my wit’s end with this dog. She’ll sit proudly by what she chewed through as if to say, “Look what I did all by myself!” It isn’t done out of spite or malice. She just likes to chew. I guess all I can do is wait it out and keep putting things up.
Shoot! She just chewed through my granddaughter’s favorite toy purse. This is not going to go over well.
The person stopped before them and drew back the hood of the robe. Long, brown flowing hair descended about the shoulders of a radiant woman’s face. Her skin was soft and flawless save for several tiny wrinkles. They were only visible to those who could look past the sheer beauty of her face. Her eyes were a delicate shade of brown surrounding a darker circle.
She addressed the guards firmly. “I desire and audience with Lord Mandrean.”
Neither guard changed their expression or pose. One responded. “Lord Mandrean has not left his chambers this morning. He will not be disturbed, Madame. Return to your quarters and we will relay your request. If he desires your company, he will send for you.”
The woman was infuriated. “You tell that Rotund Sow, I demand to see him immediately. You know who I am.”
“Indeed, Mistress,” replied the guard. “You are Concubine Number One. I am to show you respect. That being said, you wait to be summoned like any of the other seventy-three concubines.”
Number One angrily pounded the door. “You will see me.” she yelled through the wood. “I will not move from this spot until we speak. Do you hear me?” She kicked at the door repeatedly. No movement could be heard inside. The tirade continued in a most unladylike fashion for an extended period.
During that time a formally dressed gentleman with neatly cut red hair approached. A slave girl of impeccable youth and beauty walked on either side. Having traveled the hall, they reached the brass-hinged doors. All three of them bore silver trays with food covered to retain heat. When they could go no further, they paused and the man addressed Concubine Number One.
“You know full well he cannot hear anything through that door Betrimpia. Why must you continue to make a mockery of yourself?”
Betrimpia relented in her attack on the door and turned to respond to the man. “At least you have the courtesy to call me by my proper name, Fendri.”
“I know all the original names of my Master’s concubines,” Fendri answered. “I also know which ones are requested in his chambers. You were not requested last night. Considering the fact he has not risen for the day, I highly doubt he summoned you this morning.”
“He never calls for me anymore,” she snapped. “He just leaves me down there with all of those young, brainless whores to fret away my time.”
“It is true,” said Fendri, “that you do exceed his other concubines in maturity on many levels. To your credit, My Lady, time has been unusually kind to your appearance. A fact I am sure is not lost on our master.”
“Were he half as kind as you, Fendri, the situation would at least be tolerable. Instead I am shut away like a leper. Well, I shall not be ignored any longer. I will have words with him. He must leave there eventually and I will be here at that time.”
Fendri shook his head in disappointment and then looked at the guards. With a single nod of his head, he gave them instruction. Each Imperial Guard took hold of an arm of Betrimpia’s and dragged her struggling body away from the door. Then one man held her while the other opened the door for Fendri and the slaves. As Fendri prepared to enter he told her, “I will inform the Emperor that you are here.” After he and the other servants passed beyond the doors, the massive entry was shut and the guards returned to their original positions.
The holidays are over. No more relatives or obligations. No more extra hours at work. Things can get back to normal. (Although I do leave my tree up a bit longer just because I like the sight.) It is finally time to write again. First, I have revisions to make to what I have already done. I started questioning my work as an outsider and saw huge flaws I needed to fix. Now I have to make changes to what I was going to write and put it down. I admit it is all swirling around my head like a tornado. Once I start my corrections, though, it should fall into place. I never thought I would be so excited to do corrections. There is so much left to write. There is so much plotting and scheming in Book 5 that sometimes I lose track of everything I have going on myself. That’s why I have my timeline to look at and see what should be going on, when. Can you feel my excitement? Well, the time has come to end this blog for the day and get writing. Have a great day!
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...