Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Still struggling.

I'm struggling to catch up on everything that I fell behind on during the internet interruption.

Hopefully I will have another section up shortly. Priority has to go to getting two books laid out by Daverana authors Jane Baxter and Susie Hawes.

When I at last was able to come online, I have several hundred emails to answer. I'm slowly catching up.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Internet troubles

My internet was down for 9 days. I'll play catch up this week and post two entries instead of just one.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


The sound of the hammer as it struck the steel blade on the anvil woke Tagalong Tirconnel from a deep slumber.  Work had already started in her husband's forge.  She had overslept again.  It seemed like she was tired all the time.
She blinked bleary-eyed at the sunlight pouring through the window and slapped it.  The child growing in her belly took that moment to start kicking.  She clutched her belly and glowered.  "Yeah, yeah, you want out about as fast as I want you out."
The dwarf slid her feet over the side of the low bed and tilted herself forward cautiously.  Children were one of the greatest perils of marriage.  Tagalong had known that she would find herself in this condition eventually when she married her childhood sweetheart Hannigan O'Flanagan Tirconnel three years ago.  Grumbling under her breath, Tagalong grabbed a broom and headed into the front room of her home.
Stepping into the house after hours of supervising his apprentices, Hanni ducked as the broom came swinging at his head.  "Hey, pay attention.  I dinna do it on me own."
Tagalong Tirconnel rolled another step closer to her husband and swung again.  Four years ago it would have been a mace or an axe in her hands.  "You stuck it in.  You just had to keep sticking it in."
"It ain't me fault the eelskins broke.  Just bad timing, Tag."
"Bad timing, my ass.  You did it on purpose.  It didn't break.  You put a hole in it."
Hanni licked his lips.  "Darlin' Tag, Taun is coming by this morning for your regular check.  Don't ya want to get–?"
Tag swung the broom and Hanni fled through the door.  They had been going through this as a morning ritual ever since the healer Taun informed Tag that she was pregnant.  She got up in the mornings sickish and irritable.  Hanni spent many hours just dodging missiles until she began to feel a bit better up in the day and mellowed for a time.  Tagalong was nearly as round as she was tall.  She crossed her arms, resting them atop her hugely swollen belly, and glowered at the doorway.
Hanni peeked around the door at her.  "Nothing says you're loved like a big belly, Tag."
"Only with you."  Hanni headed for the smithy where Tag rarely went since she had begun to get noticeably swollen.
As a stonemage, Hanni's weapon-smithing provided a substantial income from myn who wanted, and could pay the heavy prices for, charmed weapons.  While he was no Eldarion Havenrain, Hanni did good, practical work.  As a result of that, Tagalong could afford to put her riches from the hoard of the arkenwyrm into other things, such as being the largest patron to the Azure Circle Mage School.
Tagalong settled on the sofa and a servant pushed a footstool under her feet.  She had hired some of the older children from the Dynannan Temple Orphanage to work for her.  The girl placed a small table at Tag's elbow, and another one set out tea and cookies.
A soft knock at the door preceded Taun entering the house.  He carried his satchels with the straps crisscrossing his chest.  "How are you feeling today, Tag?"
He set out his equipment on the low table to the left side of her.
"How the hell you do you think I'm feeling?"  Tagalong grumped with her arms folded.  "Like a damned beached whale, that's what I'm feeling like."
A tiny smile flitted across Taun's features.  "Eelskins are the most popular form of birth control, but they aren't the most effective."
"You talked to Hanni."
The umber rose deepened in Taun's face.  "Yes.  But he's right, Tag."
Tagalong gave him a petulant look.  "If you say so."
Taun sat next to her, grasped her wrist, and closed his eyes to Read her.  "You are close enough that I could induce labor, if you wish.  I know you want it over with."
"I'd like that."  Tagalong's eyes gleamed at the thought.
"Then you have two choices, I can stay here until you deliver.  Or you can come and stay at my home for the delivery."
"What about the boys?"
"I'll have Florry watch them if you would rather we did it here."
"Do that.  Hanni's going to hear every bit of what I go through."  Tagalong rubbed her hands together gleefully.  "Every bit of it."
"Then we'll do it tomorrow.  I always like to give Florry a day's warning."
* * * *

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


A toddler darted past Amberlyn with a lurching unsteady gait, paused to recover his balance and then ran again.  She spun about to grab him before he could get into anything.  "Josaerin!"
The bell hanging from the doorknob rang as a customer entered.
Josaerin made a beeline for the door before it could close.
"Don't let him get out!"  Amberlyn shouted at the customer and lunged after her son.
The customer swept Josaerin into his arms and the toddler giggled as the mon poked the tip of his nose playfully with the end of his pipe stem.
Amberlyn took him from the mon's arms.  "You're new, aren't you?"
"Ieuan Cardew."  He extended his hand to her in greeting.  "Got in a few weeks ago, but my employer has kept me too busy to explore until today."  Ieuan waved a slender finger at Josaerin's nose, making baby noises at him for a moment, before noting the difference between the child's fair skin and brownish blond hair, and that of his dark, coppery-skinned, black-haired mother.  "He's yours?"
"Yes."  Amberlyn turned a skeptical eye on Ieuan.
"Must look like his daddy then.  Mind if I have a talk with the mister?  My employer has a long list of things we need."
"My husband is away."
"Well when he comes back then?"  Ieuan chuckled when Josaerin grabbed his waving finger and stuck it in his mouth.
"Nasty!  Josaerin, that's nasty."  Amberlyn snatched the Ieuan's finger from her son's mouth. 
"Your husband will be back when?  I really wish to speak with him."
"He's in Red Wolf.  There's a war up there."  Amberlyn shifted the toddler on her hip.
Lildh, Amberlyn's senior assistant, stepped through the door of the hallway leading to the back rooms and brushed a strand of nutmeg hair back.  "Oh, there he is!"
"Just put him in the playpen, Lily."
Amberlyn's assistant lifted the boy from her, carried Josaerin behind the counter and plunked him into a playpen that had a cloth lid over the top with braids of spellcord across it.
"Cute little tyke."  Ieuan waved at Josaerin and the toddler waved back giggling.  "Now, what was I saying when I was so pleasantly distracted?  Oh, yes.  Bulk buys that I wanted to discuss with your husband."
"Your employer will have to do business with me, if he's looking for bulk purchases.  I assume you're talking dark arcanes?  I'm the only one who sells them."
"Then we're dealing with you."  Ieuan gave her his most charming smile and watched her thaw toward him.
"You're a mage?"
"Dabbler.  Bio-alchemist by trade."
"Spot on."
"There are a lot of Gormondi here these days." 
Ieuan tucked his pipe in the pocket.  "That's to be expected.  What with the arrival of Prince Richard Gryphonheart imminent."
"True."  Amberlyn doubted that she would ever be comfortable with the custom of child betrothals and the youthful consummation between them, which the nobility demanded at the onset of puberty.  That situation seemed to be worsening since the destruction of the Hilloran League two years ago.  The Minnorian Empress had extinguished several royal families when she conquered that region.
Ieuan sighed.  "That's what has brought us all here.  The alliance means trading relations, establishing routes, and other matters."
He unshouldered his satchels.  "In addition to buying bulk items that cannot be found in Gormondi, we wish to demonstrate our own wares.  Allow me to show you some samples."

Friday, April 09, 2010

Intermission: Details details

If you like what I am writing, please consider buying my other novels to find out about the events that are going on simultaneously with those in this book.

While I did put up a donation button, I would much prefer that you purchased my novels. Serpent's Quest is only a dollar download at Amazon and Smashwords.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Ieuan Cardew arrived at 57 Argent Lane – the address that Wesley had given him in the cloth district – and was pleasantly surprised to find what appeared to be a converted inn attached to a modest warehouse.  As fronts went, it was very convincing.  It became even more convincing when he went inside and discovered that it was a real business.  A clerk at the elegant front desk, rose and extended his hand to Ieuan.  "Master Cardew, I assume?"
"The same."  Ieuan favored him with a roguish smile and clasped his hand.  "Can I assume that my office is ready?  And my samples in order?"
"Oh, absolutely, Master Cardew.  And Master Douglas will be along as soon as I inform him of your arrival.  He's most eager to finally meet you."
"I'm certain he is."
"Come this way and I will show you to your office."
"And your name?"
"Quaymark, sir.  Anything you need – anything at all – I will be more than happy to acquire or arrange for you."
The clerk led Ieuan down a long corridor to the far rear of the building.  Ieuan grew edgy at seeing they had put him in the office farthest from the rest of their people.  It would either reduce his importance in the eyes of his customers or make them suspicious of him.  His pride itched.  Ieuan's more legitimate family members had frequently treated him as an object of shame, despite everything his father had done to persuade them to accept Ieuan.  It only became worse when his half-brother became Lord Cardew on the death of their father.
Ieuan's training could not completely suppress his irritation.  "Is there a reason for putting me back here?"  Like some unwelcome mongrel…
"Oh, yes, sir."  Quaymark nodded, smiling as if he found the idea quite brilliant.  "We were told that you would want access to the private stairway and the garden entrance.  We don't wish for our competitors to gain access to goods as expensive and rare as what you deal in before you have had ample opportunity to secure our various trading deals."
Ieuan gave him a long, considering glance as they stopped at the last door and Quaymark opened it for him.  He stepped inside and a wide grin lit his face.  The large office had deep, expensive carpeting in shades of lush green.  Chairs and a matched pair of brocade sofas framed a low table.  A huge hard rock maple desk dominated the rear with ornate, overstuffed chairs before it.  A liquor cabinet and a wine rack took up the corner left of the desk with a private bar in front of it.  Shelves lined two walls, filled with various products in green glass jars, bottles, and small piles of burlap bags, all meticulously labeled.  In a corner behind the desk waited dozens of crates with Ieuan's name stenciled on them.
He strolled over to the bar and nosed in the cabinet before checking out the bottles.  It was all well-stocked with the finest that could be had.  Ieuan took a bottle of Faewinian Blue Rose from the wine rack, fished a corkscrew out of the cabinet drawer, and a delicate wine glass from a shelf.
"Make yourself comfortable, Master Cardew, while I fetch Master Douglas."
"I intend to."  Ieuan opened the bottle, inhaled the exquisite bouquet and then filled his glass.
As soon as he was alone, Ieuan went to the crates.  He took a long swallow of wine, set the glass on his desk, and used his belt knife to pry the lid off a crate.  Nestled in cotton were bottles of Fire Blossom Absinthe, a highly addictive liquor from the east coast, hideously expensive to import.  There were two kinds in the crate, some with a red label and others with a green one.  It was absinthe blended with fermented Pollendine and just enough spices and fruit extracts to flavor it in an interesting fashion.  The connoisseurs of the Larquentali City State knew not to drink much of it at a time, and they always sipped it very slowly.  They respected its dangers while savoring its taste and effects. 
Green Label Fire Blossom was strong stuff, but relatively milquetoast compared to Red Label.  He would introduce his targets to the lighter stuff first.  Once he was ready to close the deals, he would bring out the Red Label.
"Close the deal.  Rolls off the tongue nicely, don't you think, Master Cardew," he said to himself, dragged his finger across his throat and chuckled.  "Of course, Lord Cardew will sound even better when opportunity presents."
Wesley's network could actually move supplies and fill orders from a variety of places.  It was the kind of set up that only a vampire could achieve because of their longevity – immortality until someone puts a stake through their hearts or tears their heads off.
He moved to the desk, settled into the well-padded leather chair, and began opening all the drawers to investigate the contents.  The largest drawer on the bottom right had four sturdy leather satchels and a matching knapsack in it, all very expensive and well-tooled.  He pulled out two of them and tossed them atop the desk.  Then Ieuan perused the shelves with his wine in hand, picking out his samples with care and carrying them to the desk, which he soon had filled with what he believed would sell best, including several sampler-sized bottles of Fire Blossom.  Then he sat down and packed his satchels. 
"This is going to be a very productive day."  Ieuan patted the satchels, looped their broad straps over his head and settled them at his sides.  He stood, drained the last of his wine and worked the cork back into the bottle.
"Master Cardew?"
Ieuan turned at the new voice and faced a rotund mon of business in a blue linen tunic over trousers, his neck, wrists and fingers awash in expensive jewelry.  "Master Douglas!  What a delight to meet you at last.  My employers in Gormondi have had nothing but praise for your efforts here."
Douglas beamed.  "I work hard at it.  Very hard.  Whatever the company requires.  You'll tell them that at the main office, won't you?"
"Of course, I will."
"Let me show you around and introduce you to people.  You'll want to know where to go for things.  Who to talk to.  You've no idea how excited everyone was to hear that you were coming."
"Really?"  Ieuan schooled a pleasantness into his voice, forcing a smile to match Douglas' own.  A trace of misgiving danced along the edges of Ieuan's mood.  If the story had become too complex, it would be very easy for him to slip up somewhere.  He intended to ask Wesley for more details.
Douglas bustled down the hallway with Ieuan in tow.  "Oh yes, indeed.  We're all very excited about the new markets that this venture will open up for us.  Since the destruction of Charas three years ago, there has been only two places on the west coast for the mages to gather: Ildyrsetts, which has become far too stodgy for the young folk, and our own Azure Circle Mage School.  As a result, we're awash with young mages of every stripe.  It's a growing market, ripe for exploitation.  It's veritably screaming for goods and services."
"And that's why the main office sent me."
Although Douglas moved with great alacrity, by the time they reached the end of the hallway, he was breathing hard and his face had gone red.
"You don't look well."
Douglas stopped in his tracks and drew himself as erect as possible, which only made his girth that much more noticeable.  "I'm quite healthy, really.  It's just that I don't walk much.  I spend so much time at my desk…"
"Where you do wonderful work."  Ieuan patted his shoulder.  "Before we get this tour underway, let me make a suggestion?"
"Oh, but of course.  Suggest away, Master Cardew."
"You're much too important for a mere tour.  How about I take you and the missus to dinner tomorrow night after I've had time to get settled into my apartment and visit all of my contacts in Rowan City?"
"Oh, but…"
Ieuan wagged a finger at him in gentle approbation.  "You've much more important matters to care for than exhausting yourself over a mere tour.  One of your aides should be perfectly capable of providing that.  No, I think that dinner is in order.  Is there a place you fancy?"
"Hinkty Molly's.  It has a singer there with a voice from heaven.  And the food is without peer.  All the youngsters from the school and the faculty go there to dine.  Even the king has been seen to sup there."
"That sounds perfect.  So are we agreed to dinner at Hinkty Molly's at say, oh, eighteen bells?"
"It will be a pleasure."
"Of course it will."  Ieuan administered another friendly pat to Douglas' shoulder.  "Now, I mustn't dally.  I've people to see and places to visit.  Tomorrow night we can discuss the company's new venture to our hearts' content."
Ieuan gave him a nod and strode off through the building.  Once outside, he headed for Dock Street.  He knew where he was going without having to ask directions.  Ieuan had spent hours pouring over maps of Rowan City while waiting for Corradeo and Eginhardt to arrive.
As Ieuan walked, he took in the decorations going up to welcome Prince Richard Gryphonheart.  King William Gryphonheart, desperate for an alliance and military aid against the Minnorian Empress, had promised his nine-year-old son to King Aejystrys as husband to her five-year-old daughter, Elynnis.  In return, Aejystrys had marshaled her forces – the largest standing army in the region – and marched to his aid.  The child was to be handed over upon Aejystrys' arrival in Merkreth's Crossing, and then Jumped to Rowan City by a translocationist mage in the Sacred King's employ.
It would be rather amusing if the boy died.  It would serve King William right for being such a pain in the ass.  William and his inner circle had snubbed Ieuan after his father died.  Suddenly bereft of his father's patronage, Ieuan, the bastard son of a Gormondi noble, had found himself unwelcome at court and at home.  His legitimate and now ruling half-brother had made it clear that he had no use for him.
Ieuan resisted the impulse to try and worm his way into the palace.  Much as he would like to see the little prince dead, the palace was not part of his job: that assignment belonged to Vakadis.  The school and the lifemages were Ieuan's targets.  Corradeo had a simple strategy: get in and get out and never let the enemy know they had been there.  Someone else either did most of the work for them or caught the blame without having done anything at all.  The back of his throat itched, alerting Ieuan to the one appetite that he was still getting accustomed to: a craving for fresh blood, preferably straight from pulsing veins.
His initial destination was the Azure Circle Mage School, anticipating that meeting Headmaster Miccan Heyers would require an appointment.  The school lay in the northwest, upon a series of terraced shelves carved into initial rises at the foot of the South Talon.  Rowan City had plenty of room to grow compared to the crowded cities and towns of Ieuan's homeland.  The houses, many of them built of logs, were fine dwellings with expansive yards.  The closer that Ieuan came to the school, the more often he saw wide, cobble stone drives and carriage houses to the side of the main houses.
This was not the place to sate his arcane appetites, although the well-dressed females made his throat itch.  New to the changes in his body since becoming sa'necari, it seemed that Ieuan was constantly hungry for another taste of blood.  Corradeo had assured him that it would ease in time.  The arcane components of blood could not be found in simple meat and drink – which Ieuan also consumed – and his cravings frequently drove him to distraction.  Wesley had informed him that there were poor districts, inhabited mostly by refugees from the Minnorian War, where he could sate himself.  He intended to tour them once he had made his initial contacts.
An ornate wrought iron gate stood open at the entrance to the school and people were flowing through it in large numbers.  The air crackled with energy to his necromantic senses.  Ieuan could taste anger, outrage, and a heady mix of fear in their auras as they crowded past him.
It tickled his senses.  He paused to inhale it, savoring the flavors and the way it spread pleasure through him.  His loins tightened, his throat itched more intensely, and his fangs were threatening to descend.  Ieuan took a pocket flask from his shirt and swigged blood wine from it.  The blood eased him and he recovered his self-control.  It reminded him that he had not had his fangs in a vein since dawn.
Returned the spelled flask to his pocket, Ieuan noticed the way that the guards at the gates were watching him.  He sauntered over.
"Pardon me, I'm Ieuan Cardew.  I was told to speak with Elizar Meggs about getting an appointment with Master Miccan Heyers.  If you could direct me, I would appreciate it."
They pointed him at the far side of the school commons where a stately stone building dominated the lower terrace.  Beyond that Ieuan caught a glimpse of the student dormitories.  He had not required the directions he asked for, but was loath to betray the slightest knowledge of the grounds.  Again, Wesley's maps and diagrams were firmly at the front of his mind – until he passed the first cluster of trees and emerged into the open grounds.  In the very middle of it wood had been piled up for an enormous bonfire.  In the center of that stood a gigantic wickerman shaped by craft and magic into the likeness of a mon whom Ieuan recognized from sketches Wesley had provided him with: Headmaster Miccan Heyers.  The students were going to burn him in effigy.  Myn circled the effigy with their hands linked, and it took only a sweep of his eye to determine they were all women.  Male students dotted the grounds in little clusters, watching the women with expressions ranging from nervous to supportive.
A student lit the pyre with a gesture.
Then the chants began.  At first, it was just the women, and then some of the male students joined in.
An incredulous grin quirked the left side of Ieuan's mouth.  He shook his head, laughing.  Apparently the headmaster had student troubles.  Opportunity glimmered before him.  He watched a little longer, and then made his way through the clamoring throng.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Taun no longer hid his small pouchy gills under a neckband.  There had been a time when he frequently lost patients to less talented, but more racially acceptable healers.  However, the little Nerien healer had benefited over the years from the patronage of the King of Rowanhart and the humans had warmed toward him.  The other seafolk, tritons and Neriens alike, still looked askance at Taun's interracial parentage, despite going to him for treatment.  He had gotten his brown skin, black hair and blunt face from his Kwaklahmyn sire; his small stature, green eyes and the gills in his neck from his Nerien mother. 
People greeted him as he passed, walking west along Dock Street toward Beach Road with his two satchels of medical tools and medicines hanging from his shoulders.  Each morning, Taun made his rounds, leaving his twin foster-sons with his mate, Skree.  On the days that Skree could not watch them, Taun would drop the boys off with Florry Bergstrom at the palace.
Taun and Skree kept the fact that the boys were the King's nephews a closely guarded secret.  However, in a place as filled with gossip as Rowan City, keeping such things under wraps often proved close to impossible.  The patient he was going to check on first was a very good example of the difficulty of maintaining secrets in Rowan City.
Everyone in town knew her story.  The gossips in the taverns spoke of little else.  She had opened her legs to Miccan, headmaster of the Azure Circle Mage School, because he said he loved her, and thereby brought dishonor upon her esteemed grandfather, the shaman Broken Branch, when she became pregnant and the mage refused to marry her.  All the mid-wives in Rowan City had pressed her with tansy to lose the child, but Bluewings had refused them all and kept her lover's baby.
He turned north on Beach Road and saw the palisade fence around the Kwaklahmyn trading settlement come into view.  Taun could see the upper part of the huge totem poles that stood before the houses.  He rounded the east side and came around to the front gate, passing the frames where the Kwaklahmyn dried their fishing nets.  The boats had already put out to secure the day's catch and the beach was empty.
Bells attached to the gate rang loudly as he lifted the catch and stepped into the yard of the settlement.  Children ran about playing and Taun smiled at them as he passed.  He loved children.  Their innocence and joy touched his heart.  Most adults seemed to have forgotten how to be that simple and happy.
All but one of the huge homes were traditional three-story Kwaklahmyn long houses, the carved wooden jaws of strange beasts jutting out above the doorframes.  The only Vorgeni style home belonged to the shaman Broken Branch who ruled the little settlement.  Yet even that had interesting Kwaklahmyn additions, such as the tremendous crow's beak jutting out above the door.
Branch sat upon a spruce round in front of his house, his pipe clenched in his teeth, a small knife in his hand as he whittled on a piece of cedar.  He wore soft, deerskin breeches, a loose-sleeved black shirt and soft boots.  His lower lip hung away from his teeth, weighted down by a heavy labret.  He had broad, high cheekbones, a strong cleft chin, full lips, and large, black, long-lashed eyes.  He wore his black hair in two braids.  His skin was a shade more brown and less bronze than the Sharani.
He nodded at Taun.  "She's inside."
Taun nodded thanks and went into the house.  "Bluewings?"
"I'm in the kitchen."
He detected an edge in her voice that suggested she had been crying again, and when he stepped into the kitchen, Bluewings' reddened eyes proved him right.
She sat at the table staring at the wall.  Her hugely swollen belly distorted her slender frame.  "I'll be fine, Taun.  You didn't need to check on me again."
Taun sighed and sat down beside her.  "Thinking about Miccan?"
"Arguing with Grandfather over Miccan again.  He's very angry about this."  She touched her belly with a trace of sadness.  "Miccan says the child isn't his.  That I'm a slut."
A fresh wave of weeping took Bluewings.
Taun patted her arm.  "I confirmed the genetics.  It's Miccan's child."
"I know.  I was a … a virgin when he … persuaded me into his bed.  He said he loved me."
"Miccan doesn't love anyone but Miccan.  He's got Birdie pregnant also.  There are six others that I’m certain of.  And that's not counting the ones I dispensed tansy to."
"I know.  He just always seemed so honorable."
"Well, he is in some ways.  Skree says Miccan thinks with his cock more often than not."
Bluewings dried her eyes.  "Skree's right."
"When it comes to the Azure Circle School and magecraft, Miccan is the soul of honor.  Women?  Well, that's another story, obviously.  Now, give me your wrist so I can Read you."
Bluewings extended her arm. 
Taun grasped her wrist and Read her.  A smile spread across his face.  "You're very healthy.  And the child … well, I believe you have another six weeks or so.  Have you thought of a name?"
Bluewings shook her head.  "We don't pick out names, Taun.  Once he's born, Grandfather will look into his soul and know his name."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chapter 3

Chapter Three
A saturnine mon of average height and slender build rode down Sophren Bay Road, a basket-hilted broadsword at his hip.  His companion, a six three blond, had heavy-boned features and a square jaw; a cross-hilted longsword jutted above his shoulder.  They drew rein before a sprawling two-story house with dormer windows that nestled in a pine thicket.  Those who did not know where to look would never have seen it from the road.
Their approach must have been noticed, for a servant emerged from the small stable beside the house and took their reins as they dismounted.  Before they could even set foot upon the steps that led to the veranda, a mon in butler's livery opened the door.  He ran his eyes across the dark mon.  "Corradeo?"
"Yes."  Corradeo Vorsini's expression twisted into a sneer.
"And this is Eginhardt?"
Eginhardt Lutz's eyes narrowed and he demanded in a deep, guttural voice, "Who else would I be?"
"Of course."  Taken aback, the butler's voice lowered and he showed them inside.
Five myn occupied the chairs and sofas of the sitting room.  Four of them belonged to Corradeo.
Tuketu Demothi, whose name meant 'Bear who Talks while Walking', nodded but said nothing.  He wore a warrior's feathers woven into his kwaklahmyn braids, a beaded shirt, and a necklace of turquoise and bear claws.
Ieuan Cardew tilted his head with a skeptical eye and took the pipe from his mouth.  He ran his hand through his long chestnut hair and scratched at the back of his head.  The bastard son of a Gormondi noble, he spoke with polished tones and a soft inflection.  "Good that you're finally here, Corradeo.  I've been getting restless."
"I'm certain you have, my friend.  What have you been doing while you waited?  I'm sure you have not been idle."
"I've acquired us three cottages.  I assume we'll be working this job in the usual manner?"
"No reason to change what has always worked so well for us."
Ieuan's smirk thinned his lips to invisibility.  "As I expected."
Vakadis Tullin's perpetual sneer unlimbered long enough to give Corradeo a polite smile.  "So you finally made it.  We were beginning to wonder."
"We had a bit of trouble…"  Corradeo said.
"I hope you rited it."
"What else would we do?"  Eginhardt bristled.
Vakadis pointed at Eginhardt's coarse short hair.  "I'm surprised you can keep your neck warm long enough to do anything."
Corradeo caught Eginhardt's arm as the burly blond started toward Vakadis.  "Don't bait him, Vakadis."
Xanthus Makaon chuckled, pausing with a whetstone in one hand and a dagger in the other.  He slipped the dagger into his boot top and shoved the stone in his pocket.  "Those boys will not be an easy kill, Corradeo.  That big triton seamage is going to be tough to get past.  If we're going to get the boys, we'll have to put a blade into him first."
"I've planned for all contingencies."  Corradeo turned to the last mon in the room.  "I assume that you're Wesley Lockhart?"
"You assume right."  The ash blond vampire displayed his fangs, favoring Corradeo with a cheeky smile.
"I don't like vampires, but I don't mind their money.  I assume you also understand that?"
"I do.  Lord Hoon instructed me to give you everything you wish.  Carte blanche, as they say."
"Then you got me a triton?"
Lockhart gestured for them to follow.  He led them down a corridor to a door and opened it.  They descended to the basement with Corradeo directly behind Lockhart.
A triton lay bound to a table, spread-eagle as if for a sacrifice, but on his back, not on his belly as the rites of mortgiefan required.  The mon was huge, larger than Eginhardt, and taller by five inches.  Wesley brought a chair and placed it near the triton's head.
"Magnificent creature, don't you agree?"
Corradeo shot a questioning look at Wesley.  "Are they all this big?"
"Mostly."  Wesley shrugged.
"What do you mean by mostly?"
"Some of them are larger."
Corradeo's mind spun in circles at the thought of going up against creatures like that.  He returned his gaze to the triton.  The mon's eyes were glazed and distanced.  "You drugged him?"
"I had to.  He kept snapping the chains."
Vakadis lost his sneer with a low whistle.  "Xanthus is right.  This isn't going to be easy."
Eginhardt's teeth curled back from his lips in contempt, his fangs descending from their sheaths as his eyes turned their true color: amaranthine without irises, pupils, and whites.  "No trouble for me.  I'll snap their spines."
The other five myn dropped their illusions and stood revealed as sa'necari.  Those necromancers were the only serious rivals within the ranks of darkness that the vampires like Lord Hoon had.  They had stolen all of the powers and abilities of the undead that they could take or control, assuming them through their rites, mastering and perfecting them in addition to their native arcane talents.  This had been gained at a price, for they also had the needs and cravings of the undead, the unnatural appetites for blood.  After generations of sa'necari being created in the rites, their very genes had altered until more and more of their descendants began to be born sa'necari with those appetites and powers manifesting in puberty.  Their rites of blood, rape, and death had become merely the means for increasing their powers through the shattering of souls.
A few were still created through the rites and indoctrinated into their culture.  Eginhardt, Tuketu, and Ieuan had been made sa'necari.  The others had been born such.
Corradeo stripped his clothes off and settled into the chair with a shrug.  "So there's some extra challenge to it.  My plans are sound."
He bent forward and nuzzled the triton's neck, sensed the artery with his arcane gifts, and felt the mon flinch when his fangs broke the flesh.  Corradeo wrapped the triton in his power as he hauled the blood from the creature's veins.  The triton's memories flooded into him first.  Corradeo shuttled that to a pocket of his mind to be examined at his leisure.  As he continued to suck, a change came over him.  His skin altered from copper to brown with a greenish tinge.  He grew larger and larger.  Scales erupted over him.  It had been decades since Corradeo had taken a creature so utterly alien to himself and so powerful.
"Shape-thief," Wesley murmured in awe.  "I've heard of your kind, but never met one before."
The triton stilled in death; his body a withered husk.  Corradeo lifted his head, exulting in the power of the body he had acquired.  He drew a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the blood from around his lips.  "Piquant.  I could get used to the taste of them."

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Chapter Two

Temples to the Nine Elder Gods, as well as to many of the minor deities, had sprung up all over Rowanhart in the five years since its founding. A few of them were regarded with suspicion by the majority of the citizens of Rowan City. Some were spoken of as vague rumors, their existence questioned. Among those was the rumor that a shrine to the nethergod Hadjys the Dark Judge existed, hidden deep within the bowels of the city. His paladins comprised what the common folk called the Assassins' Guild and the believers referred to as the Hadjysheens.
Although feared by all, there was a little unprepossessing temple in the southeastern corner of the city that was feared far more than the Guild: the temple to Dynanna, God of Cussedness and Perversity. The trouble that minor godling could get people into and out of was both legion and legend. Her high priest was a scamp known as Birdie.

Sunday, March 07, 2010


Those of you who have read the Journey of the Sacred King books will remember Skree, Wolf, and Dynarien as well as Aejys, and most of the other characters in this novel.

Dynarien also appeared in the pages of the Dark Brothers of the Light series.

Both series will be returning to publication over the course of this year.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Chapter One

Rosa 26, 1077

Skree Atronji stood upon the South Talon Cliffs, looking down into the windward side of Sophren Bay, watching the waves break against the stalwart stone. Every instinct in the big triton seamage screamed for him to jump into the sea, to find the safety of his kind. Such a jump – two hundred feet – would have killed a human, but it would have been nothing for Skree to achieve. What held him back was the child on his hip.

The four-year-old child had light copper skin, black-hair and green, slitted catkin eyes that danced with intelligence far beyond his years.

Leathery, sea-green scales covered the seamage, except for the palms of his hands, the bottoms of his feet, and his lips – reminiscent of a reptile, which he was not; his long hair, green to the edge of black, hung loose about his shoulders, draping the delicate lace-work of gills that ran from the back of his jaw down his long neck.

Skree gave a long, booming shout at the sea in a vibrant, basso baritone, which echoed from the cliffs. "The child is mine. The child is good. I will defy the gods themselves to protect him. The child is mine."

"Skree?" A gentle tenor turned Skree to face the mon who had joined him on the cliffs.

The newcomer wore golden armor, chain mail and breastplate, carried a shield on his arm and a longsword at his shoulder. His device on the breastplate and shield confirmed the triton's long held suspicions concerning the mon and the muscles crawled beneath his scales: a mighty eagle clutched a blue rose in each of its claws. A god had heard him crying his defiance and the Rose Warrior had come.

"Friend or foe, Dynarien?" Skree demanded.

"Friend. Always." Dynarien flicked back a strand of his red gold hair that hung to his narrow hips.

"You know what Wolff is?"

"More than you do."

"He's sa'necari born. He's a prodigy. He has had his fangs and an appetite for living blood for two years now."

The roar of the sea and sharp scent of brine filled Skree's nostrils as he waited for Dynarien's reaction.

Dynarien was yuwenghau, a demi-god and divine knight-errant. He reached out to touch Wolff and Skree stepped back from him.

A slow smile spread across Dynarien's almost feminine features. "He's far more than that. The child has both sides of the gift."

"I know that. He healed my mate."

"Protecting him will not be easy, Skree. Have you ever asked yourself why so many assassins have tried to kill him? Why he's been hunted since the day of his birth?"

"He's Prince Mephistis de Waejonan's son. The rightful King of Waejontor."

"Well, at least you figured that much out." Dynarien chuckled.

For the past four years, Skree had believed Dynarien to be a battlemage, married to a pair of taverners. Realizing that the gods had been watching him all that time made the triton uneasy, and that pricked his pride. "What more is there to know?"

"You hold in your arms the Sacred Child, who will restore the shattered souls and give peace to the dead. If he survives long enough, of course. But that's up to you."

Skree turned his face to the heavens, struggling to breathe as the fullness of the burden he had accepted four years ago came crashing down upon him like an avalanche. "Will you help me protect him?"

"I cannot."


"The Sacred King of Rowanhart is taking her army to Merkreth's Crossing tomorrow at dawn and I am pledged to go with her."

"Then what becomes of Wolff and his brother Fauxx without a divine guardian?"

"That's up to you. However, I'll make a suggestion. In fact, I'll make two. First talk to Amberlyn Willidar at the Manticore Bones. Second, if you're forced to flee this place, go in search of Isranon Dawnreturning."

"I will do that."

"And another thing. Don't stand on cliffs shouting. Next time the wrong god might hear you. The king is due to pass here in a few minutes. She's on her way to the temple to pray at her husband's sepulcher. I would keep Wolff well away from her, if I were you."

Golden light enveloped the godling and he vanished, leaving behind a circle of blue roses.

Skree shifted Wolff around, pressing the boy tight to his chest. His lips drew back from his shark-like teeth. "Though gods and myn desert us, my son, we will manage."

The jingling of spurs and armor announced that the king's company neared the crest long before Skree could see them. Sound carried far on the South Talon Cliffs. He walked to the ledge overlooking the wind-swept path that wound its way around and along the cliffs, and gazed down.

To his left, Skree could see the spires of the Azure Circle Mage School sitting on the summit of a low rise at the edge of Rowan City. Wolff gave his foster father a questioning look. The child tugged Skree's hand lose from his back, stuck the triton's finger in his mouth and bit it. Skree barely noticed the sting, having become accustomed to it, and ignored Wolff's sucking as the boy consumed the blood that kept him healthy. Wolff could not live on blood alone. It was not a conventional food source for him, and Skree had not yet been able to identify what component of living blood Wolff needed.

Thrusting spiny fingers into the light, patches of scrub oak and twisted pines lined the road. It had become well-trodden, as more and more pilgrims made the journey to the new temple atop the South Talons highest summit. Skree made out the forms of the king and her company riding.

He did not need to be close enough to see her gray eyes to know the light they held. Every few weeks, the haunted look would grow like a weed until it dominated them. Since the death of her husband, Josiah Abelard, there was very little left of the mon he had first met five years ago. The fairness and compassion had gone out of her, leaving only bitterness, anger, and – although he disliked calling it that – an unremitting hatred.

Once she had been human. Then she had drawn one of the nine sacred swords from an altar and it had transformed her. She had grown azure wings with scarlet tips, and her copper skin had turned sapphire blue. Skree wondered if the transformation had been more than physical.

He had known that she was going to the temple that day, since it would be the last time for many months before Aejystrys could pray beside her husband's sepulcher. Tomorrow she and her army were leaving for Gormondi to rendezvous with King William Gryphonheart. Until six months ago, Gormondi had been known as Gormond's Reach. King William had annexed neighboring Darr, and renamed his kingdom as sign of the changes.

Aejystrys had vowed to show no mercy to sa'necari, whether children or adults. Skree's people were much the same. The destruction of the sa'necari was a central theme of the triton religion, which centered upon Nerindalori of the Waves as their liege-god.

The seamage watched the king's company pass beneath a natural arch of wind-eroded stone and emerge onto the cliffs. Skree's moment of decision had arrived. He could either retreat into the rocky outcroppings until they passed, or go forth to greet his king.

Uncertainty gripped him. He faded back behind a rocky outcropping, and then slipped into a grove of bristlecone pines that dotted the bluffs in small clusters. Skree waited for the company to pass, and followed them. An hour's walk brought the triton and his son within sight of the king's destination: the Temple to Kalirion Sun-Lord. It rose in glowing splendor atop the highest point on the cliffs overlooking the southwest side of the city. The ivory columns of fluted marble supported an open gallery that wrapped the sides.

The Ha'taren Guard stood before the temple, holding the reins of their wynderjyns – unicorn-horse hybrids – which only the paladins of Aroana, Lady of the Walled Cities, could ride. They gave Skree polite nods as he climbed the temple steps, deferring to his rank. Skree was Admiral of the Rowanhart fleet, which mostly made him their head negotiator with the various triton kingdoms of the nearby islands. The king depended upon him to cross the cultural and linguistic gaps between their two species, and he did it well. The Rowanhart fleet had only ten warships. The various triton princes protected the trade routes from the pirates of Brundstrat and harried them along the coast line, since the opening of trade between their realms and the humans of Rowanhart benefited their peoples; so there was no need to build more warships. The end result was that Skree spent more time mediating disputes over fishing rights than on the decks of the clumsy human vessels. The humans had sails, but were still clinging to their oars.

Skree wondered, as he entered the temple, how many suspected the relationship between his twin sons and the king. From the brief flashes of odd looks, he felt certain that some knew. Two long rows of pews filled the center of the temple with open wings and alcoves to either side of it. Conchoidal arches filled it like a marble forest. To his left, close to the front, stood the sepulcher. The priests of Kalirion had interred the remains of Josiah Abelard Stormbird, last descendent of his legendary namesake's male lineage, within the temple itself as an honor to his courage and devotion.

The triton's throat tightened for an instant. Josiah had been his god-son, and as much as he had been able at the time, Skree had loved him. He felt partly responsible for Josiah's death. Skree had become disappointed in Josiah, and turned his back upon him in the moment of his god-son's greatest need. He would not repeat that deed with Wolff.

The king knelt beside the sepulcher, her head bowed in prayer. Skree could see the tears running down her cheeks. They both had their griefs and guilts over Josiah. Aejystrys had, for a time, been as harsh and unforgiving toward Josiah as Skree had been. However, she had forgiven Josiah while he still lived.

He waited out her prayers before approaching her.

King Aejystrys ran her hands over the marble likeness of her slain mate atop the sepulcher. "Josiah." Her tears worsened.

Skree kept an impassive face throughout it. He had not yet seen the prayers fail to comfort her.

Aejystrys mastered herself with obvious effort and rose to her feet. She turned, noticing him for the first time. "Skree?"

Her hand went out to ruffle Wolff's hair, her eyes fond. Yet Skree had to steel himself not to draw back and take the child beyond her reach.

That Wolff was lifemage born gave Aejystrys great pleasure and a sense of irony, considering that her sister and the child's sire had been both sa'necari. Aejystrys could only guess that the life magic must have come from the boy's womb-mother Dree. The Sharani were triadic requiring three parents to produce viable offspring: sire, bloodmother and wombmother.

Aejystrys' hand drew back as she stiffened and turned to face someone approaching from behind Skree. The triton glanced over his shoulder.

Dynarien had returned. The signs of his divinity had been set aside, and the yuwenghau seemed no more than a simple warrior mage in his chain mail, tunic and surcoat. He gestured for Aejystrys to come with him deeper into the alcove.

She followed him like a dog, stiff legged with anger. "If you have come to talk to me again about the Dark Brother, Dynarien, I don't want to hear it. He's sa'necari. Both sides of the gift or not, he's still sa'necari."

Skree tensed, his grip tightening again upon Wolff.

"Aejys, Talons is alive because of him." Dynarien flicked back a strand of red-gold hair.

"I don't want to hear it. Sooner or later, sa'necari will turn."


"I would kill my own blood if they were sa'necari. I have killed my own blood. So I will certainly kill this mon, this Dark Brother as you call him. Both sides of the gift or not. Now, Skree is there something you wanted to talk to me about?"

"It wasn't important, Aejys." Skree walked away, clutching the little boy tightly to his chest to conceal the fact that Wolff had again bitten the triton's finger and was sucking the blood.

"Skree…" Dynarien joined him, walking beside him, adding his body to Skree's to better hide the child's actions. "I told you to keep Wolff away from her."

"I had to ask her a question."


"She answered it without my asking." The need for blood had begun when an assault by assassins left Aejystrys' na'halef, Tamlestari, wounded. Wolff healed her – using blood from Skree's hand to strengthen his powers. It shocked Skree speechless; fortunately, the only ones present had been himself and his mate, Taun, besides Tamlestari who had been unconscious. Skree swore Taun to secrecy and then struggled with his conscience. The child was both damned and sacrosanct and in the end his fierce love for the boy won.

Dynarien followed him to the far edges of the courtyard in silence.

Skree halted. "I fear for him, Dynarien. He has not harmed anyone. It is not anyone's fault, but I never dreamed it could manifest when I adopted him."

"From what Isranon told me, it is a matter of rearing. Just raise him right, Skree."

"I will, my friend. I will. First I must keep him alive long enough to grow up."

The child healed the bitten finger, raising his eyes to Skree's face worriedly. Wolff bad? The boy signed.

"See?" Skree frowned at Dynarien. "He understands everything. I can hardly speak in front of him. No, my son, you are very, very good." Skree hugged him fiercely, walking faster, soon he was almost running. Dynarien had to trot to keep up.

"I could Jump us."

"No. If you do that, then he will know how to do it. That's how he learns. The moment he sees a spell done, he knows how to do it."


"I suspect so. Tremendously precocious. You have given me hope. I don't want to lose him. Dear Gods, I – I could not bear to lose him. If Aejystrys found out what he was … or my own people…. They would kill him." Skree had covered the boy's ears tightly as he said this, extending his powers to shield his words from the child's hearing. He did not know how much longer he would be able to accomplish this, for Wolff's powers grew swiftly.

Today I am starting a new project.

I have not used this blog in two years.

But over the past few days I have been trying to decide which of my blogs had the most potential and the most versatility to start running a full novel for free.

The most important consideration has been gadgets and widgets that would easily support a click through table of contents. Since my chapters tend to be long, I will need to break them up into smaller chunks.

Also, my writing is not safe for work. I do have sex scenes and graphic violence. This may unsettle a few people.

The novel I am posting is the first book in the key series, Child Profane and Sacrosanct, that links together all of my previously published series and brings to a conclusion all the dangling threads left hanging in the others.