Following Gael & Keir

I’ll be announcing the release of Sovereign Night very soon.

While we wait…I thought it might be fun to take a photo tour, following in Gael’s and Keir’s footsteps as the first few chapters of the story unfold.

*     *     *

Sovereign Night starts in the city streets of Hantida. They’re narrow, with a lot of foot traffic, some rickshaws and palanquins.

But soon enough Gael and Keir enter the formal northern court of the Glorious Citadel. Tourists are welcome there, as well as pilgrims to the temples located within its vast sweep of stone.

A ceremony sponsored by the priests of the green dragon-god—Enyakatho, patron of scribes, scholars, and the royal family—provides Gael and Keir their ostensible destination, but an accident intervenes before they can observe it.

The residential southern court of the Glorious Citadel is more intimate and welcoming in style. It features numerous courtyards and gardens.

Walkways rim the gardens, giving access to suites of rooms occupied by palace functionaries and pavilions inhabited by favored nobles.

Gael and Keir meet someone very important to their quest in a wilderness garden featuring a waterfall.

Following this fateful meeting, they are escorted to the guest quarters reserved for them.

I hope that whets your appetite for the novel! 😀

*     *     *

For more about Sovereign Night, see:
Timekeeping in Hantida
The Baths of the Glorious Citadel
A Townhouse in Hantida
Hantidan Garb
Quarters in the Glorious Citadel
A Library in the Glorious Citadel

 

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The Tally Master, Chapter 4 (scene 20)

Keir was absent from the tally chamber.

Gael grimaced. He’d lost count of the times he’d climbed the tower’s stairs today, but his ankles had registered every last riser and both of them ached, not just the one more prone to it.

This trip from the yard, he’d followed the route taken by the oxhide ingots and the tin pebbles, when they arrived at Belzetarn from the mines: first the straight shot through the kitchen annex tunnel, then two-and-a-half twists up the Charcoal Stair to the place of arms behind the melee gallery, then ten twists up the Lake Stair. There he’d left the oxhide route, crossing the lower great hall to the Regenen Stair and its landing where the door to the tally chamber stood, closed and locked, as was proper when the chamber went unoccupied.

Gael could wish he’d occupied that tally chamber a good deal more today than he had. Although . . . he supposed he’d sat before his desk all the morning as usual. It was just the afternoon that had evaporated in traipsing up, and down, and then up again. And, and, and. He snorted.

And now he faced a climb of another ten spirals around the newel post of the Regenen Stair, for he knew where Keir was. The evening check-in had gone long, and Keir was still in the vaults marking the finished and partially finished swords in, marking the armor scales and the completed armor hauberks in, marking the ingots in, and weighing the metal remnants in.

Keir should have been done by now. Or had Gael forgotten how much longer the process took with one, not two, getting it done?

C’mon, old troll, he told himself, Carbraes probably takes an extra lap at day’s end, up and down the Regenen Stair one more time whenever he thinks he’s not gotten sufficient exercise.

But Carbraes performed a daily ration of handstand push-ups.

And I’m not Carbraes.

But he did need to learn how Keir’s first solo had gone and whether the tin discrepancy had given any sign of increasing—or diminishing. Which meant he’d best start climbing.

He took it slow and found Keir locking the individual coffers in the tin vault, frowning the while.

The boy looked up from his task as Gael arrived. “Martell is late,” he said, irritation in his voice.

Gael’s own brows drew down. “He’s yet in his smithy?”

Keir shrugged. “Apparently so.”

Now that was strange. Martell was always the last of the smiths to check in his materials at the end of the day, but even Martell was not this late. There had been too many departures from usual lately. The question was: which anomalies stemmed from the theft of Gael’s tin and bronze, and which from mere chance?

“Shall I lock the vault door?” Keir asked. “Or did you wish to await me here?”

“Where—?” Gael directed a questioning glance at his notary.

Keir’s jaw muscles bunched. Grinding his teeth? “I’m going to fetch Martell. And when I get him—I’m going to have some words with him.”

“Ah,” said Gael. “I believe I shall have words with Martell, but you may certainly add your words to mine.” He smiled, tightly, like Medicus Piar. “But I’ll fetch him up for you.”

“But sir!” Keir forgot his exasperation in surprise. “I’m the one who does the running, not you!”

Gael’s smile grew more genuine. “But you are doing my tallying for me. I’ll go.”

Keir was still protesting as Gael headed to the Lake Stair, which debouched nearer the privy smithy than did the Regenen Stair. Some part of Gael joined Keir’s protest. Was he really making another full descent to the tower’s roots, followed by a full ascent back up to the ingot vaults?

His ankle answered that question, unhappily. Yes. Yes, he was. Cayim’s hells!

Traffic on the stair was heavy: servers readying all three great halls for the evening feast, officers headed for the war room to give a last report to the march, artisans making for their quarters to tidy themselves before eating. Gael even noted a hunter—in his leather boots and breeches, game bag hanging from the strap across his back—leaving the stairwell for the lower great hall.

Really? A hunter? What was he doing away from the hunters’ lodge?

He was a healthy fellow, almost untouched by troll-disease. His ears and nose looked human, and his skin was firm, with a good color. He didn’t look like a troll at all, but of course he was one. Carbraes insisted that every newcomer be checked.

What was a hunter doing in the tower proper at this time of the evening?

Then Gael remembered that Barris had mentioned the castellanum was scattering favors more generously than usual. That must be it. This hunter was being rewarded with a meal in the lowest of the great halls for some praiseworthy deed. Supplying Theron with a superlatively tender haunch of oxen or some such thing.

Gael shrugged.

If he didn’t hoist Martell out of his smithy with dispatch, neither the secretarius nor the privy smith would have time to visit their respective chambers before sitting at table. Hadn’t Barris said that Martell was bidden to dine in the upper great hall? Or was that honor granted him the previous evening? If it was tonight, he absolutely had to change his sooty smith’s garb for more fitting garments.

As Gael paused on a landing between the main place of arms and the entrance place of arms, letting an urgent posse of messengers have the right of way, Martell, his notary, and his scullions rounded the newel post from below.

The smith spotted Gael immediately.

“Ah, ha! My friend, look at this!” Martell exclaimed.

Gael was in no mood to admire another product of Martell’s genius, but the smith did not seize the stem of the candelabrum poking out of one scullion’s sack. Instead he grabbed the rolled parchment carried by his notary, allowed it to unroll, and brandished it under Gael’s nose.

“All of it!” announced Martell. “Every last ounce! Every last tally! All of it is written!”

“Good.” It meant nothing. Martell always had confidence in his notary’s records, no matter how the smith hurried him and no matter how many times those tallies proved wrong. “But you are very late, my friend.” Gael would reserve his more serious reprimand for a private moment. Or . . . better yet . . . allow Keir to deliver the one he longed to. Perhaps Martell would respond well to Keir’s less genial manner. “All the other smiths are long gone, and Keir awaits.”

“Ah, ha! My friend, I know it! But you would not have me forego the castellanum’s candelabra?”

Gaelan’s tears! Was Martell going to drag it out after all?

“Or the decorative hooks for the opteon of the annex? Or the rivets for the magus?”

Gael knit his brows. “How many more things did you create after I spoke with you, my friend? I thought there remained but one.”

“Ah, I forgot.” Martell looked crestfallen for only a moment, then brightened. “But I completed all, all! And they are beautiful! The castellanum will be pleased!”

“If you dine with the castellanum tonight, you’d best hasten, my friend.”

Martell looked surprised. “But, no, he honors me but the once. Last night contents me! The ordinary great hall—” he glanced sideways uneasily “—is more comfortable. And the castellanum pours too much wine. Again and again he filled my cup.”

Gael hid the smile that wanted to sneak onto his lips. No matter how irritated he might grow with Martell’s lack of organization, the smith’s ebullience made Gael want to laugh. No doubt Martell preferred his cronies—who admired him—for dinner partners over the elite of the citadel. Martell repressed his boasting in the presence of the castellanum.

“Don’t keep Keir waiting any longer,” he advised, stepping toward the upward stairs and gesturing Martell to come with him. If he allowed the smith to determine when their conversation ended, they might stand here yet at midnight. And then Keir would be as irritated with Gael as he was with Martell.

Gael suppressed a second smile.

*     *     *

Previous scene:
The Tally Master, Chapter 4 (scene 19)

Need the beginning?
The Tally Master, Chapter 1 (scene 1)

 

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Listen and Cheer!

I have exciting news.

My friend Laura Montgomery, science fiction author extraordinaire, has been picked up by Podium Audio.

Who is Podium Audio?

They create some of the best audiobooks available. Their production values are high. They employ some of the best loved and most in-demand narrators out there. They produced the audiobook edition of The Martian!

The fact that they want Laura is big!

So how did it come to pass that Podium connected with her?

Someone at Podium reads a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and that someone read Laura’s Waking Late series. He loved it! From there, the rest is history. 😀

Let me tell you a little about the Waking Late series.

Sleeping Duty

Gilead Tan and Andrea Fielding survived their stint in the military, got married, signed up to emigrate to a terraformed colony world, and went into cold sleep for the journey from Earth. While they slept, the starship went through the wrong fold in space and settled for a different world, a wild world.

Three centuries after the founding of a colony on the uncharted planet, Gilead awakens to find humanity slipped back to medieval tech and a feudal structure.

Worse, the king who wants Gilead awake won’t let Gilead awaken his wife.

Sleeping Duty on Amazon

*

Out of the Dell

On the planet Nwwwlf, in the lost colony of First Landing, the original settlers carved out one sylvan valley, a lone outpost where humans flourish. But their bright hopes and best intentions devolved over centuries into a rude replica of medieval feudalism.

Gilead Tan, who had been held captive for centuries in his sleeping cell, survived treachery and pain to free a small group of sleepers. But he and his friends now face the perils of life outside First Landing’s sanctuary—without their powered armor, their tools and technology, or anything else they need save for a few chickens.

Gilead must establish a safehold for his crew, but the alien environment does not welcome them and petty bickering threatens their meager resources. He hopes that a trace of smoke—spotted above a distant ridge—beckons them to a better place.

It doesn’t.

Out of the Dell on Amazon

*

Like a Continental Soldier

The starship Valerie Hall failed to reach the terraformed world of its original destination. Instead, it found a habitable substitute where the settlers split into two factions. First Landing devolved into a rude replica of medieval despotism. Seccon might promise more.

Or so hope Gilead Tan and his companions.

Gilead spent three centuries in cold sleep, held there by a First Landing custom that decreed only one sleeper could be awakened every fifty years. Once awake, Gilead freed two dozen of his fellows—all soldiers like himself—and led them into the wilderness.

Close to two hundred civilians still lie trapped in the decaying cryo-cells of First Landing. Their captive slumber haunts him.

But despite its vaunted freedom, Seccon has one rule. No one goes back to First Landing.

Like a Continental Soldier on Amazon

*

The first audiobook from Podium should release sometime this year. I’ll let you know when that happens!

In the meantime, if you read ebooks or paperbacks and you like sci-fi, give Waking Late a look. The first book—Sleeping Duty—has an awesome twist!

 

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The Tally Master, Chapter 4 (scene 19)

The physician addressed Hew. “I am Medicus Piar. Let me see your hand.”

Piar wore a crisp blue tunic of linen and presented an impression of controlled efficiency. The symptoms of his troll-disease were mild, save for his ears, which were large, with drooping lobes. Gael wondered that the medicus cropped his straight, dark hair so short. Many trolls preferred to hide their ears.

Hew, confronted with the request that he remove his arm from its sling, looked again at the bronze scissors and knives and calipers on the tray of tools, and shrank.

Piar, seemingly unfazed by his patient’s recalcitrance, turned to Gael.

“Secretarius, you’ve given him preliminary treatment?”

“I did nothing for the burn, I’m afraid,” answered Gael. “Merely for his pain.” Would Piar be jealous of his physician’s prerogative?

Apparently not, for he returned his attention to Hew, unperturbed.

“Did the ministrations of the secretarius hurt you?” the medicus asked.

Hew shook his head.

“Mine will not hurt either.” Piar’s smile was brief and tight, but it reassured Hew. He proffered his hand, sling and all.

Piar pushed the canvas back, took a swift glance at Hew’s oozing palm, and passed into manipulation of the energea without even an in-breath, merely closing his eyes. Were healing disciplines so different from other uses of magery? Or was Piar simply that practiced, that he needed no preliminaries?

Gael allowed his inner sight to open, curious about Piar’s methods.

Interestingly, Piar’s energea flowed from the tips of his fingers, not the palm, and it was violet, not blue. Was that why his troll-disease seemed so little advanced for his age, which Gael judged to be about thirty years? Gael noticed that Piar pulsed his energea, as well as giving it a buzzing vibration.

“Mm, mm,” mumbled Hew.

Gael closed his inner sight to check Hew’s wound with his outer sight. The red of the palm had faded to pink, and the broken skin no longer wept.

Someone rapped on the wooden frame of the open door.

Piar opened his eyes. “Come in,” he said, studying his patient’s hand.

A troll about Keir’s age entered the room.

“What is it?” asked Piar, touching each of Hew’s fingertips in turn and noting their response.

“Medicus, sir.” The young assistant shuffled his feet. “Rainar told me to deliver the sleeping draught now, but the herbalist says he’s not compounded it.” The boy’s voice rose with his distress.

Piar turned Hew’s hand, checking the motion of the wrist. Gael liked how thorough he was, not shorting his patient, despite the interruption.

“No. One night’s dose proved adequate. The order’s been canceled. Tell Rainar so, please,” instructed Piar.

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” The assistant stepped back through the doorway, and Gael heard him murmuring to someone else in the hallway, his voice growing fainter as they moved away. “The castellanum doesn’t want it anymore. Cancelled his order.”

Gael frowned. Theron had ordered a sleeping draught? How distinctly odd. The castellanum was autocratic, patronizing, jealous of his privilege, and patrician in his refinement, but never anxious. The idea of him suffering insomnia was . . . ludicrous.

Piar reached for a small stone jar and a narrow bronze spatula resting on the sideboard. With a swift, light touch he spread ointment on Hew’s burn, and began wrapping it with linen bandage. “How did this happen?” he asked.

Hew fumbled in his sash with his uninjured hand and drew out . . . a nugget of tin.

Gael choked. Cayim’s hells! Was everyone stealing his tin? Even the sweeps?

Hew’s face fell. “Oh,” he wailed. “It was so pretty! Like a falling star, all bright and shining! I tried to catch it, and I did.” He stared, heartbroken, at the lump of silvery gray metal in his hand.

Gael was beginning to understand. “Had you never swept the smithies before?” he asked.

Hew shook his head. “Samo said I done such a good job on the stairs, I could. As a reward! And then I saw such pretty stars, wasted on the floor. I saved one! But it’s gone dull!” His mouth trembled.

Gael stifled the hilarity that rose through his weariness. “Hew, the metal glows when it is very hot. It’s beautiful, but you cannot touch it then without serious injury. Do you understand? The brightness fades as the metal cools.”

Hew handed the lump of tin to Gael. “I didn’t know,” he said humbly. “I thought it was a star, and stars belong to everyone who can see, don’t they? But metal belongs to you.” He ducked his head. “I’m sorry.”

Gael accepted the tin and sighed. “You’re a good boy, Hew.”

Hew’s face brightened. “I am?”

“You are. You don’t steal. And you’ll know not to touch hot metal the next time you sweep the smithies, won’t you.”

Hew brightened still more. “I’ll sweep the smithies again? I’ll see the stars of hot metal?”

“I’ll request you especially,” Gael promised. “When you’ve healed. You cannot push a broom until your hand is well.”

Hew looked at his bandages in surprise as Piar rearranged the sling, slipping it back under the boy’s arm and hand.

“I’ll keep him here overnight,” said Piar. “Samo gives you your work?” he asked Hew.

Hew nodded, still scrutinizing his bandages.

Piar smiled his quick, tight smile, looking at Gael. “I’ll send word to Samo of what’s happened, so the boy does not get in trouble.”

The physician rose. “I think you’re done here, Secretarius.”

Indeed.

He now knew that Theron needed to give a better briefing to the scullions who cleaned the smithies. He knew Hew to be honest. And he knew he must seek his thief elsewhere.

Which was probably just as well. How could Belzetarn prosper, if even its lowliest denizens proved untrustworthy?

On the other hand . . . if the lowly were innocent, then the guilty one lived among the powerful.

*     *     *

Next scene:
The Tally Master, Chapter 4 (scene 20)

Previous scene:
The Tally Master, Chapter 4 (scene 18)

Need the beginning?
The Tally Master, Chapter 1 (scene 1)

 

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Cover Reveal: Sovereign Night

In just a few weeks, you’ll be able to snap up your copy of the sequel to The Tally Master. Look for Sovereign Night at the end of January!

On the hunt for a magical lodestone to empower Keir’s gift for healing, Gael and Keir must tackle and solve the dangerous mystery plaguing the river city of Hantida.

For some fun trivia from the setting of Sovereign Night, see:
Hantidan Garb
Quarters in the Glorious Citadel
Timekeeping in Hantida
The Baths of the Glorious Citadel
A Library in the Glorious Citadel
A Townhouse in Hantida

 

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The Tally Master, Chapter 4 (scene 18)

The tunnel through the kitchen annex—a long, straight shot toward the outdoors—flared with fresh torches in the brackets. The banging of pots, cooks’ yells, and savory aromas boiled from the two open doorways—one on each side—as Gael steered Hew forward.

Then they were outside.

The golden evening light glowed through the grass strands of the upper yard like green flame. The still air felt soft and clear, and the sunshine fell warm on Gael’s shoulders. He turned his face up to the sky, blue and cloudless—a benison forgotten indoors.

Gael’s sense of oppression—the worrisome implications of a thief in the forges, his wariness about the cursed gong—lifted.

Hew stumbled.

Gael twitched his gaze back to their footing.

No, Hew hadn’t stepped off the edge of the gentle ramp that led from the annex door down to the yard. He’d been looking up, like Gael, and simply tripped on his own ankle.

Gael steadied the boy onto the cobblestone walkway that skirted the grass, passing along the flint-and-mortar fronts of the artisan workshops—woodcarvers, leather workers, the feltery, the armorers’ lodge. The smellier offices were relegated to the bailey, so the yard air smelled sweet, of grass pollen and warm earth.

Gael looked out over a retaining wall to the lower yard. A messenger dashed from the doorway of the scalding house toward the stone steps to the upper yard. Both upper and lower yards would soon throng with trolls at their leisure before the evening feast, but not quite yet. Most of the artisans were still finishing their day’s work inside.

An inner curtain wall bounded the lower yard. Beyond it, the bailey spread out across the hill, sloping down toward the west and the forest beyond the outer curtain wall. Faint baaing drifted from the flock of goats grazing near the gate. Nearer sounded the shouted orders of opteons drilling several decani of warriors.

Hew’s steps slowed, and Gael slowed with him. The illusion of peace was beguiling.

Gael pondered how easily, how naturally he’d just performed magery. Without a second thought. Had he not made a personal vow never to do so again? Had he not sworn to Lord Carbraes that he would eschew magery, as did every other troll of Belzetarn, save the healers? Did he not fear the performance of magery in the matter of the evil gong?

And yet, the instant a boy’s pain confronted him, he forgot all that. He’d drawn energea through his nodes as smoothly as when he’d been magus to Heiroc. And the energea had been safe—blue—not dangerous. It had felt soothing.

Was Carbraes correct in believing that manipulation of energea advanced troll-disease? Or did the troll-disease of Belzetarn’s magus, Nathiar, worsen more rapidly because he dabbled in the dangerous energea—scorching orange? Did he so dabble? Gael didn’t know, even though he might suspect.

Not that it mattered.

Despite his lapse, despite how satisfying it had felt, he had no intention of returning to magery. Unless rendering the gong harmless required it. And—if it did—he would perform only enough to get the job done.

Three shallow steps led up to the hospital portico. Gael guided Hew up them and through the heavy, brass-bound door to the interior.

Two notaries sat at a large table in the entrance foyer, one flipping through a stack of parchments, the other copying notes onto a blank sheet. Always there were records in Belzetarn—in the forges, in the kitchens, everywhere. Gael approved, although he knew many complained.

Unlike the chambers within the tower, those of the hospital possessed large, glass-paned windows and were flooded with light. The smooth wood floors gleamed with polish. Gael might have been jealous of their spacious quality did he not crave the security of his tally chamber. But he did crave it. And he had no desire to exchange tallying for healing.

The notary sorting the stack of parchments looked up as Gael and Hew came through the front door. He wasted no time, getting up immediately and walking around the table to approach them, studying Hew’s sling.

“Broken? Sprained?” he asked.

“Burned,” Gael answered. “Badly. I risked an energea lavage, else he’d be screaming yet, and unable to walk.”

The notary’s eyebrows rose. “Indeed! This way, please.” He ushered them along a short hallway and into an examining room. “I’ll get a medicus right away.”

Hew made a beeline for the tray of alarming tools resting on a sideboard, his eyes staring and his jaw dropping. “Uh! Uh! Uh!”

“They won’t use those on you,” Gael reassured him, then towed him away to a chair set before a window onto the courtyard garden at the heart of the hospital. He had the boy sit facing the outdoors, looking at four neat squares of herbs and flowers centered on a sundial and bounded by a colonnade. A scullion gathered leaves from a low-growing plant, while bees hummed in the taller blooms behind him.

At the sound of footsteps in the hallway, Gael turned.

*     *     *

Next scene:
The Tally Master, Chapter 4 (scene 19)

Previous scene:
The Tally Master, Chapter 4 (scene 17)

Need the beginning?
The Tally Master, Chapter 1 (scene 1)

 

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Ribbon of Earth’s Tears

Long he slept. Centuries and millennia of years he slumbered.

The age of creation had demanded hard labor, and he had given freely of himself, cooling the lands made molten by his sister Gaia, collecting the rains of his brother Ouranos, and wielding the gathered waters to shape plains and shores, valleys and deep, deep ravines.

At the end of his work he retreated, claiming a lesser portion of himself.

Let his sister’s son Poseidaon rule the oceans and the seas. Let his half-brothers—a multitude of them—dwell within other streams, other rivers, guarding their clarity and guiding the speed of their flow. He would reserve for himself just this one important ribbon of earth’s tears. Its headwaters sprang from the river traversing the underground realm of his brother Plutonos. Bursting through a cleft in the rock of a high place, the spray fell free, down and down—its drops a crystalline thread in the air until they crashed into the cauldron below, a raging vessel of froth and fury. From there they leapt merrily over boulders and down slopes, a young river at the bottom of a ravine, broadening as it ran, calming, until—where the cliffs sank to form a rich vale—the waters proceeded serenely, limpid and green in the sunlight, grey and opaque under cloud, but always lifegiving, despite their source in the underworld.

This was the river Morvarag—Blackbourn—black for its peaty soil in the valley, black for the dark cliffs along its upper reaches, black for its dark birth among the dead.

Morvarag was its name, and Morvarag became his name, too, as he slept. For in his slumber, he dreamed. And as he dreamed, the people on his banks—his people—dreamed his dreams with him.

They dreamed of the labor he had done, mirages of molten earth shining in crescents and seas of shimmering heat, visions of spraying lava and hell-lit skies. They savored reveries of present fecundity—schools of gleaming fish, rich tillage, violet-scented glades, summer breezes, feasts of roasted meats and sweet mead at the end of the day. They embarked upon trances of future glory, starlight and a long, long journey into mystery.

The people dreamed his dreams by night and named him guardian of the night watches, mediator between them and the powers of darkness. But by day they were busy. They made tools of knapped flint, they hunted deer and aurochs, they built huts of reeds and river mud. Their children splashed in the shallows, while mothers washed stone vessels and hunters speared great river sturgeon in wild boat hunts.

Their toolmakers learned to cast bronze. Their kitchen gardens expanded to become fields of grain. They prospered.

All the while, their god dreamed, keeping them safe through the night.

Their days grew less safe, not because of their neighbors, the tribes who fished and traded along the great flood of the river Danouvios, into which the Morvarag flowed. No, it was a more distant people who posed the threat.

The foreigners were men of pride and spirit, with a desire to possess and rule all the lands to the horizon. With each valley they took, the farther their horizons stretched. On and on they marched, helmets bright under the sun, their lorica segmentata clanking—armor stronger than a gorgon’s bones—and each gladius thirsty for blood.

They torched villages, put women and children to the sword, and defeated the warriors whose fishing spears were nothing to the invaders’ heavy pilums, whose bronze blades were battered ragged against the iron of the invading legions.

The river dwellers cried out to their god, begging that he extend his nighttide protection into day, praying that he rise and confront the trespassers, demanding that he take vengeance for their slain.

But Morvarag slumbered on.

The invaders built a bridge to carry their legions across the river to the richest fields and the most prosperous villages.

Wicker crates shaped like pyramids and filled with stones were lowered into the waters to kiss the riverbed and sink deep.

Morvarag felt them in his sleep—like bruises against his shins.

The crates of stones anchored barges, a whole series of them, floating at careful intervals from bank to bank.

Morvarag felt these, too, each an oppression upon his skin.

From barge to barge, the invaders laid a wooden roadway, its timbers stout to bear the tread of marching men. And Morvarag felt the weight of the dead trees as a suffocation, a thickness to smother fire and dreams. He stirred, but still he did not wake.

The soldiers began to cross, their sandaled feet heavy on the span, their voices loud in answer to their herald’s cry—are you ready?

“We are ready!”—a thundered reply.

“We are ready!”—louder still.

We are ready!”—to break mountains.

Morvarag woke.

The bridge bound him. As an iron band tormenting his ankles, it bound him. As an abrading rope around his knees, it bound him. As manacles on his wrists, it bound him. As braided linen at his elbows, it bound him. A hangman’s noose about his neck, it bound him.

He was bound, but not powerless.

“My brother! Loose your might!” he roared.

He might have done it himself. He’d shaped rock with his waters, cooled fire, flooded seas. The cracking open of a cleft in a cliff must have been nothing, even bound as he lay. But he would be courteous of the rights of others; the underground river was not his.

“Plutonos! To me!”

And the lord of the dead answered, not with breath and voice, but with the thunder of rock shattering. The cliff burst open and the water of the dead king’s river spewed as a maelstrom of jagged wavecrests pocked with rubble, raging down the ravine, scouring the clifftops, a churning fury of destruction against which no legion could stand.

The floating bridge transformed to splinters in an instant, and the soldiers?—on the bank waiting to cross, arrived on the far side and debarking, or marching the fraught span itself?—pulped dead men carried downstream for the river dwellers to witness, and be grateful.

*     *     *

For more flash fiction, see:
Blood Falchion (The Old Armory, Part I)

 

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The Odd Prompt Game

This past week, I played a writing game with 14 other writers. Gotta say…it was fun!

This is how it worked:

• each writer created a writing prompt
• we sent them to our fearless organizer
• she randomly matched each prompt to a promptee
• on Wednesday, she posted the table of matches on the More Odds Than Ends website
• I claimed my prompt on Thursday and started thinking

(Each writer must write something inspired by his or her prompt—a poem, a vignette, a short story.)

• I wrote!
• before midnight on Tuesday, each writer publishes his or her creation somewhere it can be read—a website, a blog, social media—and posts the link on the Odds site

I’ll post my short short here tomorrow. I hope to post a link to my promptee as well. He goes by the moniker of ’Nother Mike, and I’m eager to read what he came up with!

His prompt?

“The king selected only warriors with living sons, but Lysander had not yet learned of his only child’s death.”

Edited to add: Here’s the link to The People’s Inheritance by ’Nother Mike. He took it in a unexpected direction, which delights me! Go check it out!

My own prompt?

That would be telling, but I’ll share it after my story is posted. 😀

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My story is live now. Here’s the link:
Ribbon of Earth’s Tears

 

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Laura Montgomery’s Website

Laura Montgomery is many things to me.

College roommate from days of yore. Friend. Fellow writer. Cool lady. First reader. Talented science fiction author.

I could go on. But within the compass of this blog post, she’s a client! Because she hired me to revamp her author website.

As many of you know, I love playing with graphics and will seize any excuse to do so. Thus I’ve created many a bundle cover, covers for my own novellas and shorts, and even the occasional book cover for a friend.

Laura has seen most of my portfolio, so when she decided her website needed an overhaul…she hired me to do it. (A website is a bit too large of a job to do just for the fun of it—although it is fun. For me.)

I think it turned out really well (pleading guilty to bias), so I wanted to show it to you!

Here’s a screenshot of the Home page. You can click on the image, if you’d like to go visit the real thing. Laura’s a space lawyer, so her blog is an intriguing blend of space law, space colonization, and science fiction. Go look! I’ll wait. 😀

Don’t you love the art?

It’s from the cover of her latest release, Long in the Land. Isn’t the site itself clean and inviting and harmonious? It’s built on the theme Lyrical.

I could gush about all the things I think are cool about the site…but I won’t! 😉

Instead I’ll show you a screenshot of a blog post page. Clicking this image will allow you to see it at a larger size, large enough to read. Although…if you’re interested in reading the post, go visit her site!

Cool, yes?

Okay, I’ll stop blowing my own trumpet. 😉 But I can’t sign off without talking about Laura’s books!

I’m a fantasy writer and a fantasy reader, but I also read in other genres, science fiction among them. And Laura has written two of my favorites.

Here’s a little bit about them:

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Exoplanets. Terrorists. Lawyers…

Calvin Tondini has his first client, but he may be in over his head.

It’s the twenty-second century. Humanity’s first and only interstellar starship returns safely. Its mission to discover a habitable planet succeeded beyond all hopes, but there’s one problem. Captain Paolina Nigmatullin of the USS Aeneid left an unsanctioned human colony behind and now stands charged with mutiny.

Calvin must defend her!

Mercenary Calling on Amazon
 

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FAA attorney Terrence Rogers dreams of space, but he spends his days on informed consent for space tourists.

Young foreign service officer Hal Cooper faces real change with the arrival of an alien spaceship, but it means something else for Terrence.

“Rapunzel”—a short story—has an awesome twist, and it’s available for free. So if you enjoy SF and have a yen to try Laura’s fiction, give it a look.

Rapunzel on Amazon

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For more of my designerly play, ahem—work, see:
Covers, and More Covers
A Boatload of Covers

For more about Laura’s books, see:
LauraMontgomery.com/Books

 

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