Sunday, October 4, 2015

The King's Challenge #66

TKC 66

Forest slurps water as if it is nectar. I allow him take his time, using it to look around. The guards watch, but do not interfere.

Further along is a recess between buildings, with gates. Following the rooftop line, the entrance leads to the area behind the red edifice.

“Enough!” a guards snarls. “Get moving!”

I coax Forest aside and clamber on. Flicking the reins, I move forward. “Turn, you stupid horse,” I mutter for the benefit of the guards, while nudging him onward.


“I’m going!” I call out. “Trying to turn him, is all!” At the gates I ‘manage’ to gain control of him, turning him there. “Sorry!” I wave as we canter back into the city. I do not look back.

In a broader street, I rein him to a walk. The gates are huge iron bars, and beyond is a guard house. Six hurtled out when they heard Forest, swords brandished. Beyond them lay another set of gates. The impression I received was of ceaseless movement there.

Gritting my teeth to still fury, I examine the impression for details. The twisting coils of red and black snakes begin to roil in my sight. Fear. There is much fear beyond those gates. The movement was a sea of humanity.

Bringing Forest to a halt, I gaze unseeing into the distance. Why have they raided for so many slaves? Even if they give the bare minimum, still the food required to keep them alive will cripple Porlese.

This is about more than needing hands to erect shelters against doom from above.

The old man is at my stirrup. “They search for talents,” he says. “All are tested. They keep anyone they find, but the rest is thrown from the cliffs.”

My guts hollows.

“Tonight is the next cull,” the old whispers.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The King's Challenge #65

TKC 65

The old man scraping the wall heard my question, for he beckons me closer, eyes darting. Casually I saunter closer.

“The slave pens, master?” His brow wrinkles.

“My family,” I say.

His brow clears. “Ah. It isn’t easy to break someone out …” He squints at me. “But you will try anyway, I see. That way. Look behind the red building.” He points in a direction at an angle to the one the boy vanished into.

I gaze at him. “”Do you know of the fort to the south?”

Blinking, he nods.

“Hard as this will be, gather your friends and go there. Walk out of Porlese tonight even if they try and stop you, and keep going until you reach it. If the gathered already there have started the march to safety, follow the tracks.”

The old man points upward questioningly.

I sigh. “Yes, it comes.” I clasp his shoulder and turn away.

“Thank you,” he calls after me.

He will not thank me when the authorities attempt to stop them. Many will be beaten; some will lose their lives. I wave over my shoulder, for there is nothing to add to what I already said.

The red building is obvious. It is six levels of intimidation, with Porlese Trading emblazoned across the upper storey. Trading in slaves, no doubt. Leading Forest, I walk slowly nearer. There are guards, I notice, at the imposing doors. Going down a side street, I see more big men in obtrusive positions. The slavers take no chances here.

“Hey! Move along! What you want here?” one bellows.

“Looking for an inn,” I call back. “Just into the city.”

“Not this way, mister. Turn around.”

“Is there water for my horse?” I ask.

Rolling his eyes, the man points at a nearby trough. “Drink, then go.”

Fallen Leaves

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Arcana Omnibus on Sale for a limited time!

Grab your copy today!!

The King's Challenge #64

TKC 64

Dawn is near when I enter under Porlese’s main arch. Despite the early hour and grey light, the cobbled streets teem with people. Slaves, I realise. Men and women about chores others do not want to be bothered with.

They are marked with a black circle, and it sits upon their chins. It is a horrid disfigurement, and most are not aligned to the soft pad; some are haphazardly placed to appear as a giant mole. Some are so far from round, they appear as scars. By the stars, I pray Horin, Siri and the others have not received the mark.

There are children on the streets too. Some are slaves; most are urchins seeking coin by running errands.

Everyone is too thin. Despite the claims of riches in Porlese, where even the beggars do well, it seems such mind-set does not extend to the slave population.

I desire to throttle someone.

As my horse clip-clops through the busy streets amid tall, painted buildings – I have named him Forest – few look up. Clearly someone on a horse is to be feared here. I stop to dismount, leading Forest on, hoping to make eye contact.

No one looks at me.

I am about to approach an older man scraping mildew from a wall, when a lad runs up.

“Mister, a coin for a loaf?”

I have little by way of coin, though Lyra shared what she had left from Siri. “Tell you what,” I say. “Take me to where we may both buy a loaf. Tell me something I need to know and I’ll get you one.”

The urchin nods. This one is hungry. “What you need?”

“Where do they keep the new crop of slaves?”

He stares at me with too wise eyes. “Are you mad, mister? Keep your loaf!” He runs away.

Two ways to be fooled

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The King's Challenge #63

TKC 63

Part 2

Anger keeps me warm as I negotiate the rough road to Porlese. While I understand Lyra will be more effective if she reaches Arc quickly, fact is, her leaving feels akin to abandonment.

Now I understand how she felt when I left her behind in Grenmassin five years ago.

As night falls on my second day alone, I see the lights of Porlese in the distance. Excellent. Action there will stifle this sense of helplessness.

Horin’s voice in my mind will not be silent. The boy continuously screams for help. I call it screaming, but it is more desperation I sense in the connection.

Frowning, I stare into my fire. The night is filled with sounds, but Horin pushes those noises into the background. I attempt to garner location from him, a starting point for my search when I enter the city tomorrow. How is he doing this?

Then, so strong, I nearly fall face first into the flames, an image of a bright yellow rope flicks into my mind. It has intent, as if it seeks to flay me until I am a gibbering wreck. Gasping, I rear back and clutch at myself to check my flesh remains intact.

Darkness settles around me then, in the environment and in my mind. Never have I been this relieved to know the blanket of night in every way.

A hangman’s rope. A whip of manipulation. Yellow is for confusion … and terror.

This is the first time I have seen this image, but the message is clear. Horin is in trouble. Siri is therefore in trouble also. The boy’s youth has opened his mind to the spaces where Delvers operate; this is why I hear him and see his emotions.

Swearing, I douse my fire and take to the road in darkness. They cannot wait longer.

2015 and 3/4 :)

With the three quarters of the year behind us, this is what happened for this writer in 2015 :)

Republished ebooks after Thorstruck Press closed, now with Tirgearr Publishing (3)

The Tinsal Deck
A Tear in the Clouds

Republished ebooks and paperbacks (2)

The Kallanon Scales
The Nemisin Star

Paperbacks published for the first time (4)

The Infinity Mantle
The Kinfire Tree
The Drowned Throne
The Dragon Circle

New books (ebooks and paperback) (2)

The Sleeper Sword
The Dreamer Stones

New ebooks (8)

FingerNale Tales
Ancient Illuminatiom
Secret Remedies
Realm Walker
Lore of Arcana Omnibus
Lore of Reaume Omnibus
Town Thomas
The Nemesis Blade

Updated (1)

Our Friend Thomas Henson

Coming still in 2015 (4)

The Nemesis Blade (Paperback)
Justine's Journal
Travelling Thomas
The Echolone Mine

Foreseen for 2016 (9)

Thomas Henson's Mansion
The Nowhere Sphere
The Master Mechanism
A Scar in the Earth
Mark of the Kalion
Circles of Civilisation
Sacred Space
Lore of Sanctum Omnibus
The King’s Challenge (working title)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Changing focus - The King's Challenge

The King's Challenge now moves into Part II. Having finished episode 62, I realised the story needs to change focus. Lyra has reached Arc, and we will pick up her quest for the Spire later, but now I feel we need to return to Damin, and his adventures with the slavers in Porlese as he seeks to rescue his sister and Lyra's brother.

To that end, to mark the end of Part I, a collage of the images used for recent episodes:

Tomorrow we delve into the underworld with Damin!

(If you have missed what happened to date, click on the episode links in The King's Challenge page in the sidebar)


The King's Challenge #62

TKC 62

Four days later we are before a mighty edifice, mountains such as I have never seen. Impossibly high, solid, and seemingly impassable.

After the journey fording raging rivers, picking our way carefully in shifting sands, then racing like the wind across firmer turf, I had hoped for an easy passage beyond.

Hanna glances at me. “This is why Arc survived. There is no gap. When water or rock races across the plains, it fetches up at this barrier. What lies beyond is untouched.”

There is logic there. “We climb?”

“Joseph’s map shows us a the pass. My hope is time has not covered it too much.” Hanna flicks her horse and leads the way along the rock curve, moving south.

Hours later, we halt under an overhang, and Hanna points. “See those boulders set in a diagonal line? The ancient markers, I believe.”

Hope surges in me. It does in her as well, for she smiles brightly.

We make camp, for night falls. Any attempt requires hours of daylight. We are up before dawn, horses packed. We will lead them up.

There is no pass that deserves the term. There is no narrow path either. Time has covered over what was. What there is, however, is an easier route through the scrub and loose rock, if we keep the boulders ever to our right when climbing north, and to our left when ascending south. The horses find the way easier than we do, thank the stars.

We sleep cramped in a level area when it gets too dark, and continue on with the new dawn.

Then it is before us. Arc, in all its magnificence.

Rolling, emerald hills. Rivers and lakes. Warm air, mighty trees, birds in song. Buck play in wildflowers.

It is paradise.

Here we could be safe.

Release Day! The Nemesis Blade is LIVE!

The Nemesis Blade is now available! The first Lore of Sanctum is out there!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The King's Challenge #61

We are one sixth of the way through this challenge!

TKC 61

We are definitely further south. It is warmer, and the sun is a white glow in the heavens.

As our horses pick their way along a narrow, descending path, I ask, “Have you been here before? Have you seen the presence in the sky from here?”

“A few months ago, yes, but it was much smaller then.” She shrugs at me. “I tried to get people to look up and see, but it was too little to make an impact.”

I then send her a look. “You and Joseph?”

She splutters into laughter. “Is it that obvious? We have had our moments!”

“Hanna …”

She talks over me. “Don’t worry yourself. Joseph gathers the Messengers and when they are together, they too will use the underground path to join us.”

I wonder if there is time for that, but do not say it, for Hanna needs to go forward holding the hope of seeing Joseph again close. As I need to for Damin, and Siri and Horin. A ragged breath escapes me, for that hope is fading too fast.

She gazes at me in understanding. “Concentrate on Arc, my lady. Do what must be done there and we will all see our loved ones again.”

A tear runs over my cheek. “Please call me Lyra.”

She reaches over and squeezes my hand, and then we concentrate on our descent. The path winds to the lower lands and already the mighty western plain draws us in. Great rivers rush through the dryness, the overflows from further north where the rain still plummets. We need to cross those; it will not be easy.

Far ahead there are smudges on the horizon to give evidence of great mountains.

We halt as we reach the bottom.

“There. The outer reaches of Arc.” Hanna points at those smudges.

85 000+!

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Reading in bed