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.

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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.

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Reading in bed

Monday, September 28, 2015

The King's Challenge #60

TKC 60

The way into the tunnel is a steep stairway. The horses have difficulty negotiating the steps, but eventually we vanish into the outcrop. As night falls outside, Hanna and I enter absolute darkness.

We each have a mount, and another carries our gear. Initially we will lead them, for the ceiling is too low, but that will change Hanna promises. That is when we will make up time, by riding.

We have lanterns, but the pools of light create confusion. I trust to Hanna to guide us, for I barely see my feet.

An hour later, the path descends and begins to broaden. There is more space overhead also.

We clamber onto our horses and go on. The silence is broken only by the metallic sounds of hooves.

Occasionally we halt to water the horses and ourselves, but we do not stop long. I have no idea how much time passes, but I know I am exhausted. Nothing changes in our environment. There is only rock on all sides.

Finally Hanna calls a halt to sleep. The space is larger. Clearly this is resting place, but I ask no questions. I am asleep before I have even wrapped into my blanket.

This happens again and then again, before a glow in the distance reveals we are nearing the end of our dark journey. When I ask Hanna how long we have been underground, she murmurs three days. It feels as if forever has passed. Damin is now in Porlese; I wonder how he fares.

The glow strengthens into an oval of daylight. We exit into a forest grove alive with birdsong and beams of sunshine.

“The rain has stopped,” I say as I inhale the fresh air of the world again.

Hanna grins my way. “Lyra, we are far south. It does not rain as often here.”

Showing Scary Scenes

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The King's Challenge #59

TKC 59

Hanna reveals we need to make haste to Arc.

Joseph says, “That is why I am here.” He unrolls the scroll. “This does not tell you how to get there, but it does tell you what is there.”

It is a small map, filled with contours. It is about high and low ground, rivers and lakes. I see a few symbols also. I admit, I do not see how it helps.

“The tale is in the symbols.” Joseph flips it over to point to the legend on the back. Each symbol is explained.

The warm glow erupts inside me as I see the word ‘Spire’ beside a line with a squiggle around it. Reaching over, I turn back to the map to see the same symbol marked in at a high point. “How old is this?” I whisper.

“I cannot say, but my grandfather told me it is from before the empires of the Ilfin and Glonu.” Joseph rolls it up and hands it to me. “It is yours now, my lady.”

“Why?” I blurt.

“The legend states the two-eyed raised the spire and only a two-eye may enter again. This then does not belong to me.” He glances then at Hanna. “Few of us know of the underground path, but Hanna does. Both of us have a long family history in the Messengers and we know the untold ways. It is difficult, but will take days off your journey.”


“Indeed. I hope you are not scared of the dark.” Joseph stands and gestures. “Eat. I shall gather what you require.” He swiftly leaves us.


She sighs. “It is a single file path, Lyra. To herd the others through will result in a line so long, most of them will not exit the tunnel in time on the other side.”

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The King's Challenge #58

TKC 58

News travels now without prompt. Joseph tells how, wherever he goes, folk speak of a wall of water vanquished, the path through the flood, of light beams, a map that points the way to safety and of a two-eyed lady and her rebel leader.

“Until now the Messengers took the word to isolated places,” he says as he invites us to breakfast. “And now the word is already there when I ask to speak. Some of it may be garbled, but it is a fact that people hark now to both warnings and hope. I have seen lines of travellers cross the countryside, all heading south.”

His news fills me with relief. It means Damin and I no longer need to get people moving. Now we are able to concentrate on what needs doing, not saying.

Joseph is a tall, spare man with short, grey hair and a stubbly beard. He wears his red sash proudly. His years and bearing have presence. I feel able to trust him. I also believe his words. Unlike Mirlin, he does not fill me with misgiving.

Hanna eyes him. “You expected the lady Lyra to come here? How?”

“I cannot explain, Hanna. It was a feeling,” he says with a smile.

As he pulls a small scroll from an inner pocket, I ask, “Have you heard anything about the raiders?”

Sighing, he sets the scroll down amid platters of sausage and fresh bread. “The Porlese slavers take advantage of people moving from place to place. This movement is unprecedented and they see bags of coins and do not hear the words of doom. Ever has it been thus with the slavers – coin first. Now, however, it is no longer necessary for them to cross the plains to grab the westerners beyond. They are emboldened, knowing authority is breaking down.”


Friday, September 25, 2015

The King's Challenge #57

TKC 57

It is raining by morning. After a sleepless night spent talking to Damin, I am no mood for walking, but walk I must.

Damin takes the horse and leaves without further word. The others reluctantly take off after him, on foot. He soon outstrips them. Even at this distance I feel his anger

I follow Hanna off the road. She says not a word. Everyone heard us arguing in the night.

Two hours later the road has vanished to all view and Hanna turns sharply west. “Our outposts are secrets we guard with our lives, for we rely on our horses as much as we do each other,” she says as she strides onward tirelessly. She is older, but she is certainly in better form than I am. “This one lies in a cutaway. It’s close now.”

Thank the stars. “Will they listen to you and allow me a mount?”

She nods and strides on.

Twenty minutes later we step around a jumble of giant boulders, and there we discover a stone dwelling, stables, massive trees and a small lake. It is well hidden, and so peaceful I wish to stay there forever. Smoke meanders, but dissipates before it rises above the outcrop. No one from the road would see the smoke. Horses snuffle and birds sing.

Hanna smiles at me. “I like it here, too.”

I follow her into the building. Inside is dim, but warm. Merely being under a roof again away from the rain is a gift.

A man rises from a table. “Hanna!”

“Joseph!” They embrace, laughing. “What brings you west?” Hanna asks.

He glances at me. His smile vanishes and he bows low. “My lady.” Swallowing, he straightens. “You are the reason I am here.” He glances at Hanna. “Remember the Arc map? I found it.”

TKC Collage 4

Episodes 43 to 56

Book Stacks

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The King's Challenge #56

TKC 56

“Lyra and I do this together,” Damin says.

Hanna inclines her head. “You feel you are her protector, but you will now slow her, Damin Mur. Yes, I have heard of the rebel leader. Prioritise, friend, and do what is needed, not what is right for you.”

“Who are you?” I ask before Damin explodes.

“Ii is not my name that carries weight, but what I do,” Hanna murmurs. “I am of the Messengers. We know how to travel fast, and where the best routes are.”

We stare at her. Messengers are regarded as untouchable, for they are the word gatherers and bringers.

“Where is your horse?” Damin demands. I hear doubt in his tone.

“You are not displaying your sash,” Marica says.

Hanna lifts her tunic to reveal the famous red sash tucked into her breeches. “The raiders came upon four of us. We were en route to Normur from Alarn and they killed the others and took our mounts. I fortunately was about personal business away from our camp.”

“Personal business?” Damin asks.

She glances at him. “I was taking a piss, Damin Mur.”

I smile, seeing the look on Damin’s face, but this is not time for levity. “I am sorry about your companions.”

“We are in trouble if even the Messengers are attacked. I am making my way to our next refresh point to inform the guild of the situation.” Hanna looks at me. “Come with me, and I swear I will get you to Arc in the shortest possible time.” She moves her attention to Damin. “You deal with what awaits in Porlese, if you will, but know you have little time.”

Damin looks at me.

“I am going with her,” I murmur.

Eventually he looks away.

I feel as if I have betrayed him.

Mazarine and Oeillade

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The King's Challenge #55

TKC 55

As the sun sets, we make camp off the road. Damin tells me in no uncertain terms I need to recover, but I feel now how time is pressing upon me.

The three men and two women who earlier drew our attention join us. There is safety in numbers.

All are from Alarn, and are aware of the threat from above. Marica is a small, slender man who apparently saw Mirlin’s map, listened to the warning to head south and prevailed upon his friends to join him.

“Most ignore the threat,” he tells us. “They say it will pass us by as in the past. We choose to risk this journey in the event it does not.”

“Wise,” Damin murmurs.

Marica gazes at me. “We heard of a lady able to control the elements, a Healer also. Forgive me, but you mentioned Arc. Are you that lady?” He touches his eyes, a reference to my different colours.

“Lyra is our lady,” Damin says when I do not respond.

The thumping fear in my body causes me to speak then. “We need go faster, Damin. I cannot see safety for us if we first deal with Porlese, then the fort before marching to Arc. We should fly directly there, now, tonight.”

Damin takes my hand. “Talk to me. I understand the urgency, but there is more, isn’t there?”

My fingers dig into his palm. “I need time in the safe zone. It isn’t enough just to get there before it hits. There is something at Arc that requires time to deal with.”

“Horin? Siri?”

“I know!” I wail.

The older woman - Hanna - says, “You need a swift horse and a guide, lady. You should go on as fast as you can, alone. I can guide you and I know where to find the best horses.”

Black wings

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The King's Challenge #54

TKC 54

With thoughts of Horin, Siri and the others churning in my thoughts, I almost miss it. As sunset nears and cloud cover rolls in, I do not bother looking up. Mostly I attempt to set aside images of my mother’s body.

Damin is silent; it is as if he is no longer present either. His hands on the reins before me are slack; the horse is making his own steady way along the road.

A knot of folk on the verge ahead causes us to focus. Four men and two women are in hurried discussion and most gesticulate wildly … heavenward.

My head snaps back to bounce against Damin’s chest. Releasing a breath, he looks up as well.

The light from a bright silver orb pierces the thin cover overhead. To the west is an amber glow, and thus can this presence in the sky not be mistaken for the sun.

“It is bigger,” I whisper, my heart thumping without rhythm.

“And still on direct approach,” Damin says.

The strange heat inside me erupts then in full fury. I gasp as sweat breaks out in great drops upon my skin and a burning sensation flashes from my toes to the top of my head. I lurch forward, gasping desperately. My hands are glowing, yellow, then red, in pulses.

“By the …” Damin whispers, and brings the horse to a stop. Sliding off, he reaches up for me, but I am already falling. He catches me before I hit the hard earth, lays me down and snatches his hands away. “You are burning! Lyra!”

I am convulsing. I am outside of my body, I think, seeing more than feeling what is happening to me.

Then darkness descends and I am as ice.


I open my eyes. “Damin, there is a way to turn it … from the Arc.”

Bottled Imagination

Monday, September 21, 2015

The King's Challenge #53

TKC 53

All breath leaves me. “Horin is screaming?”

Damin frowns. “I have no connection to him, yet I hear him. Lyra, it may not be physical; it could be his internal fear.”

I latch onto that or I will not cope. I nod convulsively.

“As we close in I should receive an image,” Damin murmurs. He releases the reins briefly to hold me. “Then we will know more.”

Again, I simply nod.

“Porlese should be in sight within two days at this pace,” he goes on.

“Have you been there?” I ask to distract myself.

“No, but Alyssa’s father has a mansion there, and she often visits. She says it is liberal city, larger than Normur, with broad streets. Less desperation, apparently, for all trade is welcome. Even the lowliest beggar earns a living.”

Liberal, yes. So much so that slavery is accepted. Ha. I bite my tongue.

“I think Horin has a latent gift,” Damin says then. “That is why I hear him. He is still young and it has not come forth yet, but it is there.”

“Delver?” I whisper.

“That would have been obvious before now.” Damin shakes his head. “Something else. Women traditionally receive what you have, thus it cannot be any of those talents. Maybe the skills of a warrior …”

“Horin? A warrior?” I blurt.

Damin grins. “Maybe. He is only eight; give him time.”

Time is something we do not have. I pray then that my little brother has the opportunity to grow up, whether or not he is a warrior. It does not matter to me what he will be; I merely hope he gets there. I squint up into the sunshine, but it is too bright for a sight of what approaches from the sky.

“If the cover stays away we should see it closer to sunset,” Damin mutters.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

The King's Challenge #52

TKC 52

Exhaustion in the early hours forces us to halt under a giant tree to rest. We cannot eat, our stomachs still churning over the dead, and the smell of burning flesh. Our horse now has feed, and snuffles contentedly.

Two hours later, as the glows of dawn lightens the forest, we are on our way. It has definitely stopped raining, for beams pierce the trees. This remains the wet season, however, and we cannot rely on a dry road.

The crossroad lies ahead. We do not stop; we simply continue on, now ever south.

There are other travellers on the road, some on foot, others by cart, a few on horseback. They are taking to the road after a night in the open, and we pass them. Folk call out greeting and we hear they are on their way to the fort where others gather.

“How do they know?” I ask Damin.

“We sent runners,” he responds. “Some listened to the warnings.” He stares ahead, his gaze thoughtful when I turn my head to look. “I sent two to Grenmassin also. They were not among the dead.” He lowers his gaze to mine. “If they turned traitor, they will know the sharp edge of my blade.”

“They were probably caught with the others.”

Damin nods and sends his gaze outwards.

“Why did you not tell me before, about the runners?” I ask.

“They were sent before you arrived in Normur. Other matters took my attention.”

I frown. There is something wrong with his timeline, but for the moment I let it pass. “Are you able to reach Siri mind to mind?”

“I have tried. The distance is too great.”

“She is a Delver?”

“No, but a blood connection is strong.”

Something is wrong. “Damin, what is it?”

“I hear Horin,” he says eventually. “He is screaming.”

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The King's Challenge #51

TKC 51

We leave the village although night has fallen. It is now a place of ghosts.

After discovering more bodies in two other cellars and after determining neither Siri nor Horin are among the dead – we found none of the young – we set fire to their homes. The time to bury everyone individually required more strength than we possessed. I shall never return to Grenmassin and I know Damin feels the same. Let it burn.

Many hours on horseback later, Damin eventually speaks. “They took the young only, killed the rest. They will be sold as slaves in Porlese.”

Slavery is outlawed, but there are regions which ignore the ban. “The raiders,” I say, “are from Porlese?”

“Must be. Alarn to the east is more progressive. They will not raid.”

“Why? The last raid I know of was over two hundred years ago.”

Damin shrugs behind me. “The only objective that makes sense is the threat from above. Porlese sees the night sky more than we do; they know something approaches. To survive, they need hands to build shelters, to gather supplies. Slaves are cheaper than labourers.”

I attempt to bring the Mirlin’s map to mind. The fort the folk from Normur upper and lower head towards is further south than Porlese. Once we have freed our loved ones, we still have a march before we join the others. Then there is the march to the sanctuary.

“We are not going to make it,” I whisper.

There is silence for a time behind me. The horse moves onward at a steady pace.

“Lyra, we cannot abandon them. We must hope the thing in the stars slows or diverts or something. I will die rather than leave my sister to a life of slavery.”

Yes, I too would give my life for Horin.

Tolkien Magic

Friday, September 18, 2015

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The King's Challenge #50

TKC 50

There are no answers.

Where did the raiders come from? Did they take our people hostage … or as slaves? Did our loved ones flee to Porlese to escape the raiders? Why would anyone seek to raid Grenmassin?

There is only one way to find the answers.

We will go to Porlese.

“Let us see what supplies we can find,” Damin mutters as we enter the abandoned village. “Meet you at your house in an hour.”

Nodding, I walk on while he tethers our mount at the water trough. There is a cellar under our house usually filled with food gathered during the dry season. If the raiders have not discovered it and if the water has not either, we should find enough for our journey south. I grimace. At least we will be heading south at last.

It is cold inside the only home I have known. The hearth is unlit and every space in its emptiness accuses me. My mother’s bedroom is tidy, as if she intends to return. Nothing appears to be missing. Horin’s room is a mess as always. Trust my little brother to never change. Mine has a waiting feel, as if my mother prepared it for my return.

They did not intend to leave.

Swallowing back tears, I unlock the cellar door.

And then I am screaming.

Damin crashes in above. “Lyra!”

A pile of bodies, by the stars. I see my mother. I see blood. Terrible wounds. There is Henry and Jimmi, Altin and Moana and …

Damin grips me from behind and forcibly turns me away. I feel the rapid thud of his heart, the quivering shock in his every muscle. “No,” he whispers.

Together we stumble out into the grey light. It has finally stopped raining. Clutching each other, we have no words.

My name is Nemesis

The first Lore of Sanctum book is about to go live! The Nemesis Blade is scheduled for 30 September publication!

Don't you just love the cover?!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The King's Challenge #49

TKC 49

By mid-morning we are at the crossroads. Here travellers make their choices. Behind us, the west, lies Normur; east is the inland city of Alarn. South leads to Porlese, although few go there, for folk claim it is of loose morals. North is Grenmassin, a farming community nestled in the mountains.

Smiling at each other, we take to the northern road.

Clearing the treeline an hour later, we encounter the first cottages. It is still raining, but we expect to see people about their chores. Instead we find only silence. Not a breath of smoke from a hearth wafts into the air. No dogs greet us.

It feels abandoned.

Damin kicks our horse into faster gait, saying not a word. Soon the common is before us and beyond is the village where we grew up. There is evidence of water damage. It is possible the river burst its banks and folk chose to move to higher ground when that danger loomed. I remember a time my father grabbed me up from my bed in the middle of the night to escape the rising water.

Murmuring about the river, Damin turns the horse for the high path. After tethering him where the way becomes too steep, we walk on, climbing steadily. We do not speak; I think we are afraid to.

The caves are deserted. There is no sign of habitation, not even of anyone having been there.

Hands in his hair, Damin shouts, “Where are you? Siri, can you hear me?”

“Horin!” I holler. “Mom!”

“Lyra?” It is a whisper of sound only. I run to a jumble of rocks near the entrance. Old Jessen, the blacksmith, lies curled upon a threadbare blanket. He is near death and coughs words out. “South … Porlese … raiders …” Then he stares forever sightless.

Great Rules for Writing

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The King's Challenge #48

TKC 48

We cover three times the distance with the horse and by nightfall reach the ruined inn many travellers halt at after leaving the hinterland.

The ruin has a roof, which shelters us from the incessant rain. While the wind howls through broken panes and the gaping door, we are warmer and drier than in many days. The horse joins us inside, snuffling contentedly at grass Damin gathers. He is less wild now, as if proximity to people has given him hope.

Our fire is bright.

“You father was a Delver too?” I ask after we have eaten.

Damin nods. “He taught me and from him I heard of other talents also, including yours.”

“Damin, does this mean my mother was talented also?”

“Your grandmother was a Sage, apparently. I believe your mother knows the lore, but did not receive a gift.” He gazes at me in the flickering light. “It is nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Not now, I agree,” I murmur. “The society we grew up with changes.” I take a breath. “You were not surprised when Emily called me an Elemental.”

Damin is unblinking. “You may have all four facets. We do not need a Rainmaker now, but we may in the future. As for Sage? Have you not ‘seen’ what is coming?”

I look away. I have, yes, but I thought it instinct based on logic. “Why does this happen to me now? You discovered your gift years ago.”

“Need, Lyra. It comes forth when the need arises.”

I look at him. “What need caused you to hear me singing at the river?”

Damin grins. “I was moon eyes in love with you. I needed to know how to talk to you.”

I roll my eyes and start laughing. “I had such a crush on you too!”

Between the pages

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The King's Challenge #47

TKC 47

We leave it behind. Normur and its problems are now no longer ours. Folk there must make their own choices. After stocking up on trail food in the near deserted city, Damin and I take to the eastern road.

It is many days to Grenmassin.

“Alyssa promised to catch up to Attis,” Damin says as the city grows ever smaller behind us.

Soon the rain will hide all signs of civilisation anyway. Never have I been wet this long; even my cloak is drenched. I concentrate on putting one mud encrusted boot before the other.

By nightfall the mud plain surrenders to the first trees of the hinterland. We do not talk as we attempt to reach them, for trees mean cover from the rain and also prying eyes. As we close in, the wind starts to whistle. Never have I been this cold.

We sleep fitfully, huddled under a tree with spreading branches, and we go onward with the first light of day. Movement means warmth … and purpose. Chewing on an apple each, we take to the road without words.

Around midday a horse nickers amid the trees left of the path. We come to a halt. A horse usually means people. Dangerous as it is to confront strangers, anyone on this road should be pointed south towards the fort. A horse alone, however, means swifter transport.

Damin flicks hand signals we learned as kids. I nod and swiftly fall back to hunker behind a broad trunk. He divests himself of his pack and runs stealthily towards the sound.

A mighty thrashing in the undergrowth sees me abandon my post moments later. I run, my heart in my throat.

Grinning, Damin exits the treeline … seated on a horse. “He’s a bit wild!” he shouts. “But he is alone!”

I clap my hands in delight.

Word Play

Monday, September 14, 2015

The King's Challenge #46

TKC 46

In the aftermath of that revelation, I walk away, needing privacy for equilibrium. I hear Alyssa and Emily question Damin exhaustively and his voice in answer, but what they say is akin to another language. My mind is in turmoil.

A Healer and Elemental? These are terms Damin mentioned, but I have no idea what they mean. Damin needs to talk to me, soon, about what he knows.

I sit on a boulder. Rain sluices over me, but I feel nothing. My body is no longer relevant.

How long later, I do not know, but time passes before Damin hunkers before me.

“The sisters will speak to their kind. Hopefully all will follow, but the two of them have committed to the walk south. Lyra?”

“I am returning to Grenmassin,” I tell him, staring at my hands.

Damin is silent so long I am eventually forced to look at him. He is watching me, frowning. I have the clearest impression he debates with himself.

“What is it?”

“If we go back, Lyra, we will not make the deadline. Truthfully, it’s already too late for Grenmassin.”

A shiver passes over me, for I hear only truth. I refuse to surrender family and friends to that fate, however. “I am going back. For Horin, for Siri, for my mother. If it means I die with them, so be it.”

He stares at me. “What about us, Lyra? You and me? I have told you I love you, but never have you said those words to me. Do I not count, is that it?”

My eyes close. By the stars. I do love him. “I made a vow, Damin.” Opening my eyes, I kneel before him and kiss him. “I love you, but I will not break my word.”

His arms enclose me. “Then we live or die together.”

Character Motivations

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The King's Challenge #45

TKC 45

Talk is strained, largely because Damin does not know how to behave. He maintains and expressionless attitude and speaks without inflection, even when revealing to Alyssa what the situation is. When he speaks of the danger heading our way from the heavens, his tone is so neutral even I do not believe him. Alyssa eyes him doubtfully, as does her sister Emily, and I cannot help myself. I burst out laughing.

“Lyra, you are not helping!” Damin rounds on me. It is the first real emotion he has shown since we met Alyssa.

Shaking my head, I say, “You convince no one with your deadpan face. Speak from your heart, Damin.”

He glares at me. “My heart? Really? My heart says stuff all this and get a move on south. Those who want to come, do so, and those who do not are wasting my time. This is a fine margin, Lyra. We need to make choices.”

I glare right back, arms akimbo. “I feel the urgency, as you do, but I am going back to Grenmassin to get folk moving.” I look up at the heavens and point emphatically. “I wish the clouds would vanish! If they could see it, maybe we will not need to …”

Light suddenly surrounds me. I am still looking up and I see the dark clouds part as if commanded. A circle of blue forms overhead and sunlight pours through.

The sight paralyses me. It is not only the light, but the fact that something out there seems to have heard me. I stare up, my jaw slack.

Darkness returns seconds later. The blue hole vanishes and I feel abandoned by the fates. When I lower my head, Damin is smiling.

Alyssa whispers, “It shone on you alone. Who are you?”

“An Elemental,” Emily breathes.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The King's Challenge #44

TKC 44

Steam billows out from the earth, but the strike harms no one. In the aftermath, Damin mutters, “They are like children. Too trusting, and woefully unprepared.”

He refers to the knot of highborn. I see what he means. The others are not surprised by nature’s power, but they squeal as if confronted by a demon of the underworld.

“We have to talk to them,” I murmur. “Everyone deserves a chance.”

Damin glances at me. “Alyssa is there.”

I have not looked too closely, for I suspected as much. Now I do look. The rain has flattened all features, and mud has spattered personality into submission. I cannot tell who Alyssa is. Perhaps that is best, for I will maintain neutrality until the moment of meeting.

“Maybe she will listen long enough to help the others,” I say.

Damin smiles. “Thank you, Lyra.”

“Just lead the way.” I scowl.

He does and, as we approach, two women break from the bedraggled clutch. We meet and I immediately know Alyssa. Firstly she stares at Damin in a manner most familiar and, secondly, she is much like me in appearance. Her hair is dark like mine and her eyes are green, both of them.

“Damin,” she says, “what is happening?”

Well, it is obvious what is happening, but no matter. I bite my tongue.

“Hello, Alyssa. The city is unsafe and it will remain thus. We are heading south to a warmer, safer place. You are welcome to join us, all of you.” Damin is expressionless. “This is Lyra.”

Her gaze moves to me and she smiles. “You are even lovelier than Damin revealed. Hello.”

Well, how does one react to sincerity? With sincerity. “Damin only told me about you recently. I admit, I did not want to meet you, but now I am glad I have.”

The poet conundrum

Friday, September 11, 2015

The King's Challenge #43

TKC 43

A part of the cliff does collapse, but we do not see it. We hear it after from another. Normur is effectively emptied. As the rain continues, folk huddle together for warmth to the east of the city.

Those who intended to walk south to the fort, begin to do so despite violent protestations from the city fathers. They, however, have no authority beyond the precincts, and know it.

I feel sorry for the bedraggled clutch of rich people apart from the old and infirm who choose to stay behind. I feel even sorrier for the old and infirm, for they will be ordered to mop up a city which will be as a ghost town.

Attis is with us. We stand together watching men, women and children begin the long march, most with only what they are wearing.

The old mapmaker comes to a halt beside us. “The younger men returned to the city for items we may need,” he whispers. “They will raid certain … places. Can I ask that you keep that lot occupied until they get away again?”

Damin grins down at the old man. “Consider it a pleasure.”

The mapmaker touches Damin’s arm and goes on walking. I wonder if he will reach the fort; he is very old. Perhaps others will carry him.

Damin prods Attis. “Go with them. We will catch up to you soon.”

The boy pulls a face, but he does as bid. He, at least, came prepared, although his pack may soon drag him under, it appears that weighty.

Both Damin and I have our small packs. We tend to keep it with us at all times.

Lightning abruptly forks the air to smash into the earth between the rich and the others. I hear someone whisper the gods are awake.

Reaume's Omnibus is now available!

Now in one book!

The Kallanon Scales, The Nemisin Star, The Sleeper Sword and The Dreamer Stones, as well as Realm Walker.


From the realms of prophecy and reincarnation to the reality of Warlocks, Witches and Darak Ors, from dreams to the scrying bowl, from thrones to forest clearings, the Reaume series journeys through, and finely weaves, fact and fantasy.

A city of stone is created to obscure an abyss able swallow worlds, and is discovered in a place forbidden to all. An ancient map leads them there, and it changes the future. Lore of Reaume exposes ancient kingdoms and shadowy spheres of influence.

While objects of power come forth to manipulate and threaten, among them the Dragon Taliesman, the mighty Valleur Throne, the swords called Lumin, Catharsis and Nemesis, the true connection is the great Maghdim Medaillon, a magical device thought forever lost. Realms entwine when slim fingers one day finds the golden coin hidden in a sterile desert.

One man strides through all Lore. Torrullin is the Pathfinder, Keeper of the Dragon, the ultimate architect and elixir of life. He is a walker through realms, a wanderer through time and the harbinger of change. He is Lifegiver and Destroyer. Beware the Pathfinder … and know he is not alone.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Collage 3 - TKC

The King's Challenge #42

TKC 42

People trample each other in their rush to leave the city. Tears fall as I watch the desperation from the clock tower with Damin at my side. He no longer beats the alarm. Mud and water rises in the streets now; everyone knows there is cause for panic.

I gasp as I see a child vanish beneath uncaring boots. A moment later I am thinking of Attis. We must get to the boy! Frantically I clutch at Damin, screaming at him.

He grabs my hands. “Calm, Lyra. Please. If we leave here, we run the risk of being trampled. Attis is a bright boy and will know to stay put.”

Yes, true. Attis is a survivor. I breathe in deeply to still my heartbeat to an even rhythm. “What of your Alyssa?” I whisper.

Damin releases my hands. Grimacing, he stares into the roiling streets. “She will be with others of her kind. The rich always have an escape plan.”

That is no doubt true as well. I say no more.

“Lyra, the creature you saw, what was it?” Damin asks. I think he seeks to distract me. Mostly he wants to distract himself, though.

“Slime and mud, hanging from under the bridge. I think now it may be akin to what happens to you. You see emotions as images. What I see may be warnings.”

“Thank the stars for that or we would not be above it now.”

“What are you seeing?” I ask him.

“Coils and scales. Snakes of terror, in shifting colours.” Damin closes his eyes. “I do not know how to shut it off. There is too much.”

The warmth erupts in my chest. My hands glow. “Look at me.” I place my hands on Damin’s cheeks. “Just keep looking at me … until they go away.”