Thursday, March 31, 2016

The King's Challenge #259 and #260

TKC 259 and 260

Iniri grips Artur’s shoulders. “Never mind any of that! My father is dying? Is that what they said?”

He nods, staring at her.

“Did they say how? Is he ill? How long?”

He steps away. “My Lady, forgive me, but I do not know.”

Her hands clench into fists and she swivels to look at me. “Enris, we need at least one alive.”

Indeed. “Get back to the shuttle,” I say. “I will … talk … to them.” I am aware my face is without expression, but I do not care. Like to Iniri, I need to know the truth. If it means five men die in the next few minutes in order for one to spill his truth, then so be it.

“Artur,” Damin murmurs, “take Lyra back.”

“I can …” Iniri says, but Damin cuts her short.

“Now, Artur.”

“The big man grips Iniri’s upper arm and hauls her off. She protests at first, but then goes meekly, throwing looks backward as she goes. I notice she looks more at Damin than at me.

“She is not a soldier, am I right?” Damin demands.

“She was a Priestess,” I say quietly.

“Then I did right.”

“She will still flay the skin off you.” I grin, if reluctantly. Nothing is amusing. My father is dying. If that is how it is, I am not ready to assume the mantle of rulership.

“What was my role on Makaran?” Damin asks next.

Clever. Quick. Damin has understood something intrinsic about himself. He simply needs it confirmed. “You were the leader of the protectors based in the badlands.’

“Hmm. And how did I come to know Iniri?”

“You were wounded. She was your healer.”

Damin nods. “I cannot yet remember, but what you say resonates. I was for the Makar rulers?”

“We counted on you, yes.”

Again he nods. “As I thought. Then let us get these traitors and hear what their plans are.”

This time I smile with all warmth. “We need only one.”

“One for you and one for me,” Damin says grimly, not responding to my smile. “I have my ways and you have yours. One of them will talk.”

I incline my head and set off into the tress, heading in the direction Artur spilled from. Damin is on my heels.

Within minutes we hear the tell-tale sounds of low conversation and the rustles uncaring boots make in drier undergrowth. I flick my hand, and we separate in silence and stealth.

Not long after, six men wander towards us, weapons pointing to the earth. They believe no one has marked their absence. Foolish indeed. I notice they are not as young as the main host of soldiers. These are men seasoned by time and war. Idiots. They should know better than to walk as if they have no cares. Given their stealth in leaving, they should employ it also in their return.

Damin vanishes and I am amazed. The man is a Devil indeed. Here he is a Forest Devil.

I step into their path, sword raised.

Six men freeze.

Before they are able to respond to the threat of my presence, Damin deals with two of them in rapid succession, coming at them from behind. Two swing around to face their attacker at the rear, while the other two rush at me, eyes so big I realise they understand that they have been unmasked. I thus have no mercy.

Swiftly Damin has one in a headlock. The other is dead. He tosses the soldier’s weapon into the forest.

Mere moments after, I have the only other survivor under my boot, pressing at his throat. “Move, and you are dead,” I say coldly.

Silence returns to the forest as we stare at each other without moving.



The King's Challenge #257 and #258

TKC 257 and 258

Damin launches up as well, dagger to hand. Together we face the attacker.

A man comes rushing towards us covered in twigs and leaves. His camouflage is extensive and it halts my forward movement briefly. One will swear he is a bush. I almost burst into laughter, but this is no time for amusement.

Damin does, however.

He suddenly slaps his thighs and starts chortling. The next moment he convulses in a full belly laugh.

I admit. I stop dead in my tracks.

Iniri wanders through us, pushing both our blades down. She is smiling.

What is this? Who is this?

“You made your point, Artur,” Iniri laughs.

Peering at the ‘bush’ I realise it is the big man from Grenmassin. Artur has been a godsend in keeping everyone moving and motivated and … my eyes narrow. Why this get-up?

Shifting my stance, I notice Damin has lost his smile. Perhaps he is asking himself the same question.

Artur fumbles his betwigged headgear off, and bows. “Forgive me for bumbling in like this, but something needs saying and I intend to say it.”

My sister frowns. “Artur, I am not feeling the love. Why are you hiding out here? And why are you decked out for ambush?”

The man glances over his shoulder. “I saw six of them head off into the trees and it did not sit right, so I followed. You know I hunt; always I blend with the terrain. It’s as natural as breathing for me.”

Yes, I recall he was ever the one to bring back fresh meat after a foray into the hinterland north of Grenmassin. I have never seen him in camouflage, but I have heard the men of our village discussing his expertise. Well, Horin did. These are Horin’s memories.

I sheath my sword. “Who went off into the trees?”

“Soldiers. They seemed about less than honest business to me.”

Damin’s dagger vanishes. “Scouts, Artur. Standard practice.”

The big man shakes his head. “Not these. I saw the scouts head out, three each in five directions. This lot left after.”

Damin demands, “And?”

Artur straightens his shoulders. “Damin, you have to be more aware. Not every Ilfin is to be trusted.”

Iniri steps closer. “Artur, what is it?”

“They went off to talk, carefully avoiding the scouts. I could not hear everything, for I lost some ground while I became one with the surroundings, but what I did hear is not good.”

Damin swears under his breath before saying, “Tell us.”

Again Artur glances over his shoulder. “They will come this way soon, so I will be brief. They plan to overthrow the rulers of Makaran.” His gaze flicks to me. “I guess that is where your family name comes from and I guess that means you are a target.”

Artur has not been privy to the secrets, or truths, I have shared with Damin. Few know Makar is, in fact, the ruling house. Siri and Kay know, having spent time with Gennerin, and so do Hal and the woman Messenger – I do not recall her name right now – but neither of the latter two have had opportunity to speak with the others. Siri and Kay know to be silent on certain issues.

Sucking at my teeth, I nod at Artur. “Go on.”

“Something about the king being close to death …”

“What?” Iniri bursts out. Simultaneously, I say, “Cannot be!”

The village man glances from me to Iniri and back. “I assume you know of him?”

“He is our father!” Iniri states, a hand going to her cheek.


Artur blinks. “You are brother and sister as Makar also?” He abruptly stares into my eyes with intent. “They said it is time to negate the heir to the throne.”


Never random


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Arcana Relaunched!

Recently the rights to my four Arcana books were returned to me and I have now relaunched them, an effort of many days to edit, format and publish. All the covers for the ebooks are now the same as the print versions and everything is linked on Amazon (they were separate before). 

New links are in the sidebar as well as in the Arcana Page :)


The first volume (also my debut novel!) is currently priced at a mere 99c - grab a copy QUICK!


Happy reading!

On a darker note :)


Inspiration for the darker side to our stories!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

At the moment in Elaina's World

Hello, everyone!

This is a quick note from me to explain why blog posts have been a mite spurious lately, especially the King's Challenge posts.

Not only is the internet availability in our region playing havoc with my sanity right now, but we have a renovation underway. The former keeps me off the net when I do sit at my computer, while the latter keeps me from my computer, period :)

We will be catching up, though, as soon as possible.

In other news, I have relaunched my Arcana series, but I will tell you all about it in a dedicated post.

Thank you for continuing to visit! I hugely appreciate your support!



93 Percent Stardust


105 000+!

Thank you SO much for visiting!



xxx

Friday, March 25, 2016

The King's Challenge #255 and #256

TKC 255 and 256

A rustle in the low foliage has me swivelling my eyes without moving my body. If someone is there, it will not do to warn of my awareness.

I realise Damn is entirely focused on Iniri, while my sister has bent her full will and being to Damin. They hear nothing. I hope they at least hear each other.

Removing their words and presence from my conscious thoughts, I send questing tendrils out.

Someone is definitely hiding in the undergrowth, and that someone is listening carefully.

Unmoving, I wait for the action that will herald mine, and give thought to how it is the Warrior gene I was born with enabling this kind of focus. Truthfully, though, the overriding impetus comes at the behest of the orb.

How is a green orb given to me by my father under a blue dome in a place far away not only in space, but time also, able to confer such abilities? How has it been with me since? Most pertinently, however, how is Iniri the embodiment of an orb?

Here is the story, strange as it is.

On the day my father placed the glowing item into my palm, was also the day Iniri Makar received the Greater Talents.

Know this; Ilfin are born original and each receives a ‘gift’ in that originality. This is true to this day. Any Ilfin born on Makaran is original in body and soul. The concept of souls being born new is beyond my ability to explain, and yet it is. It happens all the time, although with less frequency as time marches on. There may be other races out there that also receive original souls for born bodies, but I know only of the Ilfin. We are the reason the Glonu seek to enslave us. They desire by conquer to have what we receive naturally.

Thus, on that day under the dome, Iniri and I kneeled before my father as new souls seeking destiny, the path into the long future. We understood we were on the cusp of a different kind of longevity. Every moment of our childhood had brought us to that point. Every day we were prepared for the event. It is the Ilfin way.

It is about binding. Souls need support. They do not need it to live; they require it in order to act. Act. Without a binding, a soul may become complacent, happily inhabiting a vessel without ever making itself known. In a binding, a pull and push is engendered, and thus the souls need to do something … or a soul is subjugated. One can say a complacent soul is by nature subjugate, and yet that is a choice and therefore it is not subservience. A linked soul, on the other hand, will be a servant to the other unless it chooses to act.

My father is a master of links. It is the reason he has ruled Makaran long. Few Ilfin are able to link souls for the purpose of action, and thus they come to my father. The reasons, though, for the need to link are complicated and perhaps a tale for another time.

We kneeled and my father bade us clasp hands. Placing his around ours, he held us together and whispered words over us. Lightning bolts raced through our veins.

I admit, I was in awe of my father that day.

He withdrew a part of Iniri’s essence and joined it to mine, thereby creating a tangible object. The Orb. The orb is our link. The reason he did so was to free us onto separate paths. Iniri could thus go her way and I mine; we did not require proximity to maintain the need to act or be as less.

We went our separate ways thereafter, but understood, on the day our mission becomes action to exactly the same end, the orb would be absorbed. We would be together. She is again the orb.

Iniri, after all, has all the Greater Talents … and only now do I understand the gift was our father’s. He possesses the Greater Talents also and, on that day under the dome, he linked not only Iniri and Enris Makar; he linked us to him.

Closing my eyes, I understand, far away, on Makaran, our father is aware of exactly what transpires here on Massin.

The Greater Talents …

… I hurtle up, sword drawn, lips pulled back.

Our hidden assailant has decided it is time to act.



The Hobbit


Thursday, March 24, 2016

The King's Challenge #253 and #254

TKC 253 and 254

“Lyra?” Damin says.

My sister turns her head to the fair man known to Lyra as Damin Mur. Iniri, of course, will know better. My curiosity soars, for I wonder how she will respond to his summons.

She blinks and then closes those mesmerising eyes. “Damin, we will talk later. At this point we have to focus on the battle ahead.”

Damin goes on staring at her. Lifting Siri’s hand from his shoulder, he rises. “No. I need to understand now.”

She draws breath, holds it, and then releases explosively. “Fine.” Glancing at Commander Gennerin, she says, “We will pick this up in a few minutes.”

Gennerin bows his head.

“Come with me, Damin,” she goes on and heads for the exit. “We do this outside; this sterile space does not allow for emotion. Enris, you better come with us.”

After punching the button that opens the door to the forest, she sweeps out. A queen; she is again as the royal daughter she always was. Swallowing, Damin follows, but he has lost his purpose, for his gait is uncertain.

“Prepare the men for the incursion,” I tell Gennerin, and follow the two receding forms.

With my sister leading the way, we wander deeper into the forest. As we are about to vanish from view, I gesture at two soldiers to unobtrusively follow us as guards. They fall in, silent and watchful. At least now I do not need to concern myself about what is behind. What lies ahead may be a different matter.

Under a massively spreading tree, Lyra comes to a halt. Damin hunkers, looking up at her, his fingers in a tight clasp to still inadvertent movement. Damin knows how the small gestures reveal one.

Lyra sits. It places her lower than Damin, but I am aware she chooses to do so deliberately. My sister ever was the student of the nature inherent to a soul.

I sit as well, my back to a tree trunk opposite. Not only does this allow them a measure of privacy, but I am able to watch for danger from the territory beyond us. Thus far, all is quiet.

“My name is Iniri,” my sister starts.

“That I have already gathered,” Damin mutters.

She huffs, but then lifts one hand in apology. “This is difficult for you, I am sorry.”

“It is. First Horin, a babe I saw the day after he was born, becomes this warrior over there. Enris has superseded Horin and it is surpassingly strange. Academically I understand the concept of souls returning, and yet to see it as a physical truth is uncomfortable. I wonder, for instance, where Horin is.” Damin pauses. He clears his throat. “If you are Iniri, where is Lyra?”

“The lives we lead before we are aware of our souls shape us. Horin still exists, as Lyra will ever be with me, but who we were first assumes the ascendant position. This is the way for all, not merely the Makar line.”

I smile. She stated it well.

Damin is unmoving, although his calves must be protesting his stance. “I have the clearest feeling you are telling me I am not merely Damin.”

“Only new souls can claim the host as original,” Iniri murmurs. “Iniri was original. Enris also, for beings then were scarce. You are not a new soul, Damin. You were not created originally for Massin.”

Damin’s head lowers. For many moments there is only silence.

“You are afraid to ask who you were,” Iniri says.

He lifts his head. “I am afraid I am losing you. Nothing else matters.”

My sister smiles then, a beautiful sight. “My love, this is not our first time together. You will not lose me.”




Loving book stacks :)



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The King's Challenge #251 and #252

TKC 251 and 252

Less than an hour later, Damin and Lyra join us in Gennerin’s camouflaged shuttle. Hidden under a canopy of trees and further blended with nets, branches and leaves, the shuttle becomes the command centre as a matter of practicality.

Other shuttles fly further afield to guard the terrain, while being far enough removed to not give our position away. The bulk of the force has returned to the vicinity of the Spire to keep the Glonu distracted there.

Damin and Siri fly into each other’s arms. Joseph and Hal immediately begin muttering together, while Marian and Hanna fall into intense discussion.

No one, not us, not them, speaks of the horror that went before this reunion. Perhaps no one will ever speak of it. War forces a soul into silence.

While the rest of the Arc troop is fed outside, we gather in the central area. This time Siri refuses to budge, daring everyone with a fierce gaze to say anything to the contrary. Kay grins at her side.

I explain the plan.

As expected, Lyra nearly disembowels me with her fury. “It is suicide! Why Damin? Send someone else!”

Damin grips her hand. “I trust no other to do this.”

Her lips compress and flames erupt around their clasped hands, her elemental self ignoring the usual controls. Abruptly she withdraws her hand and smacks it flat upon the metal table. Flame licks at the surface, skittering from her fingers to spread.

Commander Gennerin backs up, his eyes wide. Thereafter he hurtles to his feet to bow from the waist. “My Lady,” he breathes. “We believed you lost.”

Lyra swallows and retracts her fire. Until this point her features had been in the shadows created by the bulkhead where she is, and thus the Ilfin has not yet marked her eyes, but the flames are an unmistakable sign. She gives me a look, which I meet with a skewed smile.

“Gentlemen, meet Iniri Makar,” I murmur, watching her.

Sighing, she straightens. The light captures her eyes in that moment. The blue is sapphire in the halogens overhead, while the green is emerald. It is akin to staring into my orb.

Every Ilfin in the vicinity slams to knees.

Touching my nose, I grin at my sister.

“Stuff you, Enris,” she mutters. “I have no knowledge of that past.”

Gennerin glances at me from his lowered position. I gesture, and he straightens. “At ease, everyone,” I add when the soldiers on board do not move from their knees. They rise, but are no longer the focus of my attention.

Standing myself, I lean over the table and grip Lyra’s wrist. Ignoring Damin when he shouts denial, I press my orb into the palm of her hand and force her fingers to close over it, holding them in place.

“Deny it now,” I say, staring into her eyes. I lift my hand away, leaving her in possession of the orb.

Siri’s slender fingers creep in to rest upon Damin’s shoulder, for Damin has frozen. He stares at Lyra as if he has never seen her before.

“What is going on here?” Commander Gennerin demands, his gaze flicking from me to Lyra, to Damin, to Kay, to me, and back and forth.

I ignore him. I am waiting for Lyra to react.

Long and silent minutes pass.

Finally the dark-haired woman with her two eyes looks up from her closed hand, but she is no longer Lyra. Iniri Makar is now gazing at me.

She opens her hand and displays an empty palm. Her eyebrows hike up and she offers me a twisted grimace. “I am the orb.”

“Yes, sister,” I whisper. “Indeed.”




Writer's Voice


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Review - Sand Witch by Poppet


This is an intriguing story of a guy who goes out to a desert retreat and there meets a Sand Witch, a gentle pagan with some ideas about what an intimate relationship is all about. Sparks fly, I tell you!


Add in a less than savoury ex and a dubious aunt, stir in a hallucinogenic and some weird situations, and you have a page turner - loved it!



The King's Challenge #248 - #250

TKC 248 and 249 and 250

I no longer have to wonder about direction. The skies are alight with beams and the cacophony of cruisers and shuttles deafens. The Ilfin have engaged the Glonu in battle inside their sanctuary.

Running, I see little of the terrain. Everything is a blur.

Hours pass and still the battle rages. I hear explosions; ships have fallen, although I cannot tell who they belong to.

As the sun’s hazy presence reaches its zenith for the day, four shuttles head towards me. Whether they are fleeing the battle or reworking strategy is guesswork, but I do know they see me, a lone man running with the hounds of hell behind him.

Three ships circle then, and one gradually reduces height to hover in my path.

I stop running. Thank the stars, I am not even winded, or I will have nothing to defend myself with. Reaching into my pocket, I withdraw the orb and hold it aloft.

Brilliant green light erupts from my fingers.

The shuttle sets down with a thump. Before the engines have even reduced revolutions, the ramp lowers.

A man strides down with ten armed soldiers surrounding him. They do not point those weapons at me; they train them on the countryside. This man knows who I am.

He halts smartly before me, salutes, and bows his head. “Lord Makar.”

Clearly the Ilfin have not forgotten about the son sent into the stars. I do not know whether to be relieved or burdened by this insight. “I am Enris, yes. And you are?” I lower the orb, enclosing it until the glows dim.

The man lifts his head. An older man, one accustomed to leadership and soldiering. “I am Athol Gennerin.”

“Horin!”

I lift me gaze to the head of the ramp to find Siri Mur there. “Hello, Siri,” I murmur. I focus on the commander. “You have the Delver with you?”

“We do.”

“Excellent. Tell him to contact Damin to tell him we are coming.” I stride for the ramp, leaving the commander and his soldiers to follow. “I will supply co-ordinates. Oh, and have this analysed.” I hand the man the shale slivers as he falls in beside me. “We believe the Spire is raised with this.”

“Excellent,” Gennerin murmurs as he accepts the trophies. “Hal! Tell Damin we are on our way to them!”

I see a shadow moving behind Siri, but she has my attention. As I reach her, she throws her arms about me and holds me.

“Horin, I am so glad you are safe,” she whispers into my neck.

I swallow. I know this young woman, but the knowledge is Horin’s. Enris has not held a woman in a long time. I am not attracted to Siri, but I no longer remember how it feels to have someone care enough about me to simply come forward and hold me. Briefly tightening our clasp, an appreciation, I step away.

“Siri, I am happy to know you are safe also,” I smile at her.

She claps her hands. “And now Damin!”

Still smiling, I enter the sterile and technological space to find soldiers everywhere, along with the westerner Kay, and the two Messengers Damin told us are now with Siri. The larger man has his eyes closed, no doubt reaching to Damin. He opens them as the ramp lifts to shut behind me.

“Damin sends his relief,” Hal murmurs.

I nod at him, rattle off some numbers to Gennerin, who gestures significantly.

Moments later we are airborne.

The soldiers hit the deck, knees slamming hard. Commander Gennerin is now watching me. Kay, I notice, passes his glance over the bowed troops before resting a curious gaze on me.

“Horin,” Siri whispers.

I shake my head. “I am not Horin.” Taking a step, I brace before the soldiers. “Men, raise your eyes.”

Heads snap up and eyes latch onto me.

“My father is Emperor Linus Makar of Makaran,” and I hold the orb out upon my palm. It burst into green flame. “My name is Enris Makar and I am heir to the throne.”

No one makes a sound other than to whistle in breath and all eyes fixate on the glowing orb.

Enclosing it once more, I snuff those glows. “I am also a soldier,” I murmur, ‘and greet you as a soldier. Rise, my Ilfin, and be at ease.”

Someone laughs, someone claps, and soon all are on their feet. Smiles slip onto faces and the men start whispering together. I meet Kay’s gaze. He inclines his head, saying nothing. Shrugging, I turn to Gennerin.

“How fare you against the Glonu?”

“Not well,” the commander snaps. “Shall we?” He indicates a small chamber left of the common area.

I head towards it, saying, “Kay, if you please.”

“What about me?” Siri demands.

“You are not a soldier, Siri.” I enter the small space with Gennerin on my heels. Kay slips in, giving Siri a look over his shoulder. “Close it.”

As Siri strides forward, Gennerin punches a button and a door slides between us and her rebellious expression.

“She will have your liver for breakfast,” Kay murmurs. “Mine too, probably.”

“Rather that than have her brother standing over us with a blunt pitchfork to do the same,” I say, causing Kay to grin. “Commander?”

Gennerin draws himself up. “We are throwing everything we have planet side at the Glonu here. Unfortunately they have recalled all theirs to this region also and we are outnumbered. We have lost four ships in the last hours. They have lost three.”

“The Spire?”

“We have not been close enough to it yet.”


Nodding, I sit at the tiny table. “Then this is what we must do.”


Rain!


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The King's Challenge #244 - #247

TKC 244, 245, 246 and 247

Amassing at the treeline, we await the Ilfin flyover. Barely has light greyed the sky before it comes to pass.

A mighty roar of sound enters our space, deafening and debilitating, and then a host of shuttles are swift and intent above us. As one they head east on a slightly southern trajectory.

I watch carefully and make note of the relevant landmarks we will use to reach the same destination. There isn’t much to pinpoint, given the obscuring achieved by the Glonu, but it will suffice.

I point out the nearest feature to Damin. “There. See the outcrop slightly darker than the rock around it? We aim towards it.”

He has marked the same pointers, and simply nods. It means we will cross the open space before us. Damin calls out, “We go now while this half-light offers us protection!”

He steps out and hastens forward. Swiftly the others follow.

As the sound of the Ilfin ships die away, Lyra comes to a halt beside me, watching Damin lead our troop across. “We came further north than I did before,” she murmurs. “We were truly lost.”

I glance at her. “You need to look inward more and trust what you see there. Lyra, we are out of time here. We have to get to that spire before it is fully operational.”

She nods, shrugs and moves to cross the openness. Halting abruptly, she swings back. “You are frustrated. Enris, the truth is, you need to see this time, not what was before. You too will be more effective.” She then goes on walking.

I stare across the space. She is right. I tend to base current decisions on previous encounters, when in this current era there are changes. The Glonu soldiers are flesh to the last for this war, where before they were both of form and ether. The soldiers are markedly better trained also. In previous encounters, they were clumsier. And this time the Glonu have the numbers.

It is time indeed to re-evaluate mind-set and strategy.

Bringing in the rear, I follow the others.

The river is flowing fast, but it is shallow and we cross without issue. On the opposite bank the stone is sharper, more like flint. It must be due to the run-off from the edged outcrops in the distance.

I stop to stare into the distance.

Those rock faces were mined, which is why they no longer possess the roundness of what we have encountered to date. They were mined for the Spire. My heart thuds in my chest, for a recall one of my instructor’s words, a time long gone, a man long passed on. Ha, do not base what you do now on what went before, true, but do not forget the lessons learned then either.

Enris, one day a rock will stand in your path, whether great or insignificant, and it will be an obstacle or an answer. The choice will be yours, for how you regard it will determine your actions thereafter.

I already know perception is power, and therefore it is the rest of his words that hold the true meaning I now seek.

A rock is of time, Enris, and will reveal to you the age of on edifice or the freshness of a nuance. You will understand what I mean. My advice? See the rock. Read the rock. Feel the rock. Know the rock. There is your answer.

I remember laughing at the man, for it was too cryptic to have meaning. I also remember that he repeated it word for word, forcing me to commit his ‘advice’ to memory.

See the rock. I see it, indeed. Read the rock. I recognise it as mined.

Feel the rock.

Swiftly I bend to gather up a few slivers of the shale underfoot. Rubbing them between my fingers, I concentrate. They have a soapy feel, as if they are soft, quite unlike the hard stones we have stumbled across until now.

Know the rock.

Porous. This rock is porous. Not only is it easier to mine, but it allows for ethereal beings to enter and exit a space created from it with greater ease.

It is doubtful my instructor spoke then of an actual physical rock – he may have inferred any type of conundrum whether physical or of the mind – and yet never has advice been this accurate. Laughing under my breath, I thank the man for forcing me to commit it to memory.

“Damin!”

He chivvies the others into the trees and when the last man has vanished from view, he lopes back to me.

“Enris, get under cover.”

“In a moment.” I point at the outcrop we marked earlier. “Would you agree that has been mined?’

The fair man squints through the gloom. Eventually he nods. “It has the look of a disused quarry, yes.””

I show him the slivers in my hands.

Frowning, he takes one. He is aware I am trying to make a point. He, too, rubs it between his fingers, an automatic reaction. His brow clears moments later. “Soft,” he whispers. His head jerks up. “If the Spire was raised with this …”

“… it will fall easily, yes.”

“Damn, I wish we still had horses,” he mutters.

All our horses scattered when the fighting began, unfortunately. I get Damin’s point. At least one of us on horseback to make up the time to the Spire will have helped at this point.

He is staring fixedly at me, causing me to shiver. I may be Enris Makar, but Damin Mur is the Marsh Devil; he has talents suited to this world also and can be intimidating.

“You are a Warrior,” he states. “Time to run, Enris, with all your strength and stamina. Find the Ilfin commander and tell him how to bring the Spire down.” Still he stares at me. “I will lead the others.”

Inhaling sharply, I realise Lyra is correct again. Think for this time … as Damin does. I am the Warrior. I am able to run for days and, right now, that is what is required of me.

“You are on the mark,” I murmur, and shove the rock samples into a pocket. Swivelling my shoulders, I step forward. “Take care of my sister.” I prepare to run …

“Lyra is a Makar too, isn’t she?”

I smile over my shoulder. “Yes.” Jogging forward, I inflate my lungs.

“What about me, Enris?” Damin calls out from behind me.

“You will know soon enough!” I throw over my shoulder … and pick up speed.

Soon all is a blur. Trees, rock, sky and earth.

Damin’s faint curse causes me to grin.

I run.



Monday, March 14, 2016

The king's Challenge - March Update

Hello! I know I am a bit behind with our TKC episodes, but life is a bit frantic (home renovation) and I will catch up as soon as possible. It will probably be a bumper post!

Until then :)


The magic of Change


Friday, March 11, 2016

The King's Challenge #241 - #243

TKC 241, 242 and 243

The edge of this stretch of trees is in sight before darkness takes us. After telling the others to stay back and out of sight, Damin and I creep to the treeline. It is beyond dark out there. A Glonu soldier may be standing a metre from us, weapon trained, and we will not see him. Relying therefore on sound instead, we hunker.

We too must make no noises.

Damin is good at this, I realise. Another man will be nervous and those nerves will be clear in uneven breathing louder than usual – a dead giveaway – but I cannot discern one breath from the man at my side. In fact, he serves to encourage me; I hope I am as silent as he is.

Hours we sit unmoving.

Sounds do penetrate the ink of night, most of them of a more natural order. An owl hoots intermittently somewhere to our left. Bats meander on the edge of hearing. Scuffles in the undergrowth reveal the nocturnal population is awake.

A sneeze cuts into the silence at one stage, then a marked shush sound. The others know to keep it quiet, but accidents happen. I am even more wary, for that sneeze travelled quite a distance.

Near the arrival of a new day, when it is darker than anything that goes before, a noise stiffens my every sense. Beside me I feel Damin tense. A boot scrape. As if a man wanders the night in stealth. Perhaps he shifted a loose stone. Perhaps he is not alone. Maybe a patrol is headed directly to our vantage point.

Then, by the stars, it changes.

Light floods the area. Sound explodes.

A cruiser. A night flight.

The beams hit the territory we inhabit, a flood of light. Almost I curse aloud, but survival is paramount and that instinct limits the involuntary reaction to a thought rather than an action.

Fifty soldiers hunker on a riverbank directly below us. To the last, each man is awake and alert.

Damin’s lips draw back in astonishment, but he contains himself. His gaze flicks around before he nods at me, and I agree with him. Where we are is well camouflaged from casual inspection. The soldiers cannot see us. I am beyond amazed they did not hear the sneeze of earlier.

Thank the stars they did not hear us.

The cruiser lowers with a high-pitched sound that entirely disturbs the calm of the soldiers below. Men hurtle up, some swearing, other gesticulating in irritation. The swift ship hovers and the men march towards it. A ramp lowers and one by one the soldiers vanish into it.

The cruiser lifts and gives the area a final light sweep. In the search, I realise we are now alone.

The ship swirls up and vanishes into distance.

Damin releases an explosive breath. “That was too close.”

“These Glonu are far better at soldiering than they were in the past,” I mutter. “At least we now have a lay of the land.”

The territory below our hideaway is flat and open, with a river running through it. We cannot cross here without being seen. Left of us is forest and to the right is a ridge that climbs ever higher.

“Where we go next depends on the Ilfin flyover,” Damin remarks.

It feels as if he reads my mind and I glance sharply at him.

He shrugs. “I am no doubt thinking what you are thinking.”

I give him a grin. Right.

He stands then and stretches mightily. “It will be light soon. I am going to bring the others in.” He walks away without waiting for my agreement.

“Do that,” I mutter under my breath. Damin has been leader long enough not to ask permission, although it sometimes leads to the two of us not seeing the same.

The darkness gradually gives way to the greyness of pre-dawn. I watch a pair of deer come down to water to drink. This Arc is beautiful; how dare we destroy it in battles for supremacy? The deer have no concept of war and yet they will feel the results. Innocents. They deserve protection, not annihilation.

Inhaling, I stare at them. My thoughts move to memories of Makaran. It has been thousands of years since I have seen my homeworld, but the images remain sharp. The deer there are larger and far more skittish than these local creatures, but they were respected and cherished. Makaran has ever harked to the natural world. Nature forms part of the Ilfin.

Why then this need to make war? Why am I soldier before I am a forest wanderer … when I desire only to walk amid giant trees?


Lyra kneels beside me. “Enris, you need to rest.”

I glance at my sister. Why does she not remember Makaran? How am I the one cursed to always know, to remember?

“I am fine,” I murmur, looking away.

It is the orb. With the brightest clarity, for the first time I understand it is the magical device that has changed my future. The day my father placed it upon my palm in the Tiled Dome was also the day everything changed for me. I am aware of the Warrior talent and how debilitating it is once it assumes supremacy – it kills the host in swift years – but the orb prevents it coming to pass. It heightens the Warrior … and keeps him alive.

I have been alive too long.

I am weary of war.



Telperion and Laurelin


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The King's Challenge #240

TKC 240

We move on staying under cover. Fortunately the trees are dense overhead in this region. Every whine in the air causes everyone to inadvertently duck, however. Many have died due a bolt from above.

Lyra and Hanna have led us to the point where they previously separated, at the river’s edge, and from there Lyra took over to lead us to the Spire. All trace of her previous path has been erased. Not even Artur, a skilled tracker, is able to find anything.

We are lost.

I see how it frustrates Lyra, but she must find it inside now. No one can do it for her.

Damin grips my arm, hauling me to a halt. “Stop!” I call out in a penetrating whisper. All movements ceases. “Damin?”

He releases me, but does not react. He stares into the trees as if looking at a faraway place. We have seen this before. Someone is communicating with him. We wait. He will tell us when he is free of it.

Eventually he focuses. The expression he gifts us with thereafter causes the hairs on my arms to spike.

“They are coming,” he says. “All the Ilfin currently on Massin are coming to Arc. Their aim is to destroy the Spire.”

I close my eyes. By the stars, it is the best news.

“From Hal?” Joseph asks quietly.

Damin nods. “He is with Siri and Kay in an Ilfin shuttle.”

Lyra clasps her hands together, smiling.

“When?” Mirlin demands. “When are the ships arriving?”

“Tomorrow, soon after dawn,” Damin states.

Everyone stares at me. “We need a place where we are able to view the sky,” I say. “Once we determine the direction of their flight, we will know where the Spire is.”

“It will be dark soon,” Lyra says.

“Then we must make haste.” I stride forward and the others follow. I sense hope is reborn, for their footsteps are lighter and far more determined than earlier.



Helm's Deep (map)


Monday, March 7, 2016

The King's Challenge #238 and #239

Part 8
Enris Makar


TKC 238 and 239

Resting on my sword, I study the situation.

There are less than thirty Ilfin remaining to me. This untried army has shrunk to virtually nil. Everyone else we brought across the plains is dead. Those who are left are the fit men and women able to run long and fast enough to escape the Glonu – that is how they have survived until now, for they are not fighters. The old and the young are gone, as well as those who were too slow.

My gaze lifts to my sister. She is known as Lyra here – how strange.

Lyra’s aura is one of grief and horror, and helplessness. I have seen her employ her talents to kill and it bows her soul.

Damin Mur has lost all expression. He sits on a boulder alongside Lyra, but there is nothing to read in him. Damin is now a true soldier. He functions on automatic and he possesses the stamina to go on long after others surrender.

The older man, Mirlin, has not given in yet, but he is close to simply sitting and waiting for death to take him. He is now the sole westerner left in the gathering.

The one Damin calls Artur is indefatigable. The man is huge and refuses to surrender. He is also filled with rage. Apparently he is the final survivor from a place known as Grenmassin, other than Lyra and Damin.

The Messengers Joseph and Hanna, although older, have kept up. Their auras are of hopelessness.

My ghostly comrades have fallen, but they did us a service in taking all ethereal Glonu with them.

We now fight real men with mighty weapons and an inexhaustible supply of ammunition. The time of the sword has passed. Fortunately these men have no talents; it is the single advantage remaining to us.

Straightening, I sheath my blade. I wonder how we will win this as I do so. Our options are now limited. At present all we can do is run and hide.

Hearing the whine of cruisers, I squint through the foliage. One flies over too swiftly to mark our position, and there are at least four others in the region. Far enough away not to see us, by the lower tones of their engines.

“Damin!” I call out.

The fair-headed man stands and closes in. I notice he does not look at Lyra, and she watches him sadly. They are married, but in war love cannot function well.

“Enris.” Damin halts in front of me.

“Tell them we stop for ten minutes only.” I have made him my second.

The man folds his arms. “They are exhausted.”

“I am aware, but we will generate a heat signature the cruisers will read. Ten minutes.”

Damin nods stiffly and heads back to his perch. I hear him tell the others; no one responds. They are indeed exhausted.

Lyra strides towards me, her face set in determination. “Horin, we need …”

“My name is Enris,” I state.

She curses under her breath. “Whatever, brother. Now you listen to me; I am older than you are …”

“I am the eldest Makar,” I interrupt her. “Even if you could claim years on me as my sister, you have not before been to war. Here my word is law.”

She blinks at me, taken aback. “Enris, please.”

I lean closer to whisper, “Find the path to the Spire. We have not much time left to us. The slower you are, the more will die.’

She pales markedly, and swings away to return to Damin’s side. I inhale for equilibrium. Hurting her is not my intention, but it is a truth, without our ethereal guides, we are lost. Lyra alone knows how to find the Spire, for all view of it has been obscured by cloud and smoke. As a landmark it has vanished, leaving nothing to follow.


We must find it or we are doomed.


TKC Collage - Siri's Story 2

The King's Challenge will now shift focus to the mysterious Enris Makar. Here, therefore the collage for Siri's episodes :)



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xxx

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The King's Challenge #234 - #237

TKC 234, 235, 236 and 237

Gennirin leans in again. “The odds are not in our favour, I grant you, but Ilfin say to the stars with odds. Of course, until you were brought in, with news of Enris Makar and his mighty orb, we believed the odds were beyond overwhelming.”

“Why does Enris and his orb change it?” Kay asks.

The commander remains silent for a while, glancing at each of us in turn, as if to confirm our intentions. “What have you seen the orb do?”

Kay looks at me and I nod his way. It is no great secret, after all, what the orb did for us.

“It created a web shield against those who sought to prevent Siri and her people leave this plateau …”

“Wait. Where are you from?” Gennerin asks.

“West, the ocean cities. We brought our people to join in the march to freedom.”

The commander sighs. “Freedom from what? Leave the plateau? To where? I think you had better start at the beginning.”

And thus we tell him. Taking turns, inserting our stories at the opportune moments in the narrative, we weave a story for him. Except it is no story; it is only truth. We begin with the asteroid and continue into the desperate march across the plains into Arc. We speak of talents and reveal Horin’s protection and aid via the orb, from the web to the destruction of the soldiers on their flying shields into the bridges built. As we speak of the orb, we begin to understand why Gennerin sees the odds moving into our favour. Hal and Marian tell of conditions before and after the rock in the heavens, and their attempts to save the horses. We speak of meeting up in the dead of night, and the cave system … and the dead there.

So many dead. Here, in the caves, inside Arc. Massin will be sparsely populated if we win this war.

Gennerin leans back when silence eventually falls, wordless. I notice Corporal Allin standing in a doorway, his mouth open. Indeed, it is a fantastical tale.

Finally the commander finds the wherewithal to speak. “The asteroid was the catalyst. It brought change. Here and out there in the vacuum. Ha.” He taps the table with one finger. “Arc is where this war will be won.” He pauses and then adds, “I thought it a myth and now that is disproved.”

“Myth?” Kay echoes.

“Arc. I have heard stories about secret places, each with a spire able to manipulate souls, but I did not believe.”

“Places?” I repeat. “There is more than one Arc?”

The soldier nods. “Apparently, yes, one for each world the Glonu conquer.”

Marian hisses her shock. I agree with her reaction. We thought we are unique in the manipulation and to be told it is obviously a tried and tested method of conquer is frightening. It means the Glonu know exactly what they are doing and they intend to win this.

“Tell me,” Kay says, “what do the stories say about those other secret places and spires? What happens after the Glonu have sold a world to the highest bidder?”

Gennerin stares at him. “From what I have heard and read, the spires remain … as protection.”

Corporal Allin steps in. “Commander? If I may?” He receives a nod, and closes in. “My father is a historian and he shared many tales about the Glonu and Ilfin wars.”

“Get to the point, Allin,” the commander growls.

“Yes, sir. The spire is a command centre, but is more than technology. If left undisturbed, as in when the Glonu sell a world and move on, protection is eternal. Have our leaders not wondered why we are unable to redeem those worlds? While the Glonu remain in the region, engaged in conquer, the spire serves as their senses …”

The older soldier glares at his underling. “Senses? What are you on about?”

Allin swiftly continues, no doubt thinking his commander will muzzle him soon. “It is their eyes and ears, to put it more simply, and they are able to see and hear far. It is their first defence and also their last, until they have achieved goal.”

Kay stares at him. “I get the distinct impression the spire is vulnerable when the Glonu are in situ.”

Allin nods vigorously. “Yes! And by the sound of what you shared, this spire is particularly vulnerable. It has been unattended and ignored due to the time passed in waiting for a large enough army to come do the bidding of the Glonu.”

“It aged,” I whisper. “The Glonu lost the physical ability here to command it.”

Corporal Alin inclines his head. “”Now is the time to destroy it.” “He glances at his commander. “Using the orb.”

“Is there a story about the destruction of a spire?” Kay asks before the commander is able to respond.

“Indeed,” Allin murmurs. “My father told me of two such events.”

Gennerin looks at him when he ceases speaking. “Well? Don’t leave us hanging, man.”

Quickly I hide a grin behind my hand. Clearly the commander is as wrapt as we are.

The corporal nods. “As you say, sir. A long time ago when the Glonu were not quite as powerful as they are now, a spire imploded due to a foundation shift. My father speculates it may have been an earthquake, but it is also possible the defenders of that world placed an explosive device with accuracy.”

“Terrain instability can therefore work for us,” Hal murmurs.

“Hard to achieve,” Gennerin mutters. “Go on, Allin.”

“Sir, you know of the Makar history. Enris’ father …”

The commander slaps the table. “He sent the Glonu packing from Flonlis!”

“Indeed, but how?” Allin asks. “The popular tale is one of lasers. Our esteemed and revered ruler targeted Glonu institutions using thousands of beams to undermine their systems.”

“And the real story?” Marian demands.

“He targeted only the spire and eventually it toppled.”

I frown. “Why is that not known?”

Allin draws a breath and releases explosively. “Loss of life was catastrophic.”

Kay glares at the corporal. “And yet you suggest we destroy this spire.”

The man nods. “It is inactive at this point. Now is the time to do so. Chances are it will simply collapse and that will be the end of it.”

“Chances are?” I gasp.

“I am prepared to assume that risk,” Gennerin states and heaves to his feet. “Allin, give the order to pack and be ready to move by morning. We are going to Arc.”

The corporal salutes smartly and hastens away.

“There are thousands of Glonu inside Arc already,” I say.

“They may already have activated that spire,” Kay spits out. “We have friends and family there!”

Gennerin’s gaze is cold. He is again the man in charge. “We will match them with personnel, weapons and vessels, whatever they have in that ring of mountains. Prepare yourselves. We leave in the morning. I must now contact the other commanders.” He strides out.

I swing immediately to Hal. “Warn Damin.”

The Messenger closes his eyes without saying a word and vanishes into his world of images.





Enlightened!